Tag Archive | "Robredo"

Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open

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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open




Seven days of competition have passed at the Australian Open.  While Rafael Nadal has breezed through his matches to get to the round of 16, defending champion Roger Federer had a hiccup in the second round.  As usual, there were a few unexpected departures in the first week.  Here’s a summary of what has taken place this initial week.

It’s been smooth sailing for Nadal in getting through to the round of 16.  The world number one’s excellent form will come in handy as he faces 2010 semifinalist Marin Cilic.  After two easy matches, Cilic edged out John Isner 9-7 in the fifth to earn a crack at Nadal.

After a thrilling first round five setter against Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian called it quit in the second round, four games away from being handed a straight set loss.  Mikhail Youzhny also departed earlier than expected.  The tenth seed was sent packing in the third round by Milos Raonic.  The 20 year old Canadian qualifier with the humongous serve also ousted Michael Llodra, the 22nd seed in the second round.  Next up for Raonic will be David Ferrer who is a relentless competitor.  Ferrer’s experience may prove too much for the youngster.  Thus, a Ferrer-Nadal quarterfinal showdown is the likely scenario.

Without much fuss, both Robyn Soderling and Andy Murray have been taking care of business.  Soderling’s fourth round match will be against Alexandr Dolgopolov.  The Ukrainian upset 13th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round.  Following an impressive second round match versus Juan Martin Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis was forced to retire down two sets to one with a hand injury in his third round match against Jurgen Melzer.  As such, Murray will battle Melzer for a quarterfinal berth.

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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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Preview of the Men’s French Open Draw 2010

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Preview of the Men’s French Open Draw 2010


On Sunday, the 2010 French Open gets underway.  Before the first ball is struck at Roland Garros, here’s a taste of how the proceedings may unravel on the gentlemen’s side.

Since 2006, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had made it a habit of contesting for the trophy on the final Sunday. Last year, Robin Soderling interrupted that cycle by ousting Nadal in the fourth round.  After descending a wee bit in the rankings, with a record three Masters clay court titles, Nadal returned to his familiar spot at number two this week.  Therefore, this sets up the possibility of a final featuring defending champion Federer and his old nemesis Nadal.

By far, Nadal has been the best clay court player this season.  As such, it’s almost a given penciling his name as a finalist.  In examining the draw, Nadal, the top seed in the bottom section, appears to have a green line through the round of 16.  In the quarterfinals, the Spaniard could see slight resistance from fellow countrymen Fernando Versdasco and Nicolas Almagro.  The latter in particular competed well against Nadal in Madrid.  Still, Nadal should pull through.

Also in the bottom half are Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic, potential semifinal adversaries for Nadal.  Last year, Roddick had a career best showing in Paris by reaching the round of 16.  In the first round, Roddick takes on veteran Jarkko Nieminen, then, a possible third round match with Juan Monaco.  Hence, the American may say his goodbyes to Paris early. Assuming Roddick advances to the quarters, he could face the second best performer on clay this year, David Ferrer.  Considering that Roddick has not competed since the Sony Ericsson Open and with clay being his least successful surface, it hard to imagine Roddick progressing to the second week.

Despite a clay title and two other finals, Djokovic went down in the third round in 2009.  This year, Djokovic withdrew early in Serbia and his best result was the semifinals in Monte-Carlo. Consequently, for Djokovic, resting may be a blessing.  On the other hand, it could be a curse, not allowing the Serb to be clay fit.  With former French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero potentially as a third round opponent and Ferrer in the quarterfinals, the third seed could have his hands full before getting a crack at Nadal.

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Women Semifinal Day at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open:  Venus, Bartoli, Henin and Clijsters

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Women Semifinal Day at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open: Venus, Bartoli, Henin and Clijsters


At the Sony Ericsson Open today, the women finalists will be determined along with the semifinalists for the top half of the men’s draw.

For the third time, Venus Williams takes on Marion Bartoli. Their head to head stands at one all.  Williams carried their 2007 Wimbledon final match while Bartoli won their last encounter in Stanford in 2009.  In the ultimate session, Kim Clijsters clashes with Justine Henin.  Earlier in the year, they played in the finals in Brisbane.  Clijsters defeated Henin in three sets in what she stated was “ one of . . .  most exciting matches I think that I’ve played [in]  my career . . . we had a great time out there”.

