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The Weekly Debrief – Federer praises Fish; Microphones in player boxes at US Open?

In this week’s Debrief, I catch you up on Sunday’s final in Cincinnati where Roger Federer fistpumped his way into a victory, touch on Mardy Fish’s current mental attitude, update you on the 2012 Olympics, and analyze the good, the bad, and the ugly about a new fan enhancement in effect at this year’s US Open, microphones in the player boxes. Wait, really? Yes. But first …. Federer.

Top Five

Roger Federer is once again the forerunner of this year’s US Open after taking the title Sunday in Cincinnati at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. He defeated American Mardy Fish in a tight three-setter, 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 6-4.

What makes Federer’s run in Cincinnati so alluring is that he had only played a total of 37 minutes to reach the quarterfinals, and only 3 hours and 26 minutes to reach yesterday’s final. Compare that to Fish’s time on court prior to the final, 10 hours and 22 minutes, and the disparity is staggering. How could this have happened at a Masters 1000 event? And exactly how lucky is Federer? Well, Fish entered as a wildcard and proceeded to play all six rounds, with his quarterfinal and semifinal matches each going to three sets. Federer, however, had a first-round bye, a second-round retirement victory over Denis Istomin, and a third-round walkover from Philipp Kohlschreiber. Exactly how lucky IS Federer? Well, of the tournament’s four retirements, two came as a direct benefit to Federer.

This was only Federer’s second title of the season, as he had fallen in his last three finals in Madrid, Halle and Toronto.

This is a breakthrough of sorts for a champion whose tennis genius has been challenged by several players this year alone. The wide gap that once existed between the “King” and the rest of the players has diminished, allowing the upcoming US Open to have one of the deepest fields in recent times. Federer could come out crushing in Flushing Meadows, but he could also come out crashing as he did in Wimbledon, struggling from his very first match. Either way, he is fully prepared to attain that coveted trophy again.

Speaking of Mardy Fish, he’s had quite a decorated summer himself. Despite losing to Federer in a match that could have gone either way, he also improved to 2-0 in the year against Andy Roddick and 3-0 against Andy Murray.

His newfound game is most directly a result of his weight loss, but as with any change in a person’s life, their mental attitude tends to be even more telling of their physical state. Take, for example, John Isner’s recent annoyance about “still” being questioned regarding his second-round Wimbledon epic against Nicolas Mahut. Or Francesca Schiavone’s “so over it” attitude concerning how her life has changed after her Roland Garros win this year. Fish, on the other hand, has been constantly questioned about his weight loss and how it’s affected his game. He began his regimen when he went in for knee surgery in September of 2009. He then changed his diet, lifestyle, and obviously mindset because, almost a year later, he still doesn’t mind the reporters and fans asking him the same question about his weight loss. He’s proud of his commitment and it has paid off, why not enjoy it?

In Federer’s presser after his win over Fish, he applauded him for his “great serve,” accuracy and mixing up his shots and pace to keep Federer on his toes. “He’s got a great serve,” Federer remarked. “He keeps you guessing. His first serve is particularly hard to read and get any proper play on it. I saw the stats against Roddick, and he had 95% first serve winning percentage, not only here, but in Atlanta.” Although it looks like Fish will be seeded in the US Open, he will likely be at the top of many people’s lists for a possible upset of any of the top four men in the field.

On the heels of Serena Williams’ announcement that she has withdrawn from the US Open, last year’s men’s titlist, Juan Martin del Potro, has also withdrawn citing a recovering right wrist injury. To most avid tennis fans, this isn’t really “news,” but when it’s officially stated, it still stings.

Del Potro’s only tournament this year came at the Australian Open where he made a run to the fourth round. Currently, at number ten in the world rankings, after the US Open he is expected to drop out of the top 30. No doubt, a plummet in the rankings hurts del Potro’s return. However, it will also alleviate some of the expectations that people have of him coming back and winning every tournament he enters right away. “It would have been a pretty tall task for him to come back and [at] his first tournament be a major player,” said Andy Roddick. “That’s something that’s built up over time.”

So, the ugly injury list continues. We now add del Potro to an already-growing field of withdraws: Mario Ancic, Ivo Karlovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tommy Haas. Here’s to hoping this list doesn’t grow any longer, but with the intensity of today’s tennis game and players being in a perpetual state of injury and pain, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least two more players withdrew.

The 2012 Olympics in London are still two years away, but there are already announcements coming from tournament staff concerning the dress code at the tennis games. While Wimbledon is known for its all-white dress attire, the All England Tennis Club has decided to suspend the dress code for the London games which will be played at the same venue. “We have been very supportive to the Olympic organizers throughout the process,” stated AELTC chief executive Ian Ritchie. “We hope to some extent there will be a different type of audience. It is not a repeat of the Championships. It will be its own competition, have its own style and it will play out in its own way.”

