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Good Fortune Helps Djokovic Win First ATP Masters Title On Clay: Warwinka Comes Out Second Best


At the ATP Masters Series in Rome, the finals came down to Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka, a Swiss player on the rise. This was the latter’s first ATP Masters Series final. After dropping the first set, Djokovic recovered to claim his first ATP Masters trophy on the red dirt 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

After starting his first service game with a double fault, Wawrinka, who looked a bit edgy, calmed down and kept toe to toe with the world number three, who himself appeared on his heel throughout the first set. Wawrinka’s one handed backhand, his most prolific shot, had good depth and range getting him off the hook on a couple of close service games. In the seventh game with Djokovic serving, a fortuitous net court, a superb backhand winner and a double fault presented the first break points for either player which Wawrinka eventually capitalized on to lead 4-3; the Swiss took the first set 6-4.

The second set began without much to differentiate the two players. Yet, one conspicuous fact was that Djokovic had trouble with finding the right distance on his backhand with 8 unforced errors to 2 winners. Djokovic tried to mix things up by coming to the net, but without much success. On the other hand, Wawrinka did not have a strangle hold on this match either. As the rallies became longer the Swiss competitor commenced to produce more errors on both wings. In the first set, Stanislas won over 70% of his second serve points while Novak less than 40%. The contrary was happening in the second set. A frustrated Djokovic finally seized an opening in the sixth game, converted the break taking a 4-2 lead and carried the set 6-3.

At the commencement of the decisive set, Wawrinka again flirted with danger and that cost him dearly. With his first opportunity to break, Djokovic put his nose in front 1-0. From then on, Djokovic’s opponent withered away, paralyzed by a litter of unforced errors. As the net play and the drop shots which were not clicking for Djokovic earlier, started to find their mark, the match turned around. In the ninth game of the set with Wawrinka in dire straits, Djokovic broke one last time to take the championship.

With two retirements clearing his path and his not facing any seeded player for the duration of the tournament, Djokovic’s win is difficult to put into perspective vis-à-vis Roland Garros.

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Compact Clay Court Schedule Impacts Rome ATP Masters


Anticlimactic appears the operative word to describe ATP Masters tournament in Rome. A rash of retirements, five in total, plagued the event with Novak Djokovic, twice the beneficiary. In the quarterfinals, Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, a multiple clay court titleholder, retired against Djokovic in the second set due to a wrist problem. After the euphoria of defeating Roger Federer in the quarterfinals 7-6, 7-6, Radek Stepanek suffered an overnight transformation. In the semifinals, Stepanek cited dizziness and weakness for his stoppage of play against Djokovic. Capping off a bizarre day, Andy Roddick also withdrew from his semifinal match in the first set due to back spasm. In the first round, Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina retired in the third set against Andy Murray with back problems in a match where the two traded insults. Murray alleged that the Argentine made disparaging remarks about his mother. In the third round, Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, a winner on clay at the BMW Open the week prior, was forced to retire with a right leg injury.

Controversy has arisen because in the past, the clay period has been spread out over seven weeks with players normally choosing to take two weeks of rest. This year, in order to accommodate the August Olympic Games, the ATP altered the schedule, shortening it by one week. Rafael Nadal has vociferously expressed his displeasure over the curtailed calendar, fearing that the recovery time between tournaments would be inadequate. Nadal’s concerns were validated this week when feet blisters contributed to his lost in the second round to Juan Carlos Ferrero. As a result, Nadal was unable to defend his title in Rome. This marked only the second defeat for Nadal in 105 clay court matches in nearly five years. The penultimate leg of the clay court season is in Hamburg this upcoming week. Subsequently, the players will have a week to recuperate before stepping on the court at Roland Garros. With so many athletes having to contend with injuries and the grinding nature of clay court play; this year’s French Open may be a case of the survival of the fittest.

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The Mighty Have Fallen: Federer, Nadal Ousted


For the first time since the 2005 Australian Open, where Marat Safin was victorious, a major’s trophy will be engraved with a name other than that of Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. The projected clash between these two in the Australian final was unceremoniously interrupted by two of the game’s young tikes, Novak Djokovic and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

If Federer is not one with the tennis gods, he is certainly their favorite son. He has been a constant at the last ten major’s final. From the opening rounds, Federer, the world’s number one, appeared a little out of sort and off his game. In the third round, he needed five sets, since he converted only 5 of 21 break point chances, to fight off a stubborn opponent, Janko Tipsarevic 6-7,7-6,5-7,6-1,10-8. In the Round of 16, Thomas Berdych also proved to be a tough competitor even though Federer escaped with a straights set win 6-4,7-6,6-3. Against James Blake in the quarterfinals, again Federer advanced in straight sets, but it was obvious that Blake had the answers to some of Federer’s shots that were troublesome in the past. Blake broke Federer’s serve a few times, resulting in a far closer match 7-5, 7-6, 6-4 than the latter would have preferred.

Where his colleagues had failed, Djokovic succeeded, beating Federer in the semifinals. The two played in the finals at last year’s U.S Open where Djokovic lost in straight sets; clearly, the moment was overwhelming for the young player. But in Australia, after being initially irritated by his poor play and unsatisfied with his racket tension, (Djokovic switched his gear several times), Novak settled down and broke Federer as he served to secure the first set. From that point on, the dynamics of the match changed as Djokovic continually applied pressure on Roger’s serve and guarded his own. Djokovic, ranked third, was on fire the entire tournament. In fact, up to then, he had won all his matches in straight sets including against Lleyton Hewitt ranked 19 and David Ferrer ranked 5. Overall, Djokovic just looked a few steps faster than Federer, even “borrowing” shots from his opponent’s arsenal. In short, Djokovic made the normally extraordinary play of the world’s number one appear ordinary with a straights set win 7-5,6-3, 7-6. Thus, Djokovic will be making his second consecutive major final appearance.


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