Miami, FL – December 1st, 2012: Attendance grew on stadium court at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, FL. on Friday evening, as tennis enthusiasts flocked to see some of the world’s best players perform during the night session on day one of the Miami Tennis Cup.
As the vodka bottles were uncorked in the VIP Lounge, for the select few lucky enough to purchase lounge passes, Alejadro Falla, Colombia’s top-ranked player, took to the court against Spain’s Nicolás Almagro, ranked number 11 in the world. The first set was closer than expected, as Falla put up a hard fought battle from the baseline, after conceding the first set 6-4, lasting well over an hour. His first set spirit diminished during the second set that lasted only 35 minutes, as Almagro demonstrated why he was eleventh in the world, winning 6-1.
“It was tough because every match against Alejandro is complicated,” said Almagro about the left-handed Falla. “I’m quite happy with how I’m playing at the moment and I’m glad to be in the warmth of Miami for the first year of the Miami Tennis Cup. Hopefully the crowds were treated to an enjoyable game.”
Shortly after the tournament’s opening match, the top-ranked American, John Isner, squared away against the former number one player from Spain, Juan Carlos Ferrero. Fans were treated to a thrilling first set that reached a tie-break, that was easily won by Isner 7-2. The second set was a close fought battle, but Isner stepped-up his game to take the second set 6-3.
“I’ve a pleasing 2012, and this is a nice way to round off the year,” said Isner during his post-match press conference. “I’m happy to be competing in the Miami Tennis Cup. It’s a good crowd with some top players competing. I’m looking forward to seeing Andy Roddick play Andy Murray and hope to meet one of them in Sunday’s final.”
Day two of the Miami Tennis Cup will feature the tournament’s headline match between the retired Andy Roddick and the reigning U.S Open and Olympic Champion, Andy Murray, currently ranked number three in the world. The match on Stadium Court starts at 5:00pm and is expected to draw a capacity crowd.
By Maud Watson
He had to wait an extra day for it, but on Monday night, Andy Murray got the monkey off his back and did what no other British man had done since Fred Perry back in 1936 – he won a major singles title. A lot of things went right for the Scot that fortnight. Nadal withdrew, Berdych took care of Federer, he got one more day’s rest than Djokovic, but most importantly of all, his game was firing on all cylinders. This was particularly important in the latter rounds of the tournament as the blustery winds made for tricky conditions. He handled those conditions better than Berdych, and he certainly coped better than Djokovic in the championship match. After a finals appearance at Wimbledon and gold-winning performance in the Olympics, Murray’s victory in New York made for the perfect way to cap off his summer. His US Open run puts him at No. 3 in the rankings, firmly cementing his place in what can now truly be called “The Big Four.”
Keep on Rolling
The “Summer of Serena” reached what many felt was its inevitable conclusion when she won the 2012 US Open. As she did at the Olympics, Serena steamrolled the competition up until the final where she ran into current No. 1 Victoria Azarenka. After the first set, it appeared that the American would continue her domination, however, the Belarusian found her game while Serena’s started to go awry. But as she has so often done in the past, Serena hung around to force her opponent to beat her, and in the end, a combination of Serena’s winners and Azarenka’s errors saw her come back to claim her fifteenth major singles title. It’s up in the air whether or not she’ll go for No. 1 to end her year, but if Serena continues to stay motivated, it’s going to be a tall order to knock her out of any event next season.
They both came up short in Flushing, but applause should be awarded to the singles finalists at this year’s US Open. Though it had to hurt given how poorly she played the game when serving for the championship, Azarenka has much to be proud of. She fought through two tight three-setters against both Stosur and Sharapova before bowing out to Serena, and she showed her tenacity, as well as the all-court game she’s continuing to develop. She’s had a great season, and it would be surprising if she didn’t add to that in 2013. As for Djokovic, after 2011, 2012 was bound to be a letdown. But let’s not forget that he did win a major down in Australia, reached the finals of Roland Garros in addition to his US Open run, and it was a good effort by him to push Murray to five in the final. He’ll need to work on his attitude and game to better adjust to tricky conditions, like wind, but expect him to have a great next year. Congrats are also in order for the Bryan Brothers for setting an Open Era record of 12 majors with their win in New York, as well as the Italian duo of Errani and Vinci, who grabbed their second major doubles title of 2012.