Another change will be that only 12 of the available 17 courts will be in use, bringing down crowd capacity from 40,000 to 26,000. The question I have is whether there will still be a desire from fans to watch tennis a mere 20 days after the completion of Wimbledon, especially when there are so many sports at the London Games. The 2012 tennis event will also be the first to have mixed doubles, bringing the medal count to five: men’s and women’s singles as well as men’s and women’s doubles. If nothing else brings in the money, the mixed doubles may. It will be interesting to see possible new pairings such as Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic, or Serena Williams and Andy Roddick.

Last week, the USTA announced that it is expanding its “fan enhancements” for the 2010 US Open. It began with the inaugural US Open National Playoffs earlier this summer and will continue with venue improvements in Flushing Meadows, as well as online.

After reading about all the enhancements, I realized that one stood out unlike the rest. “Microphones in the Players Boxes.” Wait, is this what I think it is? “For the first time, microphones have been installed in the player boxes in Arther Ashe Stadium, which will help viewers get even closer to the emotion and drama of the US Open by adding perspective of the players’ guests as matches unfold.”

Can I admit that I’m a bit surprised this is allowed? As much as I would enjoy getting into the head of a player’s coach or parent, I wonder if every player and their guests are aware of this new “enhancement.” Some players don’t talk about their personal lives much, and many don’t disclose what they need to improve on in their game specifically. This lack of privacy that this new enhancement allows simply can’t be what they signed up for. Although I’m sure there will be player guests and teams that don’t cheer or say much during a match, others are quite vocal. Taking it one step further, who will be monitoring their conversations? The ESPN2 and Tennis Channel staff? They’re already armed with more information than the typical fan needs sometimes, why further disrupt the privacy of a player’s team by granting us access to their guests? I think a line needs to be drawn now or soon there may be a new “enhancement” that forces coaches to wear microphones at all times while they’re coaching so we can get “added perspective” as fans. Come on, enough is enough. Let us just watch what we signed up for: the beauty of the game.

ATP Bonus
Two greats, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, were interviewed by Cincinnati.com junior journalists last week. They ask Rafa how he celebrates after a great win and Roger on his cooking skills. These girls are asking great questions and better than some professional media out there!

That’s it for this week’s Debrief. Just stop by anytime you want a recap of the ATP Tour. We’ve got you covered!

Federer Rolls Past Djokovic To Capture Third Cincinnati Title

Roger Federer  wins Cincy!

No. 1 seed Roger Federer of Switzerland capped off an impressive week by defeating No. 4 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia, 6-1, 7-5, in two hours and six minutes on Sunday afternoon to capture his third Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati.

The 28-year-old Swiss, who owns a record 15 Grand Slam singles titles, came out firing, jumping ahead 5-0, before closing out the 33-minute opening set, 6-1.

“He was just too good in the first set,” said Djokovic, who fell to 4-8 lifetime against the Swiss. “I didn’t start very energetic, and my body language wasn’t (what) it was last night (against Rafael Nadal).”

In the second set, Djokovic secured an early break in the second game and got ahead 3-0, but Federer quickly broke back to get back on serve at 3-2, before leveling the match at 3-3. Federer, who earned his 61st ATP World Tour title in 83 final appearances, had a break point opportunity at 3-all, but was unable to capitalize on the moment.

At 4-5, 30-40 down, Federer faced a set point but was able to come up with impressive shots to fight off the set point that Djokovic held.

During a very critical stage of the second set, Djokovic failed at a drop shot attempt at 5-5, deuce. Federer, who has now won 16 career ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, capitalized on the opportunity by winning the next point to break Djokovic’s serve.

Federer served out the match to win the title at ease and showed his excitement by raising his arms in happiness.

The Swiss, whose wife recently gave birth to twin daughters, insisted his first title as a new dad was very special.

“I think the special part (is) winning for the first time as a dad,” said Federer, who improved to 47-7 on the season. “It’s a great thing. Gets me going emotionally a little bit, because I know it’s been a wonderful summer.”

For the third straight match, Federer was remarkable on his serve, smashing seven aces and no double faults, while winning 85 percent of first serve points. Djokovic, who is now 4-6 in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals, hit three aces, one double fault and only managed to win 60 percent of first serve points. Federer broke Djokovic’s serve on four of 15 opportunities, while the Serb only broke once throughout the match.

Djokovic, who rolled past No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal on Saturday evening to reach Sunday’s final, earned a runner-up check worth $222,000, as well as 600 South African Airways ATP rankings points.

“It’s been a great week for me and I got a lot of matches in before the US Open,” said Djokovic, who has now lost in the finals for two straight years in Cincinnati.

The Swiss, who improved to 12-6 against Top 10 players in 2009, earned a winner’s check worth $443,500 and 1000 ranking points.

Having lost just one match since losing in the Masters 1000 in Madrid in May, Federer is the favorite for the US Open in New York that beings on August 31.

