Nick Nemeroff

From Djokovic to Federer, What’s Ahead in the Summer for the ATP Top 5?

(July 16, 2013) With the U.S. Open looming in the near future, what does the summer hard court season hold for the ATP top 5? Nick Nemeroff recaps the players’ recent results and gives an outlook into the season going forward.

Roger FedererRoger Federer: World No. 5

2013 has been quite the lackluster season for Roger Federer. The Swiss has only one title to his name (Halle), and has failed to reach the final in all five of the tournaments where he entered as the reigning champion. Federer is 1-5 against the top 10 this season, including two demoralizing losses to Rafael Nadal in Indian Wells and the final of Rome.

In all of Federer defeats this season (Andy Murray, Julien Benneteau, Tomas Berdych, Nadal twice, Kei Nishikori, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Sergiy Stakhovsky), he was entirely unsuccessful in controlling the middle of the court and found it hard to neutralize the offensive weapons of his opponents. Moving forward, I would anticipate Federer to be less inclined with working his way into points, a strategy highly uncharacteristic of the distinctive first-strike tennis which guided him to 17 grand slams.

Federer’s summer schedule is highly dense as he has entered Montreal, Cincinnati, and of course, the U.S. Open. But what has come as a bit of a surprise to many, Federer is playing on the clay of Hamburg and Gstaad in what appears be an effort to get more match play in before the hard court stretch and to gain back some of the confidence he lost earlier in the season.

Rafael NadalRafael Nadal: World No. 4

With Nadal, the lingering questions always revolve around his ever so fragile knees. Following his opening round defeat to Steve Darcis at Wimbledon, Nadal expressed that the stress and pain put on his knees is amplified on grass due to the consistently lower positions he must execute in order to properly strike the ball.

Though the tour is transitioning from grass to hard, Nadal’s knees will continue to be tested. Despite the fact that hard courts yield higher bounces which mean the Spaniard will see more balls in his desired strike zone thus less bending and lunging for lower balls, hard courts are called hard courts for a reason—they are hard—especially on Rafa’s knees.

Before the U.S. Open, Nadal will be playing in both Montreal and Cincinnati, two events that will surely allow him to gauge the status of his knees. If Nadal can remain healthy, as he proved in the seven tournaments he has won in 2013, he can be absolutely devastating. Remember, besides the six clay court tournaments he won, Nadal also won Indian Wells defeating Federer, Berdych, and Juan Martin Del Potro en route to the title.

David Ferrer_cropDavid Ferrer: World Number 3

David Ferrer has reached the semifinals of 4 of the last 6 grand slams, including a career best run at this year’s French Open where he overcame his grand slam semifinal struggles getting to the final before losing to Nadal.

Undeniably, Ferrer’s premier surface is clay. Ferrer is often praised for his speed, consistency, retrieval abilities, and his fighting spirit. The narrative around Ferrer often clouds one of the most overlooked and important aspects of his game that being his aggression. For one of the smallest guys on tour, Ferrer really injects a mountain of energy into each and every shot and certainly can put a significant amount of pace on the ball.

Ferrer will be less inclined to grind on hard courts and as a result, his underestimated finishing power should be on full display.

Andy MurrayAndy Murray: World No. 2

Regardless of what Andy Murray does for the rest of the season, his 2013 will be remembered for his triumph at Wimbledon. Despite it being one of the most bizarre tournaments any of us have ever witnessed, the British fans’ 77 years of agony finally ended.

The joys of success must be quickly celebrated as Murray has a whopping 2000 points to defend from his U.S. Open title last year. Murray should feel less pressure in the U.S. Open warm-up even tournament as he only has 180 points to defend in Montreal and Cincinnati.

Over the past several years, Murray’s game has evolved leaps and bounds under the careful supervision of the ever stoic Ivan Lendl. In prior years, Murray game was characterized by inexplicable passivity and constant mental battles. Today, Murray has flip the switch on that characterization and has learned to better control the myriad of thoughts running through his head and utilize his powerful groundstrokes in a manner that is more proactive rather than reactive.

Look for Murray’s second serve to be a key shot as he looks to defend his U.S. Open crown especially if he ends up facing either Ferrer or Djokovic, two of the best returners in the game.

Novak DjokovicNovak Djokovic: World No. 1

Shock and disbelief were coursing through my veins during the Wimbledon final as Novak Djokovic put forth one of the most substandard performances of his career. Coming from a guy who usually steps up in the biggest moments and has ice running through his veins, Djokovic surely was not expecting such an outright defeat.

Having lost two of his last three major finals to Murray, the Serbian will enter the hard court swing looking to restore the form that catapulted him to the number one ranking, a level of play far distant from what we saw in the Wimbledon final.

