Archive for April, 2010


Verdasco battles past Djokovic.

Fernando Verdasco ended Novak Djokovic’s hopes of winning the Rome Masters after an epic three-hour victory took the Spaniard into the last four.

Verdasco eventually beat the world number two from Serbia 7-6 3-6 6-4 in three hours 18 minutes to seal a semifinal berth and record his 12th win in 13 matches.

 Verdasco lost in the final to Rafael Nadal in Monte-Carlo two weeks ago before winning the Barcelona Open last week.

Verdasco twice went up a break in a hard-fought opener but both times Djokovic pegged him back, once when he was serving for the set. The tie-break went 7-4 in the world number nine’s favor.

Djokovic hit back in the second set, giving Verdasco the runaround and breaking three times on his way to a 6-3 success.

But in the decider Verdasco broke Djokovic’s serve in the third game and held on through some long and dramatic rallies to claim it 6-4.


Stosur’s streak continues…..Peer ousts Safina.

Samantha Stosur (Australia) was the first player to reach the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Friday. The 26-year-old world No. 10 defeated Na Li from China 6-3, 6-3 in the opening quarterfinal and the win has put her in the last four at the long-established tournament in Stuttgart for the first time. Her victory today has stretched her undefeated run on clay in 2010 to 10 matches.

En route to the semis, Samantha Stosur first beat Marion Bartoli (France) before defeating Alexandra Dulgheru (Romania) in the second round.

“Everything’s falling into place at the moment,” said Samantha Stosur after her win. “I feel comfortable on clay now. I’m on a roll. Perhaps it’s all down to my youngest fan – my coach’s six month old baby.”

In the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Saturday, Samantha Stosur will face the winner of the match between Lucie Safarova (Czech Republic), who knocked out top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, and the qualifier Anna Lapushchenkova (Russia), who beat Victoria Azarenka.

Shahar Peer will spend her 23rd birthday on Saturday on the tennis court at the Porsche Grand Prix semi-finals after beating Dinara Safina yet again, 6-3, 6-2.

The unseeded Israeli took 1 hour 16 minutes for the quarter-final win on Friday against the second seed Safina. Peer has won the last four matches against the Russian for an overall 4-3 series lead.

Safina was playing only her second match in a return from a three- month layoff due to a lower back injury.


A rusty Safina makes a successful return to the WTA tour.

Dinara Safina made a winning return after three months out with victory over Hungary’s Agnes Szavay at the Stuttgart Grand Prix.

The Russian, who turned 24 on Tuesday, won 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 6-0 in her first tournament since pulling out of the Australian open with a back injury.

Safina said earlier this week that the injury could yet threaten her career.

After a shaky start she settled down into her usual rhythm in the third set. The outcome of the match was of little importance compared to the fact that she was able to complate the match and move on injury free.


Sharapova will skip Rome but play in Madrid and Montreal.

Maria Sharapova confirmed on Thursday that she’ll be taking part in this year’s Rogers Cup at Montreal’s Uniprix Stadium.

Sharapova, a three-time Grand Slam champion, will be taking part in the Rogers Cup for the fourth time in her career, and the third time in Montreal. This year’s showdown is slated for Aug. 13-22.

She also confirmed that she has withdrawn from next weeks Rome event, but expects to play in Madrid. She will also play one other unspecified clay court tournament prior to the French Open.

The Russian star reached the third round in each of her previous two visits to the Montreal event, and she was a finalist last year in Toronto.

In addition to the top-10 players in the world, Sharapova, who is ranked No. 14 in the world, joins other stars such as Kim Clijsters and Ana Ivanovic in this year’s tournament.


Murray’s return to from ends after just one match!

Andy Murray was defeated 6-3 6-4 by 13th seed David Ferrer in the third round of the Rome Masters.

The world number five avoided a fourth straight ATP Tour defeat with a 6-2 6-4 win over Andreas Seppi on Thursday.

But Murray, 22, struggled to make an impression on the important points against Ferrer, dropping a service game in each set. From the outset Murray’s body language gave an indication that he was indifferent about being on court. His shoulders slumped as he cursed the clay, his feet, the umpire and Ferrer.

