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Monday’s Agenda At the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open

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Monday’s Agenda At the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open

The men wrap up their third round at the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open today while fourth round action commences for the women.

Mardy Fish tries to avoid the lull that postdates a triumph over a player of Andy Murray’s caliber. In the first match of the day, Fish confronts Feliciano Lopez.  Their three prior meetings, Lopez won twice on hardcourt while Fish on grass. Afterwards, Roger Federer takes on veteran Florent Serra for the first time.  Following is Venus Williams and Daniela Hantuchova.  Williams will be shooting for 10-0 record versus her opponent.  The day session caps off with a jewel of a match, Kim Clijsters against Victoria Azarenka. In Toronto last year, Clijsters was victorious at their maiden encounter.

On stadium court, the evening program has Fernando Gonzalez clashing with Juan Monaco.  Gonzalez has prevailed at their five preceding rendezvous. The finale is Justine Henin versus Vera Zvonareva.  Henin has won all five prior matches, the last one was in Zurich in 2007.  Zvonareva is without question a different player.

On the grandstand, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Marion Bartoli do battle. Later, Marcos Baghdatis plays Marin Cilic, the inaugural showdown for these players.  Two other top seeds in action at that location are Fernando Verdasco and Robin Soderling.

The outer courts have plenty of stimulating singles and doubles matches.  After fighting her way into the fourth round yesterday, Caroline Wozniacki is back to face talented youngster Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  Although Wozniacki carried their sole meeting in New Haven last year, with her dealing with a viral illness and Anastasia much improved, it will be a tough task.  In addition, Jelena Jankovic tussles with Sam Stosur for the second tournament in a row.  Jankovic has a 3-0 record versus Stosur.  Top doubles seed Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic collide with Nicolas Almagro and Tommy Robredo.  John Isner and Sam Querrey try to cut down fourth seed Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi.

Below is Monday’s full order of play :


STADIUM start 11:00 am
M Fish (USA) vs [29] F Lopez (ESP) – ATP

Not Before 1:00 PM
[1] R Federer (SUI) vs F Serra (FRA) – ATP
[3] V Williams (USA) vs [19] D Hantuchova (SVK) – WTA

Not Before 4:30 PM
[14] K Clijsters (BEL) vs [4] V Azarenka (BLR) – WTA

Not Before 7:00 PM
[9] F Gonzalez (CHI) vs [22] J Monaco (ARG) – ATP

Not Before 8:30 PM
[WC] J Henin (BEL) vs [11] V Zvonareva (RUS) – WTA

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
[1] S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs [13] M Bartoli (FRA) – WTA

Not Before 12:30 PM
Y Shvedova (KAZ) vs [6] A Radwanska (POL) – WTA
[10] F Verdasco (ESP) vs [23] J Melzer (AUT) – ATP
[25] M Baghdatis (CYP) vs [7] M Cilic (CRO) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 PM
P Petzschner (GER) vs [5] R Soderling (SWE) – ATP

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs [8] E Makarova (RUS) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA
L Dekmeijere (LAT) / P Schnyder (SUI) vs [4] L Raymond (USA) / R Stubbs (AUS) – WTA

Not Before 1:00 PM
[1] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs N Almagro (ESP) / T Robredo (ESP) – ATP
J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA) vs [4] M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR) – ATP
F Lopez (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) vs [6] S Aspelin (SWE) / P Hanley (AUS) – ATP

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
[19] S Wawrinka (SUI) vs [13] M Youzhny (RUS) – ATP
H Zeballos (ARG) vs [16] T Berdych (CZE) – ATP
[12] Y Wickmayer (BEL) vs T Bacsinszky (SUI) – WTA
[22] A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs [2] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA

Not Before 5:00 PM
[7] J Jankovic (SRB) or [28] E Vesnina (RUS) vs [9] S Stosur (AUS) – WTA
M Kirilenko (RUS) / A Radwanska (POL) or [WC] K Clijsters (BEL) / K Flipkens (BEL) vs G Dulko (ARG) / F Pennetta (ITA) – To Be Arranged

COURT 3 start 1:00 pm
[3] L Dlouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs T Bellucci (BRA) / M Lopez (ESP) – ATP
[7] F Cermak (CZE) / M Mertinak (SVK) vs A Clement (FRA) / J Tsonga (FRA) – ATP

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Fish Trips Up Murray, Federer Still Standing

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Fish Trips Up Murray, Federer Still Standing

For the second straight day at the Sony Ericsson Open, a highly ranked male seed went out in the second round.  World number three and defending champion, Andy Murray, was beaten by Mardy Fish 6-3,6-4 .  Although Roger Federer, the number one seed, was pushed by Nicolas Lapentti.  Federer still won comfortably 6-3, 6-3.

