Monday, November 29, 2010

Federer Shows Nadal His Backhand, Takes London Title

The ATP season is officially over, completed with a Nadal V Federer final that was won by the former world number one Roger Federer 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. Federer not only went home with the trophy but also 1 million pounds for being undefeated during the tournament.

Coming on to court Nadal had spent four hours more on court, and had one extra day of rest, than Federer but any fatigue aside Federer was simply the better player on the day. His forehand and serve have been strong all week but what was most notable was that his normally 'weak' backhand was standing up well against Nadal's all out attack.

Federer worked hard to keep point short when his backhand was under constant pressure, as always, from Rafa. It seems as though working with Paul Annacone has done Federer's backhand the world of good. It wasn't even six games in before Federer had produced 10 winners to just 1 from Rafa.

Even when Federer was down 0-30 in the seventh game he just looked to have Nadal's number. He looked far sharper, more aggressive and hungrier than the Spaniard. Nadal was forced to go for more and more as Federer's backhand proved impenetrable and Rafa pushed some crucial balls wide trying to find the line. A sharp angled cross court backhand secured the break and a 5-3 lead for Federer who then comfortably served for the first set.

In their previous ten meetings the winner of the first set was ultimately the winner of the match, and this match would be no different.

Nadal showed his frustration as he set up points and then just missed the final blow. A few blinding returns gave him a chance as Federer's first service percentage dropped, Nadal securing the break for a 3-1 lead. Federer only lost his strangle hold on the match briefly but it was all the Spaniard needed.

In the third set Roger could do no wrong. Rafa serving with a 40-15 advantage in the fourth game before the Swiss came charging back, the crowd going wild as Federer broke. It wasn't long before Federer broke again to Nadal's annoyance, the crowd with Roger as he served for the title 6-1.

“For me this was a huge tournament and to win against five of the best players means a lot to me. I’ve played five tournaments in seven weeks and I’m tired but in 20 years’ time who will care? I don’t think I could have played any better today.” - Roger Federer

"But I'm not gonna say I lost the match because I was tired. What I'm gonna say and what I feel is I lost the match because I played against a very good Roger Federer on one of his favorite surfaces. When he's playing like this, it's very difficult to stop him. I had chances, but not enough." - Rafael Nadal

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sharapova Talks Wedding Plans

Maria Sharapova has recently been talking about her wedding plans, saying she's in no hurry to walk down the aisle with Sasha Vujacic.

“I will for sure be wearing Cole Haan because everybody that’s been talking to me about weddings and comfortable shoes said, ‘you have to be sure that you’re wearing comfortable shoes. I’m for sure going to design them.” 

“No, no, absolutely not, we’re going to take our time.” 

“I think it depends on the design of the dress and how you feel about it. Sometimes you want to go a little bit shorter, but I love when the dress is also long and fluid and you feel really elegant and flowy.”

 “It’s a really good feeling. At the end of the day we have each other and we obviously have our respective careers and we’re really busy but it’s great to come home to someone. He completely surprised me! I’m so lucky and very much spoiled. It was very special and obviously a very memorable evening in my life. It’s something I’ll always remember, it was very sweet.”


Anna Kournikova Rumoured To Be Married Again

Rumours have started circulating again this week that Anna Kournikova and her partner of eight years, singer Enrique Iglesias have secretly married. The reason for this rumour re-circulating is that the pair were spotted, the former WTA player wearing what looks suspiciously like a huge engagement ring and a chunky wedding band.

Kournikova has been wearing these rings for some time and both her and Iglesias have consistently denied the rumours.

Engagement rumours first started about two years after they started dating when Anna started wearing a HUGE pink pear shaped diamond. Since then she has sported a variety of different rocks on her wedding ring finger and yet the denials stay the same.

Of course it's entirely possible they married secretly some time ago, in the same way Anna married and then denied her first marriage... however it's unlikely that it happened recently because she's been wearing this particular pairing of rocks for some time..

"Oh no. I don't think it's the right thing to do. A lot of people think that I'm against marriage, but you can be happy with someone without being married." Enrique Iglesias

"Not really, no. We're fine. What's the point if you're happy anyway? Being eight years down the line it's more than some married couples."  - Anna Kournikova

Dominik Hrbaty Retires

Earlier this week it was announced that Slovakian player, and former French Open finalist Dominik Hrbaty was retiring after the exhibition match he played with Thomas Muster, Dominika Cibulkova and Anna Kournikova.

