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Nothing but Nadal in 2010

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Nothing but Nadal in 2010


No room for dispute, 2010 was a banner year for Rafael Nadal.  The Spaniard captured three majors, regained the world number one ranking and completed the career grand slam.  As such, Nadal’s domination left no ambiguity as to who was the most outstanding player in 2010.  With the year at a close, here’s a snapshot of the stories which caught the headlines this foregone season.

After a slow start, Nadal found his footing on clay with his first calendar title at the Monte-Carlo Masters.  Subsequent to banking titles at the Masters in Rome and Madrid, Nadal culminated his clay campaign with his fifth big prize at Roland Garros.  At Wimbledon, the Spaniard defended his 2008 title to seize his second major at the All England Club.  Finally, at U.S. Open, with troublesome obstacles removed from his half of the draw,  Nadal reached his first final in New York.  Nadal stared down a strong challenge from Novak Djokovic to hoist his first U.S. Open trophy.  With a total of seven titles, Nadal topped his peers in 2010.

For Roger Federer, this year was a mixed bag.  After grabbing his sixteenth major in Australia, Federer had a fourth round loss at the Sony Ericsson Open to Tomas Berdych which sent him into a tailspin.  As defending champion at the French Open, Federer was beaten in the quarterfinals by Robin Soderling which ended an unprecedented streak of twenty-three consecutive semifinals at the majors.  Furthermore, defending champ Federer was ousted in the quarterfinals by Berdych at Wimbledon.  In fact, Federer’s ranking dropped to number three, his lowest since November 2003.  Yet, with his second title of the season at the Cincinnati Masters, Federer seemed again on the right road.  However, Federer failed to take advantage of match points in the U.S. Open semifinals against Djokovic and went down in flames.  After the New York fiasco, Federer resurfaced with a fresh coach, Paul Annacone, and won three of four finals including the ATP World Tour finals where he toppled Nadal.

The Australian Open appeared a turning point for Andy Murray.  Easily handled in the final by Federer, Murray could do nothing right with the racket for a while. Eventually at Wimbledon, Murray advanced to the semifinals only to be disappointed by Nadal.  With the defense of his title at the Rogers Cup, Murray seemed to be back.  But, another setback occurred at the U.S. Open where Murray was stunned in the third round by Stanislas Wawrinka.  In besting Federer in the Shanghai Masters final, Murray looked to be heading for a strong finish.  Yet, at the ATP World Tour Finals, Murray took another  downturn.  This was emblematic of the Scot’s tumultuous year which included a rupture with coach Miles Maclagan, a brief ceding of the world number four spot to Soderling and only two titles.

With solely two titles and a U.S. Open final appearance, Djokovic had a so-so year.  The Serb even ascended to number two for a bit, but finished at number three.  While individual success was sparse, Djokovic led his country to its first Davis Cup title.  Along with countryman Viktor Troicki, Djokovic mounted a brilliant comeback to stop France from a tenth trophy.

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Nadal Shuts Out Berdych for a Second Wimbledon Prize

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Nadal Shuts Out Berdych for a Second Wimbledon Prize


The list of competitors who have successfully prevailed their initial outing in the finals at a major is brief.  Today, Tomas Berdych was hoping to add his name to that distinguished roll of honor.  To do so, the Czech would have to overcome his biggest hurdle these two weeks, 2008 Wimbledon champion and world number one, Rafael Nadal.  Nadal dispatched newcomer Berdych 6-3,7-5,6-4 to capture his second back to back French Open and Wimbledon trophies.  With a total of eight majors, Nadal moves up to fifth in the record books besides Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi.

Berdych’s track to the finals was dramatic.  In the quarterfinals, the Czech defeated six time champion Roger Federer.  Moreover, Berdych halted Federer’s seven straight Wimbledon final streak.  Subsequently, in the semifinals, Berdych ousted Novak Djokovic, the world number 3, and became the first player from his nation since Lendl in 1987 to reach the finals at the All England Club.

