The best players have dominated the French Open for years, but William Hill’s Lee Phelps is looking at the bigger odds to see if anyone is worth betting on for a shock.
The Slams are usually the realm of the favourites in tennis, but we saw Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic surprise the top order last year, so could the 2015 French Open go to a player a big price?
Rafael Nadal has dominated this tournament for a decade, with only Roger Federer winning the title in the last decade. In fact only two men outside the top four seeds have contested the final. Robin Soderling twice and in 2005 Mariano Puerto lost to Nadal when he won his first French Open trophy.
Let’s look at the men outside the top four in the betting though, just in case 2015 is a year we saw one from the pack upset the odds.
Federer has been a long time victim of Nadal’s at Roland Garros, but did win when Rafa was injured in 2009. The questions over his demise won’t go away, but to be fair neither will Fed.
A final appearance against Djokovic in Italy and his world ranking suggest that Federer will once again be a big player in Paris. He did pick up straight-sets wins against Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka too playing his best tennis on the dirt in quite some time.
He may not have the speed of his younger days, but the clay should benefit him. It’s just whether he can hold his own on the baseline.
Stan had a great 2014, but he’s finding it tougher going in 15 and his best at the French is a quarter final in 2013.
He has made people sit up and take notice by beating Nadal in Rome, but he is one of four to do that already this season including Fabio Fognini. That win was his first in 13 attempts against Rafa, but I still think it says more about the Spaniard.
Tennis odds makers know that the Spaniard is arguably the best players on the ATP circuit today never to have won a Grand Slam. Clay has historically been his best surface, and in 2013 he did all he could before facing Nadal in the tournament final – he did what everyone else has done and promptly lost.
I don’t see that famed fitness lasting out for another final appearance here. It quarter finals and out for Ferrer, but he will make life hard for one of the top seeds before saying Au Revoir.
Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
The two home hopes will be talked about as usual in Paris, but it’s hard to see them going all the way. Monfils best is the semi-final in 2008 and Tsonga went to the last four stage in 2013.
Despite the clamour among the media and hopeful Parisian fans, I don’t see either player having the game or the consistency to make it to the last four. Tsonga is on a 5 and 4 run on clay this season and his compatriot is 7 and 3.
In truth I don’t see any of these outsiders troubling the big guns. But if I was taking one to creep into the final with my tennis picks it would be Roger Federer, just because of his pedigree and with a fortuitous draw he could find some out-of-form and less than fresh players. My pick for the final is Novak Djokovic versus Kei Nishikori, with Djokovic (-125 favorite on the French Open odds board) winning.
Roland Garros Roundup takes you through the Slam’s hot stories of the day, both on and off the court.
Shot of the Day: Fans who couldn’t make it out to Roland Garros still got their taste of tennis in front of the Hôtel de Ville in the center of Paris, where participants could try out the red clay or catch the action on the big screen.
Mikhail Youzhny loses it: Many tennis fans were likely experiencing a bout of déjà vu when Russian Mikhail Youzhny absolutely obliterated his racket after falling down a set and 3-0 to Tommy Haas in their fourth round match. This was not the first time the fiery Russian has exhibited such anger on the court, as Nick Zaccardi of Sports Illustrated points out. In 2008, in a match against Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, Youzhny banged his racket against his head several times and in the process drew blood. Both videos can be seen in Zaccardi’s article.
Week one French Open takeaways: The first half of the French Open has come and gone but not without an abundance of drama and questions. Jonathan Overend of the BBC discusses some of the biggest storylines surrounding Roland Garros including Rafa’s form, the restoration of single-handed backhands, Laura Robson’s struggles and more.
Li Na’s press conference raises questions: Sports Illustrated reports that after her second round exit to Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Li Na has been heavily criticized for comments she made to the Chinese media. Asked if she had an explanation for her loss Li replied, “Do I need to explain?” She carried on saying, “It’s strange. I lost a game and that’s it. Do I need to get on my knees and kowtow to them? Apologize to them.” Chinese Journalists Zhang Rongfeng believes this response is indicative of Li Na’s lack of professionalism.
Dominic Inglot grateful for professional career: Dominic Inglot, as Simon Briggs of The Telegraph points out, was the final player hailing from the United Kingdom to be playing in the 2013 French Open. Inglot, along with college teammate and current doubles partner, Treat Huey, crashed out to Michael Llodra and Nicolas Mahut in the third round of the doubles competition. In his conversation with Briggs, Inglot talks about how he made it into professional tennis and how lucky he is to be able to make a living on tour.
“I get to play tennis for a living—that is the ultimate dream. When I was a little kid I remember cutting the cake on my birthday and blowing the candles out and saying every single time, ‘I want to be a professional tennis player.’”
Road to Roland Garros- Bethanie Mattek-Sands: In this edition of Road to Roland Garros, Bethanie Mattek-Sands reveals her inspiration in tennis, talks about her perpetual lateness, and how her diet is her biggest sacrifice.
Novak Djokovic playing for Jelena Gencic: Novak Djokovic advanced to the quarterfinals of the French Open after a four set win over German Philipp Kohlschreiber. Djokovic, as Reem Abulleil of Sport360 reports, is hoping to claim his first Roland Garros title in memory of his childhood coach, Jelena Gencic, who passed away Saturday.
