Monday, May 31, 2010

Juan Martin Del Potro Begins Slide Down Rankings

Juan Martin del Potro has begun his slide down the world rankings. Last week he was number 5 and this week number 6. After Roland Garros he will have slid even further down the charts. Moving into the number 5 spot is Nikolay Davydenko who is also out injured but expected to return to the tour in a matter of weeks.

Last year del Potro reached the semi-finals of Roland Garros, gaining 720 points in the process, all of which he will lose next Monday. Depending on the results of Robin Soderling and Fernando Verdasco, del Potro will most likely slip to number 8 or 9 in the rankings.

Juan Monaco To Avoid Surgery

It has been revealed that Argentine Juan Monaco will avoid wrist surgery. While he was complaining of wrist pain in Madrid, receiving some Kinesio taping from a footballer friends physio, no one realized how serious the injury was until he revealed that doctors did not want him to play the clay court season.

A Spanish statement released on Juan's website roughly translates to: Pico returned to the country after the end of his tour of Paris. Having just arrive he has chosen to formally announce his decision not to operate on his wrist. In his own words 'After finishing the tour at Roland Garros, I'm in Buenos Aires in a recovery phase. I am encouraged because with my medical team we have decided not to operate on my sore wrist.

Instead I plan to do two weeks of Kinesiology to try and heal the lesion in as little time as possible and as efficiently as possible. If all goes well, the plan is to return to Wimbledon, but in my mind the most important thing is to find form for the Davis Cup against Russia. That is my primary goal.'

(Keep in mind this is not a direct quote this is my Spanish being stretched to translate)

Monaco used his Facebook site to annouonce the news in English.

"I have a good news, im not doing any surgery on my wrist, its time to recover well . gracias a todos por preocuparse !! thank you all for caring !"

Novak Djokovic Through To Quarterfinals But Possibily Injured.

Novak Djokovic has moved through to the quarterfinals today after a fourth round, four set win over America's Robby Ginepri, winning 6-4, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Ginepri had a chance to go up triple break point in the 5th game of the first set with Djokovic struggling with his second serve in the heavier conditions, but failed to follow a beautiful lob in. Djokovic seemed to, once again, be heaving air in between point, which he has done regularly this clay court season.

Novak often struggles with his breathing in hotter climates, but the windy and rainy conditions in Paris has meant that his breathing shouldn't be an issue. Despite having nasal surgery previously, and time off a few weeks ago to manage his allergies, Djokovic still appeared to be struggling.

The American dictated points from the baseline, pushing Djokovic side to side, keeping his erorr count just a little bit lower than the Serb until he had double break point in the 9th game with things tied at 4-4. Djokovic saved one point with a beautiful held volley before Ginepri pushed a backhand slice long. Djokovic managed to volley his way to a game point but after the point his mouth hung open, desperately drawing air in. Ginepri through in a wild forehand to allow Novak to go ahead 5-4. As the world number three wandered to the chair he held they right side of his back as he sat down.

With 30 points won by each player in the first set it took Djokovic just over 40 minutes to claim the first set 6-4, hard work looking at the fact the Ginepri was serving 83% of first serves in.

In the 3rd game of the second set what should have been a put away volley for Djokovic found it's way into the net giving Ginepri an early break and a 2-1 lead. When Djokovic pushed a backhand wide in the seventh game Ginepri broke the world number three for a second time and positioned himself to serve for the set at 5-2.

An entertaining moment allowed an insight into the mind of Gineperi, who after slipping over and landing on his stomach, proceeded to do a few light-hearted push ups. Unfortunately for the American, the push ups didn't seem to help, as a very rare error gave Djokovic an early break and a 2-0 lead. Ginepri was unable to stop the rot, letting Djokovic run away with a 5-4 lead.

An awkward movement in the fourth set saw Djokovic grab his left thigh, but he worked hard, running Ginepri far and wide to break in the opening game. Djokovic reached for his left lower back multiple times during the course of match, again doing so as he tried to serve, having earlier reached for the right side. With a double break in hand things were looking pretty dismal for the American and Djokovic secured the win in 2 hours 17 minutes.

In the quarterfinals Novak will face the winner of Melzer and Gabashvili.

Berdych Beats Murray And Books A Quarterfinal Position

Tomas Berdych has, as predicted, defeated Andy Murray 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 for a place in the quarterfinals where he will face Mikhail Youzhny. After multiple break point chances Berdych finally broke in the seventh game of the first set, taking it 6-4 in just over 30 minutes. Berdych broke again for an early 2-0 lead in the second set before Murray responded. The match was then interrupted by a rain delay, one of many this week, forcing the players off the court for almost 40 minutes.

Murray struggled to find any significant rhythm to challenge Berdych and began muttering to himself, again appearing to struggle with the mental side of the game. His frustration was so obvious that even Berdych's coach commented on it during the rain delay. "My coach told me when the match was suspended, 'He's looking like he doesn't want to play.' Maybe that's his style. Maybe he wants make his opponent go to sleep or whatever. But it didn't work for him today and I'm happy for that."

Murray was displeased with the conditions of play with the soggy court and heavy balls, having the same complaint as Andy Roddick. Even Berdych said eh was surprised by how soggy and brown the balls became.  “I was really surprised about what happened after just a few games with the balls. They were dirty with clay. It was like all brown. It was really tough to see from the beginning. The court was really wet.”

Berdych will now face Mikhail Youzhny for a place in the semi finals.

"I didn't really get frustrated until the end of the second set. You need to be solid and stable to hang in there. I got myself back into it but struggled when we came back out from the rain delay. But he played a good match." - Andy Murray

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sharapova Goes Down Shrieking

Roger Federer seems to get early matches scheduled, always on centre court, always winning the coin toss (and usually the match), and always missing the rain, while Rafael Nadal gets bumped to Suzanne Lenglen and Justine Henin suffers multiple matches where play was suspended at the end of the day.

When play resumed today Justine Henin and Maria they were at one set all and ready to start the final, and decisive set. Sharapova quickly broke and then almost secured a double break, getting triple break point, but even with an occasional left handed forehand she was unable to convert the opportunity to go ahead 3-0.

In windy conditions that saw Sharapova don a long sleeved outfit, the Russian struggled on serve, allowing Henin to recover the break and level at 2-2. Suddenly Sharapova was looking at a way to stop the rot after Henin reeled off 5 consecutive games to take her to 4-2, just 2 games from the quarterfinals. Great depth and a lot of screaming helped Sharapova worm her way into Henin's service game, securing the break back after Henin served a double fault.

Sharapova shrieked and shrieked as she crunched shots onto the line in the eight game before dumping a forehand in the net to bring up another break point for Henin. A beautiful return, followed by a short response from Sharapova allowed Henin to step in a smack a backhand winner and get a chance to serve for the match.

After just over 2 hours of play over two days Henin finally made it through to the fourth round with the 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 victory.

Dementieva Destroys Scheepers For Quarterfinal Position

Elena Dementieva, who struggled with a calf injury in the third round, has bolted into the quarterfinals in Paris after defeating Chanelle Scheepers 6-1, 6-3. A second serve that was out by well over a meter gave Dementieva the first set in just 30 minutes.

