Tag Archive | "French Open"

Quarterfinal Headliners at the 2010 SEO:  Henin, Wozniacki, Clijsters and Nadal

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Quarterfinal Headliners at the 2010 SEO: Henin, Wozniacki, Clijsters and Nadal


The remaining two women singles semifinal slots will be assigned today at the Sony Ericsson Open.  In addition, the men get their singles quarterfinal round under way.

Following women quarterfinal doubles action, Justine Henin and Caroline Wozniacki kick off the afternoon on stadium court.  For Wozniacki, this is her initial encounter with the four time French Open, two time U.S Open and 2004 Australian Open champion.  Afterwards, Andy Roddick battles Nicolas Almagro.  Likewise, it’s the first meeting for these guys.  Because the surface is hardcourt and not clay where Almagro has won his five ATP titles, Roddick has the advantage considering his superb results lately. Subsequently, Mike and Bob Bryan face Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski in the quarterfinals.

The women’s night session has Samantha Stosur and Kim Clijsters.  Although Clijsters has a 2-0 record versus Stosur,  their ultimate collision was in Miami in 2007.  A victory by Henin and Clijsters will result in an all Belgian semifinal in the bottom half of the draw.

The evening ends with the match featuring Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  The only time Tsonga defeated Nadal was in the quarters of the 2008 Australian Open.  Since then, they have played three hotly contested matches.  With Tsonga performing well in Miami, this should be a great battle.

In addition, the grandstand focuses on male doubles with the team of Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez as well as Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes to name a few.

Here is today’s full schedule :

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 31

STADIUM start 11:00 am
Y Chan (TPE) / J Zheng (CHN) vs [8] E Makarova (RUS) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA

Not Before 1:00 PM
[WC] J Henin (BEL) vs [2] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA

Not Before 3:00 PM
[6] A Roddick (USA) vs [33] N Almagro (ESP) – ATP
[8] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs [2] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 PM
[9] S Stosur (AUS) vs [14] K Clijsters (BEL) – WTA

Not Before 9:00 PM
[8] J Tsonga (FRA) vs [4] R Nadal (ESP) – ATP

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
[3] L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs B Becker (GER) / M Kohlmann (GER) – ATP

Not Before 6:00 PM
N Almagro (ESP) / T Robredo (ESP) vs F Lopez (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) – After appropriate rest


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Federer’s Take On First Round Win and More

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Federer’s Take On First Round Win and More


Following his second round victory over Nicolas Lapentti at the Sony Ericsson Open, Roger Federer held a post match interview.  Here are the world number one’s comments to the questions specifically posed by MiamiTennisNews.com.

Q.  Your forehand at the beginning of the match seemed a little bit off.  What were the conditions out there?  It seemed a little cold and breezy.

FEDERER:  Yeah, conditions  I thought the ball was flying quite a bit actually, which I was sort of surprised about that, because in the practices I thought it was always very sort of humid and it was hard to get something out of the ball.  All of a sudden I was trying to generate pace on the ball and the thing would fly off my racquet like I couldn’t believe.  So I had to play a bit more safe and not go for the lines as much.  All of a sudden the court becomes this big, you know.  It’s tricky, but I tried a few different things on the return as well.  But when you start doing that, that also makes you a bit unsure.  And I think today I came through because I served very well.  I had a good start into basically all my service games.  I always knew I was going to have a couple of chances at least on the return games.  I was able to have a good record on breakpoint conversions, and I think that’s what won me the match today.

Q.  With some of the top seeds out, Djokovic and Murray, does it feel good to get your first match out?

FEDERER:  Sure, worries me as well being the top seed, seeing high seeds fall out of the tournament.  You know, I haven’t even started playing yet, and there’s two, you know, big names out of the tournament already. It’s a bit worrying at times.  But then again, I’m worried on my own work.  I’m relieved I’m through the first round, anyway.  I’ve got a feeling and a sense of how it plays out there in a match situation when the stadium is full.  Crowds were amazing today.  For first round and to have a sort of a sellout crowd and a record day, it’s nice to be part of it.