In the opening set, in a game in which Fish double faulted, Murray captured the break for 3-1.  However, the next game, Murray threw in a double fault on break point permitting Fish to get back on serve.  With Murray serving in the ninth game, Fish attained triple break point.  Despite Murray reaching deuce and game point, Fish would not be denied.  Mardy manufactured two more break point chances and converted.  Then, on the third asking, Fish closed out the first set.

Poor serving and a tentative return game were what Murray brought to the table; thus, Fish took full advantage.  The initial game of the second set, Murray double faulted handing Fish his second break point opportunity, the American converted.  After consolidating and widening his lead to 3-1, Fish cruised on serve.  However, in the eighth game, Fish faced a 15-40 deficit.  Once again, the serve was his ally.  By raining a few bombs, Fish extricated himself out of this jam and maintained a 5-3 lead.  After Murray held, serving out the match, Fish once more was down break point.  Still, Fish snuffed Murray’s advantage with his serve.  Subsequently, with a couple of aces and unreturnables, Fish sealed the win.

Murray spends a lot of time training in South Florida, so MiamiTennisNews wondered:
Q.  You know this court almost more than anyone else.  You practice here all the time.  What made the difference in today’s match?
MURRAY:  Well, Mardy served well when he needed to.  You know, especially the second set when he was down break points he served well.  But I just wasn’t very good today, and I’m going to need to get a lot better.

After Murray’s debacle, a love-30 start to Federer’s opening game and a break point the subsequent one by Lapentti were preoccupying.  Still, with a few good serves, Federer held to stay on serve.  For his part, Lapentti had no difficulty holding with back to back love games for 2 all.  After multiple errant forehands, with Lapentti serving at 4-5, Federer connected on a forehand up the winner for deuce.  Later, Federer provoked a backhand error by Lapentti resulting in break point.  Then, the world number one produced a stellar backhand down the line pass to go ahead 5-3.  Following, with an easy game, Federer slammed the door on the first set.

Lapentti revealed no signs of disappointment, starting the second set strongly in part aided by Federer having trouble finding his mark with the forehand.  Similarly, Federer continued to have routine service games.  The good thing for Federer was that when it mattered, his forehand showed up.  With Lapentti serving at 3 all, Federer obtained break point with a forehand up the line winner.  When Lapentti’s forehand sailed long, Federer had the crucial break.  After getting out of love-30 mess to consolidate, with a backhand crosscourt winner, Federer broke Lapentti to finish the match.

As anticipated, Robin Soderling, Marin Cilic, Fernando Gonzalez and Fernando Verdasco advanced, all in straight sets.  Seeds Mikhail Youzhny, Tomas Berdych, Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Monaco, Jurgen Melzer, Marcos Baghdatis and Feliciano Lopez also  moved on without difficulty.  On the other hand, Alberto Montanes, the 26th seed, Gilles Simon, seeded 20th, and Janko Tipsarevic, the 31st seed, were ousted.

For the women, it was business as usual.  Svetlana Kuznetsova, the top seed, with a 6-2,6-3 win, sent Agnes Szavay home . Venus Williams said arrivederci to Roberta Vinci with a 6-1,6-4 victory.  Agnieszka Radwanska took care of Ana Ivanovic 7-5,7-5.  Both Yanina Wickmayer and Marion Bartoli only needed two sets to pass to the round of 16.  The night match between Daniela Hantuchova and Nadia Petrova was less stimulating than expected.  Hantuchova prevailed over Petrova 6-2,6-4.  Timea Bacsinszky had an easy time with Polona Hercog 6-2,6-2.  Her next round will be more challenging as she faces Wickmayer.

The shocker for the women came from the doubles field as the top seed Cara Black and Liezel Huber were defeated in the first round by Natalie Grandin and Abigail Spears.

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Federer, Venus & Murray Saturday’s Marquee Matches at 2010 SEO

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Federer, Venus & Murray Saturday’s Marquee Matches at 2010 SEO

Second round play for the ATP concludes today at the Sony Ericsson Open with Roger Federer and Andy Murray from the top half of the draw the feature attraction.  On the women’s side, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams play for a spot in the round of 16.

