three games

Murray Defeats Federer to Defend Rogers Cup Title

Andy Murray overcame his 0-3 record against Roger Federer in ATP Tour finals today with a drawn out 7-5, 7-5 victory that lasted through several lengthy rain delays. The Scot called it, “one of the best week’s of my life,” upon giving his victory speech to the resilient Toronto crowd.

It was a very different Roger Federer who came out in the opening set of the final today against Andy Murray. Instead of breezing through the opening frame as he had against both Tomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic, a lethargic Federer looked lifeless in the opening three games where he was broken twice.

Murray looked exactly as sharp as he had when he left the court yesterday afternoon after defeating world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 and his shots were immediately hurting Federer on every occasion.

While Roger reminded us all yesterday that it was his younger opponents who seemed tired this week, one had to wonder if at the age of 29 his late night heroics were finally catching up to him.

While serving at 3-0 Murray then suddenly dropped all four service points to allow Roger one break and the chance to begin working his way back into the match. The players would then hold service for several games until Murray went to serve for the set at 5-4.

A fan flashed a sign on the overhead video screen that proclaimed, “Federer is Betterer,” and the Swiss star proved them right by breaking Murray to even things up at 5-5.

In that game it was Murray’s nerves that suddenly acted up as he blew a routine forehand to go down 0-30 within the game and later double faulted at break point to complete his mini-implosion.

Just when you thought a tiebreak was around the corner, Federer double faulted for 15-30. At deuce, a timely Murray lob eluded Federer to give him a break point and then a Federer forehand error wide tilted things in Murray’s favour.

Murray held in the final game of the set to take it 7-5. Federer being broken three times inside of one set was a rarity and on serve at 2-1 Federer the rain came and halted play for about one hour.

Returning to the court Murray would win two straight points to even things up at 2-2 and then proceeded to break Federer to go ahead 3-2. Another rain delay of well over an hour then appeared and upon resumption of play it was Federer who came out firing as he broke in the first game back to tie the set at 3-3.

At 5-5 and with fans hoping for the match to be pushed to a third set, Roger would let down his guard and find himself down 0-40 while serving. Murray hit a beautiful over-head, backhand volley to put away the game and then proceeded to serve for the set, ahead 6-5.

Though Roger managed to push the game to deuce, Murray would prevail with some excellent serving to become the first repeat champion in Canada since Andre Agassi in 1994-95.

Murray’s serve was very solid today and he even surprised himself with what he claims is his fastest serve ever on the ATP Tour.

“I managed to come up on the breakpoint with a big serve, and actually I think the deuce point is the fastest serve I’ve ever hit. I think it 225 kilometres an hour, which is just over 140 miles an hour. So that’s obviously something that I’ve been working on quite a lot. I just went for it.”

I asked Murray after the match what he felt was more satifying – winning his first tournament of 2010 or finally reversing his losing streak to Federer in ATP finals. Instead, Murray saw another bit of silver-lining in the triumph.

“Winning a tournament is always great, but it’s the first time I beat Roger and Rafa in the same tournament, which is probably the most pleasing thing, and then didn’t drop a set against either of them. So it’s good for the confidence for the next few weeks.”

Roger was quite gracious in defeat and made no excuses in his post-tournament press conference. Speaking about the reality of his and Murray’s struggles since the Australian Open he said,

“I think most important actually for both of us is that since Australia, you know, maybe we’ve had not the results we were hoping for after playing so well right off the bat at the beginning of the year. I think, for us, it’s really important knowing we’re back on hardcourt, that our game’s back on…I think that’s a big positive for both of us.”

Certainly with their strong play in Toronto this past week, Federer and Murray have sent a message to the rest of the tour that they are mentally and physically ready to take a good run at the U.S. Open. We’ll have to wait and see if they can carry that momentum into Cincinnati or if someone else is ready to step up and put their name into contention as well.

Thanks for following us throughout the Rogers Cup. Stay tuned to ProTennisFan for more updates and coverage of the ATP Tour as the final Slam of the year quickly approaches. You can also follow us on Twitter for frequent coverage as well.

