It was an all-countrymen week in ATP finals. In Marseille the Frenchman Michael Llodra won his fourth career ATP title when he beat his compatriot Julien Benneteau 6-3, 6-4. In Memphis, Sam Querrey won his third career title, winning the All-American final in Memphis, overcoming John Isner 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 6-3 despite a 2-5 deficit in the second set tie-break. In Buenos Aires, a final resolution turned into an inner Spanish affair as Juan Carlos Ferrero outlasted David Ferrer 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. The 30-year-old Ferrero won back-to-back titles, last week, he
won his 13th career title in Costa Do Sauipe, Brazil. He repeated the feat of his compatriot Tommy Robredo who won Costa Do Sauipe and Buenos Aires last year. The last time within a week all-countrymen finals in three different tournaments ocurred 7.5 years ago (22-29 July, 2002):
Alex Corretja (ESP) def. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 6-4 6-1 6-3
Jose Acasuso (ARG) def. Franco Squillari (ARG) 2-6 6-1 6-3
Andre Agassi (USA) def. Jan-Michael Gambill (USA) 6-2 6-4
Before this week, there have only been three times in the last 20 years where the two singles finalists have played a final in doubles together at the same tournament (Stefan Edberg with Magnus Larsson in Doha 1995, Lleyton Hewitt with Mark Philippoussis – Scottsdale 2003 and Philipp Kohlschreiber with Mikhail Youzhny – Munich 2007). This week it happened in two tournaments as Michael Llodra with Julien Benneteau won doubles final in Marseille, and John Isner paired with Sam Querrey to win in Memphis. Querrey a week earlier won his first doubles title at the SAP Open in San Jose, with Mardy Fish, and has extended his streak to eight doubles wins in a row.
Robin Soderling came to Rotterdam having lost his last six matches and started the tournament by losing the first set in his opening match with Florent Serra. But since then, he played some of best indoor tennis and won nine consecutive sets, at 6-4 2-0 for him in the final, a 2007 champion Mikhaily Youzhny was forced to retire because of right hamstring. Youzhny had beaten a new No 2 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal in two tie-breaks. “It’s been a very good week overall,” said Soderling who won his fifth title. “I started out struggling a bit in my first two rounds, struggling to find my form, but I worked hard and managed to get better with every match”.
Fernando Verdasco claimed his fourth career title (first indoor) after beating Andy Roddick 3-6 6-4 6-4 in the final of SAP Open in San Jose. For the Spaniard, it was the first ever indoor tournament in USA. Verdasco broke Roddick’s serve at 1:1 in the second set and at 4:4 in the third set to finish the match with his 15th aces (Roddick served 10). Roddick has already won 13 matches this season, second best after Marin Cilic (15). The 19-year-old Ricardas Berankis (No. 255) of Lithuania, became the first man from his country to reach an ATP singles quarterfinal.
Juan Carlos Ferrero needed only 60 minutes to demolish Lukasz Kubot 6-1 6-0 in Costa Do Saupe, Brazil. Ferrero who celebrated his 30th birthday during the tournament, won the 13th title in his 30th career final. “You never expect to play a one-sided final like this,” admitted Ferrero. “One is always nervous in the beginning of a final, and it wasn’t different today. I thought I played well from the beginning and with two breaks of serve ahead quite early in the match I never looked back”. Kubot reached his second final of his career and for the second time lost to a top-seeded player (lost to Djokovic the final in Belgrade 2009). The Pole had had very busy Friday – he won two singles matches and one doubles (losing only 13 games in the process) before overcoming Igor Andreev in the semifinal despite being down 1:3 in the final set.