Scheepers put up more of a battle in the second set but was eventually surpassed by the Russian in just 74 minutes.

Dementieva's calf will have a tough test in the quarterfinals against either Venus Williams or Nadia Petrova.

Fernando Verdasco Hangs Tough As The Armada Falters. Nadal Critical Of Ferrer

Rafael Nadal, Nico Almagro and Fernando Verdasco are keeping the hopes of Spain alive in Paris after Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer bowed out in the third round in edition to the early demise of Tommy Robredo.

David Ferrer was defeated 6-4, 6-0, 7-6 by Austrian Jurgen Melzer in what Nadal referred to as 'kamikaze' tennis while Ferrero fell in a more respectable five set battle against Robby Ginepri. Ginepri walked away with the 7-5, 6-3, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4 victory, after the Spaniard struggled with conditions.

Nadal later discussed his compatriots defeat. "It was a surprise that Juan Carlos lost, and also I think David played in a kamikaze way, and it was difficult for him to stop on time. David played too flat."

Fernando Verdasco also found himself in a five set battle that lasted just over 4 hours. Verdasco eventually beat Philipp Kohlscrieber 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 despite receiving treatment for a hand blister (too much clay court play) and after breaking a big toe nail. "I broke my big toenail and it did hurt like hell, I was almost crying."

Nadal Beats Hewitt In Roland Garros Third Round Again

In a rematch of last years match at the same point in the tournament, Rafael Nadal has again defeated Australia's Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. In defeating the Australian former world number 1, Nadal has notched up his 18th consecutive win on clay this season.

Both players broke in their opening service games, with Lleyton working hard to try and consolidate the break but Nadal wore him down and after 13 minutes of player the two champions were 1 apiece. The players battled with the wind and Rafa started to find his range on the forehand. Hewitt could be heard court-side saying "the wind is a nightmare". With less margin for error than Rafa (a side effect of Nadals vicious spin), Hewitt struggled to keep the ball in and get past Nadal, who's defensive skills were evident from the outset, as well as deft touch at the net. Unfortunately for the Australian Nadal raced away to a 4-1 lead very efficiently.

Lleyton hustled around the court, using his great court speed to stay in numerous points as Rafa displayed his dominance. Nadal didn't look as fast as Hewitt, but it was almost as if he didn't need to move because his anticipation was so good that he was already in place to hit the ball, rather than scrambling like Hewitt.

Hewitt did well to take his opening service game of the second set easily with red dirt spraying around the players in the gusty conditions. Lleyton appeared to limp slighting in the second game as Nadal made the Australian slide repeatedly, testing both of Hewitt's hips. Rafa quickly broke for a 2-1 lead, before giving Hewitt double break-back point, only one of which Lleyton needed as Nadal battled down the windy end of the court.

"I had to play against the wind but I played the whole match really well. I was very comfortable with my forehand, my backhand, but there was the wind. Because of the wind, Hewitt takes the ball really early, and so the ball came to my side fairly low. Sometimes I had trouble catching the ball because I was playing against the wind. But those were my main difficulties. In spite of all these difficulties, I felt fairly comfortable."

The players then swapped ends, making it much harder for Hewitt to control the high bouncing Nadal forehand. Every time Nadal lacked depth Hewitt charged the net, trying to stop Rafa from dominating from the baseline. Despite repeatedly checking his racket for a crack, after accidentally whacking it into the dirt, Nadal broke in the ninth game, allowing him to serve the set out.

After threatening to smash a racket or thump a ball into the crowd, Hewitt was broken again in the opening game of the first set, Hewitt firing a ball into the air in frustration. Hewitt broke back immediately to, again, level at 1-1, benefitting from another lapse from Nadal. But after nearly 2 1/2 hours of play Hewitt was bundled out of the event.

Nadal has ended Hewitt's run at Roland Garros on the Australian's last four attempts.

Nadal's concentration appeared to dip briefly at points as it has in all of his matches so far at Roland Garros, something unusual for the Spaniard, something he will need to eradicate if he wants to win the tournament. Luckily, unlike last year, Nadal does not face Robin Soderling in the next round. He will play Thomaz Bellucci. The two have only played one time before back in 2008 when Nadal dispatched Bellucci at Roland Garros in straight sets.

Hewitt will now travel the Halle instead of to Queens, his normal pre-Wimbledon tournament. "I am getting old, so I need to try different things."

"I was a little bit worried. The weather conditions weren't very good. I saw the clouds gathering. When I walked on the court, I looked at the sky, and I kept looking at the sky because I really wanted to wrap up this match. I did not want to continue playing this particular match tomorrow". - Rafael Nadal

Roddick Knocked Out In Third Round

After being written off before the start of the tournament Andy Roddick has almost equalled his best ever showing at Roland Garros. Almost. He may have got to the third round but it wasn't pretty. It his first round he needed 5 sets to dispose of Jarrko Nieminen. His second round required 4 sets, and what felt like 100 service breaks to defeat Kavcic who is ranked at 112, considerably lower than the American world number 8.

Roddick. who is widely known to dislike both the Suzanne Lenglen Court and clay courts in general, was knocked out in the third set by world number 114 Teimuraz Gabashvili, in straight sets. The 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 victory took less than two hours and Roddick was livid afterwards.

The issue stemed from the wet tarps, normally used to cover the court, being stored at the back of the court causing balls to get heavy and wet when they went up the back of the court. "They dry the whole court, but then they leave the tarps soaking wet. If a ball rolls through a puddle enough times, can you tell me what happens to it? Then, when clay attaches to it, it doesn't get lighter. It's something that I've been pretty adamant complaining about behind closed doors for a long time. The umpire said to me, 'Well, it happens every year'. I'm going, 'Is that supposed to make me feel better?' I didn't understand that logic."

Roddick is looking forward to Wimbledon where he feels grass lends itself to his game more than clay.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rafa Nadal Answers 'Difficult' Question

Rafael Nadal has responded to Roger Federer's comment that to win a clay court event, such as Roland Garros, you need good forehands and backhands, but most importantly you need good legs. Federer's comments that you can win Roland Garros with a very incomplete game have, despite him denying it, been interpreted as a stab at the King of Clay.

At around 4.45 on the video clip Rafa discusses his view, essentially saying that clay requires more brains because there are more options where as this is not the case on faster surfaces (where, I might add, Federer has been successful). Diplomatically Rafa doesn't say what lots of people have commented since Federer came up with this latest pearl - If you can win Roland Garros with an incomplete game, and if it takes so little to win, then why did it take Federer so damn long to win it?

