Archive for May, 2009

31
May
09

Robin Soderling….Man of the moment.

b_soderlingportrait

Robin Soderling pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Grand Slam history on Sunday when he blew away reigning champion Rafael Nadal in four sets. Intriguingly, the hard-hitting Swede has a reputation for putting his peers’ backs up at times, but it does not seem to bother him in the slightest.

“If people don’t like me, there’s nothing I can do about it. I just concentrate on my game. I’m here to play tennis, not to make friends. I don’t care about being famous.” says the current world No25, who broke into the top 20 for the first time in his career in February 2009.

His rematch with Nadal had been given extra spice by the cheek the Swede showed during their third-round encounter at Wimbledon in 2007. At the beginning of the fifth set, Magnus Norman’s protégé imitated the Spaniard by adjusting his underwear before every game.

“Quite frankly, that was a lot of fuss about nothing. I’m disappointed that Nadal complained to the press without talking to me about it directly. Personally, if I have a problem with a player I go and talk to him face-to-face.”

So has Soderling got any friends on the tour, apart from the ever-loyal Jarkko Nieminen? “Not many. I used to hang around with the other Swedes, but there are fewer on the circuit now,” says the softly-spoken Scandinavian, who toppled No14 David Ferrer in the third round.

Evidently, that lack of company does not weigh on him too heavily. Following an injury to his left wrist which kept him away from the tour between August 2007 and February 2008, Soderling had his best season ever in 2008, chalking up a win in Lyon, two finals and a place in the top 20. After a difficult start to the 2009 season, the Swede is finally enjoying the fruits of his consistency which, according to the man himself, failed him in the past.

“Now I feel that I can show my potential and accomplish great things. I want to get into the top 10 and the only way to do that is through being consistent. A handful of good results is not enough. All the guys in the top 30 dream of breaking into the top 10 and can make it happen. If I stay fit I know I can do it.”

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31
May
09

Nadal & Verdasco lose…Sharapova wins.

_nadal 8

Rafael Nadal’s unbeaten run at the French Open is over.

The four-time defending champion lost to Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 7-6 (2) Sunday in the fourth round, ending his record 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros.

Soderling, seeded 23rd at this year’s tournament, ran Nadal ragged on center court with his hard serve and booming forehand.

“When one player plays bad, (he) must lose,” Nadal said. “(It) was my fault. … I didn’t play my best tennis and for that reason I lose.”

Nadal has dominated the French Open since his first match on the red clay at Roland Garros. In his 31 previous matches, he had lost only seven sets—the last one coming against Roger Federer in the 2007 final.

“He can’t feel good right now,” said Soderling, who called Nadal “the greatest clay-court player of all time.

Fernando Verdasco, who was touted as being among the favourites to make the final, was sent packing by a resurging Nicolay Davydenko. While Maria Sharapova won another match the hard way. After winning the first set 6-4 to Na Li she lost 6-0 in the second and was under pressure to final take the third set 6-4.

31
May
09

Azarenka downs Ivanovic easily.

Victoria-AzarenkaThere will be a new champion at this year’s French Open as defending champion Ana Ivanovic was blown off the court by 19 year old Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 6-3. It was #9 against #8 according to the WTA rankings, but on court it was more like #2 against #8. Ivanovic had progressed nicely through the early rounds and appeared to getting her service under control as each match progressed, but today she ran into a young aggressive Belarussian who is making her way to the top.

Given that eighth seed Ivanovic had not lost a set in her run to the last 32, Azarenka’s 6-2 6-3 win came as a surprise.

Ivanovic said: “I started really well and felt good in the beginning but after the first point of the fourth game, I just started feeling so dizzy and I completely lost my balance.

“After that, it was really hard. I struggled with looking up. But she played well.”

Azarenka meets top seed and title favourite Dinara Safina next.

Safina has dropped just five games in her march to the quarter-finals.

The world number one continued her imperious form on clay with a comprehensive 6-1 6-0 win over French hope Aravane Rezai.

The Russian came into the fourth-round match having lost just one of her last 18 contests on clay and had dropped only five games during the first three rounds at Roland Garros.

Rezai could do little to halt her opponent’s momentum, taking only one game as the world number one cruised to victory in 53 minutes.

The French youngster held her first service game but was blown away thereafter, Safina breaking in the fourth and sixth to secure the first set 6-1.