In the initial male quarterfinal, Tomas Berdych faces Fernando Verdasco.  After his amazing triumph over Roger Federer, Berdych attempts to at least equal his best result in Miami, he reached the semifinals in 2008.  Berdych has 5-3 record against Verdasco.  They’ve split their last two meetings.

Mikhail Youzhny and Robin Soderling battle it out for the ultimate semifinal berth.  Soderling has been victorious their last three out of four matches. In Rotterdam this year, Soderling beat Youzhny. Soderling was well on his way to securing the trophy before the Russian retired with a hamstring problem.

In addition, there’s a sprinkling of doubles as Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo square off against Lukas Dlouhy and Leander Paes for a spot in the finals.  Arnaud Clement and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga meet Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi in the quarterfinals.  Last year, Mirnyi won the title with partner Andy Ram.

Here is today’s complete schedule :

THURSDAY, APRIL 1

STADIUM start 1:00 PM
[13] M Bartoli (FRA) vs [3] V Williams (USA) – WTA

Not Before 3:00 PM
[16] T Berdych (CZE) vs [10] F Verdasco (ESP) - ATP
Almagro/Robredo vs [3]Dlouhy/Paes

Starting at 7:00 PM
[13] M Youzhny (RUS) vs [5] R Soderling (SWE) – ATP

Not Before 9:00 PM
[14] K Clijsters (BEL) vs [WC] J Henin (BEL) – WTA

COURT 2 Not before 4:30 pm
Clement/Tsonga vs. [4]Bhupathi/Mirnyi

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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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Nadal Averts the Upset, Roddick Swiftly Through

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Nadal Averts the Upset, Roddick Swiftly Through


In the third round at the Sony Ericsson Open, Rafael Nadal was severely tested by David Nalbandian.  Still, Nadal booked his passage into the round of 16 with a 6-7,6-2,6-2 victory. Andy Roddick breezed through, beating Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-2,6-1 to advance.

After Nadal secured the early break at 2-1, Nalbandian knotted the first set at 3 when Nadal double faulted on break point.  From that point on, these two guarded serve.  In the tiebreaker, Nadal dumped a backhand into the net to give Nalbandian a 2-1 mini-break lead.  Later, Nadal leveled things at 4 all.  Nalbandian erased a set point by Nadal, then, on his third set point captured the set when Nadal missed a forehand up the line.

Although Nadal began the second set with a couple of errors, he held serve.  After wiping out a break point by Nalbandian, Nadal converted on a break point courtesy of his rival’s miscue.  With a love game, Nadal consolidated for 5-2.  Subsequently, the next game, Nadal broke a second time to close out the set.

After a love hold, Nalbandian faced break point his second time out in third set.  Nadal went on to grab the break for 3-1.  Again, with a love hold, Nadal moved ahead 4-1.  Following an easy game for 2-4, Nalbandian tried to make a charge, but failed.  Nadal extended his lead to 5-2.  Then, at triple break/match point, with a forehand up the line winner, Nadal finished off the match.

Next up for Nadal is fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.  The 15th seed defeated Ivo Karlovic 7-6,6-3.  After his smooth entrance into the round of 16, Roddick has another potential easy adversary in Benjamin Becker.  Becker prevailed over 18th seed Tommy Robredo 1-6,6-4,7-6.

After his glorious victory over Novak Djokovic, Oliver Rochus was brought down to earth by Thomaz Bellucci.  Bellucci stopped Rochus, winning 6-3,6-4. In the succeeding round, Bellluci battles Nicolas Almagro.  Almagro fought off Jeremy Chardy 6-2,6-7,6-3.

Juan Carlos Ferrero downed American John Isner 6-2,3-6,6-3.  The upcoming challenge for Ferrero is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  The Frenchman ousted Phillip Kohlschreiber in straight sets 6-2,7-5.

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Monday’s Agenda At the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open

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Monday’s Agenda At the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open


The men wrap up their third round at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open today while fourth round action commences for the women.

Mardy Fish tries to avoid the lull that postdates a triumph over a player of Andy Murray’s caliber. In the first match of the day, Fish confronts Feliciano Lopez.  Their three prior meetings, Lopez won twice on hardcourt while Fish on grass. Afterwards, Roger Federer takes on veteran Florent Serra for the first time.  Following is Venus Williams and Daniela Hantuchova.  Williams will be shooting for 10-0 record versus her opponent.  The day session caps off with a jewel of a match, Kim Clijsters against Victoria Azarenka. In Toronto last year, Clijsters was victorious at their maiden encounter.

