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Djokovic and Troicki Battle Back to Give Serbia its First Davis Cup Title

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Djokovic and Troicki Battle Back to Give Serbia its First Davis Cup Title


Coming into today’s rubbers with a 1-2 deficit, Serbia faced a monumental challenge in trying to win its first ever Davis Cup title.  Yet, with an inspired performance from Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki, disappointment would not be in the cards.  Backed by a raucous home crowd, the Serbs carried both singles matches against France to claim their initial Davis Cup title.

On Friday, Gael Monfils put France in the driver’s seat with a 6-1,7-6,6-0 victory over Janko Tipsarevic.  Subsequently though, Djokovic dispatched a pesky Gilles Simon 6-3,6-1,7-5 to square the ties at one all.

On Saturday, Nenad Zimonjic and Troicki blew a two set to love advantage as Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement roared back to triumph 3-6,6-7,6-4,7-5,6-4.

With France ahead 2-1 and only three prior nations overcoming a doubles loss to take the Davis Cup, it was a near certainty that the Frenchmen would prevail.  France could almost taste its tenth title, its first time since 2001.

In the opening rubber this afternoon, Djokovic took on Monfils.  With his steady play, Djokovic quashed Monfils 6-2, 6-2,6-4 to push a decisive tie.

Picking style over substance, Monfils attempted an ill advised shot at 30-0 which proved unsuccessful.  A series of errors followed to give Djokovic his initial break and a 3-1 lead.  After a forehand up the line winner for break point, Monfils committed another mistake.  Eventually, Djokovic expanded his advantage to 4-1 and broke a second time to wrap up the first set.

Despite a better start to the second set, serving at 2-3, Monfils made three consecutive miscues to go down love-40.  When the Frenchman sent another backhand down the line long, Djokovic secured the break and consolidated for 5-2.  With great defense, Djokovic obtained triple break/ set point.  When Monfils’ slice forehand found the net, Djokovic pocketed the second set.

A Monfils double fault handed Djokovic a break point to commence the third set.  Next, a called double fault which would have given Serbia the break was overturned by a Monfils challenge.  Two more break points ensued, but, Monfils held serve for 1 all.  Then, the Frenchman turned the tables on Djokovic, breaking for a 2-1 edge.  France appeared revived.  However, unable to escape his nature, in selecting bad shots, Monfils saw his advantage go up in smokes.  Later though, Monfils provoked a forehand mistake from Djokovic to get double break point and by crushing a forehand winner up the line, Monfils converted for 4-3.  Still, Djokovic promptly redeemed himself to level the set.  After a comfortable game for 5-4, on a Monfils double fault, Djokovic arrived at double match point.  With Monfils netting a backhand, Djokovic gave the thousands in the arena what they had hoped for, a fifth rubber.

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Nadal Levels Monfils in Tokyo for Seventh Title of the Season

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Nadal Levels Monfils in Tokyo for Seventh Title of the Season


Rafael Nadal added another trophy to his cabinet today.  The world number one manhandled fifth seed Gael Monfils 6-1,7-5 to collect his first prize at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.

Following a comfortable opening game, Nadal put the Frenchman on his heels and broke.  Subsequently, with an easy game, Nadal consolidated for a 3-0 lead.  As Monfils’ racket bled mistake upon mistake, Nadal closed out the initial set in just 25 minutes.

As a defensive player, Monfils would have a great shot at victory by camping out in the backcourt against any other opponent.  However, when it comes to Nadal, any strategy which involves overpowering the Spaniard from the baseline is not only risky, but usually a losing one.  Therefore, Monfils altered his game plan slightly resulting in a competitive second set.

By varying his serve, Monfils held without difficulty to start the set.  Still, the issue for Monfils was finding a way to rattle Nadal’s serve.  Serving at 2 all, with two winners from Nadal, Monfils got himself into a tight spot at love-30.  Yet, with a sensational pick-up on a low volley and good serves, Monfils stayed in front for 3-2.  Monfils’ best opportunity at manufacturing a break point arrived when Nadal double faulted for 30 all.  But, the Frenchman failed to pressure the Spaniard so the set was equalized at 4 a piece.  After falling behind love-30 again, Monfils managed to rescue the game and remained ahead at 5-4.  Nadal is quite stingy in handing get out of jail free cards, thus, eventually Monfils would have to pay for his miscues.  Serving at 5 all, Monfils misfired on a forehand down the line and had the ball go under his racket on an attempted volley.  Next, Nadal connected on a forehand winner up the line for double break point.  As Monfils approached the net, Nadal flicked a forehand return winner up the line to bank the break and secured a 6-5 advantage.  Later, on his first champion point, Nadal watched Monfils’ return sail long and celebrated yet another title.

