Yen-Hsun Lu

Wizards of Oz (IV): Tomic, Gasquet, Raonic, Kvitova, Wozniacki, And More on Day 4

Leaving Federer vs. Davydenko for a special, detailed preview by one of our colleagues here, we break down some highlights from the latter half of second-round action on Day 4.

ATP:

Brands vs. Tomic (Rod Laver Arena):  A tall German who once caused a stir at Wimbledon, Brands has won four of his first five matches in 2013 with upsets over Chardy, Monfils, and Martin Klizan among them.  As sharp as Tomic looked in his opener, he cannot afford to get caught looking ahead to Federer in the next round.  Brands can match him bomb for bomb, so the last legitimate Aussie threat left needs to build an early lead that denies the underdog reason to hope.

Lu vs. Monfils (Hisense Arena):  Is La Monf finally back?  He somehow survived 16 double faults and numerous service breaks in a messy but entertaining four-set victory over Dolgopolov.  Perhaps facilitated by his opponent’s similar quirkiness, the vibrant imagination of Monfils surfaced again with shot-making that few other men can produce.  This match should produce an intriguing contrast of personalities and styles with the understated, technically solid Lu, who cannot outshine the Frenchman in flair but could outlast him by exploiting his unpredictable lapses.

Falla vs. Gasquet (Court 3):  The Colombian clay specialist has established himself as an occasional upset threat at non-clay majors, intriguingly, for he nearly toppled Federer in the first round of Wimbledon three years ago and bounced Fish from this tournament last year.  A strange world #10, Gasquet struggled initially in his first match against a similar clay specialist in Montanes.  He recorded a series of steady results at majors last year, benefiting in part from facing opponents less accomplished than Falla.  The strength-against-strength collision of his backhand against Falla’s lefty forehand should create some scintillating rallies as Gasquet seeks to extend his momentum from the Doha title two weeks ago.

Mayer vs. Berankis (Court 6):  While Berankis comfortably defeated the erratic Sergei Stakhovsky in his debut, Mayer rallied from a two-set abyss to fend off American wildcard Rhyne Williams after saving multiple match points.  He must recover quickly from that draining affair to silence the compact Latvian, who punches well above his size.  Sometimes touted as a key figure of the ATP’s next generation, Berankis has not plowed forward as impressively as others like Raonic and Harrison, so this unintimidating draw offers him an opportunity for a breakthrough.

Raonic vs. Rosol (Court 13):  The cherubic Canadian sprung onto the international scene when he reached the second week in Melbourne two years ago.  The lean Czech sprung onto the international scene when he stunned Nadal in the second round of Wimbledon last year.  Either outstanding or abysmal on any given day, Rosol delivered an ominous message simply by winning his first match.  For his part, Raonic looked far from ominous while narrowly avoiding a fifth set against a player outside the top 100.  He needs to win more efficiently in early rounds before becoming a genuine contender for major titles.

WTA:

Robson vs. Kvitova (RLA):  Finally starting to string together some solid results, the formerly unreliable Robson took a clear step forward by notching an upset over Clijsters in the second round of the US Open.  Having played not only on Arthur Ashe Stadium there but on Centre Court at the All England Club before, she often produces her finest tennis for the grandest stages.  If Robson will not lack for inspiration, Kvitova will continue to search for confidence.  She found just enough of her familiarly explosive weapons to navigate through an inconsistent three-setter against Schiavone, but she will have little hope of defending her semifinal points if she fails to raise her level significantly.  That said, Kvitova will appreciate playing at night rather than during the most scorching day of the week, for the heat has contributed to her struggles in Australia this month.

Peng vs. Kirilenko (Hisense):  A pair of women better known in singles than in doubles, they have collaborated on some tightly contested matches.  Among them was a Wimbledon three-setter last year, won by Kirilenko en route to the quarterfinals.  The “other Maria” has faltered a bit lately with six losses in ten matches before she dispatched Vania King here.  But Peng also has regressed since injuries ended her 2011 surge, so each of these two women looks to turn around her fortunes at the other’s expense.  The Russian’s all-court style and fine net play should offer a pleasant foil for Peng’s heavy serve and double-fisted groundstrokes, although the latter can find success in the forecourt as well.

Wozniacki vs. Vekic (Hisense):  Like Kvitova, Wozniacki seeks to build upon the few rays of optimism that emanated from a nearly unwatchable three-set opener.  Gifted that match by Lisicki’s avalanche of grisly errors, the former #1 could take advantage of the opportunity to settle into the tournament.  Wozniacki now faces the youngest player in either draw, who may catch her breath as she walks onto a show court at a major for the first time.  Or she may not, since the 16-year-old Donna Vekic crushed Hlavackova without a glimpse of nerves to start the tournament and will have nothing to lose here.

Hsieh vs. Kuznetsova (Margaret Court Arena):  A surprise quarterfinalist in Sydney, the two-time major champion defeated Goerges and Wozniacki after qualifying for that elite draw.  Kuznetsova rarely has produced her best tennis in Melbourne, outside a near-victory over Serena in 2009.  But the Sydney revival almost did not materialize at all when she floundered through a three-setter in the qualifying.  If that version of Kuznetsova shows up, the quietly steady Hsieh could present a capable foil.

