monfils

Roland Garros Week 1 Done! Random Thoughts…

By James A. Crabtree

  1. Question- Can Serena Williams lose on current form?
    Answer- No
  2. What do Jiri Novak, Christophe Van Garesse, Thomas Enqvist, Tommy Haas, David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Andy Murray all have in common?
    They have beaten Federer in 5 set matches since his career began. Gilles Simon cannot be added to this list after losing his second five set match to Mr Federer in the fourth round at this years Roland Garros.
    In other Fed news he appears to have bulked up or perhaps has a Batman costume beneath his shirt? And his shoes with that white bit at the back don’t look unlike old man slippers.
  3. John Isner needs to learn how to break serve, not just hold serve.
  4. A tennis purgatory exists for tour players who seem lost, unable to find their former glory. No player wants to end up here but those who find residence here are not losing drastically but are in an awful limbo land. They are not winning the tough matches that they once would; they are not improving and are far from retiring. Caroline Wozniacki, Sam Stosur and Anna Ivanovic have continued their limbo form in Paris and have exited Roland Garros before Monday of the second week.
  5. Bethanie Mattek-Sands has already equaled her best slam performance, a fourth round at Wimbledon in 2008. Can she go one further?
  6. Question? Can Rafael Nadal lose at this years French Open?
    Answer? Yes, but would you bet against him. Even when he is not up to his best his opponent seemingly crumbles
  7. Ryan Harrison needs a big win over a big player as much as I need to clear my overdraft.
  8. Former world number one and 2008 U.S. Open finalist Jelena Jankovic is seeking to leave the purgatory group and seems to be finding old form after bating Stosur. She next faces Jaime Hampton who ‘Is For Real’. She has been steadily improving; she is fun to watch and embodies a certain toughness that is endearing.
  9. Australian Open has a roof, is building another court with a roof and has lights. Wimbledon built a roof. U.S. Open has lights and plays until late. Roland Garros needs a roof. Roland Garros needs lights. Surely the people who live near Roland Garros can put up with this for two weeks a year?
  10. Nadal can get upset. Blame the rain and the lack of a roof Rafa, not the schedule.
  11. Bernard Tomic didn’t do anything to make us forget the daddy issue
  12. If everything goes to form and Victoria Azarenka meets Maria Sharapova in the semi, hope that Azarenka wins. Sharapova has not beaten Serena Williams since 2004 and has lost the last twelve matches to her.
  13. Gael Monfils could’a and should’a won against Tommy Robredo. Instead Robredo has won three straight 2 set down 5 set matches! What the! Incredibly Tommy is the first to do that since five-time champion Henri Cochet, one of the four muskateers. Of interest Cochet, a spruce little Frenchman won in Paris five times. He also beat ‘Big Bill’ Tilden in a 1927 Wimbledon semifinal after being down two sets and 1-5 before winning 2-6 4-6 7-5 6-4 6-3.
  14. Nicholas Almagro is making a name for himself as a choker against fellow Spaniards as he was 2 sets up and 4-1 against Robredo. Back in January   Almagro was 2 sets up against David Ferrer then fell apart after having match points
  15. Ernets Gulbis comes from a wealthy family and is a bad tempered racquet thrower. He suffered a big defeat then went on to talk bad about the four best players in the game. Is Ernie a whiner, an heir to the throne or just Joffrey Baratheon?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjA4vDBdpcs

Vancouver Stoked to Host Davis Cup Elite

Two years removed from hosting the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the city of Vancouver will be all about tennis this week as many of the sport world’s eyes will be focused on the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, which will host Canada’s biggest Davis Cup tie in the last decade beginning Friday.

Canada will host a powerhouse team from France, which includes Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in their first World Group tie since 2004. This also marks the first time since 1992 that Vancouver will host a Davis Cup tie.

Led by their two young guns, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, who played the role of Davis Cup hero last year to give his country this opportunity, Canada will attempt to pull off a huge upset in their first home tie since 2009. For the occasion, Tennis Canada has selected a fast indoor hard court that should help produce a few more aces and winners from the heavy-hitting Canadian racquets.

Not only did the event sell out within an hour, but the organizing committee has pulled out all of the stops to give their squad every advantage as they go after this monumental victory. “Operation Red and White” is encouraging fans to wear their country’s colours regardless of where they will be watching the matches and reinforces that France won’t win, at least “Not On Our Court”.  In addition, the Cactus Club Café in Vancouver is the official Team Canada Headquarters to watch the tie for fans who don’t have a ticket.

The one and only meeting between Canada and France in Davis Cup came way back in 1966 on the clay courts of Roland-Garros with the home side coming away with a dominant 5-0 win. The home team this time around is hoping for a much different result and Raonic and Pospisil will have to play the matches of their lives to make it happen. Not only will France be tough in singles, but they have also brought Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra, two of their doubles specialists to counter Canadian legend Daniel Nestor, who usually guarantees a point when he suits up for the crucial doubles rubber.

“It’s a short time frame compared to the other years, usually we have play in March so we have an extra month to get the match count high enough to feel really good about anybody’s game,” said Team Canada captain Martin Laurendeau. “But, the fact that it’s following a Grand Slam and it’s early in the season has forced the guys to be sharp early in the year and we are playing some good tennis right now.”

The task at hand may be a very difficult one, but there is a reason they play the game and the Canadian underdogs plan on showing their home fans why.

Stepanek bests “Superman” Monfils in Washington; best shots from the final

Czech Radek Stepanek ran away with the title at this year’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. versus entertainer extraordinaire Gaël Monfils, 6-4, 6-4. Both players were on their best behavior as they showcased brilliant tennis and provided lots of goofy photos (below)!

Stepanek strolled into the media interview room and began downing not a refreshing bottle of Gatorade or water, but instead, his drink of choice was a Pepsi. Content and relaxed about his week, he stated that it was two years since he’d played this well, the last time being his title run in San Jose in 2009. At age 32, he is the oldest player in the top 100 but states that “it’s not age, it’s how you feel” that determines how long you can play this sport. With the age of top players increasing steadily into their late-20s, he cites that players like him “are like a wine, the older we are getting, the better we are.” He was feeling so good in fact, that he did his trademark dance move on court after his win, The Worm. “The emotions are there … especially after a year of struggling … and a lot of injuries. I still believed in myself, in hard work … and I do The Worm only when I win tournaments, so that’s why I did it today again.”

