Tag Archive | "Stepanek"

Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro Headline 2011 Delray Beach ITC

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Andy Roddick and Juan Martin Del Potro Headline 2011 Delray Beach ITC



The field of competitors scheduled to appear at the 2011 Delray Beach International Tennis Championships in February has shaped up to be the strongest in the tournament’s history.

The draw is headlined by former US Open Champions Juan Martin del Potro (2009) and Andy Roddick (2003). Joining Del Potro and Roddick are past Delray Beach ITC champions Marty Fish, James Blake, Kei Nishikori, Xavier Malisse, and Ricardo Mello.

The tournament will also host a stop of the ATP Champions Tour event with John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Pat Cash, Todd Martin and Mark Philippoussis scheduled to play.

Here is the official press release from the tournament :

DELRAY BEACH, FL (January 20, 2011) – Former Delray Beach International Tennis Championships (ITC) champions Xavier Malisse, Kei Nishikori and Ricardo Mello, along with 2010 runnerup Ivo Karlovic and 2007/2008 runnerup James Blake have signed up to play in the ITC’s 19th annual ATP World Tour event from February 21-27 at the Delray Beach Stadium & Tennis Center.

Also committing to the draw: 2009 world No. 12 Radek Stepanek and Janko Tipsaravic, who played a hero’s role in leading Serbia to the 2010 Davis Cup title.

The group joins a pair of US Open Champions - Andy Roddick (2003) and Juan Martin del Potro (2009) – as well as current Top 20 players Mardy Fish and John Isner - in giving the ITC arguably its best draw in history.

“We can’t wait to see how this one plays out,” said tournament director Mark Baron, who has added a 2011 Porsche 911 Carrera to the $500,000 pool of prize money.  “Our group of stars stands out,  but the depth of talent in this draw and guys who have had great results is very impressive.”

Malisse, the winningest player in ITC history, reached the Chenai final earlier this month. The 31-year-old is a three-time champion (2 singles titles, 1 doubles title) and has reached three other singles finals at the ITC.

Nishikori’s incredible run in 2008 as an 18-year-old made him Delray Beach’s youngest champion, and Mello will long be known for winning the 2004 title following one of South Florida’s four hurricanes that season.

Karlovic enjoyed an exciting run to the ITC final last year that included a tournament-record 89 aces, while Blake, with an 11-5 record in this tournament, received a wildcard to play this year.

Stepanek has played in 11 career ATP World Tour finals – winning four – and was the Delray Beach doubles champion in 2004. Tipsaravic owns an impressive record vs. Top 10 players, and his win in the decisive 5t rubber in last year’s Davis Cup semifinal propelled Croatia to the final.

The tournament’s ATP Champions Tour event, featuring John McEnroe, Mats Wilander, Pat Cash, Todd Martinand Mark Philippoussis, will kick off the Delray Beach ITC on Friday, February 18 at the Tennis Center. Fans buying tickets on Monday and Tuesday, February 21 and 22, will see both ATP World Tour and ATP Champions matches.

Baron also announced a ‘blockbuster’ Tuesday evening session that will include Roddick’s opening match in addition to the ATP Champions Tour final. The world No. 8 is expected to be the top seed in the ITC’s ATP World Tour event.

Individual session tickets range in price from $15 for grandstand seats to $85 for box seats, while a wide variety of tournament packages are available from $200 to $490. A limited number of ON-COURT “Best Seats in the House” remain, and there are unique “Fan Experiences” also available for purchase.

Here is Delray Beach’s 2011 draw: Kevin Anderson (RSA), Igor Andreev (RUS), Benjamin Becker (GER), Julien Benneteau (FRA), Richard Berankis (LTU), James Blake (USA), Dustin Brown (GER), Brian Dabul (ARG), Juan Martin del Potro (ARG), Ivan Dodig (CRO), Mardy Fish (USA), Teymuraz Gabashvili (RUS), John Isner (USA), Xavier Malisse (BEL), Adrian Mannarino (FRA), Ricardo Mello (BFA), Kei Nishikori (JPN), Bjorn Phau (GER), Michal Przysienzny (POL), Andy Roddick (USA), Rainer Schuettler (GER), Florent Serra (FRA), Radek Stepanek (CZE), Janko Tipsarevic (SRB); Balance of 32-player field will be filled by 4 qualifiers, 2 special exempts (at ATP discretion) & 1 wildcard.