The second set was even more one-sided, Safina imediately setting the tone by breaking Rezai in the first game before closing it out to love to advanvce to the quarter-finals.

She said: “I’m feeling very good right now.

“I’m trying to be very professional and not waste energy. I think this is something new to me – before I would maybe just go out there and play and waste my energy.

“No free points, no stupid mistakes. I’m just playing point by point.”

Rezai won last week’s tournament in Strasbourg and had only dropped one set on the way to the fourth round, but she was powerless to prevent Safina easing to victory.

“I didn’t feel helpless and I didn’t think it was impossible to defeat her, but she is the world number one and she deserves that ranking,” said the 22-year-old.

“I wasn’t capable of finding the solutions to put her in a difficult position. I didn’t play well.

“This is also my ninth match in a row. I’m a little tired and I have to take time off and rest.”

Maria Sharapova fought back from 4-2 down in the third set to oust 25th seed Na Li and set up a last-eight meeting with Dominika Cibulkova.

Former world number one Sharapova, who has slipped to 102 in the rankings after a long spell out with shoulder trouble, won 6-4 0-6 6-4 against the Chinese, despite struggling with cramp to her left thigh in the latter stages.

Sharapova needs the Roland Garros crown to complete her haul of grand slam titles.

Twentieth seed Cibulkova was the first player into the last eight, the Slovakian a convincing 6-2 6-4 winner over Agnes Szavay.

Hungary’s Szavay, the 29th seed, could not reproduce the exploits which dumped out third seed Venus Williams in the third round, as Cibulkova posted a 6-2 6-4 success on Suzanne Lenglen court.

Cibulkova looked a bag of nerves as she clinched victory on her third match point to reach her first grand slam quarter-final.

“I got so tight because I wanted to win so badly,” said the 20-year-old.

“It’s just amazing – I felt like I was going to cry. I play tennis for these moments.

31
May
09

More ‘drama’ surrounds Serena.

serena 2Serena Williams was sure the ball went off her opponent’s arm, a no-no in tennis. The opponent, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, insisted the ball went off her racket.

Williams accused Martinez Sanchez of “cheating.” Martinez Sanchez thought that was a “stupid” thing for Williams to say.

Here’s what happened in Saturday’s third-round match:

At 2-2 in the first set, Williams double-faulted to give a break point to Martinez Sanchez, a Spaniard who is ranked 43rd and never has reached the fourth round at a major. On the next point, Martinez Sanchez raced to the net behind a drop shot that brought Williams forward, too. Williams ran up and smacked a backhand right at Martinez Sanchez.

In what seemed to be an effort to protect herself, as much as to try to hit a volley, the left-handed Martinez Sanchez raised her racket, quick as could be. The ball ricocheted back—off her racket? off her arm? off both?—and past Williams. The point was awarded to Martinez Sanchez, giving her the game.

NBC, which televised the match, showed The Associated Press replays in which the ball appears to glance first off Martinez Sanchez’s right forearm, then off her racket, before going over the net. Tennis rules say if a ball touches a player, the point is lost.

As the women headed to the ensuing changeover, Williams tried to say something to Martinez Sanchez, who kept walking. Then Williams spoke to the chair umpire, Emmanuel Joseph, saying, “I felt so bad. I didn’t mean to hit her.”

Repeatedly pointing to her own forearm, Williams told Joseph, “I don’t know why you gave her the game. That’s totally not cool.”

“She better not come to the net again,” Williams said.

At her postmatch news conference, Williams was asked whether she thought the ball touched Martinez Sanchez.

“I didn’t ‘think’ the ball touched her—the ball did touch her, 100 percent, on her arm. The rules of tennis is when the ball hits your body, then it’s out of play. You lose a point automatically,” Williams said. “So the ball hit her body, and therefore, she should have lost the point—instead of cheating.”

Could Martinez Sanchez have been unsure whether the ball made contact with her arm?

“I hit that ball rather hard,” Williams said. “She knew that ball hit her.”

A moment later, rolling her eyes, Williams added: “It was like, ‘No way.’ I would never do that. I’ve never done that. I’ve never sunk low.”

When Williams’ comments were relayed, Martinez Sanchez said: “I don’t like to comment about this. It’s a stupid comment.”

