south african airways

Djokovic still going, Del Potro’s winning return on clay and Medina ties Venus

Home Comfort for Djokovic:

Novak Djokovic’s unbeaten start to 2011 continued as he lifted his home Serbian Open title for a second time, his fifth title this year, defeating Feliciano Lopez 7-6, 6-2 in the final. It means the 23-year-old picks up the title without dropping a single set. After a scare at 5-5 in the first set he served himself out of a break point and never looked back. He received a standing ovation from the 5,000-strong crowd with two superb sliced dropshots, an ace and a service winner in the final game. “I wish to thank my family and my staff for supporting me all these years and also the fans who make this event that much more enjoyable for me to take part in,” he said after winning the tournament his family organises. “I am really glad that Feliciano had such a great tournament after accepting my invitation to come here. We are making a huge effort every year to bring the top players to Belgrade and it’s not easy because it takes place only a week ahead of the Madrid Masters. Hopefully, we will be able to make it an ATP 500 event very soon and I am looking forward to returning next year.” Lopez was in humorous mood after the final whistle, saying: “Last night I dreamed of being the hero of the year by beating you here but once again, you showed that you are a truly great player.”

All Go for Del Po:

Returning Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, playing his first clay tournament for 23 months, lifted his third title on the surface, and ninth overall, by besting Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-2 in 76 minutes at the Estoril Open in Portugal. The 23-year-old has won 23 of his last 26 matches and has risen from No.484 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings in February to No.32 this week. An out of sorts Verdasco struggled throughout and the world No.15 will undoubtedly be unhappy with his performance here. “It was my best match of the week,” claimed Del Potro. “Finals are difficult to play, you never know if you will play your best tennis or not. Today, I won and I played really nice tennis. Everything was perfect. To beat Fernando you have to play good tennis. I served really well and was very confident on my forehand and backhand too. I took all my opportunities, especially on my break points. Hopefully I will be at the same level in my next match.”

Medina Ties Venus in Estoril:

Anabel Medina Garrigues tied Venus Williams for the most clay-court titles among active players by lifting her ninth title on the surface at Estoril last weekend, her tenth overall. She dominated Kristina Barrois 6-1, 6-2 and did not drop a set all week, upsetting Greta Arn and Klara Zakopalova along the way. The loss took Barrois to 0-2 in WTA finals having lost to Maria Sharapova at Strasbourg last May. “I played very aggressively and hit it high and deep. Kristina couldn’t do her game,” Medina Garrigues said. “She’s a creative girl – serve and volley, slice, drop shots – and I was there. I felt like she lost her concentration a little bit. I think I played well this week. I had some lucky moments, like in the first round I was close to losing a set, and I had a close match with Zakopalova. It wasn’t as easy as it looked this week and I’m happy to win my 10th title.”

Davydenko Back on Track:

Russian Nikolay Davydenko put a nightmare start to 2011 behind him as he defeated Germany’s Florian Mayer 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 to lift his 21st ATP Tour title at the BMW Open in Munich. It is his second title in the German capital having triumphed there in 2004. It wasn’t all plain sailing for the 29-year-old, though, as he had to save five break points during the first set as well as fight back from a break down to take the decider. It is Mayer’s fourth defeat in four finals. “In finals I just feel stronger, more relaxed, my confidence is very high and I just go out there fighting,” said Davydenko. “It was a very important result here (to return to the Top 30) and I’m just so happy.” Mayer was in buoyant mood despite the defeat. “It was a fantastic week,” said the 27-year-old. “Of course I’m a little disappointed losing the final, but I see the positives this week. I had never won a match here in Munich coming in to this year’s tournament. I had very difficult opponents in my four finals playing [Roger] Federer, [Gael] Monfils and Davydenko twice. It could certainly have been easier opponents but it’s nothing I can change. It’s a great feeling to break into the Top 30 for the first time in my career, now I want to go even higher.”