On stadium court, the evening program has Fernando Gonzalez clashing with Juan Monaco.  Gonzalez has prevailed at their five preceding rendezvous. The finale is Justine Henin versus Vera Zvonareva.  Henin has won all five prior matches, the last one was in Zurich in 2007.  Zvonareva is without question a different player.

On the grandstand, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Marion Bartoli do battle. Later, Marcos Baghdatis plays Marin Cilic, the inaugural showdown for these players.  Two other top seeds in action at that location are Fernando Verdasco and Robin Soderling.

The outer courts have plenty of stimulating singles and doubles matches.  After fighting her way into the fourth round yesterday, Caroline Wozniacki is back to face talented youngster Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  Although Wozniacki carried their sole meeting in New Haven last year, with her dealing with a viral illness and Anastasia much improved, it will be a tough task.  In addition, Jelena Jankovic tussles with Sam Stosur for the second tournament in a row.  Jankovic has a 3-0 record versus Stosur.  Top doubles seed Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic collide with Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo.  John Isner and Sam Querrey try to cut down fourth seed Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi.

Below is Monday’s full order of play :

MONDAY, MARCH 29

STADIUM start 11:00 am
M Fish (USA) vs [29] F Lopez (ESP) – ATP

Not Before 1:00 PM
[1] R Federer (SUI) vs F Serra (FRA) – ATP
[3] V Williams (USA) vs [19] D Hantuchova (SVK) – WTA

Not Before 4:30 PM
[14] K Clijsters (BEL) vs [4] V Azarenka (BLR) – WTA

Not Before 7:00 PM
[9] F Gonzalez (CHI) vs [22] J Monaco (ARG) – ATP

Not Before 8:30 PM
[WC] J Henin (BEL) vs [11] V Zvonareva (RUS) – WTA

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
[1] S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs [13] M Bartoli (FRA) – WTA

Not Before 12:30 PM
Y Shvedova (KAZ) vs [6] A Radwanska (POL) – WTA
[10] F Verdasco (ESP) vs [23] J Melzer (AUT) – ATP
[25] M Baghdatis (CYP) vs [7] M Cilic (CRO) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 PM
P Petzschner (GER) vs [5] R Soderling (SWE) – ATP

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs [8] E Makarova (RUS) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA
L Dekmeijere (LAT) / P Schnyder (SUI) vs [4] L Raymond (USA) / R Stubbs (AUS) – WTA

Not Before 1:00 PM
[1] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs N Almagro (ESP) / T Robredo (ESP) – ATP
J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA) vs [4] M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR) – ATP
F Lopez (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) vs [6] S Aspelin (SWE) / P Hanley (AUS) – ATP

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
[19] S Wawrinka (SUI) vs [13] M Youzhny (RUS) – ATP
H Zeballos (ARG) vs [16] T Berdych (CZE) – ATP
[12] Y Wickmayer (BEL) vs T Bacsinszky (SUI) – WTA
[22] A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs [2] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA

Not Before 5:00 PM
[7] J Jankovic (SRB) or [28] E Vesnina (RUS) vs [9] S Stosur (AUS) – WTA
M Kirilenko (RUS) / A Radwanska (POL) or [WC] K Clijsters (BEL) / K Flipkens (BEL) vs G Dulko (ARG) / F Pennetta (ITA) – To Be Arranged

COURT 3 start 1:00 pm
[3] L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs T Bellucci (BRA) / M Lopez (ESP) – ATP
[7] F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK) vs A Clement (FRA) / J Tsonga (FRA) – ATP

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Djokovic Done In By Rochus, Wozniacki Worms Through

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Djokovic Done In By Rochus, Wozniacki Worms Through


Whilst rain had been forecasted in Miami at the Sony Ericsson Open on Friday, what was unexpected was Novak Djokovic’s second round departure.  Olivier Rochus ousted the world number two 6-2,6-7,6-4.  Simultaneously on court 1, Caroline Wozniacki, the women’s number two, was on the verge of an early exit herself.  However, Wozniacki survived against Tsvetana Pironkova 3-6,6-3,6-4.

Rochus broke in the opening game.  After consolidating, Olivier placed a beautiful backhand down the line winner to set up triple break point.  Rochus converted a second break when Djokovic’s backhand sailed long.  After erasing a break point and extending his lead to 5-1, Rochus closed out the set his next time out.

