By Ritesh Gupta
Witnessing a contrasting duel where one thrives on pace while the other seldom offers the same is something one hardly comes across in the men’s tennis today. Deft touches, exchanges at the net, pulsating half-volleys…all this is a treat to watch especially on the hallowed courts at Wimbledon.
Such contrasting style of play came to the fore as France’s Michael Llodra tested Andy Roddick in the second round at Wimbledon today.
Though Llodra lost 6-4, 4-6, 1-6, 6-7 (2-7), the left-hander won many hearts with his skillful play, with class written all over it. It was surely an exquisite performance from Llodra but he couldn’t carry the same form once he lost his serve to loose the second set.
It’s a rare sight to see somebody of Roddick’s calibre being hurried into strokes. Llodra, who won the Eastbourne tournament prior to this championship, posed a serious threat after bagging the first set. Be it for pushing Roddick wide off the court or his display at the net, Llodra produced some immaculate stuff during the initial stages.
To his credit, Roddick, though at the receiving end, hung on. After Llodra fired two aces to finish the first set, he earned two break points in the very first game of the second set. Llodra not only hustled Roddick with chip and charge but he also showed his class with subtle variations in pace to unsettle Roddick. This was perhaps the best chance but Llodra couldn’t break the serve.
The American, who has lost in final thrice here, gradually got into his groove and broke the shackles in the tenth game. An insipid service game from Llodra changed the course of the match. Llodra, who held his service with aplomb till then, came up with uncharacteristic missed drop volley and even Roddick, too, forced an error at a crucial stage with a wonderful low service return, which Llodra failed to retrieve at the net. Roddick made it one set apiece at this juncture.
Thereafter, Roddick sustained the tempo and took control despite facing breakpoints in a couple of games in the third set. He wrapped up the match by pressurising Llodra in the fourth set tie-break, reeling off five points in a row.
Roddick, who came so close to lifting this championship against Roger Federer last year, is surely a contender this year, too. For him, this victory augurs well as Llodra is one of the tougher players to play on grass.
In the run-up to the Wimbledon, Llodra had won eight matches in two tournaments. He had his chances against Roddick but he wilted under the pressure when it mattered the most.
Fifteen years ago on Oct. 12, 1994, one of the most unusual on-court incidents in the history of tennis happened in Tokyo when American Jeff Tarango “dropped his drawers” on court during his second-round match against Michael Chang. That event, plus others, are outlined below in this excerpt from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).
1994 – American Jeff Tarango performs one of the most unusual on-court activities in professional tennis, dropping his shorts after having his serve broken in the first game of the third set in his loss to Michael Chang in the second round of the Seiko Championships in Tokyo. Following his serve being broken, Tarango, in the words of Britain’s Daily Record, “pulled his shorts down, raised his arms and waddled to his seat courtside with his shorts around his ankles and his underpants in full view.” Says Tarango, “I felt that I let the match slip away a little bit, and I wanted to make light of it. I had exposed my weakness to Michael.” Tarango, who would famously walk off the court in a third round match at Wimbledon in 1995, retires from his match with Chang with a left forearm injury, trailing 4-1 in the third set. Tarango is given a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct and is fined $3,000. Says Chang, who goes on to lose to Goran Ivanisevic in the final of the event, “I know the ATP has been trying to create a little bit more interest in the game but I don’t know if that is what they had in mind.”
2001 – One hundred and one years after three Harvard students make up the first U.S. Davis Cup team, former Harvard student James Blake makes his Davis Cup debut against India in the Davis Cup Qualifying Round at the Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem, N.C. Blake, playing in his first Davis Cup match, defeats India’s Leander Paes, playing in his 79th Davis Cup match, 7-5, 6-3, 6-3 to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead. Blake also becomes the first Harvard student to play Davis Cup for the U.S. since Titanic survivor Richard Norris Williams in 1926 and becomes only the third African-American man to play Davis Cup for the U.S. – joining Mal Washington and Arthur Ashe. Earlier in the day, Andy Roddick defeats India’s Harsh Mankad 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
1998 – Lindsay Davenport ascends to the No. 1 ranking in women’s professional tennis for the first time in her career, taking the No. 1 WTA ranking from Martina Hingis, whom she beat in the U.S Open final the previous month. Davenport holds the No. 1 ranking for 98 weeks in her career.
2003 – Roger Federer wins his 10th career ATP singles title and successfully defends a title for the first time in his career when he defeats Carlos Moya of Spain 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 to win the CA Trophy in Vienna, Austria. Says Federer of successfully defending a title for the first time, “I’m over the moon about that.”
1980 – Ivan Lendl needs nearly five hours to defeat Guillermo Vilas 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 in the final of the Spanish Open championships in Barcelona.