Hrbaty's wife is due to give birth to their child in December and the former pro has said he wants to spend more time with the new edition.

"I'm looking forward to a new chapter. I want to spend more time with my family, we're expecting a baby late December."

Hrbaty achieved a career high ranking of number 12 in 2004 and won 6 ATP titles.

2010 ATP Season To End With A Nadal Federer Final In London

The organizers of the Barclays Tour Finals in London could not have asked for a better end to the tournament and season than to see the greatest rivalry in tennis played out once more. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal only meet each other in finals these days, and a season ending, winner takes all final will send on of them into the 2011 season, and off to Australia brimming with confidence.

The win has multiple levels of significance. Federer recently said he was unsure if he would ever be able to regain the number one ranking, and after a series of disappointing losses this season where he lost plenty of matches he should have won Federer is looking to get one back. If Roger can defeat his nemesis then he's sending a strong message not only to the current world number one but also to the rest of the field that he's back and just as dangerous. Federer could use the boost heading into his Australian Open defense.

Nadal, on the other hand, having wiped the floor with everyone this season, doesn't really need the confidence but he does need the title. Being an indoor hard court event the tournament doesn't really (and never really will) suit him. He has worked hard to arrive at the end of this season in decent form rather than his normal crippled or exhausted state. Nadal, before now, has never made the finals of the event and needs to claim one to improve his chances of being considered the greatest of all time. Federer has won it four times before.

It is the one big tournament that has eluded Nadal, and make no mistake he wants it.

But it wont be simple for the Spaniard, who wants to have a good lead up to Australia so he has a chance at holding all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously. Federer has claimed a lot of his 7 wins against Nadal on faster surfaces, only ever being beaten on a hard court 3 times since 2004 against the Spaniard.

In their previous 21 meetings they have only ever played one match, their first ever, that was not at least a semi final. They have played 17 tournament finals against each other, Rafa winning 12 of them, but even with those incredible stats you have to favour the in form Federer who is serving with incredible precision, has looked solid all tournament and hasn't dropped a set so far.

The surface doesn't favour Nadal and with Rafa having won 6 of their last 7 meetings Roger has something to prove with many people thinking that unless he can improve his record against the man that was nipping at his heels for so long that he can't really be considered the greatest of all time. The will of the Spaniard is a dangerous enemy for Federer though, his will propelling him to victory at the US Open a few months ago. When Nadal sets his mind to something he usually gets it.

There's a lot on the line.

My prediction: Federer in three.

Nadal Tops Murray In Semi Final Thriller

There's something about playing Rafael Nadal that means Andy Murray almost always rises to the occassion. He may have fallen slightly short today after the 7-6, 3-6, 7-6 3 hour 11 minute match but he showed he can push Nadal and almost beat him at his own game - baseline dominance. The match was of such high quality that it prompted Nadal to say "that's why I play tennis."

Murray threw down bomb after bomb while he was serving and showed his defensive skill were in fine form as he came out on top of some rallies where Nadal had been bullying him from the back of the court. With girlfriend Maria Francisca 'Xisca' Perello and fellow player Feliciano Lopez as new additions to the Nadal box the Spaniard used his forehand to push Murray from side to side as his new harder serve took some time to find a mark.

Both players pushed and bullied each other, Murray looking sharper but Nadal seemed to be making Murray run more. Murray tried some serve and volley, suddenly seeming to remember how perplexed the Spaniard in Australia. After Nadal walked up to the line to correctly challenge, Murray re-payed the untimely challenge with one of his own, sending the same message to Nadal that he wasn't going to show him any respect that he didn't earn on the court that afternoon.

While Nadal was serving to force a tiebreak Murray appeared to pull up quickly and start poking around in his right hip flexor.

Murray let his frustration fly freely in the tie break while Nadal used his serve intelligently, regularly going to the body of Murray. After a long rally where Nadal camped out on the baseline hitting the ball short he then tried to get Murray with the drop shot- back hand down the line combination but Murray was ready and waiting to level at 5-5 and the crowd loved it.

After 59 minutes Nadal took the first set tie break.

