Monday, January 31, 2011

Want More Rafael Nadal In Armani Jeans?

Andy Murray Australian Open Post Mortem

It hasn't even been 24 hours since Novak Djokovic comprehensively defeated Andy Murray for the Australian Open title and yet the general consensus of Andy's performance is less than flattering. The Scot has been in three Grand Slam finals and has not claimed a set in any of the encounters. The other notable factor is that his mindset and body language seem to be getting worse rather than growing in confidence with experience.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Novak Djokovic Claims Second Australian Open Title

Novak Djokovic has claimed his second Australian Open title tonight, beating Andy Murray 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in just over two and a half hours. The loss means Andy Murray has still not won a set in a Grand Slam final, continuing to be tormented by the mental side of his game.

It seemed only appropriate that the two players came out tight given that they've both had chances but failed to really step up over the last 3 years in Grand Slam finals. Both players have been halted by Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and their far superior play in Grand Slam finals, but with the top two missing they had to battle each other to see who wanted it more and who was more willing to step up.

Kim Clijsters - Australian Open Champion

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kim Clijsters Claims Australian Open Title Against National Hero Li Na

Li Na has a beautiful game, it wasn't always the case, but she really does have a beautiful game. Asking her to step up and win her first Grand Slam title against a veteran and intimidating figure like Kim Clijsters was always going to be more of a mental battle. Li Na won hearts but Kim Clijsters won the title, her fourth Grand Slam, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Li Na came out a little bit nervous and Clijsters took advantage, getting a 2-0 lead early before Li broke back to get things back on serve. In the sixth game Kim had two break points but fought back to level at 3-3.

2011 Kim Clijsters Last Full Year On WTA Tour

Kim Clijsters has already talked about how she will likely retire for the final time after the 2012 Olympics and she has confirmed these statements again, saying Saturday's final against Li Na will likely be her last real chance as she doesn't intend on playing a full season in 2012.

Clijsters has made no secret of her desire for another child, a sibling for little Jada Lynch.

Q. You said when you won the 2009 US Open that Australian Open was one the titles you would like to get as well. How personally satisfying is it to be here the day before the final? Because this could be your last Australian Open. 
KIM CLIJSTERS: Yeah, it is. That's what I mentioned I think yesterday after my match as well. I know this is probably going to be my last full season on the tour, and then we'll see. You know, it's nice that I'm in this spot to reach the final, to play for the title. I think it's something that is a great feeling to have, knowing that I'm not going to be able to come here for five more years. 

So, yeah, it's nice their give myself the opportunity to play a big match to compete for the title.

Murray Fights Ferrer For Finals

With the big serve that Andy Murray possesses and David Ferrer's horror tiebreak record the semifinal match between the two was always on Andy Murray's racquet. The big question was always going to be whether Murray was playing passively or going out to earn his position in Sunday's final against Novak Djokovic. Ultimately Murray beat Ferrer 4-6, 7-6, 6-2, 7-6.

Ferrer had lost his last ten tiebreaks, not wining on at the Australian Open since 2004 according to the commentators and he really needed to step it up and force Murray into his standard reactive play. The Spaniard managed to do that while Andy adjusted to the conditions of his first night match for the tournament.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Djokovic Repeats History And Scalps Federer

Roger Federer has never beaten Novak Djokovic when the Serbian has won the first set and tonight was no different. With Rafael Nadal injured and out of the tournament, both players were well aware of their chances in a final, and both arrived desperate to claim the final spot and it was Novak who walked away victorious 7-6, 7-5, 6-4 after three hours.

Li Na - Comedic Genius

You've got to love Li Na. Her post match interviews are so hilarious. Today's was no exception. From her revelations about her husband's snoring to her confusion over when her wedding anniversary is.

Please enjoy!

Should Nadal's Team Have Stopped Him?

The big question is should Nadal's team have done more to ensure their man was fit and healthy for the Australian Open to really push for the history breaking fourth consecutive title? The answer is yes.

Australian Open Finals: Kim Clijsters V Li Na

Li Na defended a match point against Caroline Wozniacki in their semifinal today and came back to win the match to be the first Chinese player in a Grand Slam final.

Na, a crowd favourite for her refreshing honesty and beautiful backhand, eventually defeated Wozniacki 3-6, 7-5, 6-3for a place against Kim Clijsters.

