ground strokes

Kimiko Date-Krumm’s Fairy Tale Run at Toray Pacific Open – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Comeback Cut Short – The much-anticipated return of Juan Martin del Potro and his potential third-round clash with Rafael Nadal were quickly derailed as little Ollie Rochus cut down the big Argentine (who stands a foot taller than the Belgian) in straight sets in the opening round of the PTT Thailand Open 7-6 (7), 6-4. Despite the loss, there was still much to cheer about for Juan Martin del Potro, who was playing his first match in eight months. For those lucky enough to see the match, it was apparent that he wasn’t afraid to go after the ball, as he appeared to be clocking many of his ground strokes with the same ferocity that took him to the US Open title. He wasn’t without his chances either, holding a set point in the opening set, though lacking in match play, he can hardly be blamed for feeling a few extra nerves at those crucial moments. But the biggest positive of all is that Juan Martin del Potro reported that his wrist felt perfect at the conclusion of the match and is looking forward to working in another 5-6 tournaments before the 2010 season is officially in the books.

A Very Happy Birthday – Kimiko Date Krumm has been one of the interesting storylines over the course of this season, but this week, she was truly one of the feel good stories. Playing in her native Japan, Date Krumm collected one of the biggest scalps in her comeback to-date, taking out defending champion Maria Sharapova in three sets on the eve of her 40th birthday. Bouncing back from her grueling victory, she then celebrated her birthday by defeating Daniela Hantuchova when Hantuchova was forced to retire with a shoulder injury down 0-4 in the third set. Sadly, Date Krumm’s fairytale run came to a halt at the hands of 2010 Roland Garros Champion Francesca Schiavone, but keep an eye on the Japanese veteran. The odds are still highly stacked against her, and it’s certainly going to take the right kind of field with a little bit of luck, but Date Krumm may just break Billie Jean King’s record and soon become the oldest female to win a title on the WTA Tour.

Proud Papa – Struggling with knee injuries, the bulk of 2010 has been a nightmare of a year for young Frenchman Gilles Simon, but he’s had much to smile about as of late. He and his fiancée recently celebrated the birth of their first child together, and instead of acting as a further stumbling block to his career, as his fiancée feared it might, the new addition seems to have rejuvenated Simons’ game. He belatedly entered the Metz tournament in his home nation, and with his family there to cheer him on, he rolled to his first title of the season, trouncing Mischa Zverev 3 and 2 in the final. It’s still too early to tell, but hopefully this win means Simon has righted the ship and will once again become the contender he showed promise of over a year ago.

Plight Update – The women of Spain have taken their stand, it appears that the Spanish Tennis Federation has been forced to take notice. In an unprecedented move, the National Tennis Congress stated that there would be an upcoming conference in Pamplona devoted solely to hashing out the issues facing Spanish women’s tennis, including training opportunities for the top players and raising young talents. Of course, it’s too early to see what will or won’t come of this meeting, but it is a positive sign that the Spanish Federation is setting aside the time to seriously take a look at the issues. Given their success in the men’s game, there’s no reason to think that perhaps with a little bit more time and effort, they couldn’t see an increase in success achieved on the women’s side as well.

Injury Report – Foot injuries continue to make headlines as Belgian Kim Clijsters announced that she was forced to pull out of the China Open due to a foot infection she acquired after having a mole removed. This comes on the heels (no pun intended) of Serena Williams also calling off her whole Asian tour as a result of her own foot issues. And on the men’s side, Robby Ginepri will be forced to call off his season early due to a broken arm he sustained from a biking accident. Injuries are never a good thing, but at least these are not related to the length of the season.

Top Four Players Advance to Rogers Cup Semi-Finals

The top four players in the world took to the court today in Toronto offering fans a terrific line-up of ATP action. By the end of the day, they did not disappoint.

During the day session reality set for David Nalbandian as his career best win streak was halted at eleven. Beaten with ease by fourth seeded Andy Murray 6-2, 6-2, it appeared as though the Argentine simply ran out of gas.

A day after taking care of fifth seed Robin Soderling, Nalbandian’s ground strokes missed the mark with regularity against Murray and his foot work seemed stagnant as well. It was a case of too much tennis in a short period of time as he admitted to after the match.

“I feel a little tired for all the weeks, for the last week and this one, and I didn’t get a rest,” Nalbandian said.

Murray played his best match so far in the tournament and broke early in both the first and second set to take control of each frame.