Vinci Reigning in Spain:

Roberta Vinci lifted the Barcelona Open for the second time and extended her record at the tournament to 14-1 with a final victory over Lucie Hradecka on Saturday. After triumphing here in 2009 she was only stopped by Francesca Schiavone in last year’s final before repeating her heroics of two years ago once more. The unseeded Hradecka had done well to reach the final, ousting No.7 seed Iveta Benesova and No.5 seed Sara Errani along the way, but it was Vinci who kept her cool to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4). “Lucie is very powerful. The key for me was to be aggressive and focused, and that’s why I won today,” Vinci said afterwards. “I was a little nervous before the match because it was a final, but I believed I played some good tennis today! This is a great tournament. I feel like it’s my tournament! I’m in love with Barcelona. I always play great in this beautiful city and I’d like to thank [tournament director] Arantxa [Sanchez-Vicario] and everyone here for making this tournament so great.”

Monfils Cheesed Off in Madrid:

Gael Monfils has revealed that it was a cheese allergy that forced him to retire from his match-up with Juan Monaco in Madrid when he was 2-6, 0-3 down. He threw up before going on court, experienced dizziness and blurred vision, and threw up again once he had left the playing area. “I only had a little bit, not on purpose, certainly,” said Monfils. “I ate some pasta and it was in that. But once it’s in my body, I can’t do anything.”

Soderling Lone Ranger Again:

Eurosport is reporting that Swedish star Robin Soderling has parted ways with coach Claudio Pistolesi already having only begun their partnership this season. He is looking for a replacement.

Clijsters’ Injury Woes Continue:

Kim Clijsters’ frustrating run with ankle problems continues as she has withdrawn from the Italian Open, putting her French Open participation in doubt. She joins both Venus and Serena Williams as well as Vera Zvonereva in withdrawing from the event.

Spain Continue Nadal Accolades:

World No.1 Rafael Nadal has received another top accolade from his country, having been made an honorary ambassador of the Marca Espana by the Prince of Asturias, Don Felipe. He was joined by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, Antonio Garrigues, orchestral conductor Inma Shara, The Instituto Cervantes, the Vicente Ferrer Foundation and the Spanish football team, who won last year’s FIFA World Cup for the first time.

Murray’s Former Coach claims he is Best in World:

Andy Murray’s former coach at the famed Barcelona academy, Pato Alvarez, describes the Scot as the best he’s ever worked with. “You can’t go wrong with Murray. He’s the best there is,” Alvarez told the BBC. “He’s a better player than Nadal and the other top guys. He’s more explosive. He has a better backhand. He has a better serve.”

“Best Five Months of My Career” – Djokovic:

Serbian star Novak Djokovic has described his current 30-match unbeaten stretch (28 in 2011) as the greatest run of his career. Better than that, it is one of the best in ATP history. Now he has set his sights on upstaging the ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal, and may get a chance to do so this week should both men reach the final of the Mutua Madrid Masters. Yet he is weary that he is yet to best the Spaniard in nine meetings on this surface. “I didn’t think it was realistic to go without a loss in the first three-four months but it happened,” he mused. “I guess anything is possible if you really believe that you can achieve and if you’re fit, physically, if you’re mentally fresh and motivated and if you’re dedicated to the sport. This is something that I have been doing lately,” he continued. “I’ve been working very hard on my game, on my mental approach as well and my stability and now it´s paying off. There is no secret; it’s just something that I’ve been working on in the last couple of years playing on the tour. I knew that I had quality and I just need to get some things together and it’s happening right now.” Speaking about that possible Nadal match up, he said: “I don´t really feel like talking about an eventual final against Rafa because there is a long way to go and there are many other great players who want to win this title as much as we do. I will just try to take one match at a time and we’ll see how far it can go.”

