Tag Archive | "Ferrer"

Nadal Marks Another Milestone in Madrid

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Nadal Marks Another Milestone in Madrid


Incredibly, an entire year had gone by since Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal clashed in a final.  At the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open, these two rectified that by battling for yet another Masters 1000 shield.  Nadal, the 2009 finalist, vanquished Federer, the defending champion, 6-4, 7-6 to claim an unprecedented 18th Masters shield surpassing Andre Agassi and a historic third straight Masters trophy.

Since prevailing at the Australian Open, Federer has been in a slump with early exits in Indian Wells, Miami and Rome.  The top seed in Estoril last week, Federer was stopped in the semifinals by the defending champion Albert Montanes.  Conversely, this season, Nadal has been again the “it guy” on clay with titles in Rome and Monte-Carlo.  By avenging his loss to Ernests Gulbis in Rome and beating David Ferrer, the hottest player on clay besides Nadal, in the semifinals, Federer seemed to be finding his form.  Still, Nadal would be the most intricate puzzle to solve.

Following a love opening game, with a forehand up the line error by Nadal, Federer had break point.  But, by provoking mistakes from Roger, Rafael held for 1 all.  Quickly, Nadal turned the tables and as a result of errors captured a break for 2-1.  However, as a backhand crosscourt by Nadal sailed long, Federer had triple break point.  Roger converted when Rafael’s forehand missed its mark.  With the players at 3 all, three successive miscues by Federer gave Nadal triple break point.  An unreturnable serve and two forehand winners allowed Federer to get to deuce.  Yet, after Federer failed to capitalize on a game point, Nadal connected on a backhand crosscourt pass for a winner and his fifth break chance.  When Federer netted the backhand, Nadal took a 4-3 lead.  Then, despite resistance from Federer, Nadal consolidated for 5-3.  Subsequent to a love hold, Federer hit a couple of great forehands and with a Nadal double fault obtained double break point.  Promptly, with back to back errors by his rival, Nadal got to deuce. Still, Federer manufactured two more break points,  But, with the return finding the bottom of the net on the next point, Federer could not get over the hump.  Finally, with a forehand crosscourt pass for a winner, Nadal punctuated the first set.

After Federer flubbed a volley on game point, Nadal went on to break to start the second set.  However, by baiting Nadal into a few mistakes, Federer arrived at double break point.  With a backhand crosscourt winner, Federer leveled the set.  Then, at 2 all, leading 40-15, Federer found himself at deuce.  By passing Federer two consecutive times, Nadal broke for 3-2.  After Nadal consolidated with an easy hold, Federer had a love service game to maintain a one game difference.  Taking the dropshot out of his arsenal for the first time, Federer fabricated triple break point.  When Nadal misfired with the forehand, the set was equalized at 4.  Then, with back to back aces, Federer crept ahead 5-4.  As neither guy was able to gain a break point, the decider was the tiebreaker.

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Nadal Dusts Off Ferrer For Fifth Masters Title In Rome

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Nadal Dusts Off Ferrer For Fifth Masters Title In Rome


Despite giving it the old college try, neither the rain nor David Ferrer could alter Rafael Nadal’s destiny.  In the finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia ATP Masters 1000, Nadal bested Ferrer 7-5,6-2 to grab his fifth trophy in Rome. In addition to garnering his 27th clay court title, Nadal tied Andre Agassi’s record of 17 Masters shields.

Following two easy service holds, Ferrer sent a forehand crosscourt long to face double break point.  With two un-returnable serves, Ferrer got to deuce. After dismissing five break points, with a forehand crosscourt winner, Ferrer held for 3-2.  The subsequent game, Ferrer had 15-30 with a crosscourt backhand pass for a winner.  However, Nadal connected on a few forehand winners to guard serve.  Then, by double faulting and netting a forehand, Ferrer was behind 0-30.  Still, by serving well and being aggressive at the right time, Ferrer maintain serve for 4-3.  Upon the heels of an uncomplicated game by Nadal, with Ferrer at play and 40-15, sprinkles turned into heavy rain causing the match to be suspended.

After nearly an hour intermission, Ferrer double faulted when play resumed.  Yet, with a return error by Nadal, Ferrer stayed ahead 5-4.  Next, with two consecutive miscues by Nadal, Ferrer had a 0-30 opening.  Unfortunately, Ferrer misfired on a second serve return. With three additional errors, Nadal equalized the set.  Subsequent to committing a double fault to allow a third game point to evaporate, Ferrer’s mistakes on two forehands gave Nadal the break and a 6-5 edge. Later, Ferrer crushed a backhand crosscourt return resulting in an error by Nadal on the next stroke and Ferrer’s first break point.  However, that break point was quickly wiped off when Ferrer sent a return long.  With a forehand volley winner, Nadal arrived at set point.  Nadal converted when Ferrer’s return missed its destination.

