ranked player

Berdych, Nalbandian and Federer All Prevail At Rogers Cup

The day session has wrapped-up here at the Rogers Cup on Thursday and the tournament has been fortunate thus far to avoid any major upsets. While there have been some tense moments and momentum swings that could have progressed to that level, things are still on course for the anticipated Nadal/Murray and Djokovic/Federer semi-finals this weekend. In the meantime here are a few quick hits from the action today.

Comebacks:

David Nalbandian is certainly making some waves since returning from yet another injury layoff. Today he beat Robin Soderling 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 for his 11th consecutive win. A brief lapse in concentration where he double-faulted twice in a row while trying to serve for the first set at 4-5 would ultimately cause Nalbandian to lose the opening frame. After that he seemed to regain control of the match and breezed in the third set past the 5th ranked player in the world.

It would be hard to categorize the result as an upset, despite the fact that Soderling has been quite consistent over the past year. Nalbandian lead their head-to-head 5-1 coming into the match today and has the game that can hang with the Swede shot for shot.

Future-Stars:

Lookout for Alex Dolgopolov folks, this kid has got some serious game. Appearing small in stature today against the 6’5” Tomas Berdych, Dolgopolov nearly toppled the giant by using a wide variety of shot selection and never appearing to be in awe of the 2010 Wimbledon finalist.

The youngest member of the top one hundred players in the world at age 21, Dolgopolov is a player on the rise. You wouldn’t have guessed that he was playing in his first hard court tournament since early February and I’m somewhat confused as to why he has seemingly avoided playing on the surface for so long.

This week in Toronto he managed to lose the first set in all three of his matches. Against both Philipp Petzschner and Mikhail Youzhny he failed to show up in the opening frame and fell 1-6 each time. In the second set he suddenly sprung to life against all of his opponents and especially today against Berdych where his first serve appeared to be unable to miss.

Dolgopolov’s serve is one of his real strengths as it is almost impossible to read. His toss is non-existent and he makes contact with the ball while it is still on the rise.

Also on the rise is the young Ukrainian’s ranking which since January 2009 has lept from 309th in the world to its current position at No. 49.

The variety in Dolgopolov’s game is what has impressed me the most this week. This is not your typical baseline basher and I would imagine all of his time playing on clay courts has helped develop this aspect of his play. Well timed drop-shots and lobs are a regular part of his repertoire, and his backhand slice is also quite lethal.

Against Berdych it appeared as though a final set tie-break would be required to settle the score, but Dolgopolov made a couple of tactical errors when serving at 4-5. He chose a poor time to approach the net and watched a Berdych shot whiz by him for 0-30. Berdych then charged the net during the following point which appeared to throw Dolgopolov off and force an error for 0-40. Then, in the ultimate disappointment, Dolgopolov had two first-serve lets, before double faulting to hand the match to Berdych, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4.

Still, winning two rounds at a Masters level tournament will give Dolgopolov a few ranking points that should help him progress towards the top-thirty. While I doubt a seeding at the U.S. Open is in the works, Dolgopolov will likely be on the list of players most would rather avoid at Flushing Meadows.

I’ll be keeping an eye on his progression the rest of the year and would encourage anyone attending any ATP tournaments to make the effort to check this guy out. Watching an up and coming player like Dolgopolov on the outside courts is a treat you can talk about one day if he makes it big.

Having Some Fun:

Finally, for fans looking for some good ol’ fashioned serve and volleying with a side of the absurd, look no further than the Centre Court match that took place between Roger Federer and Michael Llodra.

These two apparently have quite a friendly history from their junior days when they were both very familiar with each others games. Since that time they have only played one professional match prior to today, and that came back in 1999 at a Challenger tournament in France where Federer prevailed in straight sets. The result was the same today with Roger winning 7-6, 6-3.

Llodra didn’t manage to take a set from the world No. 3 player, but he did walk off with his shirt. The Frenchman asked Federer for it at the end of the match and revealed that he did it because, “You know, for me, you know, Rogers is (a) legend, so it’s a good present for my kids.”

