Sunday, January 31, 2010

Federer Wins 16th Grand Slam. Great Britain Keeps Waiting.


Moments ago Roger Federer won his 16th Grand Slam defeating Andy Murray in straight sets. In doing so Federer now holds 3 of the 4 Grand Slams (AO, Roland Garros, Wimbledon). Australia seems very biased towards Federer with various presenters calling Fed "the king" or "tennis royalty" (can't wait until Fed next reminds us of such accolades). The match was hardly that of a high quality match up with Murray failing to bring the same intensity to the match s he did against Nadal.

Great Britain, and Federer, heaped pressure upon Murray before the match up and Murray looked far from relaxed coming out on to Rod Laver arena. Throughout much of the match Murray didn't seem to be able to buy a first serve. Murray's forehand repeatedly let him down, particularly in the later stages of the match.

Murray squandered opportunities such as a break in the 3rd set and 6 set points in the 3rd set tie break, one of which he could have put away but decided to play with his forehand, netting it again.

It was always Federer's tournament. He essentially claimed it in organising the Hit for Haiti charity event which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the people in Haiti. Since then the God's seemed to smile on him once again with let cords and even challenges (very unusual for Federer) going his way.

But Murray was not in good form. He started repeatedly grabbing at his right thigh from the second set and his back (again) later in the tie break.

Poor Murray was very emotional in his runners up speech, but thankfully didn't fall apart the same way Federer did last year. One has to wonder how Murray will recover from this heart break, unable to continue his speech, despite the crowd cheering him, Murray stepped aside for Federer to point out it was his first Grand Slam as a father.

The tournament directors, after pointing out they weren't expecting tears from Federer (a bit mean to Murray when they had supported Feds outburst last year) then asking the Swiss star to take a lap of honour, again not the norm.

I can only hope that at future Grand Slams tournament directors/MC's etc are less biased in their comments and that Federer doesn't continue unchallenged because Rafael Nadal has returned to health to reclaim his throne as the King of Clay.

"I can cry like roger its just a shame I can't play like him... I'd like to thank my.... I'm done sorry" - Andy Murray

Federer And Murray Walk Out On Rod Laver Arena

The head to head between Murray and Federer stands at 6-4 in favour of Murray. The last time (and only time) they played in a Grand Slam final 18 months ago in the US Open when, as per usual, the Gods smiled on Federer giving him Murray in an exhausted state. Murray had played 3 consecutive days leading into the finals.

Federer often seems to get players who had been hot during the tournament but is exhausted by the time they make it into the final. The gifts of the world have been heaped on Federer and yet he continues his flippant remarks about his opponents - even to the point where firm Federer supporters notice.

"Federer has shown over the years an unfortunate propensity for flippant remarks about his rivals. He shelved the Muhammad Ali-like self-huzzahs when his quest for the all-time major record bogged down amid Rafael Nadal's endless crunching forehands, but now they're back." - Doug Perry

The bad news for Murray is that the skill and previous experience of Fed can't be denied. When he wins the first set he has won 47 of 48 matches at the Australian Open. Hopefully Murray can come out as aggressively as he did against Nadal. However, I still think it will, once again, be Federer in 4 sets.

Federer Continues The Mind Games

Federer is clearly trying to beat Murray before they even play by heaping on the pressure by constantly pointing out that Murray has to beat him, how good he is and how much Andy needs it in comparison to himself.

“It’s up to me who wins this title, especially against a player who is not that aggressive. Murray is strong enough and dangerous but does not drive me nuts.” "The pressure is on Andy because he is playing me. One small victory would change everything for him because he is then a champion of one major, but defeat will aggravate things. He really needs the title more than me.” - Roger Federer

So Federer's not doing much for himself in terms of appearing modest, instead in my eyes, he's becoming more obvious in his arrogance and I hope that people see it. His interviews frequently lack genuine praise for his opponent. Recently he claimed that the times that Murray has beaten him were only because he wasn't playing at his best for various reasons. A true champion would be more gracious in defeat, even if its true. You don't see Rafa Nadal robbing Soderling of his victory in Roland Garros by saying "It doesn't mean anything because I'm all messed up about my parents splitting up and both my knees are stuffed."