The next several months will be a key stretch for the Serb as he looks to maintain a grasp of the top ranking. In 2012, Djokovic won Canada and reached the final of Cincinnati and the U.S. Open meaning he has serious points to defend.

Bliss for the Bryans: Bryan Brothers Win Wimbledon and Make History

bryans 2-4

(July 6, 2013) Coming into the Wimbledon final, Mike and Bob Bryan had won 23 consecutive matches. The last time the twins saw defeat was April 21, 2013 when they failed to capitalize on seven match points against Nenad Zimonjic and Julien Benneteau in the Monte Carlo Masters final.

Less than 15 minutes into today’s final, the Bryan’s opponents, Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, were playing like the team that hadn’t lost a match in nearly three months. In Bob Bryan’s first service game, the overwhelming underdogs quickly created two break points and converted the second after Dodig nailed a marvelous return at Bob’s feet nd the 6’8 Brazilian put away the response with an overhead.

On their own serve, Dodig and Melo were serving huge facilitating many short points finished by simple volleys and overheads. In addition, Dodig and Melo were varying their formations and really did an effective job keeping the Bryan’s guesing especially with the I-formation. For those not familiar, the I-formation is when the server’s partner crouches down hovering over the center service line as the server moves near the center mark on the baseline. This formation is a difficult one to consistently execute but it keeps the returners guessing because they aren’t sure where the net player and the server will move. Thus, if you have a team like the Bryan’s who can drill cross court returns all day long, it helps to keep them honest and prevents them from entering a rhythm off the return.

Five games in and the Bryan’s were in paramount danger of losing a 6-0 set for the first time since the 2012 Australian Open as they fell behind 5-0. Amazingly enough, the Bryan’s have only ever lost five 6-0 sets during their professional career. The Bryan’s were able to escape from a 0-5, 15-30 hole, break their opponents, and hold once more before dropping the first 6-3 in 31 minutes.

Looking back, the three games the Bryan’s rallied off at the end of the first set were crucial. It was abundantly clear the Bryan’s had gained a sizeable amount of momentum despite losing the set.

This transition in momentum translated into a fast start to the second set. The Bryan’s broke serve after Dodig, who had been extremely potent on serve in the first set, gifted away the break with a double fault.

To make matters worse for Dodig and Melo, their cogency off the return completely vanished in the second set. Daren Cahill of ESPN astutely pointed out that the Bryan’s began to introduce the body serve with increased regularity in the second stanza of the match. This tactic seemed to jam Dodig and Melo both physically and mentally. Not only were the Bryan’s hitting more unreturnable serves, but they seemed to draw Dodig and Melo into a major state of confusion. The Brazilian and the Croatian, when given a chance to cleanly hit a return, continually kept going down the line at the net player. And almost every time they did this, the Bryan’s made sure to make them pay for their mistake and end the point then and there. Such a bizarre strategy, whether decided upon or forced by the powerful serves of the Bryan’s, is not bound to work considering how swift the Bryan’s hands are at net.

All the Bryan’s needed in the second set was one break, and behind 15/16 first serve points won, they closed out the set 6-3 without facing a break point.

As the third set commenced, one of the notes I wrote to myself was “Not seeing too many down the line returns from the Bryans.” Ultimately, one of the main factors in the Bryan’s success in the match was their ability to consistently strike dipping, cross-court returns. Dodig and Melo continually returning at the net player really made breaking serve nearly impossible.

In addition, on serve, Dodig and Melo seemed less willing to stray from standard formation as the Bryans started to dial in on their returns. The lack of formation variation extended to serve placement as Dodig and Melo hit almost all of their serves into the Bryan’s backhand. Serving into the Bryan’s backhand is definitely the smart play but if you do it over and over and over, it becomes far too predictable. The Bryan’s broke to go up 2-1 and were cracking the backhand returns that failed them earlier in the match. Needless to say, the twins had Dodig and Melo right where they wanted them.

The patterns I previously described held suit for the rest of the third set. The only inroad Dodig and Melo made in a service game was when the Bryan’s were serving at 3-2 30-30. Mike Bryan quickly eradicated any notions Dodig and Melo had of breaking nailing a body serve and then an ace to hold for 4-2.

Winning the third set 6-4, the result seemed inevitable. The fourth set was definitely duller than the other sets and was characterized by a series of quick holds. The Bryan’s eventually broke through at 4-4 and put the match in the hands of Bob Bryan’s reliable lefty serve. Bob hit a monstrous serve down the middle at 30-15 and ended the match just like Marion Bartoli did in the Women’s Singles Final– with an ace.

The Bryan’s celebrated the win with their trademark chest-bump. With the victory, the Bryan’s became the first doubles team in the open-era to hold all four majors at the same time. With a win at the U.S. Open in September, the Bryan’s would be the first team to complete the calendar year slam since Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman did it 1951 and be only the second doubles team in tennis history to do so.

