time champion

Tennis Is Well Represented At The ESPY Awards – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

Defending Champs Out – This past weekend marked the quarterfinals of the 2010 Davis Cup competition and promised plenty of good tennis matchups. But one result few could have seen coming was France’s thrashing of defending two-time champion Spain. Spain has gotten used to dishing out some 5-0 defeats of its own, but unexpectedly found itself on the receiving end of such a defeat as it suffered its first 5-0 loss since 1957. There’s little doubt that this was a disappointing showing for Spain, irrespective of the fact that they were without their No. 1 Rafael Nadal. They have won without him before, and France certainly wasn’t able to field their star players either. It was Spain’s misfortune that they ran into the one team that could match them for depth of players, and congratulations are in order for the nation of France that may be ready to make its first run to the title since 2001.
Coach in the Corner – Peter Lundgren is going to be coaching a man from Switzerland, but this time it isn’t Roger Federer. It’s the number two man for the Swiss, Stanislas Wawrinka. This is a great move on Wawrinka’s part, whose results over the course of the past year have been up and down and have seen his ranking slip to outside of the Top 20. Lundgren has had another high profile pupil in Marat Safin, so there’s no doubt he possesses the ability to handle talented players and get their careers going in the right direction. Hopefully he will be able to do the same for Wawrinka by getting him to channel his talent and play within his own boundaries. If so, he could well be headed back to the Top 10.

Back on Track – On the historical grass courts of the Newport Casino, Mardy Fish suddenly found his game and emerged victorious. Fish has been an unfortunate victim of some serious injuries over the course of his career, and he’s also admitted to being more than a little negligent when it came to ensuring he was putting in the time on and off the court to be at his best. But they say it’s never late than never, and nearing his 29th birthday, Mardy Fish may be ready to make a run to the upper echelons of the men’s game, his ranking having jumped 30 places with his victory in the city by the sea. Last year’s Newport finalist appearance turned out to be a catalyst to a great summer for Sam Querrey, and it may bring Fish the same kind of results during the 2010 US Open Series.
Highest Honor – This past Saturday saw the induction of seven new members into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. This induction also had a different feel as it focused on some of the greatest doubles teams of all time (though not the first…see Hewitt/McMillan, Class of 1992), and saw the induction of the first wheelchair tennis player, wheelchair tennis founder and pioneer Brad Parks. Don’t expect this to become a trend at the Hall, but rightfully I think we can expect to see more stellar doubles teams and wheelchair tennis athletes behind the podium during Enshrinement Weekend in the future.
And the ESPY goes to… – Okay, not as prestigious as the Oscars or the Emmys, and personally I think there’s a bit of American bias with these awards, but it is worth noting that tennis was well-represented at the 2010 ESPY Awards. Not surprisingly, Roger Federer and Serena Williams took top honors in the sport of tennis, while Kim Clijsters was named the Comeback of the year. But what was best was seeing that John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut took the cake for best Record-breaking Performance. Again, the quality of the tennis was not the greatest in this match, but a big thank you to those guys for gutting it out for just over 11 hours and putting tennis on the map in a multitude of ways.

Don’t Sell Your Federer Stock Just Yet – The Friday Five

By Maud Watson

The Tumble Continues – One of the big headlines at the All England Club this past Wednesday was the dismissal of six-time champion Roger Federer at the hands of Tomas Berdych.  Despite Federer’s history at SW19 and the difference in seeding between the two, I have trouble calling this a big upset. Berdych possesses a big game, he clipped Federer earlier this year, and over the past few months, Berdych has been the better player. There’s no doubt this was probably the most painful loss Federer has suffered since his 2008 defeat to Nadal, and the early loss also means that Federer will slip to No. 3 in the rankings, the first time he’s been out of the top two since 2003. It will take time for him to bounce back from this one, but I’m not ready to sell my Federer stock just yet. The fact is, any year you win a major is a good year. Plenty of players would still gladly trade places with Federer. It’s the nature of the beast that he has set the bar so high that any loss such as this is that much more monumental because it happened to one of the greatest players to have ever picked up a racquet. Fans of the man from Switzerland are going to have to get used to these losses coming with more frequency, but don’t stick a fork in him. He’s not done yet.