In other Rafa related news, poor Fernando Verdasco seems to be getting sick of being asked about Rafa. Most recently he was asked to comment on the karaoke take of Nadal and Shakira in the Gypsy video which was done by Novak Djokovic and Viktor Troicki. "Novak always wants to be the funniest, the star, but he loves this. He loves being a showman. He likes it. So you should ask Rafa if he enjoyed this imitation or not. But to tell you the truth, I don't really know how Rafa took this, but I know Rafa. I don't think he really very much liked the video. But anyway, who knows? Maybe he enjoyed it."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dolgopolov Defeats Gonzalez And Hewitt's Hip Survives Five Sets

Alexandr Dolgopolov, whom we met in Madrid when he played Rafael Nadal, has defeated Fernando Gonzalez in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-3. Dolgopolov, who has a swift, unusual service motion, surprised the Chilean who hasn't played much since an earthquake hit his homeland. Gonzalez has also been struggling with a knee injury.

In other news Lleyton Hewitt has just beaten Denis Istomin in five sets and 3 hours and 8 minutes of play. In front of a packed crowd Hewitt's hip and knee survived the challenge to set up a third round meeting with Rafael Nadal. Hewitt won 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

How Many More Sponsors Do You Need Federer?

It has been announced today that Roger Federer has signed ANOTHER multi-year, multi-million dollar deal (as if he needed more), this time with Mercedez Benz. I don't know if it's just me but it feels like Rog has signed loads of deals this year (Lindt, Credit Suisse, Jura coffee machines - and that's just what I remember)

Roger has also had long term deals with Nike, Wilson, Gillette and Rolex. Net Jets (private jets) and Nationale Suisse (insurance) also pay the Swiss star millions of dollars every year. To say that Roger takes advantage of his fame and multi-lingual abilities is an understatement.

What I can't understand is what coffee machines and chocolate (besides being Swiss brands) have in common with the world number 1. It's fair to say that the Federer clan will never want for anything, and that when Rog said his family could afford to transport his twins comfortably around the world, he really wasn't kidding.

“I am delighted that we are adding Roger Federer to the Mercedes-Benz family of sports and celebrity ambassadors on a global level. When it comes to tennis, he is without doubt one of the greatest of all time and he truly has become a global icon. We are looking forward to working with Roger on a number of initiatives. Much like our own brand, Roger has an impressive and unrivalled history but the best is still yet to come” - Mercedes Benz

Rafa Nadal Hurries Into Third Round

After waiting a day for his match against Horacio Zeballos, Rafael Nadal was making no mistakes, taking a double break to easily take the first set 6-2. Nadal worked on being accurate more that powerful in the match, serving 75% of 1st serves in and allowing Zeballos a measly two points when he got his first serve in.

Zeballos showed good touch, playing numerous drop shots that not even the speedy Nadal could not chase down. In the third game some errors, including a poor attempt at a drop shot and a double fault, gave Zeballos his first break point chances, the first he missed to his audible irritation. Precision serving from Nadal against a fellow lefty got him out of trouble until a blistering forehand return winner found him under pressure again. Zeballos tried to pull an Ernests Gulbis again - throwing another drop shot into the conversation to try and convert the break. The drop shot sailed so high it was almost a lob, which Nadal dutifully punished.

The drop shot of Zeballos became increasingly obvious and Nadal was always there in time, breaking the Argentine for a 3-2 lead. An incredible cross court backhand return brought up triple set point for the Spaniard, two of which Zeballos managed to fight off but a wild backhand gave Nadal the second set 6-2, in 35 minutes, just a minute longer than the first set.

In the third set, Rafa raced to a 3-0 lead wearing his $525,000 watch that weighs a mere 20 grams. In the seventh game the Spaniard fended of more break points but eventually was broken for the first time but a persistent Zeballos to get things back on serve at 4-3. As has been the norm since the success of Ernests Gulbis in Rome, more drop shots were played by Zeballos, looking to get on the board again. So many drop shots have been played this year at Roland Garros that it is almost becoming predictable as a spectator, and, even Federer's doing it. Even with the drop shot Zeballos couldn't hold, allowing Nadal to break straight back and serve for the match.

Nadal still didn't look as sharp as he did at the beginning of the clay court season, but he still appears to be in ominous form. After 1 hour and 45 minutes the world number two had booked a place in the third round with his 6--2, 6-2, 6-3 victory.

Nadal awaits the winner of Lleyton Hewitt and Denis Istomin.

Djokovic And Troicki Do Rafa And Shakira At Roland Garros

Footage continues to surface from the Roland Garros karaoke vault. Rafa Nadal said he wouldn't do it this year unless accompanied by Marc Lopez, that he would instead introduce Novak Djokovic doing Gypsy, the song Nadal starred in with Shakira earlier in the year. In a hilarious rendition, where almost no lyrics were reliably reproduced, Novak shook his backside in Viktor Troiki's face, rubbed Troiki's shirtless chest and pretended to kiss his friend as the song ended.

I have added some other clips for your enjoyment.

Roddick Weathers The Storm

Andy Roddick had successfully past a second round test against Blaz Kavcic, winning 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. Roddick not only had to beat his opponent but also the horrendous weather in Paris and his own mental demons. In the third set Roddick was up two breaks and serving for a 4-0 lead when he became irritated by a line call that went against him. He lost the next two games as he continued to complain about the call, and remained edgey about other calls as the set progressed.

All the rain in Paris had made conditions heavier and slower, even with the courts covered, which made life harder for Roddick who doesn't move naturally on clay and prefers a faster surface. "It was brutal for me out there. I couldn't get my serve to go anywhere and the ball was just sitting up. I woke up this morning, looked out my window, and knew that it was gonna be a long one. It kind of takes away a lot of shots and it makes it just about hitting the ball and running."

The match was interrupted by one long rain delay and two shorter ones. Roddick, a three time runner up at Wimbledon, was the more experienced player in dealing with such disturbances to play. Despite his experience Roddick still struggled on serve with both players frequently breaking each other, with a total of 17 breaks of serve happening during the match that was dragged out between 3.45pm and 8.20pm.

Roddick will next face Teimuraz Gabashvili on Saturday. If he wins, he equals his best showing at Roland Garros (4th round).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tsonga, Murray And Soderling Get Silly With Karaoke At Roland Garros

Every year at Roland Garros the players get a little bit silly singing Karaoke. Some of the footage has been released of Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Robin Soderling singing. While it is highly entertaining it has to be said Murray's vocals havent improved much since he joined the Bryan Brothers on their album. However, not normally a fan of Robin Soderling, I have to say I enjoyed the Swede's ABBA rendition the most.


Federer Fells Falla

Swiss world number one Roger Federer has safely moved through to the third round after defeating Colombian Alejandro Falla 7-6, 6-2, 6-4. Falla and Federer had played twice before, with the Swiss winning both.

As the match started Federer looked casual, almost as if he was at a practice session. He moved easily, quickly and gracefully around the court, while Falla absorbed the pace of Federer and soon began serving intelligently, denying Federer any chances...

Full match report to be released on

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Safina Bombs As Date Krumm Holds Strong

Kimiko Date Krumm had been retired for 12 years, had missed the last two tournaments in the lead up to Roland Garros with an injury, an injury she re-injured during her match against the former world number 1. On top of this, Date Krumm is turning 40 in September. Safina was a set and a break ahead before she faltered. Then in the third set the Russian was ahead again, 4-1, before she started to fall apart, screaming and yelling as she did.

