wimbledon finalist

Davis Cup Build-Up, Nadal Plays Down Federer Comparisons and Nadal Year-End Number One

*With Grand Slam play over for another year attention turns to this weekend’s vital round of Davis Cup fixtures. France face Argentina in the semifinals in the World Group and French coach Guy Forget is pleased with the squad he has at his disposal despite the absence of top star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as well as Julien Benneteau. “Michael [Llodra] has the game to bother [Juan] Monaco and Gael [Monfils] can beat anyone. And I feel that Gilles [Simon] is ready,” said Forget while also admitting his selection was “not an easy choice.” This may be referring to his decision to leave Richard Gasquet out of his team who has a disappointing 0-7 career record against top Argentine star David Nalbandian. “You’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for your flag,” said Monfils. “You have your whole country behind you, an unbelievable crowd, your friends on the side, your captain on the chair. There’s a different spirit.”

*In the other semifinal Serbia square off against the Czech Republic and beaten US Open finalist Novak Djokovic says he is ready to step up to the plate and use the Davis Cup to alleviate his New York pain. “This is one of the key matches and the interest of the Serbian public is huge,” said the new world No. 2. “I’m ready to play in Belgrade, and I don’t think this loss to Nadal will affect my form.” The Czechs will be led by 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych who crashed out of the first round in the blistering New York heat to France’s Michael Llodra.

*Switzerland face a vital playoff against Kazakhstan to stay in the World Group but will turn to Stanislas Wawrinka to lead them after 16-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer pulled out of the tie to concentrate on the ATP Tour. “I need some extra time to relax after the intense weeks in North America so I can finish the year strongly,” said Federer, who lost to Novak Djokovic in that epic semifinal at Flushing Meadows.

*After Rafa Nadal became the third-youngest man to complete the Career Grand Slam in New York on Monday the inevitable comparisons between himself and Roger Federer have resurfaced. Nadal has played down talk of him being the world’s greatest and insists R-Fed is still the man to beat despite the Swiss No. 1 falling to No. 3 in the world. “I think talk about if I am better or worse than Roger is stupid,” said the 24-year-old. “The titles say he’s much better than me, so that’s true at the moment. I think it will be true all my life. For me, always Roger was an example, especially because he improved his tennis I think during all his career, and that’s a good thing that you can copy, no? So I try to copy this and I know Roger and me are different, much different styles. Being better than Roger – I don’t think it’s the right moment to talk about that because I don’t think that.”

*Nadal’s victory in New York means he will now definitely finish as the year-ending world No. 1 for the second time in three years. He becomes only the ninth man in the history of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings (since 1973) to achieve the feat at least twice. Only he and Switzerland’s Roger Federer have taken the top slot since 2000 outlining their dominance of the sport in the last decade. “It has been an incredible season – one of my best ever, if not the best,” said the nine-time Grand Slam winner. “Winning the US Open together with Roland Garros and Wimbledon, as well as the three back-to-back [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000s in Europe, was not easy.  I worked very hard to get back to the top and it feels really good to know I will end the year as No.1.”

*Super mum Kim Clijsters is eyeing the other three Grand Slams after lifting her third US Open title in New York. She has lost twice in the Roland Garros final (2001 and 2003) as well as the Aussie Open final (2004) and has also reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2005, last year and this year. “I’ll try everything I can to be in the best shape possible to try and achieve what I’ve achieved here,” she said in her closing press conference in New York. “They all motivate you in a different way. Tactic-wise you always have to adjust a little bit to each and every single one of them. But I think the one where I’ve felt I can do better than I have is obviously at the Australian Open. Similar surface.” For the full interview check out the BBC Tennis website.

*The post-Slam injuries are re-occurring once again. China’s Zheng Jie is the unlucky recipient this time around. She needs surgery on her left wrist and looks set to miss the rest of the year. In better news, Serena Williams has returned to the practice courts following her foot injury suffered stepping on broken glass.

*Dutch women’s wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer routed Daniela di Torro 6-0, 6-0 in the US Open final last week to lift her fifth Championship and sixteenth Grand Slam overall. After narrowly beating Florence Alix-Gravellier 7-5, 7-5 in the first round she only dropped one game over the next two matches on route to the final. Even more astonishingly, it was the 29-year-old’s 369th straight competitive victory. During that streak she has only faced one solitary match point; at the 2008 Paralympics. That is a record and a half!

*As tennis now heads to Asia for the climax to the 2010 season Kuala Lumpur has finalised its lineup for its ATP 250 Event, which includes five of the world’s top ten players. This makes it one of the strongest ever lineups for an ATP 250 event. US Open semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny (No. 9), David Ferrer (No. 10) and Nikolay Davydenko (No. 6) join Robin Soderling (No. 5) and Tomas Berdych (No. 8) in a bid for the title.