In the second set, Rochus again obtained triple break point and with a backhand down the line winner took a 3-2 lead.  But, Djokovic got back on even terms promptly breaking the next game.  The set went to a tiebreaker where Rochus got ahead early on.  Yet, Djokovic weathered the storm and stole the set.

The decisive set, after holding serve, Rochus was gifted a double fault by Djokovic and broke for 2-1.  Then, by donating to his opponent a couple of errors, Rochus lost his edge. Soon though, Rochus worked his way to double break point and capitalized when Djokovic’s forehand traveled long. Later on, Rochus fought off a break point and stretched his advantage to 4-1.  After failing to secure the insurance break, serving at 5-3, Rochus committed a string of errors allowing Djokovic to stay in the match.  Still, with miscues by Djokovic, Rochus manufactured break point/match point.  Olivier pocketed the match when another Novak forehand went astray.

After the match, MiamiTennisNews inquired:
Q.  Were you having problems breathing on the court?  Looked like the conditions were a little bit heavy out there.
DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, it was a bit humid, but, you know, he was making me run a lot so points were really long.  That was exhausting.

Q.  You’ve been playing a lot of tennis.  Are you thinking of maybe rescheduling for the clay season?
DJOKOVIC:  I don’t know.  I will have more time now I guess to rest and prepare well for clay.

On to the ladies, after dropping the first set to Pironkova, Wozniacki was behind in the second set.  The world number two battled back and captured the break for 5-3.  Subsequently, Wozniacki held to push the match to a third set.

In the ultimate set, Pironkova got a break early on and consolidated for 3-0.  After finally getting on the board, Wozniacki earned triple break point and converted.  Later at 3 all, Wozniacki took a go ahead break for 4-3.  However, Pironkova fought back to 4 a piece.  But, a resilient Wozniacki manufactured another break point and put herself in front 5-4 when Pironkova’s forehand up the line sailed long.  Then, on her third match point, as a forehand from Pironkova landed wide, Wozniacki punched her ticket into the third round.

With the rain backlog, Kim Clijsters’ match originally scheduled on stadium court was bounced to an outer court.  Regardless, for Clijsters, it turned out to be a practice session with a 6-1,6-1 thumping of Petra Kvitova.  Like Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva put on a clinic against Melanie Oudin 6-1, 6-2. Maria Kirilenko crawled out of a 5-2 deficit in the third set against Melinda Czink to pilfer the match in the tiebreaker.  After losing the first set, Lucie Safarova seized the second set tiebreaker then rolled over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez 4-6.7-6,6-2.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 22nd seed, continues to impress; the youngster beat Tamira Paszek  7-6,4-6,6-3 for a third round berth.   Before the rain came, Victoria Azarenka, the defending champion, had a 6-3,6-2 victory over Alexandra Dulgheru. Jelena Jankovic, Dominika Cibulkova, Elena Vesnina and Shahar Peer were straight sets winners.  Samatha Stosur was pushed to a third set by Carla Suarez Navarro and made it through.

Elena Dementieva, the 5th seed, suffered her 11th defeat to Justine Henin 6-3,6-2. Alisa Kleybanova, the 24th seed, fell to Sara Errani 6-4,7-5 while Jie Zheng, seeded 20th, was upset by Virginie Razzano in straight sets.  For Alize Cornet, it was another disappointing tournament with an early ousting, this time by Francesca Schiavone.  Schiavone prevailed 6-3,6-2.  After being on the road six weeks and some heartbreaking losses, Cornet’s 2010 record is now 6-9.

MiamiTennisNews wanted to know about Cornet’s state of mind:

Q. You look physically tired, are you also mentally tired?
CORNET:  Maybe a little, it’s already many weeks that I’m away from home.  I have not cut back in terms of training and I am someone who trains a lot usually. I rarely give myself time off, days of rest. I am becoming cognizant that I should take resting a little more seriously and from time to time award myself a day off. However, I think it’s difficult with long stretches of tournaments as such.