Roddick Rocked – Wimbledon has continued to see a few more shockers this week, and one of the biggest was Roddick’s exit to Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei. Lu played an incredible match beginning to end and most amazing is the fact that he found a way to cross the finish line even as he admitted that he never believed he was going to win the match. But as happy as one might have felt for Lu, there had to be some sympathy spared for Roddick. Had he been told prior to the match that he was going to hit more aces, less unforced errors, more winners, have more break chances, and win more total points, I’m sure he would have liked his odds at advancing.   But just as with last year’s final, it came down to a handful of big points and one crucial break in the final set. The loss isn’t as gut-wrenching as his 2009 final loss to Federer, but he’ll want to look to get something going fast on the hard courts, or he’s apt to start slipping into a slump.

Venus Vanquished – The women’s quarters also provided a surprise when Tsvetana Pironkova routinely upended Venus Williams 2 and 3. It was a lackluster display from Williams, who despite hitting 10 more winners than her younger opponent also hit 23 more unforced errors. The fact that the elder Williams never found a way to win the match wasn’t an entire surprise, as neither Williams sister is known for having game plan B when the wheels come off. The good news for her is that an early loss, irrespective of the tournament, rarely tends to have any hangover effect. She’ll still be considered a strong contender during the US Open Series and the final major of the year.

Double Trouble – I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of upsets in the doubles competition. The Williams sisters, on what seemed an inevitable path to becoming just the third team in history to accomplish the Grand Slam, lost to the hard-hitting combo of Vera Zvonareva and Elena Vesnina. On the men’s side, Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman also denied seeing history made, at least for the time being, with their defeat over the American team of Bob and Mike Bryan. The Bryans were aiming to break their tie with the Woodies for most titles won as a team just a week prior to the induction of the Australian pair into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. As disappointing as the losses must have been for each of these losing teams, they will be back with a vengeance in New York, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Bryans standing atop the mountain alone for most titles won before the final major of the year.

Fine Time – Earlier this week, Rafael Nadal was slapped with a $2,000 fine for illegal coaching. Chair umpire Cedric Mourier could hardly be blamed for giving Nadal the warning, having given him an unofficial warning to stop the chatter with his box earlier in the match. The case was made even stronger given that in his defense of this particular incident, Nadal basically admitted to having received illegal coaching at other times.  But Nadal is not the only player guilty of this offense. Justine Henin is notorious for this, as is Maria Sharapova, and many more could be added to the list. I’m not naïve enough to think that illegal coaching will ever be completely eradicated, but it was refreshing to see someone have the backbone to try and enforce the rule and reduce it. Coaches are paid to scout the competition, and it’s up to the player and coach to devise a game plan prior to a match. Once a match starts, it should be one-on-one out there and up to the players to make the necessary adjustments to come out with a W. That’s one of the unique aspects of tennis. So I hope that the officials continue to do their best and enforce the rules at all levels of the competition and preserve the integrity of the game.

NADAL STILL THE HEAVY FAVORITE AT ROLAND GARROS

As the quarter-finals at the French Open are set to begin Tuesday in Paris, all eyes will be focused on front-runner Rafael Nadal. When looking at the remaining men left in the draw, this guy is the overwhelming favorite.

World-number two Nadal is the four-time champion and has been on-fire once again this year on clay. Undefeated on the dirt so far this year, he won all three Masters 1000 level clay-court tournaments and appears to be once again unbeatable at RolandGarros. A match against clay-specialist Nicolas Almagro might push him to four sets, but a quick victory in three is still likely.

His next opponent will be Novak Djokovic who could test him for sure – test him, but ultimately not defeat him in Paris. Djokovic faces Jurgen Melzer, a first time Grand Slam quarter-finalist. This is, in fact, Melzer’s first time past the third round of a major. Time for a reality check against Djokovic.