Visit the Delray Beach ITC website www.YellowTennisBall.com to purchase tickets. For more information, please call 561-330-6000.

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Fish and Knowles Scramble For Legg Mason Classic Title

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Fish and Knowles Scramble For Legg Mason Classic Title


Mardy Fish and Mark Knowles fought back in the final of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic overcoming Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek 4-6,7-6,10-7 to bag their second title as a team.

Berdych and Stepanek sprinted to a 3-0 advantage by breaking Knowles and Fish twice in the first set.  Then, with a love hold, Stepanek further extended their lead to 4-0.  Knowles and Fish managed to break once. Nevertheless, with the insurance break, the Czechs took the set.

Knowles and Fish have been a tandem since February 2008 while their Czech counterparts usually play doubles only in the Davis Cup.  Moreover, for Berdych and Stepanek, this was their first ATP doubles final as a team.  Thus, Knowles and Fish called upon their experience to weather the storm especially after Knowles double faulted in the second set to give their opponents a 3-2 edge which they consolidated for 4-2.  Later though, with Berdych serving at 40-30, Fish struck a forehand down the line winner to force a deciding point.  With Berdych double faulting, the set was squared at 4 all.  Ultimately, a tiebreaker was played.

Off a sensational forehand return by Fish, Stepanek dumped the forehand volley in the net.  Down the road, Fish made another volley winner to give his team a double mini-break for 5-2.  Next, on a miscue from the Czechs, Knowles and Fish had three set points.  Stepanek and Berdych battled back for 6 all.  Subsequently, on an error, Stepanek and Berdych were at 7-6 and championship point.  Again, Fish and Knowles produced some remarkable shots to stay afloat and steal the tiebreaker.

In the super-tiebreaker, with Berdych’s backhand sailing long, Knowles and Fish had a mini-break for 1-0.  On a Fish forehand error, Berdych and Stepanek got back on serve for 3-4.  But, with a net court favoring Fish and Knowles, that pair regained a mini-break for 5-3.  Again, the Czechs climbed back to make it 7 all. Soon, on a superb return by Fish, Stepanek flubbed the volley giving Fish and Knowles championship at 9-7.  The pair won the next point to capture the trophy.

After the match, MiamiTennisNews and one other media outlet sat down to talk to Fish and Knowles.  For 38 year old Knowles, this was his 53rd doubles title.  Therefore, MiamiTennisNews wanted to know:
Q. At your age, what keeps you still motivated and what has been the key to your success?
Knowles:  I still enjoy playing and competing . . . It’s a challenge competing against the current players.  I’ve seen the game evolve a little bit from when I first started.  It still gives me a high to compete at this level and win.

Q. Is it more difficult though with having a family?
Knowles: I play less now because of a wife and two kids.  This year was a little difficult.  I was injured at the start of the season and I was out for three months.  Mardy and I have agreed to play doubles this year which is an exciting prospect.  Things have taken a while to develop because of my injury but things are going well now.

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Berdych and Stepanek Move On to the Doubles Final at Legg Mason Tennis Classic

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Berdych and Stepanek Move On to the Doubles Final at Legg Mason Tennis Classic


In the doubles semifinals in Washington, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek regrouped after dropping a contested first set to edge out the fourth seed Julian Knowle and Andy Ram 5-7,6-2,10-4.

After ousting the top seed Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic,  Berdych and Stepanek got a walkover into the semifinals. Subsequent to Ram and Knowle carrying the first set, the team’s failure in serving effectively, allowed the Czechs to dominate the rest of the match. In the super tiebreaker, Berdych and Stepanek took control to acquire their first berth in a doubles final on the ATP tour as a team.

Following their triumph, MiamiTennisNews was one of only three sources to sit down with the duos and discuss a variety of topics.  After his singles defeat, Berdych expressed his dissatisfaction with the manner in which he was treated as the top seed.

Post sleep and perhaps having reflected, MiamiTennisNews wanted to know his views since yesterday.  Berdych was ambivalent about participating next year.
Q.  The two of you had such tremendous crowd support for your match today.  How do you feel after what transpired yesterday?  Will today weigh more in terms of making a decision for 2011?
Berdych: I was quite sad yesterday.  [Today], I just wanted to go back on the court, try to win, play better tennis and enjoy it.  It’s not a question of the next day.  There’s still a year to go. . . I will think about it and see what to do next year . . .so it’s difficult to say right now.