Second seed Novak Djokovic is also through to the quarter-finals after a 6-4 6-4 victory over Thomaz Bellucci.

Djokovic will play Fernando Verdasco next after the Spaniard eliminated compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4 7-6 (7-2) to take his record on clay this year to 13 wins and two defeats.


Azarenka and Wozniacki lose in Stuttgart.

 Caroline Wozniacki was eliminated in the second round of the Porsche Grand Prix on Thursday, losing 6-4, 6-4 to Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic, Wozniacki showed signs of still being bothered by a right ankle injury, which she sustained at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina, 10 days ago. The Danish player was forced to retire during her semifinal match there.

“I didn’t feel like I could move 100 percent,” said Wozniacki, a U.S. Open runner-up last year. “And when you can’t move, it’s difficult to win.”

Wozniacki had a bye in the first round.

Qualifier Anna Lapushchenkova of Russia produced another upset by ousting sixth-seeded Victoria Azarenka of Belarus 6-3, 6-3.

Fourth-seeded Jelena Jankovic of Serbia, the 2008 Stuttgart champion, eased past Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, 6-2, 6-2.

“I am happy to get through,” said Jankovic, who has a slight cold. She is seeking her second title of the year, following a win at Indian Wells.

Seventh-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia rallied to beat Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 for a place in the last eight, extending her winning streak on clay to nine.

Safarova, ranked No. 38, made her second quarterfinal of the year and said she could notice Wozniacki was struggling with the injury.

“I tried to make her run and to push her around,” Safarova said. “I always need time to get used to clay but now I am playing better.”

Safarova, whose first-round opponent—Selima Sfar of Tunisia—retired with an ankle injury, also served well, putting in 83 percent of her first serve and hitting five aces.

“She was making me run and that’s why she won. I hate to lose but now it’s important to get fit,” Wozniacki said.

Stosur struggled against Dulgheru in the first set but was able to bounce back.

“She played a decent game, well enough,” Stosur said. “I was frustrated but I tried to stay calm.”


It’s time to change the Grand Slam structure to benefit the players and the fans.

Have you ever wondered why players who have no chance of winning an event go to all the expense of travelling with their entourages to compete? For most palyers the Grand Slams are an expensive lesson in futility. Unless they make it through the first 2 rounds in the first week they will probably lose money. They would have more potential for making money if they entered a Challenger Tour event. Being a participant in a Major tournament doesn’t buy the groceries! But participation is mandated by the ATP and the WTA. 

Take the case of a player ranked outside of the top 200 trying to gain recognition, points and to earn a living. Does he or she have a chance to win the French Open? Of course not. The best they might do is to qualify for the main draw where they will most likely be drawn against a top 20 player in the first round. And the match between this qualifier and the seeded player will take 2-3 hours to complete, and will be boring, non-competitive, and will drive potential fans away from the game. If the qualifier happens to be an American player we will be forced to watch the whole dismal affair on ESPN to the accompianment of mundane commentary by a group of experts trying to find something of interest to add to the match. The deafening noise you will hear is people switching channels.

I feel sorry for good players such as Alize Cornet, who has sunk down to #85, Ana Ivanovic, who has fallen to #60, Giles Simon, who finds himself clinging to a top 50 spot, and others who have had a temporary lapse in form. Because of the unfavourable draw they have to defeat a high ranked player to gain points, and begin their climb back up the rankings. It usually doesn’t happen.

As a fan I do not want to watch Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer playing against a Bulgarian of Chinese qualifier for 3 hours! If I cough up $100 for a ticket to Roland Garros I want to see my favourite players pushed to their limits in a match I will remember. I”m not interested in watching an out of shape Serena cruise through the first week against a bunch of alsorans as she plays herself into shape.

The structure of the Grand Slam events must change! One of the main reasons that revenues are up is because of the increase in the price of tickets!

Here’s my solution to the problem.

Divide the players into groups of 32 based on their current rankings. The winner of the top group will be the Champion, but to get there he or she must play 6 matches against 6 tough adversaries, no easy pickings.

The two bottom players, numbers 31 and 32 will go down to the group below, while the two top players from this group will go up.