“No More Surface Specialists” – Moya:

Former world No.1 Carlos Moya has spoken of his belief that Rafael Nadal is not unbeatable on clay, and that there are no more surface specialists like when he was at the top of the sport. “No one is unbeatable on any surface,” Moya told Spanish newspaper Marca. “If you ask the players who’ll get more points on clay this year, obviously they will say it will be Rafa. But on a bad day, bad night, a bad match, anyone can have one. The specialists we saw a decade ago no longer exist. Before there were players like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Goran Ivanisevic who specialised on super fast courts or grass and players such as Guga Kuerten who had to do so much just to get good on hard courts. Now you have players who do well on fast surfaces and on clay and vice versa. Those who can dominate on any surface are the ones at the top: Nadal, [Roger] Federer or [Novak] Djokovic and before it did not happen.”

Tomic and Dellacqua in for Roland Garros:

Bernard Tomic and Casey Dellacqua have been handed Tennis Australia’s two wild cards for the French Open based on an agreement between the French and Australian tennis associations. 18-year-old Tomic is frequently touted as a future Aussie star but behavioural issues have blighted his career thus far, while Dellacqua has had a torrid time with injuries and has only just returned from a 12-month lay-off.

12-City Champions Tour set for 2011:

The new-look 2011 Champions Tour will feature twelve events across the States and will get underway including the talents of former home-grown heroes Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe. Mats Wilander, Michael Chang and Bjorn Borg will also feature across the tour which sees the senior pros competing for $1m. Four stars will attend each event and will square off in semi-finals with the two winners progressing to the final.

Cavaday’s Had Her Day:

British No.5 Naomi Cavaday has announced her retirement from professional tennis at the age of 22. She reached a career-high No.174 in the world last May but currently languishes as the world’s No.231. She entered the main draw at Wimbledon three times, losing in the first round on each occasion. Her defeats to Ai Sugiyama in 2006 and Venus Williams in 2008 sandwiched her most famous moment in 2007 when she held two match points against Martina Hingis before eventually going on to lose. She suffered with depression and an eating disorder during her six-year career and now will work as a coach with the Lawn Tennis Association.

Rankings Watch:

Nicolas Almagro continued his recent ascent up the South African Airways ATP World Rankings this week and climbs above Gael Monfils to No.9 in the world. Marin Cilic and Gilles Simon are back in to the Top 20. Nikolay Davydenko and Juan Martin del Potro’s titles last week see them climb to No.28 and No.32 in the world respectively, while Spain’s Marcel Granollers is in to the Top 50 again. Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis drops 31 places to No.64 while the American Alex Bogomolov Jr. (13 places, No.91), Denis Gremelmayr of Germany (10, No.95) and France’s Benoit Paire (13, No.99) all enter the Top 100. Li Na is the new world No.6 in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings, climbing above Sam Stosur in the process and equalling her career best. Jelena Jankovic also climbs to No.7 meaning Stosur is now ranked eighth. Roberta Vinci climbs from No.42 to No.37 after her Barcelona win and Anabel Medina Garrigues’ victory in Estoril sees her leap from No.61 to No.42. Monica Niculescu of Romania jumps 10 to enter the Top 50 at No.49 and Barcelona finalist Lucie Hradecka is up 14 to No. 52. France’s Virginie Razzano (No.94), Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic (No.99) and America’s Jill Craybas (No.100) are all in to the Top 100.

GOAT Race Update:

Both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are in action at the Mutua Madrid Masters this week, adding ten points to their totals. Will Nadal move further ahead on his favoured clay? We’ll find out as the week wears on.

Roger: 605, Rafa: 780

FEDERER’S EXPANDING TROPHY CABINET: TENNIS PEOPLE

* Roger Federer has been boasting about his expansive trophy cabinet as he goes looking for a record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title alongside Pete Sampras and W.G. Renshaw. “All the US Opens, all the Wimbledons, they’re all lined up next to each other,” he beamed. “They almost go in a circle, so it’s nice. I’m lucky enough to have won that many.” Does he think about that record? “Maybe obviously a little bit because I’m aware of the great things he [Sampras] achieved, being one title away from it, you’re obviously aware of it,” he continued. “But then again, you have to break it down and make it simple for yourself, trying to win the first round, being here, trying to defend the title before everything.”

