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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros


img_9890-version-2The initial week of the French Open has been filled with thrilling victories as well as agonizing losses. Here is a targeted recap of what’s gone on so far and a preview of week two.

The women and men’s number one seed breezed through their matches. Surrendering only four games in three matches, Dinara Safina faces Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai in the round of 16. Despite a partisan crowd, Safina should have no problems. After a slow start in her opening match, defending champion Ana Ivanovic, also in Safina’s section of the draw, has gotten better with each round. Reigning Sony Ericsson Open champion, Victoria Azarenka is up next for Ivanovic. Undoubtedly, this will be Ana’s biggest challenge to date. Rafael Nadal continues to make mince meat of his opponents. Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one, won only five games in their third round meeting. Nadal takes on Swede Robin Soderling in the round of 16. Although Soderling beat clay court expert David Ferrer in the prior round, it’s hard to contemplate his having any success against Nadal. Another Spaniard making waves in France is Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has prevailed in three in all his matches and will play Russian Nikolay Davydenko. The victor of that match will have the unenviable task of trying to go through Nadal to get to the semifinals.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the number two seed, have had a tougher time, yet advanced to week two. Federer’s next obstacle will be German Tommy Haas and Serena’s Canadian Alesksandra Wozniak. Andy Roddick, the only American male standing, has made it past the third round for the first time. Roddick has dismissed his rivals in impressive fashion. However, Frenchman Gael Monfils, a semifinalist last year, will be Roddick’s upcoming puzzle. Should Roddick jump through that hurdle, he could meet Federer in the quarterfinals. Brit Andy Murray is another one who hasn’t sailed through. Although Croatian Marin Cilic may be a test for the Brit, with Gilles Simon out, Murray’s place in the semifinals is almost a certainty where he is likely to battle Nadal.

Saturday saw the departure of the number four seeds as Novak Djokovic fell to German Philip Kohlschreiber while Australian Samantha Stosur stopped Elena Dementieva. Along with Kohlschreiber, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro make their debut into the round of 16. The latter two will play each other for a quarterfinal spot. With Djokovic out, for these three men as well as Spaniard Tommy Roberdo, it’s a great opportunity to reach the semifinal where Roddick or Federer may be waiting.

Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have quietly taken care of business. Kuznetsova’s next match will be tougher as she squares off against crafty Polish youngster Agnieszka Radwanska. Jankovic should have an easy pass with Romanian Sorana Cristea. Jankovic is in the golden position of avoiding a top ten seed until the semifinal where she could collide with either Serena or Svetlana. Another lucky one is former world number one now ranked 102, Maria Sharapova. Despite fumbling through, Sharapova is in the round of 16 where she will take on Na Li. Hungarian Agnes Szavay foiled Sharapova’s possible quarterfinal encounter with Venus Williams. Szavay thrashed Venus in the third round. In only her second tournament back from shoulder surgery, Sharapova has a real chance of getting to the semifinals.

Seeded fifth, Venus and Serena are alive in doubles and could impact with the number one seed Liezel Huber and Cara Black in the quarters. The top five women and men’s doubles teams are still in the mix. But, in mixed doubles, the number two seed, Cara Black and Leander Paes, was defeated in the second round.

Having set a new record for most consecutive wins at the French, can Nadal stay undefeated and seal the deal with a fifth consecutive trophy? Or will Federer finally obtain the only major that has eluded him? Will Murray, Jankovic or Safina join the elite club of major winners? Can Tsonga or Monfils make France’s dream a reality by celebrating their first major in their home country? Will Serena claim her second French title? The reply to these burning questions will come shortly.

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2009 French Open Draw Released

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2009 French Open Draw Released


french_open_logoThis Monday, the most talented men and women in tennis will initiate the process of deciding who will walk away with the year’s second major. While Rafael Nadal is unequivocally the favorite on the men’s side, the women’s potential champion is much harder to predict.

Although Nadal going down to Roger Federer in Madrid added spice to the contest, the Spaniard remains the one with the target on his back. Fellow countrymen David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco, possible fourth round and quarterfinal opponents respectively, could provide further intrigue to the plot. But, Nadal has had no trouble dealing with either man during his spectacular clay court run. The most anticipated semifinal match up could be Nadal versus Brit Andy Murray. Murray showed moments of brilliance in their semifinal meeting in Monte Carlo which he lost. Murray may need to go through Spaniard Albert Montanes, Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, pesky Czech Radek Stepanek or Marat Safin, a semifinalist in 2008. So Murray’s will have a mount to climb before getting to Nadal.