Murray Survives Scare To Advance In Cincinnati; Federer, Nadal Advance

Andy Murray

Defending champion and No. 3 seed Andy Murray of Scotland rallied from a set and break down in the second set to edge past lucky loser Julien Benneteau of France, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in two hours and 11 minutes on Friday afternoon to advance to the semifinals at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

The 22-year-old Scot, who is the new No. 2 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings after winning the title last week in Montreal, struggled to find his form after breaking to take a 3-2 lead. Following the service break, the 27-year-old Frenchman immediately broke Murray’s serve to level the match at 3-3 before winning three of the next four games to take the opening set, 6-4.

“I knew I had to be aggressive,” said Benneteau, who got in the main draw when Juan Martin del Potro withdrew after the draw was made.

Benneteau, who is currently ranked No. 55, secured an early break in the second set to go ahead 2-0 and looked to have a big edge on Murray, who looked out of sorts on all his shots.

The turning point occurred in the next game when Murray won a thrilling 53-shot rally and quickly broke back to get back on serve. The Scot, who has now won a record 53 matches this season, insisted the 53-shot rally changed the rest of the match.
“Oh, it made a big different,” said Murray, who has won five titles this year in Doha, Rotterdam, Miami, Queen’s Club and Montreal. “I think he was very tired after that rally. I managed to stay strong after that.”
The momentum shifted immediately and it was all Murray from that point on, dropping just two more games en route to victory.
“You know, he’s been around a long time and he’s very experienced and obviously made it very difficult today,” said Murray, who has reached five of the last nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals dating back to his victory in Cincinnati last August.

Murray, who earned his 72nd career win in a Masters 1000 event, smashed seven aces, won 70 percent of first serve points and broke Benneteau’s serve on six of 13 opportunities. Benneteau hit four aces, three double faults, won 59 percent of first serve points and was able to break Murray’s serve three times.

Murray’s semifinal opponent on Saturday afternoon will be world No. 1 Roger Federer, who eased past former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, 6-3, 6-4, in 70 minutes.

Federer, who earned his 200th career win at a Masters 1000 event, was in complete control from start to finish, breaking serve once in each set to win convincingly. Federer’s serve was superb, winning 24 of 27 first serve points, smashing 11 aces, while not facing a break point the entire match.

The 15-time Grand Slam singles champion insisted holding serve against Hewitt is an important thing to accomplish during a match with the fiery Aussie.

“I think that definitely helps against Lleyton, who once he gets his teeth into your serve it can get quite tricky,” said Federer, who improved to 9-1 in quarterfinal matches this season.

Hewitt, who reached the finals in Cincinnati in 2002 and 2004, only managed to hit two aces and win 69 percent of his first serve points.

Federer improved to 15-7 against Hewitt, winning the last 13 meetings.

“He’s beaten me so many times in the past that I didn’t expect myself to all of a sudden go on such a great run against him,” said Federer, whose loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in Montreal was his first loss since losing at the Masters 1000 in Madrid in May.

In the late match, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal of Spain continued his impressive return from a knee tendinitis injury, dispatching Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic, 6-4, 7-5, in one hour and 41 minutes.

Nadal, who has won six Grand Slam singles titles including four French Open titles, was impressive on serve throughout, hitting two aces and winning 35 of 41 first serve points. The 23-year-old Spaniard was also able to break serve twice on six opportunities.

The former world No. 1 will face No. 4 seed Novak Djokovic in the night match on Saturday. Djokovic won his quarterfinal match by defeating Frenchman Gilles Simon, 6-4, 7-5, to advance to his second straight semifinal in Cincinnati.

Federer Rallies To Defeat Ferrer In Cincinnati; Murray, Nadal Advance

Roger Federer rallies to defeat Ferrer in Cincinnati

World No. 1 Roger Federer rallied from a break down in the final set to edge past unseeded Spaniard David Ferrer, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, in extremely windy conditions Thursday afternoon to advance to the quarterfinals at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

Federer, who is one victory away from winning his 200 win at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, quickly broke the Spaniard in the opening game of the match but was then broken back in the fourth game. Ferrer followed it up by breaking Federer’s serve in the eighth game, before holding serve to win the opening set.

Federer, who lost to Ivo Karlovic last year in the third round in Cincinnati, remained steady despite being down a set and was able to secure a break at 4-3, before holding serve to take the match to a deciding set.

“I think at the beginning maybe my footwork was just a touch off,” said Federer, who reclaimed the No. 1 ranking in July after winning Wimbledon for a sixth time. “After that I think I got it together and started to play better and better.”

In the final set, the 27-year-old Spaniard jumped ahead 3-1 but could not consolidate the break. Ferrer, who had beaten Stanislas Wawrinka and No. 14 seed Marin Cilic earlier in his first two matches, then smashed his racquet in frustration after not being able to take a 4-1 lead.

Federer, who has won a record 15 Grand Slam singles titles, picked up his game tremendously after leveling the match at 3-3. The momentum shifted towards Federer as the Swiss broke Ferrer in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead. Federer then served out the match at ease to advance to his tenth quarterfinal of the season.