Moreover, Berdych states that thus far his issues had not been taken under advisement nor had the appropriate authorities spoken to him on the subject.

Because of injuries and personal reasons, Stepanek has been absent from the court. In singles, he lost his first match out to Marco Chiudinelli.  MiamiTennisNews asked:
Q.  What are your thoughts on being in the final?
Stepanek:  It’s a great result for us as a team . . . We’ve always played together in Davis Cup, played great matches.  But, we’ve never been able to do so well at [the ATP level], so we are very please.  Especially for me, after being out for five months with [mononucleosis and knee injury] my first tournament, I’m in the final; it’s a great feeling even though it’s doubles.  I’m getting on the court, getting some matches, gaining confidence . . .so I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s final.

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Berdych and Roddick Lead a Stupendous Field at Legg Mason Classic

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Berdych and Roddick Lead a Stupendous Field at Legg Mason Classic


The Olympus U.S. Open series is on its D.C. stop this week.  Although Juan Martin Del Potro, the reigning U.S. Open and two time defending Legg Mason Classic champion, is sidelined by injury this year, numerous big names have made the trip to the nation’s capital to contest this coveted trophy.

This year’s superstar lineup is topped by Tomas Berdych, the new world number eight and 2010 Wimbledon finalist.  Berdych is making his third appearance in Washington, but his first as the number one seed.  The Czech will be aiming to improving on his semifinal result from 2005.

On the opposite side of the draw is perennial favorite Andy Roddick, the second seed.  Roddick, a three time champion and finalist in 2009, is hoping to rebound from a curtailed Wimbledon campaign.  Being on grounds which brought him tremendous success previously could be the remedy for the American’s blues.

Fernando Verdasco, the world number 10 and 2009 Australian Open semifinalist, is the third seed.  It’s Verdasco’s  maiden showing at the tournament.  With three titles already this year, Verdasco will be a certain threat.  Returning for the second straight year is Marin Cilic who is positioned as the fourth seed and a potential semifinal rival for Roddick.

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Analysis of the 2010 Australian Open Draw

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Analysis of the 2010 Australian Open Draw


australian_open_logoThe Australian Open draw is out.  More than any prior year, in this imprecise game of predictions, the only certainty is the uncertainty in determining a frontrunner for the trophy on both the ladies’ and gentlemen’s side.  With no one having a conspicuous edge, with few exceptions, anyone in the top ten can be regarded as a legitimate contender.  Moreover, on the women’s side, the return of some old faces with previous success at majors means that it’s is truly anybody’s title.

In the top half of the draw, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko and Robyn Soderling are the highest seeds respectively. Astonishingly, if the last couple of months are an accurate barometer, Davydenko is for the first time a true threat to make it all the way to the final.  After wrapping 2009 with the ATP World tour finals trophy, just  days ago, Davydenko brought down Federer and Rafael Nadal to take the title in Qatar.  However, the question remains as to whether Davydenko can translate that type of success to a best of five set tournament over two weeks. If the draw proceeds as expected, Davydenko will have a crack at Federer in the quarters and Djokovic or Soderling in the semis.

For his part, Federer has a pretty challenging road in attempting to reach the final.  In the first round, the world number one faces the ever dangerous Igor Andreev.  Subsequently, there are possible match-ups with Australian Open finalists Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis in the round of 16. Other than Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist in ’09, is a potential in the quarters. So, Federer will need to be on his toes to advance beyond the quarters.

Third seed Djokovic should have a fairly unobstructed run to the quarters.  Still, Richard Gasquet who is getting back in the swing of the game may be a problem for Djokovic in the round of 16. Furthermore, on that side of the draw, majors’ finalists Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Soderling could clash in the round of 16.  With both Tsonga and Soderling potential quarterfinal opponents for Djokovic and with both having wins over the latter, a Djokovic/Federer semifinal is in far from a foregone conclusion.

In the bottom half of the draw, for the defending champion Nadal and Andy Murray, technically, their path to a quarterfinal showdown appears uncomplicated. Yet, Radek Stepanek, a potential round of 16 encounter for Nadal, is perhaps the sole question mark.  In Murray’s case, a healthy Gael Monfils can spell trouble in the round of 16.  But, with Monfils fighting injury, Murray will not be bothered.

Last year’s semifinalist Andy Roddick has another golden opportunity to move at least to the quarterfinal despite Fernando Gonzalez seemingly in his way.  Also, with U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro fettered by a wrist injury, his progress deep into the draw is in doubt.  Del Potro is slated to see Marin Cilic in the quarters or Roddick in the semis.