Jerzy Janowicz Ready to Rise Above the Rest

(June 30, 2013) Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, and Bernard Tomic have been commonly touted as being the next generation of great champions. If the ATP World Tour was a movie, these three men are believed to be its future leads.

While I do agree these three players have voluminous potential, I believe one young man—Jerzy Janowicz—is ready to rise above them all.

Let’s take a closer look at the 22-year-old Pole’s game to see what separates him not only from the young stars of the ATP World Tour but also from the other giants of tennis.

The most glaring aspect of Janowicz’s game is his imposing serve, which he unloads with herculean strikes and in the process prevents his opponents from grasping even the slightest glimpse of the ball. Janowicz delivers his devastating, heat-sinking missile of a serve from a soaring height. At 6”8’, the Pole is not only one of the tallest players on tour but is actually one of the few players that is able to look over the net and see his opponent’s baseline (you must be 6”7’ to do so).

Janowicz’s serve of course comes with much power but it also possesses ample variation. On the deuce side, as was demonstrated in the Paris Indoor Masters last fall, Janowicz is able to slide his racket head across the outside-edge of the ball producing a side-spin serve that not only moves out and away from his opponents but also lands short in the box making it nearly unreturnable. In terms of his second-serve, Janowicz is able to torpedo up the back of the ball and produce uncanny amounts of topspin making it more of a weapon than a starting shot.

Many big men on tour such as John Isner, Milos Raonic, and Kevin Anderson can absolutely crank their serves and are able to hold quickly and often. This is all fine and dandy until you realize that winning every set in a tiebreaker is not only an unrealistic expectation but really the last thing anybody wants to be doing. Unfortunately enough, this is what a lot of tall guys on tour end up having to do because they simply cannot break serve.

No shortage of individuals have correctly pointed out that big men on tour often find themselves retreating and backtracking on second serves to give themselves more time to set up and execute the return. This puts them into highly defensive positions and exploits their poor movement.

The explanation I find more revealing of the poor returning of big men is much grimmer: These guys have inadequate reactionary prowess and will probably never be anything more than average returners because they need more time than is allotted to hit meaningful returns. If you examine a player like John Isner, you’ll find out quickly that he loves running around his backhand and taking massive cuts on his forehands—granted he has time. Milos Raonic is much the same in that while he may be a big ball striker, he thrives when given time and often crumbles when rushed. This necessity for time during rallies extends to the return of serve.

Janowicz, unlike several of his towering contemporaries, takes a fearless and aggressive stance when returning serve. Against Andy Murray in Paris last year, Janowicz was almost standing on top of the baseline for first serve returns and was inside the baseline on countless second serve returns. Needless to say, Andy Murray’s serve is no pushover. Janowicz is able to establish such a proactive return stance for multiple reasons. One, Janowicz has speedy reactions and is able to anticipate and pick up on where his opponents are serving. Secondly, Janowicz’s forehand and backhand do not have protracted swing paths thus when returning, he is used to producing the abbreviated swings needed to deflect back powerful serves.

Speaking of Janowicz groundstrokes, the Pole’s forehand and backhand are undoubtedly some of the flattest strokes on tour. Janowicz drives through the ball with low-margin, enterprising and authoritative linear strikes. Janowicz’s forehand grip is also one of the most extreme on tour. He uses a full eastern grip approaching a continental grip which helps to explain the flat nature of his groundstrokes. Despite Janowicz’s groundstrokes being very high-risk, he is able to stay in elongated rallies because his swings are short and simple thus he is not going to be breaking down mechanically when under pressure.

The commanding power Janowicz possesses is beautifully contrasted by his out of world feel. The tennis world was shocked when the big man started pulling out the most deft and well-timed of drop shots in Paris last fall. This feel is translated to his net play which is assisted by his extremely long wingspan.

I would also be remiss to exclude the fact that Janowicz possesses absolutely shocking movement for a guy of his height. His court coverage and all-around speed are unbelievable and frankly unprecedented for a guy of his stature.

Ultimately, if you compare Janowicz’s game to the other young phenoms on tour, it becomes evident the Pole’s game has more dimensions. He has more weapons on court than any of the other young talents and certainly can do more than almost all of the big guys. I could go on and on praising the ability of this guy, but I think he’d prefer to prove how good he is on court.

As we head into the second week of Wimbledon, Janowicz is two matches away from a likely semifinal encounter with Andy Murray. If Janowicz does end up facing Murray, expect the Pole to display his full repertoire of shot making backed by a supreme level of confidence for Centre Court on Friday.