In the top-half, world number-one Roger Federer will face Robin Soderling in a rematch of last year’s final. Soderling looks to be playing quite sharp and will not have the same nerves he did a year ago versus Roger. While Federer has stepped it up once more in a Grand Slam, I think he’s going to face a stiffer test from Soderling this time. Soderling is his most difficult opponent in this tournament thus far and I think we could see a four or five set battle between them. Roger should prevail – but do not count out the upset factorwith Soderling. He is the only man to have ever defeated Nadal at this tourney.

Somewhat forgotten is the match between Mikail Youzhny and Tomas Berdych. Flip a coin in this one folks, it could go either way. Berdych has just knocked off fourth seeded Andy Murray, while Youzhny advanced when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga retired after just one set. I give Berdych the edge here as it seems he may finally make-good on some of that potential we have all been talking about for years. This is only the second Grand Slam quarter-finalof his career.

Ultimately everyone is no-doubt hoping for a Rafa vs Roger final. That is the most competitive final we can hope for, but even then the odds are heavily stacked inNadal’s favor. For now, enjoy some true competition as we build towards the final on Sunday.

FEDERER NEARS EDBERG RECORD; KUBOT SHINES BRIGHT FOR POLAND

* October 13, 1986 – this is the date when Wojtek Fibak, the best player in history of Polish tennis, was a top 100 player for the last time in his long career. Twenty-three years later, on Nov. 16, 2009, Lukasz Kubot became the second player from Poland to rank in the top 100 in the ATP rankings. In the third round at the Australian Open 2010, a doubles specialist Kubot, got a walkover from Mikhail Youzhny (right wrist) and advanced to his first-ever “sweet sixteen” singles appearance at a major. It’s the best result for a Polish player ever in Melbourne. Fibak, a four-time major quarterfinalist, played only once Down Under, reaching the third round in 1978. Kubot, ranked No 86, is the lowest ranked player in the last 16 this year, with Ivo Karlovic being the second-lowest at No. 39. Kubot will play Novak Djokovic Monday.

* “I started to feel it against [first-round opponent] Gasquet in the last set a little bit,” Youzhny said. “The next day was worse and worse little bit,” said Youzhny of his wrist injury. The Russian wasn’t the only player who did not advance due to injury or illness in the third round. Marcos Baghdatis and Stefan Koubek each retired in their matches after the first set. Koubek because of illness (against Fernando Verdasco), Baghdatis due to right shoulder (against Lleyton Hewitt). It was very tough especially for the Cypriot because he had been in great form winning 17 of last 18 matches. For the first time in tournament’s history three players defaulted in the last 32.

* Roger Federer overcoming Albert Montanes 6-3 6-4 6-4 won his 50th match at the Australian Open. In the history of the tournament only two-time champion Stefan Edberg won more matches – 56. But given the precentage, Federer is better – 50 wins, 7 losses (87%), Edberg 56/11 (83%).

* The two tallest guys on the tour (Ivo Karlovic and John Isner) advanced to the fourth round after thrilling four-setters, and lead in the ace department. The Croatian has already served 93 aces (34, 26, 33 respectively), the American 81 (34, 21, 26). Record holder, Joachim “Pim Pim” Johansson served 126 aces in four rounds five years ago.

* Jarkko Nieminen, the greatest player to ever come out of Finland, lost a heart-breaking second-round match, falling to Florent Serra, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-7, 5-7. The Finn had two match points in the fourth set, but was unable to convert. Serra’s win was his fifth in a row over Nieminen. The Frenchman reached the third round at the Australian Open for the first time in his sixth attempt, but lost handily to Andy Murray.

* Among the five qualifiers who had played in the second round, only the veteran Stefan Koubek (quarterfinalist in 2002) advanced to the last 32 after beating the other qualifier, Ivan Dodig of Croatia. According to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, the farthest a qualifier has advanced in the Australian Open was the semifinals, Bob Giltinan turning the trick in the (December) 1977 Australian Open. After Koubek’s loss to Verdasco, Giltinan remains in the record book.

