rhythm

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Maria Sharapova Needs to Regroup and Move Forward

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While many hoped that 2010 would be the comeback year for Maria Sharapova, it has been disappointing a little. Early exits in Tokyo and Beijing and I am sure many fans have their faith in their star shaken.

What does Sharapova have to say for herself?

“I’m definitely not as good as I wanted to be,” Sharapova told the WTA Tour website. “After the U.S. Open I wasn’t able to train as much as I would’ve wanted to, and I feel like the last couple of weeks I’ve just been trying to play catch-up.”

And there is more. She talks about rhythm and how she is disappointed with her losses but that it is not the end of the world.

“My rhythm hasn’t been where it should be. Obviously it’s disappointing, but I’ve lost and won many matches in my career. I’ll just have to regroup and move forward.”

And I sincerely hope that she will regroup asap because a Sharapova in top form is a threat for any player at any tournament!

US Open Men’s Draw Analysis and Picks — Nalbandian, Fish, Nadal?

The 2010 US Open Men’s Draw was announced just hours ago, but there are already stories and predictions circulating the scene. Even though the qualifying tournament is still in progress, I’ll break down some of the potential matchups, great first- and second-rounders, and announce my picks, starting with the quarterfinalists!

First off, let’s take a look at where the top four seeds have landed in the draw. #4 Andy Murray finds himself in the top half with #1 Rafael Nadal, while #2 Roger Federer has #3 Novak Djokovic in his half of the draw.

Nadal’s 1/8

Nadal probably won’t face much opposition until the third round where he could meet Gilles Simon or Philipp Kohlschreiber. Feliciano Lopez and Ivan Ljubicic are then the only other seeded opponents left for Nadal to meet in the fourth round, but he hasn’t had much trouble with any of these players. Ljubicic has been pretty quiet this season having only had two matches on hard courts this summer. And while Lopez did make a run to the semis in Los Angeles last month, he continues to be wildly inconsistent having lost in the first round of both Toronto and Cincinnati.

Quarterfinalist: Rafael Nadal
Verdasco’s 1/8

Fernando Verdasco may find himself in trouble from the very first round, where he’ll meet his Wimbledon nemesis, Fabio Fognini. Fognini took out Verdasco in a tight four sets in the first round of Wimbledon this year — can he do it again in New York? If Verdasco does get past him, he’ll be rewarded with a newly resurgent David Nalbandian in the third round.

In the top half of this section, David Ferrer may also face a cruel first round opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov. “Dolgo” is a fresh face and took Ferrer to three sets in Cincinnati just a couple of weeks ago. He has a unique playing style and could easily gain good rhythm that may take him to the third round. Here, he could face Ernests Gulbis, a player with a load of talent, but it’s anybody’s guess if his mental state is in the right drive to make a run here.

With Nalbandian’s first two rounds being fairly straight-forward wins, I see him overcoming both Verdasco and Gulbis in this section.

Quarterfinalist: David Nalbandian

Murray’s 1/8

Andy Murray’s first test may come in the third round when he faces #25 Stanislas Wawrinka. Wawrinka has recently changed coaches, but he may not even be a valid threat as he failed to reach a third round in any hard court tournament this summer. He may even find himself ousted in the second round by Yen-Hsun Lu, who defeated Andy Roddick at this year’s Wimbledon.

In the bottom half of this section, the most likely third rounder may be between Sam Querrey and Nicolas Almagro. Almagro, known for his clay court game, and Querrey, having another successful summer on the hard courts, should have a quick match with Querrey moving on. He will then face Murray but lose in a close four sets.

Quarterfinalist: Andy Murray

Berdych’s 1/8

Tomas Berdych comes in with a ‘slam high’ having made the semis in Roland Garros and finals in Wimbledon this year already. His first round against Michael Llodra could be a tricky one, as he plays a serve-and-volley game predominantly. Berdych likes hard fast balls and Llodra’s pace may throw him off. If Berdych survives he may meet another Frenchman Julien Benneteau or countryman Radek Stepanek in the third round.