Putintseva vs. Suarez Navarro (Court 7) / Gavrilova vs. Tsurenko (Court 8):  Two of the WTA’s most promising juniors, Putintseva and Gavrilova face women who delivered two of the draw’s most notable first-round surprises.  After Suarez Navarro dismissed world #7 Errani, Tsurenko halted the surge of Brisbane finalist Pavlyuchenkova in a tense three-setter.  Momentum thus carries all four of these women into matches likely to feature plenty of emotion despite the relatively low stakes.

The Stories that weren’t

Now that it’s officially the off-season, which is all of one month long, you’ve probably seen many many retrospectives and “Best [insert tennis topic here] of 2010” lists. So, instead of doing my own “best of” this week, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the 2010 storylines that didn’t quite pan out.

It’s Finally Andy Roddick’s Year

The Rationale: Last year, Andy Roddick took part in one of the most memorable Wimbledon finals of all time. At 27, most people thought his chances of winning a second Grand Slam were slim, but he powered through the field, defeating hometown favorite Andy Murray in a great four set semifinal. Just like 2004 and 2005, Roddick would face Roger Federer in the final; however, unlike those two times, Andy went after the title with a vengeance, giving us an epic fifth set. Well, a 16-14 fifth set was epic before Isner-Mahut and for a championship match I still consider it pretty incredible. Anyway, we all know how that turned out. Poor Andy went home empty handed once again. Even though he didn’t win, reporters jumped at the idea that Andy was on the right track. So, when Andy posted a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open and backed that up with a finalist appearance at Indian Wells and a win in Miami during the US hardcourt season, a lot of people felt that he was on track to finally win Wimbledon.

The Reality: Unfortunately Roddick crashed out to Yen-Hsun Lu in the 4th round of Wimbledon. After losing in the round of 16 at Legg Mason in early August, Andy fell out of the top 10, leaving no Americans in the top 10 for the first time since the ranking system was instituted. He later confirmed that he was suffering from mononucleosis and had to skip the Rogers Cup in Toronto. The disappointments continued when he lost in the 2nd round of the US Open to Janko Tipsarevic. Then, he was forced to retire from his 2nd round match in Shanghai. However, Andy worked incredibly hard in Basel and Paris to salvage his spot in an eighth consecutive year end championship and is currently ranked 8th in the world.

Nadal’s Winning Ways Are Over

The Rationale: Rafael Nadal is pretty much the King of the French Open and in 2009, for the first time since he started participating, he didn’t take home the trophy. In fact, Nadal lost rather shockingly to Robin Soderling in the 4th round. Suffering from tendonitis in both knees, Rafa was unable to defend his 2008 Wimbledon title and eventually lost in the semifinals at the 2009 US Open. Rafa failed to defend his Australian Open title after being forced to retire in the quarterfinals against Andy Murray. Nadal’s last title came in Rome in April of 2009. By April 2010, he still hadn’t won a single title.

The Reality: Nearly one year after his title in Rome, Rafa decimated Fernando Verdasco in the Monte Carlo final. Proving his Monte Carlo title was no fluke, Nadal blew through the clay court season, winning Rome and Madrid, and capping it all off with his fifth French Open title. After that, Rafa went on to win his second Wimbledon title and completed a career Grand Slam at the US Open. After a slow start to the year, 2010 actually ended up being all about Rafael Nadal.

Justine Henin’s Magical Comeback

The Rationale: After a two year retirement, Kim Clijsters came back to win the 2009 US Open in just her third tournament back from retirement. So, when Justine Henin announced that she too would be returning to professional tennis, the expectations were high. Not to disappoint, Henin defeated Elena Dementieva, Nadia Petrova, and Zheng Jie en route to the Australian Open final. She lost to Serena Williams in three sets, but was off to a good start considering this was her second tournament back from retirement. She reached the semifinals at the Sony Ericsson Open in March before losing to compatriot Kim Clijsters in three sets, but managed to crack the top 25 after starting the season unranked.

The Reality: Justine has won the French Open four times, but fell to Sam Stosur in the 4th round of this year’s tournament. No matter, Justine had mentioned that the purpose of her comeback was to finally win Wimbledon. Justine is a two time finalist and three time semifinalist at the grass court tournament and it is the only trophy keeping her from completing a career Grand Slam. Henin was seeded 17th by the start of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships but was set on a course to meet fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters in the 4th round. It was one of the most anticipated match ups of the tournament and Kim prevailed in three sets. The real disaster was not the loss, but a fall Justine took in the first set. After sustaining an elbow injury, she was forced to end her season after her Wimbledon loss. Henin is set to return to tennis at the Hopman Cup in January, and this story may very well become relevant again.

Ernests Gulbis Is Ending His Slacker Ways

The Rationale: Ernests Gulbis is only 22, but he’s already compiled quite a reputation on tour for having lots of untapped talent, but little motivation. Some days he looks absolutely inspired and some days he looks anything but. However, 2010 started off as a great year for the young Latvian. In February he reached the semifinals at the Regions Morgan Keegan event in Memphis and went on to win his first ATP title at Delray Beach. At the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, Gulbis reached his first semifinal at an ATP Masters 1000 event. The real story from Rome was that Gulbis beat World No. 1 Roger Federer in the second round. While he eventually lost the semifinal to Rafael Nadal, he was the first player to win a set against Rafa in the 2010 clay season.