* This week’s Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings have seen former No.1 Jelena Jankovic re-enter the top 3 for the first time in over a year despite not playing a warm-up tournament on grass this year. She swaps with the Dane Caroline Wozniacki who failed to defend her title at Eastbourne last week. Sam Stosur now finds herself a career-high No. 6 while the returning Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters find themselves ranked at No. 16 and No. 8 respectively, the highest slots since they returned to the tour.

* The South African Airways ATP World Rankings were a bit quieter this week. There was no movement in the top 36, Michael Llodra climbing nine places to No. 37 in a big leap following recent performances. Janko Tipsarevic enters the top 50 at 45 while Sergiy Stakhovsky jumps 24 places to a career-best No. 47 following his victory over Tipsarevic at the UNICEF Open in Holland last week.

* The Lawn Tennis Association has hit back at claims by Aussie former Wimbledon Champ Pat Cash that Roger Draper’s “shocking” tenure at the governing body has seriously jeopardised Britain’s chances of rearing future Champions, according to the Press Association. An LTA spokesman said: “Investment in grass roots is our priority. We are spending over £40million over five years in improving facilities. We have more than half a million people playing tennis in England alone. That number is growing and we are looking to increase that number further.” The spokesman laid out future objectives by saying: “We are four years into a 10-year project, so yes, this will take time, but we are already starting to see encouraging signs both in performance tennis and at grass roots level. The accusation is that we are not getting kids playing tennis but club membership among children has grown by 16% in the last three years.” You can see the full war of words here.

* Russian Nikolay Davydenko is adamant he will face Argentina for Russia in the crucial forthcoming Davis Cup quarterfinal next month. “Yeah, I will play,” he said in a post-match interview following on from his gritty five-set win over American Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon on Monday. There had been fears over his fitness. You can see the interview in full on the Davis Cup website. This comes after the No. 7 seed claimed he was playing through the pain against Anderson. “My wrist is okay but the rest of my body? I don’t know. I will need treatment now,” reported the British newspaper The Sun.

* Kim Clijsters has spoken of her frustration at missing most of the clay-court season with a damaged foot following such an impressive performance at Miami earlier in the year. “It was frustrating because I felt that I was playing well,” she said in an interview published on the FOX Sports website. “I was finally in a routine where I started to play more tournaments. After Miami, as well, I was looking forward to play the Fed Cup and then to play the clay-court season.”

* Serena Williams says she can’t wait to have the chance to make it three Olympic Gold Medals in her trophy cabinet when the 2012 competition takes place at the All England Club. “I think it’s great as an Olympic venue,” she said. “It’s probably the best venue in the world.”

* A couple of players gave interesting verdicts following shock exits in the early days of Wimbledon 2010. Aussie Sam Stosur was gracious following her shock exit to Estonian qualifier Kaia Kanepi. “She’s a quality opponent.” said the 26-year-old French Open finalist. “She has been ranked a lot higher than what she is. For whatever reason, she slipped back. She’s definitely played a lot of matches recently as well. She qualified at the French as well as here and has been playing well, so it wasn’t an easy first round by any means. The last couple of days I practiced quite well, tried to prepare for the match as best I could…I just didn’t play my best.” Former world No. 4 James Blake was far more damning of his performance following his shock defeat to Dutchman Robin Haase in straight sets. “To be honest, it’s almost embarrassing to go out and play a Grand Slam match like that,” said the former US and Aussie Open quarterfinalist. “Maybe it says to me that I came back too soon [from a recent knee injury], or maybe I’m just too far away from where I think I need to be. The knee is not great. If it doesn’t get better soon, I’m not sure how much longer I want to play in pain. Something like this, and overuse injury, it’s a tough balance to have to find,” he said. “I want to be out there hitting, but I might be doing more harm than good.” Fans of Blake will hope that talk of retirement is just a knee-jerk reaction to a disappointing day. Sam Querrey, who saw opponent Sergiy Stakhovsky retire through illness while trailing by two sets and 2-1 down in the third, has revealed an almost McEnroe-like approach to his recent improvement. “My coach, David Nainkin, said if you’re gonna get angry, yell something out and smash the racquet and move on to the next point. Don’t carry it with you,” Querrey said. “Occasionally in practice (I do it). I guess this year, I’ve probably broken two or three in practice. I can’t really remember the specific moments. Sometimes it just needs to be done.”

