Tag Archive | "US Open"

Murray Moves On to the Semifinals at the Sony Open

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Murray Moves On to the Semifinals at the Sony Open


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Andy Murray maintained his winning ways at the Sony Open. The reigning U.S. Open champion prevailed over the ninth seed Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3.

Despite obtaining the initial break for a 2-1 lead, Cilic failed to sustain the momentum. A few more exchanges of breaks followed. After order was restored and the players arrived at 4 all, Cilic gifted his counterpart the break in a game where he committed two double faults.

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Tennis Is Healthier With A Healthy Nadal

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Tennis Is Healthier With A Healthy Nadal


img_1180_rnIn the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, defending champion and world number two, Rafael Nadal, prematurely set down his racket due to the sudden onset of a knee injury.  For several seasons, the 23 year old has been afflicted with one form of physical ailment or another.  After an extraordinary victory in 2008, last June, Nadal was unable to defend his title at Wimbledon due to tendonitis.  As an individual who has exhibited exemplary conduct both on and off the court, there’s a noticeable void when a player of Nadal’s caliber is absent.  Here are a few reasons why the game is better with Nadal.

With Andy Murray dominating from the very first stroke and only three games from a straight sets victory, there was little suspense as to the outcome of the quarterfinals. Still, with the Spaniard, there is often a sliver of hope for a comeback.  One of Nadal’s most admirable attribute is his inherent belief, regardless of the score, that he is not vanquished until the last ball is struck.  In Nadal’s psyche, there’s invariably that one shot which sparks the turning point in the match.  It’s hard to bet against a man who last year in Australia after a thrilling five hour and 20 minute, five set semifinal defeated Roger Federer after another five setter with less than 24 hour turnaround.

If one were to browse the dictionary for the definition of driven or relentless, it would not be shocking to discover a photograph of Nadal.  Whether in practice or in match situation, Nadal gives 1000% effort, a reflection of his perfectionist personality. There’s an ATP commercial which describes tennis players as “gladiators” on the pitch; perhaps no person epitomizes that description better than Nadal.  Each time he steps on the court it seems a duel to the death.

While Nadal’s all-encompassing dedication is laudable, the intense manner he approaches the game has taken a toll on his body.  Bouts of tendonitis in both knees have hampered Nadal’s movement.  With the nature of his game, it’s inevitable that these structures will be under recurrent stress. Therefore, even for an athlete as talented as Nadal, it becomes impossible to compensate.  One option could be for him to go on a lengthy sabbatical since resting is crucial for healing.  The down side would be that his ranking would suffer. Sometimes, one wishes Nadal could trade in his knees for new ones every so many miles as he does his tennis shoes.

The injuries are unfortunate because over the years Nadal has grown as a player.  He has incorporated different shots which have helped him succeed on surfaces other than clay.  In some respects, Nadal’s resume is more well-rounded and accomplished than Federer’s.  Nadal’s first major was at age 18 while Federer’s came at age 21.The Spaniard has an Olympic gold medal in singles and a couple of Davis Cup titles.  On the contrary, there’s been a sporadic commitment by the Swiss to the Davis Cup.

In an era dominated by Federer, Nadal’s most significant contribution is proving that there are many ways to triumph.  These two players have contrasting styles as well as differences in other areas.  Nadal is a lefty, Federer a righty. The former plays two handed on the backhand wing while the latter has a one handed stroke.  Federer moves as a quasi ballet dancer on court, Nadal more like a football player. But, there is common ground in that they are both passionate about their sport.

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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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Davydenko Destroys Nadal In Shanghai

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Davydenko Destroys Nadal In Shanghai


img_4089With the men’s year end tournament moved to London, Shanghai gained a Masters 1000 series tournament. In the finals, Nikolay Davydenko stamped his name on the inaugural trophy by beating Rafael Nadal 7-6, 6-3. For Davydenko, it was his third career Masters’ shield and his fourth title of the season.

Shanghai marked Nadal’s return to the finals since his hiatus due to knee tendonitis in June. The Spaniard looked in great form all week.  Yet, Davydenko was no slouch.  The Russian took out second seed Novak Djokovic in the semifinals after losing the first set.  In many respects, this match was reminiscent of the 2008 Sony Ericsson final with Davydenko assuming the role of aggressor. Immediately, that tactic paid dividends for the Russian, particularly in the long rallies.