The ATP Board of Directors is doing a three-month trial of no-let serving at the Challenger level, but the bigger news story is their plan to implement a new penalty structure for time violations at the most elite level of the game next season. Under the new system, players who take longer than the allotted 25 seconds will first be given a warning. Any further violations over the course of a match will result in a fault call if the player is the server and a point penalty if the player is the returner. As most time violations in men’s tennis tend to be committed by the server, presumably the change to call a fault rather than a point penalty is designed to encourage chair umpires to enforce the rule more frequently, knowing that the penalty isn’t as stiff or as likely to result in an outright break of serve. It’s good to see the ATP attempting to respond to a growing issue, but when it really counts, hopefully the officials will enforce this altered rule, irrespective of the rank of the violator.
Professional tennis lost Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick during the US Open, and it will lose another come the Valencia Open. On Wednesday, 2003 Roland Garros Champion Juan Carlos Ferrero announced he will retire at the conclusion of his home event. Injuries have kept the Spaniard from competing and performing at his best the last few years, so it wasn’t a shock when he stated that his injuries and the inevitable lack of ambition that comes with them led him to his decision. There will be more discussion on the accomplishments of Ferrero when he officially walks away from the game next month, but it’s worth noting how his announcement just further underscores how great the game has been the past decade. Every season sees its share of retirements, but this time feels just a little different with Clijsters, Roddick, and now Ferrero (with Hewitt possibly to follow) hanging up their racquets. They may not have been in the same league as Serena or Federer, but they are all great champions who made the game fun, and they will all be greatly missed.
With the opening round of the Davis Cup wrapping up on Sunday, the ATP World Tour will now shift back into form with three tournaments in Rotterdam, San Jose and Sao Paulo. Here’s a closer look at the draws from all three events and some analysis on who stands the best chance of making it to the final weekend.
The largest of the three being played this week, the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament is a level 500 event. An indoor hard-court event, Roger Federer will be looking for the surface to bring him some much needed success. A disastrous Davis Cup showing at home on clay has left Federer clearly confused about the status of his game. Rather than admit he played poorly, Federer instead shifted the blame onto country-man Stan Wawrinka. It was a rare moment of bad judgement from Federer. He opens with Nicolas Mahut from France and then could potentially face a dangerous opponent in Mikhail Youzhny who won the title recently in Zagreb.
The always tricky Alexandr Dolgopolov is also in the same quarter as Federer. The two have only played once, with Federer winning in Basel two years ago. Dolgopolov has come a long way since then and with the way Roger played this past week, you’d have to think this could be a great QF match.
Richard Gasquet, Feliciano Lopez and former top-ten presence Nikolay Davydenko are in the following quarter of the draw. I’d give a well-rested Gasquet (he did not travel to Canada for Davis Cup) the best shot of emerging here.
Juan Martin Del Potro is the third seed and should be able to navigate his way through the third quarter of the draw. He opens against Michael Llodra of France who has to get all the way from Vancouver, Canada to Rotterdam in the next twenty-four hours.
At the bottom of the draw is second seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic who has had some success lately with a big win in Montpellier over Gael Monfils. Berdych had a very solid 2011 where he won one event and reached eight tournament semi-finals and seven tournament quarter-finals. He is really starting to find that consistency that will make him a mainstay in the top-ten. A meeting in the second round with Marcos Baghdatis looms, but otherwise Berdych should be able to set-up a semi-final encounter with Del Potro that would be highly entertaining.
Regardless of the results, the tournament is guaranteed a new winner this year as Robin Soderling is not yet healthy enough to defend the title which he has held for the past two years. I’m gonna give the nod to Berdych in this one and I have a feeling that Federer’s recent troubles might continue with an early exit this week.