The Reality: Gulbis was forced to retire in the first round of first round of the French Open and skipped out on this year’s Wimbledon. He proceeded to lose in the first round of the US Open as well. Articles popped up everywhere in May about Gulbis’ new dedication to tennis, but as soon as he started losing consistently again, those articles were nowhere to be found. He ended the year without progressing past the 1st round of any major. However, he did manage to finish the season at a career high No. 24.

Clearly this is just a small sampling of the stories that weren’t quite right. We aren’t psychic so journalists can only go off the information they have at hand. All of these stories made sense at the time but fortunes change and injuries occur. Since this is certainly not a comprehensive list, feel free to send me some of your favorite false stories of 2010.

Nadal & Djokovic To Play Doubles: Are You Kidding Me?

The song ‘Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ was unfortunately the most over-played tune from Sunday in Toronto as the Rogers Cup was forced to deal with plenty of precipitation as the qualifying tournament approached its end.

The first match of the day on Centre Court between Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan and Marius Copil of Romania began shortly after 10am local time and finally ended just after 3pm with Lu prevailing 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-3. Rain halted progress for a lengthy period of time at the start of the second set and forced competitors and fans alike to play the waiting game at the Rexall Centre.

I took the time to test my serve at one of the popular interactive fan attractions on the grounds and walked away humbled by my 136 kilometre per hour attempt. Gonna do a few bicep curls and come back stronger for tomorrow.

The second match on the main stadium was between Canadian hopeful Philip Bester and veteran American Michael Russell. Bester – who looks strikingly similar to Max Mirnyi – was unable to perform like the beast he had hoped to and was beaten by the 32 year-old Russell 6-2, 6-2 in front of his home fans. Bester made good on his promise to, “go out guns blazing,” as he was the more aggressive of the two players. Unfortunately his shots were often off the mark which sent his unforced errors tally spiralling out of control. As the sun finally broke through the persistent cloud coverage it became clear that Bester was not going to get the reprieve he so-badly needed.

Of the six Canadians admitted into the qualifying draw, none have advanced to the main tournament that begins Monday. Don’t worry Canadian tennis fans, we still have four of our own represented this week so you’ll have plenty to cheer for.

Youngster Milos Raonic gets first dibs on Monday’s schedule and will face 53rd ranked Victor Hanescu on the Grandstand court at 11am. Despite giving up about ten years in age, the 19 year-old Raonic has a decent shot against a player mostly known for his clay-court prowess. One stat that may buoy Raonic’s hopes is the three straight first-round losses that Hanescu has accumulated this summer.

In the evening session top-ranked Canuck Peter Polansky gets the unenviable task of taking on Jurgen Melzer who has had the best results of his career in 2010. The Austrian made the semi-finals at Roland Garros and followed that up with a fourth round showing at Wimbledon. Not bad for an eleven year vet who had never previously advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam.

The doubles draw also offers some Canadian content as Frank Dancevic and partner Adil Shamasdin will face the duo of Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley on the more intimate court 1.

There are tons of great singles matches set for day one at the Rogers Cup but the real show-piece no doubt will feature Raonic and partner Vasek Pospisil against the ‘are-you-kidding-me’ tandem of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. That match will close-out the evening session on Centre Court with some fireworks that will truly impress.

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.

Venus Williams Suffers Ironic Loss At Wimbledon

American Venus Williams, who had made 8 of the previous 10 Wimbledon singles finals, learned a hard lesson about irony today at the All England Club.

The number two ranked player in the world suffered a crushing defeat on the same day her book, “Come To Win” was released.

A few hours after being knocked off 6-2, 6-3 by Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, Williams was already promoting her new release on Twitter where she offered followers a chance to read passages from her book.

It would seem however that it was the little-known Pironkova who came to win today and in the process advances to the semi-finals of Wimbledon where she will next face Vera Zvonareva – a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 winner over Kim Clijsters.

The 82nd ranked Pironkova – a sure-shot to break into the top-fifty regardless of her next result – defeated Williams much to her own surprise.

“If I have to be honest: no,” she said about the possibility of making the final-four. “Coming here, I really just wanted to play a good game, to maybe win one or two rounds. But (a) semifinal looked, to me, very far.”

Maybe the number 82 is somewhat of a kryptonite towards American tennis players, as Andy Roddick was defeated by the 82nd ranked male player in the world, Yen-Hsun Lu, the day before.

The early exit by Venus is especially surprising given the solid year she has put together so far in 2010. In her post-match press conference however, she failed to give much credit to her able opponent.

“Yeah, you know, it’s very disappointing. I felt like I played some players along the way who played really well. You know, I think she played really well, too, but maybe not as tough as like my fourth round or my third round or even my second round.”

Instead she took a page out of her sisters book and claimed that her own short-comings were largely responsible for her early departure.

“You know, to not be able to bring my best tennis today and to just make that many errors is disappointing in a match where I feel like, you know, I wasn’t overpowered, you know, hit off the court or anything; where I just kind of let myself exit.”

In other women’s action, sister Serena moved past Li Na 7-5, 6-3, while Petra Kvitova defeated Kaia Kanepi by a much more grueling score of 4-6, 7-6(8), 8-6 while saving five match-points against her in the process.
The odds now clearly favor Serena when examining the Grand Slam experience of the remaining four players.