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Roddick Squeezes By Stepanek in Brisbane

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Roddick Squeezes By Stepanek in Brisbane


img_9890With the Australian Open approximately one week away, in the finals of the Brisbane International Open, top seed Andy Roddick battled defending champion Radek Stepanek.  Roddick edged out Stepanek 7-6, 7-6 to capture his first 2010 title.

With Stepanek serving at 2-3 in the first set, Roddick had the chance to draw first blood when a forehand volley winner gave him break point.  However, with a good serve resulting in a return error, Stepanek got back on track.  Roddick manufactured another break point opportunity, but, with strategic volleying, Stepanek squared the set at 3 all.  The next game, as Roddick misfired on a backhand pass, Stepanek had his initial break point. Roddick dug himself out with a couple of service bombs. After Roddick failed to convert on two set points on Stepanek’s serve, the tiebreaker went into effect.  Once Stepanek double faulted to hand Roddick a 2-1mini-break advantage, his play deteriorated.  Thanks to a bunch of backhand errors from Stepanek, Roddick swiftly claimed the set.

As a result of four consecutive errors by Stepanek including two double faults, Roddick grabbed a break advantage.  After Roddick had no trouble consolidating, he crushed a backhand down the line for another break point.  With Stepanek bitten by the double fault bug again, Roddick jumped to a double break lead for 3-0. In no time, Roddick stretched his edge to 5-1.  But, with  Roddick serving for the championship at 5-2, Stepanek struck a forehand up the line pass for break point.  Then, with a stumbling Roddick unable to reach a spectacular lob, Stepanek wiped out one break.  Subsequent to an easy service game, Stepanek forced a couple of backhand errors from Roddick to level the set at 5 all.  Following an uneventful game, Stepanek took his first lead at 6-5.  Ultimately, Roddick steadied his play to push the set to a tiebreaker. In a charitable mood again, Stepanek started by donating a mini-break with a backhand crosscourt mistake.  As Stepanek’s backhand fell apart, Roddick built a 6-1 edge. Still, never one to fold, Stepanek raised his performance and expunged five championship points.  Moreover, Stepanek provoked a return error to obtain set point.  But, when Stepanek’s slice backhand sailed long, both players were knotted at 7. On his serve, Roddick arrived at another championship point with an overhead winner. When Stepanek double faulted,  Andy finally put his pesky opponent away.

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Golden Again: Spain Retains Davis Cup Title

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Golden Again: Spain Retains Davis Cup Title


img_9928On clay, at home, one would have to be insane to bet against the Spaniards repeating as Davis Cup champion.  Although the Czech Republic proved to be a worthy opponent, logic prevailed. Spain secured the initial three rubbers to become the first country since Sweden in 1998 to successfully defend the trophy.

Yesterday, in the first rubber, Rafael Nadal faced Tomas Berdych.   At five all in a tight  opening set, Nadal finally broke to gain the upper hand.  With nothing left to give, Berdych capitulated, Nadal won 7-5,6-0,6-2.

The second match of the day was a barn burner as Radek Stepanek tangoed with David Ferrer.  At first glance, captain Albert Costa’s choice of Ferrer over Fernando Verdasco, Spain’s second best player and world number 9, seemed odd and a colossal mistake.  Ultimately, it turned out to be a masterful gamble.

After Stepanek crushed Ferrer to carry the first two sets 6-1, 6-2, the Czech Republic appeared on its way to a tie, which would have made it a seriously competitive final.  The only difficulty was that Ferrer had no intention of soiling his unblemished Davis cup clay court record.  The Spaniard fought back taking the next two sets to push the match to a decisive fifth.  Early on, Stepanek had opportunities to get the break.  But, each time Stepanek got close, Ferrer shut the door. More than four hours into play, a string of errors by Stepanek allowed Ferrer to seize the break for 7-6.  Ferrer went on to serve out the match and with a 1-6,2-6,6-4,6-4,8-6 victory, he remains undefeated on clay at 7-0.

Needless to say, the doubles was a must win for the Czech Republic. With Stepanek probably a little spent from the previous’ day marathon match, Spain was already favored from the get-go.  The tandem of Feliciano Lopez and Verdasco turned away Berdych and Stepanek 7-6,7-5,6-2.