Fernando Verdasco, the 10th seed, begins the proceedings on stadium court by taking on Dudi Sela.  That’s followed by Williams and Roberta Vinci, their first tour meeting.  Then, Murray, the 3rd seed and defending champion, starts his title defense by facing American Mardy Fish. Murray holds a 3-1 record versus Fish and has prevailed in their last three meetings.  The afternoon session finishes with Kuznetsova battling Agnes Szavay.  In 2007, Szavay reached her first WTA final in New Haven and the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open.  Both times, then 18 years old, Szavay’s dream run came to an end at the hands of Kuznetsova.  These two have not played since.  Therefore, this should be an intriguing battle.

On the outside courts, Ana Ivanovic attempts to knock out 6th seed Agnieszka Radwanska. The latter defeated the former for the first time in Rome on clay last year.  With Ivanovic struggling with her game, Radwanska may run away with this one.  Marin Cilic, the male 7th seed, faces Stephane Robert. This is the initial encounter for these two.  With Cilic at the highest ranking of his career, it should be an uncomplicated match. Also, Robin Soderling, seeded 5th, squares off against Peter Luczak. Soderling won their only previous skirmish in 2005 in straight sets.

In the evening, Federer takes on Nicolas Lapentti.  With a 3-0 record against Lapentti, this should be no head-scratcher for the world number one.  The ladies’ night match-up is Nadia Petrova and Daniela Hantuchova. Petrova leads their head to head 4-1.

It’s men’s day at the grandstand where the must see players include Mikhail Youzhny, Fernando Gonzalez, Marcos Baghdatis and Gilles Simon. In addition, Rafael Nadal and fellow Majorcan Bartolome Salva-Vidal clash with doubles second seed Mike and Bob Bryan.

Here is the complete schedule :


STADIUM start 11:00 am
[10] F Verdasco (ESP) vs D Sela (ISR) – ATP

Not Before 1:00 PM
[3] V Williams (USA) vs R Vinci (ITA) – WTA
[3] A Murray (GBR) vs M Fish (USA) – ATP
[1] S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs [27] A Szavay (HUN) – WTA

Starting at 8:00 PM
[1] R Federer (SUI) vs [LL] N Lapentti (ECU) – ATP
[19] D Hantuchova (SVK) vs [16] N Petrova (RUS) – WTA

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
[Q] S Giraldo (COL) vs [13] M Youzhny (RUS) – ATP
[25] M Baghdatis (CYP) vs J Chela (ARG) – ATP
[WC] R Nadal (ESP) / B Salva-Vidal (ESP) vs [2] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) – ATP
[9] F Gonzalez (CHI) vs [Q] Y Lu (TPE) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 PM
[20] G Simon (FRA) vs H Zeballos (ARG) – ATP

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
A Petkovic (GER) vs Y Shvedova (KAZ) – WTA
A Falla (COL) vs [23] J Melzer (AUT) – ATP
P Hercog (SLO) vs T Bacsinszky (SUI) – WTA
G Dulko (ARG) vs [13] M Bartoli (FRA) – WTA
[6] B Mattek-Sands (USA) / Z Yan (CHN) vs M Kirilenko (RUS) / A Radwanska (POL) – WTA

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
[12] Y Wickmayer (BEL) vs [WC] P Martic (CRO) – WTA
P Luczak (AUS) vs [5] R Soderling (SWE) – ATP
[25] A Ivanovic (SRB) vs [6] A Radwanska (POL) – WTA
S Robert (FRA) vs [7] M Cilic (CRO) – ATP

Not Before 5:00 PM
T de Bakker (NED) vs [16] T Berdych (CZE) – ATP

COURT 3 start 10:00 am
[31] J Tipsarevic (SRB) vs P Petzschner (GER) – ATP
[19] S Wawrinka (SUI) vs [Q] K Anderson (RSA) – ATP
A Medina Garrigues (ESP) / C Wozniacki (DEN) vs [4] L Raymond (USA) / R Stubbs (AUS) – WTA
[Q] M Ilhan (TUR) vs [22] J Monaco (ARG) – ATP

COURT 6 start 10:00 am
[8] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs J Knowle (AUT) / P Kohlschreiber (GER) – ATP
M Berrer (GER) vs [29] F Lopez (ESP) – ATP
[5] A Kleybanova (RUS) / F Schiavone (ITA) vs M Niculescu (ROU) / E Vesnina (RUS) – WTA