“She’s one of the most incredible people I ever knew. So it’s quite emotional. I feel even more responsible now to go all the way in this tournament. Now I feel in her honor that I need to go all the way,”
27 pictures of Rafael Nadal on his 27th birthday: In his first three matches, Rafael Nadal looked like a shadow of himself and was consequentially tested by Daniel Brands, Martin Klizan, and Fabio Fognini, three players Nadal probably expected to dispose of quicker than he did. In his fourth round match with Kei Nishikori, Nadal quickly erased the memories of his lackluster play in the opening three rounds. Nadal’s 27th birthday was today and he definitely made sure he had enough time to celebrate crushing Nishikori 6-4 6-1 6-3. DNA India takes a look back at Nadal’s career in 27 pictures.
Victoria Azarenka prepares for Maria Kirilenko: 2013 Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka is set to square off against longtime doubles partner, Maria Kirilenko, after beating Francesca Schiavone in a match that she said was her “most composed and most consistent match thus far.” As Chris Wright of Yahoo Sports points out, “Azarenka is 3-2 against Kirilenko but has not lost to the Russian since 2007.” Azrenka said in regards to Kirilenko “She’s definitely improved a lot over the last couple years since she’s a very motivated player (and a) good friend of mine.”
Stanislas Wawrinka topples Richard Gasquet: Coming back from two sets to love down, Stanislas Wawrinka defeated French hopeful Richard Gasquet in a five set match that featured some of the most jaw-dropping infusions of pace, exquisite shot making, and masterful racket work of the entire tournament. The ATP called the match a “vintage display of shotmaking with 149 winners struck during the match.” Wawrinka’s play was so exemplary that the Swiss went as far as to say, “I played the best level I ever played at.” One of the comments on the ATP article even offered a new nickname for Stan—“WOWrinka.”
by James A. Crabtree
Novak Djokovic is the spoiler of many parties. He has captured almost everything the game has to offer. He has won when he shouldn’t have, caused Roger Federer to smash a racquet, caused Rafa even more OCD’s, won over partisan crowds and nudged his way to the top of the tennis word.
But Novak wasn’t always this way. He was very soft for what seemed like a long time. He looked like the sort of guy who gets beaten up by meanies wearing skeleton costumes at a High School party.
Should we bring up the past? Novak used to be a quitter on an incredible scale. In 2006, Djokovic retired when two sets down in the French Open quarter-final against Rafael Nadal. In 2007 he quit during his Wimbledon semi-final, yes SEMI-FINAL AT WIMBLEDON again against Nadal, blaming a blister on his toe that had even the commentators querying his toughness. In 2008 he won a slam, then he started tinkering with his serve and everyone but his mother said he was finished. Then 2011 happened and we tried to find the reason why he started dominating. We couldn’t figure it out. Surely blatant hard work couldn’t be the only answer? Perhaps a combination of Zen, yoga, stretching and gluten free all rolled into one?
The question is what happened? Yes Novak was always pretty good. He always had the skill set but appeared to lack the mental toughness. He had won that early slam but what he continues to achieve since and keeps achieving is ridiculous. Since June 2006, Djokovic has been coached by Marián Vajda, a former Slovakian professional tennis player. What links Marián with Mr. Myagi is unknown but speculation abounds that he has asked Novak to wash his car and paint his fence.
These days nobody can work out an attack against Novak. Russian cold war scientists and probably Matt Damon from his Goodwill days have been employed using the finest oversized computers to work out a mathematical code to take down the Serb. In truth, nobody knows what to do. To play him is worse than a headache, it is a flipping migraine.
Like so many of the greats before he finds a way to win when he should have already lost. Just ask Stan the Man Wawrinka who almost reached the upper echelons at the Aussie Open only for Novak to refuse to give up. Ask Andy Murray who really could have had him in that second set in the Aussie Open final. The guy atop is a vexatious unrelenting baseliner, a bothersome retriever, a troublesome and tiresome returner. The most stubborn player currently with a racquet. And I mean that in a good way. I mean he has refused to lose. He slides, he attacks, he skids, he does the splits then he has the audacity to speak to the home crowd in any language going.
Okay, so Novak hasn’t been unbeatable this year, he has lost to Del Potro and Haas but on the big occasions when it has mattered he has simply gotten the job done.
Think back to Monte Carlo recently. Before the tournament began there were questions whether Novak would even play because of a dodgy ankle. Before you know it he struggled through a tough first rounder with Mikhail-Youzhny and tough second rounder with Juan Monaco. After that Novak battled on and snatched away what has come to be known as the invitational Rafa Nadal Monte Carlo Closed.
Yes, Rafa did play pretty bad in the final and Novak even admitted to the fact. But it was a Samson moment, the locks had been cut. Rafa was all but unbeatable on clay and more invincible at Monte Carlo. Will the Rafa locks regrow in time for the French Open? Unless Novak gets a career threatening blister he is a lock in to unify the grand slam belts…right?
All that remains is a montage…
By Romi Cvitkovic
March 13, 2013 — What should have been a mostly routine win by Roger Federer over countryman Stan Wawrinka at the 4th round of the BNP Paribas Open, turned into a rollercoaster of a match as Federer lost his cool, double-faulted on set point and much more.
The first set held three breaks of serve and that should have been omen enough of things to come in the match. But Federer finally held in hist fifth service game at 15 to take the first set, 6-3.