Going into the match I’d have given Nalbandian a 50/50 chance to pull off the upset, given his 2-0 career head-to-head record against the Scot along with his stellar play of late. He has been playing top-15 tennis since coming back to the tour in July which is where his ranking should be when healthy.

On the positive side for the veteran ball-striker, he will now very likely be able to squeeze out a seeding at the U.S. Open in two week’s time which should help him at his first Grand Slam appearance since the 2009 Aussie Open.

Murray now advances to the semi-finals where he will meet Rafael Nadal a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second match of the day.

Nadal struggled in making the transition to the daytime session as his previous two singles and one doubles match have come after sun-set.

Kohlschreiber stunned the crowd by taking the first set 6-3 and utilizing his one-handed backhand to his advantage.

As he so often does, Nadal fought back hard in the second set and broke early to go up 2-0. The Spaniard always seems to find a way to play his best when he is behind in a match or even within a specific point. He turns his defence into offence just when you think he might be on the edge of losing. He pulled the match even at one set apiece and there was little doubt at that point that he would continue towards the finish line.

Kohlschreiber was having success when he would come to the net and pressure Nadal to hit a perfect passing shot, but unfortunately for the German he chose that strategy to few times during this match. As his backhand began wavering, Nadal broke him for a 4-3 lead and eventually won on triple match point when a Kohlschreiber backhand hit the net. The final score was 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

In the evening session, the match of the day on paper and in execution was clearly the Wimbledon re-match between Tomas Berdych and Roger Federer.

With the suddenly confident Czech having won their last two encounters, the buzz around the press room was leaning towards a Berdych victory.

While Roger has gotten past Juan Ignacio Chela and Michael Llodra with relative ease this week, they represent a cake-walk for a player of Roger’s calibre. Tonight was the true test of where Federer’s game is at and the result would have an enormous impact on his chances moving forward to the U.S. Open.

Should Federer win it would represent a confidence boost for him personally and also for the media with regards to his chances at taking a run at his second Slam of the season. Another loss to Berdych and he would have been taken to task for another missed opportunity and as a glimpse into his continued decline. Talk about pressure!

Federer played wonderfully in the first set mixing up his shots and appearing as composed as ever. For his part, Berdych was struggling with his serve, and ended up down 0-30 during each of his four service games. Mentally he appeared to be totally unprepared for the match.

Tape on his left knee and thigh made me wonder if he was struggling with the physical part of his game as well. That injury – which he would not discuss following the match – was sustained yesterday in his third round victory over Alex Dolgopolov.

Just when it looked liked the old Roger was back, things turned in Berdych’s favour. He finally had an easy hold to take the first game of the set and generally began to serve a much higher first serve percentage. Midway through the set the impact of Berdych’s groundstrokes was also felt across the net for the first time in the match.

At 5-6 and after several tenuous holds for the world No. 3, Federer would double-fault twice en-route to handing the second-set to Berdych.

Things then fell apart quickly for the Swiss player in the third set. Federer had a crucial chance when Berdych was serving at 1-1, 0-40, but he squandered all three break points. As is so often the case in tennis, Federer then came out and was unable to hold his own serve following his golden opportunity. Berdych then held serve and before the crowd could comprehend what was happening it was 4-1.

With Federer serving at 2-5, the crowd tried its best to inspire their hero. As one fan aptly screamed, “this is Roger’s Cup!”

A rare chant of, “Don’t give up Berdych” was followed by, “Give up Berdych!”

Federer held his serve and then it was up to Berdych to close it out while serving at 5-3. Instead, Berdych allowed Federer a total of four break point chances in that game, and on the fourth one he hit a forehand wide which sent the crowd into a frenzy as Federer was suddenly back from the dead.

A final set tiebreak was then upon us and Roger mounted a 4-0 lead before faltering and allowing Berdych to tie it all up at 5 apiece.

A Berdych backhand then gave Federer his first match point at 5-6. Berdych was serving on the next point but it didn’t matter as Federer pressured him into sending the ball long. Miraculously Federer avoided his third successive defeat against Berdych but it sure was close.

The usually polite Canadian crowd got a bit unruly at times throughout the match. Serving at 0-4 in the tie break, someone yelled just as Berdych was about to serve, “Berdych are you nervous?”

Asked about it after the match, Berdych was unwilling to make up excuses or use the crowd’s intimidation as a crutch.

“…it’s all right. I’m happy that so many people just come to see, and they were enjoying, so just let them enjoy, and that’s it,” he concluded.