With her calf heavily strapped Kimiko limped between points but saw Safina falter and let her nerves get the better of her, again, as she tried to close out the match. Date Krumm pounced and won 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Safina, who is returning after serious spinal stress fractures, recently split from her coach who worked hard on her physique but was often criticized for berating the often mentally fragile Russian.

"I mean definitely he did the best job everybody could make with me, but I decided that I wanted to stop, and that’s it. I won’t say anything more.” 

Safina's explanation for the implosion? "I got tight."  

Gianni Mina Puts Up A Fight As Nadal Claims Straight Sets Victory

Rafael Nadal has successfully made his 2010 debut at Roland Garros, interestingly not on the main show court Philippe Chatrier, being booted to the second show court so that Marion Bartoli could play to French crowds. On the slightly smaller second show court a packed crowd gathered to watch a French wildcard take on the King of Clay.  Nadal won 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

Earlier this year Ivan Ljubicic commented that what makes Rafa so hard to beat in Paris is the size of Philippe Chatrier. The amount of room around the court allows Nadal to run everything down, and I have to wonder if maybe the tournament organisers were listening when they scheduled this match.

Nadal appeared to have done his homework against the junior, using a precise body serve to the forehand on break points. "I know him a little bit because I have friends who know him. I was told he serves pretty well, that he hits very strongly. Therefore, I have to be more regular and more consistent." The huge difference between the players was evident, despite some excellent shots off the young Frenchman's racket. Gianni Mina, at just 18, had not quite cracked the $10,000 prize money mark coming into the tournament. At the same age Nadal had $3 million and Roland Garros under his belt.

Nadal struggled in his early service game as his opponent sprinted to retrieve inch perfect shot from the Spaniard, but slowly managed to push Mina back. Mina persisted trying to make his shots, trying to spread the court and serving well to try and end points early with some smart play, but having suffered an early break in the opening game he was already behind 0-2 and Nadal kept finding incredible angles with his forehand.

Mina, debuting in his first Grand Slam, played beautiful attacking tennis at times, but was ultimately unable to convert any of the 9 break point chances he had during the course of the match. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, Nadal was relentless, eventually converting another break point in the 5th game for a 4-1 lead.

Despite a beautiful drop shot, Nadal found himself fighting off break points again, for the third consecutive game, but the Spaniards defensive skills were far superior, and Mina was forced to serve to stay alive in the set. The 6-2 scoreline of the first set didn't indicate how well the young Frenchman played. It took Nadal 54 minutes to close out the set, with Rafa seemingly at times looking for court that would have been there otherwise as he slid on the smaller second show court.

After 9 minutes, Mina managed to hold his opening service game. Excellent sportsmanship was on display in the third game when Mina's ace was called wide. As Mina prepared to serve again, Nadal checked the mark and conceded the point, leading to Mina applauding his opponent. The second set followed a very similar pattern, except Mina started to show some signs of fatigue as Rafa moved into a 5-1 lead again, pushing Mina further back as the Frenchman grunted with the physical strain.

Interestingly the aggressive Nadal of Monte Carlo, the Nadal who stood right up on the baseline, didn't turn up for duty against Mina. Rafa spent most of the match standing a few meters behind the baseline to receive all serves before finally moving in to dictate play.

Nadal appeared unimpressed by Mina's call for the trainer after 2 hours and 9 minutes of play to get a rub to his back as he giggled with the trainer. As the clouds moved in Nadal looked keen to get off the court rather than sit and wait for the massage to be completed on a player who was simply feeling the physical effects of playing Nadal. Play resumed with Nadal serving for a 4-2 lead. Mina never won another game.

Nadal next faces Horacio Zebollas in the second round. The two have never played before.

"Let me start by saying that I played really bad today. Having said that, I always had a so, s start here in Roland Garros and 4 times went well in the end... It is funny but I have been practicing really great these days, I have been playing well at the previous events and I am felling great. Then I stepped out on the court, first round and... I played terrible. I really don't know the reason. I have been asked if that worries me and i have to say that it really doesn't... for the moment. I hope that on Thursday things will be better. I was really angry for my game today. 

I also would like to say that some people, specially media, asked me about being put to play on the second court. To be honest I think it is normal I played there my first match. It was not against me, I know that. It is normal that if I am playing with a young player like Gianni, they put us on that court. The pressure for him was less and it is a good way to protect him and get him better from the start. No worries as they say in Australia... (I learned that!)" - Nadal's comment to Times Online

Its fair to say that if Mina continues his strength and fitness development, that with the shots he produced at times, he could soon be shooting up the rankings.

Andy Roddick Registers First Win On Clay In Five Set Epic

A lot of people had written Andy Roddick off, after seeing the American drawn to play Jarko Nieminen in the first round, and at one point it looked like some of us were right to have hope. Having lost in the first round of Roland Garros four times previously, history didn't favour Roddick, particularly given he hasn't officially played a match on clay this year. Roddick sat out Monte Carlo and Barcelona to celebrate his first wedding anniversary, he then missed Rome with fatigue and Madrid with a virus. "Obviously, this is far from perfect in terms of preparation heading into Paris but you play the hand you are dealt."

Interesting both almost-veteran players had never played each other prior to today's match. Neither player, particularly Roddick, is considered a clay court player, with Roddick openly acknowledging that his chances of doing well at Roland Garros are limited.

Keeping his unforced errors low (a conservative two for the first set), and serving just one double fault, Roddick broke in the Nieminen's opening service game and quickly found his way to a 5-2 lead, despite losing his first serve slightly. The percentage of first serves won showed a huge discrepancy between the players, with Roddick winning 79% of points on his first serve, compared to just 50% from Finland's top player.

A third, nervous double fault brought up double set point for Roddick, which he duly converted using his great court speed, taking the first set 6-2 in just 28 minutes.

At 3-3 Nieminen managed to get his first break point chance after Roddick threw in a few errors. Roddick saved it with a huge serve before the Fin came screaming back with a beautifully angled cross court forehand. Consistently yelling at himself, tyring to pump himself up, Nieminen was again denied by the Roddick serve. Another error off Roddick's forehand giving up a third and final break point, ultimately allowing the Fin to take a 4-3 lead. A frustrated Roddick threw his racket into the dirt when a string broke. As the crowd whistled Roddick could be heard saying "Yeah, yeah, yeah".

In response to Nieminen's 5-3 lead Roddick pounded some serves and ground strokes while his opponent appeared to try an manipulate his own lower back with a fast rotational thrust while standing on one leg. Roddick started talking to himself as Nieminen threw in a few errors trying to close out the set, dumping a forehand into the net on his first set point. His second set point allowed him to level the match.

Nieminen successfully defended early break point chances with four big serves getting him out of trouble, to level at 2-2. The Fin then seemed to have a good read on Roddick's serve, breaking him after smacking a forehand return winner for a 3-2 lead in the third set. The Americans body language started to deteriorate rapidly, with his racket barely surviving his irritation. Every time one of Nieminen's balls clipped the net it dribbled over the net, untouchable luck, only serving to irritate Roddick more.