*The US Open has seen some changes in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings for this week (Sept. 13). Novak Djokvic is the new world No. 2 following his US Open finals appearance with Roger Federer slipping to No. 3. Mikhail Youzhny jumps five places to No. 9 following his semifinal berth while the Spaniard David Ferrer continues an impressive year by reaching No. 10 to make it three Spaniards in the Top 10. Stanislas Wawrinka is rewarded for his run by entering the Top 20 while Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro continues to be scolded for his injuries as he drops 24 places to No. 34 in the world. The Italian Potito Starace is the new world No. 50 while Paul-Henri Mathieu (No. 97) and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (No. 100) add to the French contingent in the world’s Top 100 players.

*The same can be said of the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings following last week’s sizzling Slam in New York. Venus Williams is back up to No. 3 in the world while beaten finalist Vera Zvonareva attains a career-high ranking of No. 4. Kim Clijsters drops to No. 5 despite lifting the US Open crown. Elena Dementieva re-enters the Top 10 and another Russian, teen sensation Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, is the new No. 20 as she continues her fierce assault on the world’s best players; another career best. Kimiko Date Krum continues to defy her younger peers by re-entering the Top 50 and Zuzana Ondraskova (CZE, No. 94), Pauline Parmentier (FRA, No. 97), Varvara Lepchenko (USA, No. 98) and Edina Gallovits (ROU, No. 100) are all in to the Top 100.

*Gisela Dulko and Flavia Panetta have become the first doubles team to qualify for the WTA Year ending finals in Doha.

*Richard Gasquet has split with his coach Gabriel Markus, reports L’Equipe. “I’ve been happy to work with Richard and we’ve had success,” the Argentine coach told the newspaper. “He has improved his ranking and his tennis. I tried to show him my way of seeing things and I did a little, but I think it’ll be more comfortable to continue as before, with Eric Deblicker. They have a very good relationship, and I wish them the best.”

*Another one for stat-fans like myself. This year’s US Open is the fourth time since 2000 that the Top 3 seeds in the women’s draw have reached the semifinals. It is also the third consecutive year the men’s final has been delayed till Monday because of weather.

*The Russian press are reporting that the 2004 French Open Champion Anastasia Myskina has recently given birth to her second child, a boy. She already has a 30-month-old son, Zhenya.

Berdych, Nalbandian and Federer All Prevail At Rogers Cup

The day session has wrapped-up here at the Rogers Cup on Thursday and the tournament has been fortunate thus far to avoid any major upsets. While there have been some tense moments and momentum swings that could have progressed to that level, things are still on course for the anticipated Nadal/Murray and Djokovic/Federer semi-finals this weekend. In the meantime here are a few quick hits from the action today.

Comebacks:

David Nalbandian is certainly making some waves since returning from yet another injury layoff. Today he beat Robin Soderling 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 for his 11th consecutive win. A brief lapse in concentration where he double-faulted twice in a row while trying to serve for the first set at 4-5 would ultimately cause Nalbandian to lose the opening frame. After that he seemed to regain control of the match and breezed in the third set past the 5th ranked player in the world.

It would be hard to categorize the result as an upset, despite the fact that Soderling has been quite consistent over the past year. Nalbandian lead their head-to-head 5-1 coming into the match today and has the game that can hang with the Swede shot for shot.

Future-Stars:

Lookout for Alex Dolgopolov folks, this kid has got some serious game. Appearing small in stature today against the 6’5” Tomas Berdych, Dolgopolov nearly toppled the giant by using a wide variety of shot selection and never appearing to be in awe of the 2010 Wimbledon finalist.

The youngest member of the top one hundred players in the world at age 21, Dolgopolov is a player on the rise. You wouldn’t have guessed that he was playing in his first hard court tournament since early February and I’m somewhat confused as to why he has seemingly avoided playing on the surface for so long.

This week in Toronto he managed to lose the first set in all three of his matches. Against both Philipp Petzschner and Mikhail Youzhny he failed to show up in the opening frame and fell 1-6 each time. In the second set he suddenly sprung to life against all of his opponents and especially today against Berdych where his first serve appeared to be unable to miss.

Dolgopolov’s serve is one of his real strengths as it is almost impossible to read. His toss is non-existent and he makes contact with the ball while it is still on the rise.

Also on the rise is the young Ukrainian’s ranking which since January 2009 has lept from 309th in the world to its current position at No. 49.

The variety in Dolgopolov’s game is what has impressed me the most this week. This is not your typical baseline basher and I would imagine all of his time playing on clay courts has helped develop this aspect of his play. Well timed drop-shots and lobs are a regular part of his repertoire, and his backhand slice is also quite lethal.

Against Berdych it appeared as though a final set tie-break would be required to settle the score, but Dolgopolov made a couple of tactical errors when serving at 4-5. He chose a poor time to approach the net and watched a Berdych shot whiz by him for 0-30. Berdych then charged the net during the following point which appeared to throw Dolgopolov off and force an error for 0-40. Then, in the ultimate disappointment, Dolgopolov had two first-serve lets, before double faulting to hand the match to Berdych, 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4.