In the first set, after Verdasco riffled a forehand return up the line, Spain obtained a break for 3-1.  However, with a couple of forehand mistakes by Verdasco, the Czech Republic erased the advantage.  At 4 all, a great forehand winner by Berdych resulted in break point.  But, with errors from their rivals, Spain guarded serve.  So, the set was settled by a tiebreaker. With a spectacular return by Verdasco, Spain got a mini-break and stretched its edge to 6-3.  After saving three set points, the Czechs earned a set point themselves.  Still, the Czechs surrendered two consecutive service points, giving the Spaniards another set point.  When Stepanek misfired on a volley, Spain bagged the first set.

The second set similarly was hard fought with neither team having a bite at break point until 5 all.  Serving at 40-15, the Czechs made two forehand miscues resulting in deuce. Subsequently, Berdych had a forehand volley sail long handing Spain break point.  The Spaniards capitalized when the Czechs misfired on another volley.  With a strong game, Lopez punctuated the set.

With Stepanek’s serve wilting, the Spaniards opened the third set with triple break point.  When Lopez thumped a forehand winner down the line, Spain obtained the break. Shortly after, Verdasco consolidated with an easy service game for 2-0.  Again with Stepanek serving at 1-3, on Spain’s seventh break point chance, Verdasco gunned a forehand crosscourt winner extending the lead to 4-1.  Up a double break, Spain cruised on serve as it went on to capture its fourth Davis Cup title this decade.

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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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MiamiTennis News Live From Legg Mason Classic

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MiamiTennis News Live From Legg Mason Classic


img_0942MiamiTennisNews.com is expanding its live tennis coverage by providing coverage from this year’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C.

From August 1st through 9th, we will be on site at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park providing live updates from this ATP 500 tournament.   Headliners include defending champion and world number 6  Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, former champion and world number 5  Andy Roddick as well as 2008 Australian finalist and world number 7  Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  Other key names scheduled are this year’s French Open finalist Swede Robin Soderling,  top 20 players such as Frenchman Gael Monfils, Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, Czech Radek Stepanek and Croatian Marin Cilic.  A host of top 50 men will also be fighting for this title such as former winner German Tommy Haas, big serving Croat Ivo Karlovic and former major champion Australian Lleyton Hewitt.  Besides Roddick,  Americans James Blake, Mardy Fish, Sam Querrey and John Isner will be present.

Stay tuned to MiamiTennisNews.com thru the coming weeks for all your U.S. Open series needs. For additional info on the Legg Mason tournament click here or go to www.leggmasontennisclassic.com

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Croatia Expels U.S. In Davis Cup Quarterfinal

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Croatia Expels U.S. In Davis Cup Quarterfinal


img_0642The Davis Cup quarterfinal was the focus this weekend as the U.S. played Croatia in Europe.  In the fourth rubber today, with America’s back against the wall, James Blake tried to maintain his undefeated record vis-à-vis 20 year-old, Marin Cilic.  However, Blake came up short against the talented youngster, as Cilic prevailed 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 sending Croatia to the semifinals.

After Blake was unable to take the lead in spite of numerous break point opportunities in the first set, Cilic broke when the American’s forehand went long in the first set for a 5-3 edge.  Then, with a love game, the Croatian carried the first set.  In the second set, after holding serve, with a forehand up the line winner, Blake managed a break point. But, that evaporated when James dumped a backhand down the line into the net.  With excellent serves, Cilic held.  At 2 all, after Blake failed to convert on a game point, Cilic made a service return winner for break point.  Subsequently, Cilic capitalized with a Blake double fault to go ahead 4-2.  Soon afterward, Cilic broke a second time to take a two set lead.

After comfortably holding serve to open the third, with a forehand up the line winner, Cilic arrived at break point. The Croatian scored when the American’s backhand hit the net and sailed long.  Immediately, with a couple of backhand winners, Blake broke back for 1-2.  Always under the knife, Blake faced several break points and dismissed them including five in the eighth game.  Perhaps a little obfuscated, Cilic committed a forehand error to give Blake a break point; the latter grabbed the edge when the former’s forehand went long.  James won the third and forced a fourth set.

On his first break point chance in the fourth, thanks to a backhand error by his rival, Cilic converted to take a 2-0 lead.  Then, the Croat consolidated with a love game. Never in danger on serve, with a crosscourt forehand winner, Marin broke James once more to secure the set and Croatia’s semifinal berth.

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