On paper, Federer should reach the quarterfinals without difficulties. However, lurking in Roger’s section are James Blake, Tomas Berdych and a couple Spaniards, any of them could serve as spoilers. In the quarters, Federer could face Andy Roddick. Yet, Roddick could have a rough time getting past his rivals since clay is not his best surface. Serb Novak Djokovic and Federer could meet in the semifinals. Having come back from a set and a break down to prevail their last two encounters, Novak will have confidence squarely in his corner. However, standing in Djokovic’s way in the preliminary rounds may be former French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero, top ten players Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro and Frenchman Jo-Wilfred Tsonga.

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Nadal Fends Off Ferrer For Number Five In Barcelona

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Nadal Fends Off Ferrer For Number Five In Barcelona


img_9941Another week on clay, another mark on the record books for Spaniard Rafael Nadal. In a rematch of last year’s Open Banco Sabadell final, Nadal beat compatriot David Ferrer 6-2, 7-5 for his fifth successive title in Barcelona.

Although the rallies were long, the strokes heavy and punishing, Ferrer had little to show for his hard work in the first set. With multiple unforced errors and a double fault, Ferrer was broken his first time out. Fortunately, by forcing a few mistakes from Nadal, Ferrer evened the set at 1-1. But, with two backhand errors and a double fault, Nadal had triple break point which he converted with a backhand crosscourt winner for 2-1. With another Ferrer backhand crosscourt not clearing the net, Nadal had another break point. Rafael cashed in as a result of a forehand error from David for 4-1. Subsequently, Nadal cruised to win the first set 6-2.

With a mixture of a double fault and forehand errors by his countryman, Rafael took a break lead in the second set. As in the first set though, Ferrer bounced back for 1 all. However, with three straight errors by Ferrer, Nadal was at triple break point. Nadal converted with a forehand crosscourt winner for 2-1. Once more, David battled back and with a forehand up the line by Nadal going long, the players were tied at 2. Then, with a seldom seen forehand crosscourt winner, Ferrer took his first lead in the match at 3-2. After, as Rafael’s forehand pass sailed off the court, David had his first opportunity to claim a commanding lead in the second set. However, Ferrer’s backhand let him down allowing Nadal to worm his way out a jam. After the competitors had no difficulty guarding their serve, Ferrer blinked. Serving at 5 all, Ferrer made two backhands errors while Nadal produced a forehand up the line winner giving the world number one triple break point. When David’s inside out forehand crosscourt stayed on his side of the court, Nadal went ahead 6-5. With a strong service game, Nadal finished the day to capture yet another trophy, his fourth of the year.

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A Breakdown Of Week 1 At Sony 2009

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A Breakdown Of Week 1 At Sony 2009


img_0942Fittingly, as the Sony Ericsson Open turns twenty-five this year, the first week of competition has already provided tons of fireworks on the courts. Here are just a few of the most memorable occurrences.

The initial two days were taken up by the qualifying rounds. Despite receiving wildcard entries, former major champions Swede Thomas Johansson and Argentine Gaston Gaudio did not move on to the main draw. In addition, the Americans teenager Donald Young and veteran Vincent Spadea failed to advance. On the other hand, Taylor Dent, whose career has had fits and starts due to niggling injuries, progressed into the primary field along with Michael Russell, Amer Delic and thirty-something Jill Craybas.

As the action got underway for real on Thursday, Dent’s hot hand continued.  The American beat two top twenty players in the second and third rounds, Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo respectively.  In the round of 16, Dent will face Roger Federer; this will be their first encounter. Albeit the world number two has had multiple kinks in his game, Dent will need to pull off the performance of a lifetime in order to vanquish Federer. Surprisingly, the 14th seed Argentine David Nalbandian made a second round exit while James Blake, the 13th seed, was halted in the third round by Czech Thomas Berdych.

The sole top ten male to scent any whiff of difficulties in the third round was Frenchman Gael Monfils. The 9th seed clawed back from a double break deficit and saved two match points against Marat Safin, the 22nd seed and former major champion, before prevailing in a third set tiebreaker. Top seed Rafael Nadal, Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Potro, Gilles Simon, Fernando Verdasco and Jo- Wilfried Tsonga are also into the second week.

Much of the ruckus appeared to be on the women’s side. The rain was not the only nuisance at Crandon Park on Sunday as a ragging storm decimated through the elite ten. Actually, the turbulence commenced Saturday evening with the last match of the day featuring world number three, Serb Jelena Jankovic. The usually steady Serb was ushered out by Argentine Gisela Dulko.  Jankovic’s game has been stagnating; for the second consecutive tournament, she has made a second round exit. After the euphoria of the previous night and the quick turnaround, Dulko lost the next afternoon in straight sets to Czech Iveta Besenova. Another Serb Ana Ivanovic, the world number 7, was also excused in the third round by gifted Hungarian youngster Agnes Szavay in three sets.