While the unknown factor of playing someone like Kvitova or Pironkova may offer some subtle challenges, the world’s number-one player should advance towards the title with little intrigue standing in her way.

Perhaps Venus can take some solace if her younger sister comes to win in her place.

Australian Open Days 5 and 6 Roundup

Day 5

In the battle between two former Australian Open champions, Roger Federer (won in 2004, 06-07) knocked out Marat Safin (2005). Safin had his little chance only in the third set. Federer was leading 4:1 in a tie-break with two mini-breaks but lost awhile his concentration after Safin’s foot fault on second serve. The Russian argued with a linesman and moment later was 5:4 up. Federer served very well twice and converted first match point with amazing backhand passing-shot.

“I lost today probably to the better player, one of the greatest ones in the history of tennis,” said Safin. “I really hope for him to be so I can tell the story to my kids that I played with him. I think it’s a nice story.”

Serb Novak Djokovic lost first set in the tournament against the Bosnian-born Amer Delic. There was very close to play a five-set match because at 5:4 (40-15) in the fourth set, Delic had double setpoint on Djokovic’s serve. The defending champion fought off the danger with an ace and lucky netcord that forced Delic to make an error.

“I need some matches like this to feel really what is Grand Slam all about,” said Djokovic.

The 36-year-old Santoro was playing in his 66th Grand Slam championship – the Open Era record amongst male players. In his final match in Melbourne lost to Andy Roddick 3-6 4-6 2-6. Santoro had break point (triple break point in all) only in one game – when Roddick was serving to win the second set. “Respect is an understatement,” Roddick said about the Frenchman. “The longevity he has had is an accomplishment in itself.” “This has always been one of my favorite places” said Santoro who reached in Melbourne his only Grand Slam quarterfinal in singles, three years ago, and won here twice the title in doubles (2003-04).

Day 6

Fernando Verdasco has been in great form since last year’s tournament in St. Petersburg. The Spaniard confirmed his aspiration to be a Top 10 player with a convincing win (6-4 6-0 6-0) over Radek Stepanek. Verdasco was break down at 3:4 and won 15 games in a row since then, and took a revenge for a defeat to Stepanek in the final at the Brisbane Internation two weeks ago.

Verdasco sets up 4th round clash with Andy Murray who won his match in similiar circumstances. The Scott won 11 consecutive games in a 7-5 6-0 6-3 win over Jurgen Melzer.

James Blake extends the lead in matches against his easiest opponent Igor Andreev to 6-0. The American has also the same H2H against Arnaud Clement and Nikolay Davydenko but against Andreev won the most sets, defeated him inter alia in three different Grand Slam tournaments (they have never met only at the French Open).

Fernando Gonzalez prevailed an epic match at the Margaret Court Arena against Richard Gasquet. Gasquet won easily first two sets and had match point in a tie-break of the third set –  risked a backhand return then, and the ball landed on the tape. Gonzalez won third set on 7th setpoint. Gasquet began to struggle with the pain in the right leg and right arm, and lost quickly fourth set but didn’t give up. At the beginning of the fifth set, the Frenchman changed own tactics, attacked more often to the net and builded up the speed of the first serve to play shorter rallies. Despite the pain Gasquet was winning service games comfortably and had his chances to take a decisive break: 4:4 (40-15), 7:7 (40-30), 10:10 (40-30) but experienced in tight matches Gonazalez saved all break points and waited first match point in the 22nd game of the final set. Gasquet saved it with beautiful forehand cross but lost next two points and the match, firstly Gonzalez played a gentle backhand lob, then finished the match with backhand down the line from the baseline. The match lasted 4 hours 9 minutes and both players won 191 points (Gasquet more in the final set (71-67).

“He was playing like a super hero,” Gonzalez said of Gasquet. “I couldn’t do anything. You have to keep fighting and wait for your chances. When we went to the fifth set I feel really good – I feel the favourite for the match.”

Marcos Baghdatis after overcoming Mardy Fish in straight sets became the only unseeded player who advanced to the last “sixteen” but it’s tough to call it a surprise because Baghdatis is a former Australian Open finalist. Baghdatis last year along with Lleyton Hewitt made a record – their match was finished at 4:33 a.m. This time beating Fish, Baghdatis setted up the record of the 2009 tournament – the match was finished at 1 a.m.

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Third Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Tommy Haas (GER) 6-4 6-2 6-2
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. (24)Richard Gasquet (FRA) 3-6 3-6 7-6(10) 6-2 12-10 – 1 MP
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 6-4 6-3 7-5
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Mario Ancic (CRO) 7-6(2) 6-4 6-2
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 7-5 6-0 6-3
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. (22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) 6-4 6-0 6-0
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (18)Igor Andreev (RUS) 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-1
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (q)Dudi Sela (ISR) 6-4 6-2 1-6 6-1

(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Fabrice Santoro (FRA) 6-3 6-4 6-2
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) 6-1 6-3 6-2
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. (23)Mardy Fish (USA) 6-2 6-4 6-4
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (LL)Amer Delic (USA) 6-2 4-6 6-3 7-6(4)
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Gilles Muller (LUX) 6-7(5) 7-5 6-3 7-5
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. (11)David Ferrer (ESP) 7-6(5) 6-3 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. (15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 4-6 6-1 6-3 6-4
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (26)Marat Safin (RUS) 6-3 6-2 7-6(5)

Australian Open Round Two Results

Day 3

The oldest participant of the tournament, 36 year-old Fabrice Santoro amazed the spectators once again overcoming 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3 Philipp Kohlschreiber, 11 years in his junior. Santoro wasted triple setpoint in the first set but didn’t collapse and came back from a break down in the second and fourth set. In the fifth set Kohlschreiber at 3:5 saved triple match point with risky shots. After another rally the Frenchman had cramps, got a warning for an extension break between the points, risked a return, went to the net and finished the match with an overhead after 4 hours 5 minutes!

