Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The remaining seeds in Tokyo are righting the ship a little -by which I mean none of them actually lost today - but I'm still in total awe about how one tournament could turn into such a mess. When Jelena Jankovic is the highest seed and most consistent player remaining (JJ of this year, not JJ of last year) then something's awry.

Not that I don't think JJ is capable of winning tournaments... but let's face it, this has not been her year. It hasn't really been anyone's year, except maybe Kim Clijsters, and she only played for about four seconds. Oh, WTA. What a glorious mess you are.

I think you have to like Victoria Azarenka to win this title - US Open aside, she hasn't done too bad for herself this year, and you can bet that she'll be kicking herself because Wozniacki made it to a Slam final before she did, claiming the crown of Teen Queen for the present. But you know who I want to see win this title, to be the Godzilla that claims Tokyo? Maria Sharapova.

I love that a) she's still in it and b) the MaSha serve is back! That abbreviated motion might have been good for her shoulder, but it was a total mess for her game, what with those eleventy million double faults. I hope she and her team have found a way to make the old MaSha serve not bad for her shoulder... but if that's the choice she's going to make, more power to her. I'd love to see her win this tournament. Time for Maria's comeback to go nuclear.

Today's Results

PTT Pattaya Open (Bangkok)

Viktor Troicki def. Thomaz Bellucci, 6-3 7-6 (7-4)
Jurgen Melzer def. Marsel Ilhan, 6-4 6-2
Kevin Kim def. Rainer Schuettler, 6-4 6-4
Mischa Zverev def. Leonardo Mayer, 5-7 6-3 6-3

Proton Malaysian Open (Kuala Lumpur)

Nikolay Davydenko def. Taylor Dent, 6-3 7-6 (7-4)
Robin Soderling def. Brendan Evans, 6-1 6-1
Mikhail Youzhny def. Marcos Baghdatis, 6-2 6-3
Gael Monfils def. Denis Istomin, 7-6 (7-3) 7-6 (7-2)
Richard Gasquet def. Victor Crivoi, 6-1 6-2
Simon Greul def. Christophe Rochus, 6-4 3-6 6-2

Toray Pan Pacific Open (Tokyo)

Jelena Jankovic def. Elena Vesnina, 6-1 3-0 retired
Victoria Azarenka def. Lucie Safarova, 7-5 604
Agnieszka Radwanska def. Andrea Petkovic, 6-4 3-6 6-3
Marion Bartoli def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 4-6 6-2 7-5
Li Na def. Kateryna Bondarenko, 2-6 7-5 6-3
Maria Sharapova def. Alisa Kleybanova, 2-6 6-2 6-2
Iveta Benesova def. Chang Kai-Chen, 7-5 6-2
Magdalena Rybarikova def. Aleksandra Wozniak, 1-6 6-3 6-3

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Little Celebration

My friends, today is a cause for celebration! A cause for celebration indeed?

Why, I hear you ask? For surely 'tis only boring tournaments on at the moment and nothing truuuuuuly interesting will happen till at least Shanghai. What is this cause of celebration of which you speak?

Well, I shall tell you. In this overdramatic manner.

1) Marat Safin won a match. Against a seeded player.

Now, when was the last time you remember that dear ol' Marat won a match? I can't think of it off the top of my head, that's for sure. And to beat a seed - well, that is quite exciting. He had a three set victory over Philipp Petzschner in Thailand, cruising away 6-1 in the third. Petzschner has been one of those players on the vast improve this year (as demonstrated by his, you know, seeding) and so this is a totally good win for Marat. I know it's got a likelihood of approximately a billion to one, but I would love to see him win a tournament before he retires. Just one. Even a little one. Maybe this one. I know it won't happen, but oh, I desperately want it to.

But there are a few other players who could use a good win, which leads me to my other reason for celebration.

2) Ernests Gulbis won a match.