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USA Cleans Switzerland’s Clock In The First Round Of The Davis Cup


In Davis Cup play, Andy Roddick has been unflappable. Today, America’s ace in the hole hammered Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth rubber 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 to book his team’s place in the quarterfinals. Moreover, Roddick becomes second only to John McEnroe on the U.S. all-time Davis Cup winning list.

With Swiss cowbells ringing, Wawrinka won the first game with a forehand volley. Thereafter, things got sticky pretty fast for the Swiss. In two subsequent service games, Wawrinka went down love-30 and also faced a break point. Still, with a few unforced errors by Roddick, Wawrinka held serve. However, it was just a matter of time before Stanislas had to pay the piper. The debt came due in the seventh game. When Wawrinka missed a crosscourt backhand, Roddick got his second break point. Then, with a little luck, Roddick’s stroke skidded off the line, leading to a backhand error from Wawrinka and the break advantage. With his overpowering serve, Roddick grabbed the set.

The initial game of the second set was a replay of the first. Again, Wawrinka held serve for 1-0 with a forehand crosscourt volley winner. But, after Roddick cruised through his service game, Wawrinka was in dire straights afresh. With a backhand down the line winner and a volley error by his adversary, Andy had double break point. When Stanislas misconnected on an overhead, Roddick jumped ahead 2-1. The Swiss was irate, slamming his racket to the ground because he felt that the ball bounced twice on the American’s previous stroke. Except, there was no conclusive evidence that this was the case. In fact, Andy appeared to have trapped the ball. Thus, Wawrinka’s and the Swiss team’s protest fell on deaf ears. With Roddick able to neutralize Wawrinka’s masterful stroke, the backhand, and with the Swiss forced to sure up his least comfortable shot, the forehand; one break was enough for Roddick to capture the second set.

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Spain Gets The Gold While Argentina Takes Silver in Davis Cup


Argentina’s chances of winning its first Davis Cup trophy in its third appearance were lofty. Firstly, it had home field advantage. Secondly, the surface selected was hardcourt. Moreover, with world number one Rafael Nadal unable to make the trip due to tendonitis, Argentina seemed blessed. But Spain showed that it is far from being a one trick pony. Spaniard Fernando Verdasco defeated Argentine Jose Acasuso 6-3, 6-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the fourth rubber to take the title leaving thousands of boisterous Argentine fans stupefied.

In Friday’s first rubber, Argentina got off to a flying start. David Nalbandian faced Spaniard David Ferrer with the former proving to be Goliath. As usual, Nalbandian’s backhand was sublime. More impressively, his forehand was solid. He even came up with highlight reel volleys. Nalbandian prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 6-3 to give Argentina a leg up. Argentina maintained the momentum through the first set in the second rubber as world number 9 Juan Martin Del Potro squared off against Feliciano Lopez. Courtesy of one service break, Del Potro carried the first set. However, Lopez no longer feeling generous cleaned up his game and pushed the second set to a tiebreak which the Spaniard easily won. With neither player making inroads on the other’s serve, the third set also went to a tiebreak. Lopez recovered from a minibreak disadvantage to take the third. In the fourth set, after Lopez jumped out to an early lead with a break, Del Potro quickly effaced that advantage. Unfortunately, Del Potro sustained a right groin injury and despite medical treatment was unable to recover. His next service game, Del Potro went down love-40, and then double faulted to get back in a hole. Ultimately, Lopez beat the young Argentine 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-3.

Saturday in the doubles, Argentine Agustin Calleri and Nalbandian took on Verdasco and Lopez. Argentina debuted well, needing a single break to take the first set. In the second, as Calleri served to force a tiebreak, he made some key unforced errors to help Spain carry the set. After stepping on the gas to get a 5-1 lead in the third, Spain sputtered. Argentina forced a tiebreak and was just two points from leading two sets to one. Spain battled back to prevent the home team from stealing the third set. In the fourth set, Spain pulled away as a stunned Argentine public looked on 5-7, 7-5, 7-6, 6-3.