The final match of the night was unfortunately a dud as Novak Djokovic sent Jeremy Chardy packing 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and twelve minutes. If only all of the Serb’s matches could be played in such cool conditions.

The day’s results allow Canada to have the top four players in the world in the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup for the first time in tournament history.

The Nadal/Murray match goes Saturday at 3pm and the Federer/Djokovic will be at 7pm.

While the Soderling’s and Berdych’s of the world are making the top-ten more competitive this year, the top-four are showing us this week that they are still the serious contenders for the final Slam of the season.

Check back soon for semi-final analysis and of course you can also follow me on Twitter for timely updates throughout the day.

Photos by Bob McIntyre © 2010.

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Murray Brings Nalbandian Back To Earth

Reality set in today at the Rogers Cup in Toronto as David Nalbandian’s career best win streak was halted at eleven. Beaten with ease by fourth seeded Andy Murray 6-2, 6-2, it appeared as though the Argentine simply ran out of gas.

A day after taking care of fifth seed Robin Soderling, Nalbandian’s ground strokes missed the mark with regularity against Murray and his foot work seemed stagnant as well. A case of too much tennis in a short period of time perhaps.

Murray played his best match so far in the tournament and broke early in both the first and second set to take control of each frame.

Going into the match I’d have given Nalbandian a 50/50 chance to pull off the upset, given his 2-0 career head-to-head record against the Scot along with his stellar play of late. He has been playing top-15 tennis since coming back to the tour in July which is where his ranking should be when healthy.

On the positive side for the veteran ball-striker, he will now very likely be able to squeeze out a seeding at the U.S. Open in two week’s time which should help him at his first Grand Slam appearance since the 2009 Aussie Open.

Murray now advances to the semi-finals where he will meet the winner of the Rafael Nadal/Philipp Kohlschreiber match in his attempt to defend his Rogers Cup title.

Keep checking back for more updates from a fantastic day of tennis here in Toronto. The evening matches of Roger Federer vs. Tomas Berdych should answer a lot of questions we all have about the status of the Swiss star’s game. Later, Novak Djokovic will try to take advantage of the cool night time conditions to play against Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.

You can also follow us on Twitter for timely updates throughout the day.

WIMBLEDON DAY 1: THE GREAT FALLA OF FEDERER?

By Peter Nez

I woke up eager for the start of Wimbledon, brewed my coffee, brushed my teeth, washed up and turned on the tube… WHAT?!?! Federer is down two sets to Love in his first round?? My phone was blowing up with beeps, and chimes, like a cacophony of Mockingbirds wailing in unison, messages blared, signaling a deafening call, a hollow haunting spell, doomsday has arrived – the tennis universe has collapsed.

Alejandro Falla, who had a winless record against the Maestro, losing badly in the warm-up to Wimbledon in Germany just a couple of weeks prior 6-1, 6-2 against Roger, had flipped the London skies over, stormed Big Ben, mowed the lawns with a trailblaze blitz of high octane ground strokes, beginning the firework display a tad too early. We were on the brink of the biggest upset in the history of tennis, even bigger than Soderling’s win over Nadal at the 2009 Roland Garros. At 4-4 in the third set, serving at 0-40 it looked to be in the forecast that the clouds of change were rolling in. Then it happened… Federer replaced the stone in his chest with the heart of a champion and took out the big paper shredder and everyone ran to their publisher telling them to cancel the dramatic headlines proclaiming ‘Federer has Fallan Down!”

The interstellar game of Falla came back down to earth and Federer was able to lift his wobbly game back up, something we expected to see at the French, but the problem was that Soderling stayed in orbit. This is what it takes to beat the greatest of all time – a day of all days, where the tennis gods inject your game with super fuel accuracy and pace, errorless, flawless, and a little luck doesn’t hurt, and actually goes a long way. For four grueling sets Falla exhibited one of those days. In a three set match there woudn’t have been enough time to come back down, but in a best of five gravity is always beckoning.

I was watching the Larry King show last night and his guest was Mick Jagger, who was promoting a much anticipated ‘Exile on Main St.’ deluxe edition with outtakes re-release and the suspender weaving King asked Jagger what the key to his longevity was, whereby producing a pondering pause from the great legend and finally Jagger responded with, “Well it takes a lot of luck. You have to be in the right place at the right time.” It seems that most people who excel in their chosen craft or profession never fail to overlook this crucial element. Federer certainly recognizes its significance. In Roger’s press conference following the match he spoke about how “unlucky” he was to lose matches this year that he felt, as did much of the tennis world, he “should have won.” Not taking away from his opponent’s skill and deserved victory, but merely acknowledging the importance of the intangible, something you can’t find on stat sheets, data analysis docs, and match up breakdowns.