When Nadal withdrew against Murray the other day he made sure that he emphasised that the focus should be on Murray and the exceptional game he played. Federer could learn a thing or too about how to be a good loser from Nadal, then I might be able to resepect him more for his obvious ability because at the moment I can't respect him as a person, only as a player.

Murray, for his part, is trying not to bite.

“I have always been pretty respectful about his game. He’s probably the greatest player that’s ever played. But if every time he loses to me he thinks it’s because he hasn’t played his best, well, every time I have lost against him I don’t think I have played my best." - Andy Murray

I think Federer will win tonight but I hope Murray takes it from him. It wouldn't hurt to have someone else give him the reminder Nadal gave him this time last year.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Serena Too Powerful For Henin

It's been a worthwhile trip to the land Down Under for Serena Williams winning the women's doubles and singles titles. Tonight she defeated Justine Henin, and successfully defended her title from last year, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.

The overwhelming power of Serena was eventually too much for Henin, with Williams fastest serving coming in at 198kmph, an average men's first serve. Strangley, the average first service speed was the same for both players, 169kmph. Serena served 12 aces, hit 32 winners to 37 unforced errors compared to Justine's 4 aces, 28 winners and 32 unforced errors. Ultimately there was only 5 points separating the women.

Justine frequently struggled on serve, serving 6 double faults and repeatedly struggling with her ball toss or serving lets.

Serena ties with Billie Jean King with 12 Grand Slam singles titles.

Serena And Justine - The Story So Far

Serena Williams and Justine Henin have played many times before, 13 in fact, but never before in a Grand Slam final. They came close once before.

In the semi final of Roland Garros in 2003 the situation was reversed. Williams was the wild card returning from injury and blasting her way through the draw, destroying Maria Sharapova in her path to the semi's.

Bad blood was created between the two players in this match while Serena was serving 30-0 at 4-2 in the third set. Henin (then Henin-Hardenne) raised her hand, indicating she wasn't ready for Serena to serve and as a result Serena hit the ball into the net. What should have happened is that when the umpire didn't notice Henin's raised hand Henin should have said something to the umpire allowing Serena another 1st serve. She didn't. An outraged Williams then dropped serve and eventually the match. Henin then won the Roland Garros finals for the first time against Kim Clijsters.

While the wildcard dominance of Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin has again directed attention at the lack of depth in the women's tournaments, particularly at the inconsistent ball tosses and serves, the Williams sisters have consistently performed well at Grand Slams (and very few other places).

Venus and Serena have a particularly phenomenal record in singles and doubles in Grand Slam tournaments, and manage to do what a lot of other players don't - they have lives. They play when they want (therefore getting adequate rest and promoting career longevity), do what they want and peak when they want which is always for Grand Slams. Every time Serena has been in a final at the Australian Open she has won (always on odd years) so she is the favourite for tonight's match.

Henin on the other hand, last played an AO final in 2006 and retired in the middle of being thumped by Amelie Mauresmo, robbing Mauresmo of a deserved victory and celebration, complaining of a stomach virus. While she said she wasn't able to continue to play she was able to remain on court during the set up for the presentation. If she was that ill (think Novak Djokovic) she would have gone off court to be sick.

While both players deny there is still any bad blood the match is bound to be full of fireworks, with Serena seemingly being the only player on the WTA who can really challenge the returning women from Belgium.

With their head to head record being 7-6 in favour of Serena my pick for tonight is Serena in 3 sets.

What Happened Today?

Today Hit For Haiti was replayed on channel 7 to remind people to donate to assist the cause in Haiti as well as create viewing of a hilarious charity match that was previously only seen on live streaming from the Australian Open website.

The program also served as a reminder to viewers that they are able to bid on their favourite players racquets with the proceeds also going to Haiti.

As its stands the bidding is at;

Roger Federer - $14,511.11
Rafael Nadal - $5,000
Novak Djokovic - $2,201.11
Kim Clijsters - $1,500
Jelena Dokic - $721

All bids are in US dollars.

Also later today is the Women's finals match between Justine Henin and Serena Williams. Their head to head match up stands at 7-6 in favour of Serena.

Donations can be made at www.pih.org

Other charities supported by tennis stars include; Malaria No More http://www.malarianomore.org.uk/splash (Andy Murray, Rafa Nadal, Feli Lopez, Carlos Moya), Organ Donation (Rafa Nadal), Brisbane Children's Hospital (Kim Clijsters), support of African communities (Roger Federer) and Build African Schools http://www.buildafricanschools.org/ (Serena Williams).

