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ATP’s Rollercoaster Ride in 2009

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ATP’s Rollercoaster Ride in 2009


img_2928From Rafael Nadal winning his first hardcourt major in Australia, to Roger Federer completing the career grand slam, to the emergence of a new major star Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S. Open, 2009 was a year replete with ups and downs on the men’s tour.  Here’s a flashback.

At the Australian Open final, despite a marathon semifinal match, Nadal had adequate reserves to stare down Federer in another five setter.  With that victory, Nadal seemed well positioned to achieve the calendar grand slam.  After sweeping every clay court tournament, Nadal was halted at the Madrid Masters by Federer days prior to the French Open. For many analysts, fatigue may have been deserving of an assist as Federer defeated Nadal in straight sets to capture his initial title of 2009. As such, Nadal was still considered the outright favorite for a fifth consecutive French trophy.

While everyone may have discounted Robin Soderling in the fourth round at the French Open, the Swede who played a contentious match with Nadal at Wimbledon in 2007 had visions of victory dancing in his head.  Soderling upstaged the best clay player in circulation, handing Nadal his first defeat at Roland Garros.  Soderling rode this euphoric wave all the way to his first final at a major where he was ultimately stopped by Federer. In addition, Soderling was a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open.  At his initial ATP World Tour Finals, Soderling was a semifinalist and with that result jumped to a career best ranking of 8th after commencing 2008 at 17.

Melbourne was the site where Fernando Verdasco at last  lived up to his talent.  After surprising Andy Murray the hottest player on tour in the fourth round, Verdasco was involved in a dogfight in the semifinals with countryman Nadal.  Hands down, the best match of the tournament and one of the most scintillating of the year, the two Spaniards went toe to toe for over five hours.  Although Nadal was triumphant, Verdasco’s run in Australia galvanized him the rest of the year.  Verdasco reached the quarters at the U.S. Open and was instrumental in Davis Cup play. Verdasco participated in his first ATP World Tour Finals and ended 2009 at number 9.

After an horrendous start to the season, Federer’s year turned around after beating Nadal in Madrid in May. After avoiding a sleuth of pitfalls to get to the French Open final, Federer grabbed the elusive brass ring and tied Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors.  With a knee injury placing Wimbledon defending champ Nadal out of action, the impossibility of a Federer-Nadal duel could have been deflating for the championships.  To the contrary, Andy Roddick stepped up to the plate and in facing Federer, the two had a final to rival last year’s epic.  Federer had to out ace Roddick, required 95 minutes and 30 games in the fifth set before coming away with the victory and a record setting 15 majors.  In July, Federer supplanted Nadal at the top of the ATP’s ranking list.  Brimming with confidence, Federer appeared unstoppable and was a shoe-in for a sixth consecutive  title in New York.

At the U.S. Open, Federer battled Del Potro in the final.  With this being the latter’s maiden major final, jitters were more likely than not to play a pivotal role.  In spite of his youth, Del Potro demonstrated that he is a quick study.  After a devastating lost to Federer in the French semifinals, down two sets to one, Del Potro carried a tiebreaker and showed up Federer in the fifth set to capture his initial major. Del Potro closed 2009 as the world’s fifth best player and is a definite threat to take over the top spot in 2010.

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week


img_3407At the majors, the unpredictable can happen. The early rounds of the U.S. Open have proven not to be the exception providing lots of fireworks particularly on the women’s side.  Here’s a half time synopsis and a look at the week ahead .

If one thought her ousting of Jelena Jankovic at Wimbledon this year was a fluke, Melanie Oudin said think again. The17 year old American Fed Cup heroine bounced back after dropping the first set to defeat a trophy favorite world number 4 Elena Dementieva in the second round. On Saturday, Oudin duplicated that result by ousting 29th seed Maria Sharapova.  In the round of 16, Oudin will take on her fourth consecutive Russian Nadia Petrova.  Moreover, in the quarterfinals, Melanie may have a shot at claiming another Russian big scalp, Svetlana Kuznetsova. Speaking of Jankovic, the 2008 finalist was eliminated in the second round by Yaroslava Shvedova.  Another jaw dropper was the exit of  8th seed and  reigning Sony Open champion Victoria Azarenka sent packing in the third round by Francesca Schiavone.

Despite teetering on the brink of disaster, Dinara Safina had managed to record a W. However yesterday, Safina was ultimately pushed over the cliff in the third round by Czech teenage talent Petra Kvitova. The world number’s one performance has ignited the debate as to the relevance of the computer ranking system.  Since Justine Henin’s retirement, there’s been a conspicuous vacuum at the top of the ladies’ game.  Safina’s inability to embrace the big occasions while Serena Williams has flourished in that setting has fueled the discussion.  Unlike Safina, the defending champion has shown little compassion for her opponents in reaching the round of 16. In contrast, sister Venus’ performance has been a mixed bag with injury thrown in as a factor. Venus’ colossal test comes in the fourth round as she faces Kim Clijsters whose form appears unaffected by her sabbatical.  Unless Venus tidies up her game, the Belgian will foil her much anticipated semifinal with Serena. The free fall continues for 2008 French open winner and former world number one Ana Ivanovic as her stock took another hit with her first round departure. In all 21 of the 32 women seeds have failed to move pass the fourth round.

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Life After Wimbledon: The Latest News from The ATP and WTA


In case you were wondering, after two amazing weeks of play at the All England Club, tennis does go on. Although several of the top players are taking a well-deserved rest, here are the most recent results from the women and men’s tours.

In Stuggart Germany, a clay court event, 19-year-old Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro beat second seed Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-5 in the finals at Mercedes Cup in order to win his first ATP title. Along with a nice paycheck, Del Potro received a spanking new Mercedes-Benz SLK 350 convertible. Ah tennis, nice work if you can get it! Top seed and defending champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament because of a right knee problem suffered during his grueling fortnight at Wimbledon.

Two other tournaments were taking place in Europe, also on clay. At the Allianz Suisse Open in Gstaad, Romanian Victor Hanescu defeated Russian Igor Andreev 6-3, 6-4 in the finals. Hanescu prevailed over top seed and favorite son Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka in the semifinals. In Sweden, Spaniard Tommy Robredo disposed of Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-1 to claim the title at the Catella Swedish Open in Bastad; Tommy’s first trophy this year. Robredo eliminated defending champion and number one seed David Ferrer in the semifinals.

Grass was the surface in play at the Campbell’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Second seed Fabrice Santoro vanquished over wildcard finalist Prakash Amritraj 6-3, 7-5 to win his second consecutive title. Americans Mardy Fish and John Isner took the doubles prize.

For the women, it was back to the clay and a week of first for the eventual winners. At the Gaz de France, a tier III tournament in Budapest Hungary, France’s Alize Cornet, seeded second, defeated Slovenia’s Andreja Klepac 7-6, 6-3 to seize her first WTA title. Klepac ousted local sensation and number one seed, Agnes Szavay, in the second round on her way to the finals. Later in the day, Cornet along with partner Janette Husarova of Slovakia went on to take the doubles title. At the Internazionali Femminili Di Tennis in Palermo Italy, a tier IV event, Italian Sara Errani became a first time titlist on the WTA tour. Errani advanced after countrywoman and top seed Flavia Pennetta retired in the semifinals. In the finals, Errani squashed Ukrainian Mariya Koryttseva 6-2, 6-3. Like Cornet, Errani also captured the doubles trophy with teammate Nuria Llagostera Vives of Spain.

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