“Today I lost because it was best-of-five, which makes me very mad. Santoro will not win anything more here” stated the embittered German. “I can’t say I have no chance at all for the next round. It’s going to be tough for sure. I will see Friday morning when I wake up how good is my body, how bad is my body” replied Santoro who had played first match in Melbourne before the youngest player in the draw, Bernard Tomic was born.
Less luck in a five-setter had Santoro’s compatriot, Paul-Henri Mathieu who has lost 6th match in career after winning first two sets. This time Mathieu lost to “lucky loser” Amer Delic despite a 4:1 led in the fourth set.
The biggest surprise of the day was made by 25 year-old Yen-Hsun Lu of Taiwan who didn’t pass earlier second round in a Grand Slam event in 12 attempts. Lu defeated one of the best specialist of those events – David Nalbandian, also in five thrilling sets 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2. In the final game of the match Lu fought off six break points before finished his second match point.

“Everybody knows Nalbandian is one of the best backhand players,” Lu said. “So I thought he’s ready for a forehand return. So I just changed my mind and went to his backhand all the time. I served six times to his backhand on break point and I won all the points.”
Former finalist Marcos Baghdatis was losing 3-6 0:4 to the Swede Robin Soderling but managed to win in four sets, Soderling had problems with blisters since the second set.
Australian big hope, 16 year-old Tomic began his first match at Rod Laver Arena saving 6 break points against Gilles Muller. The teenager won surprisingly the first set 6-3 but hadn’t any arguments to defy the powerful opponent in the next three sets. Muller finished the match serving two out of 27 aces.

“He’s played unbelievable. I was lucky to get that first set. He didn’t start serving well” said Tomic.
Player from former Yugoslavia, Maric Cilic and Janko Tipsarevic are the first pair who have played twice this year against each other, similarly, like in Chennai, Cilic lost one set but won the other ones without too much trouble.

Day 4

High-quality match at Hisense Arena played Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ivan Ljubicic (6-7 7-6 7-6 6-2). The Croat won first set in a tie-break and had his chances in the next two sets which also finished after tie-breaks. Last year’s runner-up Tsonga was forced to save one setpoint in the second tie-break and triple setpoint in the third tie-break, two of those setpoints saved on return playing dropshots what is unusual in those circumstances. Tsonga sets up the meeting with the only qualifier who advanced to the third round, Dudi Sela of Israel.

“Tonight my back was very stiff. But I won, and I’m happy of that. I think I’m playing better than last year. I’m a little bit more confident maybe in my game.” said Tsonga, one of the four seeded Frenchmen in the top half of the draw who won their matches on Thursday. One of them, Gilles Simon was close to lose 0-2 in sets but from 6-7 4:4 (0-40) completely dominated his opponent, big-serving Chris Guccione and even outaced him (14-12).
In the inner Croatian battle between Ljubicic’s compatriots, Mario Ancic ousted in five-sets Ivo Karlovic. Karlovic after this loss becomes a player with the worst five-set record (0-10) in the history of tennis. Karlovic has overcome the retired Austrian Markus Hipfl (0-9 in years 1996-2002).
Talented Ernstest Gulbis has been eliminated in the 2nd round in the 7th consecutive tournament! The young Latvian lost this time to Igor Andreev despite 4:2 up in the 5th set. In the 10th game Gulbis led 40:0 on serve only to lose quickly 5 points ina row without commitment. The Russian similarly like Amer Delic has won both matches in Melbourne this year after five-setters.
Easy wins notched Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, James Blake and Fernando Verdasco – all advanced to the third round winning both rounds without a serious danger in a set.