He commended his opponent Monfils who fought for every point on the court. With an acrobatic and “Cirque de Soleil” style of tennis, Monfils is a true entertainer on court attracting the crowds. He is any photographer’s dream subject as evidenced by the shot below. But what the photo doesn’t show it how quick and agile he is in retrieving and running down every single ball.

 

Today, however, Monfils was quick to point out that he was a bit unlucky with the scheduling this week, having to finish his three-set semifinal match against John Isner at 1:15am the night before. “I think I was a fraction slower today” than usual. He claimed to be “seeing the ball a fraction late” on Stepanek’s serves as well.

Even while ranked #7 in the world, Monfils is only 3-for-14 in ATP tour level finals as of today. With his aggressive style of play, it makes one wonder why the discrepancy exists. Monfils comments: “I had two opportunities [in past finals] that I didn’t make it … I’m unlucky [to win a title], last year I twisted my ankles in the finals. Today I finished at 1:15am, and I never had a chance to get a good rest.”

Even though he served better than Stepanek, Monfils was broken in the Legg Mason finals twice, both at early parts of each set. “Superman” Monfils was showcased during several points, flying through the air, but rarely won those entertaining points, again showing that it was the steady game of Stepanek’s that really dictated play. There was a rhythm to the match with a slight favor toward Stepanek, but Monfils was threatening him with up-to two aces per game at times. Even as a spectator, it really is a workout tracking Monfils’ every move on court.

At 4-3, 15-all in the second set, Stepanek double-faulted giving Monfils his first glimpse of breaking back. Monfils jumped ahead of himself and powered a backhand just wide, screaming in frustration nearly pounding his racquet to the ground. Even on Stepanek’s next serve, which happened to be a second serve, he still somehow controlled the point and ran Monfils around so much that he slipped and skidded his elbow on the ground, tumbling. Monfils laid silent for several extended seconds (probably catching his breath) before he emerged. But he was clearly shaken up and couldn’t convert the early break. Stepanek won the final game easily, approaching the net four-out-of-five times, and took it 6-4 in the second.

With the awards’ ceremony following, both players showed great sportsmanship and laughed with each other, showing that you can still be friendly even in defeat. In fact, Monfils was caught giggling even bigger than Stepanek at one point – not sure what made him happy, but we’ll take it. For a sport that requires the “loser” to stand up and analyze his game right after a loss, it can be both difficult and therapeutic. You don’t see the Miami Heat being asked why they lost in the NBA Finals 15 minutes after the buzzer, but tennis is different. The stress put on a player doesn’t cease after the last ball is played , it continues for several hours as they are grilled by the media, commentators, and possibly their team on “what went wrong.” But Monfils’ effort today was valiant and humbling: no matter how much work you put in, there’s always more you can do. And he stated that earlier in the week when he said “When I do two hours of practice, I need to add 30 minutes more. I need to feel something inside to go further. I think I show too much respect to my opponent. Maybe I can be more selfish.”

The best (and goofiest) shots from the finals are below. You can follow me on twitter as well for more tennis coverage! @TennisRomi

 

Serbian Fatalism at Legg Mason Tennis Classic: Janko Tipsarevic and Viktor Troicki

Serbian fatalism was in full swing at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C. last night as the two remaining Serbs, world #15 Viktor Troicki and #25 Janko Tipsarevic went out to John Isner and Gael Monfils, respectively. Being from the former Yugoslavia myself, I have an intimate look into the way Serbians, as a culture, are hard-wired and these two young men are no exception. Perhaps, they are the example.

After losing the first set, 7-6(5), Troicki could have easily faded away thinking Isner was serving just too well for any opportunities to arise. Instead, he took advantage of Isner’s fading confidence and broke him to go up 3-0 in the second set. As Isner became increasingly negative with his own movement, Troicki’s belief and body language surpassed any inkling of doubt he may have had earlier in the match. He began to play like a dangerous top player and won 91% of his first serves pushing Isner into a hole. Isner himself even stated that in the second set, he was “either missing wildly or missing weakly into the net” and that was a true tale of the type of pressure Troicki was putting on him.

Then the third set began to unfold and with it, Troicki began to doubt. After a resurgence, his performance plummeted as his serve and return percentages dwindled, and he created a large gap in the deficit for his winners to unforced errors. Likewise, Tipsarevic stayed with Monfils for the majority of the match, but when the point was on his racquet, he succumbed, looking to his box and simply saying “nemogu,” or “I can’t” in Serbian, when referencing getting broken in the first game of the second set.

The word ‘fatalism’ is commonly used to refer to an attitude of resignation in the face of some event which is thought to be inevitable, as in the case of a loss. Even if a player believes he can win and does well initially, disbelief creeps in and takes hold, refusing to let go. In the case of both Troicki and Tipsarevic, good friends that fell out of the tournament in the same evening, it shows how contagious the doctrine actually is: they feel powerless to do anything other than what they actually do, because they are bound to lose in the end, no matter how much they put into the match. And although this type of attitude can be witnessed in other players who dismantle mentally on-court, it’s the Serbian political history that gives the greatest context. From the assassination of Austrian emperor Franz Ferdinand by a Yugoslavian nationalist to launch World War I, to the Serbia-Kosovo conflict last decade, Serbians and Croatians alike, have had a turbulent history that seems to be against our own best interest. As a culture and nation, we strive to be better people, and we achieve success, but the dark cloud still hangs over us and we doubt our abilities, even if we don’t want to admit it.

In his press conference, Tipsarevic referenced that the reason he lost wasn’t his “forehand or backhand, it was more my lack of concentration. I was getting so frustrated, that I couldn’t win free points off my serve and couldn’t finish off the points as I wanted to, and as I did in the previous two matches.” Fatalism isn’t always present, but it appears in the most inopportune times, making us believe that acceptance is appropriate, rather than resistance against inevitability.