“I definitely got very lucky out there today,” Federer said after the match. Maybe his luck has finally turned and he can return to the form we saw at the beginning of the year? Who knows? In a men’s game where the depth of talent is fathomless, he may need more luck than ever before.

ROGER FEDERER: PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

By Peter Nez

Roger Federer is in Halle, Germany this week playing his typical warm up tournament before Wimbledon (Germany’s only grass court event) where the latest news reports that Roger has signed a lifetime contract with tournament organizers, meaning he is committed to the event as long as he is playing professional tennis. “It’s a sort of marriage,” Roger quipped about the lofty contract with the Gerry Weber Open. And while the entire media world is buzzing over Rafael Nadal’s fifth Roland Garros title he attained last Sunday by smearing the red clay with Robin Soderling’s face, nicknamed Rockin’ Robin, after his blistering ground strokes that sound like cannon fire when struck, who appeared more like a subdued Canary tweeting rather than Rockin’- and big headlines announcing the ‘Return of the King of Clay’ and ‘Rafa is back!’, referring to his reacquisition of the top slot in men’s tennis, there is another king, of another surface, some would say the true king going quietly into the night, preparing for a Wimbledon defense, and maybe something else…


 

One thing that is amazing about Roger, among many other things, is his ability to put things in perspective, and shrug off losses that most players would never be able to bounce back from. Andy Murray comes to mind, whom after losing to Roger in the Australian Open final this past January, hasn’t been the same player since. Novak Djokovic, another top player, who won his first slam in 2008, has been hampered by uncharacteristic losses and henceforth hasn’t been able to muster a similar run at any of the subsequent slams. Andy Roddick, after losing to Federer in the epic 2009 Wimbledon final, lost to John Isner in the following slam (US Open) in a startling fashion. After attending the Annual ITF awards dinner in Paris, following his defeat to Soderling in the quarterfinals of the French Open a week ago, which garnered stunned faces by reporters, participants, attendees, and Gustavo Kurten himself (guest of honor), as to his appearance after a loss like that, “Nobody expected him to show,” Mary Joe Fernandez commented; a salivating press contingent swooned to get some time with the great one, and Roger was blasted with the usual doubts, speculations on his demise, questions as to his game, ect. He answered, in his usual candid demeanor, full of cool, that he was grateful for the past year where he won the French Open and Wimbledon back to back, about the birth of his daughters, and the magnificent summer, and the Australian Open victory this year, without a shade of despondency, or any signs that he was worried in the least. He exemplified gratitude, and emitted a perspective that was just thankful to still be playing, and healthy, and with a huge smile on his face, was looking forward to grass, where, let’s face it, the records speak for themselves, he is the King. I only wish that the media and fans alike had this propensity to put things in perspective.

All I read about now, and hear about in the rumblings and byways of the tennis realm, is Rafa this, and Rafa that, and Rafa is the one to beat, and Rafa is the usurper and all of that. I have no qualms with Rafael Nadal. I think he is a fantastic player, a true ambassador, and a great role model. But, when I read things like Roger can’t beat Rafa, and that Roger has never beaten a fully healthy Nadal, and things of this sort, there is an obvious upset in the balance of things; people are not looking at the big picture, and least of all adopting any sort of sensible perspective on matters.