Q.  Speaking of the French Open, there has been talk about renovation of the venue because it’s somewhat sub-par compared to the other Majors.  Do you feel that’s the case?  What would you like to see changed there?

FEDERER:  Um, I’ve only heard bits and pieces, so I’m not entirely sure what they’re talking about.  For the venue to move takes a lot, so I think it’s not going to happen maybe in my lifetime, when I’m still playing.  But I definitely think there’s always things you could do better, you know.  I mean, it’s super crowded, especially the first week or so, down in the players’ area and Suzanne Lenglen on the other side.  That’s not really an option for me, who spends most time at Chatrier.  I think they could definitely improve their site a little bit.  But then again, you’re working with a small space.  I think all the tournaments are trying extremely hard to keep not only just the players happy, but also fans and media and everyone.  So it’s not always as easy as it seems, you know.  But I think it’s always very important for the tournament to try [its] best for the players, because we speak to the press.  If we’re extremely happy, we’re going to speak extremely well about the tournament.  I think that’s one of the reasons I guess they’re always looking for ways to improve, as well.

Q.  You’re going to be returning as the defending champion at Roland Garros.  Is there a different feeling that you’re going to have walking in as the defending champion as opposed to the past where you were only a finalist?

FEDERER:  Very different, yeah.  Finally less pressure, even though I’m defending champion.  I have to defend 2,000 points, and defend the Coupe des Mousquetaires.  It’s not something that’s so simple.  I know that.  I love those kind of challenges, you know.  I’m happy I have that kind of pressure.  But I think it’s probably going to be one of the first times at the French Open I’m going to walk in the grounds smiling thinking, you know, what?  I’ve already won this tournament.  It’s fine.
But I will try everything I possibly can to defend again.  The last few years I did feel a lot of pressure from myself, because I based a lot in the preparation already since like maybe December, February.  And then April again in the buildups, everything was based upon, you know, being as fit as I could be at the French Open.  So this time around I don’t have to do that, because I’ve already won the French.  Now I can just concentrate on playing tennis and enjoying the venue, which has not always been the case for me in the past.

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Tennis Is Healthier With A Healthy Nadal

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Tennis Is Healthier With A Healthy Nadal


img_1180_rnIn the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, defending champion and world number two, Rafael Nadal, prematurely set down his racket due to the sudden onset of a knee injury.  For several seasons, the 23 year old has been afflicted with one form of physical ailment or another.  After an extraordinary victory in 2008, last June, Nadal was unable to defend his title at Wimbledon due to tendonitis.  As an individual who has exhibited exemplary conduct both on and off the court, there’s a noticeable void when a player of Nadal’s caliber is absent.  Here are a few reasons why the game is better with Nadal.

With Andy Murray dominating from the very first stroke and only three games from a straight sets victory, there was little suspense as to the outcome of the quarterfinals. Still, with the Spaniard, there is often a sliver of hope for a comeback.  One of Nadal’s most admirable attribute is his inherent belief, regardless of the score, that he is not vanquished until the last ball is struck.  In Nadal’s psyche, there’s invariably that one shot which sparks the turning point in the match.  It’s hard to bet against a man who last year in Australia after a thrilling five hour and 20 minute, five set semifinal defeated Roger Federer after another five setter with less than 24 hour turnaround.

If one were to browse the dictionary for the definition of driven or relentless, it would not be shocking to discover a photograph of Nadal.  Whether in practice or in match situation, Nadal gives 1000% effort, a reflection of his perfectionist personality. There’s an ATP commercial which describes tennis players as “gladiators” on the pitch; perhaps no person epitomizes that description better than Nadal.  Each time he steps on the court it seems a duel to the death.

While Nadal’s all-encompassing dedication is laudable, the intense manner he approaches the game has taken a toll on his body.  Bouts of tendonitis in both knees have hampered Nadal’s movement.  With the nature of his game, it’s inevitable that these structures will be under recurrent stress. Therefore, even for an athlete as talented as Nadal, it becomes impossible to compensate.  One option could be for him to go on a lengthy sabbatical since resting is crucial for healing.  The down side would be that his ranking would suffer. Sometimes, one wishes Nadal could trade in his knees for new ones every so many miles as he does his tennis shoes.