After an hour and 45 minutes an ace gave Nieminen a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 lead. Roddick was still serving well, and winning a good percentage of point on his first serve, but his errors were accumulating quickly and his mindset heading further and further south. At one point Andy could be heard saying "I don't know what else I'm gonna do, but I bet I know how it ends."

Roddick continued to work hard on serve, trying to stop the relentless Nieminen who was holding serve more easily that the American. Roddick had a set point to make it 2 sets all but sent a forehand wide and Nieminen managed to force a tiebreak. As the main show court slowly filled, (although it didn't get any louder) Roddick opened proceedings in the tie break. Roddick quickly found himself with a handy 4-1 lead as conditions started to turn and become more windy.

After almost 2 hours and 40 minutes a 5th set started with Roddick looking slightly more positive, and Jarkko looking a little bit annoyed that the match was still going.

A beautiful stretching passing shot gave Roddick the crucial break for a 3-2 lead, fending off a break-back chance in the next game. An aggressive return game at 5-3 saw Roddick have 2 match point chances, something that 2 hours earlier was looking unlikely. A double fault gave Roddick the match after an epic 3 hours and 19 minutes.

Roddick is through to the second round after the 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-3 victory.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Andy Murray Survives A Five Set Battle With Gasquet

Andy Murray has survived his much hyped opening round match at Roland Garros against Richard Gasquet, winning in 5 sets 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 after almost 4 hours of play.

Against Richard Gasquet, the recent winner of Nice, Andy Murray was always going to have to work hard to ignore the favouritism of the crowd, while finding away to keep his intensity up. At 4-4, with both players having had numerous break point chances in a high quality match, the crowd started chanting "Richard! Richard!" as Gasquet served to successfuly force Murray to serve to stay in the match. Too many drop shots, and incredible angles from his beautiful single handed backhand brought up double set point for the Frenchman. As Murray dumped another volley in the net, the French crowd leapt to their feet to applaud the 6-4 set.

As the second set started Gasquet maintained his form, placing some beautiful volleys when he came to the net. The fact that the match was being played on the second event court, rather than on center court, favoured the Frenchman, who's request for the court was granted, reducing the area around the court for Murray to run down balls.

Forcing Murray to go for more and more, Gasquet got a break point chance in the fourth game, but was unable to convert. As the games continued, and the high quality points continued to force each player to play brilliant shots, Gasquet began to show signs of fatigue, repeatedly looking up to his box for support, and at times in irritation.

When he won Nice, Gasquet said he was exhausted, just two days later he found himself embroiled in a 5 set tussle against the Scot, who, after a recent poor showing at Masters events, was determined not to be sent packing early. Unfortunately for Richard the stats were against him, having lost 8 of his last 9 five set matches. The fitness of Andy Murray and the fatigue of the Frenchman ultimately played a roll in the outcome.

After the match Richard said he was "really, really tired, so it's hard in Grand Slam especially against Murray. He's always fighting, fighting, putting all the balls in the court. He's running well. I was close, but I didn't... It was really, really hard for me to finish the match. He played well, and in a Grand Slam you have to be 100 percent to win, especially against Andy." - Richard Gaquet

"It was tough. He was just ripping balls. I looked up at one point and he'd hit, like, 59 winners and 30 unforced errors. When I saw he was struggling, I just kept moving him about as much as possible. There were a lot of long rallies and, as the match went on, I started to win more and more of them." - Andy Murray

Djokovic Survives Second Set Blip

Under the hot Parisian skies, on the somewhat baked clay surface, Novak Djokovic begun his bid for a second grand slam against Russian Evgeny Korolev. In a bizarre match that saw both players keen to end points quickly, Djokovic won the first set easily in 27 minutes before surrendering the second in 44 minutes.

The Serbian last played when he withdrew from the Serbian Open, skipping Madrid and slipping down the rankings to number 3 as a result of struggling with his allergies....

Article in full available at

Jelena Dokic; "I'm alone."

Lucie Safarova has ended Jelena Dokic's time in Paris, defeating her 6-2, 6-2. Dokic had been hoping to be competitive, or find her form after nearly 12 months of injury, illness, drama and poor play. The error strewn match came at the worst possible time for Dokic, who has admitted she is struggling with the mental side of the game and had hoped that a good outcome at Roland Garros would be a sign of better things to come.

More worryingly for Dokic, there appears to be more personal issues holding her back. Her coaching team had previously been her long term boyfriend and his brother, who she credits with pulling her out of years of depression, the result of years of family issues. The brothers were accused of causing an issue on a flight in Australia earlier in the year that left Dokic in tears and publicly embarrassed. When asked if her coaching situation was the same, or if something had changed, she simply responded with "I'm alone." Not a good sign for the former top player who relied on the stability the brothers provided.

"I was nervous at the beginning, so, yeah, she got a head start. About three games through past before I could get into some rallies... Yeah, outside of top 5, this is one of the worst match ups for me at the moment because I haven't played any matches and she's done so well on clay this year and just in general she's done well this year. It was always gonna be tough. She's just more consistent than me right now... Yeah, you know, there's nothing really to be disappointed about. You know, I've played four tournaments this year, and I only played, you know, 50,000 coming into the Grand Slam. So I think I'm probably one of the least prepared players in the draw at the moment. I can't be disappointed. I just have to move on from this and go to the next tournament." - Jelena Dokic

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nadal Enjoys A Hit With Some Kids In Paris

Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal has lent his time to a group of grateful children who got to hit with the world number two late last week before he started his bid to reclaim Roland Garros. The tennis clinic was run in an old pool that had been decorated with graffiti and art work.

Gossip Confirmed; Hewitt To Be A Father For The Third Time

Australian gossip magazines reported seeing Bec Hewitt, wife of Lleyton Hewitt, sporting a small baby bump while she was out running errands. It turns out the rumours are true. Lleyton confirmed the news before the start of Roland Garros this week.

Bec had initially planned to wait until Lleyton retired before expanding their family, saying "We were thinking we'd wait until Lleyton retires because traveling with two is plenty. It's a happy surprise though.

Former coach Roger Rasheed doesn't believe the addition to the family will affect Lleyton's game or focus. "To win a grand slam is a hard thing to do. Lleyton has won two and been a finalist in a couple of others and been very close in a lot of other championships. He knows what it is about and he knows what to do. Having kids, it brings him a lot of joy actually. It is a great down time thing. Instead of just being in your hotel you can spend time with your family."

Hewitt himself is excited about expanding his family. "It wasn't fully planned, but it's fantastic. We were always going to have a third at some stage so it was exciting news."

The third Hewitt baby will join Mia, 4, and Cruz, 17 months.

Martinez Sanchez Forced To Serve Underarm

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, recent winner in Rome, has fallen in the first round at Roland Garros after being forced to serve underarm. The Spaniard reported a slight niggle in her neck prior to play, before locking up and receiving treatment at 2-1 in the first set. The physio applied strapping tape to help support the spine and control the first rib (which can cause some pretty significant pain and loss of range of motion), but it was little help.

