Tag Archive | "U.S. Open"

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 U.S. Open: Wozniacki Living Up to Seeding, Jankovic Makes Early Departure

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Week One at U.S. Open: Wozniacki Living Up to Seeding, Jankovic Makes Early Departure


With Serena Williams out of the running, one established truism at this year’s U.S. Open was that the list of potential champions had expanded.  Yet, Caroline Wozniacki’s form the first three rounds is giving many room for pause as she is invariably validating her top billing.  With the initial week of competition concluded, here’s a recapitulation of the event thus far and a peak at what’s ahead.

Wozniacki has permitted her opponents only three games on her way to booking her spot into the round of 16.  Although Maria Sharapova needed three sets in the first round against Jarmila Groth, since then she has also been stingy. Sharapova allowed Beatrice Capra, the 18 year old American who upended 18th seed Aravane Rezai, just one game in their third round match.  As a result, the much anticipated  fourth round match between Sharapova and Wozniacki will take place on Monday.

After scraping by to reach the third round, Jelena Jankovic, the 4th seed, had her progress halted by Kaia Kanepi, the 31st seed.  Therefore, for Jankovic, the disappointment at the majors go on.  Kanepi will face Yanina Wickmayer, the 15th seed and 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist, in the round of 16.

Vera Zvonareva, the 7th seed, has been keeping a low profile while calmly taking care of business.  Without dropping a set, Zvonareva is now in the fourth round where she will battle Andrea Petkovic.  Zvonareva is clearly the favorite in that clash and with Jankovic ousted, she has a great chance to earn a berth in the semifinals.

Na Li, the 8th seed, and Agnieszka Radwanska, the 9th seed, were booted in the first and second round respectively.  With Li sent packing, Dominika Cibulkova was the beneficiary.  Cibulkova is alive for the first time in the fourth round at the U.S. Open and will face Svetlana Kuznetsova.  Since falling under the tutelage of Amelie Mauresmo’s former coach, Kuznetsova has rediscovered the road to success.  Kuznetsova should have no trouble punching her ticket to the quarterfinals for a date with either Sharapova or Wozniacki.

In the bottom half of the draw, Melanie Oudin, last year’s American darling, was bounced in the second round.  Franscesca Schiavone, the 6th seed  and reigning French Open champion, has finally found her game on hardcourt.  The Italian heads to the round of 16 having yet to surrender a set.  Schiavone’s next obstacle will be 19 year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  The Russian’s third round showdown with one of the favorites for the title Victoria Azarenka never came to fruition.  In her second round match, Azarenka collapsed and was forced to retire.  Initially, the problem was ascribed to the scorching temperatures.  Later on, the news was released that Azarenka had suffered a mild concussion prior to taking the court which was the culprit for her abrupt egress.  With Pavlyuchenkova dominant on hardcourt this season, it will be fascinating to see whether teenage fearlessness or experience wins out.

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Federer, Murray, Roddick and Nadal Stand Out of the Heap as U.S. Open Favorites

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Federer, Murray, Roddick and Nadal Stand Out of the Heap as U.S. Open Favorites


The U.S. Open draw has been unveiled with the usual suspects at the top pack.  Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are the highest seeds followed respectively by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.  For some, the path has multiple green lights, but for others it is lined with yellow flags.  Here’s a breakdown of the draw.

After his victories at the French Open and Wimbledon, Nadal is once more in pursuit of the U.S. Open trophy, the sole major he lacks.  In 2008, the Spaniard was halted in the semifinals by Murray and last year in the same round by Juan Martin Del Potro, the champion.  Although Nadal has been the most prolific performer on grass and clay this season, hardcourt has been a different story.  Nadal has a lone final appearance in January in Doha and went down to Nikolay Davydenko.  With neither injury nor fatigue an issue this time, Nadal is capable of going the distance.  However, there may be a significant boulder in his way in the quarterfinals.