Played on clay, the Brasil Open attracts some of the usual dirt-ballers one might expect to see. Nicolas Almagro is the defending champion and also won this event in 2008. He has played some pretty decent ball on hard-courts so far this year so we’ll see if that continues on his favourite surface. Almagro is seeded first and gets a bye into the second round. His quarter is pretty sparse which should help him get his clay-court wheels going.
Fernando Verdasco is the third seed and has a nice section in his quarter as well. Take a look at veteran Fernando Gonzalez from Chile if possible as he has already announced his retirement to take place in Miami this coming March. Injuries have really taken away Gonzo’s physical and mental endurance but hopefully he has a little magic left in him before he says goodbye.
In the bottom-half of the draw, aging Juan Carlos Ferrero the eighth seed and Thomaz Bellucci the fourth seed will likely fight it out for a spot in the quarter, while the bottom quarter is the most interesting with David Nalbandian who is unseeded, Albert Montanes and second seeded Gilles Simon.
Almagro gets my vote of confidence to take this one based on his clay-court prowess and success at this venue in previous years.
A year ago the ATP World Tour took notice of fast-rising Canadian sensation Milos Raonic when he won his first-ever event here in San Jose. Unfortunately for Canadian tennis fans, a repeat will be very difficult to achieve for several reasons.
Firstly, Raonic was forced to pull-out of the Davis Cup tie against France on Sunday with pain in his knee that had been already taped throughout the event. Will he even be healthy enough to play in San Jose?
Beyond the injury debate, Milos has a tough draw that sets him up with first-seeded Gael Monfils in a possible semi-final match-up. He will also have to contend with having the entire draw gunning for him as the defending champ. Coming into an event as the title-holder is quite different from what he experienced a year ago.
In the bottom-half things will be pretty wide-open with Andy Roddick returning from an injury he suffered at the Australian Open and occupying the second seed. Who knows what kind of game the former American No. 1 will bring with him but his lack of match play will hinder his changes.
Underachieving Sam Querrey, aging Radek Stepanek and vet Julien Benneteau round-out the bottom half in terms of potential contenders. I’d look for one of them rather than Roddick to make their way to the finals against Monfils who appears to be over the knee problems that he was dealing with upon his arrival to Canada for the Davis Cup.
The time has come! While Andrea has done a great job breaking down the World Group match-ups, I thought I’d spell out for you the specific reasons why you should set your alarm for 5AM, skip work, cancel all of your social plans, and dedicate your entire Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to the wonder that is Davis Cup.
10. The Newcomers
It’s been 8 years since Canada has been in the World Group. For Japan it’s been 27. In both cases the newcomers, led by youngsters Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori respectively, will be looking to prove that they belong with the big guns. Both teams have uphill battles- Japan hosts Croatia and Canada hosts France, but there’s nothing quite as exciting as fresh blood.
In a giant reversal of storylines, Federer is the only one of the “Big 4″ playing in Davis Cup this weekend. To top it off, he’s playing in Switzerland, against a depleted but still fun-to-beat American squad, and with good buddy Stanislas Wawrinka by his side. Love him or not, it will be fun to see the Legend soak in the well-deserved adoration and play in a team atmosphere on his home turf.
8. Russian Roulette
The Russian Davis Cup Team has undergone a bit of a makeover. Alex Bogomolov, Jr. is not only making his Russian debut, but he’s the team’s #1 player. Dmitry Tursnov and Igor Andreev, team mainstays, are absent while the struggling Nikolay Davydenko and the wildcard Igor Kunitsyn take their place. Mikhail Youzhny is coming off singles and doubles victories in Zagreb, but has been complaining to the press about an injured shoulder. All in all, there’s absolutely no telling what to expect from Team Russia as they travel to Jurgen Melzer’s Austria this weekend, and as always- that’s part of the fun.
7. Veterans Day
Some players have proven time and time again that they adapt to the Davis Cup atmosphere better than others. Whether it’s Melzer leading his Austrian team, Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek becoming mental giants for the Czech Republic, or David Nalbandian discovering the game (and legs) of his youth, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as seeing the veteran guys play their hearts out for their country.