Martinez Sanchez's serve became more and more abrieviated the longer she played, until eventually she had to his the ball underarm.

Her opponent, Akgul Amanmuradova from Uzbekistan, won the match 6-2, 6-4, which is a respectable scoreline given the circumstances.

After the match Martinez Sanchez was seen wearing a neck brace, very rarely handed out amongst physios (particularly good physios) unless it is a serious situation.

"This morning when I practiced, I started to feel something but nothing important. In the first two games, I started to feel it more and more. Completely blocked, all the neck and the back. I tried to do my best and fight until the end but I couldn't do anything more. It's bad luck because it's my first round in Roland Garros. It's one of the most important tournaments for me. But there is nothing to do. I took one anti-inflammatory before the match but it's not enough. I feel too much pain in every shot."

Martinez Sanchez has not yet withdrawn from the doubles event.

Gulbis Retires Day 1 Roland Garros

Ernest Gulbis has fallen on the first day of play at Roland Garros. Gulbis struggled from the start against Julien Benneteau and was behind 4-6, 2-6, 0-1 when he retired due to a thigh injury sustained during the second set on a bad slide.

“I stretched my leg, my hamstrings, and I heard two cracks. I hope it’s nothing serious, because it can be anything, but it’s a little stretch of the muscle.I will go for a scan and hope that nothing is broken.”

"Of course I'm disappointed. I prepared really good for this tournament, but it's okay. It's a Grand Slam, it's a big tournament. But I have maybe nine more, eight more years of my career, I will have 20 Grand Slams in front of me, and if I concentrate on one, which wasn't that good, I will get nothing, but it's okay."

It's a disappointing loss for the big hitting Latvian who took out Federer and challenged Nadal in Rome. He was widely tipped as being one to watch in the tournament, and has instead, failed to survive the opening day. As Gulbis said "If I concentrate on just this one, I'd go nuts. It's happened and I will learn from it."

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What Happened Today? Roland Garros Round 1...

- Janko Tipsarevic was handily send packing 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 by Alejandro Falla.

- Mikhail Youzhny looked sharp and powerful against Michal Przysiezny 6-1, 6-0, 6-4.

- Gisela Dulko, who hadn't won a game on clay leading up to Roland Garros, wiped the floor with Victoria Azarenka. Azarenka has recently been forced to retired from 4 separate tournaments with various injuries, mostly a recurrent thigh issue. Dulko hit a lot of high looping balls that Azarenka struggled to control. Azarenka also appeared to struggle to keep her shots within the lines, much to her annoyance, as Dulko raced to a 3-0 lead in the second set.

As per normal for Dulko, she struggled to close out the match, suddenly changing things up, allowing Azarenka easy passing shots. Eventually Dulko did close it out 6-1, 6-2 in just 72 minutes.

- Marin Cilic survived a second set blip against Ricardo Malla, eventually winning 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Cilic has struggled to maintain his form since his blistering performance at the Australian Open earlier this season.

Soderling Destroys Frenchman Recouderc In First Round Of Roland Garros

Defending finalist aka 'the guy who beat Rafa in Paris' got off to a flying start in his opening round against local Laurent Recouderc winning 6-0, 6-2, 6-3. Soderling dominated his French opponent, smacking winners with such intent that the first set was done and dusted in just 20 minutes on the clay courts of Paris.

As if Soderling needed help, the odd ball he hit that found the net, dribbled over and dropped dead, leaving Recouderc unable to do anything.

In the first game of the second set Recouderc go his first look at a game point, and on Soderling's serve, but he was easily dismissed. The French crowd, who were quiet during the match, went wild when their man finally got on the board. 

While it may not be unusual for a crowd at a Soderling match to be quiet, with the Swede not being enormously popular, what was unusual was the casual manner in which he played intermittently in the third set, particularly the first two points as Recouderc served to stay in the match. However, even with one or two free points there was never any really hope for the Frenchman, no matter how scrappy he tried to be. 

Soderling easily found his way to triple match point after 1 hour and 33 minutes of play. Soderling should have a relatively easily passage to the fourth round.

Jelena Dokic To Attempt Re-Start In Paris

Jelena Dokic made her much publicised comeback to the WTA tennis circuit after battling with depression (and her father's legacy) last year at the Australian Open. She then showed great form in the 2009 French Open, where she pushed Elena Dementieva, before being brought to tears by a back injury. She then struggled with mono, more father dramas, and most recently an injured elbow.

Dokic has looked far from her best this year but has said she hopes to use Paris as a springboard to better times. In what doesn't sound like a good improvement in her mental state though, Dokic has said she doesn't expect to do well. When you read what she says it just doesn't radiate positivity and hope, all of which she will need to over come her demons and re-find her love of the game.

"Obviously coming onto Roland Garros, it is not an ideal scenario. I only played my first match back last week so it is not great but I have been working hard since then. I have done a lot of rehab and been playing well, especially the past two weeks I have been doing a lot of practice sets. Maybe things won't go fantastically well here but hopefully I can stay healthy for the rest of the year and I can start playing well in a couple of weeks... If I play well it is a good sign for the rest of the year."

Argentina Win World Team Cup

With the victory of Horacio Zebollas over America's Robby Ginepri 6-4, 6-7, 7-5, Argentina took an unbeatable 2-0 lead after Juan Monaco defeated Sam Querrey. Zebollas was one point away from winning his match in straight sets before Ginepri forced a third set.

“I think my match was difficult, but also his match was incredible. He was fighting like an animal for, like, three hours. We are very happy because when we came here the goal was to win here for Argentina and we did it." - Juan Monaco

Can Nadal Win Roland Garros? Looking At the Draw…

Rafael Nadal is undoubtedly the favourite to win Roland Garros after making a clean sweep of the clay court season thus far. However, his path to the finals will not be so straight forward, and both he and Federer have some significant players in the way before they could potentially meet each other in the final

Federer's Quarter
My pick.... Roger Federer
Watching... Ernests Gulbis

Federer will start of his title defense by playing Australian Peter Luczak in the first round. Luczak, the unfortunate recipient of an early match up with the world number one, is a good clay court player but recently sat out Australia’s Davis Cup tie to preserve a niggling wrist injury. In the third round Federer will most likely run into, and dispose of, Feliciano Lopez.

Federer’s conqueror in Estoril, Albert Montanes, looms at the bottom of the quarter but would likely serve as no match to Federer in a best-of-five, particularly as Federer always elevates his play in Grand Slams. However, before Montanes even gets a chance to take a swipe at the Swiss superstar, he will have to get past Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis.

Murray's Quarter
My pick... Tomas Berdych
Watching... Tommy Robredo and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Andy Murray is unlikely to reverse his recent fortunes at the French Open. The current world number 4 is struggling with a skin infection and a recurring sore knee. He has also received a tough draw, facing Richard Gasquet in the first round, and most likely Marcos Baghdatis if he finds his way to the third round.