In accepting the runner-up trophy, Monfils congratulated Nadal on being the better performer.  Despite the result today, the Frenchman was positive in saying “it was a great tournament . . . and I love to come here”.  Turning to his coach, he stated “not a win, but maybe next time”.  Indeed a productive week for Monfils; he took out second seed Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals.  Countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also rejoined the tour at this tournament but suffered a first round defeat.

A stupendous championship for Nadal who salvaged two match points in the semifinals against Victor Troicki.  Nadal wished Monfils the best of fortunes for the rest of the year, particularly in Davis Cup final, France plays Serbia.  His debut event in Tokyo, Nadal has been overrun by fans wherever he shows up and the world number one was appreciative commenting “the crowds are fantastic . . . it was my first visit, but certainly not my last”.  The champion even ended with a couple of words in Japanese to express his gratitude.  From Japan, the ATP travels to Shanghai for a Masters’ 1000 series event.

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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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Week One at Wimbledon: Federer and Nadal with a pulse, barely! Murray and Soderling Looking Strong

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Week One at Wimbledon: Federer and Nadal with a pulse, barely! Murray and Soderling Looking Strong


As customary, the middle Sunday at Wimbledon serves as a no play holiday which is a welcomed respite.  No words can fully underscore the uniqueness of the events that transpire this week.  From a seemingly never ending first round match, to the champions of the last two years limping their way into the last 16, to the Queen making a rare appearance, to a scandal involving Victor Hanescu.  Here’s a homage to the initial six days and a take on what’s ahead.

The French are known for their flare and Nicolas Mahut is undoubtedly part of the establishment.  In the second round of qualifying, Mahut outlasted his opponent 24-22 in the third set to advance.  Then, Mahut went five sets to make it into the main draw. In the first round of the main draw, Mahut faced John Isner. On Tuesday, the match was interrupted due to darkness after the two split four sets.  When the players returned on Wednesday, the night ended with a 59-59 draw in the fifth. Even the scoreboard was exhausted, crashing when the score got to 40+.  On Thursday, the match concluded when Isner hit two consecutive winners to break Mahut and grab a 70-68 victory.

The encounter which lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes, shattered all previous records and redefined the meaning of marathon match. The fifth set alone spanned 8 hours and 11 minutes.  However, despite a full day’s rest, Isner could not recuperate.  The next round, Thiemo De Bakker, who won his prior round 16-14, dismissed a depleted Isner in just 1hour 14 minutes.  For Isner, the physical consequences may reverberate for months.

While defending champion Roger Federer did not go to such extremes, it was a struggle to survive nevertheless.  Federer was nearly a spectator as 60th ranked Alejandro Falla forced Federer to climb out of a two sets to love deficit, even serving for the match.  With a bit of “luck” as Federer put it, he moved on.  The Swiss’ second round was also tough as qualifier Ilijac Bozoljac prevailed in the second set tiebreaker. Federer carried the match by capturing the fourth set tiebreaker.  The third round, Federer played close to flawlessly against Arnaud Clement.

Rafael Nadal also willed himself to advance.  After a routine initial round, Nadal required five sets the second and third round against Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschener respectively.  More importantly, Nadal had a flare up of his niggling knee problem and was treated for elbow issue.

Following a five setter with Oliver Rochus, Novak Djokovic thumped his next opponents Taylor Dent and Albert Montanes in the subsequent rounds.  British hopeful Andy Murray has been efficient, booting his counterparts in straight sets.  Even the Queen’s first appearance at Wimbledon since 1977 did not distract her subject as Murray dispatched Jarkko Nieminen in the second round.

After an uncomplicated primary round, Andy Roddick was rattled a bit by Michael Llodra and Philipp Kohlschreiber the next rounds, pushed to four sets by each.  Roddick has friendly company into the second week as Sam Querrey secured a fourth round berth after a five set tussle with Xavier Malisse.

Unsurprisingly, his second tournament back from injury, Nikolay Davydenko fell in the second round.  Shocking though was Fernando Verdasco, the 8th seed, Marin Cilic, the 11th seed, Marcos Baghdatis, the 24th seed, and Stanislas Wawrinka, the 20th seed, all exiting their first day out.

Robin Soderling, the 6th seed, has been on cue this week.  The Swede has sailed through his matches, duration under two hours.  His first event since his back injury, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s performance has been mixed.  In the second round, Tsonga went five sets after having a two sets to none lead against Alexandr Dolgopolov.  Yet, the following round, Tsonga cruised against qualifier Tobias Kamke.

