By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
None of the top players were troubled at all in the first round, with each of the top 8 seeds winning in straight sets. Some of the top favorites, like Murray and Federer, looked a bit more dominant than the rest; but all in all these were strong performances from the top players. None of them showed any major weaknesses and each of them, for the moment at least, look like they are primed to play their best to win this tournament.
Who Looked Good
Juan Martin Del Potro - Where has this Delpo been since 2009? His forehand was harder and more consistent while his footwork was better than it has been since he won the US Open 3 long years ago. I am not saying that he is in the form to win a Slam at the moment, nor am I saying that tougher opponents in later rounds won’t challenge him more, but he did bring out the level that we all have been waiting to see for a long time. Now the only question is if he can keep it up.
Stanislas Wawrinka - There were very few superlative performances in the first round by men this year, but I was impressed with Stan. He had a tricky opponent who has a lot of talent and played well. Wawrinka stuck with his game, played very well, and never let the pressure get to him. He really played a solid match, which he doesn’t always do in these situations. The consistency he showed is really a good sign for him moving forward.
Honorable Mention: Not that it was a great performance, but I have to give an honorable mention to Amir Weintraub. After 7 years as a professional, Weintraub just competed in and won his first-ever tour-level match (though he has played Davis Cup). Not that it’s a statistic that means anything, but very few players win their first-ever matches—and in a Slam to boot. I’m sure this will give him a great feeling before he gets destroyed by Kohlschreiber in the next round.
Who Looked Bad
Nicolas Almagro - I’m sorry, but top 10 seeds should not be taken to five sets by qualifiers, and certainly not by lower-tier qualifiers like Steve Johnson. Yes, Johnson is a former NCAA champion. But he has not played well on the main tour since then and really didn’t play great in this match. He fought his way to win two tiebreaks, but this was a match dominated by poor play by each player. This was close to being the biggest win, by far, of Johnson’s career, yet it was a far cry from the best match he’s ever played. Almagro should have been better, period, and should not have thrown away those two tiebreaks.
Florian Mayer - Not that we were able to watch the match, because it was on untelevised Court 20, but Rhyne Williams is not a player that anyone in the top 30 should lose two sets to, and certainly not with multiple breaks of serve. Williams barely competes at a top 200 level and held two match points against Mayer in the fourth-set tiebreak. If Mayer plays so poorly in the next round, he will not last very long against his opponent Ricardas Berankis.
Thomaz Bellucci - Once again, I’m commenting on a match that wasn’t televised. And I know that Bellucci is probably the biggest clay court specialist on tour right now. I don’t even care how well Blaz Kavcic played. Winning just 7 games against Kavcic in 3 sets is just inexcusable. It’s not what a top-level tennis player does. It just isn’t.
Match of the Round
The most entertaining match of this round (as least, of those that were televised) was pretty clearly Tatsuma Ito against John Millman. The match was not the highest level of tennis, but it was two evenly matched players gutting it out and fighting from the first ball. Ito took the first two sets by a single break but could not convert a single break point in the third or fourth sets. As this match went on and Millman looked to be moving forward with his comeback, the crowd got more and more into the match. And while the Aussie was a decisive crowd favorite, Ito had some very strong support as well. The crowd erupted after every strong and important point late in the match. They had just as much a part of this being the best match this round as the players did. Millman had a real chance to go up a break to serve for the match at 5-5 in the fifth, but he could not convert and was immediately broken to fall 7-5 in the fifth. It was a good match by both players and one of the most enjoyable to watch this entire round.
By Leigh Sanders
*Former world No. 8, Australia’s Alicia Molik, reached the final of the Cliffs Esperance Tennis International Pro Tour event before finally being derailed by top seed Olivia Rogowska. It was her fourth pro tour final since coming out of retirement in September. In the men’s final, Aussie Matt Ebden overcame John Millman 6-3, 6-4.
*British tennis starlet Heather Watson of Guernsey was eliminated in the first round of the singles at the Tevlin Challenger Event at the Rexall Centre in Toronto. She was defeated by1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson 2-6, 4-6. In the doubles, Watson and partner Julia Boserup lost to the Canadian duo Gabriela Dobrowski and Rebecca Marino. Despite her early exit in Toronto, Watson has made the final three in the running for the 2009 BBC Young Sport’s Personality of the Year award. The acclaimed accolade honours sportsmen and women who achieve sporting heroics in the calendar year and the Young Personality award goes to up and coming stars of the future. The US Open junior girls champion faces stiff competition from world driving champion Tom Daly and double world youth sprint gold medallist Jodie Williams. Andy Murray picked up the award in 2004.