Still, winning two rounds at a Masters level tournament will give Dolgopolov a few ranking points that should help him progress towards the top-thirty. While I doubt a seeding at the U.S. Open is in the works, Dolgopolov will likely be on the list of players most would rather avoid at Flushing Meadows.

I’ll be keeping an eye on his progression the rest of the year and would encourage anyone attending any ATP tournaments to make the effort to check this guy out. Watching an up and coming player like Dolgopolov on the outside courts is a treat you can talk about one day if he makes it big.

Having Some Fun:

Finally, for fans looking for some good ol’ fashioned serve and volleying with a side of the absurd, look no further than the Centre Court match that took place between Roger Federer and Michael Llodra.

These two apparently have quite a friendly history from their junior days when they were both very familiar with each others games. Since that time they have only played one professional match prior to today, and that came back in 1999 at a Challenger tournament in France where Federer prevailed in straight sets. The result was the same today with Roger winning 7-6, 6-3.

Llodra didn’t manage to take a set from the world No. 3 player, but he did walk off with his shirt. The Frenchman asked Federer for it at the end of the match and revealed that he did it because, “You know, for me, you know, Rogers is (a) legend, so it’s a good present for my kids.”

After fighting back in the first set and recovering from being down a break, Federer cruised in the tie-break while Llodra seemed to implode with a variety of double-faults, poorly executed drop shots and volleys that missed the mark as well.

In the second set when it appeared inevitable that Federer would take the match, Llodra even tried to surprise him with a rarely seen underhanded serve.

Asked if he had ever done that before, Llodra replied, “Yeah. But not in the match!”

Federer was all smiles in the post-match press conference where he revealed that, “It’s the first time I got an underarm serve; third time somebody asked me for the shirt.”

The light-hearted questions continued for Federer as he was later asked about the pink shirt he’s sporting this week here in competition.

“I don’t know where my head was when I chose pink, but I like it, you know. Honestly I’ve gotten a lot of praise for it. People apparently like it…so that’s a good thing. It’s only for, unfortunately or luckily, only for two tournaments because I’m going to be changing again for the Open, and I thought it was going to be something fun for the summer. That’s kind of how it goes.”

Roger will be hoping that his fun summer includes another U.S. Open title in September. His first true test since returning from a six week layoff will be tomorrow night at 7pm ET as he faces Berdych in a re-match of their Wimbledon quarter-final tilt that was won by the Czech.

Stay tuned to Tennis Grandstand for full coverage of that match and the other quarter-finals as well.

Philippoussis To Make ATP Champions Debut In London

Former Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis is to return to the city that he so nearly conquered when he plays in the AEGON Masters Tennis at the Royal Albert Hall in London, December 1-6.

Philippoussis, who also reached the final of the US Open during his career, will be making his debut on the ATP Champions Tour when he lines up alongside fellow grass-court greats Goran Ivanisevic, Pat Rafter and Stefan Edberg at the season-ending event. For Philippoussis, who beat Andre Agassi on his way to the 2003 Wimbledon final before losing to Roger Federer, it will be an opportunity to renew rivalries and rekindle his relationship with the British public.

“I get goosebumps every time I go to the UK because of the British crowds,” said Philippoussis, who is universally known as ‘Scud’ for the power of his serve.

“The British fans are incredible – they have such a great appreciation for tennis. I’ve always enjoyed a lot of support from them and I hope they are looking forward to seeing me again. I certainly can’t wait.”

Philippoussis has visited the Royal Albert Hall once before back in 2006 when he played a charity exhibition match against Tim Henman, and the Australian is looking forward to experiencing the world’s most unique tennis court for a second time.

“I really can’t wait to play at the Royal Albert Hall again,” he said. “It is one of the prettiest tennis venues I have ever seen, it really is gorgeous. It’s perfect in terms of how close the crowd is to you when you’re playing and the atmosphere that creates.”

Philippoussis will join an eight-man singles line-up that already includes the 2001 Wimbledon Champion Ivanisevic, former World Number One Edberg and two-time Wimbledon finalist Rafter. The AEGON Masters Tennis could give Philippoussis the chance for revenge against Rafter, who beat him in the final of the US Open in 1998.

“I’m so looking forward to seeing all the guys again,” said Philippoussis.

“The line-up is really amazing so every match should be good. I’d love to play against Edberg, and I’m looking forward to seeing Goran again because he’s just a great guy. Then obviously Pat’s a fellow Aussie, so it should be great fun. I just can’t wait to get down there and get out on court.”

The AEGON Masters Tennis runs from the 1st to the 6th of December at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The tournament uses a round-robin format, with all players playing at least three matches each. Each day of the tournament, except the final Sunday, features two sessions – an afternoon session starting at 1pm and an evening session starting at 7.30pm. All sessions will feature a combination of singles and doubles matches. The event is the final tournament in 2009 on the ATP Champions Tour – a circuit of former World Number One tennis players, Grand Slam singles finalists and Davis Cup winners.

For more information, visit: http://www.aegonmasterstennis.com/

For tickets, go to: http://www.aegonmasterstennis.com/tickets.asp