Roger Federer and Andy Murray’s third-set tie-breaker in their 2010 Australian Open men’s final was second-longest tie-breaker ever played in major men’s final – only the epic Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe 32-point “Battle of 18-16” tie-breaker 30 years ago in the 1980 Wimbledon final lasting longer. Federer saved off five set points in the third-set tie-breaker in his 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (13-11) victory. The five longest tie-breakers ever in men’s singles finals at Grand Slam tournaments are as follows;
Wimbledon 1980: Bjorn Borg def. John McEnroe 1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7(16) 8-6… Mac saved 7 match points (5 in TB)
Australian Open 2010: Roger Federer def. Andy Murray 6-3 6-4 7-6(11)… Fed saved 5 set points in TB
Wimbledon 2000: Pete Sampras def. Patrick Rafter 6-7(10) 7-6(5) 6-4 6-2… Pat saved 2 set points in TB
US Open 1976: Jimmy Connors def. Bjorn Borg 6-4 3-6 7-6(9) 6-4… Jimmy saved 4 set points in TB
Wimbledon 1998: Pete Sampras def. Goran Ivanisevic 6-7(2) 7-6(9) 6-4 3-6 6-2… Pete saved 2 set points in TB
The first two sets were more one-sided than the score line would suggest, especially the second set when Federer broke Murray’s serve only once, despite a 40-15 and 40-0 lead in two other service games of the Brit. In the third set, Murray broke Federer’s serve for the second time in the match (first one at 0:2 in the first set) and led 5:2, later was two points away from taking the set at 5:3 on serve. In the tie-breaker, Murray had five set points (6:4, 6:5, 7:6, 9:8, 11:10) and saved two match points, at 9:10 in a spectacular way with a passing-shot off of Federer’s drop shot. The Swiss maestro converted his third match point to improve his all-time record 16 Grand Slam triumphs in singles. Federer won fourth Australian Open (2004, 2006-2007) what gives him second place Down Under right after Roy Emerson, who won six times between 1961 and 1967. For Murray, it was the longest tie-break of his pro career, while Federer won three longer tie-breaks (14-12 against Martin Verkerk, 16-14 against David Ferrer and a record 20-18 against Marat Safin).
“I always knew it was going to be a very intense match,” said Federer. “I’m happy I was able to play so aggressively and patiently at the same time because that’s what you got to be against Murray.”
* Murray is now the eighth player in the Open Era with a 0-2 record in Grand Slam finals joining two-time Aussie Open finalist Steve Denton, Wimbledon and Aussie Open finalist Kevin Curren, U.S. and Australian finalist Miloslav Mecir, U.S. and Wimbledon finalist Cedric Pioline, U.S. and Australian finalist Todd Martin, two-time French finalist Alex Corretja and Wimbledon and U.S. Open finalist Mark Philippoussis. There is a strong analogy between Murray, Mecir and Pioline as only these three players have not won a set in a major final, and all three reached finals at two different majors and lost to the same best player on both occasions at three different periods of time:
1986 US Open: Ivan Lendl (1) def. Mecir (16) 6-4 6-2 6-0
1989 Australian Open: Lendl (2) def. Mecir (9) 6-2 6-2 6-2
1993 US Open: Pete Sampras (1) def. Pioline (16) 6-4 6-4 6-3
1997 Wimbledon: Sampras (1) def. Pioline 6-4 6-2 6-4
2008 US Open: Federer (2) def. Murray (6) 6-2 7-5 6-2
2010 Australian Open: Federer (1) def. Murray (5) 6-3 6-4 7-6(11)
“Tonight’s match was a lot closer than the one at Flushing Meadows,” said Murray, comparing his first and second major finals. “I had a chance at the beginning of the match, and I had chances at the end of the match.
* In doubles, the Bryan brothers beat Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 in their record-breaking 16th career major final as a team. The Bryans eclipsed Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde – the Woodies – who reached 15 major finals from 1992 to 2000, according to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS book ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com.) The title was the eighth major for the American identical twins – their fourth in Australia – and leave them four shy of equaling the record set by John Newcombe and Tony Roche for most majors won by a team with 12 titles (four Australian, two French, five Wimbledon and one U.S. title won from 1965 to 1976). Woodbridge and Woodforde won the most major doubles titles by a team in the Open Era with 11 titles (two Australian, one French, six Wimbledon and two U.S. titles).