The top half of this section may see a potential matchup between Mikhail Youzhny and John Isner. Isner is still questionable for the US Open due to an ankle injury he sustained in Cincinnati two weeks ago. If he is fully healed, he could be facing Berdych in the fourth round, but if not, it will be Mikhail Youzhny. Either way, this section’s quarterfinalist is set.

Quarterfinalist: Tomas Berdych

Davydenko’s 1/8

Nikolay Davydenko usually keeps a low profile while still winning, so it should be no surprise he is the #6 seed. Somehow, it still perplexes me he has managed to stay this high in the rankings. Davydenko’s first tough encounter may be as early as the second round, where he could face Richard Gasquet and his elegant one-handed backhand. Thomas Bellucci, with his steady results and great runs in the last two slams, could face Davydenko in the third round and come out victorious.

The bottom half of this section may be the biggest draw for fans. Andy Roddick will most likely take on Janko Tipsarevic in the second round. Tipsarevic has taken players (including Roger Federer) deep into the fifth set in past slams and he could easily tire a player like Andy out, who is still recovering from mono. The winner will get the treat to play the skilled acrobat, Gael Monfils in the third round. I’m optimistic with my choice for this section, but here it is.

Quarterfinalist: Andy Roddick

Djokovic’s 1/8

This section of the draw may be the most interesting. Novak Djokovic is a clear favorite, or is he? He complains of asthma-like lung problems in the heat and humidity, so he may not fare as well this year as in the past. He’ll quickly be challenged by his comrade and friend Viktor Troicki in the first round. If he survives, he’ll face Philipp Petzschner in the second round. Petzschner is a skilled player, having not only hoisted the Wimbledon doubles trophy this year, but also took Rafael Nadal to five sets as well at the same tournament. The only positive is that the third round opponent may be a breather, as potentials may be either James Blake or Juan Monaco.

The top half of this section boasts a potentially great matchup in the third round between Marcos Baghdatis and Mardy Fish. Both have had breakthrough summers and are near the top of the list in hard court wins on the year. For this to happen though, Baghdatis must overcome Arnaud Clement in the first round and probably Robby Ginepri in the second round. Fish, on the other hand, should have no trouble in his first two rounds. While Baghdatis has played five tournaments in a row coming into the US Open, Fish took a smart break after Cincinnati and should be ready to overtake Baghdatis. Fish will come in much fresher than Djokovic into their fourth round encounter, and while it’ll go five sets, the winner will be clear.

Quarterfinalist: Mardy Fish

Soderling’s 1/8

In the biggest cakewalk of the draw, Soderling has five qualifiers in his section, with one of them being his first round opponent. Imagine to get through three grueling rounds in qualifying only to find out you’re playing the world #5 in your first main draw round. Ouch! Soderling should breeze through Taylor Dent in the second round and not even be challenged in the third round by Fernando Gonzalez who is still recovering from injury.

Marin Cilic is Soderling’s greatest threat in the fourth round. But he must first overcome Evgeny Korolev in the second round and possibly Australian Carsten Ball in the third. Although, Korolev has had great results in the warmup tournament in New Haven so we could see an upset as early as the second round here.

Quarterfinalist: Robin Soderling

Federer’s 1/8

And in the second biggest cakewalk of the draw, Roger Federer may not be challeneged until the third round where he faces Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt retired with an injury several weeks ago in Washington, DC and has recently split with his coach. Will this change of events take over Hewitt or will he put up a great fight and possibly overcome the champion?

In the top half of this section, we see Jurgen Melzer taking on Dmitry Tursunov, a player who has a protected ranking and decided to enter the US Open under that exemption. Melzer could then face tough young American Ryan Sweeting in the second round and veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third. The match then between Melzer and Federer should be as straight forward as it was in Wimbledon this year.