The feature match on Sunday was Acasuso versus Verdasco. Argentina was attempting to defy history since the last team to overcome a 2-1 deficit in the finals was Germany in 1990. Argentina’s was hopeful that despite not having played for months, Acasuso would force a decisive fifth rubber. After a sloppy first set by the Argentine which went in Verdasco’s favor, Acasuso capitalized on errors by the Spaniard to get ahead 4-1. But with multiple unforced backhand errors, Acasuso relinquished his lead. After a seesaw of breaks, the second went to a tiebreak which Argentina finally secured. In the third set, Acasuso tracked down an overhead from Verdasco and made a forehand winner for love-30. Then, a Verdasco double fault gifted Argentina the early break. Swiftly though, Acasuso returned the favor by double faulting to level the set. This back and forth pattern persisted until the tenth game when Acasuso finally consolidated a break to end the set. By picking on Acasuso’s weak backhand, Verdasco dominated the fourth and forced a conclusive fifth set. With three unforced errors, Acasuso faced love-40 in the opening game; Verdasco captured the break when the Argentine netted a makeable forehand. To aggravate matters, Acasuso suffered an abdominal strain. As the errors rained from the Argentine side, Verdasco took control of the fifth set and on the third break chance produced a forehand down the line for winner to cinch the title for Spain, the third this decade.

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Spain Downs USA In Davis Cup Semifinals


Rafael Nadal booked Spain’s berth in the Davis Cup final by beating American Andy Roddick in the fourth rubber 6-4, 6-0, 6-4.

The odds were stacked against the Americans, the defending champions, for various reasons. Firstly, they were playing on foreign soil. Secondly, two of their top players James Blake and Bob Bryan were unable to participate. But most importantly, they would have to face Spain on clay, a surface where the Americans are the least comfortable and Nadal’s pure genius has been proven over and over. Therefore, it was not surprising that after the first day, the Americans were in the position of playing catch up having lost the first two rubbers.

This uphill battle began promisingly with American Sam Querrey winning the first set in a tiebreak 7-6 over Nadal. But that would be the only bright spot in the first match. A seemingly rusty Nadal even went down a break early in the second set. But the Spaniard came roaring back to take control of the second set and the match 6-7, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4.

In the second rubber, Andy Roddick faced David Ferrer. The tide appeared to have turned for the U.S. as Roddick managed to get a two set to one lead after losing a tough first set tiebreak. Yet again, America’s luck proved fleeting as Spain stole the match in five sets 6-7, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-8. On Saturday, the U.S. stayed alive as the doubles team of Mike Bryan and Mardy Fish prevailed in spectacular fashion over Spain’s Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

However, the pivotal match came on Sunday as Nadal squared off against Roddick. Initially, the American used his big serve effectively to keep toe to toe with the Spaniard. Nonetheless, serving at 4-5, Roddick lost his way allowing Nadal to take the set. Thereafter, Nadal demonstrated why he has won four consecutive French Open titles. The clay master dominated, passing at will as Roddick tried to change things up by coming to net in the second set. Roddick attempted to stage a rally in the third set and had triple break point in the second game. Still, Nadal found the means to hold serve. The Spaniard then turned the tables, breaking the American at love the very next game. In the eight game, Roddick again found a slim opening at love-30, but it was promptly closed by Nadal. With a strong service game, Nadal put to bed the third set and assured Spain’s spot in the finals. The Spaniards also won the last rubber of the day with Lopez defeating Querrey 7-6, 7-6. Spain’s opponent will be either Argentina or Russia. The Russians will need to stage a come from behind charge as they find themselves down 2-1.

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“It’s Showtime”: U.S. Open Draw Announced Today


The U.S. Open draws have been posted with Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic the top singles seeds on the men and women’s side respectively.

Nadal should sail through to the quarterfinals where one possible tricky match up could be Argentine David Nalbandian. Despite a disappointing year, Nalbandian has always been dangerous on a hardcourt. Another David, countryman Ferrer who eliminated Rafa in the round of 16 last year may be a nuisance, although Nadal is not the same player. Yet, perhaps, the most dangerous potential opponent is Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro who has been blazing the last few weeks. If Del Potro continues to ride this wave, Nadal could be in trouble in the semifinals. Great Britain’s Andy Murray may have a lot to say in the matter, Del Potro and he could face off in the quarters.

Czech Radek Stepanek who beat him at the ATP Masters in Rome could test second seed and defending champion Roger Federer in the third round. Moreover, Serbian Jarko Tipsaravic who almost defeated Federer in Australia could be a potential quarterfinal challenge. But another Serbian 2007 finalist Novak Djokovic may be Federer’s biggest obstacle as the two may end up clashing in the semifinals. Djokovic has been stumbling of late but his draw looks manageable particularly with a struggling Andy Roddick as a possible opponent in the quarterfinals.