Ferrer started out the second set with mistakes leading to 15-40.  But, with well struck serves, Ferrer got to deuce.  Then, with a volley winner off a dropshot, Ferrer carried the game for 1-0.  After a comfortable hold, Nadal terminated a long rally with a volley winner for 0-15.  Perhaps feeling the effect of the prior point, Ferrer committed two miscues to hand Nadal triple break point.  Although Ferrer got to deuce, because a few more errors, Nadal eventually captured the break.  Again, there was a prolonged pause due to rain.  Upon returning, with backhand down the line winner, Nadal consolidated at love for a 3-1 lead.  Following an easy game, Ferrer placed pressure on Nadal at 30 all. Once more, let down by his forehand, Ferrer failed to progress further as Nadal maintained serve for 4-2.  Then, with back to back double faults, Ferrer eyed double break point.  As another of Ferrer’s forehand landed long, Nadal widened his advantage to 5-2.  Next, with a forehand volley winner, Nadal had double championship point.  When Ferrer’s returned sailed out of play, Nadal secured for the fifth time consecutive Masters shields in Rome and Monte-Carlo.

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Verdasco Vanquishes Soderling for Barcelona Trophy

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Verdasco Vanquishes Soderling for Barcelona Trophy


One week after being routed by Rafael Nadal in the finals in Monte-Carlo, Fernando Verdasco was all smiles today.  Verdasco prevailed over Robyn Soderling 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the finals of the Barcelona Open BancSabadell, an ATP 500 tournament, for his 5th and mightiest career title.

Following a love opening game, Soderling faced break point his second time out when Verdasco’s return clipped the net and dropped for a winner.  Although Soderling held for 2-1, he was having difficulty getting free points on serve.  A few games later, with a forehand crosscourt winner, Verdasco arrived at triple break point and cashed in when Soderling netted a forehand.  Then, with a second serve ace, the Spaniard consolidated for 5-3.  Next, with Soderling’s backhand down the line miscue, Verdasco had his fourth set point.  The Spaniard sealed the first set with a forehand up the line winner.

By forcing mistakes from Verdasco, Soderling opened the second set with a break.  However, with a couple of nonchalant forehand strokes, Soderling stared at break point.  With a forehand up the line winner, Verdasco got back to 1 all.  After Soderling netted an easy forehand to give Verdasco 30-40, a forehand initially deemed long was reversed.  Soderling won the next three points to equalize the set at 3 all.  Later, with an overhead winner, Soderling arrived at break point.  With Verdasco dumping his backhand into the net, Soderling secured the break for 4-3.  A couple of games down the road, at double set point, Soderling connected on a forehand volley winner to send the match into a third set.

After a comfortable hold by Verdasco, Soderling looked at 0-30.  In part, thanks to Verdasco’s pass clipping the net and sailing long, Soderling eventually held for 1 all.  Still, with two straight backhand errors his second time out, Soderling was again at 0-30.  Subsequently, with another backhand error, Soderling stared at a double break point.  Once again, with a net court going in his favor, Soderling put away a forehand volley to save the first break point.  Yet, with a forehand crosscourt mistake, Soderling handed Verdasco the break for 3-1.  By readily consolidating, Verdasco extended his advantage to 4-2.  Despite Soderling holding easily, Verdasco never allowed him a bite on his service games.  Thus, with Soderling netting a backhand return, Verdasco arrived at double championship point.  As Soderling’s next shot, a backhand, traveled long, Verdasco captured the trophy.  With this victory, Verdasco continues the Spaniards domination of this event with 10 successive wins since 2001.

The doubles team of Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor follow up their triumph in Monte-Carlo by defeating Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Knowles 4-6, 6-3, 10-6 in the finals for their fourth title this season.

With five time defending champion Nadal citing fatigue and opting not to aim for an historic sixth consecutive trophy for the second week in a row, the door was left wide open for the other contestants.  Verdasco, the fifth seed and a wildcard entrant, made the most of his opportunity. Tested in the third round by Jurgen Melzer, after losing the first set, Verdasco took a tiebreaker to push the match to a third set.  After coming through a tough quarterfinal versus Ernests Gulbis, countryman David Ferrer forced Verdasco to carry the last two sets after stealing the first in a tiebreaker.  This represents Verdasco’s third career trophy on clay and his second title this year.  The Spaniard defeated Andy Roddick in San Jose back in February.