Don’t look now, but a week from today, we could very well be watching Jerzy Janowicz step on to Centre Court as a Wimbledon finalist.

Can Ernests Gulbis Stop Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the Wimbledon Grass?

(June 25, 2013) Ernests Gulbis’ best performance at Wimbledon has been reaching the second round on four separate occasions, including already this year. Unfortunately for Gulbis, his draws have been anything but strawberries and cream. The first three of these contests have all ended in defeat for the Latvian, and it has come at the hands of Rafael Nadal in 2008, Andy Murray in 2009, and Jerzy Janowicz in 2012. Can Gulbis turn around his luck this year?

Despite Gulbis’ stellar 2013, he enters unseeded and Wimbledon still isn’t doing him any favors as his draw pits him against the No. 6 seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the second round.

On paper, Tsonga is the overwhelming pick to win in this match. Tsonga not only leads the head to head 3-0, but he also has reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2011 and 2012 whereas Gulbis is 7-12 in his career on the grass.

While their grass court resumes may be abundantly different, the ever-confident Latvian will certainly believe he has a fighting chance in this match. He should draw inspiration from the fact that Steve Darcis had an 11-11 record on grass before his match against Rafael Nadal and had only made it past the opening round once.

From a tactical perspective, Gulbis will be looking to maximize the amount of backhand-to-backhand rallies as this specific pattern of play matches up Gulbis’ strongest wing against the infamously frail Tsonga backhand.

Tsonga’s premier strategy will be to throw the kitchen sink at Gulbis’ protracted and wrist reliant forehand. The Frenchman’s ammunition off the forehand side in particular should allow him to rush and pressure Gulbis into an array of forehand errors. In addition, Tsonga’s slice backhand should make it increasingly difficult for Gulbis to set up and take the powerful cuts he is used to taking.

Both guys possess tons of power from the ground and off the serve. When this type of matchup arises, the player who is better able to maintain depth and pace and not allow their opponents to take huge swipes at the ball will have the best opportunity to win.

Ultimately, Tsonga should come away with the victory as he possesses an all-court style of play which provides him with a great number of options by which to win and close out points. Not only can he power down aces and crush winners from the baseline but he has the unique and ostensibly archaic capacity to move forward and end points at the net.

However this match ends up, if you’re going to Wimbledon on Wednesday and have the ability to see this match, it definitely is a must-see blockbuster as far as a second round match goes.

Prediction: Tsonga in 4 sets 

How to Attack Rafael Nadal on the Wimbledon Grass

(June 21, 2013) Rafael Nadal’s dominance of the French Open has been absolutely remarkable. No other player in the history of tennis has so utterly conquered such a prestigious event year after year. Winning his eighth title at Roland Garros just a few short weeks ago, Nadal is the only player in the history of men’s tennis to win eight titles at single grand slam. His supremacy, even without the title, has been superior to the control both Roger Federer and Pete Sampras had over Wimbledon during their primes.

And as the tennis world closes in on Wimbledon, Nadal is looking to extend his clay court triumphs to the revered lawns of the All England Club. Nadal is seeded fifth in the tournament which undoubtedly has been the impetus for much debate over the seeding process. In addition, this specific seeding arrangement has put the Spaniard on a quarterfinal collision course with Federer, and possibly Andy Murray in the semifinals.

With this all said, how can the rest of the tennis world stifle the Spanish locomotive as he powers his way into Wimbledon? Let’s take a look at some strategies and tactics that can be used to attack Nadal as he pursues a third Wimbledon crown.

Diminish the margins quickly with an offensively-geared mindset – As Daniel Brands demonstrated in the first round of the French Open, one of the simplest strategies to integrate against Nadal is to endlessly take the initiative. Brands entered the match with a definitive intention which was to bludgeon each ball with as much pace as possible hoping to deny Nadal any opportunity of meeting his racket to the ball. This game plan is definitely simple enough in theory but it’s actually much harder to actualize on clay against Nadal. On grass, Nadal is less capable of engaging his opponents into marathon rallies during which he slowly eats away his opposition’s court position, fitness, and hope. Grass reduces the height at which the ball is being played and increases the speed by which the ball moves through the court. This combination facilitates more aggressive play and better rewards players who take more risks, an integral aspect of taking down Nadal.

Slice with caution – One feature of grass courts is that the ball tends to bounce low and skid thus making underspin shots infinitely more effective. Nadal’s forehand grips approaches a full-western which makes low balls harder to play. Those with more extreme forehand grips are more naturally suited to play higher reaching balls as the natural contact point is around chest level. Players with full western grips have a harder time getting under and swinging up the back of the ball, an abundantly necessary aspect of accelerating and obtaining power with such an extreme grip. This strategy is definitely a potent one to use against Nadal but is one that needs to be used with caution. If not executed with the appropriate pace and depth, the underspin backhand is a shot that Nadal is capable of running around and crushing. A weak slice backhand which can be equated to a flailing chip return by Federer is exactly the type of shot Nadal feasts on.