Hewitt Has More Hip Surgery

2 days ago in Hobart Lleyton Hewitt underwent surgery on his right hip for a problem he picked up at the Hopman Cup earlier this month. Hewitt has previous had hip surgery (late 2008) for a torn labrum in his left hip.

Lleyton, who has also been having trouble with tendinitis in his right knee since the second half of the 2009 season, hopes to return to the professional circuit in May for later part of the clay court season including Roland Garros.

Hewitt, 28, said in a press conference today that the scans he had before the Australian Open indicated he'd need surgery and if he tried to manage it conservatively, as he tried to with the left hip unsuccessfuly, that he would end up missing the US Open and hardcourt season. He also said he had no intention of retiring despite his injuries.

Hewitt indicated that the injury to his hip was the reason for his recent loss against Marcos Baghdatis in Sydney.

"I was in a reasonable amount of pain but I've played with pain before ... I'm able to block it out as much as possible, but against Baghdatis in Sydney it wasn't good and that's why I had to fall away at that match and concentrate on the Australian Open."

Hewitt is currently ranked 22.

Federer Fancies Himself Against Murray

Roger Federer showed in his post match press conference how much he fancies himself and his chances against Murray in the final on Sunday.

Q. Normally the guy who plays you has nothing to lose at all. Andy is in a slightly different predicament. Do you think that will affect his game at all?

ROGER FEDERER: Uhm, don't know. I mean, look, he's in his second Grand Slam final now. I think the first one's always a bit tougher than the second one. But now that he didn't win the first one, I think doesn't help, you know, for the second one around.

Plus he's playing, you know, me, who's won many Grand Slams prior to that, been able to win here three times so I know what it takes and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage.

I don't feel like the pressure's really on me having to do it again, because I did it before. I think he really needs it more than I do, you know. So I think the pressure's big on him.

But we'll see how he's gonna handle it. It's not going to be easy for him, that's for sure.

Q. You've won finals against Andy, but he's got the better record. Why do you think that is?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, because, first of all, he's a good player. I don't think otherwise you're just gonna start having good records against me.

But, no, without having any ‑‑ taking anything away from him, but I think a few times he played me I wasn't at my very, very best. I think I played him on a couple of occasions. Dubai the first time we played, I just came back from resting, my mono, and everything. I know some don't like to hear it. Some still don't believe me for some reason.

I played him maybe at times when I wasn't at my very, very best. We had some close matches on many occasions where I thought I was in control and I ended up giving the match away by making errors of my own. That was definitely because of his play and the way he plays.

So I think the head‑to‑head could be quite different. But that's why I don't really care too much about how the head‑to‑head stands. Every match is played differently. Best‑of‑five is anyway very different. He's done well against me to win so many matches when he was able to beat me when he was supposed to.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Nadal Out For 4 Weeks

The scans of Rafael Nadal's knee have been assessed and a press statement just released states that the Spaniard been advised to head home to Mallorca to rest completely for 2 weeks and he is allowed to return to play 2 weeks after that.

Apparently it is not a recurrence of his chronic tendinitis. MRI showed a small tear in the back part of his knee (area still unknown at time of writing).

“After two weeks and depending on the results of the different tests and controls, he will steadily resume his sporting activity with a total recovery time to resume competition in fours weeks.” Dr Ruiz-Cotorro said.

Nadal is said to be relieved his tendinitis wasn't rearing its head again.

“I feel good and I am only thinking now of recovering well. My main goal right now is to get ready again and fit to play the upcoming events once I am able to compete."

The current world number 2, who will be demoted to number 4 on Monday, will miss the Rotterdam tournament.

A 4 week break from tournament may make him able to play the first round of Davis Cup starting March 3rd. Given that Davis Cup commitment requires a few days of training the start of play, hopefully Nadal will give himself a bit more time and return for his defence of Indian Wells starting March 11th.

Federer Destroys Tsonga


If you had bought tickets to tonights semi final match between Roger Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga you might have felt hard done by unless all you wanted was Federer abuse Tsonga with his forehand. Federer dominated from the first to the last point, looking to be in incredible form for the finals match up against Andy Murray. When Federer's playing like this it's hard to see Murray doing what Nadal and del Potro have managed to do.