“I thought he played a good match,” said Federer, who has won three titles this season.

Federer, who improved to 9-0 against Ferrer, smashed six aces and just two double faults compared to three aces and two double faults by the Spaniard. Federer won 75 percent of first serve points and was able to break serve on four of nine opportunities. Ferrer, who reached the finals earlier this year in Barcelona and Dubai, won 69 percent of first serve points and broke serve on three occasions.

Federer will next face unseeded Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who edged past American Sam Querrey, 6-1, 2-6, 6-3, in one hour and 26 minutes in the final match of the day session on Stadium court.

Also on Stadium Court at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, No. 3 seed Andy Murray of Scotland, who overtook the No. 2 ranking earlier this week from Rafael Nadal, rolled past No. 16 seed Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-1, in one hour and 16 minutes.

The 22-year-old Scot, who is the defending champion in Cincinnati, broke Stepanek’s serve in the second game of the opening set, but was broken on his own serve when he tried serving out the set at 5-3 up. Despite the hiccup near the end of the set, Murray quickly broke back to take the opening set, 6-4.

“I started the match very well, serving well and not giving him any chances,” said Murray, who won the Masters 1000 Montreal tournament last week. “The wind picked up at the end of the first set and he managed to break me. But I played a good game to break back.”

In the second set, Murray had little trouble keeping the momentum on his side, as he broke Stepanek in his first two service games of the set before winning the match on his serve to advance.

Murray, who improved to 3-0 against the 30-year-old Czech Republic native smashed eight aces and won 29 of 38 first serve points. Stepanek, who has won titles earlier this year in Brisbane and San Jose, didn’t have his best serving outing, hitting three aces, three double faults and winning just 51 percent of first serve points.

The Scot, who has won five ATP World Tour titles this year, will next face lucky loser Julien Benneteau, who edge past Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4), in a three hour and three-minute thriller on the Grandstand court.

In the late match, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal recovered from a 0-3 deficit to roll past Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, 7-5, 6-2, in one hour and 55 minutes.

The Spaniard was able to break serve on four of 12 opportunities, while smashing five aces and winning 32 of 41 first serve points. Mathieu was only able to break Nadal’s serve once, which occurred in the early stages of the opening set. The Frenchman hit three aces, three double faults and won 33 of 49 first serve points.

Nadal, who improved to 9-0 lifetime against Mathieu, will take on Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych on Friday night for a place in the semifinals. Nadal leads the head-to-head 4-3, winning most recently in 2008 in the semifinals in Miami.

Other Winners on Thursday in Cincinnati
Third Round
No. 4 Novak Djokovic def. Jeremy Chardy, 7-5, 6-3
No. 9 Gilles Simon def. No. 8 Nikolay Davydenko, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-4
Tomas Berdych def. Chris Guccione, 6-4, 6-3

Federer Cruises Past Acasuso In Cincinnati; Querrey Upsets Roddick

Roger Federer

World No. 1 and two-time champion Roger Federer cruised past Argentine Jose Acasuso, 6-3, 7-5, in 70 minutes on Wednesday afternoon to advance to the third round at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

A fairly routine first set saw Federer break Acasuso’s serve in the eighth game before serving out the set on his serve. In that opening frame, Federer won 94 percent of first serve points compared to just 70 percent by the 26-year-old Argentine.

Acasuso, who is currently ranked No. 51, didn’t disappear quickly, making the 15-time Grand Slam singles champion earn every one of his points. In fact, at 4-4, Federer held a 0-40 lead on Acasuso’s serve before an overturned call on the challenge system helped the Argentine erase the last break point that game.

“Sometimes those breakpoints, they are over in a hurry,” said Federer, who improves to 5-0 lifetime against Acasuso. “You just try to get the first ball back and that’s what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t get the ball back on all three occasions.”

Federer quickly regrouped at 5-all, 15-40, when he made a remarkable return followed by good offensive play to break serve. This Swiss, who improved to 15-6 in Cincinnati, held serve at ease to win the match. Federer smashed 14 aces and just two double faults compared to 11 aces and three double faults by Acasuso.

“This is a good first match for me,” said Federer, who has won three titles this season.

Federer will next face unseeded Spaniard David Ferrer, who defeated No. 14 seed Marin Cilic yesterday.
Federer

In a thrilling late night match, Sam Querrey squeaked past No. 5 seed Andy Roddick, 7-6(11), 7-6(3), in one hour and 57 minutes, to earn his first victory over the former No. 1 in four meetings.

It was a serving classic for the fans, as Querrey smashed 16 aces while Roddick hit 10. But serving wasn’t the only thing on display, as both players displayed remarkable ground strokes throughout the match.

Querrey, who won the title in Los Angeles in July, held a set point on Roddick’s serve at 5-4 but was unable to secure the break to win the set. In the tiebreak, Querrey held four set points before finally closing out the set on his serve.