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Federer Tipped Over by Berdych, Venus Saunters Into Semis

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Federer Tipped Over by Berdych, Venus Saunters Into Semis


Nearly a year, Madrid May 2009, has elapsed since Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal butted heads in an ATP final.  Fans were hopeful that Federer and Nadal would rekindle their rivalry at the Sony Ericsson Open.  That possibility was dashed in the fourth round as Tomas Berdych beat Federer 6-4,6-7,7-6.

Federer had been fumbling his way through the tournament.  Still, the wish was that the world number one’s luck would not run out.  Subsequent to Berdych and Federer’s first meeting at the 2004 Athens Olympics where the former prevailed, the latter has claimed their next eight bouts.  At the 2009 Australian Open, Berdych carried the first two sets, but still went down in flames.  Perhaps that performance bolstered Berdych’s morale leading him to believe that his fortune could be better in a best of three sets contest.

After a double fault gave Federer a break point, the world number one broke to open the match, then consolidated for 2-1.  In a game where Federer donated a double fault, Berdych got two chances to break.  On his second opportunity, Berdych knotted the set at 3 all.  Down the road as Federer served to push the set to a tiebreaker, at love-40, he double faulted to gift Berdych the set.

From the opening game of the second set, Federer applied pressure, but failed to convert on four break point opportunities.  The same story was repeated in the 7th and 9th games.  Finally in a tiebreaker, Federer captured the second set.

In the third set, after breaking, Berdych stretched his advantage to 3-1. However, serving at 4-3,  Berdych double faulted on double break point to equalize things at 4 all.  With no break point the rest of the way, a tiebreaker settled the set.  Post saving match point at 6-7, Berdych won the next three points to seal the victory and quarterfinal spot.

Fernando Verdasco, Berdych’s quarterfinal opponent, is probably relieved not to see Federer against whom he has a 4-0 lifetime mark.  Verdasco triumphed over the 7th seed, Marin Cilic, 6-4,7-6.

In the round of 16, Nadal clashed with countryman David Ferrer.  After the two exchanged early service breaks and neither manufactured another break point, the set went to a tiebreaker.  In the latter stages, Nadal finally strung together two consecutive points to claim it.  In the second set, Nadal went up by a break.  However, again, Ferrer crawled back to 4 all.  With Ferrer serving to tie the set at 5 all, Nadal gained the upper hand and penned his name into the quarterfinals .  Nadal takes on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  Earlier in the day, Tsonga sent Juan Carlos Ferrero home in straight sets 6-2,6-2.

Also into the quarterfinals are Andy Roddick and Nicolas Almagro.  Roddick defeated Benjamin Becker 7-6,6-3.  Almagro prevailed over Thomaz Bellucci in three sets.  These two will do battle in the next round.

Unfortunately for Mardy Fish, a sciatic nerve injury caused him to pull out of his match against Mikhail Youzhny.  Fish was on the losing end 1-6,0-1 when he retired.  Youzhny has Robin Soderling as his quarterfinal adversary.  Soderling dismissed Fernando Gonzalez in three sets 6-0,6-7,6-2.

After fighting off Daniela Hantuchova tooth and nail to advance to the quarterfinals, Williams eased her way to the semifinals with a 6-3,6-1 win over Agnieszka Radwanska. Williams secured a break for 2-1 on Radwanska’s opening game.  Promptly though, Radwanska squared the set at 2 a piece.  Then, with back to back double faults, Radwanska went down 15-30, Williams won the next two points for a 5-4 lead.   With an easy game, Williams closed out the first set.  The second set, Williams once more took Radwanska’s first service game.  By allowing Radwanska only one game the entire set, Williams walked into the semis.

Venus meets Marion Bartoli.  Bartoli defeated Yanina Wickmayer 6-4,7-5 to advance to her first semifinal in Miami.

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Nadal Averts the Upset, Roddick Swiftly Through

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Nadal Averts the Upset, Roddick Swiftly Through


In the third round at the Sony Ericsson Open, Rafael Nadal was severely tested by David Nalbandian.  Still, Nadal booked his passage into the round of 16 with a 6-7,6-2,6-2 victory. Andy Roddick breezed through, beating Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2,6-1 to advance.