But the reward will come one day for these two players, as it has for current #1 Novak Djokovic. After winning the Australian Open in 2008 at age 20, it took him three full years to win another grand slam. The time in between was filled with drama of apologies about on-court antics to a pronounced and immense struggle with his serve. And then a breakthrough occurred, and he became unstoppable. He was able to shun away any mental strife and play for himself, and for his country in the Davis Cup finals, winning it for the first time in Serbia’s existence. What was a handicap turned into the ultimate asset: Djokovic learned how to direct his energy to attain his goals, and even surprised a few people on the way up to the top of the men’s tennis game. Hopefully, Tipsarevic and Troicki can follow in his steps, but not without drama of their own.

In what was sadly seen as offensive, a photo and corresponding caption posted by Tipsarevic of him holding up a plastic gun at Djokovic with his hands in the air and reading “How much $$$ would Rafa gief … ;)”, stirred up a storm on the internet recently. Ben Rotherberg of The Daily Forehand got the full scoop by asking Tipsarevic to comment on the situation. Tipsarevic stated that “it was a bad joke. We were really happy that we won Davis Cup. We were at dinner … I think it was a plastic gun … it was a bet and a stupid joke. At the time it seemed funny because the joke was about how dominant Novak is [on tour], that nothing can stop him this season. The next day, I took it off Facebook and Twitter. As I heard later, it was all over the internet, people were blaming me for thinking that ‘I hate Rafa.’ I called Novak and Rafa the next day. I spoke to them and they were fine about it. They told me to be careful because of social networking and [how] people can get things like this in a wrong way.” This is Serbian fatalism at its finest, ladies and gentleman. But all credit to Tipsarevic for realizing how grave of a situation it really was and commenting whole-heartedly on it.

Tipsarevic finished appropriately with: “I still blame myself.  I think it was a bad, bad joke. You can make a bad story out of anything if you want to. I apologize to anyone that thinks it was offensive to anybody on tour.” To a non-native speaker, expressing sincerity may be tough, but the aura surrounding Tipsarevic’s response ensured all those present that he meant what he said. And remember too, that he had just lost a tough match to Monfils not even an hour before.

For the full clip, Jen from Racquet Required has it on Youtube.

Hopefully, one day in the near future, these two young Serbians will be able to channel their energy into attaining the goals that their talents are capable of. Until then, we can struggle in their drama-filled journey with them.

Follow me on twitter as I cover the Legg Mason Tennis Classic all week! @TennisRomi

2011 Set For a Cracker

With the dust still settling in our memories over the stunning year that was 2010 the new tennis calendar is already upon us. It seems not too long ago that Federer was dismantling a shattered Rafa Nadal at London’s o2 Arena in the ATP Tour Finals. But with Christmas coming and going with its ever-rapid characteristics Down Under has opened its tennis season with aplomb.

Everyone has their favourite star and their own pantomime villains. And everyone has an ideal year mapped out in their mind with their top men and women coming out trumps at all the major tournaments, myself included.

So, as a year-beginning blog I have decided to look ahead to the 2011 men’s tour and predict, not entirely seriously, what may (or probably not) happen throughout the year ahead…

January

The early hard court season jumps in to life at Brisbane, Chennai and Doha building up to the first slam of the year in Australia. Andy Murray falls in the second round blaming the heat and a low-flying seagull and promptly sacks his coach. Juan Martin del Potro is still suffering with his troublesome wrist but plays his way to the quarter finals using only his good hand. The final is slightly predictable with Rafa and Roger battling their way there but to spruce things up after their recent exhibition exploits on water, centre court is flooded and the pair do battle in full scuba gear. Roger comes out as winner in four sets. As January winds down in Santiago, Chile, Juan Ignacio Chela wins the Movistar Open and is touted as this year’s big hope to challenge Rafa in the clay season.

February

As the early hard season slowly slides in to clay, Thomaz Belluci lifts his home Brasil Open title while Gael Monfils dances his way to the Open 13 in Marseille where he celebrates with a perfectly executed Moonwalk across court. Four Americans reach the semifinals at Memphis and again at Delray Beach. Wayne Odesnik wins both tournaments which causes mass outrage throughout the sport. He is touted for a Davis Cup call but Jim Courier decides to take a seething Mardy Fish instead.

March

The first Masters events of the year begin and fresh off Davis Cup victory Andy Roddick, Fish, The Bryans and John Isner are on fire. A sulking Sam Querrey falls early in both. Andy Murray comes out on top at Indian Wells beating Roddick in the final but then typically falls early at Miami and promptly sacks his coach. Nadal faces Robin Soderling in the final who has been slating the ‘Big Two’ all year. Rafa takes it with two bagel sets bringing tears and tantrums from the egotistical Swede.

April

April begins with Rafa rubbing his hands and licking his lips at the prospect of another clay season. Young Yank Ryan Harrison takes the title at Houston and is the latest star to be labelled ‘the next Sampras.’ Rafa takes Monte Carlo as expected with a straight set win over Fernando Verdasco in the final. Most notably throughout the tournament he seems to be multitasking while on court, even seen filing his nails whilst rallying with his compatriot. There is no real sign of Chela. Novak Djokovic again takes the Serbia Open in Belgrade and is installed as ruler of the nation for his achievements. He decides to sit out the rest of the 2011 season to concentrate on his new role.

May

Madrid and Rome are again taken by Rafa who now appears to be growing bored on court. Whilst dismantling Marcos Baghdatis in the final in Rome he appears to give interviews to Spanish television during the match. As everyone arrives in Paris the shocking news emanates that Rafa has decided he is bored of lifting the French Open with such ease and has decided to umpire the tournament instead to see who else can win it. With the new celebrity chair the French players really kick on in the race to be crowned their nation’s new hero. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retires from his first round match injured while Michael Llodra comes through an epic five set semi with R-Fed to face Monfils in the final. The marathon man then takes Monfils through six hours of stupendous Gallic play and the greatest French Open final of all time ends with Monfils on the floor in a tantrum pounding the floor with his fists. Llodra is crowned the saviour of France.