After grabbing a break in the second set and with Federer serving at 5-4, the Tennis Channel commentators already resorted to patting Wawrinka on the back, and nearly calling it a match. That was until Wawrinka woke up and decided to really play some tennis. In the blink of an eye, Wawrinka broke Federer with a running backhand passing winner, followed by THREE backhand errors by Federer. Federer didn’t help his situation as he was forced to dish out a few second serves. 5-5.
On his own serve, Wawrinka quickly went up 40-0 before a few sloppy errors brought it to deuce. Wawrinka eventually held serve with a beautiful approach shot forehand winner just out of Federer’s reach. 6-5 for Wawrinka.
We then quickly found ourselves in a second set tiebreak — a place that has become familiar territory between the two players as of late. Wawrinka continued playing lights-out tennis eventually establishing set points with this beautiful baseline rally. Just watching the video, you start to wonder “Which one is Federer and which one is Wawrinka?” The touch, backhands and shot selection!
Who would have guessed that the almighty Roger Federer WOULD HAVE DOUBLE-FAULTED ON SET POINT! But he did, and with it Wawrinka snatched the second set.
Tensions were high on both ends going into the third set, and at 1-all with Federer serving at 0-30, Federer became uncharacteristically feisty. He wanted to challenge his own serve, but because he had already hit his second shot, the chair umpire refused the challenge. Federer then proceeded to argue with the umpire, even calling ATP supervisor Lars up to dispute the decision. Lars agreed with the original call and Federer was left to serve down 0-40. A graphic on Tennis Channel later showed that there was a 1.955 second delay between when the serve hit the court versus when Federer challenged.
In the following point, you can see a noticeably agitated Federer run around a short shot and leash out a massive forehand, leaving the full court exposed and primed for a beautifully-timed Wawrinka backhand winner.
But as is known to happen in tennis and with one of it’s best players, Federer broke right back, and the two stayed neck-and-neck until 4-all. At 30-40 on Federer’s serve, Wawrinka had a chance to break and serve for the match but Federer blasted a forehand painting the sideline that pulled Wawrinka wide and forced an error. With a beautiful forehand smash, Federer held at 5-4.
With Wawrinka serving at 5-6, Federer quickly went up 0-30 as Wawrinka’s back-to-back rallies went either wide or long. At 15-40, Wawrinka netted a forehand and Federer claimed his 13th win 0ver his good friend, 6-3, 6-7(4), 7-5.
James Crabtree is currently in Melbourne Park covering the Australian Open for Tennis Grandstand and is giving you all the scoop directly from the grounds.
By James Crabtree
MELBOURNE — The day started well, I got an email from a very noble Nigerian who alerted me to the fact I had inherited $2 million U.S. dollars. So sweet of him to seek me out, will definitely chase that up later.
After a quick brekkie I skipped out like a happy smurf on to Melbourne Park for what turned out to be a canapé kind of day. What on earth do I mean you ask? Simply sampling, a bit of this and a bit of that. And let me tell you that the Australian Open app only forces you to court hop even more.
I started with Nicolás Almagro who was up against fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver. This was a one sided affair for Almagro which meant constant checking of the app for updates elsewhere. Radwanska, Kerber and Venus Williams all dominated quickly as the top seeded women do, except Stosur but more on that later.
Seriously, how about some more upsets? I am starting to believe it was a mistake since Wimbledon 2001 to increase the number of seeds from 16 to 32 and thus in many ways limit the chance for an upset.
Digression over, I hung around for Li Na but it was clear she was going to oust Govortsova although the tall girl with a dodgy serve made a respectable effort in the second set.
A quick walk out of the Hisense arena brought me to Stepanek resting on one court while Del Potro was practicing serves on another. Every time I have seen Del Potro practice, which is now five times, he is always serving. In fact I am starting to believe he doesn’t even practice groundstrokes.
On another playing court was Jurgen Melzer who looked in control against spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, so I skipped that one (even though it did go to five sets). Just beyond that match was another practice court this one showcasing Maria Sharapova, with fans hurdled around like she was handing out free candy — perhaps even “Sugarpova.”
That brought me to lunch although no canapés were on offer. Within the confines of the media restaurant journalists readily stuff their faces. It should be noted that a notable Australian doubles legend, who is commentating, didn’t disappoint. He returned twice (according to the girl working) for a serving of fries with a sweet soy sauce that was scooped from the depth of a bok choy chicken dish. That’s right, no vegetables or meat, just carbs and gravy which may be the secret to his eternal youth.
Back to the infamous Australian Open app and decision making. David Ferrer on Margaret Court or Stan the Man Wawrinka on Show Court 2? I chose Stan, just had to see that backhand, sorry David. Each set Stan was broken he kept his nerve and fought back, although a third set wasn’t needed against Kamke who retired.
On the way out of the Stan match I was greeted with the big screen showing big Berd(ych) cruising. Also worthy of a cruise and a round of Pimms was Tomas Berdych’s old school “lets go yachting” attire and its lack of a sponsor. He wore a plain white collared shirt and hat that felt ever so 1950. The logo on his hat was covered and his socks folded down to disguise a brand, with the only sign of sponsorship being his Nike shoes. “Good show old chap, good show.”
After another quick check of the app and a failed attempt to use the live streaming to watch Jerzy Janowicz playing out his epic two set down comeback against Somdev Devvarman, I finally moved onto the Margaret Court arena. Here David Ferrer ranked 5 and seeded 4, played against lucky loser and sister of Tennis Grandstand writer Tim Smyczek, ranked 125. Smyczek was hoping for his second win against a top twenty player, the first being Jurgen Melzer at Delray Beach last year. The little Spaniard (who really is that little) was his typically energetic self and ran out the win in four entertaining sets although Smyczek should be commended for his efforts.