*falls over*

I love Ernests. He's totally my homeboy. I've been on his bandwagon since Day #1 and I've stayed on it (even though it's now a very lonely ride). And sure, he only beat Somdev Devvarman, but Devvarman won a tournament not so long ago and did some sweet Davis Cup duty, so he's not a total slouch. So come on, Ernie. I don't expect you to win, but I do want you to win at least another match. You know, two in a row for the first time this year? That would be made of awesome.

But for today, I am content. For today, I will simply celebrate.

Today's Results

PTT Pattaya Open (Bangkok)

Marat Safin def. Philipp Petzschner, 6-2 3-6 6-1
Jurgen Melzer def. Marcos Daniel, 6-3 6-2
Evgeny Korolev def. Fabrice Santoro, 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (9-7)
Marsel Ilhan def. Benjamin Becker, 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-3
Andreas Beck def. Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 7-5 7-6 (7-1)
Marco Chiudinelli def. Florian Mayer, 6-3 6-3
Ernests Gulbis def. Somdev Devvarman, 7-6 (9-7) 6-2
Robby Ginepri def. Danai Udomchoke, 6-4 6-3

Proton Malaysia Open (Kuala Lumpur)

Tomas Berdych def. Igor Kunitsyn, 6-1 3-6 6-2
Mikhail Youzhny def. David Ferrer, 7-6 (7-3) 6-2
Joachim Johansson def. Lleyton Hewitt, 7-6 (9-7) 6-3
Martin Vassallo Arguello def. Feliciano Lopez, 6-3 6-3
Rohan Bopanna def. Jose Acasuso, 4-6 6-3 6-4
Karol Beck def. Mikhail Kukushkin, 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-3

Toray Pan Pacific Open (Tokyo)

Iveta Benesova def. Gisela Dulko, 6-3 3-6 6-4
Maria Sharapova def. Samantha Stosur, 6-0 6-1
Alisa Kleybanova def. Vera Zvonareva, 3-6 6-4 6-2
Aleksandra Wozniak def. Caroline Wozniacki, 5-0 retired
Magdalena Rybarikova def. Nadia Petrova, 6-2 6-2
Agnieszka Radwanska def. Daniela Hantuchova, 6-3 3-6 6-3
Victoria Azarenka def. Jie Zheng, 6-1 6-1
Lucie Safarova def. Shuai Peng, 6-3 4-6 6-4
Na Li def. Vera Dushevina, 7-5 6-0
Kateryna Bondarenko def. Elena Dementieva, 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-1
Jelena Jankovic def. Sabine Lisicki, 6-3 4-6 6-2
Elena Vesnina def. Roberta Vinci, 6-1 7-6 (8-6)
Marion Bartoli def. Aravane Rezai, 6-4 6-2

Monday, September 28, 2009

Alas, Poor Tokyo

So I bet the organisers of Tokyo are weeping softly in a corner right about now. What a massacre. What a total massacre.

Safina. Kuznetsova. Venus. I think the highest seed to win yesterday was Agnieszka Radwanska, at #11. What an unqualified disaster for those poor tournament organisers.

I guess the post-US Open season is the place to collapse, if you're into that kind of thing. But I'm heavily displeased with all of them. Venus should do better, no excuses. Kuznetsova won Roland Garros and then fizzled. And Safina... Dinara, I have supported you. I have been behind you. I have continued to believe in you. And you're not making it easy, girl.

Poor Tokyo.

Of course, what this means is that we'll probably have a totally surprising winner, which is, you know, pretty awesome. I love a surprise winner. I'd really like it to be Sam Stosur who, despite carrying the black mark of seeding which seems to be a death sentence in this tournament, is still in it. And surely her time has come. Surely it has come!

Oh, and Ivanovic lost also. That was yesterday. I almost forgot. Probably because she is just so easy to forget about these days.