June

As the ATP Tour comes to Britain tennis stars snap up as much Royal Wedding memorabilia as they can get their hands on as the traditional Wimbledon plate is switched for a porcelain edition bearing the faces of beloved Wills and Kate. Andy Murray takes both Queens and Eastbourne and is believed to be a dead cert for Wimbledon. But he crashes out in round three and promptly sacks his coach. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut somehow weave their way to the final and the tents are brought out in preparation for the impending marathon. Isner wins in three sets. Roger Federer makes some possible unsavoury comments about Mahut after he overcame the Swiss God in the semis and the world’s media call him unsporting and a scurvy dog for the next six months before involving him in another betting scandal claiming he and Rafa betted on many of the matches the Spaniard had chaired at the French Open.

July

Serbia’s Davis Cup title defence ends at the quarter final stage and King Djokovic has the entire team executed for letting their nation down. Federer re-hits form late on again by taking Bastad and Gstaad while Roddick is doing well by taking Hamburg and Los Angeles. The Americans work themselves in to a fervour over the home prospects for the US Open and many pundits are with them because of the top form of A-Rod, Harrison and Isner. David Nalbandian wins in Atlanta and everyone once again remembers who he is. There is talk of a possible push in New York. Surely not…

August

Nalbandian again wins at the Legg Mason Classic. He takes a marathon final against Baghdatis, his other eternally injured friend. Andy Murray loses in the second round in Montreal and sees his title slip away. He again blames a lack of love for tennis and promptly sacks his coach before announcing his retirement from the sport. Roger takes the title before losing the Cincinnati final to Roddick. America is literally on the edge of its seat. Rafa ruptures the tendons in both knees in the third round at Cincy against Ernests Gulbis and will miss the rest of the season.

September

The final Slam of the year in New York explodes in to life with the partisan crowd firmly behind Roddick. He finally puts all the pain behind him by overcoming Federer at last in the semis in five sets. Federer is immediately written off by the world’s media, again. In the other semi Soderling falls to a resurgent Nalbandian and America gears itself up to crown Roddick their new leader. But he falls apart. His serve leaves him, his ground strokes are erratic and Nalbandian triumphs in four to become the second Argentine in three years to silence Arthur Ashe court. He quickly sees his title switch from the best player of the last decade not to win a major to the sixth best player of the last decade to win one.

October

With no Rafa, Murray or Djokovic to compete with Federer once again silences his critics by beginning a clean sweep of the late tournaments. He takes the China Open, Shanghai, the Kremlin Cup, Vienna and Basel without losing a set. Over in Valencia David Ferrer shoots to the final after a quiet year where he meets the marathon man Llodra. Ferrer takes the final in five much to the delight of the home fans. Murray decides he was wrong to be so hasty and announces his return to tennis, promising he will win that first Slam in 2012. Djokovic declares that all Serbian children will take karaoke lessons as well as practice tennis at school as of 2015.

November

In Paris, Federer finally runs out of steam and drops a set against Brian Dabul. Critics are again on his back saying he is finished. He manages to reach the quarter finals where he falls to Ryan Harrison. The American youth then falls to Del Potro in the semi who in turn loses to Soderling in the final. The Swede moves to No. 3 in the world and says he is ever so close to breaking the Top 2 but nobody is listening anymore. The ATP Finals kick off with a somewhat decimated lineup. Federer, Soderling, Roddick, Del Potro, Nalbandian, Isner, Ferrer and Verdasco do battle in London with the eyes of the tennis world watching on. Ferrer, Verdasco, Nalbandian and Roddick fall at the group stage leaving Soderling and Federer to battle it out in the final after overcoming Del Potro and Isner respectively. Federer triumphs in straight sets and the Swede storms off court refusing to take part in the ceremony, predictions in tatters. The USA take the Davis Cup home after defeating Russia in the final and it is seen as a victory for politics rather than tennis.

Well, stranger things have happened!

Serbian Celebration Following Davis Cup Win with Comedic Moments

It was an evening no one will soon forget as Serbia defeated France for the coveted Davis Cup trophy, edging them out 3-2. Belgrade Arena was filled to capacity over the weekend as fans, fellow athletes, invited guests, and even the President of Serbia attended the finals. There was even a camera crew filming the player’s joy in the lockerroom (video link and translation below).

In the first match, Janko Tipsarevic took on Gael Monfils, but could not produce the shots or push away the nerves he felt coming in. His emotions got the better of him after a rough referee call and it was difficult for him to turn things around in the third set. Even though Tipsarevic played a statistically sounder game in the second set, his 38 unforced errors, to Monfils’ 14, cost him the match. and he lost 6-1, 7-6(4), 6-0.

The second rubber pitted Novak Djokovic against Gilles Simon. Even though Djokovic walked away the winner of this match, don’t let the one-sided scoreline tip you off. Simon gave a fight from the beginning and delayed Djokovic’s eventual win as he evened things out at 5-5 in the third. Djokovic plummeted 62 winners onto Simon’s side of the court, while the Frenchman had more unforced errors than winners, missing easy volleys and key pressure moments that cost him gaining any leeway. The Serb won 6-3, 6-1, 7-5, and evened the score out at 1-1.

The match everybody had a hard time calling was the anticipated doubles contest, with Nenad Zimonjic and Viktor Troicki taking on Michael Llodra and Arnaud Clement. The match lasted well over 4 hours and kept fans on the edge of their seats until the last moment. The Serbs went up 2 sets to none, but the momentum had changed in the tiebreaker of the second in favor of the French. They took advantage of another bad call against Serbia and gave them a rude awakening as they won the next two sets. The French won only 4 more total points than the Serbs, but that was enough to give them the win, 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.

France would need to win just one of the two singles matches left to play in order to walk away as Davis Cup champions. But it was not meant to be.