Finally in shape after hip surgery, David Nalbandian has made himself part of the conversation and could clash with Nadal in the quarterfinals.  Although Nadal recorded the win at their last meeting at the Sony Ericsson Open in March, Nalbandian’s form has improved markedly since then.  Moreover, Nalbandian took the title as a wildcard at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic earlier this month.  As a result, the Argentine will not be an easy customer for the Spaniard.

While Fernando Verdasco, the eight seed, is technically another likely quarterfinal counterpart for Nadal, Verdasco is at best a minute obstacle.  With a 10-0 record against his countryman, in a five set match, Nadal is a sure bet.

De novo, Nadal has been placed on a collision course with Murray to reach his first U.S. Open final.  Twice on hardcourt this year, Murray has comprehensively beaten Nadal including the Rogers Cup two weeks ago.  After dreadful results most of the season, Murray is at last in form and defended his title in Toronto.  If they clash in the semifinals, Nadal will have a tough time getting a pass.

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Which Woman Can Rise to the Occasion?  Long Lists of Contenders at the U.S. Open

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Which Woman Can Rise to the Occasion? Long Lists of Contenders at the U.S. Open


This week, the U.S. Open draw was disclosed.  Caroline Wozniacki, the world number two and 2009 finalist, and Kim Clijsters, the defending champion and world number three, are the top seeds.  Yet to fully recover from foot surgery, Serena Williams, the world number one, pulled out a few days ago.  In the absence of such a fierce competitor, this presents a sweeping opportunity for Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Victoria Azarenka or Wozniacki to emerge as a first time champion at a major.  Whether one of these women realizes her potential will be contingent on the performance of those who have previously hoisted this trophy such as Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Clijsters.  Here’s a look at how the draw shapes up.

With the biggest title of her career at the Rogers Cup earlier this week, Wozniacki heads into New York with a wealth of confidence.  But, being the top seed at a major is an unfamiliar status for the Dane, how she handles the pressure will be key.  Wozniacki may need every ounce of mental fortitude to get through the round of 16 where 2007 U.S. Open winner Sharapova will be her likely adversary.  In Cincinnati, Sharapova suffered a foot injury.  If Sharapova is at full capacity, Wozniacki could find her claim to her first major postponed another year.

After a difficult few months whereby her ranking dropped outside the top 10, Kuznetsova’s game appears to be clicking again as evidenced by a recent title in San Diego.  As a potential quarterfinal opponent for Sharapova or Wozniacki, the 2004 U.S. Open champion is someone to keep an eye on in the top half of the draw.

The same applies for 2010 Australian Open semifinalist Na Li who will be searching to go one step further at the U.S. Open.  For that to happen, Li may have to knock out Kuznetsova in the round of 16 and stop either Sharapova or Wozniacki in the quarterfinals.  Also, Maria Kirilenko and Aravane Rezai are two dangerous competitors who may prevent any of these players from advancing to the quarterfinals.

In the bottom part of the top half of the draw, if the script follows the seeding, Vera Zvonareva and Jankovic will face off in the quarterfinals.  Lately though, Jankovic has been plagued by a myriad of injuries resulting in her downfall in the early rounds at the warm-up events.  Thus, the Serbian could be ousted in the primary stages by 2009 U.S. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer or 2010 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kaia Kanepi.

Being a Wimbledon finalist in Zvonareva’s case could be a blessing or a curse.  In light of that experience, the Russian should have the belief to foil any potential upset in the round of 16 by rivals such as Nadia Petrova or Agnieszka Radwanska. Conversely, Zvonareva’s desire to erase that disappointment could lead to additional pressure and open the door for her counterparts.

If the results of the recent tournaments are any indication, it will be a Wozniacki versus Zvonareva semifinal or an all Russian affair, Zvonareva versus Sharapova.  Since Wozniacki defeated Zvonareva in Montreal, the Dane would have the edge.  If it comes down to a test of wills between Sharapova and Zvonareva, the former would have the upper hand.