So if you are Alize Cornet, for example, struggling to climb back up, she will only have to play players within her group ranked between 64 and 96. She will have a better chance of winning, and her matches will be far more interesting for the fans. As the winner of her group she will earn a sufficient portion of the total prize money to keep her in the sport. She will also have to have played 6 tough matches!


Hennin will need her ‘A’ game to defeat Wickmayer in round two.

Justine Henin ignored a broken finger to win her opening match at the Porsche Grand Prix, 7-6 (3), 6-1 over Julia Goerges of Germany on Wednesday.

Playing as a wild card, Henin saved three set points against Georges to set up a second-round match with Belgian teammate Yanina Wickmayer.

Eighth-seeded Wickmayer beat Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-3, 6-3.

No. 4 seed Jelena Jankovic of Serbia cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Gisela Dulko of Argentina, and seventh-seeded Samantha Stosur of Australia beat Marion Bartoli of France 6-2, 6-1 to remain unbeaten in seven matches on clay this year.

Jankovic succeeded Henin in 2008 as Stuttgart champion. She improved to 4-1 against Dulko in her bid for a second title this year.

“It was good for the first match. Dulko is tough to play on clay,” Jankovic said. “I played a good first set but had a few ups and downs in the second.”

Fifth-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland fell to Shahar Peer, the 20th-ranked Israeli, who wasted a match point before the tiebreaker in the second set of her 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-2 win.

Peer was a break up in the second set and then blew a match point on her serve at 6-5 in the second set against Radwanska. She recovered from the loss of the set to roll through the third.

“It was tough to come back,” said Peer, who is 3-1 against the higher ranked Pole. “I had a match point, but I am happy that I came back.”

Lucie Safarova also advanced when Selima Sfar of Tunisia retired with an ankle injury in the second set. Safarova lost the first set 6-2 and was 3-0 in the second when Sfar quit.


There’s no clear favourite among the Women in Paris.

Two players, neither of whom has won a Grand Slam, are at the top of my picks to be the Champion at the French Open. On their recent form, and their dominating wins over great top ten players, both Samantha Stosur and Victoria Azarenka are showing the form on clay to earn either one of them their first Grand Slam title.

Earlier this month Stosur’s demolition of Zvonareva was thing to behold, and today in Stuttgart Azarenka blitzed Flavia Pennetta in straight sets 6-1, 6-4.

Both Zvonareva and particularly Pennetta are tough clay court players, both have hovered around the top ten for a few seasons, and both have a wealth of experience, but both were made to look average against Stosur and Azarenka.

It may be time for a new face to be inserted into the Grand Slam picture, and at Roland Garros, where neither of the Williams sisters is comfortable, this year may be the right time for either Azarenka or Stosur to move up.


Rafa the clear favourite for the French Open.

If there ever was any doubt as to who should be the favourite going into Roland Garros, Federer’s sub-par performance in Rome confirms that its Nadal. He might be the #3 seed in Paris, but his clay court history has to rate him as the best ever.

Having won his first Roland Garros crown last summer and picked up three of the past four grand slam titles, Federer might be entitled to go into Paris as top dog. But the manner in which Nadal won his sixth straight Monte Carlo title nine days ago has thrust the Spaniard back to the top of the tree, at least on clay.

Rafael Nadal avoided the same fate which befell Roger Federer as he strolled through a potentially tricky Rome Masters second-round match against Philipp Kohlschreiber.

World number one Federer was subjected to a humbling 2-6 6-1 7-5 defeat by Ernests Gulbis yesterday, but Nadal was quick out of the blocks today and never looked back in a 6-1 6-3 win over the hard-working German.

Federer, never one to shy away from mind games, was first off the mark. “The guy’s been on an absolute tear on clay for pretty much five years, he’s lost just one match at the French Open and I think he’s still the favourite,” Federer said.

“I’d love to say that I am the favourite but I don’t think that’s right. He has not lost to anyone outside of potential top five or top 10 players on clay, although there are definitely guys that can play well against him.”

Nadal’s response was to blow out his cheeks and assert that it was far too early to talk about Paris.

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