Next, I gallantly shunned the Stosur match because I attended her first round exit last year and somehow felt I was an unlucky omen for her if I was there to watch. Omen or not she lost her second round match to Chinese player Jie Zheng. But as I wasn’t in attendance, Stosur’s loss is officially not my fault this time.
Over at Rod Laver arena was Djokovic, who avoided becoming the first defending champion to lose in the 2nd round since Mats Wilander back in 1989. The honour of joining that fateful club was never an issue against Ryan Harrison. Interestingly, this loss extended Harrison’s streak of losing to seeded players in grand slams to eight, although nobody could have beaten Nole on this night.
That brought me to the close of the evening where it was time to head home, charge the phone, get ready for the mega heat and tomorrow’s action – Davy and Fed, Serena and her dodgy ankle, Tomic, Murray in his tight shirt, Laura Robson and Kvitova! And, of course, time to sort out the $2 million dollars from the noble Nigerian.
Jesse Pentecost is on the grounds of the Australian Open, covering matches and practice sessions and giving you an intimate behind-the-scenes look of the tennis season’s first Slam.
By Jesse Pentecost
I would be overstating the case to say that more than a minority believed Grigor Dimitrov to defeat Julien Benneteau. Even among those of us who predicted it, the prediction was for an upset, which by definition entails a lesser player beating his or her ostensible superior. But it was widely felt Dimitrov had a chance. After all, the two men are only ranked six places apart, and it was only by the grace of Rafael Nadal and John Isner’s knees that the Frenchman is actually seeded. Either way, it was sure to be a close match, and well-worth the meager effort of loitering next it.
Following an hour’s flânerie around the practice courts – I can declare with some authority that Dominika Cibulkova is shorter than Ana Ivanovic – I ensconced myself courtside for the match. The court was Court 13, and there was no camera, meaning I had one of the best views in the entire world of the famous upset destined to unfold at some unspecified time after 11am. I found myself seated next to Dimitrov’s coach and fitness trainer. I asked his trainer what ‘Come on’ was in Bulgarian. He didn’t know, but did concede he was nervous.
It’s never a bad idea to embed yourself with the support staff, if only so that when their charge begins glaring beseechingly at his coach, you can pretend he or she is looking at you. It also heightens the vibe. It probably would have heightened it even more had Dimitrov won, or even won a set. Word came through that Maria Sharapova had delivered the tournament’s first double bagel, against the appropriately named Olga Puchkova. Unfortunately this word didn’t reach Dimitrov, who clearly needed more inspiration than his support team and I could collectively muster. What he didn’t need was more backhand errors, although I suspect he’d already cornered the world’s supply. Benneteau, a true professional, was unrelenting in exposing that wing, and the Bulgarian seemed powerless to stop him.
I recommenced my ambling. The toilet block beside Court 14 had malfunctioned, and a noisome musk blanketed the far corner of the grounds. I fled to Court 8, where Sorana Cirstea was seeing off Coco Vanderweghe, the most American-sounding athlete since Misty Hyman. With time to kill before Ryan Harrison and Santiago Giraldo materialised, I loafed over to the practice courts, stopping briefly to see Victor Hanescu break Kei Nishikori back, eliciting a roar of stony silence from the predominantly Japanese crowd. Caroline Wozniacki was practicing nearby, perfecting the technique of scurrying backwards after returning serve, while Alexandr Dolgopolov had was hitting up with Marcel Granollers, for some reason.
I swung by Court 16 – the practice court of champions – in order to observe the purportedly fraught moment when Roger Federer made way for Bernard Tomic, an event that was apparently scheduled and symbolic. Lest you’ve missed the beat-up: Switzerland and Australia’s best male players have allegedly been engaged in a war or words, although from reading the press transcripts it seemed less like a war than an amiable cup of tea. Naturally the media had obtained one of the teacups, and discovered that it contained a storm. The storm was that, when asked about a possible third round encounter, each man pointed out that the other guy would have to get there first. This unremarkable point was immediately apprehended, and duly repurposed as a mortal insult. The only question really was who would throw the first punch.
I arrived to discover 4,700 less disinterested people had gotten there first. Federer was hitting up with Gilles Simon, who’d unfortunately misplaced his coach. Since the Swiss has two, he lent Severin Luthi to the Frenchman, which I thought generous. I did wonder precisely how usefully this would prepare Federer for Benoit Paire. I decided that nothing can usefully prepare one for Paire, so there’s no use even trying.
As ever, Federer’s practice session ended early, so that he could spend time appeasing the adoring masses. And a mass they were. I remarked at the time that it was like Beatlemania. There was a particularly hysterical timbre that female squeals attained whenever the Fab Four took the stage, an exaggerated ululating shriek that had gone unheard since primordial times. Young people were making exactly that noise today whenever Federer strayed within arm’s reach. Federer, working his way along line, took it in his stride as teenage girls swooned and cascaded to the ground in his wake. He knows as well as anyone that their adulation has little to do with his craft, and everything to do with his fame, and it’s to his credit that fame hasn’t overly insulated him from the appropriate human reaction. He hides his bemusement well, but it’s certainly there. Seated across the court, Simon’s bemusement wasn’t hidden at all – it was clear in his sardonic grin. Tomic turned up, but Federer was still being feted elsewhere, and I couldn’t see that they exchanged words, let alone blows. I am confident someone will spin it as an icy dismissal.