Today's Results

PTT Thailand Open (Bangkok)

John Isner def. Kittipong Wachiramanowong, 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-5)
Thomaz Bellucci def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-4 7-6 (9-7)

Proton Malaysia Open (Kuala Lumpur)

Brendan Evans def. Michael Yani, 6-3 6-4
Taylor Dent def. Andrey Golubev, 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4)
Marcos Baghdatis def. Yen-hsun Lu, 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-5)

Toray Pan Pacific Open (Tokyo)

Iveta Benesova def. Virginie Razzano, 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-0
Samantha Stosur def. Alexa Glatch, 7-5 6-0
Maria Sharapova def. Francesca Schiavone, 4-6 7-5 6-1
Aleksandra Wozniak def. Kimiko Date Krumm, 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4
Magdalena Rybarikova def. Urszula Radwanska, 6-4 6-4
Nadia Petrova def. Ai Sugiyama, 6-0 2-1 retired
Agnieszka Radwanska def. Ekaterina Makarova, 7-5 6-3
Daniela Hantuchova def. Jill Craybas, 6-3 6-3
Jie Zheng def. Sania Mira, 5-7 6-2 6-3
Shuai Peng def. Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-3 6-3
Vera Dushevina def. Alona Bondarenko, 1-6 7-5 6-1
Kateryna Bondarenko def. Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-3 6-1
Marion Bartoli def. Sorana Cirstea, 6-3 6-0
Kai-Chen Chang def. Dinara Safina, 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-5
Andrea Petkovic def. Svetlana Kuznetsova, 7-5 4-6 6-3
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Venus Williams, 7-6 (8-6) 7-5

Sunday, September 27, 2009

In Short

I've been talking a lot about comebacks recently, what with Kim Clijsters' US Open triumph and the return of Henin and now Srichaphan and... that whole host of people who seem to be coming out of the woodwork after some time away.

But one that I have neglected - and very wrongly so - is Kimiko Date Krumm. 39 years old - which is getting on by anyone's standards in international sport - and back she comes, and what do you know? she's just gone and won a title.

Now that is a comeback. That is something pretty special.

I like Kimiko's style of play a lot - I do like those wiry, gutsy little players. And she's smart too, which is something I think a lot of the girls at the moment are struggling with. She's not the strongest player on tour, but she's definitely up there in terms of strategy. She is, in short (haha, the pun!) something a little bit special. She is something to be celebrated.

I just can't get over the fact that she's 39 years old. 39! Clijsters is what, 25? and coming back? It seems strange you can be coming out of retirement at that age... normal people are only just starting their careers, but the world of sport is different, I guess. It's so rare that you see players over 30 - women especially. The men seem to last a little longer, but the women are giving out in their late twenties, generally. 39. Thirty-freaking-nine.

The women is a wonder.

Today's Results

BCR Open Romania (Bucharest)

Albert Montanes def. Juan Monaco, 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (8-6)

Open de Moselle (Metz)

Gael Monfils def. Philipp Kohlschreiber, 7-6 (7-1) 3-6 6-2

Hansol Korea Open (Seoul)

Kimiko Date Krumm def. Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-3 6-3

Tashkent Open (Tashkent)

Shahar Peer def. Akgul Amanmuradova, 6-3 6-4

Toray Pan Pacific Open (Tokyo)

Roberta Vinci def. Flavia Pennetta, 6-1 6-2
Lucie Safarova def. Ana Ivanovic, 6-4 7-6 (7-1)
Li Na def. Alize Cornet, 6-4 6-0
Elena Vesnina def. Maria Jose Martinez Sanches, 6-3 6-2
Sabine Lisicki def. Patty Schnyder, 6-4 6-0
Alisa Kleybanova def. Ayumi Morita, 6-1 6-4
Gisela Dulko def. Agnes Szavay, 6-3 6-0
Aravane Rezai def. Sara Errani, 6-2 6-2
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Carla Suarez Navarro, 6-1 7-6 (7-3)
Andrea Petkovic def. Sybille Bammer, 7-5 6-4
Chang Kai-Chen def. Kaia Kanepi, 6-3 6-3

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pim-Pim and Paradorn

Now here's something I didn't know - Paradorn Srichaphan is set to return to the tour next week at the Thailand Open. There you go.