* Dustin Brown, the first Jamaican to play at Wimbledon for 40 years, has placed the LTA on standby by claiming he would like to defect to play Davis Cup for Great Britain, according to The Sun newspaper. He crashed 3-6, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6 to Austrian Jurgen Melzer on Monday but won over fans with his flowing dreadlocks and stylish play. “I last played for Jamaica in 2002 and I’m pretty sure the cooling-off period is three years,” said the 25-year-old. “The Jamaican authorities are not giving me any funds, no coaching and no help. They are not doing their job. They even sent an email to me two days ago [Saturday] saying ‘Congratulations on your wild-card’ – I got in with a direct entry and didn’t have to qualify. If the president doesn’t know what the No.1 player is doing, he doesn’t care.” Brown qualifies for GB through his grandfather but says he will wait for the LTA to make the first move. “Something also has to happen from the Lawn Tennis Association. If they are interested, then they have to step towards me.”

* The first-round exits of Sam Stosur and Francesca Schiavone at Wimbledon this week means this is the first Championships where both Roland Garros finalists have fallen at the first hurdle.

* Serena Williams’ first-round victory over Portuguese teenager Michelle Larcher de Brito on Tuesday means her career record for Grand Slam openers reads 43-0, an outstanding achievement.

* Rafa Nadal took time out from his Wimbledon preparations by splashing out £130 for himself and three pals to play a round of golf at the Coombe Wood Golf Club. He applauded the presentation ceremony for Charlie Coleman, son of former Brit tennis star Annabel Croft, who became the club’s youngest Champion in its 106-year history at just 14-years-old.

* American Andy Roddick showed his disgust at the recent refereeing gaff which cost the USA a third goal in what would have been a thrilling second-half comeback against Slovenia at the FIFA football World Cup. The match ended 2-2 after midfielder Maurice Edu had what looked like a seemingly good goal wrongly chalked off. Roddick, asked if he understands the rules of football, said: “I understand the rules of football so well that apparently when two Slovenian guys mug an American guy the American guy gets called for a foul. That’s how well I understand the rules.”

TENNIS PEOPLE: WHO WILL BE NO. 1 AFTER ROLAND GARROS?

* The 2010 French Open gives us a mouth-watering three-way battle for the coveted No. 1 slot in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. Current incumbent Roger Federer, previous holder Rafa Nadal and potential first-timer Novak Djokovic are all in the mix dependent on results over the next two weeks. Here’s how it will work. If R-Fed makes the semis he remains No. 1. Anything less coupled with Nadal lifting his favourite Slam and Nadal charges back to the top. Djokovic must lift the trophy and hope Federer falls before the quarterfinals. Keep your eyes peeled on those three tennis fans.

* The Williams sisters are aiming for another record this fortnight at Roland Garros. Having returned to the top two spots in the singles rankings if they lift the doubles title they will become only the sixth and seventh players ever to hold both the top two singles and doubles rankings behind Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport and Kim Clijsters. However, they can also lose in the first round here in Paris and take the top two spots, as long as neither Liezel Huber or Cara Black reach the semifinals with their respective partners following their recent split.

* The records continue to topple at Roland Garros. Justine Henin’s first round victory over Tsvetana Pironkova was her 22nd straight victory at the Slam where she has also now won a record 37 sets in a row for the Open Era. She is now three behind Helen Wills Moody’s all-time record of 40. Henin’s French Open record now stands at 36-4, an incredible 90% winning record.