I have no desire to list off all of the accolades of Mr. Federer, for they should be automatic by now, and need no mention. Let us take the notion of Roger never beating a healthy Nadal, especially on clay. First of all, the health of your opponent is out of your control, can we at least agree on that? Second, if the running statement that Roger can’t beat a healthy Nadal stands on any significant grounds, how about the vice versa? Let’s take a look at the 2008 Wimbledon final, touted as the ‘Greatest Match of All Time’. If we have a short term memory, many may not remember that Mr. Federer was battling a year long bout with Mononucleosis that started just prior to the Australian Open and, maybe didn’t subside until the end of that same year. That would mean that not only was Federer “unhealthy” but it took a super healthy, super confident, super momentum filled man in Rafael Nadal to beat Roger, and it took everything he had, all the way to an epic fifth set finale. Nobody speaks of that of course. On top of that, does anyone fail to see that Rafa has an outstanding record against Roger maybe because most of their head to head matches have taken place on clay? And there is little argument as to who is the greatest of all time on clay. Also, has anyone commented on why there are so many masters’ series tournaments on clay, and why the clay season is the longest on tour, and why there are only two tournaments on grass each season, and no masters series tournaments on grass? I’ve never heard mention of this either. Let us take a look at Federer’s legacy as far as slams go: Roger has reached a staggering 23 of the last 24 slam semi-finals, a staggering 19 out of the last 21 finals over the past six years, and 16 grand slam titles and counting. Who beat Roger in the last six years? Well, let’s see: Rafael Nadal, the king of clay; Novak Djokovic, a top four player, playing a not so healthy Roger (2008 AUS Open); Marat Safin, in the 2005 AUS Open, playing his absolute best tennis; Del Potro (2009 US Open) and Soderling (2010 French Open) who defied physics with their pace for over two hours of play. Do you ever hear Roger justifying himself, as is his right, about any of all the talk and doubt and scrutiny? No. He talks about one thing: moving forward. And what is ahead? Grass. The king returns to the holy grounds where he has set up his palace shrine for the past seven years. Maybe after he wins another Wimbledon will things finally be put in perspective… I doubt it.

Wozniacki Ends Melanie’s Dream

NEW YORK – Four straight unforced errors ended one dream and continued another.

Although the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd was loudly pulling for her, Melanie Oudin’s dream run at the US Open ended Wednesday night when she was overwhelmed 6-2 6-2 by ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki.

“She had a great run, beaten so many great players,” said Wozniacki, the first Danish player to reach the semifinals in a Grand Slam tournament Wozniacki made sure Oudin’s “great run” didn’t continue, instead controlling the points with her consistent baseline game, moving her 17-year-old opponent all around the court and finding answers to every problem the Marietta, Georgia, right-hander posed. In the final game, Oudin won the first point, then netted a forehand, attempted a backhand drop shot that didn’t even make it to the net, sailed a forehand long and was wide with a backhand on match point.

With a spot in the championship match awaiting the winner, Wozniacki will next take on Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, who won her quarterfinal earlier in the day, 7-5 6-4 over Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine.

Oudin became the darling of America’s premier tennis tournament when she unexpectedly mowed down a series of Russians in her march to the quarterfinals. Although she had upset Jelena Jankovic en route to the fourth round at Wimbledon, she was a pleasant surprise here on the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The youngster started off by beating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, then followed that up with victories over fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva, 29th-seeded Maria Sharapova and 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova. With each successive upset, Oudin’s dream grew more vivid along with the expectations from growing legend of fans.

Only two years older than Oudin, Wozniacki never was in trouble against the American, repeatedly hitting with heavy topspin, making the ball jump up high to Oudin’s ground strokes. It was Wozniacki who was dictating the pace and the points.

“She’s such a strong player. She doesn’t give you anything for free,” Oudin said of Wozniacki. “She plays incredible defense. Makes me hit a thousand balls and really is a really great player.”

Unlike Oudin, Wozniacki wasn’t an unknown entity when she began the year’s final Grand Slam tournament. She was seeded ninth after entering the US Open having won the 56 matches, the most of any player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year. And she has captured three titles this year, including the Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut, the day before the US Open began its two-week run.

Wozniacki said she wasn’t bothered by the crowd’s overwhelming support of Oudin.

“It’s always tough to play against a home favorite,” Wozniacki said. “I had this experience in Australia this year where I played (Australian) Jelena Dokic.

“I knew how I was going to feel to be out there and the crowd, but I just used the energy and tried to convert it into some good tennis.”

Oudin’s never-say-die attitude, her big forehand and her constant pressure caused her Russian opponents to eventually collapse. Not so with Wozniacki.

“She beat some great players,” Wozniacki said of Oudin. “I knew that it was going to be tough and I knew that she was going to fight to the last point. I just thought about one point at a time, one ball at a time and tried not to think too much about the score.
“I’m a fighter, so I don’t give up. I fought to the last point.”

Like Wozniacki, Wickmayer is playing in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time. Her lone WTA Tour singles title came on clay in Estoril, Portugal.

Wickmayer started the US Open by upsetting 16th-seeded Virginie Razzano. Since then she has not had to face another seeded player.

“Before this my best result was second round (in a Grand Slam tournament),” Wickmayer said. “So of course when you get to the third, fourth round, you start surprising yourself. But actually I’ve been staying pretty calm. I’ve worked really hard for this.”