As Murray faced two break points in his opening service game he started flexing his right knee which has been known to create issues for him in the past. Murray gifted Nadal more second serves, having only made 2 first serves from the last 12 but the world number one failed to capitalize, Murray holding for a 1-1 scoreline.

The intensity in the second set dropped slightly, Murray still frequently yelling at himself to move. As the crowd got behind Murray the Scot started to lift, finding himself at triple break point, his first chance to break in the match at three all. Nadal, the world's best defender worked hard, scampering across the court to create a beautiful angle on a drop shot retrieval. Relentless Nadal saved all three break points as Murray, irritated, smacked his hand against the strings of his racket. A wayward backhand from the Spaniard gave Murray another chance, the Scot finally breaking with a violent cross court backhand.

Nadal committed two more errors on serve at 3-5, allowing Murray to take the second set, two breaks in hand after 51 minutes, Nadal's backhand seeming to have temporarily abandoned him.

Rafa forced Murray to work extremely hard before he was broken in the third game. Murray producing a dismal drop shot attempt that didn't even reach the net, giving Nadal break point. At that point Murray had been burnt six times on drop shot attempts, Nadal too fast when five made it over the net. It was starting to look more and more like Murray's love of the drop shot was going to cost him the match because it was allowing Nadal to win the important points.

Murray survived match point at 5-4 before breaking serve to get things back on serve. When Nadal forced the match tie break the two players held serve with Nadal securing the win with a forehand winner. Ultimately Murray won more points, 114 to Nadals 109, but the difference was that when it was important Nadal tightened up his game, and Murray failed to step up.

Nadal will now face Roger Federer for the title that he has never won.

"I'm really happy to play so well against a player who's had a great season. I'm really enjoying myself and I hope I can produce something good tomorrow. I played a great match today. Whether it's the best match I played and lost, I don't know. But it was a great match. It's the way I want to play all the time." - Rafael Nadal

"I didn’t go into the match expecting anything less of myself. This is the way I want to play all the time. It was a great match to finish the year but I need to improve because I’m competing with the two best players of all time. So if I want to win these tournaments, the grand slams, I need to get better. I don’t think there is a better sportsman than Rafa in the way he conducts himself, I’ve had many great matches against him and I’ve been able to win some. Hopefully I’ll get to play him more because these sort of matches are the reason I play tennis.” - Andy Murray

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Djokovic Fills Final Semi's Position

Novak Djokovic has completed the line up for the four left standing at the Barclays Tour Finals. The final four, unsurprisingly, consist of the four players who have held the top four rankings exclusively until almost two weeks ago: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Djokovic booked his spot after sending Andy Roddick home in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, without a win to his name.

Djokovic was forced to work hard, for over seven minutes, to hold his opening service game after initially being up 40-15. Roddick was broken in the fourth game and continued to look almost disinterested, sometimes looking like he was just smacking ball from one side to another to see if that could get the job done.

The Serbian, on the other hand, looked hungry as he went after the set, knowing that winning it would mean his qualification into the semi finals. Roddick on the other hand had to win in straight sets to get through. After 31 minutes Roddick already knew he was going home he just had to ride out another set first.

Roddick is now scheduled to have about ten days of rest before he begins preparation for next season - not a lot of time off for someone who's looking as jaded and over it as the American number one.

Looking ahead to the semi's, unless Murray suddenly finds some form it's looking like we might see a Federer V Nadal final, which you'd have to favour the Swiss maestro in. You cant deny that while both Rog and Rafa have been playing well, Fed arrived in form and Rafa's worked his way towards being in full flight and on a fast, indoor surface Federer will have the edge unless Rafa's will to win in greater than the four time winner of the tour finals.

Either way the good news for both Murray and Federer is that they will both have had an extra day of rest when they step up to the plate tonight.

"Nights like tonight, it's a lonely place on court a lot of times. But that's the way sports is. I've been struggling physically for a while now. It's been a tough battle between trying to get healthy and finding the right balance between working and not getting hurt. The season probably came to an end at about the right time." - Andy Roddick

Nadal Rages Into Semi's

It was the Wimbledon final rematch that promised great shot making and drama and it didn't disappoint. After a battle in the first set there was argument with the umpire from Nadal which only served to fire him up as he then accelerated towards the finish line, winning 7-6, 6-1.