Tsonga looked lethargic from the beginning after playing 2 consecutive 5 set matches (his first 2 ever) and failed to bring any energy and excitement to the match like he normally does. Federer was striking the ball incredibly cleanly. Jo-Wilfried however, dumped ball after ball into the net and what didn't go into the net seemed to sail wide. Tsonga also seemed to lack his normal power and almost handed the match to Federer in 1hr 28min.

Federer won 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.

In his post match interview with Jim Courier Federer suggested that maybe Jo was more mentally fatigued than physically which started to show at the end. Federer also said that he feels more emotionally relaxed since winning Roland Garros.

If Federer wins on Sunday he will be winning his first Grand Slam as a father - a feit very rarely accomplished. If Murray wins he will be the first Brit to win one in "150,00 years" according to Federer, or 74 to be more accurate. It will be Federer's 18th Slam final in the past 19 slams.

Grand Slam Statistics

Endlessly we hear how Roger Federer is the greatest player of all time with his 15 Grand Slams. He is a brilliant player, no argument, and for a long time he went relatively unchallenged, but is he the holder of the most Grand Slams? Is all the fuss warranted?

To be fair 15 Grand Slams when it's a best of sets situation is a phenomenal achievement. Equally impressive is that this years Australian Open is his 23 consecutive Grand Slam final.

Who has more Grand Slams that Rog?
- Margaret Court holds 24 singles titles.
- Steffi Graf holds 22 singles titles.
- Martina Navratilova held 18 singles, 31 women's doubles and 10 mixed doubles titles

And of current active players Roger may hold more than any other but Serena Williams holds more in total. After taking the women's doubles title again with sister Venus today Serena now has 11 titles in singles (possibly 12 tomorrow), 12 in women's doubles and 2 in mixed doubles.

Who's greater? Who has the best record? You decide.

Murray Downplays Back Problem


"I didn't realise my mouth was that big." That was Andy Murray's response to seeing a replay of the shot that changed the momentum in his match last night against Marin Cilic.

His response to questions about his back pain was also interesting.

Q. The TV coverage highlighted you kind of clenching at your back. Any concern there?

ANDY MURRAY: Even at the start of the tournament, my back has just been stiff. The courts, they're just really sticky. With it being only the first, second tournament of the year, you know, you expect to have little niggles. I'm sure a lot of the other players do, as well, because the season is so long, we don't have a whole lot of time off.

It's not going to be a problem in the final. It's just a little bit stiff.

Seems there is an issue after all. Hopefully it is as minor as he says.

Security Continues To Be An Issue At Grand Slams

The professional tennis tour has come under fire recently for an excessively long season leading to numerous injuries in players, and making it difficult for players to overcome these injuries and prepare for the new season (think Dinara Safina, Rafa Nadal) in the minuscule off-season they have. Today the Sydney Morning Herald published "Where is the love? Aces reach breaking point in court ordeal" commenting that the high profile player retirements and injuries caused by the long season will ultimately be detrimental to the game.

It gets worse.

Last night a Croatian supporter got onto Rod Laver arena to applaud the efforts of Marin Cilic in his match against Andy Murray. The man strolled past Murray after Cilic shook the umpires hand and then turned and casually walked back to where he'd come from before security even noticed.

While every fan would no doubt love to have access to their favourite player, there's a time and a place and leaping over the boundaries and charging on to the court is not the time. It is also unsafe for the players and can cause a drop in performance. In the Roland Garros final in 2009, Roger Federer was charging away with the lead when a man jumped on court and tried to put a flag on Federer who covered his head and eventually ran away. It took security quite a while to chase the man across the court and 3 men to eventually secure the offender. Federer then lost the next game and looked a bit shaken.

At the US Open, also in 2009, Rafael Nadal was held and kissed by a man while he was changing his shirt after a match. While Nadal seemed unfazed by the fan who just wanted to tell Nadal he loved him it does present a bigger problem.

That brings us to the 2010 Australian Open men's semi final match between Murray and Cilic. Cilic later said the man was just excited and shook his hand but while it seems innocent enough it also seems far to easy to leap the boundaries and get to the players before security gets to you. It just makes me think of Monica Seles every time.

