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Clijsters, Venus and Gonzalez On Tap At the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open

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Clijsters, Venus and Gonzalez On Tap At the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open

Opening day at the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open kicks off with four-time Grand Slam champion Kim Clijsters taking on Jarmila Gajdosova of Australia in first round action. Two-time winner at the Sony Ericsson Open, Clijsters is playing in her first event since her semifinal appearance at the Australian Open.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams will also be taking to the courts during Wednesday’s day session. Williams, a three-time winner at the Sony Ericsson Open, will face Kimiko Date-Krumm of Japan in her first round match.

On the men’s side, 2008 Sony Ericsson Open champion Nikolay Davydenko will face James Blake. Argentine David Nalbandian takes on Steve Darcis of Belgium.

The night session is headlined by Fernando Gonzalez of Chile. A 13-year veteran on the ATP tour, Gonzalez is playing in his final tournament and will retire after the 2012 Sony Ericsson Open. Gonzalez’s opponent will be Nicholas Mahut of France.

In the second match of the night session, American Christina McHale will face off with Galina Voskoboeva.

Here is today’s complete order of play :

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

STADIUM Start 11:00 am

Jarmila Gajdosova (AUS) v Kim Clijsters (BEL) WTA
Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) v James Blake (USA) ATP
[WC] Venus Williams (USA) v Kimiko Date-Krumm (JPN) WTA
David Nalbandian (ARG) v Steve Darcis (BEL) ATP

Starting at 7:30 PM
Nicolas Mahut (FRA) v [WC] Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) ATP
Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) v Christina Mchale (USA) WTA

GRANDSTAND Start 11:00 am

Gisela Dulko (ARG) v Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) WTA
Ryan Sweeting (USA) v Lukas Lacko (SVK) ATP
[Q] Guillaume Rufin (FRA) v Tommy Haas (GER) ATP
Vania King (USA) v Laura Pous-Tio (ESP) WTA
[Q] Jamie Hampton (USA) v Polona Hercog (SLO) WTA

COURT 1 Start 11:00 am

Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) v Frederico Gil (POR) ATP
Shahar Peer (ISR) v [Q] Alize Cornet (FRA) WTA
[Q] Edouard Roger-Vasselin (FRA) v Xavier Malisse (BEL) ATP
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) v [Q] Madison Keys (USA) WTA
Anastasiya Yakimova (BLR) v Ksenia Pervak (KAZ) WTA

COURT 2 Start 11:00 am

Robin Haase (NED) v [WC] Marinko Matosevic (AUS) ATP
Pablo Andujar (ESP) v Santiago Giraldo (COL) ATP
[Q] Antonio Veic (CRO) v [WC] Denis Kudla (USA) ATP
[WC] Aleksandra Wozniak (CAN) v Eleni Daniilidou (GRE) WTA
Ayumi Morita (JPN) v [WC] Garbine Muguruza Blanco (ESP) WTA

COURT 3 Start 11:00 am

Alejandro Falla (COL) v Denis Istomin (UZB) ATP
[WC] Olivia Rogowska (AUS) v [Q] Stephanie Foretz Gacon (FRA) WTA
Pauline Parmentier (FRA) v [Q] Sloane Stephens (USA) WTA

COURT 6 Start 3:00 pm

Dudi Sela (ISR) v [Q] Arnaud Clement (FRA) ATP
Philipp Petzschner (GER) v Ivan Dodig (CRO) ATP

COURT 7 Start 11:00 am

Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) v Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) ATP
Michael Llodra (FRA) v Lukas Rosol (CZE) ATP
Alberta Brianti (ITA) v [Q] Melinda Czink (HUN) WTA
[Q] Roberto Bautista-Agut (ESP) v Andreas Seppi (ITA) ATP
[Q] Urszula Radwanska (POL) v [Q] Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) WTA

COURT 8 Start 11:00 am

Elena Vesnina (RUS) v Iveta Benesova (CZE) WTA
[Q] Vera Dushevina (RUS) v Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) WTA
Klara Zakopalova (CZE) v [Q] Valeria Savinykh (RUS) WTA
[Q] Eva Birnerova (CZE) v Michaella Krajicek (NED) WTA
[Q] Misaki Doi (JPN) v Silvia Soler-Espinosa (ESP) WTA

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Wimbledon Draw 2011: Nadal and Djokovic Steer the Field

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Wimbledon Draw 2011: Nadal and Djokovic Steer the Field

For the first time at the All England Club, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are the top two seeds. Defending champion Nadal will fight to collect his third hardware at this venue and his third French Open-Wimbledon combo. Djokovic who registered his maiden loss of the year at the previous major after a forty-one match unbeaten run will attempt to reach his first final at SW 19.

Two other competitors are also hoping to make history. Third seed Roger Federer tries to equalize Pete Sampras’ all time record of seven titles while fourth seed Andy Murray carries the aspirations of an isle on his shoulders. This fortnight, Murray aims to terminate his nation’s 75 year drought at its home major. Here’s the breakdown of the 2011 Wimbledon draw.

For world number one Nadal, it should be smooth sailing until the third round. In that session, the defending champion could be bothered by phenom Milos Raonic. Again in the round of 16, Nadal will be on crash alert with Juan Martin Del Potro his likely opponent. Consequently, there are various rocks along the road early on for the top seed.

In the quarterfinals, Nadal could face a rematch of last year’s final with Tomas Berdych. Considering Berdych’s average performance this season, the Spaniard should have the advantage. However, a semifinal against either Andy Roddick, a three time finalist, or Murray will be a harder challenge.

Having won the Queen’s Club trophy for the second time, Murray has once more found his mojo. Murray’s potential third round counterpart is Marin Cilic and either Stanislas Wawrinka or Richard Gasquet in the fourth round. While these are all worthy adversaries, Murray should have the upper hand.

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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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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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