Sure, it's only in the doubles, but I had pretty much given up hope on him altogether - he's been out since, what, 2006? 2007? A long time ago, anyway. During which time he married Miss Universe or some other beauty pageant type person, which became his new claim to fame. Here's hoping he can get back a bit more of that 'Thailand's favourite son' mojo and lose that 'tennis player married to super hot chick' thing he's been working of late. I like Paradorn. He's a bit of a character. It'll be nice to see him back.

Of course, here's hoping he stays back, instead of coming back sporadically, retiring again, playing a few Challengers and then fading into obscurity. I am definitely not thinking of Joachim 'Pim-Pim' Johansson here. Oh no. Not at all. Whatever happened to him, anyway? He made some kind of comeback late last year, didn't he? Or was it this year? Anyway, I haven't heard of or seen anything of him since. He could be playing satellite events or playing pool in his local pub for all I know. Definitely no Clijsters style comeback, that's for sure.

...okay, I just did a bit of a search on Pim-Pim, my curiosity being piqued, and he played a few Challengers in April and May, before seemingly fading into oblivion. His last match was a walkover - I can only conclude that he's out injured again. Or possibly retired. Who can tell.

Sebastien Grosjean has been in this position as well - he's been out for seemingly forever, before coming back briefly in the grass court season, withdrawing injured and then coming back this week in Metz, where he won a match before going down. Slightly better for a comeback. It's odd, these players that you totally forget about until their names pop up and you're like, 'that's right - you exist!' Marcos Baghdatis, there's another one. Where is he at these days?

So I drifted a little from my original intended subject, which was 'yay for Paradorn coming back!' Oops. Let me then conclude with 'yay for Paradorn coming back!' and a fervent wish that he fares better than poor Pim-Pim.

Today's Results

BCR Open Romania (Bucharest)

Juan Monaco def. Simon Greul, 6-4 6-3
Albert Montanes def. Santiago Ventura, 4-6 6-4 6-1

Open de Moselle (Metz)

Gael Monfils def. Richard Gasquet, 6-4 6-3
Philipp Kohlschreiber def. Paul-Henri Mathieu, 7-6 (7-5) 6-4

Hansol Korea Open (Seoul)

Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 2-6 6-3 6-1
Kimiko Date Krumm def. Maria Kirilenko, 3-6 6-2 6-4

Tashkent Open (Tashkent)

Akgul Amanmuradova def. Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-4 7-6 (7-3)
Shahar Peer def. Olga Govortsova, 7-6 (7-5) 6-2

Friday, September 25, 2009

Juan of the Juans

So with Roger being out of Tokyo and Shanghai and with Rafa being out for the next god-knows-how-long (I bet Xisca's really pissed about missing that sweet holiday it looks like he had planned!) we could be in for a boring month or so of tennis. Which... you know, is boring.

But I guess we'll just have to make the best of what we have, which at the moment is Metz and Bucharest. And yeah, Bucharest is clay. What's up with that? I've done the out-of-season clay court rant about eleventy million times, so I won't subject you all to that again, but yeah... it's stupid.

Though Juan Monaco is making a real go of it. In the absence of anything else to discuss, we're going to talk Juan - well, one of the many Juans, because you have to think that Juan Martin del Potro rather has the honour of being 'the' Juan as the moment. But Monaco is indeed a fine Juan, and provides me with many punnilicious opportunities, for which I would like to pre-emptively apologise.

He's kind of flown under the radar a bit - who wouldn't, what with Federer's clay court triumph? but he has had a fine, fine clay court record this season. He's right up there in terms of wins - and I can't remember if he's actually won a tournament, but if he hasn't, he should have. In fact, maybe he can do it this week, in this misplaced clay tournament in Bucharest. He overcame eighth seed Pablo Cuevas in his semi final, and Cuevas ain't no slouch on the red stuff.