Top-seeded Roger Federer advanced one step closer to a sixth consecutive US Open men’s singles title when he ended the night by dodging an inspired Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-0 6-3 6-7 (6) 7-6 (6).

It appeared as if Federer would sail through the quarterfinal against the man he beat in the French Open final. But Soderling stepped up his game in the third set, and after Federer swept out to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreak, Soderling roared back to win it 8-6.
The two battled evenly through the fourth set, Federer using his huge serve and Soderling his big ground strokes.
Then, suddenly, Soderling ripped a forehand crosscourt that sailed wide, the only mini-break in the tiebreak, but one that gave Federer the match at 8-6.

“It was so close towards the end, a great relief to come through,” Federer said. “The beginning was a bit too easy. But he showed what a great player he is.”

The Swiss superstar is in his record 22nd straight major semifinal – Ivan Lendl had the old mark at 10 – and is seeking to become the first man to win three consecutive majors in one season since Rod Laver completed the Grand Slam in 1969.

Federer also is bidding to become the first man since Bill Tilden in 1925 to win six consecutive US titles. He is the only man to win five or more successive titles at two Grand Slam tournaments, having won Wimbledon from 2003 through 2007.

In the semifinals, Federer will face fourth-seeded Novak Djokovic, a 7-6 (2) 1-6 7-5 6-2 winner over Fernando Verdasco.

Oudin Mastering Russian at US Open

NEW YORK – Yes, it’s the US Open, but Melanie Oudin has used her exciting run to the quarterfinals to master Russian.

The 17-year-old from Marietta, Georgia, played – and beat – four Russians to become the youngest American to reach the women’s singles quarterfinals at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center since Serena Williams in 1999. Williams went on to win her first of three US Open titles that year.

Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki cut off Oudin’s Russian lessons by reaching her first quarterfinal Monday night when she eliminated sixth-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 2-6 7-6 (5) 7-6 (3).

Oudin completed her Russian sweep with a 1-6 7-6 (2) 6-3 upset of 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova. She had advanced to the fourth round with victories over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, fourth-seeded Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova, the 2006 US Open champion who was seeded 29th this year.

At number nine, Wozniacki is the lone seeded player left in the top half of the draw.

Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium will take on Kateryna Bondarenko of Ukraine in the other top-half quarterfinal, Wickmayer advanced by whitewashing Argentina’s Gisela Dulko 6-0 6-0 and Wickmayer outlasting Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 4-6 6-4 7-5.

“I don’t think they had weaknesses,” Oudin said of her Russian opponents. “I believe all the matches I’ve played have been really close, and it’s just been – I’ve just been able to pull them out.

“Every single match has been so competitive and so close, and I’ve been able to pull it out in the end.”

Using her quickness to run down the ball and her powerful ground strokes to hit winners or force her opponents into mistakes, Oudin once again dropped the opening set before rallying for victory. So far this year Oudin is 17-4 in matches where she has lost the first set.

“Going into the tournament I did believe that I could compete with these girls, but it was just figuring out a way to win in these tough matches and these pressure situations actually coming through and winning,” she said. “So now, even if I get a set down, I like believe in myself and my game. I know that if I fight as hard as I can, do the best I can, hopefully I can do it.”

The women’s quarterfinals will begin Tuesday when Williams, seeded second this year, takes on No. 10 Flavia Pennetta of Italy and Belgium’s Kim Clijsters, the 2005 champion, continues her comeback when she faces No. 18 Li Na of China.

Oudin made her US Open debut a year ago, losing to Australia’s Jessica Moore – in three sets, naturally. She suffered a first-round loss at the Australian Open in January, then made Wimbledon her coming-out party, shocking Jelena Jankovic on her way to the fourth round on the grass on SW 19.

Prior to her Wimbledon run, Oudin won consecutive USD $50,000 tournaments on the USTA Pro Circuit. She entered the US Open ranked number 70 in the world, making her the third highest ranked American behind sisters Serena and Venus Williams.

Her run on the hard courts in Flushing Meadows has boosted her already high confidence.

“I know that I can compete with the best in the world now, and I will know that forever,” she said.

“I think it’s just mentally I’m staying in there with them the whole time, and I’m not giving up at all. So if they’re going to beat me, they’re going to beat me, because I’m not going to go anywhere.”

For the first time in the Open Era no American will reach the men’s singles quarterfinals. The last American standing, John Isner, was eliminated by 10th-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain 4-6 6-4 6-4 6-4.