*Venus Williams has said she still harbors dreams of a first French Open crown despite being on the eve of her 30th birthday. The world No. 2 is aiming, along with her compatriots, to end a seven-year barren spell on the clay courts for Americans since her sister Serena lifted the singles trophy in 2002. “It goes without saying, I believe I can win,” said Venus in an interview on the USTA website. “The U.S. has played well here formerly. The last few years haven’t been as great for us, but if anything, for me, my whole motivation is to do better. Hopefully the rest of the Americans feel the same way as I do.” She also spoke of her dream of one day sitting on top of the world again. If she manages to wrestle it back off of Serena she would be the oldest incumbent of the No.1 slot since Martina Navratilova in 1987. “It feels good to be moving up the ranks. Obviously, when you get to No. 2 of course the next dream is 1. That’s definitely on my radar. Everybody wants to be No. 1, especially me, because I’m closer than most of the other players on the tour,” she joked. “So it means a lot because day in, day out, all the hours that I put in…when you get to the top of the rankings is definitely a pat on the back, like this is all worth it. I want to put the work in to be able to get there.”

* British No. 2 Alex Bogdanovic has been handed a Davis Cup lifeline by new Great Britain captain Leon Smith. Former skipper John Lloyd axed Bogdanovic after his continual failure to win rubbers but Smith refused to write him off. “He’s our number two, and our number two by quite a distance, so he has to be in the reckoning,” Smith told BBC Sport. “If there were four or five players ahead of him, it would be different. Alex is one of the guys that has to be in the mix.” Smith has also refused to give up hope of Andy Murray ending his Davis Cup exile to help Britain in their crucial Europe/Africa Zone Group II playoff against Turkey in July. “Any country would want Andy to play – [but] if he doesn’t, I totally respect that,” he said on a visit to the French Open. “He makes a big difference to the team, but we’ve got other players who can come in that are capable of doing the job.”

*American qualifier Michael Yani’s marathon first round defeat to Slovakia’s Lukas Lacko must have felt like a never-ending story. Starting Sunday night, bad light forced play to continue on Monday morning and after four hours and 56 minutes Yani finally went down 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 10-12. The match consisted of 71 games, equalling a tournament record since tiebreakers were introduced in 1973. “Ridiculous,” is how Yani described it.

* Ernests Gulbis faces a race against time to be fit for Wimbledon after an MRI scan revealed he has torn his hamstring. It will force him out of Queens and may make him miss both the European slams, reports The Globe and Mail. It would be a shame as he was expected to perform well at both after a fantastic clay season in 2010.

* Sam Querrey has been highly critical of his attitude towards tennis following his four-set defeat to countryman Robby Ginepri in the first round at Roland Garros. “I started thinking about leaving and pulling out of the doubles and how much I wanted to go home, how much I wasn’t enjoying myself,” he said. “When I lost that second set tiebreaker and got broken in the first game, I was done. I wanted to be off the court. I’ve not been a professional…on and off for the last few months. I don’t want to face the opponent and myself.” It mirrors the problems Andy Murray admitted he had during his slump shortly after losing the Aussie Open final to Federer.

*1999 French Open Champion Andre Agassi has highlighted Rafa Nadal as an “undeniable favourite” to triumph once more in Roland Garros in an interview with Fox Sports. “Rafa’s forehand is nasty,” said Agassi. “On clay I would have had to play on the edge against him and play lights out and that’s not the way to play tennis. It’s about calculated risk and he’s going to make you take some crazy chances because the alternative is to get moved around court like you are on a string.” It is an interesting and vibrant interview in which Agassi gives us the lowdown on all the main contenders for the second Slam of the year. Check it out over at the Fox Sports website.

*Bulgarian screecher Victoria Azarenka has been fined $4,000 by the French Open after she failed to attend a press conference following her shock 1-6, 2-6 defeat to Gisela Dulko on Sunday. The 10th seed had reached the quaterfinals of her previous three Slams including the French last year.