The Bryans were close to clinch the match in straight sets but wasted a 5:2 lead in the tie-break. The Americans have won four Australian Open titles, which is an Open Era record for a team. The all-time record belongs to Adrian Quist and John Bromwich, who won the Australian title eight times between1938-1950.
* Leander Paes won his 11th career major title when he paired with Cara Black to win the mixed doubles final with a 7-5, 6-3 decision over the Russian-Czech duo of Ekaterina Makarova and Jaroslav Levinsky. Paes won his fifth mixed doubles title in a major – two each with both Black and Martina Navratilova and once with Lisa Raymond. He won six majors in men’s doubles.
* Murray avenged his loss to Marin Cilic from last year’s U.S. Open by defeating his Croatian opponent 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-2 in the Australian Open semifinals. It was the third meeting between the two players in the last four majors but two previous occurred in the fourth round: Murray won in straight sets in Paris, while Cilic did the same thing to Murray in New York, when Murray was seeded No. 2. In Australia this year, the Brit won 10 of last 13 games in the match. “This is the best I’ve played at a Slam,” said Murray. “Obviously the match against Rafa [Nadal] was great. Tonight, the majority of the match was great, as well. Physically I’m going to be fresh for the final. You know, [it] just comes down to who plays the better tennis on the day. It’s my job to do that.”
* Federer did not face break point in his 88-minute 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the semifinals. Tsonga had an identical score line (116 minutes) when he won his semifinal two years ago against Rafael Nadal.
* Cilic was the first Croatian to ever reach the semifinals of the Australian Open. Other Croats who reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne were Goran Ivanisevic (1989, 94, 97), Goran Prpic (1991) and Ivan Ljubicic (2006). Cilic was the fifth player in the Open era to win three five-setters en route to the semifinal in Melbourne, after Colin Dibley (1979), Steve Denton (1981), Andre Agassi (1996) and Nicolas Escude (1998). Nicolas Lapentti needed four five-setters to advance to the semis in Australian in 1999.
* Nikolay Davydenko has been on a tear of late and now it is officially the best run of his career. The Russian’s almost four-hour 6-2, 7-5, 4-6, 6-7(5), 6-3 win over Fernando Verdasco Monday in the Australian Open fourth round was 13th win in a row, besting his previous best ATP winning streak of 12 set last year. “In the fifth set I was fighting my serve, just winning my serve,” Davydenko said. “It was also not so easy beginning [of the] fifth set, but it’s good fighting for me. It was four hours, and some good points in the fifth set.” Davydenko now sets up a highly-anticipated quarterfinal match with world No. 1 Roger Federer, whom he has beaten the last two times after losing the first 12 meetings with the Swiss maestro.
* Against Davydenko, Verdasco served 20 double faults. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com) the most double faults ever hit in a me’s match at the Australian Open came when Gerald Patterson hit 29 in 1927. In the Open era Guillermo Coria holds the mark with 23 back in 2006.
* Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has finally played the first five-set match of his career and won it against Nicolas Almagro 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7(6), 9-7, saving two break points at 6:6 in the fifth set. The 24-year-old Tsonga had played 19 four-set-matches prior to this match, posting a 13-6 record, but he surprisingly never extended to five sets. “The last set, I think he was serving unbelievable,” admitted Almagro. “I couldn’t do anything. He’s playing well. I think he has [a] chance to be on the semifinal or in the final.” Before his match against Tsonga, Almagro won six consecutive five-setters and now has a career five-set record of 6-6.
* No. 14 seed Marin Cilic beating No. 4 seed Juan Martin del Potro 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 after 4 hours 38 minutes gave him the distinction of being the only player outside Top 10 who advanced to the men’s quarterfinals. A similar situation occurred last year, then the only seeded player outside Top 10 in the last 8 was Fernando Verdasco, who was seeded with No. 14 as well. Verdasco’s higher-seeded victim was also the No. 4 seed, Andy Murray, whom he also defeated in five sets.