With injury barring him from the defense of his title last year, Nadal had his knees come into the picture the earlier rounds.  But, in the quarterfinals and semifinals against Robin Soderling and Andy Murray respectively, Nadal had no issues.  Thus, the Spaniard appeared fit to battle.  Although Berdych and Nadal are the same age, their careers have had divergent paths.  Nadal holds 40 titles and has a 8-2 mark in finals of majors.  On the other hand,  Berdych’s overall record in finals is 5-5.

Berdych coolly carried the opening game at love while Nadal duplicated with four easy points.  Later in the first set, with a forehand crosscourt winner, Berdych held at 15 to stay in front 3-2.  However, after mildly pushing Nadal on serve, Berdych committed two quick unforced errors.  Then, with a forehand up the winner, Nadal arrived at triple break point.  With Berdych unable to locate a first serve the entire game, Nadal punished another second serve with a backhand crosscourt shot leading to another miscue by Berdych and the break.  Previously, Berdych had surrendered only two points on his serve.  Promptly with a forehand crosscourt winner, Nadal consolidated at love for 5-3.  After Berdych misfired on another forehand resulting in double break point, Nadal teed off on an abysmal second serve to get the error and claim the first set.

Still, in the second set, Berdych had his chances.  With two double faults and Nadal’s forehand floundering, Berdych had three opportunities to break in the first game.  With Berdych failing to capitalize on second serves, Nadal maintained serve.  Despite being denied, Berdych held with a love game.  Although Nadal committed a few uncharacteristic mistakes, he never allowed Berdych back in.  With Nadal ahead 4-3, at 40-30, Berdych connected on a backhand volley winner to level the set.  After readily keeping pace with comfortable games, Berdych produced a rash of errors as he served to send the set to a tiebreaker.  As a result, Nadal had triple break point.  In a mirror image of the first set, with a forehand error by Berdych, Nadal broke to take a two set advantage.

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Week One at Wimbledon: Federer and Nadal with a pulse, barely! Murray and Soderling Looking Strong

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Week One at Wimbledon: Federer and Nadal with a pulse, barely! Murray and Soderling Looking Strong


As customary, the middle Sunday at Wimbledon serves as a no play holiday which is a welcomed respite.  No words can fully underscore the uniqueness of the events that transpire this week.  From a seemingly never ending first round match, to the champions of the last two years limping their way into the last 16, to the Queen making a rare appearance, to a scandal involving Victor Hanescu.  Here’s a homage to the initial six days and a take on what’s ahead.

The French are known for their flare and Nicolas Mahut is undoubtedly part of the establishment.  In the second round of qualifying, Mahut outlasted his opponent 24-22 in the third set to advance.  Then, Mahut went five sets to make it into the main draw. In the first round of the main draw, Mahut faced John Isner. On Tuesday, the match was interrupted due to darkness after the two split four sets.  When the players returned on Wednesday, the night ended with a 59-59 draw in the fifth. Even the scoreboard was exhausted, crashing when the score got to 40+.  On Thursday, the match concluded when Isner hit two consecutive winners to break Mahut and grab a 70-68 victory.

The encounter which lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, shattered all previous records and redefined the meaning of marathon match. The fifth set alone spanned 8 hours and 11 minutes.  However, despite a full day’s rest, Isner could not recuperate.  The next round, Thiemo De Bakker, who won his prior round 16-14, dismissed a depleted Isner in just 1hour 14 minutes.  For Isner, the physical consequences may reverberate for months.

While defending champion Roger Federer did not go to such extremes, it was a struggle to survive nevertheless.  Federer was nearly a spectator as 60th ranked Alejandro Falla forced Federer to climb out of a two sets to love deficit, even serving for the match.  With a bit of “luck” as Federer put it, he moved on.  The Swiss’ second round was also tough as qualifier Ilijac Bozoljac prevailed in the second set tiebreaker. Federer carried the match by capturing the fourth set tiebreaker.  The third round, Federer played close to flawlessly against Arnaud Clement.