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Serving Notice:  Federer Wiggles By Fish for His Fourth Cincinnati Title

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Serving Notice: Federer Wiggles By Fish for His Fourth Cincinnati Title


Following his Australian Open victory in February, Roger Federer’s game had been in a tailspin.  In his best form since Melbourne, Federer made the final at the Rogers Cup last week, but went down to Andy Murray.  However, today, Federer edged out wildcard Mardy Fish 6-7,7-6,6-4 at the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters for his second straight Western and Southern Financial Group Masters title and  his 17th Masters’ shield.

This hardcourt season, Fish has positioned himself as a man to fear.  After a grass title in Newport, Fish claimed the initial trophy of the Olympus U.S. Open series in Atlanta.  In Cincinnati the first three rounds, Fish dismissed Gilles Simon, 9th seed Fernando Verdasco and Richard Gasquet in straight sets.  Subsequently, in the quarterfinals, Fish defeated Andy Murray for the third consecutive time.  Then, in the semifinals, Fish collected his second successive win over Andy Roddick by erasing a 4-6,2-5 deficit and improved his record to 16-1 since Wimbledon.  Thus, with these results, Fish’s confidence was astronomical.

Moreover, with Fish in the most outstanding physical shape of his career and an easy triumph over Federer in their last meeting at Indian Wells in 2008, the chances were excellent that in his fourth attempt, Fish would gain his first Masters’ shield.  Conversely, despite advancing to two other finals besides Toronto, Federer was denied in Madrid and Halle this year.  In his 90th career final, Federer was hungrier than ever to capture his 63rd career title and gain momentum heading into the U.S. Open.

Subsequent to a comfortable hold by each player, Fish got embroiled in a 15 minute plus game.  After surviving two break points, on the ninth deuce, Fish obtained a game point with a backhand volley winner and sealed the game with a strong serve for 2-1.  Thereafter, both men cruised on serve until the tenth game when Fish misfired on a forehand up the line to give Federer set point.  With an ace, Fish wiped out Federer’s advantage and later tied the set at 5 all.  At 5-6 on Fish’s serve, Federer arrived again at set point when Fish’s stroke hit the net and flew long.  Once more, Fish repelled his opponent and forced a tiebreaker.

On Federer’s backhand crosscourt error, Fish got a mini-break for 4-3.  But, with two forehand winners, Federer stole both points off Fish’s serve for 5-4.  Still, Fish reversed the tides with an overhead winner and a backhand error by Federer to fabricate set point at 6-5.  With Federer unable to catch up to Fish’s serve, the American bagged the tiebreaker.

Yet to face a break point, Federer continued to coast on serve in the second set.  However, Fish had no problem matching the defending champion.  In fact, Fish’s first serve percentage improved as the set progressed.  At two all, Fish pushed Federer to a deuce game.  But, Federer guarded serve to stay ahead 3-2.  After holding at love for 6-5, Federer got to deuce on Fish’s watch with a forehand up the line winner.  By readily finding his first serve, Fish held for a second tiebreaker.

With a forehand crosscourt winner, Federer inched ahead with a mini-break for 2-0.  After stretching his lead to 4-1, Federer provoked two errors from Fish to take command of the tiebreaker at 6-1.  Next with an ace, Federer leveled the match at one set a piece and forced a decisive set.

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Making a Statement: Clijsters Shakes Off Sharapova to Steal Cincinnati Title

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Making a Statement: Clijsters Shakes Off Sharapova to Steal Cincinnati Title


At the Western and Southern Financial Group Women’s Open, Kim Clijsters survived three championship points from Maria Sharapova just as the skies were opening.  When the match resumed after a 70 minute rain delay, Clijsters, the 4th seed, changed not only her outfit, but her game.  Clijsters worked her way back to rob the trophy from the 10th seed with a 2-6,7-6,6-2 victory.

Although Clijsters had a slim edge over Sharapova in their head to head at 4-3, the latter had prevailed at their ultimate three meetings.  However, a lot had taken place since the 2007 Australian Open semifinal, the last time Clijsters and Sharapova clashed.  For Clijsters, the wanting of a family and marriage pushed her away from competition for almost two years.  Yet, in the summer of 2009, Clijsters marked her returned on tour in grand style with the title at the U.S. Open.  Sharapova had a near 10 month absence from the game due to shoulder surgery.  Since getting back in May 2009, Sharapova’s serve, one of the principle components which propelled her to three major titles, has been unpredictable.