In the second set, Roddick raced ahead 3-1 after breaking Querrey’s serve in the fourth game. Querrey responded by immediately breaking back.

The second set eventually headed to another tiebreak, where Querrey quickly jumped ahead 5-1. Serving up 6-3, Querrey smashed an ace to close out the match in style and advance to the third round.

“Definitely one of my best wins ever,” said Querrey, who is currently ranked No. 26 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. “Probably the best for me. You know, feels pretty good.”

Awaiting Querrey in the third round is a date with former world No. 1 and two-time grand slam singles champion Lleyton Hewitt, who eased past German Benjamin Becker, 6-3, 6-3. Hewitt leads the series 1-0, winning last season in straight sets in Indian Wells.

In other Stadium court action, last year’s runner-up Novak Djokovic of Serbia held off a courageous fight from Croatian qualifier Ivan Ljubicic to advance with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory in one hour and 40 minutes.
The 22-year-old Serb put on a serving clinic against the 30-year-old Croatian, smashing nine aces, while winning 35 of 36 first serve points throughout the match. Djokovic, who has won titles this year in Dubai and Belgrade, won all 18 points on his first serve during the opening set.

“It’s really important to get my serve going and have a high percentage of the first serves in,” said Djokovic, who improved to 3-1 lifetime against Ljubicic.

Despite struggling with Djokovic’s serve, winning only one of 36 points on the Serbian’s first serve, Ljubicic was able to smash 15 aces without hitting a double fault.

“He was serving really well, and he was going for the shots,” said Djokovic.

With the victory on Wednesday, Djokovic earned his 50th singles win of the season, just the second player to accomplish that this season on the ATP World Tour.

The Serb, who reached the quarterfinals last week in Montreal, will next face Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who rallied to beat American wild card John Isner, 6-7(1), 6-3, 4-1 ret.

On Grandstand, No. 16 seed Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic rallied past Russian wild card Marat Safin, winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in one hour and 54 minutes. Stepanek, who improved to 2-1 lifetime against Safin, won 84 percent of first serve points and broke Safin’s serve on four of 15 opportunities. The Russian, who likely made his last appearance in Cincinnati after announcing that he would retire at the end of 2009, smashed 10 aces but hit an abysmal eight double faults in the loss.

Stepanek, who won titles earlier this year in Brisbane and San Jose, will next face new world No. 2 Andy Murray in the third round, who saved a set point in the opening set to hold off a gutsy effort from Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, winning 7-6(3), 6-2.

Other Winners on Wednesday in Cincinnati
Second Round
No. 2 Rafael Nadal def. Andreas Seppi, 7-6(4), 7-6(3)
Chris Guccione def. No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6(12), 6-2
No. 8 Nikolay Davydenko def. Igor Kunitsyn, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez def. Mikhail Youzhny, 7-5, 6-3
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Ivo Karlovic, 7-6(9), 6-4
Julien Benneteau def. Jurgen Melzer, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
Tomas Berdych def. Philip Petzschner, 7-6(8), 6-7(7), 6-4

Hewitt Saves Two Match Points To Beat Soderling; Garcia-Lopez, Melzer Among Other Winners

Lleyton Hewitt

Former world No. 1 and two-time grand slam singles champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia erased two match points to edge past No. 12 seed Robin Soderling of Sweden, 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-4, in two hours and nine minutes on Tuesday afternoon to advance to the second round at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

Soderling, a finalist at this year’s French Open, got off to a quick start in the opening set winning 16 of 19 first serve points and breaking Hewitt’s serve in the fourth game to take control. The Swede also smashed six aces compared to just one by the 28-year-old Australian.

Deep into the second set tiebreak, Hewitt found himself down 5-6 before smashing an ace to even things. Then down 7-8, Soderling smashed a forehand long to level the tiebreak at 8-8. Hewitt never looked back, winning the next two points and taking the match to a deciding set.

“Second set tiebreak could have gone either way,” said Hewitt, a Sydney resident who has reached the Cincinnati final in 2002 and 2004.

The momentum stayed with Hewitt, as he broke serve to open the final set and never looked back. Winning 76 percent of first serve points and 70 percent of second serve points en route to victory.

“I played a good game the first game of the third set to break serve, and served well for the rest of that set,” said Hewitt, who improves to 3-0 lifetime against Soderling.

Hewitt will next face German Benjamin Becker on Wednesday night. The match will mark the first meeting between the pair.

In other matches, Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez held off countryman Fernando Verdasco, seeded 11th, in two tiebreak sets, winning 7-6(4), 7-6(4), in one hour and 45 minutes. The loss marked Verdasco’s fourth first round loss in Cincinnati.

Both players served exceptionally well and in the 125-130 M.P.H. range from start to finish. Verdasco smashed 11 aces and just two double faults compared to five aces and three double faults by Garcia-Lopez. Both players won 82 percent of first serve points and were able to earn one service break.