* Roger Federer has improved his record against former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt to 17-7 with his 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 win Monday night, his 15th consecutive wins against the Aussie future Hall of Famer. The Federer-Hewitt rivalry is the seventh longest head-to-head in the Open era in terms of number of matches. The top 10 are as follows
36 – Ivan Lendl vs. John McEnroe (21-15)
35 – Lendl vs. Jimmy Connors (22-13)
35 – Boris Becker vs. Stefan Edberg (25-10)
34 – McEnroe vs. Connors (20-14)
34 – Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi (20-14)
27 – Edberg vs. Lendl (14-13)
24 – Federer vs. Hewitt (17-7)
22 – Sampras vs. Todd Martin (18-4)
22 – Agassi vs. Michael Chang (15-7)
21 – Becker vs. Lendl (11-10)
21 – Federer vs. Andy Roddick (19-2)
21 – Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic (14-7)
* October 13, 1986 – this is the date when Wojtek Fibak, the best player in history of Polish tennis, was a top 100 player for the last time in his long career. Twenty-three years later, on Nov. 16, 2009, Lukasz Kubot became the second player from Poland to rank in the top 100 in the ATP rankings. In the third round at the Australian Open 2010, a doubles specialist Kubot, got a walkover from Mikhail Youzhny (right wrist) and advanced to his first-ever “sweet sixteen” singles appearance at a major. It’s the best result for a Polish player ever in Melbourne. Fibak, a four-time major quarterfinalist, played only once Down Under, reaching the third round in 1978. Kubot, ranked No 86, is the lowest ranked player in the last 16 this year, with Ivo Karlovic being the second-lowest at No. 39. Kubot will play Novak Djokovic Monday.
* “I started to feel it against [first-round opponent] Gasquet in the last set a little bit,” Youzhny said. “The next day was worse and worse little bit,” said Youzhny of his wrist injury. The Russian wasn’t the only player who did not advance due to injury or illness in the third round. Marcos Baghdatis and Stefan Koubek each retired in their matches after the first set. Koubek because of illness (against Fernando Verdasco), Baghdatis due to right shoulder (against Lleyton Hewitt). It was very tough especially for the Cypriot because he had been in great form winning 17 of last 18 matches. For the first time in tournament’s history three players defaulted in the last 32.
* Roger Federer overcoming Albert Montanes 6-3 6-4 6-4 won his 50th match at the Australian Open. In the history of the tournament only two-time champion Stefan Edberg won more matches – 56. But given the precentage, Federer is better – 50 wins, 7 losses (87%), Edberg 56/11 (83%).
* The two tallest guys on the tour (Ivo Karlovic and John Isner) advanced to the fourth round after thrilling four-setters, and lead in the ace department. The Croatian has already served 93 aces (34, 26, 33 respectively), the American 81 (34, 21, 26). Record holder, Joachim “Pim Pim” Johansson served 126 aces in four rounds five years ago.
* Jarkko Nieminen, the greatest player to ever come out of Finland, lost a heart-breaking second-round match, falling to Florent Serra, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7, 5-7. The Finn had two match points in the fourth set, but was unable to convert. Serra’s win was his fifth in a row over Nieminen. The Frenchman reached the third round at the Australian Open for the first time in his sixth attempt, but lost handily to Andy Murray.
* Among the five qualifiers who had played in the second round, only the veteran Stefan Koubek (quarterfinalist in 2002) advanced to the last 32 after beating the other qualifier, Ivan Dodig of Croatia. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, the farthest a qualifier has advanced in the Australian Open was the semifinals, Bob Giltinan turning the trick in the (December) 1977 Australian Open. After Koubek’s loss to Verdasco, Giltinan remains in the record book.
