Tag Archive | "Melzer"

Federer and Nadal in Awesome Form Going into the Second Week at the U.S. Open

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Federer and Nadal in Awesome Form Going into the Second Week at the U.S. Open


The initial week at the U.S. Open is complete and the men’s field has been scaled down to sixteen players.  Two names missing from the roll call are Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.  These two touted favorites were upset early on. Here’s a summary of the past seven days and an analysis of what could unfold the next few rounds.

While Rafael Nadal barely passed his pre-tournament exams in Toronto and Cincinnati, in his first three matches at the Open, the Spaniard gets an A plus.  Despite being tested, with a beefed up first serve to the tune of 130 miles per hour at times, Nadal has dispatched each adversary in three sets.  In the fourth round, Nadal will face compatriot Feliciano Lopez.  With Nadal’s 5-2 record against his fellow citizen, Lopez is likely the subsequent sacrificial lamb.

After surviving a five set tussle in the first round against Fabio Fognini ranked 86th, Fernando Verdasco is in the round of 16 and will take on David Ferrer, the tenth seed.  Although Verdasco has a 6-4 edge in their encounters, Ferrer prevailed at their last meeting on clay and at their only battle on hardcourt in 2004.  David Nalbandian, one of the few players who could have troubled Nadal, was easily given his marching orders by Verdasco in the third round.

Also in the top section of the draw, seventh seed Tomas Berdych was surprised in the first round by Michael Llodra.  However, the jaw dropper came today with  Murray, the 2008 finalist and fourth seed, dismissed by Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round. The Swiss advanced for the third occasion to the fourth round in New York.   Wawrinka will meet Sam Querrey for a spot in the quarterfinals.  Consequently, for Querrey, this is the ideal scenario to book his maiden quarterfinal berth at a major.

The Spaniards have ruled and Tommy Robredo made sure to partake in the round of 16 festivities. With John Isner beaten by Mikhail Youzhny in the third round, Robredo and the Russian will fight for a place in the quarterfinals.

Another American  propelled into the limelight this week was eighteen year old Ryan Harrison.  After coming through three rounds of qualifying, Harrison stunned Ivan Ljubicic, the fifteenth seed, in the first round.  Furthermore, Harrison was one point from a win in a fifth set tiebreaker in the second round.  Harrison became the first American teen to vanquish a top twenty player at a major since Roddick in 2001 also at this event.

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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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Wimbledon Draw Presents a Challenge for Both Nadal and Federer

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Wimbledon Draw Presents a Challenge for Both Nadal and Federer


As the defending Wimbledon champion, Roger Federer has been given the top seed despite relinquishing the number one ranking to Rafael Nadal earlier this month.  Federer will attempt to capture his seventh crown to equalize Pete Sampras’ record at the All England Club. After injury prevented him from defending his 2008 title, a salubrious Nadal is seeking his second back to back French Open and Wimbledon trophies.  However, each man’s section is filled with rivals capable of tripping him prior to the finals.  Here’s a look at the draw.

After his historic string of consecutive semifinals was broken at the French Open, Federer had his tight grip on the title in Halle loosen by Lleyton Hewitt. Since prevailing in Australia, Federer has fallen to multiple adversaries whom he has owned and has yet to claim another title.  In light of Federer’s vulnerability, it’s perhaps Andy Roddick’s opportunity to avenge his three previous Wimbledon final defeats by knocking Federer out in the semifinals.  Beforehand though, Federer could have stiff competition in the round of 16 from French Open semifinalist Jurgen Melzer and in the quarterfinals from either Thomas Berdych or Nikolay Davydenko.  But, with the latter just rejoining the tour after nursing an injury for several months, he may be less of a factor.

Roddick may have some trouble of his own to contend with.  The American could see Marin Cilic or Phillip Kohlschreiber in the round of 16.  Kohlschreiber, the 29th seed, has taken down a few big names in his career which makes him dangerous.  In the quarterfinals, Roddick is projected to meet Novak Djokovic.  Djokovic has a tricky first round match against Oliver Rochus to whom he loss in Miami.  In addition, Djokovic has a potential fourth round encounter with Hewitt.  Djokovic’s game has been suffering of late which means that Hewitt has a good shot at reaching the quarterfinals in which case Roddick would be the outright favorite.