With the loss Verdasco, a finalist at Brisbane and semifinalist at the Australian Open, fell to 34-16 on the season. Garcia-Lopez , meanwhile improved to 22-18 on the season, a year that has included reaching a career-best ranking of No. 42 in June. Garcia-Lopez, who is currently ranked No. 53, is slated to face Russian qualifier Mikhail Youzhny for a place in the third round. The Spaniard leads the Russian 3-0 in series meetings, winning most recently on clay in Kitzbuhel, Austria.

In a battle of talented left-handers, Austrian Jurgen Melzer edged past Spaniard Feliciano Lopez, 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-6(7), in two hours and 47 minutes. A combined 26 aces were hit in the contest—16 by Lopez and 10 by Melzer—but it was the consistency in the later stages of the third set tiebreak by Melzer that earned him a spot in the second round.

Melzer, who improved to 3-1 against Lopez, won 70 of 91 first serve points and 57 percent of second serve points. Lopez, who is currently ranked No. 37, just one spot behind Melzer at No. 36, won 56 of 67 first serve points and 57 percent of second serve points throughout the match.

Melzer, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 26 in May, next faces lucky loser Julien Benneteau of France on Wednesday afternoon. Benneteau leads the head-to-head against Melzer, 3-1, with all his victories coming on hard courts.

Other winners on Tuesday in Cincinnati
First Round
Tomas Berdych def. No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez, 6-4 ret. injury
Igor Kunitsyn def. James Blake, 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 6-4
Mikhail Youzhny def. Victor Hanescu, 7-5, 6-2
Andreas Seppi def. Jan Hernych, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
Chris Guccione def. Philip Kohlschreiber, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3
Philip Petzschner def. Simone Bolelli, 7-6(6), 6-3
John Isner def. Tommy Haas, 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(3)

Second Round
No. 9 Gilles Simon def. Igor Andreev, 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 6-1
David Ferrer def. No. 14 Marin Cilic, 7-6(4), 6-2

Karlovic stuns Monfils in Cincinnati; Ljubicic, Ferrer, Safin advance

Ivo Karlovic

Croatian serving machine Ivo Karlovic smashed 21 aces en route to dismissing No. 13 seed Gael Monfils, 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(2), in two hours and 10 minutes on Monday afternoon to advance to the second round at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.
Karlovic, who defeated No. 1 Roger Federer last year in Cincinnati, was very strong on his service games throughout, even hitting five aces in the final set tiebreaker.

Karlovic won 64 of 74 first serve points, 56 percent of second serve points and was able to save all five break points he faced on his serve. The 6-foot-10 Croatian was consistently smashing serves in the 130 M.P.H. range.
Despite losing, Monfils also had a good serving outing, winning 57 of 74 first serve points, 62 percent of second serve points, but had a hiccup in the third game of the opening set when the 30-year-old Karlovic broke serve.

Karlovic, who improved to 2-1 against Monfils, next faces Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu, who rallied to defeat German Mischa Zverev, 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-3, in two hours and 25 minutes.

In other action, fellow Croatian Ivan Ljubicic hammered 19 aces past Frenchman Florent Serra to advance to the second round with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, victory. It was Ljubicic’s third straight win over Serra.

After a slow start to his Cincinnati title campaign, Ljubicic managed to get his consistency back and was able to break serve twice and win 76 percent of first serve points and 71 percent of second serve points en route to setting up a second round clash with No. 4 seed Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has a 2-1 edge in career matches with Ljubicic, most recently beating him in straight sets in the quarterfinals in Madrid.

Former Top 5 player David Ferrer of Spain breezed past Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka, 7-5, 6-2, in one hour and 39 minutes. Ferrer improved to 4-2 against the Swiss, winning the last three meetings.

The Spaniard, currently ranked No. 19, dropped only six points on his first serve, while breaking Wawrinka’s serve on four of 11 opportunities. Wawrinka, who teamed with Roger Federer to win a doubles gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, struggled on serve throughout, making only 47 percent of his first serves. Ferrer, a two-time quarterfinalist in Cincinnati, earned his 37th victory of the season, which includes reaching the finals earlier this year in Barcelona and Dubai. The Spaniard next faces No. 14 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, who cruised past Juan Carlos Ferrero, 6-3, 6-4, in 72 minutes. The head-to-head between Ferrer and Cilic is tied 1-1, with Ferrer winning most recently in Miami in three sets.

In the late match, unseeded Marat Safin of Russia beat American Robby Ginepri, 7-5, 7-6(2), in one hour and 26 minutes. Safin, who announced that this will be his last season on the ATP World Tour, smashed 13 aces and just four double faults, while breaking Ginepri’s serve twice on six opportunities. Safin now levels the series 2-2 with Ginepri with his victory.