Quarterfinalist: Roger Federer

Now, that my quarterfinalist picks are in order, let’s quickly breakdown my predictions to the semifinals!

Quarterfinal #1: Rafael Nadal d. David Nalbandian

Nadal has pretty much been unstoppable this season. He’s healthy and happy: no “broken abdominals” or knees, no familial problems and he finely-tuned his schedule to allow himself enough rest and recovery during the summer. Although Nalbandian is a confident competitor and his angles may blow some players off the court, he simply won’t last in a five-setter in the heat against Nadal.

Quarterfinal #2: Andy Murray d. Tomas Berdych

Berdych has a strong game and is a very powerful competitor if his mental stamina holds up. Andy Murray is known to complain and simply lose a match because of his own temper. It’s a tough draw between the two opponents, but Murray’s footwork will outlast Berych’s serve. Get ready for an even more grueling battle if Murray decides to be aggressive in his tactics.

Quarterfinal #3: Mardy Fish d. Andy Roddick

Fish has never been more fit and Roddick is coming off of a tough summer. On top of that, Fish has won their last two encounters within the last couple of months. Many are calling Fish the “darkhorse” this year and I’m jumping on the bandwagon. As much as Roddick has stayed consistent in his rankings the last six years, his results haven’t given much inspiration lately.

Quarterfinal #4: Roger Federer d. Robin Soderling

This is another tough one to call, but Soderling’s lackluster summer will catch up with him in New York and he’ll see himself crash out to Federer in a tough four sets. Although Soderling’s game is more suited to the hard courts, you can’t discount Federer’s run here the last six years. Elegance and precision will overcome power and grit.

In the semifinals, the matchups between both Nadal vs. Murray and Fish vs. Federer will be epic performances as each player could beat any other on any given day. It’s hard to predict the winner of each and I’ll leave that up to you. But for now, my vote is with Rafael Nadal, 2010 US Open Champion. It’s about time to add another flame to his Babolat bag and Nike shoes.

Happy watching and cheering!

Fan Watch: Rafael Nadal vs Stan Wawrinka

Lisa Grebe talks about Rafael Nadal’s first singles appearance at the Rogers Cup. After a tough and nailbiting first set versus Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka , Rafa picks up the pace and shows Stan who’s the man. He takes home the win with a 7-6 6-3 win. The tie break took 92 minutes and was the longest in the Spaniard’s career.

“My goal was to win,” Nadal said. “When you come back after (some) time without playing, tournaments are always difficult. I just tried my best and tried to find my rhythm.”

Rafael Nadal now faces Kevin Anderson on Thursday at the Rogers Cup.

A LEGGY MARIA SHARAPOVA WAS SHOT ON CAM

Despite her early loss in Madrid our photographer managed to snap a few shots of a leggy Maria Sharapova. And when I say leggy I seriously mean leggy. The short skirt is a huge improvement over the dress she wore at the Australian Open I have to say.

This is what she had to say about her early exit:

“It’s a struggle trying to find the rhythm,” Sharapova said. “I thought she played really solid, good tennis and did everything she needed to win the match. More solid than me anyway.”

I talked to Marija from Womens Tennis Blog and she reworded Sharapova’s comment about her playing on clay just fine:

I always remember Sharapova’s statement that she’s like a cow on ice when playing on clay.

I don’t think she will Roland Garros any time soon.

SHARAPOVA COMEBACK CUT SHORT

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova’s comeback to the WTA Tour was cut short by Lucie Safarova.  The leggy Russian was ousted in two sets 6-4, 6-3.  Sharapova will now head for Strasbourg.

“It’s a struggle trying to find the rhythm,” a philosophical Sharapova, who was playing her first tournament since pulling out of the Sony Ericsson Open in March with an elbow injury, told a news conference.

There is a lot of work for Sharapova to do if she wants to be considered a serious contender for the French Open.

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