Posted on 22 May 2009
This 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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Posted on 11 May 2008
Anticlimactic appears the operative word to describe ATP Masters tournament in Rome. A rash of retirements, five in total, plagued the event with Novak Djokovic, twice the beneficiary. In the quarterfinals, Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, a multiple clay court titleholder, retired against Djokovic in the second set due to a wrist problem. After the euphoria of defeating Roger Federer in the quarterfinals 7-6, 7-6, Radek Stepanek suffered an overnight transformation. In the semifinals, Stepanek cited dizziness and weakness for his stoppage of play against Djokovic. Capping off a bizarre day, Andy Roddick also withdrew from his semifinal match in the first set due to back spasm. In the first round, Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina retired in the third set against Andy Murray with back problems in a match where the two traded insults. Murray alleged that the Argentine made disparaging remarks about his mother. In the third round, Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, a winner on clay at the BMW Open the week prior, was forced to retire with a right leg injury.
Controversy has arisen because in the past, the clay period has been spread out over seven weeks with players normally choosing to take two weeks of rest. This year, in order to accommodate the August Olympic Games, the ATP altered the schedule, shortening it by one week. Rafael Nadal has vociferously expressed his displeasure over the curtailed calendar, fearing that the recovery time between tournaments would be inadequate. Nadal’s concerns were validated this week when feet blisters contributed to his lost in the second round to Juan Carlos Ferrero. As a result, Nadal was unable to defend his title in Rome. This marked only the second defeat for Nadal in 105 clay court matches in nearly five years. The penultimate leg of the clay court season is in Hamburg this upcoming week. Subsequently, the players will have a week to recuperate before stepping on the court at Roland Garros. With so many athletes having to contend with injuries and the grinding nature of clay court play; this year’s French Open may be a case of the survival of the fittest.
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