Not Before 1:30 PM
J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA) vs J Brunstrom (SWE) / J Rojer (AHO) – ATP
A Clement (FRA) / J Tsonga (FRA) vs G Garcia-Lopez (ESP) / A Montanes (ESP) – ATP

COURT 7 start 10:00 am
T Garbin (ITA) / V Ruano Pascual (ESP) vs K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) – WTA
F Serra (FRA) vs [26] A Montanes (ESP) – ATP

Not Before 1:00 PM
N Almagro (ESP) / T Robredo (ESP) vs M Melo (BRA) / B Soares (BRA) – ATP
B Becker (GER) / M Kohlmann (GER) vs [5] L Kubot (POL) / O Marach (AUT) – ATP

COURT 8 start 10:00 am
[1] C Black (ZIM) / L Huber (USA) vs N Grandin (RSA) / A Spears (USA) – WTA
M Damm (CZE) / F Polasek (SVK) vs I Karlovic (CRO) / D Vemic (SRB) – ATP
T Bellucci (BRA) / M Lopez (ESP) vs C Kas (GER) / D Norman (BEL) – ATP
I Senoglu (TUR) / Y Shvedova (KAZ) vs [8] E Makarova (RUS) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA

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ATP Australian Open Early Round Rewind

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ATP Australian Open Early Round Rewind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Analysis of the 2010 Australian Open Draw

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Analysis of the 2010 Australian Open Draw

australian_open_logoThe Australian Open draw is out.  More than any prior year, in this imprecise game of predictions, the only certainty is the uncertainty in determining a frontrunner for the trophy on both the ladies’ and gentlemen’s side.  With no one having a conspicuous edge, with few exceptions, anyone in the top ten can be regarded as a legitimate contender.  Moreover, on the women’s side, the return of some old faces with previous success at majors means that it’s is truly anybody’s title.

In the top half of the draw, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Nikolay Davydenko and Robyn Soderling are the highest seeds respectively. Astonishingly, if the last couple of months are an accurate barometer, Davydenko is for the first time a true threat to make it all the way to the final.  After wrapping 2009 with the ATP World tour finals trophy, just  days ago, Davydenko brought down Federer and Rafael Nadal to take the title in Qatar.  However, the question remains as to whether Davydenko can translate that type of success to a best of five set tournament over two weeks. If the draw proceeds as expected, Davydenko will have a crack at Federer in the quarters and Djokovic or Soderling in the semis.

For his part, Federer has a pretty challenging road in attempting to reach the final.  In the first round, the world number one faces the ever dangerous Igor Andreev.  Subsequently, there are possible match-ups with Australian Open finalists Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis in the round of 16. Other than Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco, a semifinalist in ’09, is a potential in the quarters. So, Federer will need to be on his toes to advance beyond the quarters.

Third seed Djokovic should have a fairly unobstructed run to the quarters.  Still, Richard Gasquet who is getting back in the swing of the game may be a problem for Djokovic in the round of 16. Furthermore, on that side of the draw, majors’ finalists Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Soderling could clash in the round of 16.  With both Tsonga and Soderling potential quarterfinal opponents for Djokovic and with both having wins over the latter, a Djokovic/Federer semifinal is in far from a foregone conclusion.

In the bottom half of the draw, for the defending champion Nadal and Andy Murray, technically, their path to a quarterfinal showdown appears uncomplicated. Yet, Radek Stepanek, a potential round of 16 encounter for Nadal, is perhaps the sole question mark.  In Murray’s case, a healthy Gael Monfils can spell trouble in the round of 16.  But, with Monfils fighting injury, Murray will not be bothered.

Last year’s semifinalist Andy Roddick has another golden opportunity to move at least to the quarterfinal despite Fernando Gonzalez seemingly in his way.  Also, with U.S. Open champ Juan Martin Del Potro fettered by a wrist injury, his progress deep into the draw is in doubt.  Del Potro is slated to see Marin Cilic in the quarters or Roddick in the semis.

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ATP’s Rollercoaster Ride in 2009

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ATP’s Rollercoaster Ride in 2009

img_2928From Rafael Nadal winning his first hardcourt major in Australia, to Roger Federer completing the career grand slam, to the emergence of a new major star Juan Martin Del Potro at the U.S. Open, 2009 was a year replete with ups and downs on the men’s tour.  Here’s a flashback.