Serve variation – One of the main strategies used by the last three players (Federer, Djokovic, Rosol) to defeat Nadal at Wimbledon was to mix up their serve placement. Forcing Nadal to constantly adapt and adjust on the return is critical. Firstly, it keeps him off balance and consistently guessing. Secondly, Nadal’s forehand and backhand grips are far apart, so if Nadal is guessing backhand and the serve is targeted to his forehand, he’s not going to be able to switch his grip in time. As a result, he is likely going to be forced to chip the return back into play which more often than not will put him on the defensive.

Serve and Volley – There are many commentators and writers alike who have touted this play as old-fashioned and obsolete but I firmly believe that it can work. If Nadal retreats behind the baseline, players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roger Federer who possess versatile all-court games can use Nadal’s defensive return position as a catalyst to their offensive aggression. Again, caution must be used with the serve and volley tactic because Nadal is very apt at placing the ball at the feet of his opponents. In addition, serving and volleying on second serves is ill-advised because Nadal will move closer to the baseline to return and he will be able to take larger cuts on typically weaker serves.

Roger Federer Finally Finds the Finish Line

(June 16, 2013) On August 19, 2012, Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic in the final of ATP Masters Series 1000 event in Cincinnati. Having captured his seventh Wimbledon title earlier in the summer marking the climax to his ascent back to the No. 1 ranking, Federer’s expectations for the US Open and the conclusion of the 2012 season were undoubtedly high.

Ten top-10 defeats, zero titles, and 304 days later, Roger Federer finally found the summit today in the Halle final against Mikhail Youzhny and won, 6-7(5) 6-3 6-4. To put into perspective the length of Federer’s title drought, Rafael Nadal’s absence following his 2012 Wimbledon second round exit lasted 222 days.

I’m sure the Swiss will be elated with his 77th career title but I wouldn’t be surprised if the overwhelming feeling consuming Roger Federer right now is relief. Federer entered the final with a 14-0 record against his fiery, emotionally unstable Russian opponent but as the match progressed, it became abundantly clear that Youzhny had obliterated this piece of unwelcoming data from his mental register.

From the opening game of the match, in which Youzhny saved four break points, the Russian’s distinctive mental instability was nowhere to be found. Throughout the opening set, Youzhny’s continuous surge of positive energy was charged by a tactically sound and aggressive game plan. Youzhny was displaying no signs of bashfulness on his first serve and found his range quickly. The Russians’s first serve percentage in the first set was 69 percent and most of these serves were well-placed facilitating the consistent use of first-strike tennis. From the ground, Youzhny was accelerating through his groundstrokes, taking the ball on early, and looking to spread Federer across the baseline.

For the majority of the first set, Youzhny was giving Federer a high dosage of his own medicine. Fortunately for Federer, he was able to execute his aggressive brand of tennis well enough to stay on equal footing with Youzhny. Youzhny found himself with minor openings in a few return games but Federer was able to close these moments of opportunity with clutch serving much like he did against Tommy Haas in the semifinals.

At 5-5 in the first set tiebreaker, Youzhny drilled a piercing cross court backhand which Federer netted to obtain his second set point which he capitalized on with a winning backhand volley.

The second set saw Federer open up with a love hold and eventually obtain his first break point with Youzhny serving at 2-3. The Russian played an absolutely supreme point moving Federer across all 36 feet of the baseline finishing the point off with a sharply angled, scissor kick smash which was followed by a primal scream of enthusiasm.

Youzhny ultimately secured the hold of serve to even the set at 3-3. Despite such a stimulating end to the previous game, Youzhny was still unable to put Federer through the service strain he forced him into during the first set as Federer held three of his first four service games to love. Youzhny’s delight after holding at 3-3 was quickly made a thing of the past as Federer rapidly broke to love to take a 5-3 lead in the second set. Federer served out the second set winning 12 of the last 14 points. The end of the second set was characterized by much quicker points from Federer as he dictated from the middle of the court preventing Youzhny from implementing the forceful tennis that won him the first set.

Unfortunately for anyone watching the match, the third set was extremely bland. The first half of the set featured short points in favor of the server. In fact, throughout the first five games of the third set, Federer and Youzhny won five combined points returning. At 3-3 in the third set, Federer raced out to a 40-0 lead on Youzhny’s serve and was able to get the break with a backhand passing shot down the line. The Russian seemed utterly demoralized following the break and proceeded to bury his head in his towel for the duration of the changeover.