After fighting back in the first set and recovering from being down a break, Federer cruised in the tie-break while Llodra seemed to implode with a variety of double-faults, poorly executed drop shots and volleys that missed the mark as well.

In the second set when it appeared inevitable that Federer would take the match, Llodra even tried to surprise him with a rarely seen underhanded serve.

Asked if he had ever done that before, Llodra replied, “Yeah. But not in the match!”

Federer was all smiles in the post-match press conference where he revealed that, “It’s the first time I got an underarm serve; third time somebody asked me for the shirt.”

The light-hearted questions continued for Federer as he was later asked about the pink shirt he’s sporting this week here in competition.

“I don’t know where my head was when I chose pink, but I like it, you know. Honestly I’ve gotten a lot of praise for it. People apparently like it…so that’s a good thing. It’s only for, unfortunately or luckily, only for two tournaments because I’m going to be changing again for the Open, and I thought it was going to be something fun for the summer. That’s kind of how it goes.”

Roger will be hoping that his fun summer includes another U.S. Open title in September. His first true test since returning from a six week layoff will be tomorrow night at 7pm ET as he faces Berdych in a re-match of their Wimbledon quarter-final tilt that was won by the Czech.

Stay tuned to Tennis Grandstand for full coverage of that match and the other quarter-finals as well.

Polansky Gives Canadian Tennis A Big Boost

It’s safe to say that when you’re ranked outside of the top two hundred and find a way to defeat a guy ranked 15th in the world it’s likely the biggest win of your career. Such was the case Monday night with 22 year old Canadian Peter Polansky who defeated a big-time player in Jurgen Melzer.

Playing in the first match of the evening session, Polansky delighted the home town fans with a stirring display of shots worthy of a player far more experienced than he.

With both players staying on serve throughout the first set, a tiebreak was required to decide the opening frame. Unbelievably it would take Polanksy eight set points to gain the upper hand in the match and close out the set. In the process he saved one set point against him.

After the match I asked him if he was starting to sweat it after failing to capitalize on the first seven of those set points.

“Yeah, those were a little bit tought, I mean, having all those set points. But I knew even if it went to a breaker I was just going to stay with him. Even if I lost that first set, I was going to try not to let it get to me. I don’t think it was going to. I knew no matter what, he would have been in for a long match, because I was going to stay right there with him.”

With that huge boost of confidence Polansky kept the ball rolling by breaking Melzer in the opening game of the second set. His pre-tournament practice session with Roger Federer must have taught him a thing or two as he continually made shots you’d expect from a much higher ranked player.

Any nerves or jitters that Polansky was feeling were well hidden as he won four straight points leading 5-4 on serve to secure the 7-6(6), 6-4 victory.

After the match Polansky revealed that despite his struggles of late, he was inspired by some positive results in practice the past few days. During that time he revealed that he took a practice set from Tommy Robredo of Spain and split sets with Frenchman Arnaud Clement.

Next up for Polansky is 54th ranked Victor Hanescu. The Romanian toppled one Canadian hope earlier today in Milos Raonic and Polansky joked that he might text Raonic for some inside information before his second round match.

“…Milos and I are friends, so I’ll get some tips from him. And the whole Tennis Canada staff, they were watching as well. I’m sure they’ll have something to say. I mean, regardless, I’m going to go out there playing my game and doing what I can.”

For now Polansky can take a big sigh of relief at the ranking points he defended from his first round win a year ago in Montreal and hopefully also find time to enjoy the moment before his next match here in Toronto.

Richard Bloomfield Is On The Verge Of Making Tennis History

Richard Bloomfield is on the verge of making tennis history.