In 1993, in a tournament in Germany, Monica Seles was stabbed by a German fan of Steffi Graf between the shoulder blades. The wound was 1.5cm deep. It took Seles 2 years to make it back on court but she was never truly comfortable again and struggled with depression afterwards. She had been stabbed because the fan wanted to help Graf get the number one ranking by removing her opposition.

The ITF and tournament organisers need to find a way to protect players better.

Nadal's Knee Update.

Rafa Nadal is currently in Barcelona after attending hospital for scans to determine the full extent of his injuries. Results will be made available to the public this evening (morning Spanish time) once it has been determined when he will next play.

The Spaniard has released a video statement via his Facebook page as his official website is currently under construction.

To view the video go to http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/Nadal?ref=ts

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Is Murray Injured?

It is 6-3, 2-2 in favour of Marin Cilic at the moment in their semi final Australian Open clash and he was just poking himself in the back as if to loosen a muscle or a vertebrae. I commented that he was doing this in training repeatedly when I was in Melbourne watching him train on Saturday. It seems his back has become an issue because Murray has done it 3 times in the last few games and for whatever reason he's not playing with the same gusto he did against Nadal.

With people thinking that this is Andy Murray's time it looks as though his body has a protest to make and once again, Roger Federer is the most likely beneficiary. Another injury to add to the growing list.

What Happened Today?

- Serena Williams and Justine Henin ended China's hopes of a Chinese finalist today. Henin beat Zheng 6-0, 6-1 and Williams beat Na Li 7-6, 7-6. Between Roger Federer, Serena Williams and the comeback queens tennis is getting a little predictable.

- Hit For Haiti will be broadcast on Saturday at 3pm on channel 7. Donate money at www.pih.org

- Novak Djokovic lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the wee hours of this morning in a 5 set match that saw Novak escorted to the bathrooms on a medical time out to be sick.

- Marin Cilic has taken the first set from Andy Murray in their semi-final. It is the first set Murray has lost this tournament. Cilic has had 18 hours of court time to Murray's 10 hours.

What Is Kinesio Tape?

Last night on the channel 7 coverage of the Australian Open Jim Courier was discussing Novak Djokovic's hamstring taping. The explanation given was a little bit lacking.... So here's another one.

Developed by Dr Kenzo Kase, K-taping, involve the precise application of the tape to facilitate different goals ranging from muscle strength, muscle length to management of swelling or lymphoedema, scar management and healing of bruises. It can do all of this and reduce pain by creating a lift on the skin, taking pressure off pain receptors or off lymph nodes to improve clearance and improve function. To facilitate the ability of the tape to create these convolutions the tape should be applied on stretch.

The tape has been very popular at this years season starting tournaments. Players using it include:

- Elena Dementieva used it on her calf muscle at the Hopman Cup
- Mardy Fish had his adductors and his knee taped in Sydney as he comes back to the tour after knee surgery
- Lleyton Hewitt had been wearing it on his knee for months
- Justine Henin is playing the Australian Open with tape on her adductors
- Maria Kirilienko had her hamstrings taped as did Novak Djokovic
- Na Li had it all over her leg
- Gael Monfils has been using it on his shoulder

Other players who have previously used it include:

- Rafa Nadal and Fernando Verdasco for abdominal tears in last years US Open
- Tommy Robredo for a knee problem in Madrid in 2008
- Fernando Gonzalez for patella tendinitis

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Injury Seems Common At Australian Open

It's only the start of the season and already the players are taped up and seem to be struggling to maintain their fitness. Simply put, the WTA and ATP require them to play too much, particularly the men.

- Rafa Nadal retired from his match against Andy Murray with reoccurring knee pain.
- Serena Williams has her thigh and calf strapped heavily.
- Andy Roddick had numbness and pins and needles in his arm.
- Maria Kirilenko had hip problems and K-tape all over her hamstrings.
- Novak Djokovic is wearing K-tape on his hamstrings.
- Justine Henin is wearing K-tape on her adductors for a mild tear.
- Na Li is covered in K-tape
- Nico Almalgro played with a broken wrist.
- Jie Zheng wore an ankle brace.
- Juan Martin del Potro had his elbow strapped.
- Lleyton Hewitt knee was heavily K-taped
- Dinara Safina pulled out with a reoccurring back injury
- Marcos Baghdatis retired with bicep tendinitis.
- Mikhail Youzhny retired with a wrist injury.
- Juan Carlos Ferrero arrived in Melbourne after and ankle injury in New Zealand.
- Gilles Simon couldn't even play round 1 at the AO because of his knees.
- Robin Soderling complained of elbow problems at Kooyong leading into the Open.
- Gael Monfils had shoulder issues.