Nadal came under early fire, Berdych finding ways to use his strength and height to cope with the spin and bounce of the Spaniards shots, working his way to two break points. Nadal, a ferocious competitor fought for every single point like it was a fight to the death, spurring himself on with a series of loud cries of "Vamos!" and "Si!", sending his opponent a clear message as held.

Nadal returned the favour with some blistering returns to bring up two break points in the fifth game, on of which Berdych saved with a huge forehand down the line that the world number one couldn't control. Berdych held for the 3-2 lead.

When Rafa served to push for a tie break Berdych hit a ball that the umpire called out, Nadal sticking his hand in the air to challenge if it wasn't overruled. Berdych complained and then challenged. The ball on the Hawk-Eye review was only just in. Rafa had returned the ball in the court. Because it was Berdych who's challenge was accepted it should have been a replay, instead Berdych and the umpire believed that the point was Berdych's because Nadal had interupted play. Nadal became irate and understandably so complaining that it wasn't fair, and he almost sat down and refused to play.

It appeared that despite the fact that the umpire had overruled and it was Berdych's they were saying that Nadal had interrupted play. In the event that Nadal had interrupted play and the ball had not been overruled and Nadal's challenge was proven incorrect as it would have been, then Berdych deserves the point. However, the umpire overruled, agreeing with Nadal that it looked long, and Berdych challenged. Not the other way around.

The fact that the umpire overruled changes everything. Berdych challenged. Berdych was correct. Replay the point.

Rafa, then emotionally charged, took the game and the set before channeling his frustration into destroying Berdych in the second set. An enraged bull is a dangerous site on the other side of the net. I don't think I've ever seen Nadal so irritated that he looked like he was going on strike.

After the match Nadal, who has won almost $8 million and has a 69:9 win:loss record for this season looked back on his season and the drama filled match.

"For me, finish the season winning all the matches in the group, three victories against top eight players in probably the most difficult surface for me, is unbelievable now. I am very happy to be in  semi-finals. Tomorrow going to be a very difficult match against one of the best players of the world. I'm very happy how I am playing, how I improved during the tournament and for me today was a very good match.

You always can have a better season. You can win in every place. But for me, is very difficult to imagine. In my case, is almost impossible." - Rafael Nadal

“Every time you play No. 1 player in the world, is a great experience. I need to learn from the mistakes. That's how I can be better for the future. It was one of my goals for this year to get here and I'm happy for that.” - Tomas Berdych

"It just show how the referee is probably scared of him and just let him to talk with him too long. The rules are quite correct, you know. When you ask for the challenge, and he stops the game.  It's so simple that the point is what the challenge shows, and let's play and continue, not to be talking. It's not the mistake of Rafa. It's the mistake of the referee. He just need to show him (Nadal) that it's not like he can do whatever he wants on the court, just let him play. It should be more, you know, continuous." - Tomas Berdych
"I am right, but is mistake for him. But he is a great umpire and everybody have a mistake. I think he did today. Everybody have a mistake. If my ball went out, the mistake was myself." - Rafa Nadal

Friday, November 26, 2010

Murray Secures Semi Final Position

David Ferrer has left London empty handed after being beaten convincingly by Andy Murray 6-2, 6-2 in just 69 minutes. It wasn't an impressive match from Murray, who has struggled with his consistency, but he managed to pull it together and qualify for the semi finals. Ferrer, on the other hand, has lost all three of his matches in London.

Ferrer held his opening service game and then stating giving Murray trouble early, running him around the court and showing Murray up as he struggled to get his backhand going. With a double break point opportunity in Murray's opening service he dumped a backhand in the net.

With Ferrer ahead 2-0 it seemed like Murray was well aware of how many games he needed to make it through to the semi finals, having missed out last year by just one game. He responded immediately, shrugging off his opening errors and playing more aggressively to find his way to triple break point, needing all three to get things back on serve.

Ferrer had another chance to break in the next service game, narrowly missing. Ferrer who is 15cm shorter and a 12kg lighter (at least), was broken again, having only won 1 out of 9 points when Murray went to a 3-2 lead.

When Murray secured the first set 6-2 he let out a roar knowing he was safely through to the semi finals.