Second Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Roko Karanusic (CRO) 6-2 6-3 6-2
Tommy Haas (GER) d. (q)Flavio Cipolla (ITA) 6-1 6-2 6-1
(24)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. (WC)Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-3 6-4 6-4
(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Guillermo Canas (ARG) 7-5 6-3 6-4
(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Stefan Koubek (AUT) 6-4 6-4 3-6 6-2
(17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) d. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-2 7-5 6-0
Mario Ancic (CRO) d. (25)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 5-7 7-5 4-6 6-4 6-3
(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-7(5) 6-4 6-1 6-2
(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Marcel Granollers (ESP) 6-4 6-2 6-2
(31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. (q)Andreas Beck (GER) 5-7 7-6(7) 6-4 6-3
(22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. (q)Michael Berrer (GER) 6-3 6-2 6-7(3) 7-5
(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Arnaud Clement (FRA) 6-1 6-1 6-2
(9)James Blake (USA) d. (q)Sebastien de Chaunac (FRA) 6-3 6-2 6-3
(18)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 6-4 6-4 5-7 3-6 6-4
(q)Dudi Sela (ISR) d. Victor Hanescu (ROU) 6-3 6-3 6-2
(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 6-7(4) 7-6(8) 7-6(7) 6-2
(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (q)Xavier Malisse (BEL) 3-6 6-2 7-6(1) 6-2
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. (32)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) 5-7 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-3
(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-1 6-3 6-0
Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) d. (10)David Nalbandian (ARG) 6-4 5-7 4-6 6-4 6-2
Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. (16)Robin Soderling (SWE) 3-6 7-5 6-3 6-3
(23)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Simone Bolelli (ITA) 6-4 6-1 7-5
(LL)Amer Delic (USA) d. (28)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) 1-6 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) 9-7
(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 7-5 6-1 6-3
(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (q)Florian Mayer (GER) 6-1 7-5 6-2
Gilles Muller (LUX) d. (WC)Bernard Tomic (AUS) 3-6 6-1 6-4 6-2
(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-3
(11)David Ferrer (ESP) d. (q)Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) 6-2 6-2 6-1
(15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. (WC)Brydan Klein (AUS) 6-3 6-4 6-4
(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Brian Dabul (ARG) 6-1 6-1 6-3
(26)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 7-5 6-2 6-2
(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (q)Evgueni Korolev (RUS) 6-2 6-3 6-1

Australian Open Round One Results

First round

Day 1

16 year-old Bernard Tomic (No. 768) made the biggest surprise of the first day, eliminating Potito Starace 7-6 1-6 7-6 7-6. Tomic who has been playing just second tournament on the main level (debuted two weeks ago in Adelaide) becomes the youngest player who won a match at the Australian Open (16 years and 103 days), and the second youngest who appearanced in the main draw of this tournament. Tomic’s compatriot Lleyton Hewitt, was 15 years and 337 days old when he lost in the 1997 first round to Sergi Bruguera. Tomic astonished favourable Australian crowd on the Margaret Court Arena holding nerves in tight situations what is characteristic for experienced, much more older players. The Australian prodigy was losing 2:4 in the third set and 1:4 (0-30) in the fourth, saved also two set points at 4:6 in the last tie-break! It’s just fourth case in Australian Open history that a player won a four-setter winning three sets in tie-breaks (previously did it Todd Martin, Max Mirnyi and Marat Safin). “It’s a dream come true to win a first round in my first Grand Slam,” said Tomic. “I’m just thrilled that I could pull off a win today. With the crowd behind me, it was an unbelievable experience”.

In the second round Tomic will face Gilles Muller who survived an epic match with Feliciano Lopez. Muller won 6-3 7-6 4-6 4-6 16-14 after 4 hours 22 minutes. In the final set Muller didn’t face a break point, had break points in three service games of the Spaniard, first match point at 12:11. In the 30th game of the final set, Lopez was broken to love. It’s third longest match in the Australian Open history (Open Era) in terms of games – 72 (the record – 83 games – belongs to Andy Roddick and Younes El Aynaoui since 2003).

Also Lopez’ compatriot and Davis Cup teammate, David Ferrer played very long match but with better end. Ferrer needed almost 4 hours to overcome Dennis Gremelmayr 6-1 6-7 6-1 6-7 6-4. Ferrer wasted set point in both losing sets but converted first match point in the fifth set, and improves his great record in five-set matches to 10-2.

In the next round Ferrer will play the two-time Aussie Open quarterfinalist, Dominik Hrbaty who withstood 39 aces from John Isner (19 aces in the first set!). Hrbaty is playing 300th tournament on the main level. The other veteran, Fabrice Santoro knocked out former No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero in four sets, having 100% efficiency at break points (8/8).

The two big favorits in the bottom half of the draw, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic won their matches in straight sets but both were close to drop one set: Federer saved setpoint against Andres Seppi, Djokovic was losing 0:4 and 3:5 in third set against Andrea Stoppini. “I was a break down in two sets. Managed to come back, which is important. As defending champion there is a pressure. But it didn’t affect me today, no. I’m still trying to find the rhythm” said Djokovic.

First match in a Grand Slam evnet for three years has played Taylor Dent. The American came back recently after the 2 1/2 years break, caused by a fractured vertebrae. Dent lost in five sets to “lucky loser” Amer Delic.

Day 2

The main favorite for the title, Andy Murray needed only 45 minutes to advance to the second round. His opponent, Andre Pavel playing first ATP match since February 2008, was forced to withdraw due to a back injury. Pavel announced that he will finish career in Bucharest later this year.

In one of the most anticipated first round clashes, between past Australian Open finalists, Fernando Gonzalez overcame Lleyton Hewitt 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3. “I knew it was going to be tough against Lleyton,” said Gonzalez. “He’s a great player, a great competitor. This was the first official match of the year. So I’m happy the way that I did it, and a little bit tired. But it’s fine now.”

Very good form showed the best player in the world Rafael Nadal and last year’s runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Both players won one set 6-0 and hadn’t any problems in the other two stes. “I think I am OK,” said Nadal. “But I was for two months outside of competition, so maybe I need a little bit more matches to get the rhythm.” In the similar style won his match Fernando Verdasco a contender for a Top 10 player.