After Nadal secured the early break at 2-1, Nalbandian knotted the first set at 3 when Nadal double faulted on break point.  From that point on, these two guarded serve.  In the tiebreaker, Nadal dumped a backhand into the net to give Nalbandian a 2-1 mini-break lead.  Later, Nadal leveled things at 4 all.  Nalbandian erased a set point by Nadal, then, on his third set point captured the set when Nadal missed a forehand up the line.

Although Nadal began the second set with a couple of errors, he held serve.  After wiping out a break point by Nalbandian, Nadal converted on a break point courtesy of his rival’s miscue.  With a love game, Nadal consolidated for 5-2.  Subsequently, the next game, Nadal broke a second time to close out the set.

After a love hold, Nalbandian faced break point his second time out in third set.  Nadal went on to grab the break for 3-1.  Again, with a love hold, Nadal moved ahead 4-1.  Following an easy game for 2-4, Nalbandian tried to make a charge, but failed.  Nadal extended his lead to 5-2.  Then, at triple break/match point, with a forehand up the line winner, Nadal finished off the match.

Next up for Nadal is fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.  The 15th seed defeated Ivo Karlovic 7-6,6-3.  After his smooth entrance into the round of 16, Roddick has another potential easy adversary in Benjamin Becker.  Becker prevailed over 18th seed Tommy Robredo 1-6,6-4,7-6.

After his glorious victory over Novak Djokovic, Oliver Rochus was brought down to earth by Thomaz Bellucci.  Bellucci stopped Rochus, winning 6-3,6-4. In the succeeding round, Bellluci battles Nicolas Almagro.  Almagro fought off Jeremy Chardy 6-2,6-7,6-3.

Juan Carlos Ferrero downed American John Isner 6-2,3-6,6-3.  The upcoming challenge for Ferrero is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  The Frenchman ousted Phillip Kohlschreiber in straight sets 6-2,7-5.

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Djokovic Done In By Rochus, Wozniacki Worms Through

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Djokovic Done In By Rochus, Wozniacki Worms Through


Whilst rain had been forecasted in Miami at the Sony Ericsson Open on Friday, what was unexpected was Novak Djokovic’s second round departure.  Olivier Rochus ousted the world number two 6-2,6-7,6-4.  Simultaneously on court 1, Caroline Wozniacki, the women’s number two, was on the verge of an early exit herself.  However, Wozniacki survived against Tsvetana Pironkova 3-6,6-3,6-4.

Rochus broke in the opening game.  After consolidating, Olivier placed a beautiful backhand down the line winner to set up triple break point.  Rochus converted a second break when Djokovic’s backhand sailed long.  After erasing a break point and extending his lead to 5-1, Rochus closed out the set his next time out.

In the second set, Rochus again obtained triple break point and with a backhand down the line winner took a 3-2 lead.  But, Djokovic got back on even terms promptly breaking the next game.  The set went to a tiebreaker where Rochus got ahead early on.  Yet, Djokovic weathered the storm and stole the set.

The decisive set, after holding serve, Rochus was gifted a double fault by Djokovic and broke for 2-1.  Then, by donating to his opponent a couple of errors, Rochus lost his edge. Soon though, Rochus worked his way to double break point and capitalized when Djokovic’s forehand traveled long. Later on, Rochus fought off a break point and stretched his advantage to 4-1.  After failing to secure the insurance break, serving at 5-3, Rochus committed a string of errors allowing Djokovic to stay in the match.  Still, with miscues by Djokovic, Rochus manufactured break point/match point.  Olivier pocketed the match when another Novak forehand went astray.

After the match, MiamiTennisNews inquired:
Q.  Were you having problems breathing on the court?  Looked like the conditions were a little bit heavy out there.
DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, it was a bit humid, but, you know, he was making me run a lot so points were really long.  That was exhausting.

Q.  You’ve been playing a lot of tennis.  Are you thinking of maybe rescheduling for the clay season?
DJOKOVIC:  I don’t know.  I will have more time now I guess to rest and prepare well for clay.

On to the ladies, after dropping the first set to Pironkova, Wozniacki was behind in the second set.  The world number two battled back and captured the break for 5-3.  Subsequently, Wozniacki held to push the match to a third set.

In the ultimate set, Pironkova got a break early on and consolidated for 3-0.  After finally getting on the board, Wozniacki earned triple break point and converted.  Later at 3 all, Wozniacki took a go ahead break for 4-3.  However, Pironkova fought back to 4 a piece.  But, a resilient Wozniacki manufactured another break point and put herself in front 5-4 when Pironkova’s forehand up the line sailed long.  Then, on her third match point, as a forehand from Pironkova landed wide, Wozniacki punched her ticket into the third round.