The rest of the match was much the same, Ferrer clinging on for dear life and Murray dominating as he should. Both players were broken in their opening service games, Ferrer then held his second before Murray reeled off 5 straight games to take the match.

"I'm going to be playing against someone like Rafa. I'll try and win but I'm not sure I've got a whole lot of chance if I play him. I've watched his matches here. He's been playing unbelievably well. I don't seem to beat those guys in the big matches. I need to do it in a big match, in the semis. I have to see whether I can do that or not. Am I confident? No, not really." - Andy Murray

"I'm not sure I've got a whole lot of chance if I play against Nadal. He's obviously the best player in the world. He's playing unbelievably well. I don't seem to beat these guys in the big matches. It was a good match tonight. I played well. Returned well. To win against someone as tough as David with that score line, must have played well." - Andy Murray 

“I thought Andy played a very good match. I served very bad all this week. And with these players,  is very difficult. If I don't serve good, is difficult. I don't think I was focused in the match with Andy. I tried my best. But today I had a lot of problems, physically, mentality. Is difficult to play with these guys. If I am not perfect, 100 per cent, is impossible.” - David Ferrer

Federer Stamps Out Soderlings Finals Hopes

Roger Federer has secured his spot in the World Tour Finals semi finals in London after his unblemished record was improved after defeating Robin Soderling 7-6, 6-3 after just 78 minutes of play.

The game was a fairly typical Federer-Soderling match where you know the outcome. You know Soderling will make some incredible shots, displaying his amazing strength and power. You know luck is always on Federer's side. You know Federer will rise to the occasion and is playing beautiful tennis at the moment. In short you know Federer's going to win.

Federer drew first blood for an early break of serve for 2-1 lead. Soderling continued to thump down some huge serves, scrambling around the court trying to make up for lost ground, knowing full well that Federer has, in the past, got away from him very quickly.

Soderling then broke back to level at 4-4 after Federer pushed a routine forehand long.

The match intensity increased during the tiebreak but from early on Soderling found himself behind and unable to make up the distance. When a backhand of Federer's appeared to by mishit from Soderling's perspective, he let the ball go where it dropped into the back corner of the court, sealing the first set. After the match he explained the error. "At first I was pretty sure it was going out. But as soon as I let it go, I felt like this one is going much closer to the line than I expected. Of course, it went in. It was a little bit unlucky but it's my fault."

After 8 minutes of battling Soderling managed to hold serve at 2-2. The comparative ease with which Federer was winning serve, sometimes throwing in some serve and volley play, made it clear the end was near for Soderling.

Robin saw a slight sign of hope when he was up 15-30 in the seventh game but with Federer serving so consistently that hope was quickly snuffed out. Federer produced a series of incredible forehands and backhands, ripping balls cross court and up the line, beating Soderling at the net for the break he needed to serve it out.

"I'm happy I was able to come out and play a good, tough, solid match against a player who I thought was in good shape. I purposely didn't want to know the calculations before the match. Last year that played on my mind a little bit. I'm happy that all three matches were straight sets wins with no wasted energy. I'm playing real well. I'm through to the semis. So it's all real good right now.

"Starting the season great in Australia, finishing the season great in London would be, you know, the circle is sort of closed. Then again, I'm still two matches away, two really tough matches. I'm most likely going to play against top five guys. Depends who I play, I don't even know yet. It's going to be a tough weekend ahead of me. That's my focus right now.

So far it's been good, you know. I won against top-10 players in straight sets. That's going to make me feel obviously awfully good for the weekend. But I hope I can keep it up. Tournament's not over yet. This is really when it starts for me." - Roger Federer

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Serena Williams To Miss The Australian Open

Serena Williams hasn't played at WTA tournament since Wimbledon in July after cutting her foot on glass in a restaurant. She has since had two surgeries on her foot and it is looking less likely that we will be seeing Serena any time soon.

The former world number one has announced today that she wont play any Australian hard court tournaments, including the Australian Open where she is defending champion.

"As I continue to rehabilitate my foot after the second surgery last month, it is with the utmost regret that I am withdrawing from the Hopman Cup and the 2011 Australian Open Championships. As I recently learned, pushing myself back into my intense training too early only caused me further injury and damage. 