Other scores from Monday in Cincinnati
No. 9 Gilles Simon def. Wayne Odesnik, 6-3, 6-2
Jeremy Chardy def. No. 15 Tommy Robredo, 6-3, 7-5
No. 16 Radek Stepanek def. Victor Troicki, 7-6(2), 1-0 ret. Injury
Sam Querrey def. Yen-Hsun Lu, 6-3, 6-4
Igor Andreev def. Nicolas Kiefer, 6-1, 7-5
Benjamin Becker def. Martin Vassallo Arguello, 6-3, 6-3
Nicolas Almagro def. Dudi Sela, 6-4, 1-0 ret. Injury
Jose Acasuso def. Lukas Kubot, 6-4, 6-3

Jelena Jankovic upends Dinara Safina to win Cincinnati title

Jelena Jankovic

Former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic of Serbia knocked off current world No. 1 Dinara Safina of Russia, 6-4, 6-2, in one hour and 25 minutes to claim the championship on Sunday afternoon at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati.

Despite having played late into the evening last night during her semifinal victory over No. 4 Elena Dementieva, Jankovic looked very fresh from start to finish in the extremely hot temperatures.

“When I did the interview before the match, Pam Shriver asked me how I felt today after such a tough one last night. I said I wanted to believe I wasn’t tired, that I’m fresh and ready to play,” said Jankovic, who has now won two titles this season, winning the Marbella title on clay in April. “I was feeling sore this morning, but when I went on the court I felt fine. I’m really pleased I was able to play well and beat the No.1 player in the world. This is very good for my confidence going into Toronto and the US Open.”

Both players served very well, but it was Jankovic who was able to come up with crucial service breaks of Safina’s serve. Jankovic, who earned her first career win over a reigning No. 1, broke serve once in the third game of the opening set and followed it up by breaking serve three times in the second set. The 24-year-old Serbian won 30 of 39 first serve points and 50 percent of points on her second serve. Safina wasn’t as steady, winning just 22 of 37 first points and 36 percent of points on her second serve. Jankovic hit three aces and three double faults compared to five aces and seven double faults by Safina.

“I’m really pleased that I was able to play well today and beat the No. 1 player in the world, and yesterday beat Elena Dementieva,” said Jankovic, who earned her 11th career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles title. “I got quite a few good wins under my belt this week, which is very good for my confidence coming into Toronto, and especially US Open.”

The Russian had won both previous meetings all played last season on hard courts, but Jankovic was more consistent throughout. When Safina fired a shot long beyond the baseline to give the Serbian the title, Jankovic put her hands on face in excitement. Jankovic was immediately rushed off the court to the opposite side of the Lindner Family Tennis Center to have an interview at the ESPN desk with Cliff Drysdale, Mary Jo Fernandez and Pam Shriver.

In the post-match press conference, Jankovic praised her father for the victory after being asked if her coach contributed to the title run.

“My dad contributed a lot to this,” said Jankovic, a finalist at last year’s US Open.

Both Jankovic and Safina will play next week at the Rogers Cup in Toronto before taking a week off to prepare for the US Open in New York.

Safina Breezes Past Pennetta In Cincinnati; Jankovic Saves Four Match Points

Jelena Jankovic saves four matchpoints

World No. 1 Dinara Safina cruised into her eighth final of 2009 with a convincing win over No. 14 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy, 6-2, 6-0, in 56 minutes on Saturday afternoon at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati. With the victory, Safina snapped Pennetta’s career-best 15 match winning streak that started several weeks ago during her title run in Palermo, followed by winning the championship last week in Los Angeles.

“I think she was playing very great, very good,” said Pennetta following her defeat.

From start to finish, Safina showed she was in complete control, placing her shots perfectly and being very steady on serve.

“I was feeling very good and confident,” said Safina, who has won titles this season in Rome, Madrid and Portoroz. “I think it was a good performance by my side.”

Pennetta, who knocked Venus Williams earlier in the week, looked exhausted and not at 100 percent with her fitness due to the fact that she has played 11 matches in the last two weeks and the Cincinnati temperatures were in the 90 degree range.

“I was a little bit tired, of course, but I didn’t lose for that,” said Pennetta, who will crack the Top 10 on Monday, becoming the first Italian to accomplish that feat.

Safina hit three aces and five double faults, while winning 23 of 29 first serve points. The Italian had a bad serving performance, hitting three doubles faults and winning just 10 of 22 first serve points and 4 of 21 second serve points. Safina broke Pennetta’s serve on six of seven opportunities, while Pennetta only broke serve once.

In a thrilling night session match that determined Safina’s opponent for the championship match, No. 5 seed Jelena Jankovic edged past No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(6), in two hours and 46 minutes.

The match was filled with drama throughout, as Jankovic pulled out the opening set by winning in a tiebreak before having a slight hiccup, as Dementieva won the set at love in convincing fashion.

“Second set I got so tired,” said Jankovic, who will be trying to win her second title of the year, having already won in Marbella, Spain.

