Tag Archive | "Kuerten"

Nadal Recoups Title at Roland Garros

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Nadal Recoups Title at Roland Garros


With an unbeaten record and a historic three Masters clay titles leading up to Paris, victory seemed a mere formality for Rafael Nadal at the French Open.  Still, with Robin Soderling, the only rival to defeat Nadal at that venue as his finals’ opponent, an interesting twist was added to the plot.  Irrespective of the challenger, Nadal demonstrated that he is the master on this surface.  The Spaniard triumphed 6-4,6-2,6-4 to claim his fifth “Coupe des Mousquetaries” and recapture the number one ranking.

Soderling commenced the first set with a couple of unfettered games. Then, with a forehand down the line error by Nadal had break point. However, Nadal got to deuce when Soderling’s backhand traveled out of play. With Soderling donating two forehand mistakes, Nadal equalized the set at 2 all.  Promptly, when Soderling made another forehand error, Nadal had his initial break point.  Despite Soderling dismissing one, Nadal obtained a second and capitalized with a backhand crosscourt pass for winner.  Quickly, Nadal consolidated to widen his advantage to 4-2.  In the next game, Soderling double faulted on game point resulting in deuce and later gave Nadal two additional opportunities to break. Yet, the Swede maintained his composure to pull off the game and remain one break down. When Nadal himself double faulted, Soderling had break point.  But, on a forehand miscue by Soderling, Nadal rubbed out that previous error.  A second break point came along after Soderling crushed a second serve return and Nadal was unable to deal with the subsequent shot.  Yet, with Soderling gifting another error, Nadal won the point.  Thereafter, Nadal secured the game and eventually seized the set 6-4.

After Soderling’s uncomplicated game to open the second set, on an errant forehand by Nadal, the Swede had double break point. With an ace and a botched backhand by Soderling, Nadal reached deuce.  Soderling manufactured two more opportunities.  Nevertheless, each was snuffed out by Nadal to tie the set at 1.  Soderling short memory helped as he held at love right after.  Nonetheless, Soderling’s next time out, Nadal connected on a couple of winners for triple break point.  When the Swede misfired with the forehand up the line, Nadal broke for 3-2.  Later, with a glut of mistakes, Soderling handed Nadal a double break lead.  The Spaniard easily closed out the set at 6-2.

Unlike last year, for Soderling, the errors far exceeded the winners.  Moreover, the serve, a potent part of Soderling’s game was being neutralized by Nadal’s excellent defense.  Conversely, as the match progressed, Nadal cleaned up his game.  Following an ace for game point, Soderling committed another error for deuce.  With two consecutive forehands flubs by Soderling, Nadal bagged the break to begin the third set.  By charging to net, Soderling forced Nadal to place a backhand pass out of play for his eight break point.  Yet, by netting the backhand return, Soderling was now 0 for 8 on break points.  Eventually, Nadal guarded serve for a 2-0 edge.  The next couple of service games, Soderling comfortably held.  When the Swede double faulted in the seventh game, Nadal had another break point.  Still, Soderling dealt with the pressure and maintained serve for 3-4.  But, Soderling was given no further looks at a break point by Nadal.  As the mistakes flew off Soderling’s racket, Nadal promptly held the rest of the way to take the championship in straight sets.

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Main Event:  Venus and Kim in Sony Ericsson Open Final

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Main Event: Venus and Kim in Sony Ericsson Open Final


The women’s final is front and center this afternoon as Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters bang heads for the Sony Ericsson Open trophy.

Venus attempts to avenge her fourth round 2009 U.S. Open loss and to stop a three match skid to Clijsters.  If Venus is successful, she will claim her third consecutive title; her first in Miami since 2001 but her fourth overall.

For her part, Clijsters tries to prevail in her second final this year.  She defeated fellow Belgian Justine Henin earlier this year for the Brisbane title. The winner in Miami in 2005, Clijsters is looking for her second trophy.

Later, Max Mirnyi and Mahesh Bhupathi battle Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes in the ATP doubles final.  Mirnyi captured the title last year with partner Andy Ram and is going for a record fifth doubles championship in Miami.  His teammate this year has yet to seize this prize in Miami.

In the late afternoon, a benefit for the victims of the earthquake in Chile takes place.  “Champions for Chile” features doubles action with Jim Courier and Andy Roddick partnering to play against Chilean Fernando Gonzalez and Gustavo Kuerten.

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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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A New World Order:  The Year That Was 2008

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A New World Order: The Year That Was 2008


img_3045Fascinating is the word in a nutshell that perhaps best describes this past season. With 2009 looming, the time has come to reminisce as to why 2008 was such a quintessential year for the ATP.

