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Nadal, Clijsters and Henin On the Schedule Sunday At 2010 SEO

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Nadal, Clijsters and Henin On the Schedule Sunday At 2010 SEO


The Sony Ericsson Open’s fifth session offers a plethora of fascinating matches.  The ATP begins its third round action with the bottom half of the draw which includes Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick playing. Conversely, the women’s bottom half which comprises players such as Jelena Jankovic, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin finishes off its third round.

First up on stadium court are Kim Clijsters and Shahar Peer.  At their only meeting in Sydney in 2007, Clijsters had a straight sets victory.  A quarterfinalist at the 2007 U.S. and Australian Open, Peer’s game has evolved over the three years. Therefore, this has the promise of an intriguing match.  After the ladies, Rafael Nadal and David Nalbandian take center stage. Since coming back from hip surgery in 2009 and an abdominal tear this January, earlier this month, Nalbandian carried his country to a quarterfinal berth in Davis Cup. Although Nalbandian is now ranked 161st , with his having a winning record against Nadal, the Spaniard will be on his toes.

Later on stadium court, Maria Kirilenko collides with Caroline Wozniacki. The latter is 4-0 versus the former; they last met two weeks ago also in the third round at Indian Wells. The afternoon session terminates with Andy Roddick facing Sergiy Stakhovsky.  On his way to capturing the St Petersburg Open last year, Stakhovsky defeated former world number one, Marat Safin.  Although this is their initial showdown, Roddick could be tested.

On the grandstand, Henin battles Dominika Cibulkova.  A first encounter for both ladies, it will interesting to see which one stands tall after the match.  Victoria Azarenka meets Lucie Safarova.  The defending champion has a perfect 3-0 record against Safarova. Another first time meeting is John Isner versus Juan Carlos Ferrero.  On the outer courts, Sam Stosur and Vera Zvonareva both square off versus opponents against whom they have unblemished records.

At night, Jankovic clashes against Elena Vesnina.  Jankovic owns her rival 4-0 in their head to head series. That’s followed by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Phillip Kohlschreiber.  These players have split their prior two matches.

Here is Sunday’s full schedule :

SUNDAY, MARCH 28

STADIUM start 11:00 am
[14] K Clijsters (BEL) vs [17] S Peer (ISR) – WTA

Not Before 1:00 PM
[WC] D Nalbandian (ARG) vs [4] R Nadal (ESP) – ATP

Not Before 3:00 PM
[32] M Kirilenko (RUS) vs [2] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA
[6] A Roddick (USA) vs S Stakhovsky (UKR) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 PM
[7] J Jankovic (SRB) vs [28] E Vesnina (RUS) – WTA

Not Before 8:30 PM
[8] J Tsonga (FRA) vs [28] P Kohlschreiber (GER) – ATP

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am

[33] N Almagro (ESP) vs J Chardy (FRA) – ATP
[27] T Bellucci (BRA) vs O Rochus (BEL) – ATP
[WC] J Henin (BEL) vs [26] D Cibulkova (SVK) – WTA
L Safarova (CZE) vs [4] V Azarenka (BLR) – WTA

Not Before 5:00 PM
[17] J Isner (USA) vs [12] J Ferrero (ESP) – ATP

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
N Grandin (RSA) / A Spears (USA) vs Y Chan (TPE) / J Zheng (CHN) – WTA
M Llodra (FRA) / A Ram (ISR) vs F Lopez (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) – ATP
[15] F Schiavone (ITA) vs [22] A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) – WTA
[1] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs P Cuevas (URU) / F Gonzalez (CHI) – ATP
[6] B Mattek-Sands (USA) / Z Yan (CHN) or M Kirilenko (RUS) / A Radwanska (POL) vs [WC] K Clijsters (BEL) / K Flipkens (BEL) – WTA

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
V Razzano (FRA) vs [9] S Stosur (AUS) – WTA
S Errani (ITA) vs [11] V Zvonareva (RUS) – WTA
[15] D Ferrer (ESP) vs [24] I Karlovic (CRO) – ATP
[18] T Robredo (ESP) vs B Becker (GER) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 PM
[WC] R Harrison (USA) / N Lapentti (ECU) vs E Butorac (USA) / R Ram (USA) – ATP

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
J Coin (FRA) / V King (USA) vs K Jans (POL) / V Uhlirova (CZE) – WTA
J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER) vs [6] S Aspelin (SWE) / P Hanley (AUS) – ATP
I Andreev (RUS) / M Youzhny (RUS) vs M Fish (USA) / M Knowles (BAH) – ATP
[3] L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs R Hutchins (GBR) / J Kerr (AUS) – ATP

COURT 6 start 10:00 am
[7] F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK) vs R Lindstedt (SWE) / H Tecau (ROU) – ATP
S Huss (AUS) / W Moodie (RSA) vs [4] M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR) – ATP
G Dulko (ARG) / F Pennetta (ITA) vs [2] N Llagostera Vives (ESP) / M Martinez Sanchez (ESP) – WTA
[3] N Petrova (RUS) / S Stosur (AUS) vs O Govortsova (BLR) / A Kudryavtseva (RUS) – WTA

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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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On Tap At the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open For Friday March 26

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On Tap At the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open For Friday March 26


Second round play for the WTA and ATP continue today at the Sony Ericsson Open with many top ten players from both tours on the schedule.