The third set kept fans on the edge of their seats, as Jankovic jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. After Dementieva broke serve in the sixth game of the final set to level the match at 3-all, no player would hold their serve the rest of the match.

“There was so many ups and down throughout the match,” said Jankovic, who reached No. 1 in the rankings in 2008.

The Serbian held three match points on her serve at 5-4, 40-love, allowing Dementieva to even the match at 5-all. Dementieva immediately had her serve broken before she would break Jankovic’s serve for a second straight time, as the Serbian tried to win the match out on her serve.

Dementieva quickly got ahead 6-2 in the final set tiebreak but could not convert on any of the four match points. Jankovic tensely closed out the match on her serve and jumped up in excitement.

“I just gave everything I had,” said Jankovic, who improves to 7-3 lifetime against Dementieva.

Jankovic hit three aces and eight double faults compared to four aces and 17 double faults by Dementieva. Jankovic broke serve on six occasions, while Dementieva broke Jankovic’s serve nine times.

The championship match between Safina and Jankovic will begin at 4pm and will be televised on ESPN2. Safina leads the series 3-2, winning the last two times on hard courts last summer in Los Angeles and at the Beijing Olympics.

Safina ends Clijsters’ comeback run in Cincinnati; Dementieva rolls Wozniacki

Elena Dementieva

Former world No. 1 Kim Clijsters’ outstanding comeback to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour came to an abrupt end, as current world No. 1 Dinara Safina of Russia edged past the gutsy 26-year-old Belgian, 6-2, 7-5, on Friday afternoon at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati.

After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, her fourth consecutive quick start in as many matches backed by steady ground strokes and crisp angles, Clijsters’ serve hit the wall, as Safina broke serve three straight times and took the opening set, 6-2, in 26 minutes. The former US Open champion then jumped out to another 2-0 lead to start the second set before taking a 4-2 lead. But her serve continued to let her down throughout the match, especially during the critical moments of the second set and eventually costing her the match.

“She really made it tough for me out there,” said Clijsters, the winner of 34 career singles titles. “I tried to mix it up a little bit.”

The Russian won 66 percent of first serve points and only hit three double faults compared to Clijsters, who won just 48 percent of her first serve points and tossed in six double faults. Safina, who reached the finals at the Australian and French Open earlier this year, broke serve seven times throughout the match.

Safina attempted to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Clijsters fired back with a break of serve in front of a pro-Clijsters crowd. Clijsters lost focus in her next service game, dropping serve at ease with several unforced errors. Safina then consolidated the break to advance to the semifinals in her first visit to Cincinnati.

Despite the loss, Clijsters was very pleased with her performance in her comeback tournament.

“I’m definitely pleased with the level that I’ve had and that I got to in these four matches,” said Clijsters. Obviously today, maybe would have liked to try a few different things. Overall, I’m very happy and satisfied with the way that everything has been.

Clijsters will next head to Toronto, where she has accepted a wild card into next week’s main draw at the Rogers Cup. She will then play at the US Open in New York before figuring out what other tournaments she wants to play this season, all based on her fitness and family obligations.

Safina is now assured to stay put at the top ranking as long as Serena Williams does not accept a wild card in two weeks to play in the Pilot Pen Tennis in New Haven, Connecticut.

Safina will next face Italian Flavia Pennetta for a place in the championship match. Pennetta beat Slovakian Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3, 6-3, to win a career-best 15th consecutive match. No matter how she fares against the top-ranked player on Saturday, Pennetta is guaranteed to crack the Top 10 on Monday, becoming the first Italian to accomplish that feat.

In other matches, No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva of Russia continued her winning ways as she cruised to a convincing, 6-2, 6-1, victory over No. 8 seed Carolina Wozniacki of Denmark to advance to the semifinals.

It was a serving struggle from the start with nobody holding serve until the 27-year-old Russian finally held serve in the sixth game of the opening set. The gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics followed up the service hold by immediately breaking Wozniacki’s serve before holding at ease to take the opening set, 6-2.

“There were so many breaks,” said Dementieva, who has won 13 career singles titles. “As soon as I was able to hold my serve, I started to play more confident.”

Dementieva dropped the opening game of the second set, before winning six straight games to win the match in one hour and 13 minutes. Dementieva improves to 3-2 lifetime against the 19-year-old Dane. Wozniacki, who made her Sony Ericsson WTA Tour main draw debut in Cincinnati in 2005, had won the previous two meetings played this season.

Dementieva, who reached a career best ranking of No. 3 in April, broke serve on seven occasions, four in the opening set and three in the final set. Wozniacki was only able to break Dementieva’s serve twice, both in the early stages of the opening set.

“Usually I don’t get broken seven times in a match,” said Wozniacki, who resides in Monte Carlo, Monaco during the off-season. “That was something new for me. I was struggling a little bit with that.”

Dementieva will next face No. 5 Jelena Jankovic, who easily dispatched Austrian Sybille Bammer, 6-0, 6-3, in the late match.

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