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Isner said. “You know, I wanted to go further. But I played pretty well. Maybe I could have played a little bit better, but I just got outplayed today.”

The big-serving Isner eliminated America’s top player, fifth-seeded Andy Roddick, in the third round.

“We got a lot of people to the round of 32,” Isner said of the American contingent. “Then obviously I played Andy, so that assured one of them was going to move on and one was going to stay back. … It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t get that many past that.”
Besides Verdasco, other fourth-round winners in the men’s singles during the day were top-seeded Roger Federer and No. 12 Robin Soderling.

Isner Upsets Roddick In An Open Classic

With the crowd against him and Andy Roddick becoming more energized as the match progressed, John Isner dug deep to pull off the biggest upset of his career.

As day turned into night in front of a packed crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Isner hit a staggering 90 winners in his nearly four hour match with Roddick, bringing the crowd to its feet as he advanced into the 4th round with a 7-6 (3), 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (5) victory.

“Once I got the first set, I knew that I was in with a chance,” said Isner. “He wore me down and had me on a string when we played a few weeks ago (in Washington D.C.), so I knew I had to be more aggressive in this match.”

The first set went by in straightforward fashion, with each player holding their serve throughout. Isner went down 0-40 while serving at 3-3, but rallied with two aces and a forehand winner to eventually take the game.

A forehand into the net sent Isner down an early mini-break in the first set tiebreaker, but he immediately rebounded with a string of winners. A backhand passing shot gave Isner back the mini-break on Roddick’s serve, and he followed it up with four more consecutive winners to give himself four set points. A missed forehand erased one of them, but a 112 MPH second serve ace on the next point allowed Isner to take the opening set.

“You can’t teach 6’9”,” said Roddick. “He’s serving out of a tree and really dialed in with his ground strokes in that tiebreaker. I don’t know if I really did anything wrong out there. He just hit his spots when he needed to.”

Midway through the second set, with Isner leading 3-2, Roddick mistimed two forehands in a row to send go down double break point. One point later, Isner guided Roddick into the net with a drop shot and then sent a backhand pass up the line to take a 4-2 lead.

The break of serve would be all that the Greensboro native needed. A volley winner while leading 5-3 gave Isner two set points. On his first one, Isner hammered down his 17th ace of the match at that point and took a commanding two set lead.

At 1-1 in the third set, Isner had triple break point on Roddick’s serve after the former US Open champion’s backhand began to betray him. With the crowd now squarely on Roddick’s side, he erased all three points and then hit a 128 MPH ace to deny a fourth chance for Isner to break.

With Isner serving down 3-4, Roddick began to display a retrieving ability normally uncharacteristic of his style. He returned an Isner overhead to force a volley error, giving him two break points. On his second opportunity, Roddick ran down an Isner volley and hit a forehand winner up the line to lead 5-3. He quickly held serve, hitting an ace on his first set point to take the third set.

The effects of the match began to take their toll on Isner. He began moving more slowly and started stretching his left leg during the changeovers. Roddick had a chance to break Isner’s serve at 3-3, but the former NCAA champion bravely knocked off a volley winner and eventually kept the match on serve.

With Roddick serving at 4-5, he hit his first double fault of the match to give Isner a match point. What looked to be the finish ended up being the last point that Isner would win in the set.

A 121 MPH ace by Roddick brought the game back to deuce and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Two more big serves leveled the match at 5-5. With the sold-out stadium chanting “Let’s go Roddick,” Isner appeared overwhelmed by the occasion. He missed two routine forehands and then hit an overhead well beyond the baseline to go down triple break point in the game. A forehand pass by Roddick gave him the break, and he leveled the match at two sets each with a 130 MPH serve.

“I wasn’t too upset about it because there wasn’t anything I could do,” said Isner. “I might have thought about it differently if it was a missed overhead or an easy shot, but he aced me. It was just too good.”

Isner went down 0-30 in his opening service game, but ended his losing streak at 13 consecutive points with an ace, eventually holding serve to start the 5th set. Despite taking an early lead, Roddick still looked fresh as the match wore on, while Isner began gingerly around the baseline, eventually calling for the trainer at 3-2.

“I was cramping a little bit late in the match,” said Isner. “He was definitely the fresher of the two of us out there, but I knew that I was still in the match.”

The two players traded service holds to force a deciding tiebreaker after nearly four hours of play. With Isner up 3-2 on Roddick’s serve, he hit one of his only cross-court passing shots of the day to grab the mini-break and a 4-2 lead.