Victor Hanescu made one of the most impressive comebacks in the Grand Slam history. The Romanian lost first two sets easily (3-6 3-6) to Jan Hernych but managed to win another three (7-6 7-6 8-6) being in each of them on the edge of defeat: Hernych was serving for the match in the third and fifth set, had also one match point on serve in the tie-break of the third set, and another match point at 5:4 in the fourth set on Hanescu’s serve. The match lasted 4 hours 32 minutes, the longest match of this year’s tournament so far.

Also dramatic five-set matches (with the help of good service performance) won former Top 10 players, Ivan Ljubicic (25 aces against Kunitsyn) and Guillermo Canas (22 aces against Kindlmann). First five-set win in sixth trial notched Nicolas Alamgro (28 aces against Massu) who didn’t win a match in Melbourne in four previous attempts. Bad 5-set record (2-7) has improved Igor Andreev too, coming back from a 0-2 deficit against unexperienced young Canadian, Peter Polansky.

First Round

(1)Rafael Nadal (ESP) d. Christophe Rochus (BEL) 6-0 6-2 6-2

Roko Karanusic (CRO) d. Florent Serra (FRA) 6-3 1-6 6-3 3-6 6-3

Tommy Haas (GER) vs Eduardo Schwank (ARG) 6-3 6-3 6-4

(q)Flavio Cipolla (ITA) d. (29)Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) 4-6 6-2 7-6(7) 7-5

(4)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. Diego Junqueira (ARG) 6-7(5) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-4

Denis Istomin (UZB) d. Vince Spadea (USA) 6-2 7-5 6-4

Guillermo Canas (ARG) d. (q)Dieter Kindlmann (GER) 3-6 7-5 5-7 6-0 7-5

(13)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) d. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) 5-7 6-2 6-2 3-6 6-3

(12)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. Martin Vassallo-Arguello (ARG) 6-1 6-3 7-5

Stefan Koubek (AUT) d. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 6-3 6-2 6-2

Fabio Fognini (ITA) d. Andrei Goloubev (KAZ) 3-6 7-6(7) 6-4 6-2

(17)Nicolas Almagro (ESP) d. Nicolas Massu (CHI) 6-4 6-4 3-6 5-7 6-3

(25)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. Daniel Gimeno (ESP) 6-3 6-4 6-4

Mario Ancic (CRO) d. (q)Wayne Odesnik (USA) 7-5 6-4 4-6 6-2

Chris Guccione (AUS) d. Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-4

(6)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Pablo Andujar (ESP) 6-4 6-1 6-1

(4)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Andrei Pavel (ROU) 6-2 3-1 ret.

Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 6-4 7-6(3) 4-6 6-0

(q)Andreas Beck (GER) d. Colin Ebelthite (AUS) 7-5 6-1 6-0

(31)Jurgen Melzer (AUT) d. Kei Nishikori (JPN) 7-5 6-2 6-1

(22)Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) 3-6 6-3 6-4 6-4

(q)Michael Berrer (GER) d. Carsten Ball (AUS) 6-2 6-4 6-3

Arnaud Clement (FRA) d. Sergey Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-3 2-6 4-6 6-2 6-1

(14)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 6-0 6-2 6-2

(9)James Blake (USA) d. (LL)Frank Dancevic (CAN) 6-4 6-3 7-5

(q)Sebastien de Chaunac (FRA) d. Steve Darcis (BEL) 2-6 6-3 0-6 6-2 6-2

Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d. Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-3 6-2 6-3

(18)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. (q)Peter Polansky (CAN) 5-7 3-6 6-4 6-3 6-4

(q)Dudi Sela (ISR) d. (30)Rainer Schuettler (GER) 1-6 6-2 6-4 6-4

Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. Jan Hernych (CZE) 3-6 3-6 7-6(7) 7-6(2) 8-6 – 2 MP

Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) d. Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) 4-6 7-6(3) 7-6(7) 5-7 6-3

(5)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Juan Monaco (ARG) 6-4 6-4 6-0

(7)Andy Roddick (USA) d. (q)Bjorn Rehnquist (SWE) 6-0 6-2 6-2

(q)Xavier Malisse (BEL) d. Michael Llodra (FRA) 7-6(8) 6-1 6-1

Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) 6-3 6-2 6-7(5) 6-2

(32)Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Samuel Querrey (USA)

(21)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Bobby Reynolds (USA) 6-2 7-5 6-1

Viktor Troicki (SRB) d. Alberto Martin (ESP) 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-4

Yen-Hsun Lu (TPE) d. Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 6-3 7-5 6-4

(10)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. Marc Gicquel (FRA) 6-1 4-6 6-2 6-3

(16)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. Robert Kendrick (USA) 5-7 6-4 6-4 7-5

Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) d. Julien Benneteau (FRA) 6-3 7-6(5) 6-2

Simone Bolelli (ITA) d. Kristof Vliegen (BEL) 7-6(5) 7-6(3) 7-5

(23)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Samuel Groth (AUS) 6-7(3) 6-4 7-5 6-0

(28)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) d. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 6-2 4-1 ret.