With Nadal serving at 1 all, Davydenko surprised his rival by crushing a forehand winner up the line. Then, by producing some great angles, Davydenko came up with a backhand volley winner for love-40.  Subsequently, Davydenko secured the break with a swing volley winner.  Afterwards, with a couple of forehand winners up the line, Davydenko consolidated the break for 3-1.  Next, a backhand error by Nadal gave Davydenko a 15-40 edge and the opportunity at a safety net.  However, with Davydenko missing two forehands up the line, Nadal eventually got out of jail. Serving at 4-3. Davydenko’s miscue on a forehand gave the Spaniard his first break point. Despite the Russian erasing that one, later, another forehand mistake resulted in Nadal leveling the set at 4 a piece. At 4-5, Davydenko made a forehand crosscourt error to gift Nadal set point at 30-40.  But, after flubbing a previous overhead, Davydenko handled a lob for winner and kept the set alive. Ultimately, the set went to a tiebreaker. With a backhand volley winner on a high ball, Davydenko obtained a mini-break for 1-0.  Shortly thereafter, Nadal sponged out Davydenko’s edge with a spectacular backhand reflex volley. Unrelenting, daredevil Davydenko fired another backhand down the winner to secure another mini-break for 3-2.  When Nadal splayed a forehand off a deep return, Davydenko extended the gap to 6-3. Later, with a backhand down the line winner, Davydenko put a period on the set.

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Del Potro Foils Federer’s Bid At Six Successive U.S. Open Titles

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Del Potro Foils Federer’s Bid At Six Successive U.S. Open Titles


img_9948Taking into account, the veil of lunacy and unpredictability that has shrouded the 2009 U.S. Open, one might have believed there was no further room for shock.  Yet, today, in the finals, 20 year old Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro pulled off the element of surprise by vanquishing world number one and five time defending champion Roger Federer 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 in order to seize his first major.

For the sixth year in a row facing a fresh rival at the tournament’s ultimate dance, Federer was regarded as the overwhelming favorite. Subsequent to a love game, on his fifth break point, Federer used a forehand crosscourt winner to jump to a 2-0 lead. Then, Roger consolidated with a comfortable hold. With Del Potro’s newbie status at the final of a major, he had difficulty encountering his footing the opening set. But, Juan Martin finally got on the board with ease for 1-3.  While Federer never dealt with a break point, Del Potro’s treacherous adventure on serve continued.  Serving at 2-5, Juan Martin’s forehand error gave Roger three set points.  However, with his big serve, Del Potro salvaged the game. Nevertheless, Federer went on to close out the set.

Del Potro started the second with four unforced errors, including two double faults, to hand Federer a break.  By maintaining his near perfect play at net, Federer connected on a forehand volley for 2-0.  After an untroubled hold by his opponent, Federer’s forehand miscues resulted in Del Potro’s initial break opportunities.  With Juan Martin unable to capitalize, Roger stretched his lead to 3-1. Consequently, Roger appeared to be securing a choke hold on another title. Yet, despite multiple chances, Federer failed to capture a potential insurance break.  After Del Potro kept the set alive with a love hold at 4-5, in front 30-0, Federer made a couple of errors for 30-30.  The next point, Del Potro called on the tech review after a forehand up the line was presumed out. By a hair, Juan Martin was found to be correct. Now, an incredulous Federer stared at break point.  Immediately, Juan Martin passed Roger at net with a forehand up the line to square the set at 5-5. Roger’s failure at sealing the set preyed on his mind into a tiebreaker. A forehand error was all Del Potro required for a mini-break and to finish off the set.

An abominable first serve percentage, a rival unwilling to capitulate, a perceived flawed challenge system contributed to Federer’s petulant mood the rest of the way. Roger even had an acerbic exchange with the chair umpire in the third set. To the contrary, Del Potro settled into a comfortable service rhythm.  At 3 all and 30 all, Federer floated two straight forehands long to give Del Potro his first lead.  But, the next game, Federer blotted out his mistake by making it 4 all.  After dismissing another break point and holding, Federer ticked off that Del Potro took a little long to dispute a call utilized his displeasure to get to 0-30. As a result of Del Potro double faulting twice, Federer carried the set 6-4.

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The Apple of New York’s Eyes: Clijsters Triumphs Over Wozniacki at US Open

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The Apple of New York’s Eyes: Clijsters Triumphs Over Wozniacki at US Open


mdp_1588This was not the script that one would have written two weeks ago.  Fortunately for us, Kim Clijsters had her own pen for a rewrite.  A couple of months after getting back on tour, Clijsters reached the U.S. Open final and defeated 19 year-old Caroline Wozniacki 7-5, 6-3 becoming the first wildcard entry to win a major.