The morning starts with last year’s Sony Ericsson Open champion, Victoria Azarenka, on stadium court squaring off against Alexandra Dulgheru. Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki, the winner and runner up at Indian Wells, are on the grandstand and court 1 respectively. After her great play in Federation Cup, a rejuvenated Melanie Oudin faces a struggling Vera Zvonareva. This is another chance for the U.S. Open quarterfinalist, Oudin, to claim yet another Russian scalp. In the afternoon, Kim Cljisters works on sealing a third round spot versus Petra Kvitova on stadium court.

Novak Djokovic, the 2009 Sony Ericsson finalist, has a date with Oliver Rochus while Rafael Nadal will need to sidestep Taylor Dent to book a third round bid. Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey attempt to reach the third round for the first time in Miami, they will be in session on the outside courts. Charismatic Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a quarterfinalist in 2009, hopes to make short work of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

Saving the best for last. In the night session, Elena Dementieva will look to avenge her second round Australian Open loss to Justine Henin, as these two face each other for the 13th time. Although Henin has a commending 10-2 record in their head to head, this one will likely have spectators on the edge of their seats. The women will be followed by Andy Roddick and Igor Andreev. After a tough outing in the finals at Indian Wells, Roddick will try to rebound. With the players tied after four meetings, Roddick may have his hands full.

Below is a complete list of the matches and court location for Friday:

STADIUM start 11:00 am
A Dulgheru (ROU) vs [4] V Azarenka (BLR) – WTA
O Rochus (BEL) vs [2] N Djokovic (SRB) – ATP
[14] K Clijsters (BEL) vs P Kvitova (CZE) – WTA
T Dent (USA) vs [4] R Nadal (ESP) – ATP

Not Before 7:00 pm
[5] E Dementieva (RUS) vs [WC] J Henin (BEL) – WTA
[6] A Roddick (USA) vs I Andreev (RUS) – ATP

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
[15] D Ferrer (ESP) vs M Llodra (FRA) – ATP
[7] J Jankovic (SRB) vs [Q] M Koryttseva (UKR) – WTA
[27] T Bellucci (BRA) vs J Blake (USA) – ATP
[30] V Troicki (SRB) vs [WC] D Nalbandian (ARG) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 pm
[8] J Tsonga (FRA) vs G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) – ATP

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
D Gimeno-Traver (ESP) vs [24] I Karlovic (CRO) – ATP
[Q] T Pironkova (BUL) vs [2] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA
C Suarez Navarro (ESP) vs [9] S Stosur (AUS) – WTA
[17] J Isner (USA) vs M Russell (USA) – ATP
A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / C Wozniacki (DEN) vs [4] L Raymond (USA) / R Stubbs (AUS) – WTA

COURT 2 start 10:00 am
[32] M Kirilenko (RUS) vs M Czink (HUN) – WTA
D Koellerer (AUT) vs [12] J Ferrero (ESP) – ATP
J Chardy (FRA) vs [21] S Querrey (USA) – ATP
M Oudin (USA) vs [11] V Zvonareva (RUS) – WTA

Not Before 5:00 pm
B Becker (GER) vs [11] I Ljubicic (CRO) – ATP

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
T Paszek (AUT) vs [22] A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) – WTA
[WC] R Harrison (USA) / N Lapentti (ECU) vs E Butorac (USA) / R Ram (USA) – ATP
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) vs [17] S Peer (ISR) – WTA
[18] T Robredo (ESP) vs [Q] I Marchenko (UKR) – ATP
M Llodra (FRA) / A Ram (ISR) vs F Lopez (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) – ATP

COURT 4 start 11:00 am
[29] M Martinez Sanchez (ESP) vs L Safarova (CZE) – WTA

Not Before 12:30 pm
[15] F Schiavone (ITA) vs A Cornet (FRA) – WTA
M Damm (CZE) / F Polasek (SVK) vs I Karlovic (CRO) / D Vemic (SRB) – ATP

COURT 6 start 10:00 am
[33] N Almagro (ESP) vs E Schwank (ARG) – ATP
[Q] S Arvidsson (SWE) vs [26] D Cibulkova (SVK) – WTA
J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER) vs [6] S Aspelin (SWE) / P Hanley (AUS) – ATP
F Mayer (GER) vs [28] P Kohlschreiber (GER) – ATP
S Stakhovsky (UKR) vs [32] J Benneteau (FRA) – ATP