Strangely enough, it was Clijsters’ serve which was her Achilles heel from the outset.  After being ahead 40-15 in the first game, Clijsters double faulted to give Sharapova break point.  Despite recovering and salvaging a 0-40 game subsequently, Clijsters could not find any answers to an attacking and aggressive Sharapova.  After fighting off two break points to arrive at 2 all, from 15-40, Sharapova aided by miscues from Clijsters got to deuce.  Then, when Clijsters’ backhand crosscourt sailed long, Sharapova had her fifth break point.  The Russian banked the break when Clijsters committed her fourth double fault.  After consolidating for 4-2, Sharapova’s provoked three consecutive backhand mistakes from Clijsters to obtain a second break.  Next, with a love game, Sharapova closed out the set.

Clijsters opened the second set with a love hold.  Once Sharapova netted a backhand, Clijsters had break point.  With a backhand return winner, Clijsters capitalized for a 2-0 lead.  But, with two errors and a double fault, Clijsters faced triple break point.  With another Clijsters’ backhand going out of play, Sharapova was back on serve.  Later, on a deep return by Sharapova, Clijsters dumped her next stroke into the net handing Sharapova double break point. As a result of Clijsters’ forehand up the line landing wide, Sharapova captured the break for 4-3 and went on to consolidate for 5-3.   By unleashing on a forehand return, Sharapova struck a winner for match point.  With Sharapova sending a forehand crosscourt long, Clijsters got to deuce.  Two more championship points followed for Sharapova with Clijsters successfully salvaging both.  On the game’s fourth deuce, the rain intensified causing play to be stopped.

When the women took the court after the weather interruption, a new Clijsters quickly guarded serve for 4-5.  With Sharapova serving for the title, Clijsters coaxed the Russian into two backhand errors to earn double break point.  Thanks to a couple of big second serves, Sharapova brushed those aside for deuce.  However, another backhand miscue by Sharapova led to break point for Clijsters.  As a result of a double fault, Clijsters leveled the set at 5 all.   The second set was decided by a tiebreaker.

By double faulting on the initial point, Clijsters gifted Sharapova a mini-break.  The Russian went on to take a 3-0 lead.  Because of mistakes by Sharapova including a double fault, Clijsters seized the next five points.  After Sharapova erased the mini-break advantage, she double faulted to give Clijsters a 6-4 edge.  As Sharapova misfired with the backhand crosscourt on set point, Clijsters was back in contention.

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Another Argentine at Home in Washington:  Nalbandian Grasps the Title

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Another Argentine at Home in Washington: Nalbandian Grasps the Title


Although injury prevented Juan Martin Del Potro, the 2008-09 champion, from defending his title at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic; Del Potro’s countryman , wildcard entrant David Nalbandian, proved an excellent substitute.  Despite being gravely tested by Marcos Baghdatis, the 8th and sole remaining seed, Nalbandian walked away with the championship with a 6-2, 7-6 victory.

As a former world number three, Nalbandian’s current ranking of 117 due to hip surgery and other injuries the past twelve months did not reflect his talent.  In phenomenal form this week, dropping just one set prior to the final, Nalbandian felt his game was now coming together.  Classify it as arrogance, confidence or clairvoyance, after his semifinal win yesterday, Nalbandian intimated that if his form held up, he would run away with the title.

The first game of the match, following two errors by Baghdatis, Nalbandian connected on a forehand crosscourt return winner to earn triple break point.  When Baghdatis’ forehand landed long, Nalbandian took the game.  Next, the Argentine consolidated for a 2-0 lead.  His next time serving, Baghdatis got on the board for 2-1.  Too many return mistakes by Baghdatis especially on second serves led to short rallies and permitted Nalbandian to maintain the break advantage for 4-2. After having game point, Baghdatis double faulted for deuce.  Then, by netting a backhand down the line, the Cypriot donated another break point.  Nalbandian capitalized by hitting a backhand pass for a winner and 5-2.  By comfortably holding, Nalbandian wrapped up the first set in 32 minutes.