In the bottom half of the draw, Nadal could battle big server John Isner in the fourth round.  Isner has a game which translates well to grass and could bother the Spaniard. Then, the world number one has a possible clash with French Open finalist Robin Soderling in the quarterfinals.  Considering their contentious five set, two day third round encounter in 2007 and with the evolution of Soderling’s game if these two collide, it will be an intriguing match.

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Federer and Nadal on Track for Showdown in the Finals

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Federer and Nadal on Track for Showdown in the Finals


The first week of play has come to a conclusion at the French Open.  While Andy Murray, the fourth seed, going out in the fourth round to Tomas Berdych was a shock.  The biggest eye popper was David Ferrer, the ninth seed, a definite threat to Rafael Nadal in the bottom half, being ousted in the third round in three sets by Jurgen Melzer.  With both Roger Federer and Nadal methodically working through their sections, the possibility of a final between these two is very much alive.

Despite stumbling at times, Federer, the defending champion, has pulled through all four matches in straight sets.  Robyn Soderling, the 2009 finalist, has played steady ball.  Soderling had no difficulty with Albert Montanes in the third round nor Marin Cilic in the fourth round.  Now, Soderling faces Federer in the quarterfinals and will get the opportunity to seek revenge for last year’s defeat.  Although Federer has an ATP 12-0 record against him, Soderling prevailed in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi this January.  Therefore, Soderling will not be intimidated.

The French will have to wait for their homegrown champion yet another year.  In the first round, Richard Gasquet went down to Murray in a thrilling five setter. Then, in the second round, Gael Monfils was sent packing in a marathon two day drama.  Lastly, in the fourth round, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was compelled to retire against Mikhail Youzhny due to a back injury.  Youzhny battles Berdych as the other quarterfinalist in the top half of the draw.

In the bottom half, after outlasting Mardy Fish in a five set brawl, Ivan Ljubicic could not withstand another assault from 22 year old Thomaz Bellucci.  Yet, in reaching the fourth round for the first time at a major, Bellucci’s prize is Nadal.

At the start of the tournament, Americans with authentic possibilities were likely Andy Roddick, John Isner and Sam Querrey.  The greatest hope was for Isner and Querrey, the latter had prevailed over the former in the finals in Serbia.  With no prior clay court competition, for Roddick, it was going to be an uphill battle to make it deep into the draw.  In the third round, Roddick was outplayed by qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili and went out in straight sets.  Similarly, in the third round, Berdych expedited Isner.  Still, there is a Stars and Stripes bearer into the second week, he is Bobby Ginepri ranked 98th.  After beating Querrey in the first round, Ginepri outfoxed former champion Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third round.  In the fourth round, Ginepri battles Novak Djokovic.  Djokovic has not been performing at his peak, needing four sets in the first round against Evgeny Korolev, had a tough second round match versus Kei Nishikori and another four setter against Victor Hanescu.  If that pattern continues, Ginepri has a good shot at an upset.

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Verdasco Vanquishes Soderling for Barcelona Trophy

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Verdasco Vanquishes Soderling for Barcelona Trophy


One week after being routed by Rafael Nadal in the finals in Monte-Carlo, Fernando Verdasco was all smiles today.  Verdasco prevailed over Robyn Soderling 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in the finals of the Barcelona Open BancSabadell, an ATP 500 tournament, for his 5th and mightiest career title.

Following a love opening game, Soderling faced break point his second time out when Verdasco’s return clipped the net and dropped for a winner.  Although Soderling held for 2-1, he was having difficulty getting free points on serve.  A few games later, with a forehand crosscourt winner, Verdasco arrived at triple break point and cashed in when Soderling netted a forehand.  Then, with a second serve ace, the Spaniard consolidated for 5-3.  Next, with Soderling’s backhand down the line miscue, Verdasco had his fourth set point.  The Spaniard sealed the first set with a forehand up the line winner.