While I desperately want to be back on the court and competing in the first grand slam tournament of the year, it is imperative for my health that I continue to work with my doctors to ensure my foot heals properly.

This decision, though heavy on my heart, is the right one.

I am praying for a healthy recovery and I promise my Aussie fans and my fans around the world that I will be back better than ever as soon as I can be."

Nadal Eyes Semi Finals As Djokovic Comes Undone

In a repeat of this years US Open final, fans cheered wildly hoping that the 23rd meeting between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic would be as closely contested as some of their meetings in the last two years. In the end Nadal won the encounter in straight sets 7-5, 6-2

The entire Nadal family were in Rafa's box, his parents separated in the seating as has been the case since their separation was announced last year. Nadal, in his school boy grey shorts, defended Novak's early attempts to force him back well behind the baseline. As Novak pushed to deuce someone in the crowd yelled out "Genius Novak! Genius!", the Serb then receiving a break point with a look at a second serve. An intelligent swinging body serve from the world number one saw the ball shanked and the game saved.

Novak showed he can step up and be an all court player, wrong footing Nadal with some smart play at the net. At one point Novak almost did the splits to pick up a volley from Nadal, somehow turning around and almost managing to race back to the other side of the court in time to reach the Spaniards reply.

When a heavy forehand from Nadal proved too difficult to control he had his first chance to break in the fifth game. A few shanked balls later Rafa came out ahead of some brilliant net play, calling for the trainer to remove some ankle taping. Novak responded immediately getting things back on level terms as he started executing his game plan more effectively.

Nadal's passing shots were so accurate that they consistently were out of reach of Novak who was anticipating Nadal's moves well, but simply wans't quick enough. He responded by trying to shorten the points, throwing down a few big serves. When the rallies happen Djokovic tracked everything down but ultimately found Nadal's forehand too difficult to control when he was on the run. Eventually after nearly 8 minutes the Serb held for a 4-3 lead.

That was where things started to unravel for Novak. He started having trouble with his contact lens which was deemed an equipment problem when Rafa started serving. Someone yelled out "You should've gone to Spec Savers!" to which Novak responded with a thumbs up.

After Nadal held, Djokovic tried a lens change after explaining that he was unable to see. As everyone waited for play to resume the crowd and Nadal were amused by a sign that said "Marry me Rafa!" and when flipped said "Or maybe just 1 kiss?" After both players held serve in what became a more subdued match and it became clear that Novak was still struggling to see and Nadal took the set 7-5 despite a series of unforced errors that gave Djokovic break points and something to smile about briefly before Rafa held.

Nadal's rhythm may have been disturbed but Djokovic was clearly having sight and therefore timing issues, seeming awkward when he took a swing. The doctor came out and attended to Djokovic as the umpire explained to Nadal it was an equipment issue as he was forced to wait again. Nadal complained that the bathroom break Djokovic had taken was 6 minutes and that he was sometimes in trouble for taking an extra few seconds between points. Nadal paced the back of the court waiting for Djokovic, irritated that his level of play dropped with the delays.

Djokovic was broken to love in the opening game of the first set as the mood in the stadium dropped further. Novak played but the nature of the battle had changed and the match was all but over, Nadal walking away undefeated in the tournament as Djokovic continued to rub his eyes.

“For me was a very important victory because my level was high another time; playing very well in the first set especially. For sure is a very important victory for the group because I am in a good position.” - Rafael Nadal

“The year was fantastic for me and to finish the season playing well here, like today, is very positive news for me. The image of last year was not one of my best. And for sure I really wanted to change that. 

I am happy because if I do not qualify for the semi-finals, the image is completely different this year than last year. For sure the season was the best season of my career.  I win the last three Grand Slams, I win in Monte-Carlo, Rome, Madrid, Tokyo. Was something impossible to imagine for me last year when I was playing here." - Rafael Nadal

"I really feel sick talking about it, to be honest. It has never happened to me before. From the five-all I could not play. I could not see a ball, especially the return. It was just terrible." - Novak Djokovic

Frustrated Roddick Defeated By Berdych

In the second round of play in Group A's round robin Tomas Berdych beat And Roddick 7-5, 6-3.

Berdych came out like a different player, not overwhelmed by the nerves that had gotten the better of him the other day against Novak Djokovic.