* James Blake lost his five-set match to Juan Martin del Potro in the second round despite being a break up at the beginning of the final set. The American’s five-set record has slipped 4-13 in his career, with only Ivo Karlovic holding a worse five-set record among active players. The 30-year-old Blake hasn’t yet won in his career in a match that goes beyond 6-6 in the final set, losing on all five occasions, as outlined below.

4-6 7-5 8-10  to Yaoki Ishii – Australian Open 2000, 2nd rd, qualifying match;
3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 9-11  to Richard Krajicek – Wimbledon 2002, 2nd rd;
7-6(5) 6-0 6-7(2) 4-6 8-10 to Fernando Gonzalez – Davis Cup 2006, QF;
6-4 5-7 9-11 again (!) to Fernando Gonzalez – Beijing 2008, SF;
4-6 7-6(3) 7-5 3-6 8-10 to Del Potro – Australian Open 2010, 2nd rd

* American Robby Ginepri posted a revealing blog on the USTA’s website – www.usta.com. We encourage you to read the entire blog from Ginepri and other Americans, but here is some of what he said; “It’s been almost five years since I reached the US Open semifinals. It looks like maybe I peaked then. I hate to think that, but at some point you have to be realistic. I have to find a way to enjoy my career again. I ‘m not enjoying the travel grind and living out of suitcases as much any more, and it’s getting to me a little. I spent five weeks in Asia and Russia at the end of the fall, and at the beginning of this year I went to India, which was a very long trip, and then took another long trip to Australia, and I regret doing that. I’ve got to take it one day at a time and see if I can get this thing figured out. Playing healthy is the main thing, as it’s no fun to practice and play matches in pain. I’m a young guy at 27, and I stay fit and do the right things, and if things still aren’t working out, it takes a lot of wind out of your sail.”

Federer Cruises Past Acasuso In Cincinnati; Querrey Upsets Roddick

World No. 1 and two-time champion Roger Federer cruised past Argentine Jose Acasuso, 6-3, 7-5, in 70 minutes on Wednesday afternoon to advance to the third round at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.

A fairly routine first set saw Federer break Acasuso’s serve in the eighth game before serving out the set on his serve. In that opening frame, Federer won 94 percent of first serve points compared to just 70 percent by the 26-year-old Argentine.

Acasuso, who is currently ranked No. 51, didn’t disappear quickly, making the 15-time Grand Slam singles champion earn every one of his points. In fact, at 4-4, Federer held a 0-40 lead on Acasuso’s serve before an overturned call on the challenge system helped the Argentine erase the last break point that game.

“Sometimes those breakpoints, they are over in a hurry,” said Federer, who improves to 5-0 lifetime against Acasuso. “You just try to get the first ball back and that’s what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t get the ball back on all three occasions.”

Federer quickly regrouped at 5-all, 15-40, when he made a remarkable return followed by good offensive play to break serve. This Swiss, who improved to 15-6 in Cincinnati, held serve at ease to win the match. Federer smashed 14 aces and just two double faults compared to 11 aces and three double faults by Acasuso.

“This is a good first match for me,” said Federer, who has won three titles this season.

Federer will next face unseeded Spaniard David Ferrer, who defeated No. 14 seed Marin Cilic yesterday.
Federer

In a thrilling late night match, Sam Querrey squeaked past No. 5 seed Andy Roddick, 7-6(11), 7-6(3), in one hour and 57 minutes, to earn his first victory over the former No. 1 in four meetings.

It was a serving classic for the fans, as Querrey smashed 16 aces while Roddick hit 10. But serving wasn’t the only thing on display, as both players displayed remarkable ground strokes throughout the match.

Querrey, who won the title in Los Angeles in July, held a set point on Roddick’s serve at 5-4 but was unable to secure the break to win the set. In the tiebreak, Querrey held four set points before finally closing out the set on his serve.