Asked in both English and Spanish whether the ball hit her, she repeatedly said it went off her racket.

As for Williams’ health, the 10-time Grand Slam singles champion said she’s been fighting a cold.

“I thought,” Williams said, “I was going to cough up a lung or something.”

Talk about drama.

31
May
09

Read Rafa’s daily blog from Paris…..

nadal 6Hi Everyone,

I am writing this blog today with a lot of will to talk about my press conference yesterday. It was all questions about the Anti-doping controls in tennis. But I am not going to talk much about this yet since I think it would be quite a long post. I am going to leave it for tomorrow in the case I win and that I will have more time to write about it.

In any case, some people tell me that I should not be talking about these things. I know it might not be politically correct and that it doesn’t benefit me in any way. Why? Because some people might think I don’t want to have controls or whatever. Wrong. That is COMPLETELY wrong. I am in favour of a clean sport and to have controls to catch the cheaters in case there are any (I believe tennis is a very clean sport). But I do ask for a bit of respect with our privacy and the right that we have under the law to have that bit of privacy. As I say maybe I will explain all this tomorrow and I will say, once again, what I think, because I am convinced about it.

So, today I simply had a normal easy practice day. Nothing really special. Well yes, I did have some time in the afternoon to have a little walk in Paris and even went shopping for something I needed. I don’t say what it was so that you have some more questions to ask for tomorrow 🙂

Many thanks

Rafa

31
May
09

Djokovic ousted in 3rd round.

Novak-Djokovic-forehand_2312512Fourth seed Novak Djokovic crashed out of the French Open at the third-round stage after he lost in straight sets to Philipp Kohlschreiber on Court One.

The German 29th seed was a 6-4 6-4 6-4 winner over Djokovic, who has reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros for the past two years.

The result is even more of a surprise given the Serbian’s great clay-court campaign, which has seen him win a title in Belgrade, make two finals – in Monte Carlo and Rome – and reach a semi-final in Madrid.

Kohlschreiber, who had previously never gone further than the second round here, will play Tommy Robredo next.

Kohlschreiber was a deserved winner, and he sealed victory with a fine cross-court backhand.

Djokovic, who made far too many unforced errors throughout the match, will lose ground on the top three in the rankings now.

30
May
09

Stosur knocks out #4 Dementieva.

_stosurElena Dementieva who had a lot of success early in the year down-under, is shaking her head in amazement as she was defeated by the second Aussie she has played at Roland Garros. Two days ago she was given a walk-over after Jelena Dokic who was forced to retire with a lower back injury. At the time she was down a set and a break, and today she faced the other half of the Aussie Fed Cup pair, Samantha Stosur. Stosur played a solid game and never gave Dementieva a chance to really get into the match as she won 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Dementieva was seeded #4 and joins Venus Williams on the sidelines before the end of the first week.

30
May
09

Rafa accuses antidopers of harassment.

_nadal 5Rafael Nadal accused anti-doping controllers of “harassing” tennis players on Friday and defended his suspended friend Richard Gasquet.

Frenchman Gasquet confirmed almost three weeks ago that he had tested positive for cocaine during last month’s Miami event and is provisionally banned as he tries to clear his name.

“I support him. I’m certain that he’s not taking anything,” Nadal told reporters at the French Open after reaching the fourth round.

“He’s a good friend of mine and I discussed this with him last week and he’s most certainly not taking cocaine.

“You know what the world is like today. You go to a party… if you kiss a girl who’s taken cocaine, anything can happen. This can destroy your career and this is most unfair.”

Nadal again criticised the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)’s so-called “whereabouts” rules, under which athletes must tell their national anti-doping authorities where they will be at a chosen hour between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m each day for a three-month period.

If they change their plans they are obliged to inform the authorities of that change. Athletes who miss three doping tests over an 18 month period face possible suspensions.

Tennis players want more flexibility since their schedules change at the last minute if they are knocked out from a tournament in which they were expecting to do well.

“The International Tennis Federation (ITF) should take measures,” said Nadal. “I don’t have the impression that it’s good to put so much pressure on us. They harass us.”

“If I lose tomorrow, I’ll go back to Mallorca and who will know where I am if I have no access to the internet?”

“Now, if they knock at my door in Mallorca, they’re going to give me a warning. It’s happened to Carlos (Moya) before. They sent him a warning and this is most unfair.”