(LL)Amer Delic (USA) d. Taylor Dent (USA) 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 6-4

Jeremy Chardy (FRA) d. Marcos Daniel (BRA) 6-4 6-4 6-1

(3)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (q)Andrea Stoppini (ITA) 6-2 6-3 7-5

(8)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. Michael Zverev (GER) 6-3 6-4 6-2

(q)Florian Mayer (GER) d. (q)Lamine Ouahab (ALG) 6-2 6-1 6-2

(WC)Bernard Tomic (AUS) d. Potito Starace (ITA) 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(5) 7-6(6)

Gilles Muller (LUX) d. (27)Feliciano Lopez (ESP) 6-3 7-6(5) 4-6 4-6 16-14

(19)Marin Cilic (CRO) d. Kevin Anderson (RSA) 6-3 6-2 6-7(4) 6-3

Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d. Oscar Hernandez (ESP) 4-6 6-1 6-3 4-6 6-0

(q)Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) d. John Isner (USA) 7-6(4) 2-6 6-2 7-5

(11)David Ferrer (ESP) d. Denis Gremelmayr (GER) 6-1 6-7(6) 6-1 6-7(4) 6-4

(15)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) d. Ivo Minar (CZE) 6-1 2-6 7-5 7-6(9)

Brydan Klein (AUS) d. (q)Bjorn Phau (GER) 6-4 6-3 4-6 6-3

Brian Dabul (ARG) d. Philipp Petzschner (GER) 6-1 6-2 6-4

(20)Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Robby Ginepri (USA) 6-4 6-4 6-3

(26)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Ivan Navarro-Pastor (ESP) 6-3 6-3 6-4

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d. Agustin Calleri (ARG) 3-6 7-6(5) 6-2 6-0

(q)Evgueni Korolev (RUS) d. Carlos Moya (ESP) 6-3 6-1 7-6(7)

(2)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1 7-6(4) 7-5

The Most From Host: Welcome to the Party Mr. Murray

While everybody may be talking about the 2008 US Open champion Roger Federer, I would like to talk about the new kid on the block, Andy Murray. Some may say that he played a fantastic US Open tournament, but is a flash in the pan, but I say no. You do not get to No. 4 in the world by being a flash in the pan.

Murray has really revamped his training schedule by adding a lot more fitness and still keeping his tennis regime. He is definitely not the same player that we have seen cramp in his matches two to three years ago. He has proved his mental toughness by beating Novak Djokovic (twice, Cincinnati & Montreal) and Rafael Nadal (US Open) in a space of two months. He also come through and won his first Masters Series event in Cincinnati.

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The only blurb on his schedule is the Olympics, where he lost to a player ranked No. 77 in the world named Yen-Hsun Lu from Taipei. You have to wonder where Murray’s focus and mind was to lose a match like this.

I do believe that Murray was totally overwhelmed by the situation of getting to his first major final at the 2008 US Open, as well as being content to just get there after beating Nadal. He played a great second set in the final but when Federer was still able to pull it out, Murray disappeared and was happy with the runner-up tag.

I will go out on a limb and say that Murray will win a major title in 2009 and I would not be surprised if it is the Australian.

Keep watching!

All Quiet On the Challenger Front

With Roland Garros qualifying taking place, this was a quiet week on the challenger circuit. The relatively weak draws allowed two players primarily competing on the futures circuit, George Bastl and Nina Bratchikova, to break through and score much needed challenger victories.

Yen Hsun-Lu of Taipei has had outstanding results on the challenger circuit this year, but has had problems closing the door in the final match. Last week proved to be no different as Lu reached his fourth consecutive challenger final at the $50,000 event in New Delhi, India, but lost 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in the championship match to Go Soeda of Japan. Soeda has also been a strong performer during the Asian swings of the challenger circuit this year, winning events in Kyoto, Japan and Busan, Korea.

The $50,000 challenger in Fergana, Uzbekistan, featured two players competing in their first challenger final of the year. In the end, Pavel Snobel of the Czech Republic prevailed 7-5, 6-3 over George Bastl of Switzerland. Bastl, who is best remembered for beating Pete Sampras in the legend’s final match at Wimbledon in 2002, has slipped to No. 380 in the world and competes primarily on the futures circuit. However, his form this week brings him slightly closer to his previous top 100 form.

At the $25,000 event in Nagano, Japan, Erika Takao of Japan completed her return from injury with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Jin-A Lee of Korea in the final. Takao, who has been high as No. 128 in the world, used her previous experience to overwhelm Lee throughout the contest; Takao was competing in her 10th challenger final while this was the first for Lee.

At the $25,000 challenger event in Moscow, Russia, Nina Bratchikova prevailed in the all Russian final against Ksenia Pervak, coming back from 5-3 in the final set to win by a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 score. Bratchikova is also in the main draw of this week’s challenger event in Russia.

The men retain the spotlight this week as top seeded Yen-Hsun Lu will look to reach his fifth consecutive challenger final at the $75,000 event in Izmir, Uzbekistan. Robert Kendrick of the United States leads the way at the $50,000 event in Carson, California, while Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia leads the way at the $35,000 challenger in Karlsruhe, Germany.

On the women’s side, Angela Haynes of the United States is the top seed this week at the $50,000 challenger in Carson, California. Teodora Mircic of Serbia is the top seed at the $25,000 event in Togliatti, Russia, Kyra Nagy of Hungary takes top billing at the $25,000 event in Galatina, Italy, while Junri Namigata of Japan is top seed at the $25,000 challenger in Gunma, Japan.