The Chinese number one joked that she was tired during the match because her husband was snoring all night, much to the crowds delight, and that the idea of the prize money spurred her on to victory.

Justine Henin Forced Into Permanent Retirement

In an unsurprising announcement Justine Henin has finally admitted to the world what we've long been suspicious of - that he small elbow fracture was a career ending injury.

Today Justin Henin has retired for the final time, just one year after making a comeback. It's a sad end to her story, spending 6 months of that comeback year working hard to overcome an injury that occurred at Wimbledon.

Rafael Nadal Defeated And Heartbroken

Q. What can you tell us about the injury? What did David say to you at the end of the match?

RAFAEL NADAL: I can say nothing about the injury. Seriously, I would prefer don't talk a lot about the injury. 

Tonight, first of all, I don't know nothing. Second thing, for respect to the winner and to a friend, I prefer to talk about the match. I think he played at a very high level. I just congratulate him and wish him all the best for the semifinal. I think he's doing a fantastic tournament. If he keep playing like this, he going to have a good chances. 

What David told me at the net is for me and that's it. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Raging Bull Rafael Nadal Comes To Limping Halt

David Ferrer put on a stellar performance against world number one Rafael Nadal tonight, defeating his countryman 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Out of respect for David, and shear desperation to complete what he had called virtually impossible, the Rafa Slam, Nadal limped across the finish line, barely able to run. The raging Spanish bull was injured and the underdog Ferrer progressed through to the semifinals unscathed.

The grind between two of the world's greatest grinders was on from the first game. After Ferrer held, Nadal battled for 17 minutes and 41 seconds to try and hold serve. Ferrer played some of the most aggressive tennis I've seen him play and broke Rafa eventually.

Nadal looked to be lolly popping the ball like he had against Tomic, struggling to find depth and power, with Ferrer all over him as the trainer was called. The cool conditions meant Rafa's balls didn't have their normal pop and clearly all was not well with the world number one.

Tennis Perspective Gallery: Federer, Robredo, Nadal, Wawrinka, Clijsters, Murray, Ferrer, Verdasco

Meet The Best Tennis Player In The World: Esther Vergeer

Everyone always debates who the best player in the world is it, and argues that the statistics favour Roger Federer, Martina Navratilova, Rod Laver, Rafael Nadal, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors but they forget Esther Vergeer.

Esther Vergeer is a Dutch participant in this years wheelchair competition at the Australian Open. Esther is so dominant over her rivals that she is on a 405 game winning streak after winning her first round match 6-0, 6-0.  During her incredible career she has won 610 matches and lost only 25. Nadal has a 475-102 record and Federer has a 748-174 and as dominant as they have been Esther has simply overwhelmed her competitors and hasn't lost in 8 years, something that no other player can boast.

There are champions, and there are all-time greats. Dutch 29-year-old Esther Vergeer is definitely in the second category. Esther, wheelchair tennis phenomenon, who today won her first round match 6-0, 6-0, has won 610 matches in her career, and lost just 25. Unsurprisingly, she is the world number one ranked player. She is on a 405-game winning streak. She has not lost for eight years.
Men's doubles player Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi attended a Vergeer training session this week after hearing of her exploits.

Murray Pushed By Dolgopolov In Quarters

Despite the fact that Andy Murray has slipped to number five in the rankings, as far as everyone is concerned the 'big four' are still in with a chance at the Australian Open title. The only person standing in the way of a Nadal V Murray, Federer V Djokovic semi final is David Ferrer after Alexandr Dolgopolov was beaten in today's quarterfinal by Andy Murray 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.

The undisciplined Dolgopolov pushed Murray and took the first set of the tournament from him and kept him on court longer than anyone else. Alex played some highly unpredictable tennis, throwing in random errors, brilliant unforeseen winners, lulls in activity, changes in pace, and huge aces out wide. The ace out wide kept Murray frustrated throughout the match, and saved Dolgopolov break point after break point.

More Photos From The Australian Open - Nadal, Schiavone, Soderling, Ferrer, Verdasco, Clijsters And More

Here are some more of my photos from the first weekend of the Australia. We saw Rafa practicing on Rod Laver Arena and then getting mauled as he tried to leave a side court. I was ignored by a wandering Feliciano Lopez despite being the only person to actually recognise him and despite asking him in Spanish for a photo. Also on the practice courts were Fernando Verdasco, Kim Clijsters, David Ferrer, Novak Djokovic, Robin Soderling and Bernard Tomic.