Although this was Wozniacki’s first final at a major, the Dane almost pulled off the role of spoiler. After Caroline dropped serve her first time out to give Kim a 2-0 lead, on her fifth break chance, she captured her first game.  Then through her tenacity, Wozniacki compelled a crosscourt backhand error from Kim to break for a  3-2 edge. After teetering on the brink, Wozniacki double faulted to level the set at 4 all.  However, the very next game, Caroline’s defensive skills helped her rally from 0-40 and break again for 5-4.  But, serving for the set, Wozniacki faced another break point when Clijsters produced a forehand winner.  The Dane was unable to exterminate that one as her forehand up the line sailed long and evened out the set.  Unable to capitalize on two break chances, Wozniacki subsequently made four unforced errors to wrap up the set for Clijsters.

After being miserly the first five games of the second set, with neither woman dealing with a break point, two forehand winners and a backhand mistake by Wozniacki provided Clijsters triple break point.  When Caroline’s backhand landed long, Clijsters went ahead 4-2.  Then, after staring at 0-30, Kim made a couple of good serves and winners which permitted her to consolidate for 5-2.  Despite a tough hold, Wozniacki forced Clijsters to serve for the championship. A tad nervous perhaps, Kim made two forehand booboos to go down 0-30.  Once Clijsters regrouped, with an ace and two forehand winners, she closed out the set to claim her second major and U.S. Open title.

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Lessons And Implications of Serena Gate

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Lessons And Implications of Serena Gate


img_1710For better and for worse, the 2009 U.S. Open will be unforgettable on the ladies’ side for a multitude of reasons.  Firstly, there was an unprecedented number of top seeds who stumbled in the early rounds.  Secondly, the wackiness of the weather on the last weekend. Thirdly, 2005 champ Kim Clijsters’ remarkable run to the finals after a two year absence from the sport.  Fourthly, Caroline Wozniacki becoming the first Danish player to reach the finals at a major.  Lastly and lamentably, for what can only be labeled as ‘Serena Gate’.

The incident- Improbable that anyone watching missed it.  However, here’s a recap of the events which resulted in Serena Williams being defaulted, costing her the match.  After dropping serve in the first set which led to Clijsters capturing it, Serena smashed her racket and was given a code violation warning.  Later, Williams facing double break point, which were also match points, was called for a foot fault. This prompted a diatribe by Serena including the statement that she would “shove the f****** ball down [the line person's] throat”.  So in accordance to the rules, the chair umpire awarded her a point penalty which left a bitter note since it was match point for Clijsters. Irrespective of the line person being right or wrong, Serena’s behavior was out of bounds.

Serena is not Venus, nor vice versa- Other than Kim, the person who deserves the most sympathy is Venus Williams because this circumstance may mark her career.  Ever since their arrival on the tennis scene, these sisters have often been regarded as a singular entity.  Their playing doubles at times does not help the matter. The peculiar part is that they are not even twins. At least if this were the case, it would be justified. Yet, people still view Bob and Mike Bryan as individuals.  Sometimes, it’s forgotten that these siblings have divergent personalities. With that being said, it’s highly unlikely had the tables been reversed that Venus would have reacted in such a fashion.  Therefore, in a small corner of Serena’s mind, she must be hoping that none of this stain sticks to her big sister’s tennis shoes.

Kids & Role Models-Whether parents like or not, many athletes have assumed the position of idols in their children’s eyes.  Serena’s sorrowful outburst was certainly witnessed by tons of partisans.  For mothers and fathers this is the perfect opportunity to reinforce to their offspring that this sort of behavior is not to be emulated. Moreover, that they should select tangible persons in their lives, their own parents, uncle Charlie or cousin Jane if their comportment is exemplary as their true heroes or heroines.  Even John McEnroe, whom Serena cited as an idol at her press conference, known for his over the top conduct in his heydays stated he “could not defend the indefensible”.  I suppose with age comes wisdom.  Hopefully, Serena’s future possess the same pearl.

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week

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The U.S. Open’s Wild First Week


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

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

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

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2009 U.S. Open Draw Set

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2009 U.S. Open Draw Set


usopenlogoThe suspense is over.  With Rafael Nadal’s ranking now at number 3, the burning question was whether Roger Federer will have to face his nemesis prior to the finals.  The prospect of a Roger versus Rafa final remains alive with these two on opposite sides of the draw.  On the other hand, there will be no Williams sisters final.  Serena and Venus can only clash in the semifinals.