For Ivanovic, the task appears doable until the quarterfinals where she could meet Russian Dinara Safina who’s surely out for revenge after the French Open. Ivanovic’s thumb injury may be factor in the tournament. No possible Williams sisters finals, these two are on the same side of the draw and could clash in the quarterfinals. Moreover, both have intricate first round matches. Standing in the way of Serbian Jelena Jankovic could be China’s Jie Zheng in the third round or Russian Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals. The Russians are blessed with many contenders for the trophy. The road to the semifinals for Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova may mean motoring through one another. So it may not be a question of which country but which Russian will hoist the trophy, in my opinion, Safina has to be the favorite.

Miami native Ahsha Rolle is a wildcard entrant. Click here to access all of the draws for the 2008 US Open.

 

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Life After Wimbledon: The Latest News from The ATP and WTA


In case you were wondering, after two amazing weeks of play at the All England Club, tennis does go on. Although several of the top players are taking a well-deserved rest, here are the most recent results from the women and men’s tours.

In Stuggart Germany, a clay court event, 19-year-old Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro beat second seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-5 in the finals at Mercedes Cup in order to win his first ATP title. Along with a nice paycheck, Del Potro received a spanking new Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 convertible. Ah tennis, nice work if you can get it! Top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament because of a right knee problem suffered during his grueling fortnight at Wimbledon.

Two other tournaments were taking place in Europe, also on clay. At the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Romanian Victor Hanescu defeated Russian Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-4 in the finals. Hanescu prevailed over top seed and favorite son Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals. In Sweden, Spaniard Tommy Robredo disposed of Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-1 to claim the title at the Catella Swedish Open in Bastad; Tommy’s first trophy this year. Robredo eliminated defending champion and number one seed David Ferrer in the semifinals.

Grass was the surface in play at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Second seed Fabrice Santoro vanquished over wildcard finalist Prakash Amritraj 6-3, 7-5 to win his second consecutive title. Americans Mardy Fish and John Isner took the doubles prize.

For the women, it was back to the clay and a week of first for the eventual winners. At the Gaz de France, a tier III tournament in Budapest Hungary, France’s Alize Cornet, seeded second, defeated Slovenia’s Andreja Klepac 7-6, 6-3 to seize her first WTA title. Klepac ousted local sensation and number one seed, Agnes Szavay, in the second round on her way to the finals. Later in the day, Cornet along with partner Janette Husarova of Slovakia went on to take the doubles title. At the Internazionali Femminili Di Tennis in Palermo Italy, a tier IV event, Italian Sara Errani became a first time titlist on the WTA tour. Errani advanced after countrywoman and top seed Flavia Pennetta retired in the semifinals. In the finals, Errani squashed Ukrainian Mariya Koryttseva 6-2, 6-3. Like Cornet, Errani also captured the doubles trophy with teammate Nuria Llagostera Vives of Spain.

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This Week On Grass On The ATP And WTA Tours


At the Ordina Open in the Netherlands, a combined ladies and gentlemen event, Spaniard David Ferrer, seeded number one, defeated Frenchman Marc Gicquel in the finals 6-4, 6-2 in order to win his first grass court title.

The second seed and world number nine, Frenchman Richard Gasquet, was eliminated by Gicquel in the second round. Other prominent players who fell include Ivan Ljubicic in the second round, Guillermo Canas in the semifinals and Mario Ancic in the quarterfinals. All was not lost for Ancic though who teamed up with Austrian Jurgen Melzer in the doubles. These two surprised the second seed Leander Paes/Mahesh Bhupathi in the finals, winning the trophy 7-6, 6-3.

On the women’s side, Danira Safina, the third seed, who has been on a dream ride the last few months, was shocked in the finals by 30-year-old Thai qualifier Tamarine Tanasugarn 5-7, 3-6. Safina beat the number one seed Elena Dementieva in the semifinals. For second seed Anna Chakvetadze the headaches continue this year; Alona Bondarenko stopped her in the quarterfinals.

Tanasugarn had to do it the hard way, but this was the most productive week of her career. After playing two matches to get into the main draw, Tamarine defeated last week’s titlist on grass Kateryna Bondarenko, then Ashley Harkelroad in the second round, hometown sweetheart Michaella Krajicek in the quarterfinals and got rid of the other Bondarenko sister, Alona, in the semifinals. Krajicek gave the locals something to cheer for regardless by winning the doubles with partner Marina Erakovic 6-3, 6-2.

At the Slazenger Open in Nottingham England, Ivo Karlovic successfully defended his title by beating Fernando Verdasco 7-5, 6-7, 7-6. The higher seeds at this tournament were from the top twenty in the world. The well-known doubles teams of Jonathan Erlich/ Andy Ram seeded number one lost in the first round. In the finals, Bruno Soares/Kevin Ullyett prevailed over Jeff Coetzee/Jamie Murray 6-2, 7-6.

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