6. The Battle of the Misfits
One of the ties I’m most looking forward to is Spain/Kazakhstan. The Spanish Davis Cup stalwarts (Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Feliciano Lopez, and Fernando Verdasco) who have dominated the team competition for the past few years are sitting out this year, paving the way for their less heralded countrymen (Nicolas Almagro, Marcel Granollers, Legend and Former #1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Marc Lopez). Meanwhile Kazakhstan’s team is full of former Russians (Mikhail Kukushkin, Andrey Golubev, Yuri Schukin, and Evgeny Korolev) who migrated over to the neighboring country for a chance to shine. It will be fun to see all of these former “back-ups” take the stage and fight for Davis Cup glory.
5. Tommy Haas
Do I really need to explain this one? The often injured but forever adored German (when he’s not American) is back in Davis Cup action for the first time in five years! How lucky are we? Let’s just sit back and enjoy.
4. The Other Groups
Believe it or not, the World Group Playoffs aren’t the only Davis Cup action happening this weekend. There are some pretty crucial ties happening in “Group I” and “Group II” (don’t you dare ask me to explain what that means). Teams in action that you might be interested in are: Ukraine (Sergiy Stakhovsky! Sergei Bubka- yes, Vika’s boyfriend!) vs. Monaco, Uzbekistan (Denis Istomin- am I the only one interested in him?) vs. New Zealand, Australia (Hewitt! Tomic! You know them!) vs. China, P.R., Great Britain (Murray-less) vs. Slovak Republic (starring recent ATP Zagreb finalist Lukas Lacko). You’d be amiss if you didn’t scavenge for some (surely static) streams for the lesser-known teams this weekend too.
3. The New Heroes
Every year Davis Cup weekend, especially the first round, breeds unheralded heroes. Something about the five-set format, the team unity, and the pressure/invigoration of playing for one’s country brings out the best in some unsuspecting players. Who will it be this weekend? Could Milos lead the Canadians past the accomplished French team? Could the upstart Japanese make Davis Cup history against Croatia? Could the Swedish team find a miracle and cause the Serbian team to sweat? As cliche as it sounds, expect a new Davis Cup legend to be born.
2. Double Trouble
Davis Cup is the time for Doubles to shine, and this weekend is no different. This weekend we have spectacular Doubles storylines: the reunions of fan favorites Fedrinka (Federer and Wawrinka) and Bendra (Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra), the eternal mystery of who the other Bryan Brother will be (Bob Bryan is home playing father duty, so either Mardy Fish, John Isner, or Ryan Harrison will take his place alongside Mike Bryan in Switzerland), and the always delightful Davis Cup return of BerdWorm (Berdych and Stepanek). Whether you’re a fan of doubles, awkwardness, hysteria, or just misplaced volleys, Saturday will be a special day for you.
1. The Cheerleaders
Let’s be honest- Davis Cup really isn’t about the tennis. It’s about seeing the bromance on the benches as the fellow team members watch and frazzle along with us. Nothing is as great as seeing a good cheerleader- whether it be Roger Federer on his feet urging on Stanislas Wawrinka, Juan Carlos Ferrero fist-pumping a Nicolas Almagro winner, or John Isner and Ryan Harrison embracing when Mardy Fish gets to set point, there is no better reason to watch Davis Cup than to inspect the camaraderie on the benches.
Both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic progressed with ease from the fourth round of the US Open with straight set wins over Juan Monaco and Alexandr Dolgopolov Jr respectively.
Federer had to wait till 23:50 local time before he and his opponent could get their encounter underway and it looked to be well past Monaco’s bedtime as the 16-time Grand Slam winner eased in to the quarter-finals 6-1, 6-2, 6-0 in just 82 minutes.
The five-time US Open winner started in breathtaking fashion, breaking his opponent twice in succession and wrapping up the first set in just 18 minutes. At one point he even reeled off four successive aces to ram home his dominance, and when light rain began to fall during the third set the Swiss ace seemed to up the tempo again in a bid to beat the weather and secure his victory by 01:13.
A veteran of the night sessions due to his stature in the tennis world, Federer said that the late start hadn’t affected him one iota in his preparations.
“You have to be ready,” he said. “I knew I was going to play late and there were all kinds of possibilities that they might move us to another court. As tennis players we’re used to it.”