Murray Gets Wimbledon Revenge on Nadal

Andy Murray enjoyed a little post-Wimbledon revenge on Saturday at the Rogers Cup in Toronto as he handled world number one Rafael Nadal 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the finals.

Murray played as crisp tennis as I’ve seen from him since the Australian Open in January and appeared composed and prepared from the very opening game.

After a quick three games to start the match, the rallies began to lengthen and both players brought some of their best tennis for the Toronto crowd to enjoy.

Though the crowd was slightly more pro-Nadal, they cheered Murray as well and seemed to pull for either player when they faced a break point.

At 3-3 in the opening set, Nadal had two break point opportunities at 15-40, but Murray would bail himself out with timely serving to hold for 4-3.

Murray used that energy to break the Spaniard in the very next game and then held easily to close out the first set 6-3.

The fact that Nadal was down by a set did not seem to phase him nor the crowd. It is not exactly a rarity to watch him fight from behind and still manage to emerge victorious.

Murray apparently did not get the memo that he was supposed to hand over that second set, as he broke early to go up 2-1.

Nadal would use his lethal forehand to rip a winner to get back on serve and tie things up a bit later at three games apiece.

With Murray serving later at 3-4, he double faulted to hand Nadal a chance at 15-40. Again he would maintain his composure and use his serve to get back into the game and even the score at 4-4. I was most impressed with how Murray never seemed to lose his cool during the match, even when it appeared that the momentum was about to shift in Nadal’s favour.

As a few very light rain drops began to fall at 4-4, Nadal inexplicably played some loose points and gave Murray a 0-40 score to work with. The Scot would seize the moment and with a Nadal backhand into the net he jumped ahead with the break to 5-4. He would win all four points in the next game to take the match and get one step closer to defending his Rogers Cup title.

By virtue of advancing to the finals, Murray will hold on to his world No. 4 ranking. A loss would have allowed Sweden’s Robin Soderling to overtake him in that position.

Murray will face the winner of tonight’s match between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. The winning player will then hold the number two ranking in the world.

Check back later for a full report on the outcome of this world class match-up.

FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE CELEBRATES WIN WITH A DIVINE KISS

By Ritesh Gupta

The way Francesca Schiavone reacted after her quarterfinal victory over Caroline Wozniacki in the French Open is something what a tennis fan longs for.

A tennis pro can’t express much in the playing arena especially when there are a series of matches lined up. But the manner in which Schiavone expressed herself was touching to say the least.

She held her head in disbelief. Taking a few steps, standing in the middle of the court and acknowledging the applause from the crowd, Schiavone wrapped up her celebration by kissing the coveted surface. Definitely an emotional moment, which Schiavone would cherish throughout her life.

And why wouldn’t she?

For one, who will now appear in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time, such reaction is quite understandable. She is also the first Italian woman in the Open era to make it to this stage of the French Open. Schiavone next plays Elena Dementieva.

Schiavone, who will be turning 30 this month, has been on the professional tour for more than a decade. Though she has never been in the top 10, she still has the ability to pose a threat to anyone.

Schiavone’s 6-2, 6-3 triumph over third seeded Wozniacki showcased her athletic ability. She backed up up the same with an array of fluent strokes. The Italian was clearly in her elements today, hardly letting Wozniacki to get into rhythm.

On this day, Wozniacki not only lost the baseline duel, but she was also found wanting at the net. Wozniacki only won 5 of 13 points at the net. In fact, on quite a few occasions, even when Wozniacki had an opening and rushed to the net, Schiavone made up for it with her speedy recovery, setting up winners by either forcing her opponent to play tough half volleys or passing her at the net.

Schiavone remained in front throughout. She won three games on the trot at 3-2 in the first set. Wozniacki, who conceded an early break in the second set, levelled to raise hopes at 3-3. But Schiavone, who seldom hides her emotions while playing, motivated herself whenever Wozniacki showed signs of catching up. The Italian showed her aggressive intent as she to chose to serve and volley to set up her first match point. She capitalised on the same with a gutsy smash. And post that she celebrated her win beautifully.