Ranked No. 552 in the world, Bloomfield is two matches away from becoming the lowest ranked player to ever win an ATP World Tour event. The 27-year-old from Norwich is ranked two spots worse than Lleyton Hewitt, who was ranked No. 550 when he won the singles title in Adelaide, Australia in 1998 as a 16-year-old, as documented in the book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com)

Bloomfield reached his first career ATP World Tour semifinal with a 5-7, 7-6 (3), 7-5 win Friday over heralded 18-year-old American Ryan Harrison. He will play Mardy Fish of the United States, ranked No. 76, in the semifinals. The other semifinal features Olivier Rochus of Belgium, ranked No. 65, against Brian Dabul of Argentina, ranked No. 105.

Entering this week, Bloomfield had won only one career ATP World Tour level match – a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 first-round win at Wimbledon in 2006 over Carlos Berlocq of Argentina – a victory that attracted world-wide attention due to the suspicious betting patterns during the match. Due to irregular betting patterns, suspicious amounts of money was bet on Bloomfield, alleging that perhaps Berlocq could have been injured or was paid to “tank” the match to allow for profiteering among gamblers. Coincidentally, Bloomfield’s first-round win here in Newport over Christophe Rochus also attracted similar unwanted gambling attention.

Online gambling exchange Betfair told The Associated Press on Friday that Bloomfield’s 7-6 (1), 6-3 win over Rochus Tuesday attracted an unusual $1.5 million in wagers and was the subject of dramatic price movement.

Bloomfield was rated even money against his Rochus, ranked No. 160. In the hours before the match, the odds on Bloomfield winning were shortened to 1-4. After he won the first set, the odds shorted to 1-8.

“If people are willing to risk 4 pounds to win one, that is indicative of a substantial gamble,” Betfair spokesman Tony Calvin said to the Associated Press.

Notification of the irregular betting pattern was reported to the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU), an independent body created by the sport’s governing bodies to lead the fight against corruption.

It is standard procedure for the betting industry to share irregular activity on its markets with the TIU.

“It is not operational policy of the TIU to make any comment about an investigation that it may or may not be involved in,” TIU spokesman Mark Harrison told the AP

Randy Walker is a communications and marketing specialist, writer, tennis historian and the managing partner of New Chapter Media – www.NewChapterMedia.com. He was a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Tennis Association’s marketing and communications division where he worked as the press officer for 22 U.S. Davis Cup ties, three Olympic tennis teams and was an integral part of USTA media services team for 14 US Opens. He is the author of the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY (www.TennisHistoryBook.com).

Venus Williams Suffers Ironic Loss At Wimbledon

American Venus Williams, who had made 8 of the previous 10 Wimbledon singles finals, learned a hard lesson about irony today at the All England Club.

The number two ranked player in the world suffered a crushing defeat on the same day her book, “Come To Win” was released.

A few hours after being knocked off 6-2, 6-3 by Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, Williams was already promoting her new release on Twitter where she offered followers a chance to read passages from her book.

It would seem however that it was the little-known Pironkova who came to win today and in the process advances to the semi-finals of Wimbledon where she will next face Vera Zvonareva – a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner over Kim Clijsters.

The 82nd ranked Pironkova – a sure-shot to break into the top-fifty regardless of her next result – defeated Williams much to her own surprise.

“If I have to be honest: no,” she said about the possibility of making the final-four. “Coming here, I really just wanted to play a good game, to maybe win one or two rounds. But (a) semifinal looked, to me, very far.”

Maybe the number 82 is somewhat of a kryptonite towards American tennis players, as Andy Roddick was defeated by the 82nd ranked male player in the world, Yen-Hsun Lu, the day before.

The early exit by Venus is especially surprising given the solid year she has put together so far in 2010. In her post-match press conference however, she failed to give much credit to her able opponent.

“Yeah, you know, it’s very disappointing. I felt like I played some players along the way who played really well. You know, I think she played really well, too, but maybe not as tough as like my fourth round or my third round or even my second round.”

Instead she took a page out of her sisters book and claimed that her own short-comings were largely responsible for her early departure.

“You know, to not be able to bring my best tennis today and to just make that many errors is disappointing in a match where I feel like, you know, I wasn’t overpowered, you know, hit off the court or anything; where I just kind of let myself exit.”