At the Australian Open final, despite a marathon semifinal match, Nadal had adequate reserves to stare down Federer in another five setter.  With that victory, Nadal seemed well positioned to achieve the calendar grand slam.  After sweeping every clay court tournament, Nadal was halted at the Madrid Masters by Federer days prior to the French Open. For many analysts, fatigue may have been deserving of an assist as Federer defeated Nadal in straight sets to capture his initial title of 2009. As such, Nadal was still considered the outright favorite for a fifth consecutive French trophy.

While everyone may have discounted Robin Soderling in the fourth round at the French Open, the Swede who played a contentious match with Nadal at Wimbledon in 2007 had visions of victory dancing in his head.  Soderling upstaged the best clay player in circulation, handing Nadal his first defeat at Roland Garros.  Soderling rode this euphoric wave all the way to his first final at a major where he was ultimately stopped by Federer. In addition, Soderling was a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Open.  At his initial ATP World Tour Finals, Soderling was a semifinalist and with that result jumped to a career best ranking of 8th after commencing 2008 at 17.

Melbourne was the site where Fernando Verdasco at last  lived up to his talent.  After surprising Andy Murray the hottest player on tour in the fourth round, Verdasco was involved in a dogfight in the semifinals with countryman Nadal.  Hands down, the best match of the tournament and one of the most scintillating of the year, the two Spaniards went toe to toe for over five hours.  Although Nadal was triumphant, Verdasco’s run in Australia galvanized him the rest of the year.  Verdasco reached the quarters at the U.S. Open and was instrumental in Davis Cup play. Verdasco participated in his first ATP World Tour Finals and ended 2009 at number 9.

After an horrendous start to the season, Federer’s year turned around after beating Nadal in Madrid in May. After avoiding a sleuth of pitfalls to get to the French Open final, Federer grabbed the elusive brass ring and tied Pete Sampras’ record of 14 majors.  With a knee injury placing Wimbledon defending champ Nadal out of action, the impossibility of a Federer-Nadal duel could have been deflating for the championships.  To the contrary, Andy Roddick stepped up to the plate and in facing Federer, the two had a final to rival last year’s epic.  Federer had to out ace Roddick, required 95 minutes and 30 games in the fifth set before coming away with the victory and a record setting 15 majors.  In July, Federer supplanted Nadal at the top of the ATP’s ranking list.  Brimming with confidence, Federer appeared unstoppable and was a shoe-in for a sixth consecutive  title in New York.

At the U.S. Open, Federer battled Del Potro in the final.  With this being the latter’s maiden major final, jitters were more likely than not to play a pivotal role.  In spite of his youth, Del Potro demonstrated that he is a quick study.  After a devastating lost to Federer in the French semifinals, down two sets to one, Del Potro carried a tiebreaker and showed up Federer in the fifth set to capture his initial major. Del Potro closed 2009 as the world’s fifth best player and is a definite threat to take over the top spot in 2010.

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Golden Again: Spain Retains Davis Cup Title

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Golden Again: Spain Retains Davis Cup Title

img_9928On clay, at home, one would have to be insane to bet against the Spaniards repeating as Davis Cup champion.  Although the Czech Republic proved to be a worthy opponent, logic prevailed. Spain secured the initial three rubbers to become the first country since Sweden in 1998 to successfully defend the trophy.

Yesterday, in the first rubber, Rafael Nadal faced Tomas Berdych.   At five all in a tight  opening set, Nadal finally broke to gain the upper hand.  With nothing left to give, Berdych capitulated, Nadal won 7-5,6-0,6-2.

The second match of the day was a barn burner as Radek Stepanek tangoed with David Ferrer.  At first glance, captain Albert Costa’s choice of Ferrer over Fernando Verdasco, Spain’s second best player and world number 9, seemed odd and a colossal mistake.  Ultimately, it turned out to be a masterful gamble.

After Stepanek crushed Ferrer to carry the first two sets 6-1, 6-2, the Czech Republic appeared on its way to a tie, which would have made it a seriously competitive final.  The only difficulty was that Ferrer had no intention of soiling his unblemished Davis cup clay court record.  The Spaniard fought back taking the next two sets to push the match to a decisive fifth.  Early on, Stepanek had opportunities to get the break.  But, each time Stepanek got close, Ferrer shut the door. More than four hours into play, a string of errors by Stepanek allowed Ferrer to seize the break for 7-6.  Ferrer went on to serve out the match and with a 1-6,2-6,6-4,6-4,8-6 victory, he remains undefeated on clay at 7-0.