By forcing mistakes from Verdasco, Soderling opened the second set with a break.  However, with a couple of nonchalant forehand strokes, Soderling stared at break point.  With a forehand up the line winner, Verdasco got back to 1 all.  After Soderling netted an easy forehand to give Verdasco 30-40, a forehand initially deemed long was reversed.  Soderling won the next three points to equalize the set at 3 all.  Later, with an overhead winner, Soderling arrived at break point.  With Verdasco dumping his backhand into the net, Soderling secured the break for 4-3.  A couple of games down the road, at double set point, Soderling connected on a forehand volley winner to send the match into a third set.

After a comfortable hold by Verdasco, Soderling looked at 0-30.  In part, thanks to Verdasco’s pass clipping the net and sailing long, Soderling eventually held for 1 all.  Still, with two straight backhand errors his second time out, Soderling was again at 0-30.  Subsequently, with another backhand error, Soderling stared at a double break point.  Once again, with a net court going in his favor, Soderling put away a forehand volley to save the first break point.  Yet, with a forehand crosscourt mistake, Soderling handed Verdasco the break for 3-1.  By readily consolidating, Verdasco extended his advantage to 4-2.  Despite Soderling holding easily, Verdasco never allowed him a bite on his service games.  Thus, with Soderling netting a backhand return, Verdasco arrived at double championship point.  As Soderling’s next shot, a backhand, traveled long, Verdasco captured the trophy.  With this victory, Verdasco continues the Spaniards domination of this event with 10 successive wins since 2001.

The doubles team of Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor follow up their triumph in Monte-Carlo by defeating Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Knowles 4-6, 6-3, 10-6 in the finals for their fourth title this season.

With five time defending champion Nadal citing fatigue and opting not to aim for an historic sixth consecutive trophy for the second week in a row, the door was left wide open for the other contestants.  Verdasco, the fifth seed and a wildcard entrant, made the most of his opportunity. Tested in the third round by Jurgen Melzer, after losing the first set, Verdasco took a tiebreaker to push the match to a third set.  After coming through a tough quarterfinal versus Ernests Gulbis, countryman David Ferrer forced Verdasco to carry the last two sets after stealing the first in a tiebreaker.  This represents Verdasco’s third career trophy on clay and his second title this year.  The Spaniard defeated Andy Roddick in San Jose back in February.

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Federer Evades Serra, Cilic and Soderling Sail Into the Round of 16

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Federer Evades Serra, Cilic and Soderling Sail Into the Round of 16


Following a complicated initial match at the Sony Ericsson Open, Roger Federer was again rattled in his third round match.  The world number one was seriously pressed by Florent Serra.  Still, Federer came away unscathed with a 7-6,7-6 win.

Subsequent to neither competitor having issues on serve, Serra had a double fault on game point.  Federer took the next two points to break.  Then, with a love service game, Federer consolidated for a 5-2 lead.  However, as Federer served for the first set at 5-3, he made two costly errors allowing Serra two chances to break.  With a forehand down the line return winner, Serra put the first set back on serve. Still, Federer arrived at double set point on Serra’s service.  But, the Frenchman did not cave in.  With the two men holding at love the next two games, a tiebreaker was initiated.  With Federer’s backhand down the line pass landing out of bounds, Serra opened with a mini-break.  Then, with a forehand down the line winner of his own and with Serra flubbing an overhead, Federer got a mini-break for 2-1.  Federer went on to comfortably carry the breaker.

In the second set,  by enticing errors from Serra, Federer obtained a double break lead for 4-1.  Yet, Serra climbed back.  With a backhand overhead winner and a forehand down the line winner, Serra decreased the deficit to 4-2.  Then, Serra survived double break point to stay in touch at 3-4.  With Federer serving for the match at 5-4, a double fault gave Serra double break point.  The Frenchman converted with a forehand up the line winner.  Eventually, a second tiebreaker was called upon.  Again, after Serra got the early mini-break, Federer rebounded to easily capture the second set.

In the post match interview, Federer responded as such to the questions from MiamiTennisNews.com:
Q.  Do you have a preference. . . A match like this [where] you are tested . . . as opposed to having a quick match in the earlier rounds?
FEDERER:  Well, I mean, most important is to come through the rounds, you know.  So I don’t have a preference how it’s done.  I always like to come out with confidence, that’s for sure.  So it’s nice . . . having won two breakers, because that doesn’t happen every match you play.  Sure, I still have to tidy up my game a bit, you know, having had one break up in the first and two breaks up in the second, it’s normally something that doesn’t get away from me. But I thought he came up with some good stuff, and that made it difficult for me, you know, to close it out. That’s why I’m happy to still be through.

