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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open

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Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray Still In the Hunt at Australian Open




Seven days of competition have passed at the Australian Open.  While Rafael Nadal has breezed through his matches to get to the round of 16, defending champion Roger Federer had a hiccup in the second round.  As usual, there were a few unexpected departures in the first week.  Here’s a summary of what has taken place this initial week.

It’s been smooth sailing for Nadal in getting through to the round of 16.  The world number one’s excellent form will come in handy as he faces 2010 semifinalist Marin Cilic.  After two easy matches, Cilic edged out John Isner 9-7 in the fifth to earn a crack at Nadal.

After a thrilling first round five setter against Lleyton Hewitt, David Nalbandian called it quit in the second round, four games away from being handed a straight set loss.  Mikhail Youzhny also departed earlier than expected.  The tenth seed was sent packing in the third round by Milos Raonic.  The 20 year old Canadian qualifier with the humongous serve also ousted Michael Llodra, the 22nd seed in the second round.  Next up for Raonic will be David Ferrer who is a relentless competitor.  Ferrer’s experience may prove too much for the youngster.  Thus, a Ferrer-Nadal quarterfinal showdown is the likely scenario.

Without much fuss, both Robyn Soderling and Andy Murray have been taking care of business.  Soderling’s fourth round match will be against Alexandr Dolgopolov.  The Ukrainian upset 13th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the third round.  Following an impressive second round match versus Juan Martin Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis was forced to retire down two sets to one with a hand injury in his third round match against Jurgen Melzer.  As such, Murray will battle Melzer for a quarterfinal berth.

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Can Nadal Make it Four in a Row or Will Federer Defend?  Australian Open Preview

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Can Nadal Make it Four in a Row or Will Federer Defend? Australian Open Preview


1969 was the year when Rod Laver accomplished the calendar grand slam for the second time.  Laver had done so previously in 1962.  At the Australian Open, Rafael Nadal will attempt to become the first person to hold all four majors simultaneously, although not in the same calendar year.  Like Nadal, Roger Federer has won three majors in a single year on multiple occasions, but never held all four.  With a historic sixteen majors, Federer, the defending champion, will be one of the competitors trying to halt Nadal from revising  the tennis annals.  Indeed, if the Australian Open draw holds up, Nadal’s route to his second title is fraught with red flags.

After seemingly comfortable initial two rounds, Nadal may see Marin Cilic in the round of 16.  Despite disappointing results the remainder of 2010 after a semifinal placement in Melbourne, for Cilic knowing that he’s gone that far at this major can be an inspiration.  Moreover, the only time these two met in 2009, Cilic was the victor. In the quarterfinals, Nadal also has a few pesky potential opponents to look forward to: Mikhail Youzhny, David Ferrer and David Nalbandian.  On any given day, these men can be a real thorn on any individual’s side.

The second part of the top half of the draw has Robin Soderling and Andy Murray as the top seeds.  Either player could clash with Nadal in the semifinals.  Soderling appears to have a favorable trek until the round of 16 where he will possibly collide with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the 2007 Australian Open finalist and 2010 semifinalist.  On the other hand, 2010 finalist Murray may get Juan Martin Del Potro, Marcos Baghdatis or Jurgen Melzer.  Del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion, and Baghdatis, the 2006 Australian Open finalist, would be a contest for anyone.  Whether it’s Murray, Soderling or Tsonga in the semis, Nadal will have to his hands occupied in order to reach his second Australian Open final.

To say Federer is hungry for the title is an understatement considering the implications if Nadal prevails. Could Mardy Fish or Sam Querrey trouble the defending champion in the round of 16?  Possibly.  However, with Federer’s four titles out of five his last five tournaments, it’s unlikely anyone will down him early on. Both Gael Monfils and Stanislas Wawrinka have a win over Federer, but are a combined 2-11.  Therefore, it’s inconceivable that either Monfils or Wawrinka will upend Federer in the quarterfinals.  Once again, Andy Roddick may find himself in the position of needing to go through Federer to advance to the semifinals.  Despite Roddick’s 2-20 against Federer, he is the most formidable rival who can actually put a crimp in Federer’s style.