Needless to say, the doubles was a must win for the Czech Republic. With Stepanek probably a little spent from the previous’ day marathon match, Spain was already favored from the get-go.  The tandem of Feliciano Lopez and Verdasco turned away Berdych and Stepanek 7-6,7-5,6-2.

In the first set, after Verdasco riffled a forehand return up the line, Spain obtained a break for 3-1.  However, with a couple of forehand mistakes by Verdasco, the Czech Republic erased the advantage.  At 4 all, a great forehand winner by Berdych resulted in break point.  But, with errors from their rivals, Spain guarded serve.  So, the set was settled by a tiebreaker. With a spectacular return by Verdasco, Spain got a mini-break and stretched its edge to 6-3.  After saving three set points, the Czechs earned a set point themselves.  Still, the Czechs surrendered two consecutive service points, giving the Spaniards another set point.  When Stepanek misfired on a volley, Spain bagged the first set.

The second set similarly was hard fought with neither team having a bite at break point until 5 all.  Serving at 40-15, the Czechs made two forehand miscues resulting in deuce. Subsequently, Berdych had a forehand volley sail long handing Spain break point.  The Spaniards capitalized when the Czechs misfired on another volley.  With a strong game, Lopez punctuated the set.

With Stepanek’s serve wilting, the Spaniards opened the third set with triple break point.  When Lopez thumped a forehand winner down the line, Spain obtained the break. Shortly after, Verdasco consolidated with an easy service game for 2-0.  Again with Stepanek serving at 1-3, on Spain’s seventh break point chance, Verdasco gunned a forehand crosscourt winner extending the lead to 4-1.  Up a double break, Spain cruised on serve as it went on to capture its fourth Davis Cup title this decade.

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Spain Bounces Israel , Czech Republic Outlives Croatia in Davis Cup Semis

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Spain Bounces Israel , Czech Republic Outlives Croatia in Davis Cup Semis

img_97281With Spain’s best players, Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco, out of commission due to abdominal muscle injuries, the defending Davis Cup champion had to rely on an alternate squad to bat in the semifinals against Israel.  Unfortunately for first time semifinalist Israel, the tandem of David Ferrer, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Robredo and Feliciano Lopez showed no cracks.

Spurred on by their home crowd as well as cheerleaders Nadal and Verdasco, the Spaniards gave an A+ performance. As a result, by Saturday, Spain had carried all three rubbers to safely move on to the finals for the second straight year. Although with the clay Israel was at a conspicuous disadvantage, it still put up an admirable fight. On Friday, Ferrer got his team off to a great start with a 6-1,6-4,6-3 victory over Harel Levy.  Subsequently, Israel’s best singles offering Dudi Sela battled Juan Carlos Ferrero. Despite Sela’s valiant effort, with a far more competitive rubber than the score reflected, Sela could not keep up with the former French Open champion.  Ferrero prevailed 6-4,6-2,6-0.

On Saturday, with Spain ahead two matches to none, the 2008 Australian doubles champion and renowned Israeli pair Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich represented Israel’s best opportunity to keep its remarkable run alive.  The Israelis encountered a wall as Robredo & Lopez, who seldom play as a unit, came up victorious 7-6,6-7,6-4,6-2.  With neither team able to capitalize on break point chances, the first set was captured by Spain in a tiebreaker.  However, the Israelis quickly reversed that momentum  in the second set when Lopez double faulted at 0-40 giving them a 1-0 edge.  After Israel consolidated, Robredo saved three break points to maintain a one game deficit at 1-2.  With Israel serving for the set at 4-5, Erlich committed a myriad of volley errors which allowed Spain to get back on serve. Following Robredo’s love service game for 6-5, Israel up 40-15 needed Ram’s sensational volleying skills to efface a break point and eventually get into a tiebreaker.  Shortly after, a backhand volley error by Erlich permitted the Spaniards to build a 4-1 lead.  Yet, this resilient Israeli pair saved five set points and equalized the match when Robredo’s forehand volley sailed long.