This tournament has seen a revival of the French veterans.  Paul-Henri Mathieu knocked out 13th seed Mikhail Youzhny and De Bakker in the second and third round respectively to earn a spot in the final 16 at a major for the first time since 2008.  Also, Julien Benneteau is into the second week after surviving two five set matches.

Conversely, Gael Monfils had his fortnight cut short by Lleyton Hewitt in the third round.  Monfils was no match for Hewitt who recently beat Federer in Halle. The Aussie is grooving on grass despite two hip surgeries.

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Simon Savors First Title of 2009 At Thailand Open

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Simon Savors First Title of 2009 At Thailand Open


img_0598At the finals of the Thailand Open, an ATP 250 tournament, Frenchman Gilles Simon, the second seed, took on Serbian Victor Troicki, seeded fourth.  The latter was attempting to win his first career singles title while the former whose season has been fettered by a knee problem was trying to claim his first title of the year.  It was Simon prevailing over Troicki 7-5, 6-3.

Both men started off strongly with neither having trouble holding serve.  Then, in the sixth game, Troicki committed two backhand errors leading to double break point for Simon.  But, with a couple of wide serves, Troicki forced return errors to get to deuce.  After erasing another break point, Troicki saved the game as Simon’s forehand went long for 3 all.  As Simon served at 4 all, his first excursion to the net was a forehand volley error which gave the Serbian his first break opportunity. Troicki converted when Simon’s crosscourt backhand landed long. With Troicki serving for the set at 5-4, Simon got lucky when a backhand shot hit the net and dropped for a winner.  Later, Simon manufactured a break point with a forehand crosscourt winner. Subsequently through relentless defense, Simon tracked down a probable winner which compelled Troicki to hit another stroke. That resulted in a forehand error by the Serbian.  Thus, Simon equalized the set at 5 all.  After taking a 6-5 edge, Simon cornered Troicki into multiple errors to fabricate double break point.  When Troicki flubbed another forehand, Simon secured the first set.  Unable to bottle his emotions, Troicki expressed his frustration by striking the net.

In the second set’s opening game, Troicki had a forehand touch the net, go over for a winner and break point.  But, with superlative serves, Simon got out of trouble.  Thereafter, Simon cruised on his service games.  With Troicki serving at 2-3, Simon got a break opportunity courtesy of a double fault.  Yet, this time, thanks to the net, Troicki was saved as Simon’s return clipped the tape and traveled long for deuce.  Still, Troicki’s relief was short-lived since he handed Simon another break chance with a forehand error on a neutral rally.  Once again, Simon’s speed made the difference. The Frenchman tracked down a dropshot then a lob by the Serb.  When on the next shot, Troicki made an overhead error, Simon had the break. Then, with a comfortable service game, Simon stretched his advantage to 5-2.  After Troicki had no difficulty holding serve, Simon came back with a strong service game of his own to seal the championship.

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Federer and Tsonga Aid In Preserving Their Countries’ World Group Standing For 2010

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Federer and Tsonga Aid In Preserving Their Countries’ World Group Standing For 2010


img_0942This weekend, the world group playoffs sorted out which eight nations would be eligible to compete against the seeded teams for the coveted Davis cup in 2010.  Team Switzerland, headed by world number one Roger Federer, defeated Italy while France’s workhorse turned out to be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Battling the Netherlands, Tsonga was instrumental in three out of four victories.

Besides Federer, the Swiss had top 30 singles player Stanislas Wawrinka to rely on.  As a packed Italian house looked on Friday, Wawrinka defeated Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in the initial rubber.  Later, Federer took care of Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.  With its top singles players sitting out the doubles Saturday, Switzerland had its lead narrowed by Italy’s win.  However on Sunday, unfazed by a rain delay, Federer beat Potito Starace 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 to secure his country’s crack at the cup next year.

In the Netherlands, after countryman Gael Monfils lost the opening match against Thiemo De Bakker; Tsonga  prevailed 7-6, 6-2, 7-6 over Jesse Huta Galung to level the contest. Then, Saturday, Tsonga joined forces with Michael Llodra to eclipse team Netherlands 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.  Sunday, Tsonga avenged Monfils’ failure with a 7-6, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 win over De Bakker.  Although that victory was enough to seal France’s spot in the world group, Jeremy Chardy capped the day by carrying the last rubber.

Serbia playing at home against Uzbekistan had more than enough fire power despite the absence of Novak Djokovic.  With only one singles player in the top 100, Uzbekistan tried its best, but had no answer to the combo of Viktor Troicki, Janko Tipsarevic, Nenad Zimonjic and Ilia Bozoljac. Serbia won all five matches.

