rexall centre

Nadal And Djokovic Lose In Doubles

Was it really worth all that hype?

The super-duo of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Rogers Cup in the first round late last night at the hands of Canadians Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil.

The mostly unheard of Raonic/Pospisil pairing came back to win the match 5-7, 6-3, 10-8 in front of an electric opening night crowd at the Rexall Centre.

At only 19 and 20 years old respectively, Raonic and Pospisil defied the odds and somehow managed to avoid the nerves that must have accompanied sharing a court with the two top ranked players in the world.

Serving at 8-2 in the Super tie-break, Raonic and Pospisil appeared to have won the next point which would have given them six match points. Instead the chair umpire called Pospisil for touching the net prior to the point ending, thus giving the point to Nadal and Djokovic. The call seemed to temporarily rattle the Canadians as they allowed their more experienced opponents to bring the match all the way back to 9-8 with still one match point to try to capitalize upon. On that point they made no mistake and an authoritative Pospisil volley ended the match and allowed the two to walk out with their heads held high.

The Nadal/Djokovic partnership marks the first time since 1976 that the world’s top ranked singles players have joined forces in doubles on the ATP Tour. Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe were the last to do it and after last night’s result I wonder if it might be another 34 years before we see it again.

While it certainly created quite a buzz both here in Toronto and around the tennis world at large, the fact that the number one and two players joined forces is perplexing in many ways. Obviously Nadal and Djokovic get along quite well, as was further evidenced by their multiple practice sessions together here this week, but in an individualistic sport such as tennis you’d think teaming up with your greatest competition is a bit too close for comfort.

Roger Federer mentioned in his pre-tournament press conference yesterday that he never would have teamed up with Nadal during the height of their intense rivalry. Even though those two also got along reasonably well, the press had created such a build-up with their quest for Grand Slam glory and the number one ranking that it basically negated any possibility of a doubles partnership.

“Well, Rafa asked me a few years ago to play doubles in I think it was Madrid indoors…but then I think our rivalry was so intense, I just felt it was the wrong thing to do,” Federer revealed.

“It would have been great for the game, but I think it would have been a bit of a curveball for everybody. I don’t think the press would have enjoyed it so much. They want to put us against each other, not with each other.”

Nadal and Djokovic are in the infancy of their relationship as the best two players in the world and there is no guarantee it will last very long. Djokovic’s lead over Federer and Murray in the rankings is slim and he hasn’t had the most consistent year on tour. Maybe if their chase for the top ranking was narrower they would have thought twice before teaming up in Toronto.

Regardless, their experiment has ended prematurely and will now allow them both to concentrate on their singles play. For Nadal, he will open Wednesday night against the winner of the Frank Dancevic/Stan Wawrinka match that will close out the evening on Centre Court today. Djokovic will play Julien Benneteau of France tomorrow during the day session.

Nadal & Djokovic To Play Doubles: Are You Kidding Me?

The song ‘Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ was unfortunately the most over-played tune from Sunday in Toronto as the Rogers Cup was forced to deal with plenty of precipitation as the qualifying tournament approached its end.

The first match of the day on Centre Court between Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan and Marius Copil of Romania began shortly after 10am local time and finally ended just after 3pm with Lu prevailing 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3. Rain halted progress for a lengthy period of time at the start of the second set and forced competitors and fans alike to play the waiting game at the Rexall Centre.

I took the time to test my serve at one of the popular interactive fan attractions on the grounds and walked away humbled by my 136 kilometre per hour attempt. Gonna do a few bicep curls and come back stronger for tomorrow.

The second match on the main stadium was between Canadian hopeful Philip Bester and veteran American Michael Russell. Bester – who looks strikingly similar to Max Mirnyi – was unable to perform like the beast he had hoped to and was beaten by the 32 year-old Russell 6-2, 6-2 in front of his home fans. Bester made good on his promise to, “go out guns blazing,” as he was the more aggressive of the two players. Unfortunately his shots were often off the mark which sent his unforced errors tally spiralling out of control. As the sun finally broke through the persistent cloud coverage it became clear that Bester was not going to get the reprieve he so-badly needed.

Of the six Canadians admitted into the qualifying draw, none have advanced to the main tournament that begins Monday. Don’t worry Canadian tennis fans, we still have four of our own represented this week so you’ll have plenty to cheer for.

Youngster Milos Raonic gets first dibs on Monday’s schedule and will face 53rd ranked Victor Hanescu on the Grandstand court at 11am. Despite giving up about ten years in age, the 19 year-old Raonic has a decent shot against a player mostly known for his clay-court prowess. One stat that may buoy Raonic’s hopes is the three straight first-round losses that Hanescu has accumulated this summer.

In the evening session top-ranked Canuck Peter Polansky gets the unenviable task of taking on Jurgen Melzer who has had the best results of his career in 2010. The Austrian made the semi-finals at Roland Garros and followed that up with a fourth round showing at Wimbledon. Not bad for an eleven year vet who had never previously advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam.

The doubles draw also offers some Canadian content as Frank Dancevic and partner Adil Shamasdin will face the duo of Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley on the more intimate court 1.

There are tons of great singles matches set for day one at the Rogers Cup but the real show-piece no doubt will feature Raonic and partner Vasek Pospisil against the ‘are-you-kidding-me’ tandem of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. That match will close-out the evening session on Centre Court with some fireworks that will truly impress.

Pittsburgh Penguins Crosby Surprises Federer With Birthday Cake

Sidney Crosby greets Roger Federer with a cake on his 29th birthday Sunday.

Roger Federer and Sidney Crosby have missed out on their chance to play tennis together but can still share a birthday cake.The two sports stars met for the first time at the Rogers Cup on Sunday. They were set to play together on a practice court at the Rexall Centre, but rain scuttled their plans.