I saw little Jada Lynch being wheeled around with a friend sitting on her lap and Alexandr Dolgopolov happily wandering around texting. Enjoy!

Djokovic Beats Berdych But Can He Beat Federer?

Novak Djokovic has set up a US Open semi final rematch with Roger Federer after beating Tomas Berdych 6-1, 7-6, 6-1 to book a place in the Australian Open semis. The question remains can Novak beat Roger again or will Roger get his revenge?

If Novak beats him it puts him back in contention for the Australian open title which would be great to see someone else win for a change but also great to see if he can follow through and do what he said - make use of his next opportunity.

Schiavone Succumbs To Wozniacki

Marathon winner, and 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone has succumbed to the world number one Caroline Wozniacki 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Schiavone may have opened with more double faults that she normally has, a side effect of fatigue and rib problems after battling Kuznetsova for nearly 5 hours in her previous match, but for the first set and a half she was dominating Wozniacki and producing some of her brilliant trademark varied play.

Aravane Rezai Makes Statement About Domestic Dispute

Aravane Rezai has defended her family on her website denying the rumors the her father had been involved in any serious misconduct. Despite this an unspecified family member is still banned from WTA events until further investigation.

Rezai said (translated) "Disagreements in the family are not uncommon and my family is still very important to me." She also said that she would withdraw from Fed Cup and the upcoming event in Paris. "In agreement with my team, I have decided not to take part in the next Fed Cup tie and the Paris Open. I go on with my training programme and hope to get back to competition in the near future. Meanwhile, I ask the media to respect my private life as well as my family's."
Meanwhile the official WTA statement remains unchanged. "A serious safety matter has been brought to the WTA's attention, which has resulted in a family member of Aravane Rezai being indefinitely suspended from all future WTA events pending our investigation."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fernando Verdasco Playing On Fractured Ankle

Fernando Verdasco complained of ankle problems that restricted his play during his straights sets fourth round defeat to Tomas Berdych. Over the weekend he looked comfortable on the practice courts. He wasn't running but no body was - it was too hot. He wasn't limping or grimacing but it turns out that sore ankle has been fractured since Kooyong.

Somehow Fernando has pushed past the pain over the last two weeks and managed to still run and be very competitive despite having a broken ankle. He now has to decide what to do. Apparently continuing to play on it is an option and surgery is his last resort.

Li Na Into Semifinals

The charismatic Li Na is the first woman into the semifinals of the Australian Open after she beat the often dancing Andrea Petkovic 6-2, 6-4.

Li and her beautiful backhand managed to survive the power of the German to break for a 2-0 lead in both sets.

This will be Li's second consecutive semifinal at the Australian Open. Last year she ran to the semi's where she was beaten by eventual champion Serena Williams. This year she will face the winner of Caroline Wozniacki and Francesca Schiavone.

Aravane Rezai Involved In Domestic Dispute

Aravane Rezai has been confirmed to have been involved in a family domestic dispute that is being investigated by the Victorian Police. French media are speculating that her father had an altercation with her or her boyfriend and from the very little that has been released it certainly sounds like there's another Damir Dokic on the scene.

"Police are investigating an alleged incident involving a 23-year-old woman on the 18th of January. As the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further." - Victorian Police

"A serious safety matter has been brought to the WTA's attention, which has resulted in a family member of Aravane Rezai being indefinitely suspended from all future WTA events pending our investigation. In respect of the privacy of the player involved, the WTA is not in a position to comment further on the details of the matter." - WTA

Nadal, Ferrer, Verdasco, Clijsters And More: My Photos From Melbourne Park

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rafael Nadal Into Quarterfinals

Rafael Nadal has raised his level of play to defeat Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-4, 6-3 for a place in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open. The win means Rafa is now 1-1 in the head to head with Cilic, having been comprehensively beaten in their only previous meeting.