Djokovic didn’t have it all his way against the Ukrainian and had to save four set points in an epic first set tie-break that saw the world number one have six of his own before finally securing it 16-14.
The heartbreak seemed to affect Dolgopolov and he started badly in the second, dropping to 0-4 in no time at all. But if there is one thing you cannot call the world number 21 it is a quitter and he fought back, breaking Djokovic’s serve twice before eventually losing the set 5-7.
Then Djokovic upped his game again to see out the match 7-6(14), 7-5, 6-2 in his chase for a first US Open crown.
“Winning it was very important,” Djokovic said of his comeback in the first set tie-break. “That was probably the turning point. After that it was a good performance.
“He played a lot of low balls, slices – I was confused on the court. But it was really exciting.”
Djokovic will now meet his close friend and Serbian Davis Cup team-mate Janko Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals after the 20th seed overcame a despondent-looking former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero 7-5, 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-2.
Up next for Federer is a re-match of the 2011 Wimbledon quarter-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The memories of that epic will be fresh in the memory after Tsonga came from two sets down to defeat Federer 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. It was the first time the world number three had ever lost after being two sets ahead in a Grand Slam.
Tsonga set that re-match up by ending the American hopes for Mardy Fish in the fourth round in a tense 6-4, 6-7(5), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 match on Arthur Ashe Court.
In the women’s draw, Caroline Wozniacki staged a dramatic comeback against Svetlana Kuznetsova to keep alive her hopes of landing her maiden Grand Slam.
The world number one looked set to exit before the quarterfinals at a set and 1-4 down but the Dane battled back in exceptional circumstances to book a place in the quarters against Andrea Petkovic via a 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-1 win.
“I thought about the match we played against each other here in 2009,” she said. “I was a set and break down in the second in that one and still won.
“I knew I could come back so I just stepped into the lines, went for my shots, and tried to make fewer errors. I am in good shape. I can play for five hours if I have to. I just wanted to keep the rallies going.”
28th seed Serena Williams joined Wozniacki there as she produced yet another dominating display to see off fellow former world number one Ana Ivanovic 6-3, 6-4.
Blustery conditions affected the games of both stars but Serena coped the better despite her ball toss becoming unpredictable in the wind.
“It was crazy,” Williams said. “I didn’t even go for winners at any point. I just tried to get it over because it was so windy. It was like, ‘Wow’. It was definitely tough. It just kind of swirls down there. But you just have to win in all kinds of situations.”
Serena will next face Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who also came back to complete an impressive turnaround victory against 2010 French Open winner Francesca Schiavone 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
The final Grand Slam of the year got underway on Monday in New York and with hurricane Irene no longer looming, the tournament was able to get through all of its scheduled matches.
On the men’s side we saw third seeded Roger Federer advance with relative ease against clay-court specialist Santiago Giraldo in straight sets by a score of 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
Federer very likely could have closed his opponent out in a much more devastating manner but was off his game at times throughout the match. He fully admitted afterwards that he rarely plays his best tennis in the opening rounds and is happy to be through to the next round where he will face Dudi Sela of Israel.
Elsewhere, seeded players Alexandr Dolgopolov, Tomas Berdych, RIchard Gasquet Janko Tipsarevic, Marcel Granollers, Gael Monfils, Marin Cilic, Radek Stepanek and Mardy Fish all advanced in straight sets as well.
Granollers, known more for his clay court exploits, dispatched tough veteran Xavier Maliss 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Monfils, the flying frenchman, took out a future star in Grigor Dimitrov, 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-4. He will next face 2003 finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero who needed five sets to get past Pablo Andujar. Ferrero is still capable of solid results on clay as evidenced by his recent title in Stuttgart, but forget about him making it far on the hard-courts here.
Another veteran player who had a decent result today was Germany’s Tommy Haas who advanced past French qualifier Jonathan Dasnieres de Veigy (good thing tennis players don’t wear their names on the back of their shirts!) Haas has had a real tough-go since returning from a year long layoff earlier this year. He is currently ranked 475th in the world and has a record of 2-8 so far this season. Haas actually has a pretty good draw here and if he can get on a roll is someone you can never count out.