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Nothing but Nadal in 2010

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Nothing but Nadal in 2010


No room for dispute, 2010 was a banner year for Rafael Nadal.  The Spaniard captured three majors, regained the world number one ranking and completed the career grand slam.  As such, Nadal’s domination left no ambiguity as to who was the most outstanding player in 2010.  With the year at a close, here’s a snapshot of the stories which caught the headlines this foregone season.

After a slow start, Nadal found his footing on clay with his first calendar title at the Monte-Carlo Masters.  Subsequent to banking titles at the Masters in Rome and Madrid, Nadal culminated his clay campaign with his fifth big prize at Roland Garros.  At Wimbledon, the Spaniard defended his 2008 title to seize his second major at the All England Club.  Finally, at U.S. Open, with troublesome obstacles removed from his half of the draw,  Nadal reached his first final in New York.  Nadal stared down a strong challenge from Novak Djokovic to hoist his first U.S. Open trophy.  With a total of seven titles, Nadal topped his peers in 2010.

For Roger Federer, this year was a mixed bag.  After grabbing his sixteenth major in Australia, Federer had a fourth round loss at the Sony Ericsson Open to Tomas Berdych which sent him into a tailspin.  As defending champion at the French Open, Federer was beaten in the quarterfinals by Robin Soderling which ended an unprecedented streak of twenty-three consecutive semifinals at the majors.  Furthermore, defending champ Federer was ousted in the quarterfinals by Berdych at Wimbledon.  In fact, Federer’s ranking dropped to number three, his lowest since November 2003.  Yet, with his second title of the season at the Cincinnati Masters, Federer seemed again on the right road.  However, Federer failed to take advantage of match points in the U.S. Open semifinals against Djokovic and went down in flames.  After the New York fiasco, Federer resurfaced with a fresh coach, Paul Annacone, and won three of four finals including the ATP World Tour finals where he toppled Nadal.

The Australian Open appeared a turning point for Andy Murray.  Easily handled in the final by Federer, Murray could do nothing right with the racket for a while. Eventually at Wimbledon, Murray advanced to the semifinals only to be disappointed by Nadal.  With the defense of his title at the Rogers Cup, Murray seemed to be back.  But, another setback occurred at the U.S. Open where Murray was stunned in the third round by Stanislas Wawrinka.  In besting Federer in the Shanghai Masters final, Murray looked to be heading for a strong finish.  Yet, at the ATP World Tour Finals, Murray took another  downturn.  This was emblematic of the Scot’s tumultuous year which included a rupture with coach Miles Maclagan, a brief ceding of the world number four spot to Soderling and only two titles.

With solely two titles and a U.S. Open final appearance, Djokovic had a so-so year.  The Serb even ascended to number two for a bit, but finished at number three.  While individual success was sparse, Djokovic led his country to its first Davis Cup title.  Along with countryman Viktor Troicki, Djokovic mounted a brilliant comeback to stop France from a tenth trophy.

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Nadal and Federer Headline ATP World Tour Finals in London

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Nadal and Federer Headline ATP World Tour Finals in London


Intense anticipation is building for the year-end climax to the men’s professional tennis season whereby at The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals the top eight singles players and doubles teams in the world will compete for the crown at London’s imposing 02 Arena.

The Finals kick off in spectacular style on Sunday, 21 November, with home grown, Brit, Andy Murray taking on in-form Robin Soderling in the first Group B singles match.

The players have been competing all season long for South African Airways ATP Rankings points in a bid to earn a coveted place in the final eight and a chance to win the $1.6m prize money on offer to the winner.

Competition for places was fierce in the run up to the finals, with Fernando Verdasco narrowly losing out to Andy Roddick, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych for the remaining three spots.