.... And they're just the ones I can think of off the top of my head!

Novak Djokovic Set To Take World Number 2 Spot

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will once again be separated as world number 1 and 2 due to the Spaniards failure to defend his Australian Open title. When the AO started there was just 1000 points separating Novak Djokovic and Rafa. Roger and Rafa have only been briefly separated once in the past few years by Andy Murray last year.

Novak will now take the number 2 spot on Monday after Rafa's points are deducted if Murray doesn't win the tournament. In the event of Murray winning the tournament Murray would be number 2, Novak 3, Rafa 4.

Roger Federer Defeats Nikolay Davydenko In 4 Sets

Roger Federer has escaped the much hyped match up with Nikolay Davydenko, winning in 4 sets, 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, 7-5. This means Roger is now in his 23rd consecutive Grand Slam semi final - an exceptional statistic of consistent play.

Davydenko came out firing running away with the first set and with momentum on his side early in the second as Fed struggled to cope with the windy conditions, Davydenko's fire power and the setting sun. To try and pause some of the momentum, and get the shade to pass over the court to make it easier for him to see, Roger took a bathroom break. Cameras followed him coming back from the loo at snails pace.

When Jim Courier asked him in the post match interview why he was in so slow to get back to the court he explained his reasons (as above) before hastily adding he also needed to use the bathroom and he never uses bathroom breaks and thought now was a good time to use one. If he never needs to use them... maybe slightly poor form using one for game play purposes??

Either way Federer lifted and maintained his game while Davydenko went through phases of good and great play with the Swiss maestro coping better with the good than the great play.

Federer's next opponent will be either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Novak Djockovic

Rafael Nadal's Knee Problems

Rafael Nadal is not the type of athlete who gives up but last night his right knee once again dictated play. There has been widespread coverage of Nadal's knee problems, particularly over the last 12 months but the fact that they didn't even let him complete his third tournament of the year without issue is a worrying sign. Nadal is heading back to Spain for further investigation, although the Spaniard is optimistic.

"I think going to be OK."

But then Rafa's not going to say otherwise. What Andy Murray said is perhaps a little more telling.

"I didn't realize it was such a big problem. Yeah, I was very surprised 'cause, you know, I've seen Rafa play matches where, you know, he's obviously been in a lot of pain and discomfort, and he's played on.

Here last year, you know, he won back‑to‑back five‑set matches in the semis and finals. His knee is obviously sore enough that what happened last year, he had to miss Wimbledon. That's a shame, because I obviously don't know how bad his knees are. But right at the start of the year, it's not really the best start for him."

The problem with patella tendinitis, or tendinitis generally, is that it becomes chronic quite easily and for a tennis player to not be able to predict how their knees are going to feel on any given day affects confidence. It affects their ability to push off the ground and create a powerful serve, their ability to sprint and retrieve balls, slide, stay low on grass and generally just play.

Inflammation occurs in the muscle and tendon and micro tears and degeneration follows making each subsequent episode harder to recover from and is caused by overload of the quadriceps. In tennis it's impossible to play and minimise usage of the quads, unless you're Ivo Karlovic and serve 30+ aces a match. It is even more impossible to play Nadal's style of grinding, brutal, fight to the death tennis and not create a chronic problem given the lack of rest the players get with the current season. Nadal's career will absolutely be shortened by this reoccurring injury.

What can Rafa do? He can do what he did last year and pop anti-inflammatory's, have daily physio and continue to play until he works himself into a bigger hole, having pain in both knees, or he can do what he did last night and just stop. Nadal needs to rest his knees properly for a considerable length of time, play shorter seasons and if possible reduce his hard court appearances. At the very least he needs to adjust his schedule to allow more small breaks during the year rather than play the same grueling clay court schedule every year. If the ATP wont change the schedule Nadal should just stop showing up to some tournaments and maybe then they'll do something. Sure there are financial and point penalties for such behaviour but he doesn't need the money and will lose even more if 2009 repeats itself.