The injuries are unfortunate because over the years Nadal has grown as a player.  He has incorporated different shots which have helped him succeed on surfaces other than clay.  In some respects, Nadal’s resume is more well-rounded and accomplished than Federer’s.  Nadal’s first major was at age 18 while Federer’s came at age 21.The Spaniard has an Olympic gold medal in singles and a couple of Davis Cup titles.  On the contrary, there’s been a sporadic commitment by the Swiss to the Davis Cup.

In an era dominated by Federer, Nadal’s most significant contribution is proving that there are many ways to triumph.  These two players have contrasting styles as well as differences in other areas.  Nadal is a lefty, Federer a righty. The former plays two handed on the backhand wing while the latter has a one handed stroke.  Federer moves as a quasi ballet dancer on court, Nadal more like a football player. But, there is common ground in that they are both passionate about their sport.

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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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Reflections on WTA 2009

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Reflections on WTA 2009


img_1710It’s that time of year when we look back at what transpired on the women’s tour over the past season and view ahead at the upcoming year.  Here’s a recap of the great, the good and the down right ugly moments from 2009.

Last year, in many respects, can be characterized as bizarre. The majors commenced with a meltdown by Dinara Safina as Serena Williams thrashed her in the Australian Open final.  Months later after sensational results at lead up tournaments, Safina, newly crowned world number one, had another breakdown in the French Open final vis-à-vis Svetlana Kuznetsova.  As such, Kuznetsova grabbed the second major of her career.

At the All England Club, after Serena survived a riveting semifinal match against Elena Dementieva, she faced Venus in the finals for the second consecutive year.  However, this go around, Serena bested big sister to capture 2009′s third major.  Also a favorite to step to the finals at the U.S. Open, Serena encountered two stumbling blocks, her emotions and  Kim Clijsters.

After fulfilling her desire to procreate, Clijsters discovered that her retreat from tennis had left a void.  Thus, following a two year absence, Clijsters once again embraced the game. Subsequent to some impressive triumphs, Clijsters took on Serena in the semifinals. The weather may have been in part culpable, more likely though, it was Clijsters’ superb touch that got under Serena’s skin as a foot fault by a line judge roused Serena’s anger.  Unsavory words by Serena caused a point penalty with Clijsters having match point.  A day later, Clijsters went on to rope the U.S. Open trophy, the second major of her career.

Leading the pack of names that captivated the tour in 2009 is Dane Caroline Wozniacki.  The teenager became her country’s first competitor to reach a major final. Although downed by Clijsters, after starting the year in the top 20, Wozniacki closed 2009 at number 4.  Belarusian Victoria Azarenka continued her march in the right direction.  Azarenka demolished Serena at the Sony Ericsson Open to catch the biggest title of her career.

On the other hand, for the Serbs, it was  a year of sliding backward. Ana Ivanovic, the 2008 French Open champion and former world number one, had trouble directing her forehand and serve. With neither stroke on the money, Ivanovic did not get pass the fourth round at any of the majors. Ivanovic reached one final, Indian Wells, but failed to hoist the trophy. Fed up, Ivanovic put a punctuation to her season in October and her ranking tumbled to 21st.  Number one at the start of the year, Jelena Jankovic, fared a little better than Ivanovic by collecting two titles.  However, Jankovic was equally a disappointment at the majors with only a round of 16 appearance in Paris and Melbourne.

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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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Kuznetsova Celebrates Second Career Major in Paris

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Kuznetsova Celebrates Second Career Major in Paris


img_1153-version-2Appropriately, the two women who have excelled on clay this year, world number one Dinara Safina and world number seven Svetlana Kuznetsova battled in the last round of the French Open. In this third all-Russian major final of the Open era, Kuznetsova pounded Safina 6-4, 6-2 to get her first ‘Coupe Suzanne Lenglen’.