The final two matches were blow-outs in favor of the Serbs. Djokovic thumped Monfils, booming his effective serve just out of Monfils’ reach. When Djokovic’s serve is working, it’s a thing of beauty to witness and his motivation and optimism increases with it. He was simply unstoppable as he took out Monfils, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4. As the deciding fifth rubber was required, Captain Vladimir Obradovic subbed in Viktor Troicki for Janko Tipsarevic and Captain Guy Forget replaced Gilles Simon with Michael Llodra. It was their first meeting, so it was anybody’s guess. Surprisingly, Llodra, known for his excellent serve-and-volley game, faltered at the net, winning only 10 of 41 points, while Troicki won 13 of 15 points at the net. Troicki simply exposed Llodra’s age and inability to recover quickly from their doubles match the day before. The Serb won more points on his serves and had a better returning game, allowing him to run away with the win at his second matchpoint (photo below), sealing the score at 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.

Upon realizing what he had just done, Troicki walked backwards on the court stunned, throwing his racket and anticipating his teammates quick pounce onto the court in his direction. The first to hug him was Captain Obradovic, followed by his teammates, trainers, and friends. His smile quickly turned to tears as his teammates hoisted him in the air, but I think something else was on his mind when the tears began to fall: he remembered that he and his team had vowed to shave their heads if they had won the Davis Cup. Having to shave my head would bring me to tears as well! It seems that Zimonjic also had to carry a smiling, but defiant, Djokovic to the on-court barbershop.

If you’ve ever wanted to party like a Serb, now is your chance. Watch matchpoint as Troicki brings Serbia it’s first Davis Cup title and the awards ceremony that follows their triumph. But the two show-stealers in this video are Troicki and Djokovic with their on-court interviews. First up is Troicki who struggles to find words to express his emotions. He cuts the interview short when he grabs the mic and says” Neznam sta da kazem … moram na sisanje!” which translates to “I don’t know what to say … I have to get my hair cut!” (Video via underPFC)

Djokovic then takes the mic calmly, but when he begins talking about his team’s friendships and bond he finally bursts into emotion yelling, “Najjaci smo! Sta da kazem?! Najbolje smo!” translating to “We’re the strongest! What can I say?! We’re the best!” When the reporter asked where they will celebrate, Djokovic answers that they will “celebrate on the streets of Belgrade, where else?! To the center [of the city], we’re going naked!” Afterward, the camera caught the team in the lockerroom and it’s difficult to explain the hilarity that ensues. Djokovic exclaims “Never again bald, never again” before putting on a shirt that holds the Cyrillic letters for “Champion.” Troicki admires his new do in the mirror while the Serbian team finishes shaving Tipsarevic’s head, meanwhile wondering how Tipsarevic’s new wife Biljana will respond. Zimonjic waves at the camera with his “new face,” and Tipsarevic at the end tells the cameraman to turn around so he can change. Adorned with beanies, the Serbian team also partied in the streets later as promised, fireworks, dancing, and all. Can’t beat that carefree and proud Serbian mentality! (Video via FueBuena)

More photos of the celebrations below!

A tip from “The Slice” (http://www.the-slice.com) also gave me this great find: commemorative Davis Cup stamps featuring all the players, for sale in Serbia.

The players also jumped onto the table during the press conference to sing the famous Serbian song “Mars na Drinu” aka “The March on the Drina [River]” which has become a symbol of bravery and adopted by many Serbs as their anthem. (Screenshot below, but full video can be found here: http://sport.blic.rs/Tenis/189135/Pogledajte-Slavlje-u-Areni-i-oko-nje-provod-tenisera-u-gradu)

The Davis Cup team and other prestigious invitees celebrated at the club “Bejbis” afterward.

Serbia and France name Davis Cup Squads, ATP Announce Longer off-season and Date Krumm sets Retirement date

*Serbia and France have both announced their squads for the forthcoming Davis Cup final in Belgrade taking place 3-5 December. Bogdan Obradovic has unsurprisingly chosen Novak Djokovic, who is unbeaten in Davis Cup singles play in 2010, to lead the Serbian attack with Viktor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic vying for the second singles berth. Either player could also partner doubles expert Nenad Zimonjic in that field. French Captain Guy Forget has chosen Gael Monfils as France’s spearhead with usual number one Jo-Wilfried Tsonga injured. Monfils has a 100% record this year and has recorded wins over the likes of ATP WTF finalist David Ferrer and David Nalbandian. Michael Llodra is expected to take the second singles berth after showing great form in the previous two rounds. It will be his first Davis Cup Final appearance after missing out in 2001 and 2002. Gilles Simon will also be hoping for some game time. The draw for play will take place on December 2.

*Two of the sport’s most prominent voices in the debate for extending the tennis off-season have spoken about the decision by the ATP to increase the resting period to seven weeks. “With seven weeks you can take a break at the end of the year and that should help the longevity of everyone’s careers,” said British No. 1 Andy Murray in his column for BBC Tennis. “We’ve been trying for quite a few years to make it clear that it’s too short an off-season. I’m hoping this will make a difference.” World No. 2 Roger Federer was more cautious with his response. “I think it’s good to have a longer off-season,” said the Swiss No. 1. “I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction. But only time will tell. Will we have less or more injuries because the calendar is more packed? I don’t know.” A full interview with Federer on the subject can be viewed at the Eurosport website.

*Kimiko Date Krumm has announced that the 2011 season will be her last. The 40-year-old Japanese defier of Father Time says she is targeting the Grand Slams during her swansong. The former Top 10 player returned to the Tour this year after a twelve year absence and finished the year ranked at No. 46. “I’m not a robot, I’m only human,” she told Sky Sports after losing in the semi-finals of the Asian Games in Guangzhou. “It’s been a good season but I’m exhausted now. I’m not sure whether or not I can manage to play until the end of next season. I need to recharge before I can think of competing next year. Hopefully I can have some good results at the Grand Slams.