If Nadal continues he's looking at possible surgery to remove the degeneration, injection of platelets to encourage healing or just repeated loss of play due to injury. He will never be able to completely change his style of play so I can see why people asking him this question endlessly drives him insane. He has been continuously making effort to be more aggressive to end points earlier and beef up his serve to get more cheap points but ultimately every time Nadal steps on court his knees cop a beating.

Hopefully he's learnt from last year and wont make the mistake of returning to play too soon. He could be one of the greatest tennis players we've ever seen but if he's not careful his career will very soon be over as much as it pains me to say it. Tennis needs him. There is no substitute for Nadal.

Q. Could you let us know what the condition is, what the latest story is with the knee. It's very unusual for you to stop during a match.

RAFAEL NADAL: Yes, well, is not a lot of history because was during the match. Was in the end of the second set in one drop. And I feeled similar thing to what I had last year.

And, yes, after that I can't go down after that, no? So was impossible to win the match. When I have the chance to play, I never retired. Anyway, like I know I going to lose like I did in Rotterdam like last year. I say sorry to Andy for that.

Q. Are there any changes you're going to make to your training style or your playing style?

RAFAEL NADAL: Don't start, guys, with these questions right now. I think is not the right moment. I think I changed the style to play. If you see my matches 2005 or 2004, 2006, I run a lot compared to now, no?

What Happened Today?

- Everyone's still talking about the retirement of Rafael Nadal from his match against Andy Murray. Hopefully he did the smart thing and retired before he could create too much damage unlike last year when he continued to play on sore knees - an error (maybe someone in his team should have just said 'stop') that cost him the chance to defend his Wimbledon title and the number 1 ranking. The fact that he seemed to have found his form again on the same night he got the knee pain back isn't a good sign as to what his knees can tolerate.

- Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka are currently playing a repeat of last years match where Azarenka retired with dizziness and vomiting. Azarenka does look scarily like a 5 year old going to a party in her little pink frilly dress.

- Na Li defeated Venus Williams in 3 sets adding to the Chinese presence in the semi-finals. Na Li and Jie Zheng are the first Chinese to simultaneously make it to a Grand Slam semi final

- Marin Cilic reckons he can survive another 5 setter... Good luck getting Murray to 5 sets.

- Later today Roger Federer will take on Nikolay Davydenko and Novak Djockovic will take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Rafa's Knee Buckles. Fortune Favours Murray.

From the second the Australian Open 2010 draw came out all anyone could talk about was a possible Murray VS Nadal quarterfinal. When the players stepped out on to court they didn't disappoint. Both players played an aggressive warm up, thumping and smashing the ball at each other.

The first point of the match opened with Nadal giving Murray a piece of his own medicine using the drop shot. Murray responded and asserted himself on the serve of Nadal, standing on the baseline to receive his first serve, and inside the baseline to receive the second serve. Murray was obviously planning to punish any ball that Rafa hit short. A bad mid point challenge put Nadal's first service game under early pressure, eventually he held, both players then swapping breaks.

Throughout the match Murray used a serve and volley aggressive style of play to cut point short and take time away from Nadal. Let cords and challenges from Nadal seemed to be off by millimeters, from Murray they landed just in. It seemed from the outset that no matter how well the Spaniard played Murray was either just fast enough to get there or Lady Luck was on his side. Murray's concentration never slipped. Until Rafa flexed knee late in the second set.

At one point Rafa fell after serving but appeared OK, but the sign of the Spaniard flexing his knee and then calling the trainer in the middle of his service game was not a good sign. Rafa then looked glum in the first three games of the third set. Murray relentless continued to change pace, volley and run Nadal. Nadal retired, unable to continue.

When the trainer came out Nadal said that he had felt pain in the second set and it hadn't improved as the game wore on and that he was having trouble pushing off. This was something he complained about in Rotterdam last year when he had 'fatigue' problem after the AO last year. He then didn't look right coming off the hard court circuit and entering the clay court season even though, for the most part he was dominant. For Rafa Nadal to retire when he only, theoretically, had 3 more games to play is a bad sign. When he played Murray in the finals of Rotterdam he didn't pull out despite Murray saying that Rafa was essentially playing on one leg. There is no stronger competitor than Nadal, so Nadal retiring doesn't bode well for the Spaniard.