But surprisingly enough, Youzhny blasted two returns to go up 30-15 in Federer’s next service game demonstrating that the expected mental wear and tear from the previous game had not been actualized. But in the very next point, Youzhny sprayed a relatively soft second serve wide that would have given him two break points. Instead, Federer held and served out the match two games later. It just goes to show what a difference one or two points here and there can make in a sport that can be defined by a single inch on a single point.

Federer finally got the title monkey off his back, but in almost a week’s time, he’ll have his sights set on capturing a much more significant title as the tennis world centers in on the hallowed Wimbledon grounds.

Roland Garros Day 15: Links Roundup with Nadal, Federer, Vesnina and more

Roland Garros Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.

Shot of the Day: After winning a record-breaking eighth Roland Garros title, and before making the media rounds, Rafael Nadal happily posed with the ball kids who worked the final. Perhaps there’s a future Roland Garros champ among them!

Elena Vesnina wins first grand slam title: It was seven times lucky for Elena Vesnina as she and countrywoman Ekaterina Makarova captured the French Open crown defeating the top seeded team of Sara Errani and Robert Vinci. As the WTA official website reports, “Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina upset the odds and the defending champions to win the doubles title.” The Russian pair were delighted with their victory which was their first over the Italian duo.

Vesnina told reporters “I think we’re extra happy because we beat them first time. We played a lot of times against them; they’re the best team in the world. They’re playing so good, so it’s really tough to play against them, especially on clay.”

French Open Flare: During the second set of the final between Spaniards Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer, as Tennis Grandstand reported earlier “a shirtless and masked protestor with the words ‘KIDS RIGHT’ written across his chest, ran onto Nadal’s side of the court, lighting a red flare.” Working quickly, “security tackled the man and threw him off the court as another personnel guarded Nadal.” Nadal was definitely frazzled by the incident as he proceeded to drop his next service game but was ultimately able to close out the set.

“Well I felt a little bit scared in the first moment,” said Nadal. “These kinds of things are impossible to predict. When these kind of things happen, we are very lucky that we have good security around. They managed very well to stop the situation.”

Roger Federer and Tommy Haas to team up in Halle: As the ATP World Tour reports, “Good friends Roger Federer and Tommy Haas will make their team debut at the Gerry Webber Open this week.” The pair is set to square off against the 2010 Wimbledon champs, Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner. Despite a tough draw, Haas spoke of his and Federer’s excitement in teaming up.

“It’s our first time playing together. It’s great to do this at this time in our careers. I hope we can focus, as we’ll probably have too much of a good time out there. It will be nice to play in front of some very enthusiastic fans and have a good doubles match, against Melzer and Petzschner.”

Five Classic Finals: While the men’s final between David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal certainly wasn’t a classic battle by any stretch of the imagination, Roland Garros has had no shortage of thrilling championship matches. Live Tennis has come up with their 5 best French Open finals of all time including Bjorn Borg’s first French Open title in 1974 when he came back from two sets to love down to beat Manuel Orantes in five sets and Andre Agassi’s 1999 French Open crown which proved to be his only title at Roland Garros.

Lessons from Serena Williams’s stellar French Open: Lindsay Gibbs of The Changeover wrote about Serena Williams’s victory over Maria Sharapova and the significance of her French Open title.  Lindsay wrote about this being the best win of Serena’s career, her multi-dimensional game, and how impressive Serena’s win streak over Maria Sharapova is.

Rafael Nadal discusses French Open title: Rafael Nadal put forth an absolute master class in his straight sets victory over David Ferrer. The Spaniard was firing off all cylinders and pressured Ferrer into a plethora of errors. In his post-match press conference, Nadal talked about how the match was closer than what the score would seem to indicate, his extremely high level of play during certain points of the match, and how important this victory is to him. In addition, Nadal credited those who have helped him to make such a strong and successful comeback after his 7 month layoff.

Roland Garros Day 14: Links Roundup with Williams, Mahut, Nadal, Murray and more

Roland Garros Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.

Shot of the Day: After losing the first set, snatching the second, and having the upper hand several times in the third including up 4-2 in the tiebreak, Nicolas Mahut and Mike Llodra lost a tough battle to Mike and Bob Bryan in the men’s doubles, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4). Mahut was the only man on the court appearing in his first Slam final, so it’s no surprise that emotions overcame the Frenchman after their heartbreaking loss.

Toni Nadal says eighth French Open title could be “Nadal’s prized moment”: As Reem Abulleil of Sport 360 writes, “Toni Nadal believes a Rafael Nadal win in the Roland Garros final on Sunday against David Ferrer could be considered his nephew’s greatest success to date considering everything they had to overcome to return to a major final.” Toni Nadal appears to be both shocked and grateful that his nephew has been able to reach a grand slam final.