Next to me a boy proudly showed his friends the oversized souvenir ball whose value Federer had marginally enhanced by adding some ink to it. He wasn’t a young boy, and I’m not convinced a signature is something genuinely worth craving. But his friends’ awe was genuine enough, and the boy was authentically swept away. Directly behind me Xavier Malisse was easily accounting for Pablo Andujar. In 2002 I recall explaining to anyone who’d listen that Malisse was the next big thing, unlike Federer, whose game I found attractive even as I decried its inconsistency. It has been a long eleven years. Malisse won comfortably, but there was no squealing. Sam Stosur won, and there were merely long, shuddering sighs of relief, rippling across the grounds.
Harrison was by this time marshalling his forces on Court 8. Through a scrappy set and half the disparate components of his outrage were separately rehearsed, although he had yet to combine them all in a full-blown tantrum, as he is contractually obliged to do at least once per match. He dropped the first set to Giraldo – his proto-nemesis – then gradually climbed on top during a second set short on highlights, bar the backhand pass up the line with which the American finally broke and levelled the match. Since he looked to be going on with it, I left him to his toils.
From there I looked in Stan Wawrinka, who as expected was delivering stern lessons to Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Upon losing Stebe tore off his ridiculous yellow headband, and stormed from the court with newfound purpose, knocking elderly spectators flying. Agnieszka Radwanska, after briefly flirting with the possibility of playing the odd tight set – and thus causing concerned journalists to quibble at her recent schedule – thought better of it and went back to dishing out bagels.
Margaret Court Arena was now free, and thither I sauntered, reflecting as I did that I was running dangerously short on similes for walking casually. Luckily the two men walking out onto MCA were Mikhail Youzhny and Matt Ebden, and they were about to commence a five set classic. I wouldn’t be casually walking anywhere for a while.
For the second year in a row, Ebden fell to a seed after holding a two set lead. Last year it was Nishikori, and this year it was heartbreaking, through being closer. Youzhny saved a match point late in the fourth, before forcing the fifth. It was tremendous, although I was quick to note that most of the crowd, extravagantly bunted in Australia’s flag and given to unharmonsied chanting, found the outcome less inspiring than I did. But they were generous in applauding the Colonel as he saluted them. He’d earned it. They’d earned it.
I strolled out, elated, and discovered someone had stolen my bicycle helmet. So it goes.
by Maud Watson
That’s pretty much all a stunned Swiss team could do after a shocking loss to the United States in Davis Cup play last weekend (and if the damage control Federer was rightfully forced to do following that loss is any indication, they couldn’t even explain the defeat diplomatically). There were many factors that contributed to the upset, but first and foremost was the inspired play by the United States under the cunning captaincy of Jim Courier. The American squad comprised of Fish, Isner, Harrison and Mike Bryan was a talented group, but up against a Swiss team that included Federer, playing in Switzerland, and on clay, it was to be an uphill battle for the red, white and blue. But boy did they deliver. Then there was the subpar play of Wawrinka, who appeared to struggle with the pressure. Federer was also at fault, as he seemed pressed at times. His backhand, especially on the return, proved a real liability, particularly in the doubles. Finally, there was the surface itself. Never mind that both teams found it nearly unplayable. They shouldn’t have played on clay in the first place. With the possible exception of Spain, countries need to chuck out the conventional wisdom that it’s best to play the U.S. on the red dirt. In this case, an indoor hard court similar to the World Tour Finals would have been best. It would have eliminated many of the high backhands Federer had to field, plus there would have been the confidence he would have felt on that surface after the way he finished 2011. That assurance likely would have rubbed off on Wawrinka, and then the whole weekend might have been different. But hindsight is 20/20. Hats off the Americans for some fine play, and it’s back to the drawing board for the Swiss.
Whether she is aware of it or not, Caroline Wozniacki is at a crucial point in her career. Playing in Doha in her first match since losing in the Aussie Open and the No. 1 ranking in the process, she not only suffered defeat to Safarova, she did so after holding three match points. Safarova is no slouch, and she’s proven her ability to beat the game’s top stars on multiple occasions. But this was still a bad loss for Wozniacki. This was a match that wasn’t in her hands, and it was ultimately Safarova’s willingness to take risks and control the situation that allowed her to snatch victory away from her Danish opponent. This should be a wakeup call to Wozniacki that she needs to be looking to beef up her game and add more offense. She’s still No. 4, and even by women’s tennis standards, she’s still young. There’s still time to change. But she’s not going to turn it around by being obstinate and keeping only her father as coach and acting relatively indifferent to these losses. Without changes, losses like the one to Safarova are only going to pile up, and pretty soon, she may just find herself on the outside of the Top 10 looking in.
Last year, audiences saw a woman by the name of Angelique Kerber make a Cinderella run to reach the semifinals of the US Open, where she lost in three sets to the eventual champion, Sam Stosur. But in 2012, Kerber is playing some great tennis, showing that run to the semis of the US Open was a precursor of what was to come. She surprised Sharapova en route to the final last week in Paris, before breaking some hearts by defeating native Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in the final. She needs to continue to work on her fitness and consistency, but with her big strokes, fighting spirit, and the unpredictable nature of the women’s tour, there’s definitely room for her in the upper echelons of the game.