COURT 7 start 10:00 am
L Dekmeijere (LAT) / P Schnyder (SUI) vs V Dushevina (RUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) – WTA

Not Before 11:30 am
[20] J Zheng (CHN) vs V Razzano (FRA) – WTA
[24] A Kleybanova (RUS) vs S Errani (ITA) – WTA
[1] C Black (ZIM) / L Huber (USA) vs N Grandin (RSA) / A Spears (USA)
T Garbin (ITA) / V Ruano Pascual (ESP) vs K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) – WTA

COURT 8 start 11:00 am
A Bondarenko (UKR) / G Voskoboeva (KAZ) vs J Coin (FRA) / V King (USA) – WTA
J Goerges (GER) vs [28] E Vesnina (RUS) – WTA
[6] B Mattek-Sands (USA) / Z Yan (CHN) vs M Kirilenko (RUS) / A Radwanska (POL) – WTA
I Senoglu (TUR) / Y Shvedova (KAZ) vs [8] E Makarova (RUS) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA

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Djokovic Delivers in Dubai for Second Successive Title

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Djokovic Delivers in Dubai for Second Successive Title


img_1457Two weeks after Novak Djokovic was ousted in the semifinals in Rotterdam by Mikhail Youzhny, in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championships the defending champion avenged that loss in beating Youzhny 7-5, 5-7,6-3 for his first title of the year.

The final was played over two days because of rain.  On Saturday, after cruising along on serve, Djokovic hit a bump.  Following errors by Djokovic, with a forehand swing volley winner, Youzhny had breakpoint.  The Russian converted when Djokovic’s forehand landed wide.  However, after Novak erased a game point with a forehand winner for deuce, Mikhail dumped the next two strokes into the net leveling the set at 3 all. Subsequent to a routine hold, Djokovic earned double break point with a forehand crosscourt winner.  When Youzhny netted a backhand, Djokovic took a  5-3 lead.  However, serving for the set, Djokovic started with two miscues for 0-30.  After producing a beautiful forehand up the line winner in a seemingly never-ending point which Youzhny had multiple opportunities to take; a fatigued Djokovic double faulted to stare at double break point.  Courtesy of another error by Novak, Mikhail obtained the break to get back on serve.  Serving to push the set to a tiebreaker, Youzhny sent a backhand long to go down break point.  Then, the Russian misfired on a forehand volley to give Djokovic the set.

After Djokovic carried a rain interrupted first game, he capitalized on a error filled game by Mikhail to jump ahead 2-0. With Djokovic trying to consolidate, at 30-15, the match was postponed due to heavy downpour.

Today when the players returned, Djokovic promptly took a 3-0 edge. Although arduous, Youzhny maintained serve for 3-1.  Sleeping on it did Youzhny well.  After Djokovic began his game with a double fault, Youzhny produced a forehand up the line winner for double break point.  The Russian got back on serve by crushing a backhand down the line. Despite struggling, Youzhny squared the set at 3 a piece. Serving at 3-4, Youzhny fought off break point to hold. The next game, Djokovic double faulted to donate a break point.  With an overhead winner, Youzhny took a 5-4 advantage causing an angry Djokovic to destroy a racket.  However serving for the set and ahead 30-15, after a backhand crosscourt pass winner by Djokovic, Youzhny committed two straight errors which permitted Djokovic to break back.  Unfazed however, Youzhny baited Djokovic into errors and broke at love.  Then, with a love service game, Youzhny send the match into a third set.

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Back to Back Doubles Titles For Serena & Venus In Melbourne

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Back to Back Doubles Titles For Serena & Venus In Melbourne


australian_open_logoFor the second successive year at the Australian Open, Venus and Serena Williams toppled top doubles seed Liezel Huber and Cara Black in the finals.  With a 6-4,6-3 victory the siblings earned their fourth Aussie title.

After the Williams failed to capitalize on Serena’s forehand crosscourt winner for break point in the opening game, Black came up with two clutch volleys in a multiple deuce game to break Serena for a 3-1 lead. However, for Huber and Black, the elation was brief. Disgusted with her prior play, Serena redeemed herself with a forehand crosscourt winner and mid-court volley winner.  When Huber double faulted and committed a miscue on forehand volley, the match was back on serve.  After Venus easily held for 3 all, aided by two double faults by Black, Venus and Serena broke for 4-3. As Serena struggled with her serve, Huber and Black had three break chances to level the set.  But, as a result of service return errors, Black and Huber wasted their opportunities. After holding serve, Huber and Black resisted surrendering the set.  But, on the third set point, Black dumped a forehand into the net, bringing Serena and Venus one set away from defending their title.