The first set saw some brilliant serving from both players but Berdych struggled at the net and Roddick was rewarded with two set points at 5-4. Berdych managed to use his forehand to dig himself back to deuce. Some big serving and a lone great volley got the Czech back on serve at 5-5.

After the match Roddick seemed to feel this was the turning point in the match. "The set points, the first return I hit well. I came under it, hit a really good forehand. He kind of took a chance a little bit. He hadn't gone forehand on a second serve. He went there on both of them. Obviously I wasn't looking forehand on either one. In retrospect, I should have been."

Roddick showed his superior net skills, trying to change things up, but was passed by brilliant running down the line backhand. With two game point in hand Roddick produced one double fault and then was beaten by an inch perfect cross court backhand that looked like it was going to sail long. Roddick then paid the price for serving only 2 of 8 first serves in the game and was broken by a hooked forehand return.

The anticipation skills of Roddick were on display but his replies didn't make enough of a difference as Berdych started to feel more confident and worked the angles of the court with his deadly shot making ability. Berdych's level of play changed the momentum of the game from Roddick being the more dominant, to the American being in big trouble.

The difference between the two became that Berdych was winning the big points, the break points and Roddick was just watching them sail passed. The same thing happened against Nadal. The Spaniard walked away with the match but Roddick won more points throughout the course of the game - just not the right ones.

Roddick started venting his frustration as he started to miss some shots and Berdych started hitting harder. The neon advertising lights behind Berdych, interestingly from Lacoste who actually sponsor the American, flashed and then were turned off, distracting Andy and only serving to fan the flames of his frustration.

When Berdych broke in that game for a 3-2 lead, Roddick broke his racket against his foot for which he was warned. Roddick turned to the umpire and said "It's my racket it doesn't affect anyone else... If I break my racket on my foot what the hell does it matter to you?"

Roddick later joked with the media that "I was angry with myself and there wasn't anybody else to talk to at that moment."

Roddick was up and pacing the baseline long before time was called, clearly letting his frustration get the better of him. The more annoyed Roddick became the more confident Berdych became, even displaying some great touch at the net while improving his first serve percentage.

A small ray of hope opened up in the eight game after a double fault from Berdych but it was quickly snuffed out to the frustration of Andy. Roddick continued to mutter to himself as Berdych smiled when another winner skimmed off the line. Berdych produced winner after winner and before long had double match point, only needing one.

Berdych will now face Rafa Nadal while Andy Roddick will face Novak Djokovic.

"I don't think he came into the match with a lot of confidence. Being able to get through that definitely raised his confidence level. I've beaten him three times this year. I have a pretty good idea what to do. Now, if you don't execute it, it makes most game plans look stupid." - Andy Roddick

"The neons in the back weren't quite to the settled position. They were still advertising fun stuff. When you're trying to track a ball, it's kind of hard with neon lights and stuff. Then Tomas noticed it, a couple of them just went out before we played a point." - Andy Roddick

"I played him this year three times, all three times he won. I was many times in this position. But not often I was able to get back, you know, just to do couple of good serves, you know, get to the deuce, then win the game. That's the thing what's gonna give you really a lot of, you know, the positive confidence and stuff like that. I just went there, serve twice pretty good, turn the game, the last pick-up volley was very tough one, and I made it. And then the next game just made a quick break, and that was the key of the game." - Tomas Berdych on defending break points int the first set.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

10 Hottest Tennis WAGs

The wives and girlfriends of tennis players are a mixed bunch - some very glamorous and successful in their own rights, some beautiful and silent, and some an integral part of their mans life. So lets take a look at the most beautiful and influential women in the grand stands.

1 - Brooklyn Decker

It's impossible to look past Andy Roddick's wife for the number 1 spot. This years Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model, sexiest woman alive and star of the new Adam Sandler movie Just Go With It. All year Decker has been plastered all over magazines and over our TV screens with interviews on David Letterman to name one.

Decker has also participated in the Elle Magazine Make Better self improvement and exercise campaign. She has also received press coverage lately because Andy and Brooklyn took an IQ Test in which Decker beat her witty, intelligent husband.