As is par for the course, injuries continue to plague the top players. Gael Monfils has pulled out of both San Jose and Memphis citing a right knee injury. Unfortunately for Monfils, with the way he plays, these injuries are apt to only grow in number and severity as his career progresses. Andy Roddick is also nursing a hamstring injury and a freshly hurt ankle, which nearly cost him his match against qualifier Kudla in San Jose. As a player who is used to being at the top and not particularly known for his patience, this latest setback will be one more test as Roddick thinks about how much longer he wants to go through the grind and stay on tour. Spare a thought for Tommy Robredo also, who appeared to have his game back on track early last season before suffering a severe leg injury at Indian Wells. The Spaniard played only a handful of matches after that and will now be undergoing leg surgery. He hopes to be back for the spring clay court season. On the women’s side, Kim Clijsters has already opted to pull out of Indian Wells, citing an ankle injury. Her case is a little suspect given the way she played on a bum ankle in Australia and the fact that Indian Wells is still a few weeks away, but the Belgian’s history of injuries is well-documented. In her case, it wouldn’t be shocking to see her pull the plug immediately following the Olympics, as she hobbles across the finish line of her career.
The USTA has signed a new sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines to be the title sponsor of the US Open Series and the official airline of the US Open. Sponsorship dollars are a major plus, especially since the US Open Series has helped increase tennis viewership throughout the summer hard court season. But this is just one piece of the puzzle to helping the USTA solve the problems that have plagued them the last few years. They are going to have to look into making other changes and improvements if they wish to keep players, fans, television carriers, and all sponsors happy.
(photo © Getty Images)
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, Rotterdam — It has been a busy opening day at the tournament in Rotterdam and there has been as much going on off court as well as on. Juan Martín Del Potro and Roger Federer both participated in packed press conferences during the afternoon where the players shared their thoughts and enthusiasm for the tournament and discussed their current concerns.
Juan Martín Del Potro is relishing the opportunity to make his mark this week. During the press conference, the Argentine opened up about his coming to terms with his injuries and his hopes for 2012.
“I’m feeling ok after a tough Australian Open and my first goal is to play healthy the whole season. Playing this sport is magnificent for me. It’s a long road [to complete recovery] but I’m trying to do that.”
The former US Open champion was then asked about how he felt during his year out due to his wrist injury and with a sad look of reflection in his eyes, he spoke honestly about his feelings:
“It was horrible [not being able to play]. Most of the time I was at home watching the tournaments on TV and I was thinking I should be there. It has been a long road and I’m still trying to do that [recover].
Roger Federer discussed the controversial comments that he reportedly made in a press interview after Switzerland lost against the United States, stating that his doubles partner Stan Wawrinka played “bad.” His French translation into English was misconstrued and left out the word “not” before “bad” and Federer was determined to set the record straight:
“Yeah I had to weather the press. The things I said were taken the wrong way about Stan. I would never say something like that or blame him. I telephoned Stan just to make sure there was no misunderstanding.”
Not long after his press conference had finished Roger Federer tried to appease the disappointed contingency that were hoping to see him in action on the opening day by having an open practice session on Centre Court with Del Potro, as the Swiss maestro is not in action until Wednesday against Mahut.
His day did not end there. Federer continued with his interaction by participating in an autograph session for his loyal followers giving them a chance to meet their hero. The Federer fans were enjoying having him there for the first time since he won the tournament in 2005 and his participation in such events is gratefully received by all who admire one of the greatest players of all time.
(All photos courtesy of the author)
Rafael Nadal’s drug tests, Novak Djokovic “waxing” and winning, and Davis Cup outtakes are some of the happenings this week on the ATP Tour. We’ll take a look at the history of Nadal’s doping tests, introduce you to Djokovic 2.0 and his beautiful girlfriend Jelena Ristic, as well as inspect some memorable Davis Cup moments featuring Roger Federer, Mardy Fish, Tommy Haas, and Bernard Tomic among others.
Just days after a French TV show aired a Rafael Nadal skit that was meant to be a joke, insinuating that Nadal takes performance-enhancing drugs, Nadal tweeted about a surprise anti-doping test he had on Saturday morning stating that “it’s expected after everything … but I’m happy it’s like this!”
To those not familiar with the Tennis Anti-Doping Program, any professional tennis player can get tested and “must submit upon request to testing … at any time or place.” This means testing can be done during or outside of a tournament, while on vacation, or in the early-morning hours, and a player must report their whereabouts, or risk being banned from playing professional tennis. All cases are “surprise” cases to ensure honest results and players may be tested anywhere from several times per tournament to a couple of times per year. Typically, higher-ranked players are targeted but any player could be tested.
In 2009, 1972 in-competition tests (urine, blood, and EPO) and 154 out-of-competition tests were performed by the anti-doping agency — only a slight increase from the 2069 total tests done the year before. Nadal, in particular, was tested 10 times in 2009 and twice at Roland Garros, while only playing 18 total events. In 2008, he was tested 8 times during tournament play and twice more out-of-competition. In 2007, he was tested only 5 times while in 2006 he was tested 10 times. We can argue that doping is quickly becoming more prevalent among athletes as the technology needed to accurately identify a positive result is falling behind. But to insinuate that an athlete that has passed the roughly 75 or so drug tests given to him in the past decade, is just plain ludicrous and irresponsible.