Nadal opened by breaking Cilic after the Croat had lead 40-0. The Spaniard, who had a 2.5kg deficit after sweating profusely in his match against Tomic, seemed either thinner or to be wearing a much bigger shirt. It wasn't clear if it was just a bigger shirt or if the ailing Nadal had lost weight. In his post match conference after the Tomic match he suggested he'd be fine if he ate more. Apparently at his practice earlier in the day he was seen complaining to a Nike rep about his shirt.

Dolgopolov Shows Soderling The Door

Robin Soderling has been in blistering form, quietly annihilating everyone in his path and after he won the first set 6-1 it seemed his match against Alexandr Dolgopolov would be no different despite Dolgopolov's impressive win against Jo Wilfried Tsonga. Ultimately it was Soderling who was sent home after the Alex won 1-6 6-3 6-1 4-6 6-2.

Stan Wawrinka Surprises Andy Roddick

Stanislas Wawrinka showed some great for a few days ago against Gael Monfils. Still I expected him to beat the Frenchman, I did not think he would beat Andy Roddick, and certainly not in straight sets - but that's exactly what happened. Stan defeated Roddick comfortably last night 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, booking his place in his first ever Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Schiavone Beats Kuznetsova In Epic

This morning when I was wandering around Melbourne Park this morning I saw a playful Francesca Schiavone jogging around the practice court belting balls and showing positive signs ahead of her match against Svetlana Kuznetsova. She would need every ounce of her trademark fight and positivity to overcome the Russian 6-4, 1-6, 16-14 marathon that lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes.

King Of Spin Nadal Pushed By Tomic

Rafael Nadal, the king of spin, was far from his best today, Bernard Tomic, on the other hand, showed that he knows how to play intelligent tennis. He used huge changes in pace to confuse the Spaniard and not allow him to find a rhythm.

Nadal struggled to find a first serve throughout the match and from inside the stadium the sound of the ball off his racquet didn't sound right. When he go a first serve in and finally hit the ball properly Tomic struggled to match him. The young Australian read Rafa's second serve well as the world number one looked more and more frustrated with the state of his game and the variety in Tomic's game.

Stosur's Disappointing Demise

Sam Stosur has failed at her first real test during this years Australian Open. Sam couldn't have asked for a better chance with neither of the Williams sisters healthy enough to really contest the title, but after cruising through her early rounds it looked like she simply gave up after Petra Kvitova took the first set tie break.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Venus Williams Unable To Play

Following the dismantling of the at times seemingly disinterested Gael Monfils at the hands of Stanislas Wawrinka, the ladies match between Venus Williams and Andrea Petkovic was scheduled to be a great one if Venus' psoas muscle had recovered.

The problem is psoas muscles are notorious for causing problems, and because the muscle is so big (hence the name psoas major) it can create back pain as well as pain on every movement. Unluckily for Venus it wasn't just a mild irritation of this strong hip flexor. She said she could feel pain on every step until before the match. A match that was over in six minutes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tomas Berdych Flies Under The Radar

It's fair to say that along with Robin Soderling, Tomas Berdych is flying under the radar at this years Australian Open. Soderling was ignored because previously his results in Melbourne have deserved to be ignored, however, you can't discount the fact that Soderling is now a different player.

Tomas Berdych is also different. He's not choking as much. He's taking down some big names more regularly, and not just in smaller tournaments. Over the last week, Tomas has been quietly going about his business, today beating Frenchman Richard Gasquet 6-2, 7-6, 6-2.

Kuznetsova Knocks Henin Out Of The Open

Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova has defeated former world number one Justin Henin 6-4, 7-6 in the third round of the Australian Open today. Justine had beaten Sveta on 16 previous occasions, but despite some nerves when serving for the match, Sveta came through with the win and a bit of an upset.

To be fair Henin is still clearly struggling with her recovering elbow. Justine served numerous double faults with a strapped wrist to try and help her absorb the pace of Kuznetsova's shots.

Djokovic Dances Into Fourth Round

After good friend Viktor Troicki retired in their third round match after Novak Djokovic took the first set 6-2, the world number three enjoyed a quick dance with Kim Johnson from Dancing With The Stars.

After 39 minutes Troicki retired with an injured stomach muscle.

