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Slovak Republic Shocks Russian Siblings To Seize Hopman Cup


At the XXI Hyundai Hopman Cup, a tournament celebrating mixed doubles play, Slovakians Dominik Hrbaty and Dominika Cibulkova surprised the brother and sister team of Marat Safin and Dinara Safina to win that country’s third trophy in Perth, Australia. In the first match, Cibulkova, undefeated in singles this week, beat Safina for the first time in her career 6-7, 6-1, 6-4 while Hrbaty prevailed in the second rubber against Safin 6-7, 7-5, 7-6.

Nineteen year-old Cibulkova, also the world number 19, was aggressive from the first ball strike against world number 3, Safina. With the score tied at 2 in the first set, Cibulkova smoked a backhand down the line, which resulted in an unforced error from Safina for break point. With Dinara unable to dig out a low volley, Dominika pocketed the break. However, Safina quickly bounced back to square the set at 3 all. The Russian then held serve easily for 5-4 and had triple break point. But, with great defense and a few unforced errors from her opponent, the Slovakian escaped. The set was ultimately settled in a tiebreak. After Cibulkova gifted Safina a minibreak by missing an easy forehand volley, she gift-wrapped the set for Safina with a double fault.

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Wimbledon 2008: A Preview Of The Singles’ Draw


Once again, the Wimbledon seeding committee has upset the apple cart by utilizing its prerogative of not formulating the draw according to rankings. It is the only major that does not always abide by the rankings.

Thus, on the gentlemen’s side, Richard Gasquet currently the world number nine has been seeded ahead of James Blake ranked number eight. This is far from a minor detail. Gasquet’s semifinal finish last year probably influenced that decision, but his performance so far this year has been disastrous. For Blake, the implications are huge. Instead of meeting Andy Roddick seeded sixth in the semifinals, the two could potentially clash in the round of 16.

Marcos Baghdatis also reaped the fruits of his quarterfinal showing last year. Now ranked 25, Baghdatis is seeded tenth. Meanwhile, Stanislas Wawrinka, world number ten, in spite of his excellent season has been bumped to the number thirteen slot. Otherwise, the top seven players were seeded as expected.

For world number one Roger Federer, the road to the finals is paved with stones. In the first round, Federer faces former top ten player, Dominik Hrbaty. From there, things get more complex with Lleyton Hewitt, Fernando Gonzalez and possibly Novak Djokovic in the semifinals. For Rafael Nadal, it is harder to isolate potential pitfalls. Nadal recently beat Roddick on grass who is also on his side of the draw. Perhaps if Blake makes it to the semifinals, this may be problematic for Nadal considering that Blake leads him 3-2 in their head to head but they’ve always met on hardcourt.

The ladies’ seeding followed the rankings. Analyzing the top half of the draw, Ana Ivanovic and Serena Williams should technically make it to the semifinals. For Ivanovic, speed bumps could include Patty Schnyder, Nicole Vaidosova and Agnes Szavay. On the other hand, Svetlana Kuznetsova or Agnieszka Radwanska may prevent Serena from getting to her projected engagement with Ivanovic. Defending champion Venus Williams’ journey to the trophy will be tough with Jelena Jankovic, Vera Zvonerava or Flavia Pennetta standing in her way in the quarterfinals. While Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina or Elena Dementieva may be semifinal obstacles for Venus. Similarly for Sharapova, her side of the draw is stacked with fellow Russians such Safina, Dementieva or Petrova who may stop her from advancing.

So, there is a lot to contemplate as we look ahead to next couple of weeks. On the women’s side, the draw appears wide open. Past major champions may have the edge because of their experience. With the gentlemen, considering that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic with their talent have distanced themselves so much from the rest of the field, it is hard to foresee another player as having even a marginal shot at the trophy. The question to be answered is whether this will be Federer’s sixth consecutive title or whether Nadal or Djokovic will manage to snatch it from Federer’s grasp.

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