This year, world number one, Rafael Nadal faces a rejuvenated Novak Djokovic, Czech, Tomas Berdych and plucky American, Andy Roddick in Group A, while five-time finals champion and world number 2, Roger Federer faces the prospect of in-from Robin Soderling, Britain’s Andy Murray on home turf and diminutive Spaniard, David Ferrer in Group B.

All eight players were greeted by Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron – an avid tennis fan – at a reception held at 10 Downing Street on Thursday 17 November to signal the start of what bodes to be an incredibly exciting week.

“It’s fantastic that the ATP World Tour Finals tournament is back in London for the second year running. It’s great for London and great for the country,” Mr Cameron said.

The PM himself gave Murray a warm up in the dining room with a series of volleys back and forth, and the young Scot hopes to have the home crowd on his side on Sunday.

“Every tennis player will tell you when you play at home it really helps you to have the crowd behind you,” Murray said at a press conference in London.

Last year, despite winning two out of his three group matches, Murray failed to qualify for the semi-finals on game difference, but what are his chances now?

The Scot began the year in fantastic form reaching the Australian Open final, only to lose to his nemesis, Roger Federer. The psychological impact of this loss caused Murray to incur mixed fortunes and an inconsistent season which saw him overtaken by Robin Soderling in the world rankings. However, in reaching the semi-finals at Wimbledon, Murray proved that a home crowd could play a significant role.

Soderling is arguably the man to beat. Currently riding high on the back of his victory over Gael Monfils to claim his first Masters title in Paris in November, coupled with his penetrating ground strokes indoors, many are tipping Soderling to win the year-end title.

After a break following tendinitis in his arm, world number one, Rafael Nadal, despite having a fantastic season, winning three out of the four majors and completing a career grand slam, is not favoured to do well, but anyone would be mad to bet against him.

Nadal, who failed to win a single match at the O2 last year, appeared relaxed outside Downing Street on Thursday, but insists he has put no pressure on himself.

“This tournament is a more difficult one for me because of the surface, because of the opponents,” he said.

Andy Roddick was forced to watch the 2009 World Tour Finals from the stands, after suffering from a knee injury earlier in the season. Roddick will want to prove his critics wrong, after many believed he would not even make it to London this year. Many feel he could well cause an upset this year, starting with his huge opening match against crowd favourite, Rafael Nadal, in his opening match on Monday.  At their last encounter in Miami, Roddick defeated Nadal at the Sony Ericsson Open.

Not only did David Ferrer look out of place, being the only player in a grey suit when meeting Britain’s Prime Minister, many have written off the diminutive Spaniard’s chances. However, it would be wrong to dismiss him. His victories against Andy Murray and Robin Soderling this season, as well as a string of consistent performances in the past few tournaments, including his impressive win at the Valencia Open at the start of November, suggest he is in good form.

The 2010 Wimbledon runner-up, Tomas Berdych from the Czech Republic, will be experiencing his first World Tour Finals, after rising to a career-high six in the world this year. However, the 25-year-old has faltered in recent weeks, failing to progress past the third round of any tournament. But could the buzz of London help him to end his season on a high?

Last but not least, anyone would be crazy to write off the 16-time Majors Champion, Roger Federer. But, despite his success at the recent Swiss indoor event in Basel, throwing away several match points to the unpredictable Gael Monfils in November’s Paris Masters semi-final has thrown a shadow of doubt over his invincibility.

The Bryan brothers are clear favourites to retain their doubles title from last year.

Follow Melina Harris’ coverage for MiamiTennisNews on twitter under the username @thetenniswriter

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Soderling Scuttles Monfils in Paris for First Masters Shield

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Soderling Scuttles Monfils in Paris for First Masters Shield


Robin Soderling added his name to the list of distinguished Swedes to succeed at the BNP Paribas Masters.  Soderling sailed past denizen Gael Monfils 6-1, 7-6 to earn his first Masters 1000 shield and the biggest title of his career.