*The Americans are determined to show that they are no pushovers on clay. Following the announcement by the USTA that clay courts are to be installed at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center for the first time top Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner have decided to blog all about their 2010 French Open experience for Tennis.com. Follow all their Paris adventures here.

*Serena Williams’ temperament is under question once more after a reported comment made to Jelena Jankovic following their recent Rome semifinal. Williams held her hand up whilst receiving serve while 5-3 up in the third set and the umpire ordered a replay of the point, angering Jankovic. Jankovic went on to win and as the players shook hands at the net Serena whispered something in to the Serb’s ears which sounded like “Don’t think I would do that…I’m not Justine,” although microphones may be inconclusive. If true, it would appear to be a swipe at Justine Henin following a similar incident during hers and Williams’ 2003 French Open semifinal where Henin raised her hand as Williams served which the umpire did not see. He denied Williams another first serve and she accused Henin of “lying and fabricating” as she did not admit her action to the umpire at the time. When questioned about the comment in a pre-French Open interview Serena said: “”I don’t even remember that. I just remember I had a match point, and, oh, I should have won that match. I was really disappointed… Jankovic is a really good clay court player, so I felt like…I can’t take anything negative out of that. I was just really like, ‘Ah, I was really oh so close.’”

*Former British tennis great Tim Henman has thrown his weight behind Andy Murray’s bid to win Wimbledon back for the British public. “I really think Wimbledon could be Murray’s,” said Henman. “He played great last year getting through to his first semi and I think he was very disappointed to lose to Roddick. I think Murray’s matured again, he’s improved, his game is better, he’s got 12 months more experience and I think he’s got every chance of winning.”

*Former French Open finalist Guillermo Coria has admitted that thoughts of a comeback have crossed his mind. “I’m 28 and yes, it’s true I’ve asked myself that question,” he said in a recent interview. “I’ve had a good time and now, when I see a tournament on television, I’m nostalgic. I’m not training really but I’m on the court everyday because I’m training my little brother and some Argentine hopefuls.” He retired in April last year.

*Dinara Safina is bidding to end her recent slump by parting ways with coach Zeljko Krajan, whom she often credits for her meteoric rise to the world No. 1 slot in April 2009. According to Russia’s Sport Express she will be working with Gaston Etlis during Roland Garros.

*Aussie Jelena Dokic has also parted ways with her coach, Serbian Borna Bikic. After going down 2-6, 2-6 to Lucie Safarova in the first round at Roland Garros she merely said: “I’m alone.” According to the press in Serbia, Dokic is still dating Bikic’s brother Tin.

*British No. 3 Katie O’Brien was beaming from ear to ear after making the cut for the main draw of the French Open for the first time this year. In an interview with BBC Sport she said: “I’ve been injury-free all year so in that respect I’ve been really lucky. I’ve been stranded in South Africa [due to the volcanic ash cloud decimating British flight zones] so my clay preparations were disrupted a bit but…I feel good.” “I think the French Open is really nice, has its own unique atmosphere,” she continued. “I like the vibe about the place and I like the clay. I like to ground out long points and use my fitness to ground opponents down. I think my game suits quite well to clay.” Unfortunately her run came to an end in round one as she fought well against American veteran Jill Craybas before going down 0-6, 6-4, 2-6 in just over two hours.

*The USTA website is receiving blogs from a host of American stars throughout Roland Garros on their experiences at the Slam. Andre Agassi, Melanie Oudin and Mardy Fish are the names putting pen to paper so far and all offer different insights in to the behind the scenes action in Paris. Check the USTA website daily to see who’s next.

* This week’s ATP World Rankings (24/05/2010) have seen Russian Nikolay Davydenko climb in to the world’s top 5 despite not having played since fracturing his wrist at Indian Wells. He climbs above Argentine Juan Martin del Potro who has been out for even longer. Richard Gasquet’s victory at Nice last week sees him jump 23 places in to the top 50 at No. 45 ahead of his home Slam in Paris.