“That’s when you have to tip your hat,” said Roddick. “I was covering the line because he had been going there all day, and you don’t expect to see a low dipping crosscourt shot at a moment like that.”

A successful serve and volley play on Isner’s second serve, followed by a drop volley winner, gave Isner two match points at 6-3. Roddick removed the first two match points with aces of his own, forcing Isner to serve it out. Coming in behind a short backhand by Roddick, Isner’s first volley forced Roddick to hit a forehand into the net. Isner dropped to the ground in celebration as the crowd rose to their feet, cheering for the arrival of a new American star.

“I don’t know if (the win) has really sunk in yet,” said Isner. “It’s by far the biggest win of my career, hands down. Nothing even comes close. And I kind of knew that if the match went a little bit long, it would turn into a night match and I really wanted to be in that atmosphere. The crowd was giving me goose bumps at times.

Ranked well outside the top 100 just three months ago, Isner will find himself just outside of the top 40 with his first ever appearance in the second week of a Grand Slam.

“If you had told me this would happen a month ago, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Isner. “Being out with mono for a month, you’re not even sure if you’ll be able to play the US Open, let alone do well. You can definitely say I’m a bit surprised by all of this.

With a fourth round showdown against No. 10 seed Fernando Verdasco scheduled for Monday, Isner said he’s looking forward to going even further in the tournament.

“It’s a great win to have, but I still feel like I can do some damage,” said Isner. “I’m not satisfied just yet.”

Ditty Wins Opening Doubles Match at US Open

With a new coach and training base, American Julie Ditty believes her best tennis still to come.

Playing with Liga Dekmeijere of Latvia, the duo reeled off six consecutive games and held the lead for the entire match as they advanced into the second round of the US Open, defeating the team of American Meghann Shaughnessy and Alicia Molik of Australia, 7-6 (4), 6-1.

“I think Liga and I are a good pair on the court,” said Ditty. “Because I’m left-handed, it helps to play with a right-handed player. I like to set up the points up more for my partner, and she can be aggressive with her shots.”

Dekmeijere and Ditty were playing against a team who are both coming back from long-standing injuries and illnesses, but who have both reached the top 5 in the doubles rankings. Molik is also a two-time Grand Slam winner in doubles (at the Australian Open in 2005 and Roland Garros in 2007).

“It helped me to talk to people who saw them play their match last week in New Haven,” said Dekmeijere. “Of course, I’m focused on my game, but I needed to know some pointers, and what their strengths or weaknesses were.”

After breaking Molik’s serve while leading 3-2, Ditty served for the set at 5-3, only to have her seen broken with a Shaughnessy forehand that clipped the line. In the tiebreak, two overhead winners by Dekmeijere sent the American-Latvian pair up an early minibreak. On their first set point while leading 6-4, a forehand volley winner by Ditty gave the pair the opening set.

Molik held serve in a 9 deuce game to start the second set, but it was the last game the American-Australian duo would win in the match. Finding the range on their ground strokes and volleys, Dekmeijere and Ditty never faced another game point for the rest of the match, as a mistimed forehand by Shaughnessy sealed the match.

Although she has struggled on the singles court in 2009, Ditty has been producing the best doubles result of her career and currently sits at a career high ranking of No. 66. She reached the semifinals in doubles at a WTA event in Auckland and won a round in Roland Garros and Wimbledon, the latter with Dekmeijere. The highlight of her year came during Fed Cup in February, where she helped the US win the final match of their first round tie against Argentina, playing an instrumental role in helping the US Fed Cup team reach the finals this year.

“I still feel like things are getting better and still feel like I’m working towards something,” said Ditty.

Part of Ditty’s improved attitude can largely be attributed to her new coaching situation. Having traveled alone for most of the year, Ditty recently started traveling with a new coach, Carlos Drada. After playing more tournaments than almost anyone on tour last year (36) and spending time training in different cities including Seattle and San Francisco, Ditty moved to Lexington, Kentucky, at the beginning of August and intends to make the city her new base.

“I’m so much happier now,” said Ditty. “I have a great coach and Lexington is really close to my family. It’s great to have everything that I need right there.”

Ditty and Dekmeijere await the winner of a first round doubles between Lucie Safarova and Galina Voskoboeva, and the No. 12 seeds, Vania King and Monica Niculescu.

Federer Cruises Past Acasuso In Cincinnati; Querrey Upsets Roddick

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