With the rain backlog, Kim Clijsters’ match originally scheduled on stadium court was bounced to an outer court.  Regardless, for Clijsters, it turned out to be a practice session with a 6-1,6-1 thumping of Petra Kvitova.  Like Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva put on a clinic against Melanie Oudin 6-1, 6-2. Maria Kirilenko crawled out of a 5-2 deficit in the third set against Melinda Czink to pilfer the match in the tiebreaker.  After losing the first set, Lucie Safarova seized the second set tiebreaker then rolled over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 4-6.7-6,6-2.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 22nd seed, continues to impress; the youngster beat Tamira Paszek  7-6,4-6,6-3 for a third round berth.   Before the rain came, Victoria Azarenka, the defending champion, had a 6-3,6-2 victory over Alexandra Dulgheru. Jelena Jankovic, Dominika Cibulkova, Elena Vesnina and Shahar Peer were straight sets winners.  Samatha Stosur was pushed to a third set by Carla Suarez Navarro and made it through.

Elena Dementieva, the 5th seed, suffered her 11th defeat to Justine Henin 6-3,6-2. Alisa Kleybanova, the 24th seed, fell to Sara Errani 6-4,7-5 while Jie Zheng, seeded 20th, was upset by Virginie Razzano in straight sets.  For Alize Cornet, it was another disappointing tournament with an early ousting, this time by Francesca Schiavone.  Schiavone prevailed 6-3,6-2.  After being on the road six weeks and some heartbreaking losses, Cornet’s 2010 record is now 6-9.

MiamiTennisNews wanted to know about Cornet’s state of mind:

Q. You look physically tired, are you also mentally tired?
CORNET:  Maybe a little, it’s already many weeks that I’m away from home.  I have not cut back in terms of training and I am someone who trains a lot usually. I rarely give myself time off, days of rest. I am becoming cognizant that I should take resting a little more seriously and from time to time award myself a day off. However, I think it’s difficult with long stretches of tournaments as such.

Djokovic was followed on stadium court by Rafael Nadal.  In no time, Nadal dispatched Taylor Dent 6-4,6-3.  Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a no drama night with straight set wins over their opponents Igor Andreev and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez respectively.  Ivan Ljubicic, the champion at Indian Wells last week, was forced to retire against Benjamin Becker after carrying the first set and the first game in the second due to a back injury.  It was a tough day for the American males with Sam Querrey and James Blake going down after winning their first sets to Jeremy Chardy and Thomas Bellucci respectively. But, John Isner avoided the upset with a 7-6,2-6,7-6 victory over Michael Russell.  David Nalbandian, Ivo Karlovic, Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro and Phillip Kohlschreiber advanced.

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ATP’s Rollercoaster Ride in 2009

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ATP’s Rollercoaster Ride in 2009


img_2928From Rafael Nadal winning his first hardcourt major in Australia, to Roger Federer completing the career grand slam, to the emergence of a new major star Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S. Open, 2009 was a year replete with ups and downs on the men’s tour.  Here’s a flashback.

At the Australian Open final, despite a marathon semifinal match, Nadal had adequate reserves to stare down Federer in another five setter.  With that victory, Nadal seemed well positioned to achieve the calendar grand slam.  After sweeping every clay court tournament, Nadal was halted at the Madrid Masters by Federer days prior to the French Open. For many analysts, fatigue may have been deserving of an assist as Federer defeated Nadal in straight sets to capture his initial title of 2009. As such, Nadal was still considered the outright favorite for a fifth consecutive French trophy.

While everyone may have discounted Robin Soderling in the fourth round at the French Open, the Swede who played a contentious match with Nadal at Wimbledon in 2007 had visions of victory dancing in his head.  Soderling upstaged the best clay player in circulation, handing Nadal his first defeat at Roland Garros.  Soderling rode this euphoric wave all the way to his first final at a major where he was ultimately stopped by Federer. In addition, Soderling was a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open.  At his initial ATP World Tour Finals, Soderling was a semifinalist and with that result jumped to a career best ranking of 8th after commencing 2008 at 17.