It is truly unfortunate that Rafa is injured again because he was just starting to get some confidence back, and tonight looked like he had finally found his form, and this setback will surely dent his confidence. He is currently 1000 points ahead of Novak Djokovic on the ATP ranking system. How this injury will effect his ranking and the other points he has to defend from his excellent season start from last year , remains to be seen.

To be fair Murray was definitely the better player, even with luck, and more that a little bit of bad luck for Nadal. Murray was aggressive, consistent and ruthless in the execution of a game plan. He will surely beat a tired Cilic in the next round, having not dropped dropped a set on route to the semi finals. Who will meet Murray in the finals remains to be seen.

I hope for Nadal's sake he has a quick recovery and a quick return to form because he was the reason tennis became interesting again after years of Federer domination. Tennis just wasn't the same last season while he was out injured and regaining form.

Roddick Goes Down Fighting

Andy Roddick went down fighting today against Marin Cilic losing 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3. Despite having some neural symptoms in his hand, the trainer suggested from a compressed nerve at T1 (bottom of the neck. 1st vertebrae of mid back), Roddick valiantly fought back from 2 sets down despite visible pain. On points lost that would normally irritate Roddick he looked more pained than annoyed.

Cilic worked hard to get to today's quarterfinal, playing 5 set matches against Bernard Tomic and Juan Martin del Potro. Both Roddick and Cilic would have been feeling their legs by the end of the match, surely Cilic more so. Roddick continued to battle despite his pain, being force to hit the ball flatter because his shoulder pain and pins and needles meant he wasn't able to control the ball as much as he would normally. He had to play more aggressively to try and keep points shorter, with his normal full pace serves creating face grimacing pain.

Cilic will have to recover and refuel to play the winner of tonight's Murray/Nadal match, both of whom will be able to recover from their match and will take advantage of a tired Cilic. With both Nadal and Murray currently doing intense, high quality battle, you would have to favour Nadal and Murray to take Cilic out.

"All signs at this point are good. Sounds like something, you know, whether it was a nerve that was compressed or something, I don't know, cutting off something. But they don't think it's going to be anything too serious long‑term." - Andy Roddick

Justine Henin Passes Petrova Test

Justine Henin found herself shaking hands with Nadia Petrova today, having beaten the woman who annihilated Kim Clijsters, booking herself a place in the semi finals of the Australian Open. Henin, who took the first set in a tie break, fought her way back from a 0-3 deficit in the second to seal a straight sets victory 7-6, 7-5.

Henin looked dominant and in form when it mattered most, ending point quickly at the net, maintaining her focus and intensity on the important points, taking control of the match. She admitted that she was somewhat low on energy, this being only her second tournament back on the professional circuit, her focus and will to fight is as strong as ever.
"The last few days, that took me a lot of energy. It was important today I wasn't that long on the court. Even if it was two sets close, it wasn't that physical. So I'm glad about that.
First the bad thing was to play at 11, but now it's a good thing because I can recover"
Henin has now won 13 of the pairs 15 meetings and next faces Jie Zheng of China for a spot in the finals.

Chinese Women Jie Zheng And Na Li Make History


Na Li and Jie Zheng have become the first Chinese women to make it through to Grand Slam quarterfinals. Zheng this morning took it one step further, defeating Russian Maria Kirilenko 6-1, 6-3. While the Russian received medical time outs to attend to what looked like a pelvis and hamstring problem, Zheng was more powerful and precise, blasting Kirilenko off the court.

While Kirilenko was clearly suffering discomfort in her hip, she served 2 aces, had 18 winners, 22 unforced errors and a total of 40 points won. Zheng on the other hand had just 9 unforced errors and 59 total points one, showing her clear dominance in the match.

Compatriot Na Li faces Venus Williams tomorrow to see if she too can make it through to the semi finals.

Meet Fernando Gonzalez's Girlfriend

Chilean Fernando Gonzalez debuted his new girlfriend on a 'romantic' Yarra River in Victoria cruise attended by the media. Daniela Castillo has been the first significant girlfriend Gonzalez has had since parting ways with fellow tennis player Gisela Dulko last year, she is also a pop singer and actress.

Dulko and Gonzalez had an occasionally on-off relationship over 2008/9, with Dulko apparently still sporting a 'Fernando' tattoo.