In the third set, Spain converted triple break point, then broke Israel a second time for 3-0 with some spectacular forehands by Robredo. Although Erlich and Ram closed the gap slightly by breaking, the insurance break was just the cushion the Spaniard required to claim the set. Only weeks removed from right elbow surgery, Erlich couldn’t contend with the blows from the Spanish side.  Serving at 1 all in the fourth, a low backhand return by Lopez forced Erlich to volley up resulting in break point. Furthermore, at this critical stage, pain in the elbow caused Erlich to request an injury time out. Soon, back at service line, Erlich surrendered his serve.  After consolidating, the Spaniards broke again to extend their lead to 4-1. A few games later, at love, Lopez punched his nation’s passage into the finals.

Today, as ordained by the rules, the remaining rubbers took place. In the initial one, Ferrer defeated Ram 6-3,6-1.  Israel avoided a shutout as Levy carried the second match 7-5, 6-2 over Lopez. Despite this outcome, the Israelis will look back on 2009 with fondness and great pride. Prior to being derailed by Spain, Israel registered victories over powerhouses Sweden and Russia.

Spain will battle Czech Republic, the latter makes it’s first appearance in the finals since 1980.  At that time, the territory was in one piece and called Czechoslovakia.  The Czechs also secured their entry into the final round on Saturday after winning all three rubbers. On Friday, Radek Stepanek tranquilized a hostile Croatian crowd, stared down 78 aces and took one minute shy of 6 hours before edging out Ivo Karlovic 6-7,7-6,7-6,6-7,16-14. On the heel of one of the longest matches in Davis Cup history, Tomas Berdych, not wanting to be outdone by his countryman, took down Marin Cilic 6-3,6-3,3-6,4-6,6-3 after 3hours and  48 minutes. Still with plenty of reserve, Berdych and Stepanek teamed up on Saturday in what must have seemed like a practice session to beat Lovro Zvoko and Cilic 6-1,6-3,6-4.  So today’s action featured two dead rubbers. Czech Jan Hajek defeated Roko Karnusic 7-6,6-4.  The home audience did not leave empty handed as Zvoko prevailed over Lukas Dlouhy 6-3, 6-4.

The finals will be decided in December with Spain hosting the Czechs Republic.  Although both teams performed well on clay this weekend, the Spaniards with the best clay players around, even with Nadal sidelined, will be hard to be.  Therefore, it will take a formidable performance by the Czechs to prevent Spain from capturing it’s fourth cup this decade.

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2009 Wimbledon Draw Is Out: Regrettably So Is Nadal

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2009 Wimbledon Draw Is Out: Regrettably So Is Nadal

img_9986-version-3Hours after the Wimbledon committee revealed the singles’ draws, turmoil ripped through the men and women side demonstrating that no player is a shoe in for the championship.

After losing his second exhibition match, Rafael Nadal, the top seed and reigning champion, withdrew due to knee tendonitis. That afternoon, female number one and top seed, Dinara Safina’s recovery after her meltdown in Paris was dealt a major setback. Safina was ousted in the semifinals by Tamarine Tanasugarn ranked 47th in a grass court warm-up tournament. Last year, Tanasurgan defeated Safina in the finals at this event.

Now, fifth ranked Juan Martin Del Potro replaced Nadal at the top half of the draw. Although Del Potro has been improving rapidly, more seasoned grass players such as Radek Stepanek, Lleyton Hewitt or first round opponent Arnaud Clement could be an obstruction. In addition, Del Potro could face Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick in the quarterfinals. The extent of Roddick’s ankle injury will determine how much of a factor he will be. With a manageable draw, the prospect of Andy Murray becoming the first Brit since 1936 to raise the Wimbledon trophy looks promising. But, Murray may see Roddick or Del Potro in the semifinals. Despite Roger Federer’s multiple championships at the All England Club, with such a competitive field, other than experience, Federer has no distinct advantage. In the bottom section, Federer may need to go through the same stubborn rivals he battled in Paris to get to the quarterfinals. There, Federer could square off against Fernando Verdasco or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, both hungry competitors. Similarly to Murray, Novak Djokovic, Federer’s potential match-up in the semifinals, appears to have an easy path on paper. Yet, Tommy Haas who beat Djokovic in the finals at Halle could represent a roadblock.

Safina’s chance at redemption against Svetlana Kuznetsova may take place in the quarterfinals. Although with defending champion Venus Williams and Jelena Jankovic as possible semifinals opponents, Safina could be in the midst of a perpetuating nightmare. Venus’ performance the first couple of matches will determine whether she can prevail for a sixth time at Wimbledon. Serena Williams’ chance to avenge her Sony Ericsson lost to Victoria Azarenka could come in the quarters. However, Azarenka may need to knock off former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova in the round of 16 before getting to Serena. With Vera Zvonareva slowly getting back from injury and Elena Dementieva’s dismal play the last few months, for players such as Dominika Cibulkova, Aleksandra Wozniak or Alize Cornet, the door is wide open to reach at least the quarters.