Melbourne was the site where Fernando Verdasco at last  lived up to his talent.  After surprising Andy Murray the hottest player on tour in the fourth round, Verdasco was involved in a dogfight in the semifinals with countryman Nadal.  Hands down, the best match of the tournament and one of the most scintillating of the year, the two Spaniards went toe to toe for over five hours.  Although Nadal was triumphant, Verdasco’s run in Australia galvanized him the rest of the year.  Verdasco reached the quarters at the U.S. Open and was instrumental in Davis Cup play. Verdasco participated in his first ATP World Tour Finals and ended 2009 at number 9.

After an horrendous start to the season, Federer’s year turned around after beating Nadal in Madrid in May. After avoiding a sleuth of pitfalls to get to the French Open final, Federer grabbed the elusive brass ring and tied Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors.  With a knee injury placing Wimbledon defending champ Nadal out of action, the impossibility of a Federer-Nadal duel could have been deflating for the championships.  To the contrary, Andy Roddick stepped up to the plate and in facing Federer, the two had a final to rival last year’s epic.  Federer had to out ace Roddick, required 95 minutes and 30 games in the fifth set before coming away with the victory and a record setting 15 majors.  In July, Federer supplanted Nadal at the top of the ATP’s ranking list.  Brimming with confidence, Federer appeared unstoppable and was a shoe-in for a sixth consecutive  title in New York.

At the U.S. Open, Federer battled Del Potro in the final.  With this being the latter’s maiden major final, jitters were more likely than not to play a pivotal role.  In spite of his youth, Del Potro demonstrated that he is a quick study.  After a devastating lost to Federer in the French semifinals, down two sets to one, Del Potro carried a tiebreaker and showed up Federer in the fifth set to capture his initial major. Del Potro closed 2009 as the world’s fifth best player and is a definite threat to take over the top spot in 2010.

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Golden Again: Spain Retains Davis Cup Title

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Golden Again: Spain Retains Davis Cup Title


img_9928On clay, at home, one would have to be insane to bet against the Spaniards repeating as Davis Cup champion.  Although the Czech Republic proved to be a worthy opponent, logic prevailed. Spain secured the initial three rubbers to become the first country since Sweden in 1998 to successfully defend the trophy.

Yesterday, in the first rubber, Rafael Nadal faced Tomas Berdych.   At five all in a tight  opening set, Nadal finally broke to gain the upper hand.  With nothing left to give, Berdych capitulated, Nadal won 7-5,6-0,6-2.

The second match of the day was a barn burner as Radek Stepanek tangoed with David Ferrer.  At first glance, captain Albert Costa’s choice of Ferrer over Fernando Verdasco, Spain’s second best player and world number 9, seemed odd and a colossal mistake.  Ultimately, it turned out to be a masterful gamble.

After Stepanek crushed Ferrer to carry the first two sets 6-1, 6-2, the Czech Republic appeared on its way to a tie, which would have made it a seriously competitive final.  The only difficulty was that Ferrer had no intention of soiling his unblemished Davis cup clay court record.  The Spaniard fought back taking the next two sets to push the match to a decisive fifth.  Early on, Stepanek had opportunities to get the break.  But, each time Stepanek got close, Ferrer shut the door. More than four hours into play, a string of errors by Stepanek allowed Ferrer to seize the break for 7-6.  Ferrer went on to serve out the match and with a 1-6,2-6,6-4,6-4,8-6 victory, he remains undefeated on clay at 7-0.

Needless to say, the doubles was a must win for the Czech Republic. With Stepanek probably a little spent from the previous’ day marathon match, Spain was already favored from the get-go.  The tandem of Feliciano Lopez and Verdasco turned away Berdych and Stepanek 7-6,7-5,6-2.

In the first set, after Verdasco riffled a forehand return up the line, Spain obtained a break for 3-1.  However, with a couple of forehand mistakes by Verdasco, the Czech Republic erased the advantage.  At 4 all, a great forehand winner by Berdych resulted in break point.  But, with errors from their rivals, Spain guarded serve.  So, the set was settled by a tiebreaker. With a spectacular return by Verdasco, Spain got a mini-break and stretched its edge to 6-3.  After saving three set points, the Czechs earned a set point themselves.  Still, the Czechs surrendered two consecutive service points, giving the Spaniards another set point.  When Stepanek misfired on a volley, Spain bagged the first set.

The second set similarly was hard fought with neither team having a bite at break point until 5 all.  Serving at 40-15, the Czechs made two forehand miscues resulting in deuce. Subsequently, Berdych had a forehand volley sail long handing Spain break point.  The Spaniards capitalized when the Czechs misfired on another volley.  With a strong game, Lopez punctuated the set.