Federer will be aiming for a sixth consecutive U.S. Open trophy and his recent win in Cincy demonstrates that the world number one has a good shot. Still, 2003 U.S. Open champ Andy Roddick who gave Federer an unforgettable battle at Wimbledon and Novak Djokovic, 2007 U.S. Open finalist, might be formidable semifinal opponents. Nadal may find himself in a dog fight right out of the blocks with Richard Gasquet as a first round adversary. With Rafa still not in full shape with his knees, another possible obstacle will be Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals.  Last year’s finalist, Andy Murray could meet Nadal in the semifinals.  The Brit is hungry and healthy, a combination that may stand in the way of Nadal reaching his first U.S. Open final. In the quarterfinals, Murray might see Juan Martin Del Potro.  Although the Brit has had Del Potro’s number, the Argentine may pull an ace off his sleeve.  Should conditioning not become a factor, Del Potro has the tools to get to his first major final.

Top seed Dinara Safina has a tough path to the quarterfinals with Alisa Kleybanova, Lucie Safarova possible rivals in the early rounds.  Jelena Jankovic, Safina’s potential quarterfinal counterpart, may have Sabine Lisicki or Ana Ivanovic to contend with.  Elena Dementieva and Svetlana Kuznetsova could be semifinals match ups for either woman.  Dementieva has looked great in the lead up tournaments and is well positioned to carry her first major. Although reigning French Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova has been dealing with injury, she is a threat to take her second U.S. Open.

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Del Potro Rides Out Roddick In D.C. Final

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Del Potro Rides Out Roddick In D.C. Final


img_9960On the hottest day this week at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, upgraded to ATP 500, world number 6 and defending champion Juan Martin Del Potro took on top seed and world number 5 Andy Roddick in the finals.  In a captivating three set battle, Del Potro prevailed 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, becoming the first man since Andre Agassi in 1998-1999 to seize back to back trophies.

Despite Del Potro being in the top ten since June 2008, this was only their second meeting.  After Roddick sent a forehand into the net to give Del Potro a break point, with clutch serving, Andy held. Although Del Potro carried his first service game easily, at 1-2, great defense by Roddick contributed to Del Potro’s lob going long  which put the score at deuce. Even though Del Potro protected serve, Roddick appeared to be making headways.  After three successive aces pulled Andy ahead 3-2, Del Potro netted a forehand to hand Roddick double break point. Then,  Juan Martin gift wrapped the game with a double fault.  With a 4-2 edge, two decent service games was all Roddick required to secure the first set.

At the start of the second set, Del Potro recovered from 15-30 down to seal his game with a backhand volley winner. After a strong first game, serving at 1-2, Roddick double faulted and with a forehand winner Del Potro had a chance at 0-30.  But, Roddick responded with superb serves and forehand winners. However, serving at 3-4, a forehand crosscourt winner and excellent defense by Del Potro provoked two backhand volley errors, so Roddick faced triple break point.  Del Potro converted when Roddick’s backhand traveled out of bounds.  Yet, serving for the set, Del Potro misjudged a return which dropped in for a winner. Then, with an overhead winner, Roddick had break point.  Andy was back in the set when Juan Martin double faulted. But, after equalizing and Del Potro held for 6-5, Roddick committed three backhand miscues to send the match into a third set.

After each guy guarded serve the first two games, Del Potro muffed an easy overhead giving Roddick a break chance. Juan Martin then donated another double fault for Andy’s 2-1 lead.  After Roddick consolidated and Del Potro had no trouble on serve, the Argentine made two deep returns which resulted in backhand errors from Roddick and connected on a forehand down the line for triple break point.  When Roddick double faulted, the set was squared at 3 all. Hence forth, the two cruised on serve with the exception of Roddick’s small window at 15-30 and 4 all.  The set went to a tiebreaker.  Del Potro went ahead a mini-break 2-1 when Roddick sliced a backhand long.  They stayed on serve and with an ace for 6-3, Del Potro had three match points.  After Roddick held serve for 6-5, Del Potro misfired on a forehand after a sensational return by Roddick for 6 all.  But, an ace out wide earned Del Potro another match point.  On a second serve, Del Potro thumped a forehand crosscourt winner. Once Hawkeye technology confirmed the umpire’s ruling, Del Potro collected his second title of 2009.

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