Also lurking in Murray’s quarter are John Isner, Tomas Berdych and Mikhail Youzhny. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tommy Robredo are in the bottom part of Murray’s quarter and would provide a stern quarterfinal test for the Scot, with the Frenchman likely spurred on by his home crowd.

“I've just got a sore knee, I get it all the time. I've had it since I was a kid, so it's something that I've had to manage throughout my whole career.”

Djokovic's Quarter
My pick... David Ferrer
Watching... Andy Roddick

Andy Roddick will face Jarkko Nieminen in the first round, before a likely third round meeting with Juan Monaco. Spaniard David Ferrer has managed to avoid a third round match up with compatriot Juan Carlos Ferrero, but will no doubt clash with Novak Djokovic in the fourth round.

The recently unwell Djokovic, who slipped down the rankings to number 3 after skipping Madrid, should be able to find his way to the fourth round where life will become more difficult for him. The grinding play of Ferrer will wear down Djokovic who struggles with his breathing at the best of time, and has recently been forced to rest after allergies forced him out of the Serbian Open and Madrid, compounded by fatigue.

Nadal's Quarter
My pick... Rafael Nadal
One to watch... Nicolas Almagro

Despite Fernando Verdasco’s elbow showing signs of fatigue after a successful clay court season, the Spaniard should have a safe path the third round where he is expected to meet Philipp Kohlscreiber. Verdasco will have more of a battle on his hand if he meets Nicolas Almagro in the fourth round, his success dependant on how much of a hindrance his elbow proves to be.

The King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, who often struggles to feel the love from the French crowds, will have to deal with Parisians in the first round as he takes on French wild card Gianni Mina. Nadal will then most likely clash with Lleyton Hewitt in the third round who is no match for Nadal on clay under normal circumstances (or like last year, under injured circumstances). Hewitt, who has recently returned to the tour after undergoing hip surgery, has also struggled this week with a viral stomach illness.

The man who beat Nadal in Indian Wells, Ivan Ljubicic, stands in the way of a quarterfinal berth for the Spaniard. However, given that Ljubicic has recently recovered from a stomach muscle strain, and that Nadal has something to prove, it should be Nadal who comes out of top.

Fernando Gonzalez, Fernando Verdasco and Nicolas Almagro are the most likely quarterfinal opponents for Nadal.

Roger Federer V Tomas Berdych

Federer has a sneaky way of playing brilliantly in Grand Slams and in a best-of-five Berdych is unlikely to get the better of the Swiss star, even if he almost did so at the 2009 Australian Open.

David Ferrer V Rafael Nadal

Ferrer has never pasted the quarters in Paris before and he will be looking to break that pattern this year, although against Nadal his chances are miniscule. As Ferrer recently said in Rome, whether he is able to beat Nadal on clay is purely up to Nadal.

Winners: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal

While Federer will be desperate to beat Nadal in the final, legitimising last years win in the Spaniards absence, it is inevitable that Nadal’s spin, desire to reclaim his crown and brilliance on clay will eventually get the better of Federer.

Roland Garros Champion: Rafael Nadal

Just a heads up....
I have been invited to write for The Big Tip, and so from time to time articles will be found in full on that website.

The Big Tip

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Verdasco Set To Star In Nice Final

Fernando Verdasco and his heavily strapped elbow have passed Leonardo Mayer to book a place in the finals in Nice against Richard Gasquet. After 1 hour 41 minutes Verdasco walked away the victor with a 7-6, 7-5 win. In winning his semi-final match Verdasco claimed his 30th win of the season, only surpassed by David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal, however, the issue is that his body appears to be showing signs of distress.

After looking exhausted in Rome, and then regaining his momentum in Madrid, one has to wonder why Verdasco, who won Barcelona, felt the need to play another tournament in the lead up to Roland Garros.

Richard Gasquet is looking for his first title since 2007, and a good start leading into Roland Garros where he will face Andy Murray in the first round.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Babolat Strings Give Nadal More Spin

It was noticed at the beginning of the season that some of the Babolat players were using a new string. People have wanted to know more about the string and why the players have switched to the new black string - so here it is.

In February Babolat announced their new string, RPM blast, a string will multiple facets, allowing the players a greater grip on ball. The monofilament string allows more spin with more power and increases the margin for error, meaning that the players can go for a little more on their shots then they could with other strings.

Scarily, Rafael Nadal, the player with the most spin on the circuit, is using the string to get even more spin on his balls, making them even heavier. Nadal's previously measured 3,200 average revolutions per minute, with the Spaniard maxing out at 4,900 revolutions. Other former top players like Agassi and Sampras averaged 1,800 revolutions, emphasizing the huge difference that technology, and Nadal's unique technique make on spin. Basically this means, before he adds the new RPM Blast strings, his balls spin roughly 80 times in the time it takes the ball to leave his racket and find that of his opponents.

“With this new string, I have more spin, and it helps me hit deeper. We have worked
hard with Babolat.” - Rafael Nadal

Juan Martin Del Potro Will Not Defend US Open Title

 Juan Martin del Potro has announced that he will not defend his US Open title. Del Potro has not played a professional match since the Australian Open where he fell in the fourth round, in five sets, to Marin Cilic. He had been complaining of writs pain at the end of the 2009 season and withdrew from the Kooyong Classic in an attempt to preserve himself for the AO.

When conservative management failed, del Potro underwent wrist surgery in the States recently before returning to Argentina to continue his rehab.

“If all goes well, I’d return after the U.S. Open. The tournament is and always will be very special for me, all my life but I don’t want to rush things. If I have to return next year or at Paris Bercy, I will. Thankfully, I’ve already undergone the operation and everything went well. Now I just have to recover. I don’t want to get desperate in rehab and I’m comfortable with the fact that if I do my time I’ll be playing again on the circuit.”

What Happened Today?

- Wayne Odesnik has been banned for two years from Dec 29, 2009 by the ITF after pleading guilty to possession of Human Growth Hormone in Brisbane. The ban comes in light of the fact that Odesnik had not applied for a therapeutic use exemption, despite claiming that he purchased the HGH to assist with injury healing.

“Mr Odesnik asserted that he had purchased the human Growth Hormone on professional advice to treat a recurring injury, and that he intended to apply for a therapeutic use exemption prior to using it. Mr Odesnik denied ever using any of the human Growth Hormone. The ITF has no evidence to contradict that denial, but Mr Odesnik did not in fact obtain or apply for a therapeutic use exemption for the human Growth Hormone prior to obtaining it. Accordingly, Mr Odesnik’s possession of the human Growth Hormone is an anti-doping rule violation under Article C.6 of the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme.”

- Juan Monaco's website was finally completed The site features an incredible intro but is

- Ouanna saved three set points in a first set tie break against Andy Roddick, leading to the American hurling his racket across the red dirt in disgust. The world number 131 then swiftly took the first set 7-6 at the Master Guinot Mary Cohr. Roddick then managed to defend 2 match points in the second set tie break, but Ouanna managed to serve it out with an ace.

Roddick was playing only his first match on clay and said that next week, at the French Open, was "the main priority" while he incessantly fiddled with his hat during the post match interview and looked in a hurry to get off the court.