Rafael Nadal also willed himself to advance.  After a routine initial round, Nadal required five sets the second and third round against Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschener respectively.  More importantly, Nadal had a flare up of his niggling knee problem and was treated for elbow issue.

Following a five setter with Oliver Rochus, Novak Djokovic thumped his next opponents Taylor Dent and Albert Montanes in the subsequent rounds.  British hopeful Andy Murray has been efficient, booting his counterparts in straight sets.  Even the Queen’s first appearance at Wimbledon since 1977 did not distract her subject as Murray dispatched Jarkko Nieminen in the second round.

After an uncomplicated primary round, Andy Roddick was rattled a bit by Michael Llodra and Philipp Kohlschreiber the next rounds, pushed to four sets by each.  Roddick has friendly company into the second week as Sam Querrey secured a fourth round berth after a five set tussle with Xavier Malisse.

Unsurprisingly, his second tournament back from injury, Nikolay Davydenko fell in the second round.  Shocking though was Fernando Verdasco, the 8th seed, Marin Cilic, the 11th seed, Marcos Baghdatis, the 24th seed, and Stanislas Wawrinka, the 20th seed, all exiting their first day out.

Robin Soderling, the 6th seed, has been on cue this week.  The Swede has sailed through his matches, duration under two hours.  His first event since his back injury, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s performance has been mixed.  In the second round, Tsonga went five sets after having a two sets to none lead against Alexandr Dolgopolov.  Yet, the following round, Tsonga cruised against qualifier Tobias Kamke.

This tournament has seen a revival of the French veterans.  Paul-Henri Mathieu knocked out 13th seed Mikhail Youzhny and De Bakker in the second and third round respectively to earn a spot in the final 16 at a major for the first time since 2008.  Also, Julien Benneteau is into the second week after surviving two five set matches.

Conversely, Gael Monfils had his fortnight cut short by Lleyton Hewitt in the third round.  Monfils was no match for Hewitt who recently beat Federer in Halle. The Aussie is grooving on grass despite two hip surgeries.

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Australian Open Heating Up


Along with the summer temperatures, the action on court is scorching at the first major of the year. Let’s review the key developments of the initial week and try to predict what could unfold the last days at the Australian Open.

The unexpected casualties in the preliminary rounds were Ana Ivanovic and Venus Williams, the fifth and sixth seeds, respectively. Venus was shocked in the second round by Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro after having the match on her racket.  Suarez Navarro, a quarterfinalist at last year’s French Open, is now in the round of 16. Ivanovic, the 2008 finalist, was eliminated in the third round by 19 year-old Russian Alisa Kleybanova.  This was not a great surprise.  Since winning the French Open, Ivanovic has yet to make it past the third round at a major. Agnieszka Radwaska, the ninth seed, fell in the first round, beaten by Kateryna Bondarenko. The biggest upset on the men’s section was David Nalbandian, the tenth seed, going down in the second round to Yen-Hsun Lu ranked 61.

As we enter the meat and potatoes part of the tournament, the top four men remain on track to collide in the semifinals. With the exception of Novak Djokovic, the defending champion, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have looked extremely sharp. Of the two Americans left, Andy Roddick, the seventh seed, may represent the biggest headache pending on Djokovic’s side of the draw. Roddick’s recent weight lost and coaching change appear to be paying dividends. Andy has dispatched his opponents expeditiously, so an upset could be brewing. James Blake, the ninth seed, has played very well. However, Blake will meet last year’s finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the round of 16. Vanquishing Tsonga may be too tall an assignment for the American. Nadal will face Fernando Gonzalez, the 2007 finalist. Gonzalez may not have much left in the tank after his high quality, over four hour long, five setter against Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Federer will battle Tomas Berdych. Should Roger advance, waiting will be either Juan Martin Del Potro or Marin Cilic, two tough customers. The French are assured of having at least one man in the quarterfinals with Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils playing one another next. With the leftover field competing so well, the odds maker may need to reshuffle their numbers. The favorite may have to be Nadal, Federer and Murray in that order.

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