Q.  Were you surprised being down a double break that he was still mentally pretty strong and still fighting?
FEDERER:  Well. . . I didn’t have the feeling he was playing the score too much.  He was just playing his style, which is aggressive, you know, taking chances.  Sometimes missing by many feet.  Sometimes, you know, hitting it right in the corners.  So I knew that was going to happen kind of thing, but it’s still impressive to see when it does happen against you.  You know, that he hits the spots three, four, five, six points in a row, and there’s not much you can do sometimes.  I wish I would have maybe served better, you know, at the crucial stages of the match, which I wasn’t able to do.  But then he took advantage of that and was able to come up with some amazing stuff. Then you can only hope that, you know, he’s going to cool off again and that . . . you’re going to get your act together so you don’t allow him maybe to play that way.

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Fish Trips Up Murray, Federer Still Standing

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Fish Trips Up Murray, Federer Still Standing


For the second straight day at the Sony Ericsson Open, a highly ranked male seed went out in the second round.  World number three and defending champion, Andy Murray, was beaten by Mardy Fish 6-3,6-4 .  Although Roger Federer, the number one seed, was pushed by Nicolas Lapentti.  Federer still won comfortably 6-3, 6-3.

In the opening set, in a game in which Fish double faulted, Murray captured the break for 3-1.  However, the next game, Murray threw in a double fault on break point permitting Fish to get back on serve.  With Murray serving in the ninth game, Fish attained triple break point.  Despite Murray reaching deuce and game point, Fish would not be denied.  Mardy manufactured two more break point chances and converted.  Then, on the third asking, Fish closed out the first set.

Poor serving and a tentative return game were what Murray brought to the table; thus, Fish took full advantage.  The initial game of the second set, Murray double faulted handing Fish his second break point opportunity, the American converted.  After consolidating and widening his lead to 3-1, Fish cruised on serve.  However, in the eighth game, Fish faced a 15-40 deficit.  Once again, the serve was his ally.  By raining a few bombs, Fish extricated himself out of this jam and maintained a 5-3 lead.  After Murray held, serving out the match, Fish once more was down break point.  Still, Fish snuffed Murray’s advantage with his serve.  Subsequently, with a couple of aces and unreturnables, Fish sealed the win.

Murray spends a lot of time training in South Florida, so MiamiTennisNews wondered:
Q.  You know this court almost more than anyone else.  You practice here all the time.  What made the difference in today’s match?
MURRAY:  Well, Mardy served well when he needed to.  You know, especially the second set when he was down break points he served well.  But I just wasn’t very good today, and I’m going to need to get a lot better.

After Murray’s debacle, a love-30 start to Federer’s opening game and a break point the subsequent one by Lapentti were preoccupying.  Still, with a few good serves, Federer held to stay on serve.  For his part, Lapentti had no difficulty holding with back to back love games for 2 all.  After multiple errant forehands, with Lapentti serving at 4-5, Federer connected on a forehand up the winner for deuce.  Later, Federer provoked a backhand error by Lapentti resulting in break point.  Then, the world number one produced a stellar backhand down the line pass to go ahead 5-3.  Following, with an easy game, Federer slammed the door on the first set.

Lapentti revealed no signs of disappointment, starting the second set strongly in part aided by Federer having trouble finding his mark with the forehand.  Similarly, Federer continued to have routine service games.  The good thing for Federer was that when it mattered, his forehand showed up.  With Lapentti serving at 3 all, Federer obtained break point with a forehand up the line winner.  When Lapentti’s forehand sailed long, Federer had the crucial break.  After getting out of love-30 mess to consolidate, with a backhand crosscourt winner, Federer broke Lapentti to finish the match.

As anticipated, Robin Soderling, Marin Cilic, Fernando Gonzalez and Fernando Verdasco advanced, all in straight sets.  Seeds Mikhail Youzhny, Tomas Berdych, Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Monaco, Jurgen Melzer, Marcos Baghdatis and Feliciano Lopez also  moved on without difficulty.  On the other hand, Alberto Montanes, the 26th seed, Gilles Simon, seeded 20th, and Janko Tipsarevic, the 31st seed, were ousted.