Just five days after winning his third Australian Open, Novak Djokovic was awarded the “Laureus World Sportsman of the Year” beating out the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Usain Bolt, and Lionel Messi among others. He attended the Laureus Welcome Party and the awards ceremony in London with long-time Serbian girlfriend, Jelena Ristic, in hand. If you know nothing about his beautifully genuine girlfriend, then just enjoy her British accent in the video below. I dare you not to fall in love with tennis’ cutest couple.
And speaking of the devilishy-charming Djokovic, after attending a boxing match in Jagodina, Serbia, he unveiled a “larger than life” wax sculpture of himself in the town’s museum. He was greeted by some 6,000 fans and was happy to oblige for photos. Even though the wax statue is wearing Djokovic’s Sergio Tacchini ensemble and holding a tennis racquet used by the man himself, I wonder how much he paid the sculptor to give him an extra few inches … and a bigger head.
In lighter news, the Davis Cup is in full swing this weekend and it has already brought in some memorable photos.
“Alexia, this is my friend Roger. He has two girls your age, Myla and Charlene. Make sure to befriend both of them and become a better champion in tennis than your daddy. Now, can you say ‘Myla’ and ‘Charlene?'”
Not sure if this sign is a compliment for Bernard Tomic, but you can’t say the Australians don’t go all-out in support of their players — even if they do liken them to drooling dogs.
Tommy Haas and his German compatriots just lost the Davis Cup to Argentina, 0-3, but all Haas cares about is if his hair looks good. Yes. Yes, it does, Tommy. I whole-heartedly approve.
I’m not sure what is so funny to Mardy Fish and Mike Bryan, but I would be laughing too if I had just beaten the reigning Olympic champion Roger Federer on clay. The American men surprised the entire tennis world as they dominated the Swiss in Davis Cup action handily winning 3-0, with John Isner defeating Federer on Saturday in singles.
When are height differences not funny? The answer: never. Ivo Karlovic at 6’10” towers over Kei Nishikori who is just 5’10”. Croatia currently leads Japan 2-1 and the winner will be decided on Sunday in singles’ play.
It was an historic day at Wimbledon Monday when the $225 million retractable roof was used for the first time, when it was closed for the conclusion of the women’s round of 16 match between No. 1 seed Dinara Safina and 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. The roof stayed closed for Andy Murray’s “roof-raising” five-set, fourth-round win over Stan Wawrinka. Because the closed roof also features lights, Murray’s win also created history at SW19 as the first “night” match at The Championships and as the latest finishing match in the history of the tournament with an official 10:39 pm finish.
As for additional Wimbledon history on June 29, the following are events that will go along with Safina and Murray’s matches, as excerpted from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com). Excerpts from June 30 are also featured below.
1984 – Jimmy Connors wins his 65th men’s singles match at Wimbledon, breaking the men’s record set by Arthur W. Gore, defeating Marty Davis 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in the third round. Says Connors, “It’s an honor to have won more matches at Wimbledon than any other male, but I play to win tournaments, not matches. Maybe if I’d won three more matches, I’d have won this tournament a lot more. For me, tennis is geared around two tournaments, the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. When I leave here, I go out preparing to win the next year.”
1991 – Twenty-nine-year-old Nick Brown of Great Britain scores a big upset at Wimbledon, beating 10th-seeded Goran Ivanisevic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 in the second round. Brown, ranked No. 591 and the lowest-ranked player in the men’s championship, posts the biggest upset, based on comparative rankings, since the ATP began compiling world rankings in 1973.
1994 – Martina Navratilova sets a Wimbledon record, playing her 266th career match as she passes Billie Jean King’s record of 265 when she and Manon Bollegraf beat Ingelisa Driehuis and Maja Muric 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of women’s doubles.
1988 – In a match featuring the Wimbledon men’s singles champions from the previous three years, 1985 and 1986 Wimbledon champion Boris Becker defeats defending champion Pat Cash 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in the men’s quarterfinals. ”I watched on television and it hurt when Cash won,” Becker says of watching Cash win the 1987 title. ”My life changed after that Wimbledon. I realized I am a human being who plays tennis and that I’m beatable, and in the back of my mind, I thought that he was the one to beat to get the title back. But it is not over. This match has given me confidence but not the trophy yet.” Mats Wilander’s bid for a Grand Slam is ended as the Australian and French and Australian Open champion is defeated by Miloslav Mecir 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. ”After the match, I was very disappointed,” Wilander says. ”I have been thinking of the Grand Slam a little bit. But I am going to get over that in a few days. I don’t think you can expect yourself to win the Slam.” Ros Fairbank nearly ends Martina Navratilova’s six-year grapple-hold on the Wimbledon women’s singles championship as she lets 4-2 leads in the second and third set slip away in a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 loss in the quarterfinals. Says Navratilova, “Several times today. I thought I was going to lose the match. I thought, ‘What a way to go. On Court 14, to Ros Fairbank, in the quarterfinals.” Says Fairbank, ”I thought about ending Martina’s streak all the time. Maybe that was my problem.”
1977 – Thirty-one-year-old Virginia Wade stuns No. 1 seed Chris Evert 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to become the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon women’s singles final since Ann Jones won the title in 1969. An all-British Wimbledon final, however, is dashed by Holland’s Betty Stove, 32, who defeats Britain’s Sue Barker 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the other women’s semifinal. Says Evert, “Virginia played more patiently than I did. I could see in her eyes how much she wanted to win. I just couldn’t reach deep down inside myself for what I need to win. I didn’t have it.”