In the second set, Roddick raced ahead 3-1 after breaking Querrey’s serve in the fourth game. Querrey responded by immediately breaking back.

The second set eventually headed to another tiebreak, where Querrey quickly jumped ahead 5-1. Serving up 6-3, Querrey smashed an ace to close out the match in style and advance to the third round.

“Definitely one of my best wins ever,” said Querrey, who is currently ranked No. 26 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings. “Probably the best for me. You know, feels pretty good.”

Awaiting Querrey in the third round is a date with former world No. 1 and two-time grand slam singles champion Lleyton Hewitt, who eased past German Benjamin Becker, 6-3, 6-3. Hewitt leads the series 1-0, winning last season in straight sets in Indian Wells.

In other Stadium court action, last year’s runner-up Novak Djokovic of Serbia held off a courageous fight from Croatian qualifier Ivan Ljubicic to advance with a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory in one hour and 40 minutes.
The 22-year-old Serb put on a serving clinic against the 30-year-old Croatian, smashing nine aces, while winning 35 of 36 first serve points throughout the match. Djokovic, who has won titles this year in Dubai and Belgrade, won all 18 points on his first serve during the opening set.

“It’s really important to get my serve going and have a high percentage of the first serves in,” said Djokovic, who improved to 3-1 lifetime against Ljubicic.

Despite struggling with Djokovic’s serve, winning only one of 36 points on the Serbian’s first serve, Ljubicic was able to smash 15 aces without hitting a double fault.

“He was serving really well, and he was going for the shots,” said Djokovic.

With the victory on Wednesday, Djokovic earned his 50th singles win of the season, just the second player to accomplish that this season on the ATP World Tour.

The Serb, who reached the quarterfinals last week in Montreal, will next face Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who rallied to beat American wild card John Isner, 6-7(1), 6-3, 4-1 ret.

On Grandstand, No. 16 seed Radek Stepanek of Czech Republic rallied past Russian wild card Marat Safin, winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-1, in one hour and 54 minutes. Stepanek, who improved to 2-1 lifetime against Safin, won 84 percent of first serve points and broke Safin’s serve on four of 15 opportunities. The Russian, who likely made his last appearance in Cincinnati after announcing that he would retire at the end of 2009, smashed 10 aces but hit an abysmal eight double faults in the loss.

Stepanek, who won titles earlier this year in Brisbane and San Jose, will next face new world No. 2 Andy Murray in the third round, who saved a set point in the opening set to hold off a gutsy effort from Spaniard Nicolas Almagro, winning 7-6(3), 6-2.

Other Winners on Wednesday in Cincinnati
Second Round
No. 2 Rafael Nadal def. Andreas Seppi, 7-6(4), 7-6(3)
Chris Guccione def. No. 7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6(12), 6-2
No. 8 Nikolay Davydenko def. Igor Kunitsyn, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez def. Mikhail Youzhny, 7-5, 6-3
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Ivo Karlovic, 7-6(9), 6-4
Julien Benneteau def. Jurgen Melzer, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2
Tomas Berdych def. Philip Petzschner, 7-6(8), 6-7(7), 6-4

Let’s spend the night together

I guess the title of the famous Rolling Stones song is what Tommy Haas and Jesse Levine musta thought when they visited the Playboy Mansion and were surrounded by astonishing Playboy models. Hey that’s what I woulda thought anyway. Enjoy the photos!

American Jesse Levine had two important dates Wednesday – one on-court with two-time champion Tommy Haas at the LA Tennis Open, and another earlier in the day with a Playmate at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion.

The 21-year-old Boca Raton resident tweeted on Tuesday: “Pretty pumped for my night match tomorrow night @latennisopen vs Haas. But also pumped for playboy mansion!!!”

Levine joined fellow tennis players Robert Kendrick, Ryan Sweeting and Ross Hutchins at the famous mansion in nearby Holmby Hills, where they were greeted by May 2006 cover girl Alison Waite. The Playmate gave the ATP players a personal tour, providing historical information about the Mansion and Hugh Hefner while escorting them around the lavish 5.3 acre estate.