*Roger Federer’s 6-1, 6-4 victory over David Ferrer at the o2 on Sunday was the thirtieth victory of his career at the ATP World Tour Finals. He has qualified for the season-ending Championships for nine straight years. “I think it’s wonderful,” said Federer, speaking of the event. “The players love it. We’re all here. It’s really prestigious. That’s what it’s supposed to be and has been for 40 years. I’ve been a part of them nine times already. Having the World Tour Finals here in London makes great sense because it’s in a great time zone, in a country that loves sports, especially tennis. I think it’s great for the fans to see that. All the sessions are basically sold out, there’s such a run on tickets. So it’s hard to choose a better place than London, I feel.”

*Day four of the ATP Finals saw temper tantrums on court in the match between Tomas Berdych and Andy Roddick. During the second set, with Roddick serving, the advertising banners on the front of the boxes where the line judges sit began flickering red before returning to their usual light blue. Roddick was broken for the second time and took his frustrations out on his racquet by beating his foot until the frame broke, earning him a reprimand, whilst also blasting a ball high in to the arena stands. “I was angry with myself and there wasn’t anybody else to talk to at that moment,” Roddick said. “The neons in the back weren’t quite to the settled position. They were still advertising fun stuff. When you’re trying to track a ball, it’s kind of neon lights and stuff. Then Tomas noticed it. A couple of them just went out before we played a point.”

*Former Aussie star Mark Philippoussis is reportedly having more financial difficulties despite playing recent events on the Champions circuit. He allegedly borrowed $1.2m to buy his Sydney home but has now been served with a mortgage default. He has also been talking of a return to the professional tour since 2009.

*Venus Williams has told Reuters she wants to play Fed Cup for the USA next season. She missed the recent final loss to Italy with a knee injury and claims that she was too upset to watch on. “It’s been tough to be out so I decided I couldn’t watch any more tennis,” said the elder Williams sister. “I desperately wanted to turn on the television and watch the Fed Cup but it was like: ‘At this point, maybe I should just let it go.’ It was frustrating. But I really want to play the tie next year, the U.S. against Belgium. I have to be healthy but I would love to be there.”

*Auckland’s ASB Classic is set to welcome a star-studded lineup during the first week of the 2011 WTA season. Three-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova heads the field with her debut appearance in New Zealand. She won her last major at the neighboring Australian Open in 2008. Two other Russians, former world No. 1 Dinara Safina and former No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova have also signed up to play. Kimiko Date Krumm, Yanina Wickmayer and Alona Bondarenko are also on the bill. The tournament will run January 3-8.

*Aussie legend John Newcombe has told prodigy Bernard Tomic to work more on the physical side of his game off the court and to get in to immediate contact with Pat Rafter and Tony Roche about how he can work towards being a part of their Davis Cup squads. “I’m not privy to enough inside knowledge, but what I hear is he doesn’t do enough of the physical training on the running side, off the court, to get his body into that sort of shape,” said the seven-time Grand Slam winner. “If he got himself into 100 percent physical shape, there’s no reason why he couldn’t be top 30, top 20. But we don’t know yet what he can do, because we haven’t seen it.” The full interview can be seen at Tennis.com.

*Serena Williams has pulled out of January’s Hopman Cup, the third time she has done so in her career. She has cited failure to recover from her foot injury as the reason and was recently photographed leaving an NFL game on crutches. Williams was due to play the event with John Isner.

*Doubles specialist Leander Paes says he will pursue an acting career when his playing days are over. The 37-year-old Indian star is looking forward to starting shooting on a film called ‘Rajdhani Express.’ “It’s something exciting. It’s something new,” he said. “I can’t keep playing tennis for the rest of my life. In India, I’m very lucky. I have a big following. I have a lot of people that enjoy what I do. Movies for me was a natural progression, to go from tennis to movies to entertain my fans. With the movies I’m just learning, I’m an apprentice. Right now I’m doing a serious drama movie, there’s not one song where I have to dance in it. Thank God.”

*Roger Federer’s coach Paul Anacone has said that the difference between the Swiss at 29 and Pete Sampras at the same age is vastly different. “I felt like I was with a 23-year-old or 22-year-old again [with Federer],” said Annacone, who has coached both stars. “He loves the life. He loves the tennis matches. He loves the travel. He has all the ingredients, including and most importantly good health in mind and body, to keep going for a number of years. I think in retrospect Pete at this age was a lot more tired—a lot more tired mostly emotionally, not physically. At the end of Pete’s career, he rejuvenated himself for that great push at the [2002] U.S. Open, but the last couple of years, for a multitude of reasons, were a bit emotionally draining for him. Roger is not anywhere near that state.”

*The world’s Top 2 men’s players, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, will face off in two exhibition matches this winter, in Zurich on December 21 and in Madrid on the following day. Proceeds from the best of three matches will go to their charities. “I always enjoy playing Rafa on the big stages and it is especially exciting when we can do it to help raise monies for our foundations,” said Federer in a statement to Reuters last Thursday.

*Rafa Nadal has won the ATP Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, ending Roger Federer’s six-straight winning streak. However, Federer picked up the Fan Favourite Award for the eighth year running. The Bryan brothers picked up the Fan Favourite Award for doubles for the sixth year in a row.

*The charity SOS Children recently hosted two round tables entitled “Breaking the poverty cycle: Strengthening communities and families” at the European Parliament on November 18 and 19. Kim Clijsters and her husband, Brian Lynch, spoke at the event and begged EU policy makers to strengthen families and end child poverty. “Children not growing up in a family face a heightened risk of emotional insecurity, educational failure, abuse and violence,” said three-time US Open winner Clijsters. “These are the harsh facts. Not only in third world countries, but also here in Europe. That’s why you’re here, at the very heart of the European Institutions, debating. That’s why we’re here, supporting your debate. It should be a basic right for every child to grow up in the warmth of a family.”

*Tennis Canada have named Rebecca Marino their female player of the year. The 19-year-old rose 80 slots in the rankings this year to No. 102.

*James Blake will hold his annual Reception to benefit the Thomas Blake Sr. Memorial Cancer Research Fund at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre on November 30th, at the Lincoln Centre in New York City. Guests will include Andy Roddick and his wife Brooklyn Decker, Anna Wintour, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Michael Jordan, Patrick McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Sugar Ray Leonard, as well as a surprise musical guest performance (Bob Larson’s Tennis News).