In other women’s action, sister Serena moved past Li Na 7-5, 6-3, while Petra Kvitova defeated Kaia Kanepi by a much more grueling score of 4-6, 7-6(8), 8-6 while saving five match-points against her in the process.
The odds now clearly favor Serena when examining the Grand Slam experience of the remaining four players.

While the unknown factor of playing someone like Kvitova or Pironkova may offer some subtle challenges, the world’s number-one player should advance towards the title with little intrigue standing in her way.

Perhaps Venus can take some solace if her younger sister comes to win in her place.

ANA IVANOVIC STILL RANKS ON TOP, THE FASHION WAY

Wimbledon started last Monday and already we have had so many good matches. John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut. The longest match ever in the history of tennis. And what about Roger Federer who survived a scare versus Alejandro Falla. Pretty exciting too huh!

Ofcourse there were some upsets with the ladies. Well upsets…I am not sure if you can call it upsets if you consistently lose in the early rounds like Ana Ivanovic. But let’s not go there.

Instead let’s go here.  I have scoured the internet, like I usually do, looking for some good shots. And I found pics of a pre Wimbledon party.  Ana Ivanovic, she may be losing consistently in the early rounds but I am giving her points for her fashion sense. Because fashion wise she is still a top ranked player to me!

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FEDERER DEBUTS, GORAN PUKES, GILBERT IS UGLY, GUGA SAYS GOODBYE

May 25 is chock full of historic – and interesting – happenings in tennis history. Here’s a list as it appears in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com)

1999 – Ranked No. 111 in the world, 17-year-old Roger Federer plays in his first main draw match at a major tournament at the French Open, losing to two-time reigning U.S. Open champion Patrick Rafter of Australia 5-7, 6-3, 6-0, 6-2. Writes Rene Stauffer in the book The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection, “He (Roger) jumped out to win the first set against the world’s No. 3-ranked player who then was at the peak of his career. However, the sun came out and the conditions became warmer and faster. The clay courts dried out and balls moved much faster through the court. The Australian’s attacking serve-and-volley style seemed to run on automatic and he won in four sets. ‘The young man from Switzerland could be one of the people who will shape the next ten years,’ the French sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote during the tournament. Rafter shared the same opinion. “The boy impressed me very much,” he said. “If he works hard and has a good attitude, he could become an excellent player.’”

2004 – Frenchmen Fabrice Santoro and Arnaud Clement finish play in the longest-recorded match in tennis history in the first round of the French Open as Santoro edges Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14 in 6 hours, 33 minutes. The match is played over two days and is suspended from the previous day with the two playing for 4:38 the previous day – stopping at 5-5 in the fifth-set – and for 1:55 the second day. Santoro saves two match points during the marathon – one on each day. The first match point comes with Santoro serving at 4-5 in the fifth set on day one and the second comes at 13-14 on the second day. Says Santoro, “I came very close to defeat, it’s a miracle. I tried to stay relaxed on the important points and if it looked that way, then I did a good job because I was very tense.” Santoro and Clement break the previous record – curiously held by two women in a straight-set best-of-three match – held by Vicki Nelson-Dunbar and Jean Hepner, who played for 6 hours, 31 minutes in the first round of the WTA event in Richmond, Va., in 1984, Nelson-Dunbar winning 6-4, 7-6 (13-11). Says Clement of establishing the new record, “”I don’t care. What do I get? A medal? There may be an even longer match tomorrow. I don’t play tennis to spend as much time possible on court.”

1976 – Adriano Panatta saves an astonishing 11 match points in defeating Kim Warwick of Australia 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 in the first round of the Italian Championships. The result becomes even more significant when Panatta goes on to win the title, defeating Guillermo Vilas in the final.

1958 – In one of the most spectacular comebacks in the history of the French Championships, Robert Haillet of France beats 1950 French champion Budge Patty, 5-7; 7-5, 10-8, 4-6, 7-5 in the fourth round after Patty serves at 5-0, 40-0 in the fifth set and holds four match points.