In addition to visiting the garden and the tennis courts on the grounds, the players took photos with birds in the zoo and tried out the pinball machine in the game room. They were most intrigued, however, by the famous grotto and asked Waite for details of what happened there. They finished the visit with a photo in front of the Playboy Mansion.

“It was a lot of fun to see a place we often get to watch on TV,” said Levine. “It was a really nice opportunity for us tennis players. It’s not like people get to check out the Playboy Mansion everyday, so it was a fun activity.”

Source: ATPWorldTour.com
Photo Credit: Cynthia Lum

Panatta’s First Win Over Borg

There was much talk of Adriano Panatta being the only player to ever beat Bjorn Borg at the French Open in lieu of Robin Soderling’s startling Sunday upset of Rafael Nadal – handing the four-time defending champion his first ever loss at Roland Garros. Borg won six French titles in eight appearances with Panatta ending the other two Borg runs. The first Borg loss happened on June 2, 1973 – as documented below from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com). Panatta’s other win came in the quarterfinals of the 1976 French Open, where he defeated the Swede 6-3, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 en route to the title. Panatta had another salient win on this day, back in 1976 as you will also read below. The following is the entire June 2 chapter of ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY.

June 2

1973 – Adriano Panatta of Italy ends the upset run of 16-year-old Bjorn Borg of Sweden in the fourth round of the French Open, beating the future six-time champion 7-6, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6. Borg, playing in his first major event, plays the event seven more times in his career and loses one other time – again to Panatta in the quarterfinals in 1976. Borg’s ring of upset victims in the tournament include No. 9 seed Cliff Richey of the United States in the first round, Pierre Barthes of France in the second round and Dick Stockton of the United States in the third round. Says Stockton of Borg after his 6-7, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 loss, “He’s got a really great future ahead of him. He works really hard and is a dedicated player and he deserved to win.”

1962 – Rod Laver wins the second leg of his eventual “Grand Slam” sweep of all four major singles titles, coming back from two-set-to-love down to defeat fellow Australian Roy Emerson 3-6, 2-6, 6-3, 9-7, 6-2 in the final of the French Championships. According to UPI wire dispatches of the final, “The last three sets were excellently played, and the fourth and fifth brought the 3,500 fans in Roland Garros Stadium to their feet cheering on a number of occasions.” Laver trails 0-3 in the fourth set, but rallies to take the extended fourth set before breaking Emerson twice to ride out the fifth set. The previous day, Laver finishes off a darkness delayed five-set semifinal win over fellow Aussie Neale Fraser 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, with the match being resumed at 2-2 in the fifth set. In the quarterfinals, in another all-Aussie affair, Laver saves a match point in a five-set win over Marty Mulligan. Nineteen-year-old Margaret Smith, herself who herself would capture a Grand Slam in 1970, wins the French women’s singles title, also defeating a fellow Aussie, Lesley Turner, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the final.

1994 – Steffi Graf is shockingly dominated in the semifinals of the French Open as native hope Mary Pierce of France crushes the world’s top-ranked player 6-2, 6-2. Says Graf, “There was very little I could do. She attacked the ball, took it early, played very deep and very hard and my level of game wasn’t enough to push her to make some errors.” Pierce advances into the final with the loss of only 10 games in six matches, but falls to Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the championship match.

1976 – Adriano Panatta, the No. 5 seed from Italy, saves a match point and survives a first-round scare at the French Open, defeating Czech Pavel Hutka 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 0-6, 12-10. The match becomes crucial and significant in the annals of the French Championships as Panatta goes on to win the title, becoming the fourth man to win the singles title after trailing by a match point.

1982 – Two years removed for a bout of hepatitis that threatened his tennis career, Jose Higueras advances to the semifinals of the French Open with a  6-2, 6-2, 6-2 victory over top-seeded Jimmy Connors. Guillermo Vilas also advances into the semifinals with a 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Yannick Noah of France.