“I don’t know why we are here. In Sao Paolo, or in Vina Del Mar, we had so many problems and we thought that it would be difficult to be again here in the final. I thought it would be very difficult to be at the top again because the moment was not good, he had problems in his knee and altogether we had doubts whether he can go or not.”

Andy Murray’s French Open absence could be a game changer: Kevin Mitchell of the Guardian has been documenting Andy Murray’s recovery from the back injury that caused him to miss the French Open. Murray says he watched Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal’s semifinal match at Roland Garros and that not playing the French Open was “a hard decision but that sort of match is the reason why I wouldn’t be playing at the French Open.” Murray believes his French Open withdrawal may be “a blessing in disguise” and that he “feels really good and took maybe eight or nine days’ full rest doing nothing and has had no setbacks practicing.”

Serena Williams captures French Open title: Of course the biggest news of the day is Serena Williams claiming her 2nd French Open title (first since 2002) and her 16th grand slam overall placing her 6th on the all-time list. Greg Garber of ESPN notes that Serena “could catch Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert (18 each) as early as this year’s US Open.” Serena talked about how losing in the first round last year helped her enter this particular tournament with a relaxed state of mind.

“I think losing in the first round definitely helped me realize I had no points to defend. I have nothing to lose. I can just kind of relax and just do what I want to do here.”

While Serena may have not been telling the truth when she said she had nothing to lose she certainly looked like she was in cruise control for the vast majority of the tournament.

Bryan Brothers dash French hopes in doubles final: “Ten years ago, Bob and Mike Bryan were establishing themselves as a rising doubles pair when they shockingly ran to the title at Roland Garros, their very first major title” Nick McCarvel writes for the Roland Garros official website. The Bryans ended a not so shocking 2013 French Open campaign by taking down the French tandem of Nicolas Mahut and Michael Llodra in a third set tiebreaker. The Bryan’s were down 4-2 in the third set tiebreaker and managed to capture the final five points and escape with the victory. Afterwards, they admitted to having lady luck on their side to which Bob Bryan stated, “These guys are two of the greatest guys on tour. You played unbelievable today, we were lucky. It could have gone either way today. Today we were pretty fortunate.”

Christian Garin wins boys’ singles title: Christian Garin of Chile took down the younger brother of ATP professional Mischa Zverev, Alexander Zverev, in the boys singles final. Garin, as Guillaume Willecoq describes on the Roland Garros official site, gives “Chilean fans something to shout about once again a year after Fernando Gonzalez retired.”

Wheelchair winners: This Roland Garros featured video highlights the wheelchair tennis competition, one of the most impressive and inspiring competitions that takes place during the French Open but is unfortunately one of the most overlooked.

Roland Garros Day 13: Links Roundup with Sharapova, Djokovic, Bryan Brothers and more

Roland Garros Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.

Shot of the Day: Despite losing to Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, Novak Djokovic played some inspired and acrobatic tennis as the match went on.

Bryan Brothers ready to capture French Open crown: David Cox of the New York Times writes that the “French Open has been a tough tournament for the otherwise all-conquering Bryan brothers as they last won the title in 2003.” The Bryans will surely not have the home crowd behind them as they face off against Frenchman Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut. Despite not being able to capture the title for over a decade, the Bryans remain confident in their chances to take down Roland Garros.

“It feels great to be back in the final. Obviously, this has been a sticky one over the last 10 years. We’ve come very close and haven’t got over the hump, but we’re coming in with a lot of confidence.”

Plane Cam: Those of you who watched Ryan Harrison take on John Isner last week may remember Harrison becoming irritated by the model airplane that makes constant trips between “a towering crane outside the Roland Garros grounds and a tower at Suzanne Lenglen” as Peter Bodo of Tennis.com reports. He goes on and describes the plane as being a “sky cam that has become a standard feature at most sporting events.” Bodo goes on to describe origination of the plane came but admits that “your kid would like it a lot more than Harrison did.”

Novak Djokovic frustrated over officiating: Following his five set semifinal defeat at the hands of Rafael Nadal in the Roland Garros semifinals, as Sport 360 tells us, Novak Djokovic was less than happy with what he thought was confusing and disorganized officiating. Djokovic was extremely displeased that the court was becoming too dry.

“Off the court I was told that it’s the groundstaff who make the final decision on watering the court. The supervisor said it was him who decides. It takes 30 seconds to one minute to water the court. It was too difficult to change direction. I think it was wrong what they did.”

Djokovic was also mad about being stripped a point at 4-3 40-40 in the fifth set where he touched the net after seemingly putting away an overhead for a winner.

“My argument was that the ball was already out of the court when I touched the net.”