1993 – Three-time French Open champion Ivan Lendl experiences one of the worst losses of his career, losing 3-6, 7-5, 6-0, 7-6 (2) to No. 297th ranked qualifier Stephane Huet of France in the first round of the French Open. The match marks the first ATP level match victory for Huet, against Lendl’s 1,027 match victories. It was also Huet’s first Grand Slam match against Lendl’s 51 Grand Slam events.

1993 – Brad Gilbert wins his first match at the French Open in six years, registering a two-day 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 10-8 first-round victory over fellow American Bryan Shelton. Gilbert and Shelton share 87 unforced errors in the three-hour-and-52-minute match. Says Gilbert, the author of the book Winning Ugly after the match, “It was a chapter out of my book…Unequivocally ugly.”

1928 – George Lott defeats China’s Paul Kong 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 in the Davis Cup second round in Kansas City, Mo., to become the first U.S. Davis Cup player to win a match without losing a game. Lott would register another triple-bagel in Davis Cup play in 1930 against Mexico’s Ignacio de la Borbolla. Frank Parker is the only other American to win a Davis Cup match without losing a game, turning the trick in 1946 against Felicismo Ampon of the Philippines.

1993 – Goran Ivanisevic overcomes throwing up on court in the first set to defeat Franco Davin of Argentina 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the French Open.

2005 – No. 2 seed Andy Roddick is eliminated in the second round of the French Open, blowing a two-sets-to-love lead in his 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 8-6 loss to Argentina’s Jose Acasuso.

2008 – Three-time French Open singles champion and former world No. 1 Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten bids goodbye to tennis, playing the final singles match of his career losing to Paul-Henri Mathieu of France 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round at Roland Garros. Kuerten plays the match wearing the canary yellow and blue outfit he wore when he won the first of three French titles in 1997, but due to the wear and tear at this ailing hip, the 31-year-old was unable to compete at the same level that saw him rise to the world’s No. 1 ranking in 2000. Says Kuerten following the match, “I think I’m very satisfied, especially with the memories that are going to stick with me from this match. I thought I played much better than I expected, and there wasn’t a single shot I didn’t make. I played forehand, backhands, serve, drop shots, volley. I did everything I think I was able to do in the past, just not with the same frequency. But at least I had the feeling to do it once more.”

AROUND THE CORNER: ANDY MURRAY MAKES RETURN TO TENNIS COURTS

Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships

With Venus Williams successfully defending her title this past week, the pressure will now be on Novak Djokovic to accomplish the same feat as the men take to the hard-courts in Dubai. Djokovic is seeded second, but is the top ranked player in the draw, as Roger Federer has withdrawn with a lung infection. This year’s edition has a slightly tougher field than a year ago, so Djokovic will have to be on top of his game in order to repeat as champion.

In the top-half of the draw is Andy Murray who is playing in his first tournament since losing the Australian Open final to Federer almost a month ago. Murray will likely advance to face rising star Marin Cilic in the semi-finals.

The bottom-half is where we can find both Djokovic and Nikolay Davydenko who will also be entered in the doubles draw. Djokovic is paired with fellow-Serb Dusan Vemic while Davydenko is teamed with compatriot Igor Kunitsyn. This is a rare treat for fans in Dubai, as these two players do not usually partake in the doubles competition Also in this section of the draw is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who will threaten for the title.

One first round match to note is between eighth seeded Gilles Simon and Marcos “please keep your shirt on” Baghdatis. The winner will likely face Davydenko in the third round.

Absent from Dubai for a second year in a row is American Andy Roddick who withdrew a year ago due to the treatment of Israel’s Shahar Peer. This year scheduling has placed Roddick at back-to-back tournaments in the United States and he likely needs some rest to his shoulder before the Masters Series event in Indian Wells in two weeks time.

Also missing is Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram, who a year ago was allowed into the United Arab Emirates to compete a week after the Peer incident.