Roger Federer is looking for his sixth straight US Open men’s singles title at the 2009. The first of his five straight titles in New York came in 2004 when he defeated Lleyton Hewitt, his third-round opponent in 2009, in the final. Rene Stauffer, the author of the Federer biography THE ROGER FEDERER STORY: QUEST FOR PERFECTION ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) details the 2004 US Open final between Federer and Hewitt in his celebrated tome. The brief book excerpt is seen below…
Awaiting him in the final was another of his past nemeses, Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001 US Open champion. The Australian skipped the Olympic Games, but won the two ATP tournaments played concurrently to the Olympics in Washington, D.C. and in Long Island. Entering his match with Federer, he won his last 16 matches and did not surrender a set in his six-match run to the final.
It only took 17 minutes for Federer to hand Hewitt his first lost set of the tournament, losing only five points in a near perfect execution of tennis. When Hewitt won his first game of the match after Federer led 6-0, 2-0, the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium gave him a standing ovation. Federer continued to be the much stronger player, until a lapse of concentration and a run of errors and missed serves allowed Hewitt to win four straight games after trailing 2-5 in the second set.
“If he had managed to win the second set, it would have turned out to be an entirely different match,” Federer said. “I forced myself to keep positive. I said to myself that I only got this break because I was playing against the wind and I was serving with old balls. When I changed sides, everything actually did go easier.”
Federer held serve at 5-6 to force the tiebreak and won that 7-3. The two-set lead broke Hewitt’s resistance and Federer plowed through the final set 6-0 to win his first US Open championship.
“First I was surprised that Lleyton was no longer getting to the ball,” Federer said of his moment of victory. “Then I was suddenly lying on my back, looking into the sky at the lights of the stadium. I thought, ‘That’s unbelievable.’ Once again I was close to tears.”
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
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)
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
WASHINGTON, DC (July 24, 2009) – The Washington Kastles upset the top-seeded New York Sportimes 22-19 in Overtime to win the Advanta WTT Eastern Conference Championship title on Friday night and advance to Sunday’s Advanta WTT Finals at Kastles Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Oudsema hit a second serve ace in the final set to win the first game in Overtime and put the Kastles into Sunday’s Advanta WTT Finals against the winner of the Western Conference Championship clash between the Springfield Lasers and the Newport Beach Breakers (also played on Friday night).
2009 Male MVP Leander Paes and Rennae Stubbs got the Kastles off to a strong start in the opening set of mixed doubles with a 5-4 win over Robert Kendrick and Abigail Spears. Spears dominated Olga Puchkova in women’s singles 5-2 to give the Sportimes a 9-7 lead after two events. Paes and Scott Oudsema outgunned Kendrick and Jesse Witten 5-3 in men’s doubles to tie up the match 12-12 at halftime.
Last season’s Female MVP Rennae Stubbs and Puchkova energized the boisterous crowd with a dominating 5-2 win over Spears and Christina Fusano in women’s doubles, giving the Kastles a 3-game cushion leading into the final set.
Kendrick sent the match into Overtime and pulled the Sportimes within two games by outlasting Oudsema in men’s singles 5-4. However Oudsema’s serving heroics secured the first Finals appearance for the Kastles in only their second season in the League.
Tickets for the Advanta WTT Finals are available by calling (202) 4-TENNIS or at www.washingtonkastles.com. The match starts at 5 pm EST on July 26 at Kastles Stadium and will air on Tennis Channel on July 29 at 7 pm EST.
Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League – Results for Friday, 7/24
(Home teams in capital letters)
ADVANTA WTT EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP:
Washington Kastles def. NEW YORK SPORTIMES 22-19 (OT)
Mixed Doubles – Leander Paes\Rennae Stubbs (Kastles) def. Abigail Spears\Robert Kendrick (Sportimes) 5-4
Women’s Singles – Abigail Spears (Sportimes) def. Olga Puchkova (Kastles) 5-2
Men’s Doubles – Scott Oudsema\Leander Paes (Kastles) def. Robert Kendrick\Jesse Witten (Sportimes) 5-3
Women’s Doubles – Rennae Stubbs\Olga Puchkova (Kastles) def. Christina Fusano\Abigail Spears (Sportimes) 5-2
Men’s Singles – Robert Kendrick (Sportimes) def. Scott Oudsema (Kastles) 5-4
Overtime – Men’s Singles – Scott Oudsema (Kastles) def. Robert Kendrick (Sportimes) 1-0
Newport Beach Breakers @ SPRINGFIELD LASERS, 7:05 PM (CDT)
Eastern Conference MP W L PCT MB
y – New York Sportimes 14 10 4 0.714 —
x – Washington Kastles 14 7 7 0.500 3
Boston Lobsters 14 7 7 0.500 3
Philadelphia Freedoms 14 4 10 0.286 6
New York Buzz 14 4 10 0.286 6
Western Conference MP W L PCT MB
y – Springfield Lasers 14 12 2 0.857 —
x – Newport Beach Breakers 14 9 5 0.643 3
Sacramento Capitals 14 6 8 0.429 6
Kansas City Explorers 14 6 8 0.429 6
St Louis Aces 14 5 9 0.357 7
x = Clinched Playoff Spot
y = Clinched #1 seed for Conference Championship
For live scoring and complete player / match statistics, please visit www.WTT.com