With Stepanek’s serve wilting, the Spaniards opened the third set with triple break point.  When Lopez thumped a forehand winner down the line, Spain obtained the break. Shortly after, Verdasco consolidated with an easy service game for 2-0.  Again with Stepanek serving at 1-3, on Spain’s seventh break point chance, Verdasco gunned a forehand crosscourt winner extending the lead to 4-1.  Up a double break, Spain cruised on serve as it went on to capture its fourth Davis Cup title this decade.

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Spain Bounces Israel , Czech Republic Outlives Croatia in Davis Cup Semis

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Spain Bounces Israel , Czech Republic Outlives Croatia in Davis Cup Semis


img_97281With Spain’s best players, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco, out of commission due to abdominal muscle injuries, the defending Davis Cup champion had to rely on an alternate squad to bat in the semifinals against Israel.  Unfortunately for first time semifinalist Israel, the tandem of David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez showed no cracks.

Spurred on by their home crowd as well as cheerleaders Nadal and Verdasco, the Spaniards gave an A+ performance. As a result, by Saturday, Spain had carried all three rubbers to safely move on to the finals for the second straight year. Although with the clay Israel was at a conspicuous disadvantage, it still put up an admirable fight. On Friday, Ferrer got his team off to a great start with a 6-1,6-4,6-3 victory over Harel Levy.  Subsequently, Israel’s best singles offering Dudi Sela battled Juan Carlos Ferrero. Despite Sela’s valiant effort, with a far more competitive rubber than the score reflected, Sela could not keep up with the former French Open champion.  Ferrero prevailed 6-4,6-2,6-0.

On Saturday, with Spain ahead two matches to none, the 2008 Australian doubles champion and renowned Israeli pair Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich represented Israel’s best opportunity to keep its remarkable run alive.  The Israelis encountered a wall as Robredo & Lopez, who seldom play as a unit, came up victorious 7-6,6-7,6-4,6-2.  With neither team able to capitalize on break point chances, the first set was captured by Spain in a tiebreaker.  However, the Israelis quickly reversed that momentum  in the second set when Lopez double faulted at 0-40 giving them a 1-0 edge.  After Israel consolidated, Robredo saved three break points to maintain a one game deficit at 1-2.  With Israel serving for the set at 4-5, Erlich committed a myriad of volley errors which allowed Spain to get back on serve. Following Robredo’s love service game for 6-5, Israel up 40-15 needed Ram’s sensational volleying skills to efface a break point and eventually get into a tiebreaker.  Shortly after, a backhand volley error by Erlich permitted the Spaniards to build a 4-1 lead.  Yet, this resilient Israeli pair saved five set points and equalized the match when Robredo’s forehand volley sailed long.

In the third set, Spain converted triple break point, then broke Israel a second time for 3-0 with some spectacular forehands by Robredo. Although Erlich and Ram closed the gap slightly by breaking, the insurance break was just the cushion the Spaniard required to claim the set. Only weeks removed from right elbow surgery, Erlich couldn’t contend with the blows from the Spanish side.  Serving at 1 all in the fourth, a low backhand return by Lopez forced Erlich to volley up resulting in break point. Furthermore, at this critical stage, pain in the elbow caused Erlich to request an injury time out. Soon, back at service line, Erlich surrendered his serve.  After consolidating, the Spaniards broke again to extend their lead to 4-1. A few games later, at love, Lopez punched his nation’s passage into the finals.

Today, as ordained by the rules, the remaining rubbers took place. In the initial one, Ferrer defeated Ram 6-3,6-1.  Israel avoided a shutout as Levy carried the second match 7-5, 6-2 over Lopez. Despite this outcome, the Israelis will look back on 2009 with fondness and great pride. Prior to being derailed by Spain, Israel registered victories over powerhouses Sweden and Russia.

Spain will battle Czech Republic, the latter makes it’s first appearance in the finals since 1980.  At that time, the territory was in one piece and called Czechoslovakia.  The Czechs also secured their entry into the final round on Saturday after winning all three rubbers. On Friday, Radek Stepanek tranquilized a hostile Croatian crowd, stared down 78 aces and took one minute shy of 6 hours before edging out Ivo Karlovic 6-7,7-6,7-6,6-7,16-14. On the heel of one of the longest matches in Davis Cup history, Tomas Berdych, not wanting to be outdone by his countryman, took down Marin Cilic 6-3,6-3,3-6,4-6,6-3 after 3hours and  48 minutes. Still with plenty of reserve, Berdych and Stepanek teamed up on Saturday in what must have seemed like a practice session to beat Lovro Zvoko and Cilic 6-1,6-3,6-4.  So today’s action featured two dead rubbers. Czech Jan Hajek defeated Roko Karnusic 7-6,6-4.  The home audience did not leave empty handed as Zvoko prevailed over Lukas Dlouhy 6-3, 6-4.