* James Blake lost his five-set match to Juan Martin del Potro in the second round despite being a break up at the beginning of the final set. The American’s five-set record has slipped 4-13 in his career, with only Ivo Karlovic holding a worse five-set record among active players. The 30-year-old Blake hasn’t yet won in his career in a match that goes beyond 6-6 in the final set, losing on all five occasions, as outlined below.
4-6 7-5 8-10 to Yaoki Ishii – Australian Open 2000, 2nd rd, qualifying match;
3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 9-11 to Richard Krajicek – Wimbledon 2002, 2nd rd;
7-6(5) 6-0 6-7(2) 4-6 8-10 to Fernando Gonzalez – Davis Cup 2006, QF;
6-4 5-7 9-11 again (!) to Fernando Gonzalez – Beijing 2008, SF;
4-6 7-6(3) 7-5 3-6 8-10 to Del Potro – Australian Open 2010, 2nd rd
* American Robby Ginepri posted a revealing blog on the USTA’s website – www.usta.com. We encourage you to read the entire blog from Ginepri and other Americans, but here is some of what he said; “It’s been almost five years since I reached the US Open semifinals. It looks like maybe I peaked then. I hate to think that, but at some point you have to be realistic. I have to find a way to enjoy my career again. I ‘m not enjoying the travel grind and living out of suitcases as much any more, and it’s getting to me a little. I spent five weeks in Asia and Russia at the end of the fall, and at the beginning of this year I went to India, which was a very long trip, and then took another long trip to Australia, and I regret doing that. I’ve got to take it one day at a time and see if I can get this thing figured out. Playing healthy is the main thing, as it’s no fun to practice and play matches in pain. I’m a young guy at 27, and I stay fit and do the right things, and if things still aren’t working out, it takes a lot of wind out of your sail.”
In the longest match of the 2010 Australian Open far (4 hours, 53 minutes), Mikhail Youzhny ousted Richard Gasquet 6-7(9), 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-4, trailing 0:3 in the fourth and 2:4 in the fifth set. The Russian also saved double match point on serve at 5:6 in the fourth set. What’s more interesting, Gasquet, playing on the same Margaret Court Arena, lost last year despite 2-0 lead in sets and match point up (to Fernando Gonzalez). Youzhny beat Gasquet in five sets also four years in Davis Cup in a match that lasted 4 hours, 48 minutes. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com), the match was the fifth longest men’s match ever at the Australian Open. The list of top six are as follows;
* 5 hours, 14 minutes Rafael Nadal d. Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4, SF, 2009
* 5 hours, 11 minutes Boris Becker d. Omar Camporese, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12, 3rd rd., 1991
* 4 hours, 59 minutes Andy Roddick d. Younes El Aynaoui, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19, QF, 2003. The fifth set took 2:23, Roddick saved MP in 10th game of the fifth with inside-out forehand
* 4 hours, 59 minutes Pete Sampras def. Tim Mayotte, 7-6, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5, 12-10, 1st rd, 1990
* 4 hours, 53 minutes Mikail Youzhny def. Richard Gasquet 6-7(9), 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-4, 1st rd, 2010
* 4 hours, 51 minutes Yannick Noah def. Roger Smith 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 16-14, 1st rd, 1988
Federico Gil retired against David Ferrer of Spain, trailing 0-6, 0-6, 0-2 (allegedly suffering a left knee injury). In the Open Era, there have been three triple bagels at Roland Garros, one at both Wimbledon and Us Open but it has never happened at the Australian Open.
Fabrice Santoro came back out of retirement only to become the first player in the Open Era to participate in the major tournaments in four different decades (Santoro debuted at Roland Garros in 1989). It was 70th Grand Slam in Santoro’s career, which is also a record. (Andre Agassi is No. 2 with 61).
Ivo Karlovic established last year an amazing record of 78 aces in a five-set loss to Radek Stepanek. Giant Ivo, avenged that defeat, beating Stepanek 2-6 ,7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 on Monday, serving this time “only” 34 aces, and converting his only break point of the final set in the 10th game.