A birthday cake was brought out for the occasion as Federer turned 29 on Sunday, a day after Crosby turned 23.

Crosby says the two talked about watching each other play. The Pittsburgh Penguins star forward scored the overtime winner against the United States to give Canada the gold medal at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

Federer is a two-time winner at the Rogers Cup. The 16-time Grand Slam champion is currently ranked No. 3 in the world.

Molik, Heather Watson Aspiring For Greater Heights: Tennis in the Commonwealth

By Leigh Sanders

*Former world No. 8, Australia’s Alicia Molik, reached the final of the Cliffs Esperance Tennis International Pro Tour event before finally being derailed by top seed Olivia Rogowska. It was her fourth pro tour final since coming out of retirement in September. In the men’s final, Aussie Matt Ebden overcame John Millman 6-3, 6-4.

*British tennis starlet Heather Watson of Guernsey was eliminated in the first round of the singles at the Tevlin Challenger Event at the Rexall Centre in Toronto. She was defeated by1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson 2-6, 4-6. In the doubles, Watson and partner Julia Boserup lost to the Canadian duo Gabriela Dobrowski and Rebecca Marino. Despite her early exit in Toronto, Watson has made the final three in the running for the 2009 BBC Young Sport’s Personality of the Year award. The acclaimed accolade honours sportsmen and women who achieve sporting heroics in the calendar year and the Young Personality award goes to up and coming stars of the future. The US Open junior girls champion faces stiff competition from world driving champion Tom Daly and double world youth sprint gold medallist Jodie Williams. Andy Murray picked up the award in 2004.

*The prestigious Queens Club in England was celebrating a coup this week after US Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro committed himself to the pre-Wimbledon tournament until 2012 in a bid to improve his grass court game for Wimbledon. Andy Murray picked up his first grass-court title by winning at Queens this summer before losing a heartbreaking semifinal at Wimbledon to American Andy Roddick.

*French Open Champion and WTA No. 2 Svetlana Kuznetsova has confirmed she will begin her 2010 season at the Medibank International Sydney, Australia, following Serena Williams, defending champion Elena Dementieva, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka in doing so. On the men’s side, home favourite Lleyton Hewitt, Gael Monfils and Marcos Bagdhatis are already confirmed. The event takes place at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre from Sunday 10 to Saturday 16 January 2010.

*While over in Brisbane, Australia, Nadia Petrova has added her name to an already impressive cast at the Brisbane International warming themselves up for the 2010 Australian Open. The world No. 20 in singles and 16 in doubles joins Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic, Dinara Safina and Jelena Dokic in what should be a tasty event. On the men’s side, Andy Roddick, Gael Monfils, James Blake and Giles Simon have pencilled in the event for their early 2010 schedule.

*This week’s ATP World Tour singles rankings saw no movement in the world’s Top 40 players. Australia’s Peter Luczak climbs a place to 78 while compatriot Carsten Ball does the same to 137 and Chris Guccione in 139. India’s Somdev Devvarman drops two to 124 and Frank Dancevic of Canada drops 12 to 144.

*In the ATP doubles rankings, all the Commonwealth players in the Top 10 were safe as there was no movement. However, Australia’s Ashley Fisher climbed two places to 41 and his compatriot Carsten Ball dropped four to 61 and Chris Guccione dropped one to 67. Pakistan’s Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi climbed up one to 59 and Jeff Coetzee of South Africa dropped a place to 69.

*British Paralympic Champion Peter Norfolk took the world No. 1 slot by regaining his quad singles title at the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters. He beat the American world No. 1 David Wagner 6-2, 7-5 in the final to leapfrog him in the rankings. Norfolk had already beaten Wagner in the pool stage as well as Paralympic silver medallist Johan Andersson.

* Canadian duo Maureen Drake and Marianne Jodoin defeated compatriots Sharon Fichman and American Mashona Washington after world No. 97 Fichman was forced to retire when 3-2 up in the first set. It is the third year in a row an all-Canadian team has triumphed at the event.

*British women’s’ No. 2 Elena Baltacha has bounced back from injury to glide through the first round of the $75k event in Toyota, Japan. She beat the Japanese player Misaki Doi 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-1 and will face Korea’s So-Jung Kim in the next round. Meanwhile, at the €106.5k ATP Challenger Event in Helsinki, Finland, Alex Bogdanovic saw first round defeat after going down 6-7(0), 4-6 to Switzerland’s Stephane Bohli.

*Slovak-born Jarmila Groth has been granted Australian citizenship following a ceremony at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. Up to now, she has been unable to represent her adopted homeland other than in the four Grand Slam events but she is now cleared to play Fed Cup and play under the Australian flag in all other events on the WTA Tour. Earlier this year, she married fellow tennis pro Sam Groth and reached a career-high No. 57 on the WTA rankings. She has formerly represented Slovakia in the Fed Cup in 2003 and her best tour result to date is a semifinal at the Japan Open in 2008.

*The well-loved British tennis commentator Max Robertson has sadly passed away aged 94 on his home island of Guernsey. After serving in World War II he joined the BBC in 1946 and his post-war tennis commentaries live long in the memory of those who were guided through the action by Robertson. As well as tennis, he was the first reporter at the 1948 Winter Olympics in Switzerland as well as gaining fame away from sport on BBC’s famed investigative journalist program ‘Panorama’ and the antiques programme ‘Going for a Song.’ He was also an accomplished author and poet.

*Tennis Canada has announced that the recently retired Frederic Niemayer has been added to their coaching team to coach hot Canadian prospect Milos Raonic. In another coup for the organization, an announcement has been made that the Tennis Matters benefactors Mike and Nicole Tevlin have made a second $500,000 pledge. A new event named the Tevlin Open will now be held in their honour.