The finals will be decided in December with Spain hosting the Czechs Republic.  Although both teams performed well on clay this weekend, the Spaniards with the best clay players around, even with Nadal sidelined, will be hard to be.  Therefore, it will take a formidable performance by the Czechs to prevent Spain from capturing it’s fourth cup this decade.

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Fait Accompli: Federer Solidifies Place In History With First French Open Title

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Fait Accompli: Federer Solidifies Place In History With First French Open Title


img_0441-version-2For three years, Roger Federer has been a bridesmaid at the French Open. Today, at last, Federer vanquished Swede Robin Soderling 6-1, 7-6, 6-4 to seize his first ‘Coupe Des Mousquetaires’ and complete the career grand slam. Federer becomes just the sixth male player to possess all four majors.

Federer got off to an idyllic start by pressuring Soderling’s serve. With a forehand up the line error by Soderling, Federer had break point and cashed in courtesy of a double fault. After consolidating with a love game, Federer extended his lead by connecting on a forehand return winner for 3-0. After Soderling held serve in a tight game, he was unable to get a point in Federer’s game. Then, Soderling watched the first set end when Federer cranked a backhand crosscourt pass to break again.

In the second set, the caliber of Soderling’s play improved with a higher percentage of first serves and more forehand winners. With Soderling serving at 15-0, a deranged spectator leapt on court and accosted Federer, waving a Barcelona flag in his face. This frightening incident was terminated when security personnel tackled the intruder. Fortunately, after Robin won his game, Federer refocused and comfortably held for 3-2. With neither man able to dent the other’s serve, the set went to a tiebreaker. With an ace and by forcing Soderling into a forehand error, Federer went ahead 2-1. Soderling never touched Federer’s serve. With three additional aces, a backhand down the line error by Soderling and a forehand drop shot winner, Federer carried the set.

A double fault offered Federer his first opportunity to take charge in the third. Roger capitalized when Robin missed a forehand up the line. With his serve on autopilot, Federer went up 2-0. A hiccup came when serving at 2-1, Federer miscalculated a forehand up the line handing Soderling his first break chance. However, with a forehand down the line winner, Roger wiped out his previous error and held for 3-1. Once Federer extended his advantage to 5-3, tears began to creep into his eyes. Federer realized that he was four points from securing the only major trophy that had escaped him. After Soderling guarded serve, Federer misfired on a forehand mid-court to donate a break point. However, with a good serve and a forehand error from Robin, Roger was back on track. Subsequently, with a forehand volley winner, Federer finally arrived at match point and sealed the championship when Soderling’s return found the net.

This was an unpredictable French Open. Soderling’s run to his maiden major final was surreal. In the round of 16, Soderling beat Rafael Nadal, Federer’s hindrance at the French the ultimate four years. In so doing, the Swede prohibited Nadal from surpassing countryman Bjorn Borg’s record of four successive French Open titles. Strangely, Bjorn had Nadal to thank last year for preventing Federer from overtaking his record of five consecutive trophies at Wimbledon. Moreover, Soderling’s road kill list included David Ferrer in the third round, Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters and Fernando Gonzalez in the semis, all formidable clay court players.  Also, unlike prior years, Federer’s path was fraught with peril. Roger needed four sets in both second and third round against Jose Acasuso and Paul-Henri Mathieu, respectively. Further, Federer was possibly one forehand miscue from losing to Tommy Haas in the round of 16. Then, world number five Juan Martin Del Potro pushed Federer to five sets in the semifinals.

Post match, Soderling acknowledged he had a tough time since Federer did not permit him to be ‘aggressive’. Soderling felt his task was impossible because ‘Roger makes [one] play bad’. Federer confessed that ‘it was an emotional roller coaster’, citing he was nervous and his mind kept wandering. The question ‘what if I win this tournament’ continuously popped in his head, adding to his anxiety particularly when serving out the match. Federer claimed that along with his first Wimbledon, undoubtedly, this was his most satisfying win. Now, Federer has equaled Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors. More importantly, unlike Pete, Federer has a French Open title on his resume.

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