Safina Stumbles but Survives

NEW YORK – It was not a performance to cherish, but it was one to celebrate. After all, Dinara Safina survived –barely.

Just before becoming the first top-seeded woman to be ousted in the opening round of the US Open, Safina pulled her game together enough to escape a wild-card entry from Australia, Olivia Rogowska. And it wasn’t pretty.

Even Safina called Tuesday’s 6-7 (5) 6-2 6-4 win “ugly,” but added, “I pulled it out, and that’s what counts for me.”
Her “pull” was aided greatly by her opponent’s mistakes and miscues.

Safina is the world’s top-ranked player; Rogowska, who gained a wild card entry into the US Open through an agreement between the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and Tennis Australia, is 167th in the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings. But they had one thing in common: both were seeking their first Grand Slam tournament title. Now only Safina still is in the running to do that this year.
The 18-year-old Rogowska matched Safina stroke for stroke, even, unfortunately, double fault for double fault in the sloppily played contest.

Never before has the women’s top seed fallen in the opening round at America’s premier tennis tournament. But it appeared as if Safina would do just that as Rogowska won the first three games to begin the third set. The two then took turns breaking each other’s serve before Safina held at love, the last point on her first ace of the day, to level the set at 4-4.

Rogowska fell behind 0-30 with two unforced errors – two of her 65 in the match – before winning the next three points. But her 12th double fault of the day took the game to deuce. Then came one of the most critical points of the day, one that was a glimpse at why Safina won and Rogowska lost the 2-hour, 35-minute battle.

The point began like most of the day’s battles were contested – long-range baseline rallies with both players using the entire court, keeping their opponent on the move while probing for an opening. It was Safina who blinked first, chipping a shot short, bringing Rogowska to the net.

The Australian replied by chipping a backhand down the line with plenty of spin. Safina caught up with the ball and returned a running forehand crosscourt. There was Rogowska, waiting at the net, but she failed to put away the volley and gave Safina another chance.
This time Safina threw up a short defensive lob. Rogowska again failed to hit a winning smash, and instead popped a weak overhead back across the net.

Safina needed no more chances. She rifled a backhand crosscourt pass that caught Rogowska making an off-balance stab at the net. The youngster sat down on the court and both watched the point while it was being replayed on the giant screens atop Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“When it comes like this tight, it’s not easy to swing,” Safina said. “I saw like her volley was not good. I was like, OK, so she’s not so comfortable. First of all, she had an easy smash and she didn’t went for it. Then when I made it, it was like, ‘OK, come one. Make this break now.’”

Yet another forehand error by Safina made the score deuce again, and again Rogowska followed with a double fault. There was one more deuce, earned with a sharply hit inside-out forehand, before Rogowska made her 34th and 35th forehand unforced errors of the match.

Four points later, Safina had a spot in the second round at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center where she will take on Germany’s Kristina Barrios, a 6-4 6-4 winner over Urzula Radwanska of Poland.

“It doesn’t matter how I’ll play, but I will run and I will stay there forever,” said Safina. “I will do everything to win the match.”
In the day matches, two seeded players failed to make it into the second round. Sixteenth-seeded Virginie Razzano of France was ousted by Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer 6-4 6-3, while 32nd-seeded Agnes Szavay of Hungary fell to Israel’s Shahar Peer 6-2 6-2.
Among the seeded players joining Safina in the winner’s circle Tuesday included Svetlana Kuznetsova, Maria Sharapova, Sorana Cirstea, Caroline Wozniacki, Nadia Petrova, Elena Dementieva, Jelena Jankovic, Alona Bondarenko, Sabine Lisicki, Patty Schnyder, Alisa Kleybanova and Zheng Jie.

In the men’s singles, American qualifier Jesse Witten upset 29th-seeded Igor Andreev of Russia 6-4 6-0 6-2.

“Last couple weeks I’ve been playing well and I’m not even sure why,” Witten said. “I’m just going to roll with it.”

Other early winners in the men’s singles included Novak Djokovic, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Gonzalez, Marin Cilic, Tomas Berdych, Fernando Verdasco, Sam Querrey and Viktor Troicki.