Tag Archive | "Rolle"

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“It’s Showtime”: U.S. Open Draw Announced Today

The U.S. Open draws have been posted with Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic the top singles seeds on the men and women’s side respectively.

Nadal should sail through to the quarterfinals where one possible tricky match up could be Argentine David Nalbandian. Despite a disappointing year, Nalbandian has always been dangerous on a hardcourt. Another David, countryman Ferrer who eliminated Rafa in the round of 16 last year may be a nuisance, although Nadal is not the same player. Yet, perhaps, the most dangerous potential opponent is Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro who has been blazing the last few weeks. If Del Potro continues to ride this wave, Nadal could be in trouble in the semifinals. Great Britain’s Andy Murray may have a lot to say in the matter, Del Potro and he could face off in the quarters.

Czech Radek Stepanek who beat him at the ATP Masters in Rome could test second seed and defending champion Roger Federer in the third round. Moreover, Serbian Jarko Tipsaravic who almost defeated Federer in Australia could be a potential quarterfinal challenge. But another Serbian 2007 finalist Novak Djokovic may be Federer’s biggest obstacle as the two may end up clashing in the semifinals. Djokovic has been stumbling of late but his draw looks manageable particularly with a struggling Andy Roddick as a possible opponent in the quarterfinals.

For Ivanovic, the task appears doable until the quarterfinals where she could meet Russian Dinara Safina who’s surely out for revenge after the French Open. Ivanovic’s thumb injury may be factor in the tournament. No possible Williams sisters finals, these two are on the same side of the draw and could clash in the quarterfinals. Moreover, both have intricate first round matches. Standing in the way of Serbian Jelena Jankovic could be China’s Jie Zheng in the third round or Russian Vera Zvonareva in the quarterfinals. The Russians are blessed with many contenders for the trophy. The road to the semifinals for Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova may mean motoring through one another. So it may not be a question of which country but which Russian will hoist the trophy, in my opinion, Safina has to be the favorite.

Miami native Ahsha Rolle is a wildcard entrant. Click here to access all of the draws for the 2008 US Open.


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A Round Up of the First Week At Sony Ericsson Open 2008 (Part I)

March 26 marked the start of the Sony Ericsson Open. Here is, depending on your perspective, the highlights or lowlights of the week one of the tournament.

The qualifying rounds are deserving of a few lines since three South Floridians were vying for a place in the main draw. Miami native, Ahsha Rolle, lost to Russian Anastasia Rodionova in straight sets in the first round. After her nice run at the 2007 U.S. Open, the bar was set higher for Asha this season. Thus far, 2008 has not been kind to this hometown girl. 15-year-old wildcard, Sloane Stephens, a talented junior from Boca Raton, was also eliminated in the first round. While former University of Miami tennis standout and Plantation raised, Audra Cohen, also a wildcard entry had the best result. Cohen, a former number one collegiate player, made it to the second round of qualifying before falling to Ukraine’s Olga Savchuk in three arduous sets.

Moving on to the main draw, one news worthy item was that Maria Sharapova, the reigning Australian Open champion, pulled out of the field due to injury. With the customary first round bye for the top seeds, the action got underway in earnest on Friday with second round matches. Top seed, Justine Henin, coasted through her match against Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-4. 6-2. Defending champion, Serena Williams easily put away her opponent 6-2, 6-1 while big sister Venus had a tougher time with Poland’s Marta Domachowska but pulled through in two sets. Jelena Jankovic scratched out a victory over Swede Sofia Arvidsson. This match ran into the wee hours of the morning with Jankovic coming back to win in a third set tie-breaker 6-7. 6-2, 7-6. On the gentlemen’s side, James Blake, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, all proceeded to the third round despite testy matches with problematic challengers.

The most astonishing outcome in the second round was defending champion Novak Djokovic’s dismissal in three sets by qualifier, Kevin Anderson. This lanky South African with the big serve is a former college star. A few weeks ago, he posted his best result making it to the 2008 Tennis Channel Open final where he lost in a tight three setter to American Sam Querrey after beating John Isner and Robby Ginepri. Coincidentally, Mardy Fish, the runner-up at last week’s Pacific Life Open to Djokovic was shown no clemency in the first round by Frenchman Arnaud Clement. He was sent packing in straight sets 3-6, 3-6. Perhaps for both players, stamina was an issue.

Other important second round results included the 9th seed Marion Bartoli of France, the 2007 Wimbledon finalist, going down 3-6, 1-6 to Danish Caroline Wozniacki, an up-and-coming 17 year old. #15 Agnes Szavay and #12 Nicole Vaidisova were also defeated. Neither Richard Gasquet, seeded 6 , nor David Nalbandian, seeded 7, could stave off the assault by their respective opponents, Dmitry Tursunov and Xavier Malisse, thus, for them it was an early exit. Andy Murray seeded 13th also failed to graduate with Mario Ancic stopping his progression 2-6, 6-2,6-7, ditto with David Ferrer seeded 5th as he ran into former Australian Open champion, Thomas Johansson.