In yesterday’s semifinal, Nalbandian required just 72 minutes to dismiss fourth seed Marin Cilic.  His first set performance gave off the vibe that this might be another short match.  After having a game point, Baghdatis double faulted and later on in the first game gave Nalbandian a break point.  Fortunately for the Cypriot, he guarded serve.  The subsequent game, it was Nalbandian who cracked, committing two double faults to gift Baghdatis his first break and a 2-0 lead.  Quickly though, Nalbandian rebounded with a forehand down the line winner for double break point which he banked after a backhand error by Baghdatis.  In the fourth game, Baghdatis obtained double break point on another Nalbandian double fault.  Despite Nalbandian having to resort to his second serve, Baghdatis failed to seize those chances. Too casual on a forehand volley, Baghdatis dumped it in the net on his fifth break point.  Ultimately, Nalbandian salvaged six break points to level the set at 2 all.  Next, on another mistake filled game, Nalbandian broke to move ahead 3-2.  Nevertheless, Baghdatis did not relent and promptly stole the following game to get back on serve.  After holding, Baghdatis knocked at the door again, earning two break points, yet was rebuked by Nalbandian.  Following three love holds by the players, with Nalbandian serving at 5-6, Baghdatis reached set point.  As before, Nalbandian dug out of trouble and pushed the set to a tiebreaker.

Aided by miscues from Baghdatis, Nalbandian rolled off five straight points in the tiebreaker for 5-0.  With Baghdatis misfiring on an easy forehand, Nalbandian arrived at 6-3 and had three championship points.  As Baghdatis’ forehand up the line sailed wide, Nalbandian claimed his 11th career trophy.  The Argentine’s first since Sydney 2009.

Subsequent to the match, Baghdatis’ analysis was as follow when asked by MiamiTennisNews:
Q.  Did you feel you had to go for more on your second serve because Nalbandian returns so well?
Baghdatis: Yes. I felt in the second set I had to mix it up a bit, go for more.  I think I did pretty well in the second set.  We are two players who are great at returning.  I think if I served better today especially first serve, with more free points, I could have won.. I did not do that which was the key to the match.

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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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Then There Were Two:  Baghdatis and Nalbandian Progress to The Final in Washington

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Then There Were Two: Baghdatis and Nalbandian Progress to The Final in Washington


At the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, the first semifinal showcased Marcos Baghdatis, the eighth seed, against Xavier Malisse.  Baghdatis defeated Malisse 6-2,7-6 to earn his initial spot in the final of a tournament States side.  Later, David Nalbandian booked his maiden berth in a final on U.S. soil by thumping fourth seed Marin Cilic 6-2,6-2.

Although this was their first meeting on the ATP tour, Malisse and Baghdatis faced off twice in the finals at the challenger level with Baghdatis prevailing both times.  From the difficult hold that Baghdatis had his primary game, Malisse gave the impression that he was going to reverse the former results.  However, with Malisse unable to make the volley off a dipping forehand,  Baghdatis gained double break point.  As Malisse’s forehand went out of bounds, Baghdatis nudged ahead 2-1.  By surprising Baghdatis with a sliced backhand down the line and forcing an error, Malisse attained break point.  But, with Malisse misjudging the second serve return, Baghdatis eventually consolidated for 3-1.  By inciting a few unforced errors from Malisse, Baghdatis captured a second break and later shut down the set with a love game.

The first two games of the second set, Baghdatis had two break points; Malisse handled the pressure to stay in front 2-1.  Following a couple of easy holds, Malisse connected on a forehand down the line winner for break point.  But, by sending a backhand outside the field of play, Malisse wasted that opportunity.  As Baghdatis shifted his movement in an attempt to track down the ball, he twisted his left ankle slightly.