A packed house was buzzing as the players took the court with the fans overwhelming in Monfils’ corner.  After his spectacular win over Roger Federer in the semifinals, whereby Monfils salvaged five match points, his derailing of Andy Murray in the quarterfinals and also erasing two match points in the third round against Fernando Verdasco, the crowd was hoping Monfils could dazzle it one last time and hoist the trophy.  However, Soderling proved uncooperative.  Following easy holds by both players the initial three games, Monfils made a spate of errors to gift Soderling triple break point.  Then, Monfils misfired on a volley after Soderling reached his ill advised dropshot giving the Swede a 3-1 lead.  With Monfils sending an overhead wide, Soderling consolidated for 4-1.  Ahead 40-15, Monfils was at deuce subsequent to a backhand mistake and a forehand crosscourt winner by Soderling. When the Frenchman netted a forehand, Soderling arrived at break point.  By striking a backhand crosscourt pass for a winner, Soderling had a double break edge and promptly wrapped up the first set in 26 minutes.

After a comfortable service game, Monfils looked ready to turn the tide.  Yet, Soderling refused to let the public nor his opponent into the match.  Despite a dismal first serve percentage in the second set, with Monfils’ returns landing short, Soderling continued to attack and cruised on serve.  As neither player could fabricate a break point, the second set went to a tiebreaker.  Troubled by the backhand all day, Monfils flubbed another one long to hand Soderling the first point.  With a couple more strokes traveling long, Soderling built up a 3-1 advantage.  Then, as a result of a return winner, a call overturned by a challenge, Soderling had a 5-1 cushion.  Consequently, with another return muffed by Monfils, Soderling accumulated multiple champion points.  The Swede only required one, converting with a forehand volley winner.

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Federer and Nadal in Awesome Form Going into the Second Week at the U.S. Open

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Federer and Nadal in Awesome Form Going into the Second Week at the U.S. Open


The initial week at the U.S. Open is complete and the men’s field has been scaled down to sixteen players.  Two names missing from the roll call are Andy Roddick and Andy Murray.  These two touted favorites were upset early on. Here’s a summary of the past seven days and an analysis of what could unfold the next few rounds.

While Rafael Nadal barely passed his pre-tournament exams in Toronto and Cincinnati, in his first three matches at the Open, the Spaniard gets an A plus.  Despite being tested, with a beefed up first serve to the tune of 130 miles per hour at times, Nadal has dispatched each adversary in three sets.  In the fourth round, Nadal will face compatriot Feliciano Lopez.  With Nadal’s 5-2 record against his fellow citizen, Lopez is likely the subsequent sacrificial lamb.

After surviving a five set tussle in the first round against Fabio Fognini ranked 86th, Fernando Verdasco is in the round of 16 and will take on David Ferrer, the tenth seed.  Although Verdasco has a 6-4 edge in their encounters, Ferrer prevailed at their last meeting on clay and at their only battle on hardcourt in 2004.  David Nalbandian, one of the few players who could have troubled Nadal, was easily given his marching orders by Verdasco in the third round.

Also in the top section of the draw, seventh seed Tomas Berdych was surprised in the first round by Michael Llodra.  However, the jaw dropper came today with  Murray, the 2008 finalist and fourth seed, dismissed by Stanislas Wawrinka in the third round. The Swiss advanced for the third occasion to the fourth round in New York.   Wawrinka will meet Sam Querrey for a spot in the quarterfinals.  Consequently, for Querrey, this is the ideal scenario to book his maiden quarterfinal berth at a major.

The Spaniards have ruled and Tommy Robredo made sure to partake in the round of 16 festivities. With John Isner beaten by Mikhail Youzhny in the third round, Robredo and the Russian will fight for a place in the quarterfinals.

Another American  propelled into the limelight this week was eighteen year old Ryan Harrison.  After coming through three rounds of qualifying, Harrison stunned Ivan Ljubicic, the fifteenth seed, in the first round.  Furthermore, Harrison was one point from a win in a fifth set tiebreaker in the second round.  Harrison became the first American teen to vanquish a top twenty player at a major since Roddick in 2001 also at this event.