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2007 WTA Year End Review

Sadly tennis enthusiasts, the time has come to bid adieu to the 2007 season, but fear not, the hiatus will be brief. Soon enough, the courts will be ablaze with the shrilling grunts of Maria Sharapova, the artistry of Roger Federer and the mercurial ever-flamboyant fashions of Serena and Venus Williams. Prior to foretelling what 2008 may unwrap, let’s take a moment to reflect on the marquee events which shaped tennis this past year.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams started 2007 in grand fashion by winning the calendar’s first major. Serena, who had been sidelined for most of 2006 by a myriad of injuries, was unseated when the 2007 Australian Open started; consequently, she was the dark horse of the tournament. Serena not only reached the finals, but also comprehensively beat a befuddled Sharapova. Who can forget Oracene Williams’s advice to her daughter “ get out of Melbourne”, referring to the painted sign on the court where Serena had been camping out, pushing her too far off the baseline. Well, Serena followed her mother’s pointer and got out of Melbourne, but not before snatching the coveted Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. At another prestigious venue, the Ericsson Open, Serena again demonstrated her tenacity coming back from a bagel lost in the first set and fought off two championship points by her opponent to win the tournament against a relentless foe in Justine Henin. Although the year started out with a sizzle, it would end with a fizzle with Serena losing consecutive quarterfinal matches against Henin at each subsequent major tournament. Once more, Serena’s last few months on tour were racked by injuries leading to her withdraw from the season ending tournament in Spain.

After a tumultuous start to her year, with the turmoil in her personal life (the dissolution her marriage) and being forced to skip the Australian Open where she had been a finalist in 2006, Justine Henin had undisputedly her best season on tour. Henin won 10 of 11 finals including her third straight French Open while participating in only 14 events. The sign that Henin is human came at Wimbledon where she lost to a French player in the semifinals, not Amelie Mauresmo, but relatively unknown, Marion Bartoli, whom Venus Williams summarily defeated in the next round to claim the Venus Rosewater dish. Therefore, as Rafa Nadal seems to be Federer’s handicap on the clay in Paris, in 2008, it will be interesting to see if the All England grass and the French women continue to be Henin’s kryptonite.

In a run reminiscent of 2005, Venus worked out the rust in her game to make Wimbledon the highlight of her year. Fit and focused, Venus showed the brilliance that can illuminate her game toppling three top ranked opponents to capture the cup with her namesake. Venus continued to excel the remainder of the season although she had to cede her place at the season ending championship tournament to Sharapova because of illness. The Russian diva took full advantage of the gift by making it to the finals in Madrid where she gave Henin a run for the money prior to falling in a thrilling three setter rescuing a par year plagued by a sleuth of health problems. Thus, it remains to be seen whether in 2008 the Siberian ice queen’s game will continue to heat up or will need to be rescued from the frozen tundra once more.

2007 will be remembered as the year which propelled a small nation called Serbia into the tennis spotlight and one woman in particular Ana Ivanovic. The teenage phenom heralded her arrival with her phenomenal play at the French Open culminating with an appearance in the finals prior to collapsing under the weight of the occasion by losing to Henin. With a blistering forehand, Ivanovic will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming season; the question that will need to be answered is whether fellow countrywoman Jelena Jankovic will also be a factor.

A woman’s right to choose saw the exit of a champion and return of another for contrasting reasons. Kim Clijsters decided that after winning one major trophy, she had her fill. For Kim, it was time to move on to marriage and children. While Lindsay Davenport returned to the court after the birth of her son hoping that there is still life in her career. Moreover, the 2007 sports season will be recalled as the year marred by drugs from steroids use in baseball to the career-ending shocker whereby Martina Hingis abruptly retired disputing the outcome of positive cocaine on a drug screen at Wimbledon.

Since this is a locally slanted outlet, I would be remised if I did not mention Ahsha Rolle and her exceptional performance at the U.S. Open. After earning a spot as a wildcard, the 109 ranked Rolle became the buzz of the tournament after her opening round victory over the 17 seeded and talented star Tatiana Golovin. The bee from Miami would have the best showing of her career to date in a major making it to the third round where she was ousted by Danira Safina. I was fortunate enough to attend one of Ahsha’s matches, in my opinion, a major weakness in her game is her one-dimensional backhand; she constantly slices it back. If Rolle is to have continued success on the circuit, she will need to develop more sting and variety to her backhand.

Considering the horde of new comers who impacted the game in 2007 and with so many youngsters doing particularly well at the final major of the year defeating experienced players to make it past the fourth round, the upcoming season promises to be gripping. In my viewpoint, the newcomer to watch will be Agnes Szavay from Hungary. Szavay looked impressive on the hardcourt making it to the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open after being a finalist the previous week in New Haven where she was forced to retire against the #1 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova due to a back injury. With the surface change in Australia to reflect more of a hardcourt feel, I predict that she will be poised for another great run there. Overall, the young guns from the Soviet Union and the former Eastern Block look ready to make an even greater mark on the game this coming year. On the other hand, Henin appears to have taken a liking to the #1 spot; therefore, everyone will be vying to dethrone her. At times, the psychological part of her game has proven to be her weakness, thus, along with skill, mental fortitude will be the key to the opponent’s ability to dismantle her game. A player who does possess these weapons in her arsenal is Lindsay Davenport; I anticipate that with her return Henin and the Williams sisters will be breathing a little tighter.

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