professional level

Djokovic, Murray And Nadal Battle Through First Matches At Rogers Cup

It was an incredibly hot and humid day in Toronto on Wednesday as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray made their first singles appearances at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Both advanced to the third round but not without a struggle in their respective matches.

With on-court temperatures around the forty degree Celsius mark, Djokovic unsurprisingly struggled with the heat and had trainers come to his aid at several points throughout the match. As has been the case in the past, the talented Serbian was hindered more so by the weather than his opponent.

Red in the face and obviously labouring on the court between points, he had to come back from down a break against Julien Benneteau of France early in the second set. Djokovic managed to avoid going to a second set tie-break when he broke the Frenchman’s serve in the final game of the match. Had the match gone to a decisive set I believe we might have seen a retirement from the fragile world number two.

After the match Djokovic faced question after question about his health and why he seems to struggle so often in these types of conditions.

Asked to clarify what exactly goes on, he said, “Well it’s really hard to explain. Anybody who didn’t play professional level will not understand quite what’s going on. Today I was really on the edge, so health is the most important thing for me, and then tennis and success and whatever comes with it.”

Djokovic tried to reveal what he feared the worst case scenario might have been, “…at a certain moment you might collapse or whatever. But after half an hour, hour, with the proper recovery, you will get back to the normal feeling and normal state of body. I guess that in the long term it can hurt you, and it happens to me quite often. And, I don’t know, it’s just something that you cannot fight against. Nobody can turn off the sun and just do me a favour, even though I would like it.”

I’m not sure if Djokovic is struggling with some medical condition that he would rather not specifically describe or if he is just super-sensitive in the heat-threshold department. One thing is clear though – if these conditions hold up as expected, Djokovic will have trouble advancing deep into the draw. With Roger and Rafa likely to continue grabbing the prime-time evening spots in the schedule I think it is safe to say Novak will have to find a way to overcome his issues with the weather or he will soon find himself on a flight to Cincinnati.

For Andy Murray the obstacle today was not so much weather-related but rather a veteran opponent with a fierce forehand by the name of Xavier Malisse. In the early stages it appeared as though Murray was going to be in for a long match as the X-man raced out to a 4-2 lead. Serving at 5-4 however, Malisse would lose the next three games and have his serve broken twice in the process to lose 5-7.

In the second set Malisse completely fell apart and his once lethal forehand was suddenly missing the mark with regularity. Murray’s game was moving in the opposite direction and he was cleverly using his well-rehearsed drop shot to his advantage.

I watched the match today with my girlfriend, and she remarked how frustrating it used to be when I would drop shot her in a tennis video game we used to play together. That’s pretty much how Malisse felt during the second set as he stopped even trying to get to them towards the end of the match.

Serving at 2-3, Malisse would find a way to lose all four points in the game to surrender the critical break to Murray. At 2-5 he once again found himself down 0-40, but this time was able to salvage a couple of points before losing on Murray’s third match point. The final score was 7-5, 6-2 for Murray and he seemed happy with his first match as defending champion at the Rogers Cup.

“I feel good,” Murray said after the match had ended. “I mean, today could have been a little better from the start, but, you know, the first round is tough, and I was playing a very good player.”

During the evening session, Rafael Nadal finally made his singles debut. Going up against Stan Wawrinka seemed like it would be test on paper, but one that the Spaniard would likely handle with ease. Instead it took him 93 minutes to get through the first set. He would have to survive multiple set points against him during a see-saw tie-break that ended in his favour, 14-12.

The second set went more according to plan and Rafa closed it out without any unnecessary drama for a 7-6(12), 6-3 victory.

With Querrey and Marin Cilic both having been eliminated from that quarter of the draw, Nadal should now have an easier time advancing towards the finals.

In other results of note on Wednesday at the Rogers Cup, Fernando Verdasco the 9th seed lost to Jeremy Chardy. It was the second time in two career meetings that Chady has emerged victorious in their head-to-head although Verdasco came within one game of advancing. After winning the first set in a tie-break, Verdasco was serving for the match at 5-4 but could not hold. Chardy eventually closed it out 6-7(7), 7-6(5), 6-2. You can add his name to an impressive list of French players within the top hundred of the ATP rankings.

On an outside court, American Sam Querrey who has won four tournaments this year, was defeated by Kevin Anderson a qualifier from South Africa 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4.

Thursday will be highlighted by what’s sure to be a fierce battle between David Nalbandian and Robin Soderling, as well as Federer vs Michael Llodra and Andy Murray against Gael Monfils.

US Open – Day 1 Recap

No shocking upsets on day one at the U.S. Open in New York, although there very nearly was. Third seeded American Venus Williams nearly suffered her first loss ever in the opening round at Flushing Meadows against VeraDushevina of Russia before winning 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 6-3. Fighting a knee injury that seems to have been bothering her since at least Wimbledon, Williams was down a set and a break in the second set before self-correcting.

Meanwhile, defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams both advanced with ease. Federer over-matched NCAA champion Devin Britton 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 while Serena defeated fellow American Alexa Glatch 6-4, 6-1. Expectations for both Britton and Glatch were low, but for different reasons.

Britton is only 18 years old and has only played in one prior professional level tournament before today. The young American was clearly overtaken by nerves as he attempted to play his serve and volley game against the world number one. You have to give this kid credit though, he did manage to breakFederer’s serve in both the second and third sets. At 6’3” he has some pop on his serve and seems more than willing to come to the net. We’ll be hearing from him again down the road.

Glatch meanwhile has been bothered by a serious back injury lately. According to her coach, Kevin O’Neill, she has only been able to even hit a tennis ball for the past six days or so and had not played a tournament match since Wimbledon, failing to get past the qualifying rounds of both Stanford andLos Angeles. It was the 20 year old’s fifth U.S. Open appearance.

The $19,000 first round losers paycheck should help both Britton and Glatch cope with the tough draw they received this year.
Overall the day provided American players with a winning record of 9 wins and 7 losses. Not all that bad considering that two of the matches involved Americans facing off against each other.

While there were no big upsets, Mikhail Youzhny from Russia did knock off 26th seeded Paul-Henri Mathieu from France while Kai-Chen Chang of China defeated 25th seeded Kaia Kanepi of Estonia.

The “thanks for coming out award” goes to Rossana de los Rios who was defeated 6-1, 6-0 by 14th seed Marion Bartoli.
The evening session began with a tribute to the humanitarian work Andre Agassi has done with the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy. Agassi gave a brief, but moving speech about the motivation behind his charity work and the success of its first-ever graduating class this past June. One hundred percent of the students made it to graduation and also gained acceptance into a college program. The tribute made no mention of Agassi’s tennis achievements and instead gave fans some insight into the huge accomplishments the American champion has made off the court.