But then, neither is Monaco, and if he can't overcome the remaining players in the tournament - Greul, Montanes and Ventura - I might have to retract all those nice things I just said about him. This tournament is pretty much his to win now - a nice little curlicue on the end of the victory from that other Argentinian Juan a couple of weeks ago.

And a shout over to Metz - Richou, subject of yesterday's ramble, is in the semis, after overcoming fourth seed Philipp Petzschner. I wanted him to have a good win, and that is one. If he wins the title he will have to go through the top three seeds, Monfils, Kohlschreiber and Mathieu - but nothing's impossible, I have found!

Today's Results

BCR Open Romania (Bucharest)

Juan Monaco def. Pablo Cuevas, 6-3 2-6 6-1
Albert Montanes def. Fabio Fognini, 6-1 6-1
Santiago Ventura def. Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, 6-2 6-3
Simon Greul def. Maximo Gonzalez, 6-2 6-2

Open de Moselle (Metz)

Gael Monfils def. Janko Tipsarevic, 6-1 4-2 retired
Philipp Kohlschreiber def. Evgeny Korolev, 6-1 6-3
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Andreas Beck, 6-2 3-6 6-3
Richard Gasquet def. Philipp Petzschner, 6-7 (2-7) 6-1 6-3

Hansol Korea Open (Seoul)

Kimiko Date Krumm def. Daniela Hantuchova, 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-4
Maria Kirilenko def. Vera Dushevina, 7-5 7-6 (7-5)
Anna-Lena Groenefeld def. Yung-Jan Chan, 6-0 2-6 7-5
Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-3 6-3

Tashkent Open (Tashkent)

Yaroslava Shvedova def. Monica Niculescu, 6-7 (3-7) 7-5 6-2
Akgul Amanmuradova def. Stefanie Voegele, 6-1 6-4
Olga Govortsova def. Darya Kustova, 6-3 2-6 6-2
Shahar Peer def. Alexandra Panova, 6-4 6-4

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Return of Richou

In all this flurry of me doubting the Henin return, Henin returning and then the Davis Cup draw for next year happening, I quite forgot that there was some actual, you know, tennis going on. And one very interesting thing that happened was Richard Gasquet scoring his first win back after his suspension.

To be precise, it's two wins now, after he beat Christophe Rochus in his second round match in Metz, which puts him into the quarter finals. Fancy that. This is a good result for Richou - very good indeed.

But the fact of the matter is that the two players he's beaten are players he should beat, considering how amazingly talented he is. He's toughed out both matches - which, from his perspective, is a very good thing, considering what a nightmarish headcase he is. The first match he won was in a third set breaker, so that took some steel.

And that's what I want to see from Richou now. I want some steel. He's won another chance to come back to tennis - I don't want to see him fritter it away on choking and temper tantrums. He's got too much talent for that. He has the ability to be up at the top of the game, and I want to see that again. He once reached #7 in the world - maybe even #6, I can't actually remember. I don't expect him to do that again, not with the depth of talent in the ATP - but he should be able to win matches. Lots of matches. Have some good wins over tough players. He's got the talent to do it - I want him to deliver.

That was a bit of a long-winded ramble, but it's all true. I refuse to be impressed by Richou winning these two matches - even if he did tough them out - until he can play his hand well in a big match where the chips are down. That'll be a true test of character.

Oh, and welcome back to another Frenchman - who unfortunately lost today, but did manage to score a win earlier this week. Nice to see you back, Sebastien Grosjean. May you stay back.

