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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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2010 Sony Ericsson Open Preview for Wednesday March 24

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2010 Sony Ericsson Open Preview for Wednesday March 24


Day 1 at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open kicks off today with Justine Henin, former world number 1 and 2007 semifinalist, headlining the day session for the women.  Other notable names in action include Anna Chakvetadze, Carla Suarez Navarro, Patty Schnyder and wild card Anastasia Pivovarova.  In the night session, American Melanie Oudin will square off against qualifier Michaella Krajicek.

On the men’s side, wildcards David Nalbandian and Mario Ancic highlight the day session.  Nalbandian is returning to the ATP tour after hip surgery.  France is well represent on opening day with Michael Llodra, Richard Gasquet, Arnaud Clement, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Marc Gicquel in action.  Americans Taylor Dent and wildcard Ryan Harrison will also take to the courts on Wednesday.  In the night session James Blake will take on  wild card Filip Krajinovic.

Here is the complete order of play for Wednesday :

STADIUM start 11:00 am

A Chakvetadze (RUS) vs K Date Krumm (JPN) – WTA
[WC] M Ancic (CRO) vs J Chardy (FRA) – ATP
J Craybas (USA) vs [WC] J Henin (BEL) – WTA
[WC] D Nalbandian (ARG) vs L Kubot (POL) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 PM
[WC] F Krajinovic (SRB) vs J Blake (USA) – ATP
M Oudin (USA) vs [Q] M Krajicek (NED) – WTA

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
E Schwank (ARG) vs M Gicquel (FRA) – ATP
M Llodra (FRA) vs [WC] R Harrison (USA) – ATP
O Rochus (BEL) vs R Gasquet (FRA) – ATP
T Dent (USA) vs [Q] R Schuettler (GER) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 PM
[Q] D Istomin (UZB) vs M Russell (USA) – ATP

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
[WC] A Pivovarova (RUS) vs C Suarez Navarro (ESP) – WTA
K Srebotnik (SLO) vs P Schnyder (SUI) – WTA
S Bammer (AUT) vs [Q] P Parmentier (FRA) – WTA
T Bacsinszky (SUI) vs [Q] B Mattek-Sands (USA) – WTA
G Dulko (ARG) / F Pennetta (ITA) vs [WC] S Kuznetsova (RUS) / A Molik (AUS) – WTA

COURT 2 start 10:00 am
A Clement (FRA) vs G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) – ATP
I Andreev (RUS) vs [Q] X Malisse (BEL) – ATP
E Makarova (RUS) vs [Q] C Dellacqua (AUS) – WTA
[Q] V Lepchenko (USA) vs V Razzano (FRA) – WTA

Not Before 5:00 PM
I Benesova (CZE) vs [Q] E Baltacha (GBR) – WTA

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
S Voegele (SUI) vs A Cornet (FRA) – WTA
A Keothavong (GBR) vs T Paszek (AUT) – WTA
[Q] T Pironkova (BUL) vs [WC] H Watson (GBR) – WTA
[Q] A Rodionova (AUS) vs A Petkovic (GER) – WTA

COURT 6 start 10:00 am
D Koellerer (AUT) vs C Rochus (BEL) – ATP
M Chiudinelli (SUI) vs F Mayer (GER) – ATP
S Greul (GER) vs B Becker (GER) – ATP
P Mathieu (FRA) vs [Q] I Marchenko (UKR) – ATP

COURT 7 start 10:00 am
T Malek (GER) vs S Errani (ITA) – WTA
M Czink (HUN) vs [WC] A Rus (NED) – WTA
[Q] S Arvidsson (SWE) vs A Brianti (ITA) – WTA
[Q] R Kulikova (RUS) vs R Vinci (ITA) – WTA

COURT 8 start 10:00 am
J Hajek (CZE) vs S Stakhovsky (UKR) – ATP
[Q] A Golubev (KAZ) vs D Gimeno-Traver (ESP) – ATP
K Barrois (GER) vs [Q] M Koryttseva (UKR) – WTA
J Goerges (GER) vs [Q] A Morita (JPN) – WTA

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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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USA Advances To The Semifinals In Davis Cup


The spotlight this weekend was on the Davis Cup as titleholder, the United States, confronted France in the quarterfinals in Winston, North Carolina. With a highly spirited crowd cheering him on, Andy Roddick took on Michael Llodra in the opening match on Friday. This turned out to be a close contest with Llodra being broken only once the entire match. Tie breaks determined the outcome of the second and third sets, allowing Roddick to prevail in three sets 6-4, 7-6, 7-6.

Round two featured James Blake versus Paul-Henri Mathieu. After splitting the first two sets, Blake won the third and looked to be in control of the match. But, Mathieu sprung back, winning the fourth. Considering Blake’s abysmal record in 5 set matches, US Captain Patrick McEnroe would have been justified in being alarmed. As the decisive set began, the likelihood of a lost loomed larger as France nosed out in front 2-1. Blake broke back to equalize things at 2-2. After that, things remained even until the 9th game when Mathieu converted a break point in a game in which he made an awesome down the line forehand. While serving for the match, Mathieu reacquainted himself with first serves, something which was absent throughout this set and went up 40-15. To his credit, Blake did not panic. On the next point which could have been the last, Blake used his speed to maintain himself in the match. Then, a couple of unforced errors by France leveled the set. After holding his own serve, Blake broke Mathieu to take the match and give the US a 2-0 lead 7-6, 6-7,6-3,3-6, 7-5.

The next round of competition on Saturday had the Bryan brothers playing against the 2007 Wimbledon doubles champion, Arnaud Clement and Michael Llodra. After a tight first set which was decided in a tiebreak in the Americans’ favor, the French stepped up their game. The strategy of taking Clement out of his comfort zone and requiring him to come up with volleys and forehand shots, which are his weakness, at first paid off. But mid-second set, the more practice the Frenchman got, the better he became at executing these demanding shots. Furthermore, Llodra’s serve once again was on the mark picking up where he left off the previous day. Undeterred, the combination of all the aforementioned elements gave the Frenchmen the match and sustained the expectation that they could progress on to the next round 6-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

On Sunday, France’s Mathieu faced Andy Roddick in the initial match. Mathieu, probably still in shock from the prior day’s result, offered no resistance. Roddick slammed the door on France, smoothly winning in three sets 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. A final obligatory match took place between Blake and Richard Gasquet in which the former was victorious. A perplexing question remained as to why Gasquet, as the top ranked player on the French squad, did not square off against Roddick instead. Thus, in September, the Americans will play the Spaniards in the semifinals in Spain; the latter eliminated Germany on German soil. The other semifinal will have Russia opposing Argentina. The Russians needed the home court advantage to eke out the win against the Czech Republic, while Argentina slid through against Sweden.

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