With a dropshot on the very first point which Safina easily put away for a forehand winner, Kuznetsova revealed that she was nervous. Consequently, Safina took advantage and broke immediately. However, with three forehand errors and a double fault from Safina, Kuznetsova was on the board. Now more relaxed, Kuznetsova closed out a love game with a forehand crosscourt winner for 2-1. After Safina held with difficulty, Kuznetsova lost her way in a 40-15 game. With a backhand service return winner, Safina had break point. Boldly, with a serve and volley winner, Kuznetsova brushed aside the deficit and went on to secure the game. Serving at 3-4, Safina faced a 0-30 disadvantage for the second straight game. With a penetrating backhand return, Kuznetsova got to triple break point. Then, when a backhand crosscourt skidded off the line for a winner, Svetlana took a 5-3 lead. But, with four successive errors by her rival, Dinara broke back. Yet, Svetlana stayed calm. With two forehand winners and a spectacular backhand volley, Kuznetsova arrived at double set point. She converted when a heat packed backhand down the line forced Dinara’s forehand to find the bottom of the net.

In the initial stages of the second set, both women held serve although errors dominated. After Kuznetsova netted a backhand and forehand stroke for 0-30, she induced three forehand errors from Dinara for game point. Later, Kuznetsova secured the game for 3-2. With Safina’s inconsistency on first serve, this proved the turning point in the match. As a result of a double fault, a backhand crosscourt long and a forehand error, Safina stared at double break point. When Dinara overhit a forehand up the line, Svetlana obtained a 4-2 edge. Despite both players’ reputation for mental fragility, Safina had improved significantly in that area in the past year. Yet, after losing serve, Safina turned to her coach asking: “why am I such a chicken?” After consolidating the break, Kuznetsova’s prayer of not having to serve out the match was answered. With a couple of huge forehands, Kuznetsova got to 30 all. Then, when Safina made another backhand mistake, Svetlava had match point. Safina capped a horrible afternoon with a double fault to give Kuznetsova her first French Open title.

Reflecting on what transpired after the match, Safina essentially admitted that the number one ranking weighed her down because she “ put pressure on [herself] and [she] just wanted to win”. Moreover, she failed to ‘stay mentally tough’ and at times felt ‘desperate on court’. On the other hand, Kuznetsova cited “ I just wanted to do my best… I don’t push pressure on myself . . . if it works out great”. Maybe the major lessons that Kuznetsova deducted from blowing two set leads in the quarters versus Serena Williams and in the semis against Samantha Stosur were the importance of fighting on and knowing when to control one’s emotion. Five years after winning the U.S Open and coming up short on two other occasions, Kuznetsova is a deserving champion.

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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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Clay : You Have To Love It For It To Love You Back

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Clay : You Have To Love It For It To Love You Back


img_9979_bwFor as long as I live, when I think of the red clay at Roland Garros, the picture that will always come to mind is that of Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten tracing the contours of a heart on the ground after his grueling five sets win over Swede Magnus Norman in the 2000 French Open final.

Bar none, clay is the most demanding surface to play on. The points can be endless.  A men’s three set match can last longer than three hours. Thus, that type of court can exact a significant mental and physical price. Ironically though, clay is much gentler on the body than a hard court where joints can be prone to injury. Despite the clay presenting some significant health benefits, the list of players who excel on that specific turf is far shorter than that of those who perform well on hard court. Therefore, the question must be posed as to the source of this disconnection.

One explanation may be the competitors’ lack of familiarity with the surface. The majority of Americans and non- Iberian Europeans nowadays grow up playing on concrete. Red clay practice courts and tournaments have become a rarity in the U.S. Currently, the ladies have a choice of either Charleston or Jacksonville; many have characterized both as “simulated clay”. Players have described the green surface as a hard court dusted with clay which makes their movement feel awkward. For the men, their only option is the U.S. Clay Court Championships in Houston. Although it is more suitable than what’s available to the women, in many respects it falls short of the necessary requisite to offer a full fledge European red clay experience.

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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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