1946 – Frank Parker wins the first 16 games of the match and defeats Rolando Vega 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 to help the United States to a 2-0 lead over Mexico in the Davis Cup second round in Orange, N.J. Parker, a two-time U.S. singles winner, had registered one of the three “triple bagels” in U.S. Davis Cup history in the previous round, defeating Felicisimo Ampon of the Phillippines 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 on June 14.
1977 – Bjorn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis stage one of the great Wimbledon semifinals in the history of the event, with Borg edging out his good friend and practice partner by a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 margin. Playing as the first qualifier and youngest man in a Wimbledon semifinal, 18-year-old John McEnroe is defeated by No. 1 seed Jimmy Connors 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in McEnroe’s first major singles semifinal. Says Gerulaitis of the loss, “Maybe a couple of years ago I would have been happy just to play a match like that. But today I really wanted to win and get into the final. I didn’t let anything upset me. I had one intention and that was to win the match.”
1991 – For the first time in the 114-year history of Wimbledon, play is contested on the middle Sunday of The Championships, due to excessive rain the plagues the first week of the tournament. The tournament opens all of its seats to fans on a first come, first serve basis that creates a “People’s Sunday” as avid tennis fans, who normally do not have access to the prestigious and elite tickets, are allowed to enjoy the tennis – and do so in a carnival type atmosphere of singing, chanting, cheering and standing ovations. Derrick Rostagno and Jimmy Connors play their third round on Centre Court in front of a raucously appreciative crowd, as Rostagno follows up his second-round win over Pete Sampras by beating Connors 7-6, 6-1, 6-4, in Connors’ 101st match at Wimbledon. The most exciting match of the day comes when No. 3 seed Ivan Lendl comes from two-sets down to defeat Mal Washington 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in the second round.
1979 – No. 2 seed John McEnroe falls victim to Wimbledon’s infamous Graveyard Court No. 2 and No. 16 seed Tim Gullikson as the 20-year-old is defeated by Gullikson 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in the round of 16. Says Gullikson of McEnroe, “He’s not playing nearly as well as he was. He’s not serving as well, and the whole match — just looking across the net at him all the time — he really seemed like he was unsettled. It just seemed like there were a lot of things on his mind. Maybe it’s the tremendous pressure that’s been put on him. He’s been kind of labeled as a bad boy, which he really isn’t. He’s only 20 years old, and really everybody thought he was going to win Wimbledon this year. That’s a lot of pressure on anybody, and you can’t play well all the time. There are a lot of good players out there.”
1987 – In one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the sports, Jimmy Connors trails Mikael Pernfors 6-1, 6-1, 4-1, but incredibly rallies to a 1-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 round of 16 victory in 3 hours, 39 minutes.Writes Peter Alfano of the New York Times. “Connors added another page in a career that has required several volumes. The complete works of Jimmy Connors will now include what Wimbledon sages are saying was one of the more memorable matches in history, a comeback the equal of any staged here during Wimbledon’s 101 years.“ Says Connors, “I don’t think I’m surprised I won. I think I can still play. I didn’t have time to be embarrassed today. I was too busy trying to do something to win. If I didn’t want to win, I’d just lose, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, and get off there.”
1988 – Controversy strikes the 78th meeting between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova as Evert’s cross-court forehand clips the top of the net and apparently lands on the line, only to be called out by the linesman, giving the 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory to Navratilova, advancing her into the Wimbledon final. After fighting off a match point in the 10th game of the final set, Evert faces triple-match point serving at 5-6 in the final set. Evert is able to fight off the first two match points, before her controversial missed forehand on the third match point. Says Evert, “But I was sure it was good and I was so happy that I just turned and walked back to the baseline. Then, I turned again and saw Martina with her hand out. I put two and two together and figured the ball was called out…Maybe it was a mixture of me hoping and seeing what I wanted to see. The umpire will rarely overrule on that kind of call. It was bad luck for me considering the match was so close.” Says Navratilova, “I cannot say that it was good or that it was out and there was nothing that I could do about it. It’s a shame it had to be like that because now, there will always be doubts in people’s minds. But we’ve never had a stranger ending in one of our matches than that.”
1983 – Thirty-nine-year-old Billie Jean King suffers her worst defeat in 110 Wimbledon singles matches as she is defeated 6-1, 6-1 in 56 minutes by 18-year-old Andrea Jaeger in the women’s singles semifinals. “She just cleaned my clock,” says King. In the other women’s semifinal, Martina Navratilova needs only 36 minutes to defeat Yvonne Vermaak of South Africa by the same 6-1, 6-1 score.
1982 –Thirty-eight-year-old Billie Jean King defeats Tracy Austin 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 for the first time in her career to advance to the semifinals of Wimbledon for a 13th time in her career. King’s achievement makes her the oldest Wimbledon women’s semifinalist since Dorthea Lambert Chambers reaches the last four in 1920 at 42.
1984 – Boris Becker’s first Wimbledon ends in injury as the 16-year-old upstart retires with torn ligaments in his left ankle in the fourth set of his match with Bill Scanlon. Becker returns to Wimbledon the next year and becomes the youngest men’s singles champion in the event’s history.
1987 – Thirty-five-year-old Jimmy Connors reaches the Wimbledon semifinal for an 11th time in his career with a 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia.
2003 – Mark Philippoussis fires 46 aces to defeat Andre Agassi 6-3, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in the round of 16 of Wimbledon.