Delray Beach International Tennis Championship:

With only a third of the prize money being offered compared to Dubai, the tournament in Delray Beach has a lower-ranked clientele yet there are still many familiar names floating in the draw this year. Good luck picking a winner from this group, as there are many players who are capable and several who have won this very event in years past.

Leading the group of former Delray Beach champions is number one seed, Tommy Haas. The German veteran has not had any note-worthy results thus far in 2010 so expectations are low. Haas won this event in 2006 but is 3-3 on the year and has failed to advance beyond the third round of any tournament he has entered.

Mardy Fish is the defending champion from 2009 and opens against Christophe Rochus. Despite being unseeded, Fish has a nice section of the draw and could get on a good roll.

Other former champions here include Xavier Malisse (’05, ’07) who opens against fourth seeded Jeremy Chardy, and Kei Nishikori (’08) who is making his return to the ATP Tour after season-ending elbow surgery a year ago. Nishikori opens against third seed Benjamin Becker.

Other names to keep an eye on include seventh seed James Blake who starts the tournament against fellow-American Taylor Dent. Finally an early round match where Blake should be considered the favorite, although Dent’s old-school serve and volley style is capable of giving anyone fits. Big-serving Ivo Karlovic is the tournament’s number two seed and should be counted on to win a few rounds as well.

Abierto Mexicano Telcel:

This week’s clay court stop on the tour is in sunny Acapulco, Mexico, where Nicolas Almagro is the two-time defending champion. Almagro will be looking for his third title in Acapulco in a row, while Tomas Muster has the all-time record of four consecutive wins from 1993 to 1996.

While the draw has not yet been released from the tournament, Fernando Verdasco is listed as the top ranked entry, with Fernando Gonzalez and David Ferrer also in the draw.

Safina Survives Opening Round Scare In Cincinnati

Two points from defeat in the second set, World No. 1 Dinara Safina rallied to defeat Italian Roberta Vinci, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4, to advance to the third round on Tuesday afternoon at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati.

Jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the Russian quickly faded, losing nine straight games to the more consistent Vinci.

“I started pretty good, actually. 2-0 up, and to lose nine games in a row, it didn’t happen for me for a while,” said Safina, a winner of 12 career singles titles.

Vinci, ranked No. 46, was steadier throughout the up and down match, but could not serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set, as Safina eventually won the set, 7-5.

The 23-year-old Russian, who hit 48 unforced errors compared to 28 by Vinci, fell behind 2-0 in the final set before finding her rhythm to sneak past the Italian for the third time in her career.

“Slowly I think she got tight, said Safina, who was a finalist earlier this year at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. “I don’t know what happened to her because I was completely off.

In the match that lasted just under two hours, both players broke serve on eight occasions, while Safina hit 10 doubles faults compared to eight by Vinci. Despite serving struggles throughout, both players won over 60 percent of first serve points.

Safina, who has been the top ranked player in the world for 17 consecutive weeks, will next face the winner of the second round match between Shuai Peng and Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez.

In other action, No. 6 seed and reigning Roland Garros champ Svetlana Kuznetsova was pushed to her limits, but survived to advance to the third round with a 6-2, 6-7(2), 7-6(4), win over Lucie Safarova. Kuznetosva, smashed 10 aces, won 78 percent of first serve points and broke serve on five of ten occasions en route to victory.

Defending champion and No. 10 seed Nadia Petrova of Russia and No. 15 seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia were not as fortunate as Safina and Kuznetsova to advance, both bowing out relatively easy.

Petrova, a winner of nine career singles titles, lost to Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine, 6-2, 6-3, in 53-minutes. The Belarusian, who turns 25-years-old on Thursday, won 22 of 25 first serve points, while breaking serve four times. For a place in the third round, Bondarenko will battle Daniela Hantuchova, who defeated Sara Errani, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1.

Cibulkova, a semifinalist at Roland Garros in May, fell to world No. 40 Shuai Peng, 6-2, 6-1, in 70-minutes. Peng, who is playing in just her second tournament since Wimbledon, will play Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez on Wednesday afternoon.