With Baghdatis on the ground, play was interrupted and the trainer dispatched. Genuinely concerned for his opponent, Malisse quickly crossed the net and brought Baghdatis a bag of ice to apply.  After the ankle was attended to, play resumed and Baghdatis held for 4 all.  Subsequently, Malisse rebounded from love 30 to keep his nose in front 5-4.  Later, following a loose forehand by Malisse, Baghdatis connected on a forehand crosscourt pass for break point.  With another mistake by Malisse, Baghdatis claimed a 6-5 lead.  Yet, serving for the match, Baghdatis was bitten by the error bug.  Therefore, the set moved on to a tiebreaker.  At that stage, Baghdatis justified his 11-3 tiebreaker record.  In baiting Malisse into two miscues, the Cypriot raced to a 5-1 advantage.  Then, on his fourth match point, Baghdatis succeeded to punctuate the match.

In reference to his noble act, Malisse cited in the post match briefing:  “I know he has been injured for a while . . .you don’t want [the ankle to] be more inflamed. . . You don’t want to win a match in that way”.

MiamiTennisNews asked:
Q.  You got the equalizer in the second set, what went wrong in the tiebreaker?
Malisse:  At 3-1, I hit a good forehand but it clipped the tape.  He served well the whole tiebreaker . . . I kept [going] for my shots . .  At 6-4, it’s a little different because he feels he has to win the point because it’s on his serve . . . I made a couple of mistakes, but if you are going to hit your shot, you are going to miss a couple.  Too bad, it’s in a tiebreaker.

Q.  Despite the result today, it’s been a good week for you.  What are the positives you take away?
Malisse:  I’ve played good matches, so I can’t really complain . . . I gave it my all and beat a lot of good players in the top 20.  I lost today, but I fought hard . . . You can’t win everything . . . But the positive is that my ranking [will go] up to almost 50 . . . The pressure is off now, I can play freely.   My confidence is really high  . . I’m a bit tired, but we will see how Toronto goes after some days of rest.

In assessing his performance, Baghdatis surmised that the key to his victory was “playing smart” and coming up with “the perfect game” plan.  Essentially, Baghdatis said:  “I played the right point at the right time . . .not opening the court on his forehand and not giving him any angles”.  On the ankle, Baghdatis’ comment was “I twisted it a bit . . . I feel ok now and hope that it won’t be bad tomorrow”.

In the second semifinal, Nalbadian clashed with Cilic.  The last time these two tangoed, it was in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup in 2006 and Nalbandian was the victor.  Needless to say, with 21 year old Cilic now ranked 13th, Nalbadian was facing a different player.

In the first game, Cilic took advantage of multiple errors by Nalbadian and broke.  However, Nalbandian also pressured the Croatian into miscues to promptly level the set at 1 all.  Nalbandian then held at love for 2-1.  After getting to double break point with a backhand down the line winner, Cilic failed to capitalize on Nalbandian’s second serves.  Thus, the Argentine inched ahead 3-2.  With Cilic netting a forehand, Nalbandian earned his third break point of the sixth game.  Nalbandian converted when Cilic made his third forehand error in that game.  In his three previous matches, Cilic had only been broken twice, dismissing 12 of 14 break points.  After consolidating with a love game for 5-2, Nalbandian bagged another break to polish the first set in just 36 minutes.

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Final Four at the Legg Mason Classic: Malisse, Baghdatis, Nalbandian and Cilic

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Final Four at the Legg Mason Classic: Malisse, Baghdatis, Nalbandian and Cilic


The customary Washington heat returned today melting down two of the top remaining seeds.  In the first match of the afternoon, Tomas Berdych, the 2010 Wimbledon finalist and number one seed, was booted by Xavier Malisse 6-4,3-6, 6-2.  The same fortune befell Fernando Verdasco, the third seed.  The Spaniard was ushered out by Marcos Baghdatis 7-6,6-4.