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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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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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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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Berdych and Verdasco Make the Cut, Roddick and Company Wipe Out

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Berdych and Verdasco Make the Cut, Roddick and Company Wipe Out


With the quarterfinal spots at stake, after nearly five hours, the stormy weather cleared to allow play at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.  While Tomas Berdych, the number one seed, and Fernando Verdasco, the third seed, battled their way into the next round.  For the Americans, the tournament was a disaster.  Andy Roddick, the three time champion and second seed, 2007 finalist John Isner as well as 2010 Atlanta champion Mardy Fish were all swept away.

Isner, the fifth seed, squared off against Xavier Malisse.  In March at their initial meeting in Houston, Malisse prevailed in three tiebreaker sets. In the beginning stages of the first set, Malisse had a few break points.  However, Isner promptly brushed those aside.  Later at 4 all, Malisse obtained the break which permitted him to take the set.  But, in the second set, Malisse double faulted on break point to give Isner a 2-1 edge. As usual, this was the minute window the American required to push the match to a third set.  In the third game, Isner had two break point chances, yet converted none.  For his part, with Isner serving at 4 all, Malisse failed to capitalized on love 40.  Thus, the tiebreaker was called upon.  At 5 all, Isner miscalculated an overhead which resulted in the ball landing on his side of the court.  With a mini-break/match point in hand, Malisse connected on a good serve.  With Isner botching the return, Malisse punched his ticket into the subsequent round with  a 6-4,3-6,7-6 win.

Despite recently turning 30, Malisse is enjoying great success the last few months. MiamiTennisNews asked:

Q. Although you are getting on in years, you are playing pretty good tennis.  What keeps you motivated?
Malisse: I had two years of injuries, when you are sidelined and everyone else is playing it hurts. Sometimes you say that you want  a couple of weeks off, when it’s [not on your own terms], it really gets to you . . . Since I had two easy years, I feel I am healthy now . . . The road back has been tough playing challenger last year after being in nice tournaments in nice places. . . But it feels so much more satisfying now . . . Before, I was just playing, not really enjoying it.

At Wimbledon, Malisse teamed up with Kim Clijsters and made it to the quarterfinals in mixed doubles.  MiamiTennisNews inquired:

Q. Do the two of you  plan to do the same at the U.S. Open?
Malisse: I don’t think so.  We have not talked about it. It’s harder considering it’s five sets . . . We had a good time and laughed a lot in [London], that’s the most important thing.

The first set went along swimmingly for Malisse’s quarterfinal opponent, Berdych against Andrey Golubev.  After securing the break in the third game, Berdych cruised on serve.  Nevertheless, serving to send the second set into a tiebreaker, Berdych dropped serve at love.  In the decisive set, Berdych broke for 3-2.  Though, serving for the match and ahead 30-0, Berdych surrendered four straight points to enable Golubev back in.  Still, Berdych managed to break once more and hold for a 6-3,5-7,7-5 victory.

First round at Wimbledon, Berdych faced Golubev and send him packing in straight sets. Hence, MiamiTennisNews wanted to know:

Q.  Why was it so difficult to close Golubev out this time around?
Berdych: He’s really improved [in the last couple of weeks].  He won his first [title] in Hamburg which is a big tournament . . . Even before, he’s had a couple of good results . . . Hardcourt is going to be the best surface for him. . . The conditions, the fast courts suit his game . . .

The Sony Ericsson Open was a pivotal point in Berdych’s career.  Since, he’s had extraordinary results at the French Open and Wimbledon.  MiamiTennisNews questioned whether Berdych felt the same way.

Q.  In making the final in South Florida, did that give you the mental boost to propel you to additional success?
Berdych:  Yes. . .  But not only the tournament in Miami. It started the Davis Cup week right before Indian Wells. . . I won a couple of matches . . . Then at Indian Wells, I made the quarters which showed me even if I am . . .  not playing  well, I can [have] good results which gave me a lot of confidence. . . Coming to Miami which is really my favorite tournament . . . The key match against Roger [Federer] turning it around match point down . . . [getting] to the final . . .  I am happy I can keep the form, keep the consistency and bring more and more good results.

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