Road to Roland Garros with David Ferrer: David Ferrer produced a thorough and comprehensive beat down of Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in their semifinal clash Friday. Ferrer’s reward for his victory is a date with Rafael Nadal Sunday in what is his inaugural grand slam final. The Spaniard took a ride to the French Open grounds in this edition of Road to Roland Garros and talked about his on court mentality, who he would be if he was an actor, his adoration of Novak Djokovic’s humor, and who his friends are on the tour.

Maria Sharapova on upcoming final: Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are just hours away from squaring off in the French Open final. Sports Illustrated has an extensive preview of the match including insight from Sharapova as she attempts to overcome Serena for the first time since 2005.

“I have never really thought about going out on the court and just trying to be consistent, not playing my game and just getting the ball back. That hasn’t ever been my philosophy, because the way that I win matches is by being aggressive, by moving my power, by looking to move forward and playing that aggressive game.”

“Despite all those statistics, despite my unsuccessful record against her, it doesn’t matter because you’re at the French Open final. No matter how good she’s playing, you also have to give yourself a bit of credit for getting to that point and doing a few things right to be at that stage and giving yourself an opportunity.”

Venus Williams says Serena Williams is greatest she’s ever faced: In a question and answer session with Yes Network, Venus Williams talks about her most influential fashion designer, her favorite New York meal, her favorite city, her most memorable grand slam victory, her favorite career moment and more. Venus also talks about how Serena is undoubtedly the greatest player she has ever faced.

“Clearly Serena. No doubt. I’ve played most of the greats and she is definitely the best” Venus said in response to being asked who the best player she as ever seen or played against.

Roland Garros Day 12: Links Roundup with Sharapova, Kuerten, Djokovic and Mixed Doubles Champs

Roland Garros Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.

Shot of the Day: After a relatively easy first set, Maria Sharapova faced an uphill battle for the rest of her match against Victoria Azarenka. The Russian dropped the second set and blew three match points up 5-2 in the third, before winning on an ace, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal ready to lock horns: Doug Robson of USA Today reminds us that, “At the start of the French Open, Novak Djokovic asked reporters not to mention his draw.” Now, as most expected, Djokovic will be squaring off for the 35th time against none other than the King of Clay—Rafael Nadal—a situation he cannot avoid anymore. Nadal has talked about his preference for hotter conditions stating, “For us it’s better to play with sun because the ball spins more.” Djokovic knows this is the biggest test either will face during the tournament and said as much to reporters.

“This is it. This is the biggest matchup of our Roland Garros 2013 campaign for both me and him.”

Frantisek Cermak and Lucie Hradecka- Five years to the French: The Czech Republic team of Frantisek Cermak and Lucie Hradeck defeated Canadian Daniel Nestor and Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic 1-6 6-4 10-6 in the mixed doubles final. As the Associated Press tells us, “Five years after teaming up, Frantisek Cermak and Lucie Hradecka won their first doubles title together at the French Open.”

French Open Quotes: Sports Illustrated has compiled the most gripping and entertaining quotes from this year’s French Open. This is part II of SI’s list with quotes from Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Jamie Hampton, Sloane Stephens, and Tommy Haas.

Yannick Noah reflects on French Open title 30 years later: 2013 marks the 30 year anniversary of Frenchman Yannick Noah’s Roland Garros title. In his interview with EuroSport, Noah talks about how winning the French Open changed his life, the sacrifices involved with becoming a successful tennis player, and the thrill of winning a major in his home country

“My victory was so perfect … Millions of people cried in front of their TV because they were so happy.  It was a memory I got to share with so many people.”

Noah also talks about Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s pursuit for a French Open title and has given Tsonga tons of praise in his quest to bring back Roland Garros glory to France.

“I’m really impressed by the way he is dealing with this tournament. He is playing well. He is focused and healthy. Most of all, I think he is mentally strong. I was really impressed by his reaction after beating Federer on center court.”

Serena Williams to carry dominant form into championship match against Maria Sharapova: Maria Sharapova hasn’t beaten Serena Williams since 2005 and its pretty safe to say that if Serena is able to maintain the level of play that propelled her to a 6-0 6-1 47 minute victory over Italian Sara Errani, Sharapova’s wait will have to continue. Piers Newbery of the BBC gently described Errani’s situation by describing her as being “overwhelmed.” Errani described it more tellingly saying, “She played unbelievable, that’s it. When she plays like this for me it’s difficult to play. She’s very strong, so there’s nothing I can do.” I think this sentiment expressed by Errani has been articulated over and over by Serena’s opposition during her current 30-match win-streak dating back to Miami in March.

Road to Roland Garros with Gustavo Kuerten: Three time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerton took a ride through Paris in this edition of Road to Roland Garros. Guga talked about why he chose to play tennis, what current player he would like to play, his connection with the French public, and who he thinks will win the tournament on the men’s side.