For the women, it was business as usual.  Svetlana Kuznetsova, the top seed, with a 6-2,6-3 win, sent Agnes Szavay home . Venus Williams said arrivederci to Roberta Vinci with a 6-1,6-4 victory.  Agnieszka Radwanska took care of Ana Ivanovic 7-5,7-5.  Both Yanina Wickmayer and Marion Bartoli only needed two sets to pass to the round of 16.  The night match between Daniela Hantuchova and Nadia Petrova was less stimulating than expected.  Hantuchova prevailed over Petrova 6-2,6-4.  Timea Bacsinszky had an easy time with Polona Hercog 6-2,6-2.  Her next round will be more challenging as she faces Wickmayer.

The shocker for the women came from the doubles field as the top seed Cara Black and Liezel Huber were defeated in the first round by Natalie Grandin and Abigail Spears.

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BMW Championship Hits Sunrise

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BMW Championship Hits Sunrise


img_9385Want to experience tennis live in South Florida this upcoming week?  Here’s your appetizer before the Sony Ericsson Open.  From March 14-21, the Sunrise Tennis Club will host the ATP Challenger tour’s BMW Championship.

Last year, Robin Soderling, the 2009 French Open finalist and world number 7, defeated Tomas Berdych, ranked 22nd, to take home the big prize.  Who will be the breakout star this year?

The 2010 list of potential contenders is equally impressive.  Mikhail Youzhny, ranked 13th, whose year thus far includes back to back finals in Rotterdam and Dubai will be the top seed.   After dropping from a peak ranking of 6th to 21st, Gilles Simon who has been dealing with a sleuth of injuries is hoping to get his game back on track and is the projected second seed.  Richard Gasquet, formerly ranked in the top ten, is also expected to be part of the main draw.  2004 champion Jurgen Melzer, ranked number 28th, is another featured attraction.  Michael Berrer, a recent quarterfinalist in Dubai and finalist in Zagreb, will try to continue his winning ways while Horacio Zeballos, ranked 49th and one of  the keys to Argentina’s win over Sweden earlier this month in Davis Cup, will attempt to carry that momentum towards a trophy in Sunrise.

Keep in mind that although these are the players on the acceptance list, the actual competitors may vary since they are allowed to enter this tournament and Indian Wells simultaneously.  The draw is expected to be finalized by the end of the day on March 16th.  Regardless, you can be assured that some of  the ATP’s best will take the court.

For tournament details and to purchase tickets,go to www.sunrisetennis.com.  Make sure to tune in for live coverage by following us on twitter at www.twitter.com/MiamiTennisNews under the username @MiamiTennisNews.

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Federer and Tsonga Aid In Preserving Their Countries’ World Group Standing For 2010

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Federer and Tsonga Aid In Preserving Their Countries’ World Group Standing For 2010


img_0942This weekend, the world group playoffs sorted out which eight nations would be eligible to compete against the seeded teams for the coveted Davis cup in 2010.  Team Switzerland, headed by world number one Roger Federer, defeated Italy while France’s workhorse turned out to be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Battling the Netherlands, Tsonga was instrumental in three out of four victories.

Besides Federer, the Swiss had top 30 singles player Stanislas Wawrinka to rely on.  As a packed Italian house looked on Friday, Wawrinka defeated Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in the initial rubber.  Later, Federer took care of Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.  With its top singles players sitting out the doubles Saturday, Switzerland had its lead narrowed by Italy’s win.  However on Sunday, unfazed by a rain delay, Federer beat Potito Starace 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 to secure his country’s crack at the cup next year.

In the Netherlands, after countryman Gael Monfils lost the opening match against Thiemo De Bakker; Tsonga  prevailed 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 over Jesse Huta Galung to level the contest. Then, Saturday, Tsonga joined forces with Michael Llodra to eclipse team Netherlands 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.  Sunday, Tsonga avenged Monfils’ failure with a 7-6, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 win over De Bakker.  Although that victory was enough to seal France’s spot in the world group, Jeremy Chardy capped the day by carrying the last rubber.