* In the Sony Ericsson WTA Rankings (24/05) there is little significant movement in the top 50 after recent tournaments. Below that, Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria has leapt 19 places from No. 100 to No. 81 following some recent exciting displays. Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic has dropped from 71 to No. 87. Mariana Duque Marino of Columbia enters the top 100 at No. 97.

Murray Survives Scare To Advance In Cincinnati; Federer, Nadal Advance

Defending champion and No. 3 seed Andy Murray of Scotland rallied from a set and break down in the second set to edge past lucky loser Julien Benneteau of France, 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in two hours and 11 minutes on Friday afternoon to advance to the semifinals at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

The 22-year-old Scot, who is the new No. 2 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings after winning the title last week in Montreal, struggled to find his form after breaking to take a 3-2 lead. Following the service break, the 27-year-old Frenchman immediately broke Murray’s serve to level the match at 3-3 before winning three of the next four games to take the opening set, 6-4.

“I knew I had to be aggressive,” said Benneteau, who got in the main draw when Juan Martin del Potro withdrew after the draw was made.

Benneteau, who is currently ranked No. 55, secured an early break in the second set to go ahead 2-0 and looked to have a big edge on Murray, who looked out of sorts on all his shots.

The turning point occurred in the next game when Murray won a thrilling 53-shot rally and quickly broke back to get back on serve. The Scot, who has now won a record 53 matches this season, insisted the 53-shot rally changed the rest of the match.
“Oh, it made a big different,” said Murray, who has won five titles this year in Doha, Rotterdam, Miami, Queen’s Club and Montreal. “I think he was very tired after that rally. I managed to stay strong after that.”
The momentum shifted immediately and it was all Murray from that point on, dropping just two more games en route to victory.
“You know, he’s been around a long time and he’s very experienced and obviously made it very difficult today,” said Murray, who has reached five of the last nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 finals dating back to his victory in Cincinnati last August.

Murray, who earned his 72nd career win in a Masters 1000 event, smashed seven aces, won 70 percent of first serve points and broke Benneteau’s serve on six of 13 opportunities. Benneteau hit four aces, three double faults, won 59 percent of first serve points and was able to break Murray’s serve three times.

Murray’s semifinal opponent on Saturday afternoon will be world No. 1 Roger Federer, who eased past former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, 6-3, 6-4, in 70 minutes.

Federer, who earned his 200th career win at a Masters 1000 event, was in complete control from start to finish, breaking serve once in each set to win convincingly. Federer’s serve was superb, winning 24 of 27 first serve points, smashing 11 aces, while not facing a break point the entire match.

The 15-time Grand Slam singles champion insisted holding serve against Hewitt is an important thing to accomplish during a match with the fiery Aussie.

“I think that definitely helps against Lleyton, who once he gets his teeth into your serve it can get quite tricky,” said Federer, who improved to 9-1 in quarterfinal matches this season.

Hewitt, who reached the finals in Cincinnati in 2002 and 2004, only managed to hit two aces and win 69 percent of his first serve points.

Federer improved to 15-7 against Hewitt, winning the last 13 meetings.

“He’s beaten me so many times in the past that I didn’t expect myself to all of a sudden go on such a great run against him,” said Federer, whose loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga last week in Montreal was his first loss since losing at the Masters 1000 in Madrid in May.

In the late match, No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal of Spain continued his impressive return from a knee tendinitis injury, dispatching Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic, 6-4, 7-5, in one hour and 41 minutes.

Nadal, who has won six Grand Slam singles titles including four French Open titles, was impressive on serve throughout, hitting two aces and winning 35 of 41 first serve points. The 23-year-old Spaniard was also able to break serve twice on six opportunities.

The former world No. 1 will face No. 4 seed Novak Djokovic in the night match on Saturday. Djokovic won his quarterfinal match by defeating Frenchman Gilles Simon, 6-4, 7-5, to advance to his second straight semifinal in Cincinnati.