*The Art of Success charity auction has been a massive hit at the o2 Arena during the ATP World Tour Finals as self-portraits and signed racquets of the top stars have been raising huge sums of money on EBay. The portraits were painted by players hitting balls of paint at a stenciled canvas of their outline with one of their racquets. Robin Soderling’s was the first to close last Thursday and his self-portrait and racquet fetched $5,100. David Ferrer’s then closed on a value of $3,350. Andy Murray’s is the next to close on Nov. 25 and his lot stood at $6,600 at the time of going to press. Tomas Berdych (Nov. 27) is standing at $2,700. The final four close on Nov 28 as play in London draws to a close. Andy Roddick currently stands at $5,600 with Novak Djokovic at $4,150. But the worlds Top 2 players are making the biggest splash of all. Rafa Nadal’s work currently has 26 bids and stands at £26,000 and the greatest player of all time, Roger Federer, has his at $25,700. The proceeds will be split 50/50 with half of each sale going to Save the Children and the other half going to a charity of the player’s choice.

Around the Corner: Home Stretch – Valencia and Basel

While the WTA has almost wrapped up its season, the ATP World Tour still has a few more events to go before we have reached the elusive “off season.”

As November is now upon us, the men’s tour will turn this week to two 500 level events in Valencia, Spain and Basel, Switzerland. Let’s have a closer look at what is around the corner at both locations.

Valencia Open 500

Andy Murray returns as defending champion and is also the number on seed this year. Murray has claimed two tournament victories this season, both over Roger Federer, but would no-doubt call 2010 an off year. Still waiting for his first Grand Slam victory, there is really no way for Murray to salvage his year at this point. Anything less than a Slam at this point of his career is a let-down.

Murray opens against lefty Feliciano Lopez and could face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals and then Fernando Verdasco in the semis. Nikolay Davydenko is also in the top-half of the draw as the 6th seed but has been miserable during the second half of the season.

In the bottom half, Mikhail Youzhny is the player to beat the way he has played of late. The Russian played great at the U.S. Open and has followed that up with a victory in Malaysia and a loss in the finals of St. Petersburg just this past week.

Gael Monfils and Robin Soderling will try to emerge from the bottom quarter of the draw.

For any Canadian tennis fans out there, youngster Milos Raonic fell in the first round of qualifying to Pablo Cuevas by a score of 1-6, 6-4, 7-5. Hopes of cracking the top one hundred in the world rankings will have to wait for next year for Raonic.

Swiss Indoor Basel

Former tournament ball boy Roger Federer will be trying for his fourth career title in his hometown. Seeded first, Federer will try to avenge his loss from a year ago to Novak Djokovic. Prior to that result, Federer had won the event three years in a row.

The Swiss great will open against a tricky opponent in Alexandr Dolgopolov. This is the first career meeting between the two and I feel it has upset potential written all over it. Dolgopolov is a talented youngster who has yet to have his break-out moment or victory. He plays a game with a ton of variety, has a deadly serve that is hard to read and displays great touch with his frequent drop-shots. If Roger is not on his game he could find himself in a real battle here.

Beyond Dolgopolov, Federer could face Janko Tipsarevic and Jurgen Melzer in successive matches.

In the second quarter American Andy Roddick will face compatriot Sam Querrey in an entertaining first round. I put this one at 50/50 given Roddick’s questionable health of late. David Nalbandian and Marin Cilic are also lurking in this difficult section of the draw.

In the bottom half, look for number two seed Djokovic to emerge to the finals. It would be great to see him and Fed go at it again. The Djoker will have to navigate around big serving John Isner in his quarter, and then potentially Ivan Ljubicic or Tomas Berdych in order to make it back to the finals.

After this week the Paris Masters is on the horizon, followed by a brief hiatus prior to the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. Enjoy the tennis while it is still here and talk to you again next week.

Serena to Miss Big Tournaments, Cincinnati Shapes up, Ivanovic Refused Montreal Wildcard

*Following on from last week’s news that Serena Williams’ foot injury would lead her to miss the entire WTT 2010 season it is now confirmed she will also miss the WTA events in Montreal, Istanbul and Cincinnati. She sustained the injury stepping on broken glass while at a restaurant. She said: “I’m so upset I won’t be able to play in the upcoming events because of this foot surgery. Thank you for all of your support. I can’t wait to get back on the courts.”

*Despite Serena’s absence the field on both the men’s and women’s side at Cincinnati looks fantastic. Rafa Nadal, defending champ Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and John Isner are set to line up for the men. Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic and Maria Sharapova lead the field for the women.

*Ana Ivanovic’s decline continues as she has been refused a wildcard entry in to Montreal next month meaning she will have to play the qualifying tournament. Recent results, including a first-round loss at Wimbledon, have seen her slip outside the Top 60 and this means she misses the cut-offs for the main draw both here and in Cincinnati. Ivanovic, who won her first title in Montreal in 2006, has lost out to local-born Stephanie Dubois as the organiser’s choice for the final wildcard slot, reports The Globe and Mail. “The [tournament’s] thinking is that Dubois, from nearby Laval, is as much of a draw in Montreal as Ivanovic,” says the paper.

*Gail Monfils has been missing from Hamburg this week with the ankle injury he suffered during the Stuttgart final on Sunday. “[M]y ankle is still painful so I’m not gonna play,” he said via Twitter. David Ferrer is also missing with a shoulder injury.

*Having been sidelined since Indian Wells with an ankle injury Sabine Lisicki was all set to return this week at Portoroz but it hasn’t happened. “It’s another bump in the road and I have to stay strong and keep working hard to improve my stability in the ankle so that I can play soon on the tour without risks,” she told her new website.