The abundance of talent littering the tour foretold of a possible shake up as the year began, threatening Roger Federer’s supremacy. All dynasties have gone through a period of decline; perhaps, for Federer, 2008 will be viewed as such. In Australia, Federer faced two foes, mononucleosis and Serb Novak Djokovic. Unable to vanquish either, Roger succumbed in the semifinals. For Federer, this calendar had many ebbs and few flows with a spanking by Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the French final, a gut wrenching loss in the Wimbledon final in five sets, a much desired gold medal at the Olympics, but in doubles. Roger regained a bit of respect by capturing his fifth consecutive U.S. Open. But, for the first time since the dawning of the Federer era, Roger failed to grab a single masters’ shield. In 2008, not only did the Swiss have to get acclimated to the fact that Wimbledon was no longer his playpen, he also lost his grip on the number one ranking.

What a year for Nadal! Undoubtedly talent is an important part of success, yet hard work cannot be discounted. As the season started, the smart bet would have been on Djokovic yanking the top spot from Federer. Nevertheless, Roger’s clay nemesis, after more than two years of serving as best man, finally moved up to number one. After crushing defeats in the quarterfinals in Australia and finals at the Sony Ericsson, Nadal had a surreal clay run with one solitary loss. Moreover, Rafa won his fourth consecutive French Open and the crown jewel, his first Wimbledon trophy.  He was the first man in over twenty years with this dual combination. The ultimate feather in Rafa’s cap was getting Olympic singles gold. An arduous and lengthy schedule put the breaks to Nadal’s play with tendonitis stopping him from participating in the year-end tournament and the Davis cup finals. Regardless, Nadal could not have scripted this year any better.

In many respects, Djokovic had an up and down ride. After hoisting the Australian and Indian Wells trophies, the world number three had a reality check. Nadal unwilling to relinquish his hold on number two, schooled Djokovic when the two met in Rome and Paris. His confidence slightly dented, Novak was a non-factor mid-year with an early exit at Wimbledon. However, Djokovic finished strongly by winning the year-end tournament in Shanghai.

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A Round Up of the First Week At Sony Ericsson Open 2008 (Part II)


Ai Sugiyama The third round of the Sony Ericsson Open,which began on Sunday, was memorable not just for the results but also for the intense heat. This forced the players to take advantage of an optional 10-minute interlude prior to the start of a third set. American Ashley Harkleroad had a tough time with Miami’s extreme temperature. During the match, she was constantly seeking the shade between points and went to the side of the court to bend. It is uncertain whether she was suffering from cramps. Nevertheless, Harkleroad was a trooper, pushing the match to a third set after being down a break in the second, but Elena Vesnina prevailed (4-6, 7-5, 4-6). For Amelie Mauresmo seeded 24, her greatest liability was not the heat, but rather her mental fragility. While serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, the 2006 Australian and Wimbledon champion was broken and went on to lose the set. Prolonging her agony into a third with a seesaw of breaks, Mauresmo was serving to level the set at 5 all. After being up 30-0, Mauresmo produced a combination of double faults and unforced errors handing her opponent, Jie Zheng of China, the past to the next round (7-5, 4-, 4-6). A duplicate story unfolded on the adjacent court with Ai Sugiyama of Japan and Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia with the variation being the latter having to push the match to a third set by winning a difficult second set tiebreak. After squandering a two break lead in the decisive set, in the 12th game, Hantuchova down 0-40 due to double faults and errors, inched back to 30-40 but hit the subsequent rally into the net to end the match.

An unforeseen occurrence was the ease with which multiple major holder, Lindsay Davenport seeded 32, disposed of the world’s second ranked player and last week Pacific Life Open champion Ana Ivanovic (6-4, 6-2). Also, Anna Chakvetadze, seeded 5, was pummeled by German wildcard Sabine Lisicki (5-7, 1-6). A third round marquee match on the men’s side featured James Blake against Fabrice Santoro who is always a tricky opponent. Santoro, the magician as he has been nicknamed, despite all his tricks, could not conjure up an illusion to conquer Blake’s powerful forehand. Although he required three sets, Blake was able to move on (6-3, 6-7,6-4). Rafael Nadal, Blake’s potential rival in the quarterfinals, waited out a rain delay mid match before finishing off Nicolas Keifer (6-2,6-4). Of note, although former French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten (Guga) was ousted in the first round, he and partner Nicolas Lapenti are in the second round of the men’s doubles. This may be the last chance to see Guga in action, he is retiring. The doubles number one seed on both the women’s and men’s side, respectively, Huber/Black and the Bryan Brothers, are through after their first round wins.

In the next few days, some exciting competition will be on tap with the projected clash between Henin and Serena in the quarterfinals and a semifinal collision between either Serena and Venus or Venus and Henin. Both Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have had their share of rough patches, but they are still alive, therefore, contenders. With Davenport doing so well, she may be heading for a showdown with either Henin or the Williams sisters in the finals; that would be a treat indeed. On the men’s side, Roger Federer is on course to crash with Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. Skipping a few days ahead, Nadal and Federer may possibly meet in the finals. With the latter two hungry for their first titles in 2008, the excitement is palpable. I can’t wait for next week to start.

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