*The prestigious Queens Club in England was celebrating a coup this week after US Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro committed himself to the pre-Wimbledon tournament until 2012 in a bid to improve his grass court game for Wimbledon. Andy Murray picked up his first grass-court title by winning at Queens this summer before losing a heartbreaking semifinal at Wimbledon to American Andy Roddick.
*French Open Champion and WTA No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova has confirmed she will begin her 2010 season at the Medibank International Sydney, Australia, following Serena Williams, defending champion Elena Dementieva, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in doing so. On the men’s side, home favourite Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils and Marcos Bagdhatis are already confirmed. The event takes place at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre from Sunday 10 to Saturday 16 January 2010.
*While over in Brisbane, Australia, Nadia Petrova has added her name to an already impressive cast at the Brisbane International warming themselves up for the 2010 Australian Open. The world No. 20 in singles and 16 in doubles joins Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina and Jelena Dokic in what should be a tasty event. On the men’s side, Andy Roddick, Gael Monfils, James Blake and Giles Simon have pencilled in the event for their early 2010 schedule.
*This week’s ATP World Tour singles rankings saw no movement in the world’s Top 40 players. Australia’s Peter Luczak climbs a place to 78 while compatriot Carsten Ball does the same to 137 and Chris Guccione in 139. India’s Somdev Devvarman drops two to 124 and Frank Dancevic of Canada drops 12 to 144.
*In the ATP doubles rankings, all the Commonwealth players in the Top 10 were safe as there was no movement. However, Australia’s Ashley Fisher climbed two places to 41 and his compatriot Carsten Ball dropped four to 61 and Chris Guccione dropped one to 67. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi climbed up one to 59 and Jeff Coetzee of South Africa dropped a place to 69.
*British Paralympic Champion Peter Norfolk took the world No. 1 slot by regaining his quad singles title at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters. He beat the American world No. 1 David Wagner 6-2, 7-5 in the final to leapfrog him in the rankings. Norfolk had already beaten Wagner in the pool stage as well as Paralympic silver medallist Johan Andersson.
* Canadian duo Maureen Drake and Marianne Jodoin defeated compatriots Sharon Fichman and American Mashona Washington after world No. 97 Fichman was forced to retire when 3-2 up in the first set. It is the third year in a row an all-Canadian team has triumphed at the event.
*British women’s’ No. 2 Elena Baltacha has bounced back from injury to glide through the first round of the $75k event in Toyota, Japan. She beat the Japanese player Misaki Doi 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-1 and will face Korea’s So-Jung Kim in the next round. Meanwhile, at the €106.5k ATP Challenger Event in Helsinki, Finland, Alex Bogdanovic saw first round defeat after going down 6-7(0), 4-6 to Switzerland’s Stephane Bohli.
*Slovak-born Jarmila Groth has been granted Australian citizenship following a ceremony at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. Up to now, she has been unable to represent her adopted homeland other than in the four Grand Slam events but she is now cleared to play Fed Cup and play under the Australian flag in all other events on the WTA Tour. Earlier this year, she married fellow tennis pro Sam Groth and reached a career-high No. 57 on the WTA rankings. She has formerly represented Slovakia in the Fed Cup in 2003 and her best tour result to date is a semifinal at the Japan Open in 2008.
*The well-loved British tennis commentator Max Robertson has sadly passed away aged 94 on his home island of Guernsey. After serving in World War II he joined the BBC in 1946 and his post-war tennis commentaries live long in the memory of those who were guided through the action by Robertson. As well as tennis, he was the first reporter at the 1948 Winter Olympics in Switzerland as well as gaining fame away from sport on BBC’s famed investigative journalist program ‘Panorama’ and the antiques programme ‘Going for a Song.’ He was also an accomplished author and poet.
*Tennis Canada has announced that the recently retired Frederic Niemayer has been added to their coaching team to coach hot Canadian prospect Milos Raonic. In another coup for the organization, an announcement has been made that the Tennis Matters benefactors Mike and Nicole Tevlin have made a second $500,000 pledge. A new event named the Tevlin Open will now be held in their honour.