Serbia playing at home against Uzbekistan had more than enough fire power despite the absence of Novak Djokovic.  With only one singles player in the top 100, Uzbekistan tried its best, but had no answer to the combo of Viktor Troicki, Janko Tipsarevic, Nenad Zimonjic and Ilia Bozoljac. Serbia won all five matches.

On Friday, India taking on South Africa in the latter’s backyard build a 2-0 lead courtesy of victories by Smoved Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna. Subsequently, Saturday, Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie got South Africa on the board by carrying the doubles.  Yet, Sunday, after Rik De Voest went ahead two sets to zero, Devvarman stormed back taking the next three sets to maintain India’s world group status.

After Andreas Vinciguerra down 6-7, 6-7 had to retire against Romanian Victor Hanescu, the Swedish crowd was uplifted as Robin Soderling defeated Victor Crivoi 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 to put that nation on level footing. The following day, Soderling paired with Robert Lindstedt to beat Horia Tecau and Hanescu  6-1, 7-6, 7-6.  The following afternoon in the all important fourth match, Soderling crushed Hanescu 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 to prevent Sweden, a perennial fixture in the world group, from being relegated.

Shortly after the euphoria of Marcos Daniel’s win over Ecuadorian Giovanni Lapentti, the Brazilian crowd was brought back to earth as brother Nicolas Lapentti defeated Thomaz Bellucci 7-6, 6-4, 7-5. On Saturday the Lapentti siblings inflicted further misery by prevailing in five sets match over Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa.  With Ecuador leading 2-1, in Sunday’s reverse rubber, Daniel down two sets to none, pushed Nicolas Lapentti to a fifth set.  Yet, the hometown crowd was brought to despair as Lapentti carried the match 6-4,6-4,1-6,2-6,8-6 thereby eliminating Brazil from the world group.

The most compelling group matches were Belgium vs. Ukraine and Chile vs. Austria with both requiring a decisive fifth rubber.  After Belgium’s Christophe Rochus and Steve Darcis gave their side a 2-0 advantage on Friday, Saturday in doubles, Sergei Bubka and Sergiy Stakhovsky defeated Xavier Malisse and Oliver Rochus 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 to keep Ukraine in the game.  Furthermore, on Sunday, Stakhovsky denied Malisse by claiming the fourth rubber 6-3, 3-6, 0-6, 6-1, 6-3.  But, Belgium’s setback was temporary. In the fifth rubber, Darcis strong armed Bubka 6-2, 6-1, 6-0.

A continent away, Chile found itself in the same position as Belgium.   After Nicolas Massu and Paul Capdeville won their matches on Friday.  Austrians Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer kept their nation in the fold by beating Massu and Capdeville in doubles.  Moreover, the Chilean crowd had its anxiety heighten as Melzer won the fourth rubber 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 5-7,6-4 over Capdeville. However, later that day, Massu defeated Stefan Koubek 6-4,4-6,6-4,7-6 to grab the ultimate world group spot.

The victors will square off next year against Spain, the Czech Republic, the U.S., Russia, Argentina, Croatia, Israel and Germany, the top eight seeds in that order. The placement for the world group playoff winners will be released Wednesday.

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What You May Have Missed This Week On Tour


In Europe, clay was still the surface on display. On the WTA tour, at the Gastein Ladies tournament in Austria, France’s Pauline Parmentier defeated Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka in the finals 6-4, 6-4. Hradecka along with fellow Czech Andrea Hlavackova won the doubles trophy.

On the ATP, Juan Martin Del Potro won his second consecutive title in as many weeks. He convincingly beat Austrian Jurgen Melzer at the Austrian Open in straight sets 6-2, 6-1. At the Dutch Open in the Netherlands, Spaniard Albert Montanes prevailed over Belgian Steve Darcis in three tough sets 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. While at the ATP Studena Croatia Open, Fernando Verdasco outlasted Igor Andreev in the finals 3-6, 6-4, 7-6.

For the men, the U.S Open hard court series will kick-start truly tomorrow with the big boys in action at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, an ATP Masters Series event. Among the top players looking to bounce back from tough losses will be defending champion Novak Djokovic and last year’s finalist Roger Federer. For the ladies, the tour will move to Los Angeles at the East West Bank Classic where it is uncertain whether Serena Williams will participate in light of her recent knee problem.

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