Seven players won their first matches in a major so far at the 2010 Australian Open: Stephane Robert, Ivan Sergeyev, Illya Marchenko, Ivan Dodig, Santiago Giraldo, Louk Sorensen and Lukas Lacko. Four of them (the Ukrainians: Sergeyev and Marchenko and Sorensen and Dodig) are playing first match in a Grand Slam event.
Six-foot-nine inch John Isner fought off match point to win first ATP title beating five-foot-eight-inch Arnaud Clement 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (2) in the final of Heineken Open in Auckland. The 24-year-old Isner saved match point at 5-6 in the third set on serve and won the tie-break convincingly 7-2. After the final, the former University of Georgia All-American announced he would be donating $5,000 of his winner’s check to the Red Cross in its efforts to assist those affected by the recent earthquake in Haiti.
In Sydney, Marcos Baghdatis came back from a break down in the second set to overcome Richard Gasquet 6-4 7-6 in the rain-interrupted final. The Cypriot led 2:0 in the tie-break but served two consecutive double faults and lost seven straight points in all. Baghdatis won his fourth title in career and 15 out of last 16 matches, counting his triumph in Tashkent Challenger last year. “I felt great,” he said. “It’s my brother’s birthday, and I wanted to win for him also….So I’m very happy that I won today and can dedicate this win to him.”
Richard Gasquet advanced to his first tournament final following his drug suspension and successful appeal, defeating Julien Benneteau 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals of the MediBank International in Sydney. Gasquet saved triple set- point in the second set and has yet to lose a set this week.
He will face Marcos Baghdatis, who overcame Mardy Fish 6-4, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (5) after a three-hour battle. Baghdatis wasted a match point in the second set tie-break only to recover from a break down twice in the final set.
In Auckland, John Isner advanced to the final, defeating Albert Montanes 6-2, 7-6, one year after being Monanes 7-6 7-5 in the first round at the same event. The American giant meets next Arnaud Clement who surprisingly ousted the 2008 champ, Philip Kohlschreiber 6-3 7-6.
“I am very happy to be in the final again,” said Clement. “Since 1997, I have played between 23-30 tournaments a year and I have only been in ten finals, so of course it is special to be in a final”.
There are no seeds left after quarterfinals at Medibank International in Sydney as local favorite Lleyton Hewitt, the only seeded player in quarterfinals, was defeated Thursday 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 to Marcos Baghdatis.
“The first set and a half I was hitting the ball pretty well, and I was happy with my ball striking,” said Hewitt. “Even after that, my ball striking wasn’t too bad.”
The match was a re-match of a famous match where Hewitt beat Baghdatis two years ago in Melbourne in latest finish match ever (4:34 AM). In the semifinals, Baghdatis will play Mardy Fish. The American ousted the other Aussie, Peter Luczak, 7-6, 6-2 in the night match.
In Auckland, Albert Montanes advanced to his first hard-court semifinal after 6-3, 6-3 over qualifier Michael Lammer. He meets next John Isner, who reached first semifinal outside United States by upseeting No. 1 seed Tommy Robredo 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-4, recovering from 1-3 in the third set.
Wednesday was a “G’Day” for the home Aussies at the Sydney International. Lleyton Hewitt needed just 55 minutes to beat Andreas Seppi 6-0, 6-2 to advance into the quarterfinals. The win avenged a loss to Seppi in Sydney’s quarterfinals four years ago after wasting two match points; Also 30-year-old Aussie Peter Luczak reached first ATP-quarterfinal in his home country after 1-6 6-4 6-2 win over Tomas Berdych.
The Spaniards are the main force at the Heineken Open in Auckland where they comprise of the top four seeds. However, only two of them advanced to the quarterfinals. Swiss qualifier Michael Lammer, 27, advanced to the first ATP-quarterfianl when he led 3:1 in the first set when his opponent, Juan Carlos Ferrero (No. 3 seed), was forced to retire (sprained right ankle).