On Friday, India taking on South Africa in the latter’s backyard build a 2-0 lead courtesy of victories by Smoved Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna. Subsequently, Saturday, Jeff Coetzee and Wesley Moodie got South Africa on the board by carrying the doubles.  Yet, Sunday, after Rik De Voest went ahead two sets to zero, Devvarman stormed back taking the next three sets to maintain India’s world group status.

After Andreas Vinciguerra down 6-7, 6-7 had to retire against Romanian Victor Hanescu, the Swedish crowd was uplifted as Robin Soderling defeated Victor Crivoi 6-2, 6-1, 7-5 to put that nation on level footing. The following day, Soderling paired with Robert Lindstedt to beat Horia Tecau and Hanescu  6-1, 7-6, 7-6.  The following afternoon in the all important fourth match, Soderling crushed Hanescu 7-5, 6-1, 6-0 to prevent Sweden, a perennial fixture in the world group, from being relegated.

Shortly after the euphoria of Marcos Daniel’s win over Ecuadorian Giovanni Lapentti, the Brazilian crowd was brought back to earth as brother Nicolas Lapentti defeated Thomaz Bellucci 7-6, 6-4, 7-5. On Saturday the Lapentti siblings inflicted further misery by prevailing in five sets match over Marcelo Melo and Andre Sa.  With Ecuador leading 2-1, in Sunday’s reverse rubber, Daniel down two sets to none, pushed Nicolas Lapentti to a fifth set.  Yet, the hometown crowd was brought to despair as Lapentti carried the match 6-4,6-4,1-6,2-6,8-6 thereby eliminating Brazil from the world group.

The most compelling group matches were Belgium vs. Ukraine and Chile vs. Austria with both requiring a decisive fifth rubber.  After Belgium’s Christophe Rochus and Steve Darcis gave their side a 2-0 advantage on Friday, Saturday in doubles, Sergei Bubka and Sergiy Stakhovsky defeated Xavier Malisse and Oliver Rochus 7-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 to keep Ukraine in the game.  Furthermore, on Sunday, Stakhovsky denied Malisse by claiming the fourth rubber 6-3, 3-6, 0-6, 6-1, 6-3.  But, Belgium’s setback was temporary. In the fifth rubber, Darcis strong armed Bubka 6-2, 6-1, 6-0.

A continent away, Chile found itself in the same position as Belgium.   After Nicolas Massu and Paul Capdeville won their matches on Friday.  Austrians Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer kept their nation in the fold by beating Massu and Capdeville in doubles.  Moreover, the Chilean crowd had its anxiety heighten as Melzer won the fourth rubber 7-6, 4-6, 6-2, 5-7,6-4 over Capdeville. However, later that day, Massu defeated Stefan Koubek 6-4,4-6,6-4,7-6 to grab the ultimate world group spot.

The victors will square off next year against Spain, the Czech Republic, the U.S., Russia, Argentina, Croatia, Israel and Germany, the top eight seeds in that order. The placement for the world group playoff winners will be released Wednesday.

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It’s Four In A Row As Del Potro Wins The Legg Mason Classic


Argentine teenager Juan Martin Del Potro claimed his fourth straight ATP title by beating Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-3 in the finals at the Legg Mason Classic. Seeded second Del Potro was the overwhelming favorite, but Troicki who ousted Andy Roddick, the top seed, in the quarterfinals proved to be a formidable challenger.

Del Potro early on showed signs of nervousness allowing Troicki to break and lead 3-1. Yet, despite not being in peak form, Juan Martin’s recent triumphs clearly have imbued him with confidence. Del Potro picked on Troicki’s poorer shot, the forehand, and with his crafty play and acute angles obtained two consecutive breaks to win the first set 6-3.

At the start of the second set, Troicki tried his best to pressure his opponent. The Serbian’s best opportunity to turn the match around came at 3-3 when he had double break point. But Del Portro’s ability to hit with depth and power was too much for Troicki. After failing to convert his break points, a deflated Troicki went on to lose his serve to give Del Potro a 5-3 lead. Still as Juan Martin served for the match, Viktor demonstrated that he was a tough rival to put down. The Argentine dismissed three break points and finally on championship point number four served an ace to close the deal.

Russian Nadia Petrova captured her first title of the year by crushing France’s Nathalie Dechy in the finals 6-2, 6-1 at the Western and Southern Financial Group women’s open in Cincinnati, a tier III event. Former world number one, Amelie Mauresmo also had a good run making it to the semifinals where she succumbed to compatriot Dechy in three sets.

The women and men will play this week at the Pilot Pen tournament where Del Potro will attempt to extend his 20 match winning streak and possibly become the winner of the U.S. Open series whereby he would be eligible for bonus money at the U.S. Open should he reach the finals. Russian Anna Chakvetadze, who has had a disappointing year thus far, will head the women’s field.

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