In the evening session, David Nalbandian bested Gilles Simon, the 13th seed, 3-6,6-2, 6-3.  At number four, Marin Cilic is the highest surviving seed. Cilic toppled Janko Tipsarevic 7-6,6-4.

Having split their prior two encounters in 2006, for both Malisse and Berdych it was case of getting reacquainted.  Malisse drew first blood by capitalizing on his second break point chance in the third game.  The Belgian went on to readily consolidate for 3-1.  Down love-30 in the fifth game,  Berdych worked his way back to game point.  However, with Berdych failing to convert on eight game points, Malisse seized a second break and 5-2 lead.  Although Berdych narrowed the arrears to a single break, with the insurance edge Malisse managed to wrap up the set.

Unable to break in the second game, Berdych was gifted a double fault on double break point by Malisse for 5-4.  The Czech secured the following game to force a third set.  After opening the fourth game with a double fault, Berdych compounded it with a series of unforced miscues.  As a result, Malisse inched ahead 4-3.  With Berdych misfiring on three consecutive backhands, Malisse increased his lead to 5-3.  For good measure, Malisse broke Berdych one last time to earn his first semifinal berth in Washington.

After the match, Berdych expressed his discontentment with playing his third round on a non-show court and being scheduled first today after getting to his hotel late this morning.  At the preceding conference, Berdych alluded to jet lag being an issue, the early match he felt added to his wretched play in the first set.  Nevertheless, Berdych acknowledged that Malisse merited the win because he performed well.

For his part, Malisse commented that the key to his victory was his ability to return.  Malisse remarked that the third set was near perfect tennis from his end.

In the second singles, Verdasco had three break opportunities in the opening game.  Baghdatis survived the challenge and went on to break for 2-1.  Yet, Verdasco quickly got back on serve by manufacturing a break of his own.  Ultimately, the set was decided by a tiebreaker.  Courtesy of three double faults by Verdasco, Baghdatis built a 5-2 advantage.  As another Verdasco forehand traveled out of play, Baghdatis bagged the first set.

After Verdasco held to carry the initial game of the second set, Baghdatis netted a backhand giving the Spaniard triple break point.  However, Baghdatis once again disappointed his rival.  The next game, a disenchanted Verdasco dropped his serve.  Although Verdasco immediately equalized the set at 2 all, the errors became uncontrollable leading to further breaks.  When Verdasco’s forehand pass sailed long, Baghdatis had double break point.  With Verdasco flubbing a backhand down the line, Baghdatis secured a 5-3 lead which was the difference in the match.

MiamiTennisNews asked:
Q.  This was your first meeting with Baghdatis, was his game different than expected?
Verdasco:  No . . . I did not play [well].  It was very windy . . .so it was tough to play for both of us . . . [Too] many double faults [because of ] the changing direction of the wind . . . The bounce of the court was sometimes [irregular] . . . The conditions were not easy.

MiamiTennisNews was curious about Verdasco’s racket conundrum.
Q.  Earlier in the year you experimented with a different brand and you’ve since switched back.  What’s the reason?
Verdasco:  Before [the season started] I tried Yonex and I was suppose to play in Australia with it.  But, [the manufacturer] did not [fabricate] the racket the way I wanted.  So, I was told to play with my old racket in Australia . . . In San Jose and Memphis, I played with the Yonex racket.  On clay in Acapulco, I [noticed] it was not the racket I want . . . After Acapulco, the [team] spoke to Dunlop to see if it can make the [equipment that suits] my game. Dunlop worked on it for a few months, that’s why I played the clay and grass seasons with a black racket.  It’s still an [evolving process], trying to find the perfect racket.  It’s never easy like changing clothes or sunglasses because it’s such an [integral] part of the game.

Q.  Any plans to defend your title at the Pilot Pen?
Verdasco: I will just be playing the two Masters and the [major].  Last year I won New Haven, it was great and I enjoyed it . . . The people really treated me well . .  . But, last year, when I got to the U.S. Open, I had a micro-tear in my abs and lost in the first round  because of too many matches in a row.  I don’t want that to happen this year because I want to do well in [New York].

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