Djokovic was followed on stadium court by Rafael Nadal.  In no time, Nadal dispatched Taylor Dent 6-4,6-3.  Andy Roddick and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a no drama night with straight set wins over their opponents Igor Andreev and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez respectively.  Ivan Ljubicic, the champion at Indian Wells last week, was forced to retire against Benjamin Becker after carrying the first set and the first game in the second due to a back injury.  It was a tough day for the American males with Sam Querrey and James Blake going down after winning their first sets to Jeremy Chardy and Thomas Bellucci respectively. But, John Isner avoided the upset with a 7-6,2-6,7-6 victory over Michael Russell.  David Nalbandian, Ivo Karlovic, Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro and Phillip Kohlschreiber advanced.

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Spain Bounces Israel , Czech Republic Outlives Croatia in Davis Cup Semis

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Spain Bounces Israel , Czech Republic Outlives Croatia in Davis Cup Semis


img_97281With Spain’s best players, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco, out of commission due to abdominal muscle injuries, the defending Davis Cup champion had to rely on an alternate squad to bat in the semifinals against Israel.  Unfortunately for first time semifinalist Israel, the tandem of David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez showed no cracks.

Spurred on by their home crowd as well as cheerleaders Nadal and Verdasco, the Spaniards gave an A+ performance. As a result, by Saturday, Spain had carried all three rubbers to safely move on to the finals for the second straight year. Although with the clay Israel was at a conspicuous disadvantage, it still put up an admirable fight. On Friday, Ferrer got his team off to a great start with a 6-1,6-4,6-3 victory over Harel Levy.  Subsequently, Israel’s best singles offering Dudi Sela battled Juan Carlos Ferrero. Despite Sela’s valiant effort, with a far more competitive rubber than the score reflected, Sela could not keep up with the former French Open champion.  Ferrero prevailed 6-4,6-2,6-0.

On Saturday, with Spain ahead two matches to none, the 2008 Australian doubles champion and renowned Israeli pair Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich represented Israel’s best opportunity to keep its remarkable run alive.  The Israelis encountered a wall as Robredo & Lopez, who seldom play as a unit, came up victorious 7-6,6-7,6-4,6-2.  With neither team able to capitalize on break point chances, the first set was captured by Spain in a tiebreaker.  However, the Israelis quickly reversed that momentum  in the second set when Lopez double faulted at 0-40 giving them a 1-0 edge.  After Israel consolidated, Robredo saved three break points to maintain a one game deficit at 1-2.  With Israel serving for the set at 4-5, Erlich committed a myriad of volley errors which allowed Spain to get back on serve. Following Robredo’s love service game for 6-5, Israel up 40-15 needed Ram’s sensational volleying skills to efface a break point and eventually get into a tiebreaker.  Shortly after, a backhand volley error by Erlich permitted the Spaniards to build a 4-1 lead.  Yet, this resilient Israeli pair saved five set points and equalized the match when Robredo’s forehand volley sailed long.

In the third set, Spain converted triple break point, then broke Israel a second time for 3-0 with some spectacular forehands by Robredo. Although Erlich and Ram closed the gap slightly by breaking, the insurance break was just the cushion the Spaniard required to claim the set. Only weeks removed from right elbow surgery, Erlich couldn’t contend with the blows from the Spanish side.  Serving at 1 all in the fourth, a low backhand return by Lopez forced Erlich to volley up resulting in break point. Furthermore, at this critical stage, pain in the elbow caused Erlich to request an injury time out. Soon, back at service line, Erlich surrendered his serve.  After consolidating, the Spaniards broke again to extend their lead to 4-1. A few games later, at love, Lopez punched his nation’s passage into the finals.

Today, as ordained by the rules, the remaining rubbers took place. In the initial one, Ferrer defeated Ram 6-3,6-1.  Israel avoided a shutout as Levy carried the second match 7-5, 6-2 over Lopez. Despite this outcome, the Israelis will look back on 2009 with fondness and great pride. Prior to being derailed by Spain, Israel registered victories over powerhouses Sweden and Russia.

Spain will battle Czech Republic, the latter makes it’s first appearance in the finals since 1980.  At that time, the territory was in one piece and called Czechoslovakia.  The Czechs also secured their entry into the final round on Saturday after winning all three rubbers. On Friday, Radek Stepanek tranquilized a hostile Croatian crowd, stared down 78 aces and took one minute shy of 6 hours before edging out Ivo Karlovic 6-7,7-6,7-6,6-7,16-14. On the heel of one of the longest matches in Davis Cup history, Tomas Berdych, not wanting to be outdone by his countryman, took down Marin Cilic 6-3,6-3,3-6,4-6,6-3 after 3hours and  48 minutes. Still with plenty of reserve, Berdych and Stepanek teamed up on Saturday in what must have seemed like a practice session to beat Lovro Zvoko and Cilic 6-1,6-3,6-4.  So today’s action featured two dead rubbers. Czech Jan Hajek defeated Roko Karnusic 7-6,6-4.  The home audience did not leave empty handed as Zvoko prevailed over Lukas Dlouhy 6-3, 6-4.