Mardy Fish looked every bit the part as the top-ranked American in the world as he easily defeated Tobias Kamke 6-2, 6-2, 6-1. Fish has somehow managed to top his solid summer of 2010 and made the finals of the Masters 1000 event in Montreal and then the semi-finals in Cincinnati the week after that. Seeded eighth in this event, Fish is no longer going to be content with making the round of sixteen in a major. With the way he has been playing the past two months, he must be considered a title contender for perhaps the first time in his career.
The only upset on day one was to see Serbia’s Viktor Troicki be beaten by Alejandro Falla 3-6, 6-3, 4-7, 7-5, 7-5. Fortunately for fans of that nation, there is a guy who opens tomorrow who has a decent shot of going deep into the draw. Novak Djokovic will open against Conor Niland of Ireland, a man who will need all the luck of the Irish he can muster.
Wozniacki’s new boyfriend, Serena Williams uses protected ranking, Dulko gets married – The Friday Five
By Maud Watson
Righting the Ship
Last weekend saw two ATP stars move towards getting their game’s back on track and hopefully gaining confidence going into the summer season. Robin Soderling played some stellar tennis against a competitive field to take the title in his home country, defeating David Ferrer, on clay, in the final – which is no easy feat. The big-hitting Swede should take heart from this win going into the summer hard court swing, where his heavy groundstrokes should see him stage a successful summer campaign. Stuttgart victor Juan Carlos Ferrero took a very different path to his first title of 2011. The field there fell apart, but it didn’t make his win any less impressive. Playing in just his third tournament back since a lengthy layoff from wrist and knee surgeries, the former French Open champion showed glimpses of the form that took him to the No. 1 ranking, and certainly played above his then-current ranking of 85. The win gave him a much needed boost in the standings, and though he lost early in Hamburg, he will still undoubtedly take plenty of positives from Stuttgart regarding where his game is and where it can still go.
Sighs of Relief
There were probably many sighs of relief throughout the WTA when earlier this week it was announced that Serena Williams would be using her protected No. 1 ranking to enter the US Open. After sitting out more than six months with various health issues, Serena has the option to use the protected ranking for up to eight tournaments including one major. There had been some speculation as to whether Williams would instead take a wildcard that the USTA would have undoubtedly offered had the American asked, but Williams has wisely chosen to use the protected ranking. It will provide her a far better opportunity to play her way into the draw, and while the American is probably going to have to play more tennis than she is accustomed to doing in order to get the ranking up, the odds of her not having a sufficiently high enough ranking to gain direct entry into the 2012 Australian Open are slim to none (and even if on the odd chance that she’s still outside of the top 105 come 2012, it would be utterly shocking if Australian Open organizers didn’t provide her with a wildcard). You can bet that the rest of the top seeds are also happy with Serena’s decision, as none of them wanted to see her on the other side of the net in the early rounds.
New “It” Couple?
The rumor mill is abuzz with the possibility that current World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is more than just a close friend of newest golf sensation Rory McIlroy. A source posted pictures of the two sharing dinner and a kiss last week in London. With the skyrocketing popularity of the young golfer and Wozniacki already touted as one of the glam gals of the WTA, they are set to become one of the sporting world’s newest hot couples. Perhaps a McIlroy sighting in Wozniacki’s box in the near future along with the inevitable press conference questions to follow will confirm the rumors.
After throwing out statements over the last 12 months stating that he was contemplating a return to the ATP World Tour, Mark Philippoussis has now confirmed that he is no longer harboring such ambitions. The Australian says that he is enjoying life on the seniors’ tour, as well as getting in some surfing on the side. It has to be said that much of the trouble in his life has been self-inflicted, but it’s nice to see that Philippoussis has made a smart decision that will hopefully pay dividends and start bringing him more stability in his life.