The Williams sisters will do double duty at a major again. Defending champion and seeded fourth, Venus and Serena will attempt to win their fourth Wimbledon doubles title. 2008 men’s doubles champion Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic, the second seed, will attempt to repeat and wrestle the number one spot away from Mike and Bob Bryan.

Ambiguity reigns at Wimbledon this year. On both the female and male side, it is truly anybody’s trophy. First serve comes this Monday.

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros

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A Resume of Week One At Roland Garros

img_9890-version-2The initial week of the French Open has been filled with thrilling victories as well as agonizing losses. Here is a targeted recap of what’s gone on so far and a preview of week two.

The women and men’s number one seed breezed through their matches. Surrendering only four games in three matches, Dinara Safina faces Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai in the round of 16. Despite a partisan crowd, Safina should have no problems. After a slow start in her opening match, defending champion Ana Ivanovic, also in Safina’s section of the draw, has gotten better with each round. Reigning Sony Ericsson Open champion, Victoria Azarenka is up next for Ivanovic. Undoubtedly, this will be Ana’s biggest challenge to date. Rafael Nadal continues to make mince meat of his opponents. Lleyton Hewitt, a former world number one, won only five games in their third round meeting. Nadal takes on Swede Robin Soderling in the round of 16. Although Soderling beat clay court expert David Ferrer in the prior round, it’s hard to contemplate his having any success against Nadal. Another Spaniard making waves in France is Fernando Verdasco. Verdasco has prevailed in three in all his matches and will play Russian Nikolay Davydenko. The victor of that match will have the unenviable task of trying to go through Nadal to get to the semifinals.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the number two seed, have had a tougher time, yet advanced to week two. Federer’s next obstacle will be German Tommy Haas and Serena’s Canadian Alesksandra Wozniak. Andy Roddick, the only American male standing, has made it past the third round for the first time. Roddick has dismissed his rivals in impressive fashion. However, Frenchman Gael Monfils, a semifinalist last year, will be Roddick’s upcoming puzzle. Should Roddick jump through that hurdle, he could meet Federer in the quarterfinals. Brit Andy Murray is another one who hasn’t sailed through. Although Croatian Marin Cilic may be a test for the Brit, with Gilles Simon out, Murray’s place in the semifinals is almost a certainty where he is likely to battle Nadal.

Saturday saw the departure of the number four seeds as Novak Djokovic fell to German Philip Kohlschreiber while Australian Samantha Stosur stopped Elena Dementieva. Along with Kohlschreiber, Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro make their debut into the round of 16. The latter two will play each other for a quarterfinal spot. With Djokovic out, for these three men as well as Spaniard Tommy Roberdo, it’s a great opportunity to reach the semifinal where Roddick or Federer may be waiting.

Jelena Jankovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova have quietly taken care of business. Kuznetsova’s next match will be tougher as she squares off against crafty Polish youngster Agnieszka Radwanska. Jankovic should have an easy pass with Romanian Sorana Cristea. Jankovic is in the golden position of avoiding a top ten seed until the semifinal where she could collide with either Serena or Svetlana. Another lucky one is former world number one now ranked 102, Maria Sharapova. Despite fumbling through, Sharapova is in the round of 16 where she will take on Na Li. Hungarian Agnes Szavay foiled Sharapova’s possible quarterfinal encounter with Venus Williams. Szavay thrashed Venus in the third round. In only her second tournament back from shoulder surgery, Sharapova has a real chance of getting to the semifinals.

Seeded fifth, Venus and Serena are alive in doubles and could impact with the number one seed Liezel Huber and Cara Black in the quarters. The top five women and men’s doubles teams are still in the mix. But, in mixed doubles, the number two seed, Cara Black and Leander Paes, was defeated in the second round.

Having set a new record for most consecutive wins at the French, can Nadal stay undefeated and seal the deal with a fifth consecutive trophy? Or will Federer finally obtain the only major that has eluded him? Will Murray, Jankovic or Safina join the elite club of major winners? Can Tsonga or Monfils make France’s dream a reality by celebrating their first major in their home country? Will Serena claim her second French title? The reply to these burning questions will come shortly.

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