Baghdatis Sends Del Potro Packing - Wrist Watch Continues

Marcos Baghdatis was going to be a difficult opponent for the returning Juan Martin del Potro. The outcome entirely depended on if Marcos had found some form - and he had. The Cypriot won 6-1, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 42 minutes

The opening set was a white wash as Juan Martin seemed to struggle with the very loud crowd that had accumulated to support Marcos. It was a new and improved Marcos who took to the court, significantly more toned than he has been in recent years was playing with aggression and accuracy on his side as the giant Argentine looked somewhat confused and at odds for a solution.

Marcos took the quick first set 6-1 in just 33 minutes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nadal Off To The Aquarium

What does Rafael Nadal do to prepare for playing Bernard Tomic on Saturday? He plans to go to the aquarium.

Rafa joked with journalists, demonstrating his much improved English, and analyzed the Federer V Simon match in his post match interview today.

It gets good from about 3:30.

Jankovic Fails To Impress Again

Jelena Jankovic was heavily criticized when she was number one in the world for her inconsistent play and ability to be at the top without really winning anything significant. She seems to retire with various ailments at times of crisis and I don't remember the last time I saw her play consistently for two tournaments.

Maybe I'm being harsh but she's the epitome of the inconsistent WTA player.

Clijster Cruises Comfortably

Kim Clijsters progressed comfortably today with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro who has arguably one of the best single handed backhands on the WTA.

Carla, who has spent a significant period of time dealing with an ankle injury, previously took Venus Williams out in the 2009 Australian Open and has struggled to regain that level of play.

Kim smothered Carla's second serve and over powered the diminutive Spaniard.

Nalbandian Retires In Second Round

Lleyton Hewitt must be fuming. Sure he has a commentary position with channel 7 but that's not going to help him feel any better about the fact he should be preparing for a third round match.

David Nalbandian just passed Hewit in their epic first match in which the Australian had match points he was unable to convert because of the inspired play of David. Hewitt, who is renowned for his tenacity and ability to recover, would surely have dismantled the game of Richard Berankis, Nalbandian could not.

First Shots Of Rafael Nadal Modeling Armani Underwear

Get a load of this. A first shot of Rafael Nadal's efforts modeling Armani Underwear popped up on Twitter. So please enjoy this gift from Armani including some behind the scenes images.

Rafael Nadal To Play Bernard Tomic In Third Round

As predicted Bernard Tomic is making the most of his Australian Open draw and will face Rafael Nadal in the third round. Tomic cleverly used changes of pace to pass Spaniard Feliciano Lopez and Rafa destroyed Ryan Sweeting.

Lopez, who played in an electric pink top with perfect hair, took to the court and didn't take the suns position into account when he chose which end he wanted to serve from. As a consequence he couldn't see the ball particularly well and was broken in his opening service game.

Federer Scrapes Past Simon In Five Sets

Before their match media outlets were hyping up the fact that Gilles Simon had beaten Roger Federer in both of their previous meetings. What they failed to point out was that those matches were not Grand Slams and that Federer was struggling with the effects of mono in 2008. Gilles Simon still took Federer the distance tonight.

Scarily Federer was 165-0 in matches where he's been ahead two sets to love leading up to this match and he managed to keep his record in perfect condition with his 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2 win over Simon. Federer's most recent early round loss was in round 3 in 2003 at Roland Garros but he looked dangerously close tonight.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Verdasco Wins The Hard Way

Fernando Verdasco survived three match points against Janko Tipsarevic before he was able to book a place in the third round of the Australian Open.

In the fourth set the Serbian had three chances to close the match out as Verdasco seemed to fluctuate with his form in the match. Despite Tipsarevic's at times inspired and brilliant play, the Spaniard came out on top, winning 2-6 4-6 6-4 7-6, 6-0.

From the opening game of the match, Tipsarevic's game plan was flawless. He confidently set up camp right on the baseline, refusing to relinquish any ground to his more powerful opponent and looked on as he made Verdasco run mercilessly.

Venus Williams Fashionably Deficient And Injured

Venus Williams had a tough day today against Czech Sandra Zahlavova whom she eventually beat 6-7, 6-0, 6-4 despite struggling, and screaming across the finish line.

During the match Williams was clearly in pain and screamed as she stretched for some balls (well more than she normally does anyway).

After the match Venus said she had injured her psoas muscle which the media seemed to be confused by, asking her if she wasn't going to say what was injured. When she confirmed for the third time she had strained her psoas muscle they finally moved on.