2 - Xisca Perello

After sitting on the sidelines for so long, only being seen with long term boyfriend Rafael Nadal at certain tournaments or in Mallorca, Xisca has been a very present figure in Team Nadal this year. This year Nadal happily declared to media that she was one of the loves of his life (his parents and sister being the other two) and that  "the more famous I became, the more I had to fight for Xisca's favour" (translated).

Perello cried court side with Rafa won Wimbledon this year and stood proudly by his side for media shots with his family and team after he completed a career slam - a huge step forward into public life for the shy and quiet Spaniard's girlfriend who stood in front of Nadal's father Sebastian.

Perrello, and his whole family for that matter, were so present this season it became normal spotting Xisca laughing with Nadal's mother Ana Maria and sister Maribel. Xisca also made headlines herself this year when she graduated from her business degree in Palma de Mallorca. Xisca has been seen waiting for Nadal at promotional duties, while he plays golf, court side, award ceremonies of various sizes and the doctors office. Xisca has been everywhere this year.

3 - Kim Sears

While Kim may have had a brief break-up late last year, their reunion earlier this year is widely credited to the improvement in Murray's form and temperament, the Scot looking jaded on court for months after the Australian Open.

Sears has perfected the art of sitting court side, locks flowing and perfect, supporting her man while fulfilling the role of a modest English rose. She is rarely quoted by media sources, trying to redirect the attention back to Andy. "No. Sorry. It's not about me, it's about Andy 

4 - Sara Foster

Foster, 90210 actress, model, and recent first time mum with fiancee Tommy Haas, Foster has been a long term WAG on tour who shirks the demure court side activity. Foster attend Haas's matches without make up and cheers loudly for her man, only interested in what he thinks. Before she started acting Foster was heavily involved in the modeling world and appeared in the 2005 'Shape of My Heart' video clip for the Backstreet Boys.

Sara has a recurring role on TV show Psych 9 but is currently on maternity leave after the birth of her daughter with Tommy Haas.

5 - Jelena Ristic

Long term girlfriend of Novak Djokovic, Jelena is a regular figure in Novak's box, loudly cheering on her man and attending media events with him. The two have been together at least the last three years but have been rumoured to be on/off partners.

Gorgeous Ristic has a relatively low profile with the media but has regularly displayed her unwavering support for the current world number 3.

6 - Carolina Cerezuela

The Spanish model is the long term partner and mother of recent retiree Carlos Moya's only child, daughter Carla. Carolina is also an actress starring mostly in TV shows since she was 15 years old. Since 2008 Carolina has been constantly by Carlos' side, regardless of whether he was rehabing, working at his gym in Mallorca, competing or retiring.

She has been with him in London for his retirement ceremony and to watch good friend Rafael Nadal compete in the Barclays Tour Finals.

7 - Irina Davydenko

While it may not have been the best year for the Davydenko's, with Nikolay breaking his wrist earlier in the year, wife Irina brings to mind the lyrics "behind every great man there has to be a great woman." Irina has long been Nikolay's traveling companion, putting baby plans on hold to promote his success and push him through tournaments even though Nikolay has said publicly he wants children now.

Irinia has acted as sometime coach but is a constant source of motivation for Nikolay, pushing him forward with a firm hand, celebrating success with him.

8 - Mirka Federer

Mirka Federer has to be one of the best known WAGs and while she is not a model (to add to the seemingly never ending group of model girlfriends) she the most influential without doubt. For years after her own retirement she acted as Roger's PR manager and is now the mother of their twin daughters.

Mirka is always in Roger's box, always. Mostly she applauds quietly but is quick to rise to her feet if her man needs an extra push. It has long been known that Mirka is instrumental in Federer's career, even helping with tactics and coaching tips on his long breaks between coaches. 

9 - Stacey Gardner

Gardner, wife of Mardy Fish, is one of the lesser known WAGs but is extremely successful in her own right. Gardner works as both a lawyer in California and as a Deal of No Deal suitcase model. The pair have been married since 2008

10 - Bec Hewitt

Actress Bec Hewitt, formerly Bec Cartright, recently gave birth to her third child with Lleyton Hewitt, another daughter, Ava. Hewitt is a former soap star and wannabe singer who is a constant fixture in Australian Gossip magazines and is regularly interviewed by OK magazine. Hewitt has, aside from increasing her family, more or less retired from her career to follow Lleyton around for his final years on tour.