*Swedish star Robin Soderling really seemed peeved at his loss to Nicolas Almagro in the Bastad final. He refused to acknowledge both the umpire and Almagro after the match which didn’t go unnoticed. Soderling received a warning for smashing his racquet following his dropping of the first set and a points penalty for a similar offence later on. “I bounced the racquet and caught it twice,” Soderling told the Swedish press. “If you’re supposed to give warnings and point penalties for such things, it would be 10 warnings in every match.” According to his Twitter page, he has gone fishing to recover. Hopefully that calms him down a bit.

*Argentinean Eduardo Schwank has entered the top 50 of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week following the publishing of the new rankings (18/07/10). Jeremy Chardy’s continued injury absence sees him plummet 23 places to No. 73 while Spain’s Daniel Gimeno-Traver climbs 11 to No. 77.

*In the Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings (18/07/10), Justine Henin (12) and Flavia Penetta (13) switch places in the only movement in the Top 28. Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak enters the top 50 while Sybille Bammer drops from No. 48 to No. 70. Lucie Hradecka (CZE, No. 92), Jill Craybas (USA, No. 97) and Ksenia Pervak (RUS, No. 99) all enter the Top 100. Another Czech star, Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, is now ranked a career-high 39 after her appearance in the Prague final. Not bad for a player ranked at No. 127 this time last year.

*By winning on the red clay of Italy last week in Palermo, Kaia Kanepi has become Estonia’s first WTA Tour Champion.

*Czech tennis players Radek Stepanek and Nicole Vaidisova married last Saturday at the famed St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Stepanek, 29, has missed most of the season with health problems while Vaidisova, 21, recently retired after losing her form.

Weekly Debrief: McEnroe vs Roddick. Yes You Read That Right!

This week has been exciting for the tennis world with announcements from players, a few Spanish winners sprinkled in between, and a match between Andy Roddick and John McEnroe. Yes, you read that right. Roddick vs. McEnroe. Let’s check out this week’s Top Moments in the Weekly Debrief.

Top Six

1. Thought we were done with the clay court season after Roland Garros? Think again. Two ATP tournaments were in full swing this week. First up, the SkiStar Swedish Open in Bastad saw its winner Nicolas Almagro triumph over defending champ and country hero Robin Soderling in a contested three-set battle. Almagro has proven he is an immense clay court player as he beat Soderling in Madrid in May of this year as well. But don’t expect him to be a big threat at the upcoming US hard court season as his biggest wins have been mostly on clay.

This photo of Almagro hoisting up the winner’s trophy as Soderling watches on is priceless.

2. Over in Stuttgart, Germany, the MercedesCup saw a less-than-stellar final as Gael Monfils was forced to retire against Albert Montanes with an ankle injury he sustained in the first set. Montanes’ name may sound familiar if you happened to catch him sending Federer crashing out of the Estoril Open earlier this spring in Portugal. Montanes not only won his fifth career title and a nice fat check for close to $94,000, but also a new Mercedes convertible, pictured below.

3. Across the Atlantic Ocean, World Team Tennis (WTT) was taking place all over the United States this past week. WTT is a professional coed tennis league that takes place during the summer months and typically lasts three weeks. Although some may argue that WTT doesn’t offer the high-caliber tennis we see at regular season tournaments, it’s nevertheless, a way of attracting fans on a more local-level. It offers intimate settings with tennis stars of old and new showcasing their skills as well as their personalities.

In the most interesting match-up to date, 51-year-old legend John McEnroe playing for the New York Sportime took on 27-year-old Andy Roddick playing for the Philadelphia Freedoms. The event took place just outside of New York City on Randall’s Island, the future site of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. Roddick himself even asked McEnroe if he could get a scholarship to train there.

Joking aside, Roddick and McEnroe took to the court and played a competitive set that saw Roddick come out on top winning 5-4 (5-4 in a sudden death 9-point tiebreaker). Once a point was in play, Roddick had sufficient problems putting McEnroe away, and McEnroe further exposed Roddick’s inability to pass him with his flat backhand. And while true that this is no five-set encounter, McEnroe’s quickness, precise volleys and pressure he is able to put on an opponent half his age even in today’s game is nothing short of brilliant. To follow WTT news and see if a match is being played in your city, check out: http://www.wtt.com/

McEnroe (white) and Roddick (black) played a WTT match on Randall’s Island, New York.

4. How would you like to go home $1.7 million wealthier? That’s the minimum worth of this year’s US Open winner’s check. That is an increase of nearly 7% from a year ago. With an additional $1 million possible bonus from winning the Olympus US Open Series, singles champions can walk away with a cool $2.7 million. In what amounts to be the biggest payout in tennis history, the tournament also saw an increase of its total purse to top $22.6 million. It’s good to a tennis player!

5. Swiss #2 and former top-10 player Stanislas Wawrinka formed a new coaching partnership with Peter Lundgren this week. Lundgren, himself reaching a ranking of 25 in singles in 1985, also has an extensive coaching resume including Marcelo Rios, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, and Grigor Dimitrov. Most impressively, he coached Roger Federer to win his first major title at Wimbledon in 2003. Lundgren had this to say on his new pairing with Wawrinka: “When I asked what he wanted help with, he said he wants to return to the top 10. It’s what you want to hear as a coach … I’m going to try to get Stan to become more aggressive.” The two will begin working together at the upcoming Gstaad event next week.

6. And in the most cheerful news of the week, Juan Martin del Potro may be expected to recover from his wrist surgery quicker than anticipated. Del Potro took the US Open by storm last September when he came back from almost two-sets down against Roger Federer to win the title in a tremendous battle. He has been securely planted in the top 10 even while playing only five tournaments since his breakthrough performance in New York last year. The star announced on his new twitter account that a post-surgery medical examination by his doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota showed positive strides: “The doctor is happy with the progress. Now we have to keep strengthening [the wrist] and then be ready for the racquet.”

Del Potro originally stated months ago that he would not be back until at least November, but he is now hopeful that he may be ready in time for Argentina’s Davis Cup semifinal against France in the week after the US Open. There is also speculation that he may even be ready to defend his title in Flushing Meadows: “Davis Cup is a good date for returning to the tour, I hope I can come back sooner,” del Potro stated last week.

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