With a terrific top spin lob, Serena gave her team break point to start the second set.  When Huber’s backhand volley stayed on her side of the net, team Williams secured a 1-0 edge.  Once Serena steadied her serve, the pair easily consolidated for 2-0.  Although Huber and Black remained close the rest of the way, they were unable to make any progress on the Williams’ games.  While serving to prolong the match, ahead 30-0, Huber again double faulted for 30 all. Then, Serena thumped a forehand return.  With Huber unable to dig out the volley, the Williams had break/match point.  Subsequently, with a great backhand reflex volley winner, Serena sealed the championship.  This triumph gave the Williams their 11th doubles majors trophy.

That afternoon, in the mixed doubles semifinal, Ekaterina Makarova and Jaroslav Levinsky prevailed over Flavia Pennetta and Marcelo Melo while top seed Leander Paes and Cara Black beat Lisa Raymond and Wesley Moodie. The winners will face off  in the finals Sunday.

In the men’s semifinal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a virtual spectator as Roger Federer assumed total control of the proceedings.  Federer defeated Tsonga 6-2,6-3,6-2 to set up a mouth watering encounter with Andy Murray.  Since Murray is one of the selected members of the exclusive club of those with a winning record versus the world’s number one, this should be a fiercely contested final.

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ATP Australian Open Early Round Rewind

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ATP Australian Open Early Round Rewind


img_0642_mcAfter one week of play, the cream of the ATP has risen to the top at the Australian Open.   Although some had a tougher road than others, eight of the top seeds are still in the hunt.  Here’s a look back at the tournament’s key moments to date.

In the first round, Igor Andreev’s forehand gave world number one Roger Federer all sorts of headache.  After stealing the first set, Andreev was just one forehand winner away from serving for a two set to one lead.  When Andreev’s shot sailed long, so did his opportunity at an upset.  Thereafter, Federer cruised through his matches.

Another difficult challenge lays ahead for Federer in the fourth round in Aussie Lleyton Hewitt who will have the support of the crowd.  Still, Federer is favored in that match.  Should Federer advance, his tasks gets more complicated since he could face Nikolay Davydenko in the quarters, a man who has beaten him their last two meetings.

While Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist last year, struggled through his first round match then benefited from a retirement his last round;  Davydenko, his fourth round opponent, has been in peak form through three rounds.  If Davydenko moves on to the quarterfinals, Federer’s streak of 22 consecutive majors semifinal will be in serious jeopardy.

An astounding fatality in the first round was French Open finalist, Robin Soderling. Playing Marcel Granollers ranked 113, Soderling let a two set to none advantage evaporate.  Current U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro who has been dealing with a wrist injury also made an early exit. After defeating James Blake in a thrilling second round match, in the fourth round, Del Potro fought hard but came up short against Marin Cilic in another five setter.  Cilic who has now gotten to the quarterfinals in the last two majors will battle Andy Roddick.

Although Roddick has been pushed with each passing round, he’s had the answers.  After straight sets wins in rounds one and two, Roddick required four sets against Feliciano Lopez, then five versus Fernando Gonzalez, the Australian Open 2007 finalist and his coach’s former pupil. If Roddick aces the Cilic exam, it will be either Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray his next nemesis.

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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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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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Tsonga Ends Youzhny’s Great Run by Taking Japan Open Title

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Tsonga Ends Youzhny’s Great Run by Taking Japan Open Title


img_0514The finals of Japan Open, an ATP 500 event, pinned Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the second seed, against Russian Mikhail Youzhny, a surprising finalist.  Both men were trying to win their fifth career title and become the first conqueror of this tournament from their country.  Tsonga came out on top 6-3, 6-3 over Youzhny to claim his third title of 2009.

With U.S. Open reigning champion Juan Martin Del Potro ousted in the first round, Tsonga as the highest remaining seed had a load on his shoulders.  In addition, the Frenchman had his work cut out for him considering how well Youzhny had been playing.  The Russian defeated third seed Gilles Simon, fifth seed and defending champion Tomas Berdych and eight seed Lleyton Hewitt. Moreover, Youzhny was parched for a trophy with his last being in January 2008.  After each person held his opening service game, Youzhny had the initial opportunity to break when Tsonga sent a forehand wide. Yet, despite difficulties, Tsonga pulled off the game with expertly located serves and a forehand volley winner for 2-1.  By steadying his backhand, up to that juncture, Youzhny kept his opponent on his heel.  But, after Tsonga captured a service game at love for 4-3, Youzhny failed to connect on first serves and with a couple of backhand unforced errors was in a double break point hole.  When the Russian misfired on the forehand up the line, the Frenchman had a 5-3 lead.  Then at 40-0, Tsonga threw in an ace to wrap up the set.

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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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