Off the Market
Gisela Dulko, who finished as the No. 1 doubles player in 2010 with partner Flavia Pennetta and was subsequently named Argentina’s Sportswoman of the Year, may be breaking several male hearts next week. According to Spanish press, the Argentine is set to marry Real Madrid player Fernando Gago next Tuesday in her home country. But even if she is officially off the market, she’ll still, as they say, “put butts in the seats.”
The tennis world is abuzz about Novak Djokovic’s current 37-match win streak as the French Open approaches. Today, May 20, marks the 21st anniversary of a win streak coming to an end, as documented below in this excerpt from Randy Walker’s book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com).
1990 – Monica Seles ends Steffi Graf’s 66-match winning streak, defeating the German 6-4, 6-3 in the singles final of the German Open in Berlin. Says Seles, “I’m much more experienced now and I wasn’t afraid of Graf as much as before. This is just one match. I’m just happy that I’m playing well.” Says Graf, “I was so far away from playing my best tennis, it was difficult to get into it. If I play like that I can’t expect to win.”
2007 – Roger Federer ends Rafael Nadal’s 81-match winning streak on clay, defeating the Spaniard 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 in the final of the Hamburg Masters in Germany. “It was an incredible performance from my side,” says the world No. 1. “I had a great day, it’s nice to be playing well again. It’s my first title on clay in a couple of years.” Says Nadal, who had not lost to Federer on clay in five previous matches, “If I have to lose against anyone, then he is the man. I am not sad to lose to the best in the world.”
1990 – One year after attending the Italian Open on crutches recovering from torn knee ligaments suffering from being hit by a car, Thomas Muster of Austria wins the Italian Open for the first time in his career, defeating Andrei Chesnokov of Russia 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in the singles final. Says Muster, “When I said then (last year) that I would be back to win this tournament, it was more like a wish. But I worked very hard since then, and it paid off. This is my biggest tournament victory.”
2001 – Albert Portas becomes one of the most unlikely champions of a Tennis Masters Series event when he upsets fellow Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero 4-6, 6-2, 0-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5 to win the Tennis Master Series – Hamburg for his first – and only – career ATP singles title. Portas, a qualifier in the tournament, ends Ferrero’s 16-match winning streak with the final-round victory. “It was unbelievable, the most incredible experience in my life,” Portas says. “It was a beautiful match. Hamburg will be forever in my heart now. It was the best day in my life.”
1984 – Andres Gomez of Ecuador fends off the challenge of 16-year-old Aaron Krickstein, defeating the American 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the final of the Italian Open in Rome. Krickstein becomes the youngest men’s finalist in the history of the Italian Championships.
2007 – Jelena Jankovic defeats Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-1 to win the Italian Open in Rome. Says Kuznetsova, “It’s just a bit sad because I felt like I was playing so well. I was fighting a lot against myself. I didn’t play the game I could have played. I had so many balls and I didn’t finish, that was the key.”
The International German Open – Hamburg, Germany
The German Open offers European clay-court specialists another opportunity to pad their ranking point totals for the year.
Russian Nikolay Davydenko is seeded first but given his play as of late I wouldn’t expect much in terms of results here. Struggling to find his game after returning from injury, Davydenko was bounced in the first round in Stuttgart last week and is 3-4 since returning from a three month layoff. While Davydenko is the returning champion, he will have considerable difficulty in defending this time around.
Nicolas Almagro is seeded fifth and is always dangerous on red clay. The Spaniard just captured the title in Bastad, his first of 2010, and has a favorable draw here in Hamburg. One knock against Almagro however is that he usually disappoints after a big result. Consistency is lacking and it will be a challenge for him to put together back-to-back titles.
Veterans Juan Carlos Ferrero and Tommy Robredo are both in the draw and have the ability to raise the trophy as does Albert Montanes who won in Stuttgart last week.
Third seeded Jurgen Melzer has performed well at the last two Grand Slams, where he made the semis at Roland Garros and the fourth round at Wimbledon, but then bowed-out 4-6, 1-6 to Montanes a week ago on clay.
Second seeded David Ferrer is my favorite here and performed well in Bastad where he lost just a few days ago in the semi-finals to Robin Soderling in three sets.