The ITF had no comment on the issue.

30
May
09

Shrieking reaches new heights.

_DeBrito_185x185_565009aAlan Mills, Wimbledon referee from 1982 to 2005, is a man who always believed rules were there for a reason and not to be flouted. Subsequently he saw the increasing trend of female grunters guilty of bringing unnecessary audible pollution to the game he loved while trying to give themselves an unfair advantage over their opponents.

In many ways the term grunt is rather inaccurate. Perhaps the noise emanated by Jimmy Connors could loosely be described in that way but once the females got into the act it became more like a banshee’s wail. First there was Monica Seles racking up the decibels, next Anna Kournikova and then the Williams sisters, while Maria Sharapova made things much louder.

But now the Noise Abatement Society should be aware of Michelle Larcher De Brito, a 16-year-old from Portugal who attacks the eardrums of opponents, officials and spectators with the the kind of shriek that suggests she is having her fingernails torturously ripped out on every single shot. And as if that were not enough, more often than not she celebrates the winning of a point with a shake of the fist directed across the net and a loud yell of “C’monnnnnnnnnnn” that makes Lleyton Hewitt appear positively respectful to his opponent by comparison.

Mills was certain that players from the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida were taught to employ noise into their armoury and it’s no coincidence that Seles, Kournikova, Sharapova and now Marcher del Brito were all schooled at the American coach’s Bradenton headquarters.

For reasons that frustrated Mills immensely, no action could be taken against the noisier players unless the opponent complained. And rare were the occasions when any contestant felt the need to appeal to the chair umpire.

Finally somebody has declared enough is enough, and rightly so. Aravane Rezai is a feisty young Frenchwoman of Iranian antecedence who believed that the shrieking had to stop. It didn’t matter that for the most part she had the upper hand against her noisy young opponent and won through 7-6, 6-2. Rezai viewed the cacophony as unnecessary and implored umpire Muhammad el Jenetti to do something about.

“Please, there is a limit, enough,” an angry Rezai shouted before requesting the presence of Grand Slam supervisor Donna Kelso. And good for her because this kind of thing is completely against the bounds of good sportsmanship. In fact, this issue should have been addressed several years ago.

In the event umpire El Jenetti opted against making any ruling but, if the contest had become tighter, tempers would have risen and it would have been difficult for him not to get involved.

“She really shouts loud,” said Rezai. “Maybe it’s the way she tries to impress the opponent, but it really did upset me because it was really unpleasant. She kept shouting and the umpire did not really do his job. She’s only 16 and has a lot of time to learn more but it was a tactic she was using.”

Who can deny that it’s high time the International Tennis Federation, who monitor the rules of tennis, should consult the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and then address this issue? The louder the shrieking, the uglier the game. Please, young Miss Larcher De Brito, before you get much older learn to turn the volume down a little.

Courtesy  The Times.

30
May
09

Rafa says he’s getting better….bad news for the hopefuls.

nadal 4Hi everyone,

Short one today since I got pretty late to the hotel to do this blog tonight. I was supposed to come back from the site pretty fast after the match and all the media conference and interviews but stayed there doing some work with my physio Rafa Maymo. In the end I got back around 8.30 pm and by the time we went out for dinner it was 10 pm. The time simply goes very fast (in all senses) so here I am at almost 1 am writing this blog.

We went to one of my favourite restaurants here in Paris and had one of the best Tuna steaks I have ever eaten. Really good. We were 10 people tonight so what it looked like a late dinner with only a few turned into a typically Spanish late dinner with 10 people around a table. It was good that it was that late otherwise I am sure we would have not found place to eat almost anywhere.

I normally don’t eat that late, maximum to go out is 9.30 pm which is late for most of you, right? By the way, I remember an interview I did earlier in Rome this year and when a journalist asked me about the things that get me upset and I said jokingly that my uncle Toni wants me to go earlier for dinner so I can come back to the hotel earlier to get more rest. Today Toni was with us and he didn’t complain much for going so late :-). In the end there are not that many things that get me upset… and that was reported every where….

Regarding my match, I really felt great today on court. As I said in the past days, the slow start that I had was nothing new. I always had these kind of starts here and now with the first 3 matches played I am feeling more comfortable playing.

Thanks.

Rafa




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