- Juan Martin del Potro has announced that he will not defend his US Open title.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rafael Nadal Talks To CNN

Watch this video to see Nadal talking about his loss at Roland Garros last year and about his fans.

Nadal has also spoken to media, rejecting the idea that he is the favourite to win the French. "You will never hear me say that I'm the favourite because I don´t like tags and I don't feel I am the favourite... I'm very happy with what has happened and with the season and that is the important thing. Being the favourite for Roland Garros is not that important. I was the favourite before and I lost. I've gone there when someone else was the favourite and I've won. Who knows what will happen in a week and a half or two weeks, there is more than one contender, there are many contenders."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Clijsters, Simon, Davydenko, Nalbandian Join The Growing List Of Player Missing Roland Garros

I found myself wondering today, why are players like Almagro, Soderling, Hewitt and Baghdatis playing this week, when they should be resting and fine tuning their games ahead of Roland Garros rather than playing every single week. None of these players particularly need the points or the money and all of them have had injuries this year.

The injury list for this season continues, some with serious injuries - a side effect of players playing far too many matches per year.

Missing this years Roland Garros are:
  • Juan Martin del Potro (wrist surgery)
  • Nikolay Davydenko (broken wrist)
  • David Nalbandian (recurrent hamstring)
  • Kim Clijsters (foot)
  • Sania Mirza (wrist)
  • Urszula Radwanska (back)
  • Sabine Lisicki (ankle)
  • Tommy Haas (hip surgery)
  • Igor Andreev (ankle)
  • James Blake (knee)
  • Gilles Simon (chronic knee)
You've got to also wonder how Wozniacki's ankle and Azarenka's hamstring will hold up to the test, with Venus Williams no doubt being heavily taped again.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Case Of Sour Grapes For Federer?

After talking all week about how an incomplete game can win on clay, and how much easier it is to win on clay, world number 1 Roger Federer, who only won Roland Garros last year for the first time, has been defeated on clay by Rafael Nadal again in Madrid. The win takes Nadal to 14-7 in the head to head against Federer, 17 of those matches have been finals. Since their very first match against each other in 2004, they have either played semi's or finals against each other - a truly remarkable record. "The most important thing is winning at home; winning in Madrid is a dream. After that, I think about the ranking. Against this opponent, it's always going to be difficult."

Federer, however, holds out hope that he will defend his title at Roland Garros, suggesting that the French Open is the only tournament that actually matters (I'm sure the Masters tournament directors are delighted). "The clay court season will not be judged here but in Paris. We will see what happens in three weeks. I feel I'm ready for Paris.If we win all the tournaments like Rafa now and then go out in the first round of the French, everything will be questioned... I felt a major improvement in my game compared to last week when I came here from Estoril. It's been a wonderful event for me. I'm sorry I couldn't defend the title. Rafa's had an incredible clay season, he was supreme today."

I don't know what you think, but it sounds a little bit like Rog has a case of sour grapes to me. He also quipped about not having had to play a left hander for a while, whereas Rafa plays right handers regularly.

I like Nadal's come back in regards to the French Open being the decider for the clay court season. "Well, that's a respectable opinion that I don't share and not because I have won the three leading up to it, which some might think, but because I think it is unfair to think the whole clay season is decided by one tournament."

Possibly a little unfair to judge the clay court season in such a way after bombing out in Rome, Roger.

"I’m not too disappointed. I’m number one in the world, defending champion at Roland Garros." 

Clash Of The Titans: Nadal Defeats Federer To Claim Madrid Title

Roger Federer has beaten Rafael Nadal twice previously on clay, but he has never beaten a healthy Nadal on clay. Their last meeting was exactly a year ago when Federer defeated a jaded Rafa in the very same stage of the same tournament.

The Spanish crowd went mad when their man walked on to the court and then performed his trade mark rituals, lining up his bottles and bolting to the baseline for the warm up.

After a difficult year for Rafa, and a year to remember for Federer, all eyes were on Nadal to see if the tides had changed and the dynamics of the rivalry were the same. Nadal eventually won 6-4, 7-6, creating history in the process.

Federer had said earlier this week that, while he wasn't trying to take anything away from Nadal, that you could win clay court events with an incomplete game and that it was easier to win on clay, leading me to then question why he had only been able to beat a sub-par Nadal on clay and why he only won Roland Garros when Nadal was out of the way. The late afternoon start favoured Nadal, with conditions slowing slightly, the constant effects of the altitude favoured Federer but history and the tennis Gods favoured Nadal.
Fed, as always, won the toss and elected to serve, winning his opening service game to love and looking calm in his attempt to defend his title. Nadal started by not hitting the ball as deep in the court as he had in Monte Carlo, but abusing Federer's backhand, as he always does, to good effect. But Federer was intent on not being broken, pushing Nadal to deuce in the opening service game, forcing Nadal to change tactic and go for Federer's forehand.

Errors on Federer's backhand and an amazing bending down the line forehand from Nadal gave the Spaniard his first break point, which Federer was lucky to survive, after Nadal left a put-away volley he thought was going wide. A spectacular forehand return off a second serve found the corner of the court, landing behind Federer, gave Nadal another chance. His third break point chance saw the Federer backhand break down to allow Nadal an early 2-1 lead. But not for long.

Things continued back and forth after Federer leveled at 2-2, with Nadal having triple break point at 3-3 but being unable to convert. Rafa had numerous other break point chances in that game, finally converting for a 4-3 lead after another error off Federer's backhand. Nadal then offered up 3 break back points at 5-4, but Federer threw away the chances with 3 unforced errors. Federer then wasted numerous other break point chances in the same game, struggling to cope with Nadal's lefty spin. After 55 minutes Nadal took the first set with a stunning cross-court forehand passing shot, leaping into the air, pumping his fist, before continuing to celebrate in his chair as the crowd chanted "RAAAFFFAAA!" repeatedly.

After a nervy finish to the first set, a forehand error gave Nadal the opening break of serve, before Federer broke right back, taking advantage of some short balls from Nadal. The Spanish number 1 smacked a backhand down the line to break for a 3-2 lead but Federer again forced his way back into the set leveling at 4-4. Federer and Nadal then both worked out how to hold serve, forcing the second set into a tie break.

Roger should have won the second set, taking the early 2-0 lead in the tie break, then failing on a forehand that could have given him a decisive lead. The Swiss maestro kept pushing and found himself at 4-2 with an exquisite drop shot. From this point Federer should have been able to take the set to force a third and final set, but multiple errors saw a Nadal, much to the crowds delight, at match point 6-4. He needed two chances to close out the match, taking it on the second opportunity after a bad bounce disrupted Federer's rhythm, letting the Spanish crowd leap to their feet and Nadal to make a successful clay court sweep.

While Nadal successfully pushed Federer deeper, putting him on the defense more effectively than last year, while also hitting the ball marginally deeper, his balls lacked the depth of shot he displayed in such devastating fashion in Monte Carlo.

In winning Nadal has become the first player to ever win 18 Masters Series titles and races to a 14-7 lead in his head to head against Federer.