The Atlanta Tennis Championships – Atlanta, Georgia
The city of Atlanta gets to host an ATP event for the first time since 2001 when Andy Roddick won his first ATP tournament. Previously this tournament was held on green clay, but returns as a hard-court event leading up to the U.S. Open. The city is no stranger to big tennis events as it hosted the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Roddick gets a first-round bye and could face Xavier Malisse in the third round. Roddick holds an 8-0 career advantage against the 58th ranked Belgian, who is climbing his way back up the rankings as of late.
If you’re a fan of American tennis you’ll want to keep a close eye on the second quarter of the draw. There you’ll find a quartet of aging American players who will fight for the chance of facing Roddick in the semi-finals.
Twenty-nine year old Taylor Dent gets an opening round match against thirty year old James Blake that should be a crowd pleaser. Blake has dropped out of the top-hundred while Dent is working on moving back towards the top-fifty. Blake is taking his departure from the upper-echelon of the game with much difficulty and has talked recently about how this could be his last year on tour if things do not improve.
Also lurking in this section are twenty-seven year old Robby Ginepri and twenty-eight year old Mardy Fish. I would look to Fish to have the best chance of breaking out of this section of the draw as he won the title in Newport, Rhode Island just over a week ago.
Third seeded Lleyton Hewitt should be able to have a solid run in Atlanta and his presence here indicates to me that he is serious about taking a good run in Flushing Meadows. The veteran from Australia can still hit a good ball and is always a threat when healthy.
In the bottom quarter look for second seeded John Isner to advance quite deep in the draw. I’d imagine that Isner has more than recovered from his epic first-round victory at Wimbledon over Nicolas Mahut. Let’s hope that Isner has found some time to practice around his recent media blitz that included reading the top-ten list on Late Night with David Letterman and winning an ESPY award for greatest record-breaking performance.
With the short grass court season already over, the ATP Tour turns to a couple of clay court tournaments in Europe this week.
The chance at redemption to a multitude of players who have missed significant portions of the tennis season due to injury is offered at Stuttgart this year.
Russian Nikolay Davydenko is the top seed in Stuttgart and will try to improve on his semi-final appearances here in 2004 and 2005. Ranked sixth in the world, Davydenko is still struggling with his game since returning from a wrist injury in June. After missing three months he returned in time for Halle and Wimbledon and lost both times in the second round on his least favorite surface of grass. Davydenko gets a first round bye and will then play the winner of the Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Jeremy Chardy match. Chardy won his first career title here a year ago but will be hard-pressed to repeat.
Frenchman Gael Monfils is seeded third and has a fairly easy looking quarter of the draw that is littered with qualifiers. Monfils also missed some time earlier in the year with injury issues and has yet to post any significant results in 2010. This tournament offers the perfect opportunity for Monfils to reach his first final of the season.
Fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon could meet up with veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third quarter-final. Simon will be have trouble living up to this seventh-seed status as he too was out of action for three months between March and June with injuries and is not yet where his game is capable of being.
In the final quarter, clay-court specialist Albert Montanes the fifth seed will likely meet up with second seeded Jurgen Melzer if they can get through the opening two rounds. Melzer is experiencing the season of his career thus far at the age of 29 by making it to the semi-finals at the French Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon. The Austrian had never before advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam.
In Bastad, Sweden, local hope Robin Soderling will look to defend his title from a year ago. Soderling was the first Swede to win the singles title in Bastad since his current coach, Magnus Norman, did it in 2000.
Third seeded David Ferrer won the title in 2007 and is still capable of strong results on clay. This year he has won the title in Acapulco, made the finals of Buenos Aires and the Masters-Series tournament in Rome as well as the semi-finals of four other tournaments.
Nicolas Almagro is seeded fourth and is an able clay-court player. His section seems quite routine and he should be able to find his way deep into the draw.
The bottom quarter features two tough players from Spain in veteran Tommy Robredo, who has won the Bastad title twice before (2006, 2008), and second seeded Fernando Verdasco. Robredo holds a 23-7 career record at this tournament and has a 4-4 head-to-head against Verdasco.
One interesting note when looking at the list of former doubles champions is that Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman won here on seven separate occasions and with six different partners.