The finals will be decided in December with Spain hosting the Czechs Republic.  Although both teams performed well on clay this weekend, the Spaniards with the best clay players around, even with Nadal sidelined, will be hard to be.  Therefore, it will take a formidable performance by the Czechs to prevent Spain from capturing it’s fourth cup this decade.

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros


img_9890-version-2The initial week of the French Open has been filled with thrilling victories as well as agonizing losses. Here is a targeted recap of what’s gone on so far and a preview of week two.

The women and men’s number one seed breezed through their matches. Surrendering only four games in three matches, Dinara Safina faces Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai in the round of 16. Despite a partisan crowd, Safina should have no problems. After a slow start in her opening match, defending champion Ana Ivanovic, also in Safina’s section of the draw, has gotten better with each round. Reigning Sony Ericsson Open champion, Victoria Azarenka is up next for Ivanovic. Undoubtedly, this will be Ana’s biggest challenge to date. Rafael Nadal continues to make mince meat of his opponents. Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one, won only five games in their third round meeting. Nadal takes on Swede Robin Soderling in the round of 16. Although Soderling beat clay court expert David Ferrer in the prior round, it’s hard to contemplate his having any success against Nadal. Another Spaniard making waves in France is Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has prevailed in three in all his matches and will play Russian Nikolay Davydenko. The victor of that match will have the unenviable task of trying to go through Nadal to get to the semifinals.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the number two seed, have had a tougher time, yet advanced to week two. Federer’s next obstacle will be German Tommy Haas and Serena’s Canadian Alesksandra Wozniak. Andy Roddick, the only American male standing, has made it past the third round for the first time. Roddick has dismissed his rivals in impressive fashion. However, Frenchman Gael Monfils, a semifinalist last year, will be Roddick’s upcoming puzzle. Should Roddick jump through that hurdle, he could meet Federer in the quarterfinals. Brit Andy Murray is another one who hasn’t sailed through. Although Croatian Marin Cilic may be a test for the Brit, with Gilles Simon out, Murray’s place in the semifinals is almost a certainty where he is likely to battle Nadal.

Saturday saw the departure of the number four seeds as Novak Djokovic fell to German Philip Kohlschreiber while Australian Samantha Stosur stopped Elena Dementieva. Along with Kohlschreiber, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro make their debut into the round of 16. The latter two will play each other for a quarterfinal spot. With Djokovic out, for these three men as well as Spaniard Tommy Roberdo, it’s a great opportunity to reach the semifinal where Roddick or Federer may be waiting.

Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have quietly taken care of business. Kuznetsova’s next match will be tougher as she squares off against crafty Polish youngster Agnieszka Radwanska. Jankovic should have an easy pass with Romanian Sorana Cristea. Jankovic is in the golden position of avoiding a top ten seed until the semifinal where she could collide with either Serena or Svetlana. Another lucky one is former world number one now ranked 102, Maria Sharapova. Despite fumbling through, Sharapova is in the round of 16 where she will take on Na Li. Hungarian Agnes Szavay foiled Sharapova’s possible quarterfinal encounter with Venus Williams. Szavay thrashed Venus in the third round. In only her second tournament back from shoulder surgery, Sharapova has a real chance of getting to the semifinals.

Seeded fifth, Venus and Serena are alive in doubles and could impact with the number one seed Liezel Huber and Cara Black in the quarters. The top five women and men’s doubles teams are still in the mix. But, in mixed doubles, the number two seed, Cara Black and Leander Paes, was defeated in the second round.

Having set a new record for most consecutive wins at the French, can Nadal stay undefeated and seal the deal with a fifth consecutive trophy? Or will Federer finally obtain the only major that has eluded him? Will Murray, Jankovic or Safina join the elite club of major winners? Can Tsonga or Monfils make France’s dream a reality by celebrating their first major in their home country? Will Serena claim her second French title? The reply to these burning questions will come shortly.

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