Today's Results

BCR Open Romania (Bucharest)

Maximo Gonzalez def. Oscar Hernandez, 7-5 3-6 6-1
Simon Greul def. Daniel Koellerer, 6-1 6-4
Juan Monaco def. Pere Riba, 6-4 6-2
Pablo Cuevas def. Peter Luczak, 7-5 6-4

Open de Moselle (Metz)

Janko Tipsarevic def. Ivan Ljubicic, 6-4 7-6 (7-3)
Gael Monfils def. Sebastien Grosjean, 6-1 6-1
Philipp Petzschner def. Michael Llodra, 7-6 (7-3) 6-3
Richard Gasquet def. Christophe Rochus, 7-5 4-6 6-2

Hansol Korea Open (Seoul)

Daniela Hantuchova def. Chanelle Scheeper, 6-1 6-1
Maria Kirilenko def. Francesca Schiavone, 6-1 1-2 retired
Vera Dushevina def. Anastasija Sevastova, 7-5 6-1

Tashkent Open (Tashkent)

Akgul Amanmuradova def. Ekaterina Bychkova, 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-4)
Olga Govortsova def. Vesna Manasieva, 6-2 6-3
Shahar Peer def. Kathrin Woerle, 6-2 604
Alexandra Panova def. Patricia Mayr, 7-5 6-1

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Tie To Salivate Over

Well, well, this might just be the most intriguing Davis Cup first round in years. Spain vs. Switzerland. Well, well, well.

Of course, when we read Spain vs. Switzerland, we read one thing only: Federer vs. Nadal.

Now there is a Davis Cup matchup worth salivating over.

It isn't a huge jump to imagine that whoever wins this match wins the tie, but there are four other matches as well. And it depends on who plays... the Swiss also have the gold medal winning doubles team in Federer and Wawrinka, but would they play them, considering that these are their two big singles dudes? The Spanish doubles team is strong as well, if they play Lopez and Robredo like they did against Israel... and they have amazing singles depth as well. Nadal. Verdasco. Ferrer. Ferrero. On and on it goes...

You've got to think that Nadal will beat Wawrinka and Federer will beat Verdasco or whoever the Spanish throw up against him. Federer/Nadal... who do you pick? And then Wawrinka/Verdasco (or whoever) could be very interesting indeed. Stan hasn't always brought home the bacon in Davis Cup, but he is a sweet player... as are a lot of the Spaniards.

The Spaniards have depth on their side. That's for sure. But Switzerland is definitely one of the few teams that have a chance of taking them down... providing Federer plays. This will, to some extent, hinge on these two team leaders, Federer and Nadal... oh, I hope they both play! This is a tie for the ages. I'm practically salivating already.

Today's Results

BCR Open Romania (Bucharest)

Pablo Cuevas def. Andrei Pavel, 6-3 7-6 (7-2)
Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo def. Marius Copil, 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-4
Santiago Ventura def. Alberto Martin, 4-5 retired
Albert Montanes def. Marcel Granollers, 6-1 6-3
Fabio Fognini def. Nicolas Almagro, 6-4 7-6 (7-3)

Open de Moselle (Metz)

Sebastien Grosjean def. Nicolas Mahut, 7-6 (7-1) 7-5
Michael Llodra def. Mischa Zverev, 4-6 6-3 6-3
Andreas Beck def. Thierry Ascione, 6-2 6-4
Paul-Henri Mathieu def. Marc Gicquel, 7-6 (7-5) 6-4
Evgeny Korolev def. Denis Istomin, 3-6 7-5 7-6 (7-2)
Philipp Kohlschreiber def. Bjorn Phau, 4-6 6-3 6-2

Hansol Korea Open (Seoul)

Kimiko Date Krumm def. Alisa Kleybanova, 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-3

Tashkent Open (Tashkent)

Olga Govortsova def. Anastasia Rodionova, 6-3 6-2
Shahar Peer def. Maret Ani, 6-1 6-2
Yaroslava Shvedova def. Ekaterina Ivanova, 7-5 6-2
Monica Niculescu def. Evgeniya Rodina, 6-1 6-4
Stefanie Voegele def. Nigina Abduraimova, 6-2 5-7 6-3
Darya Kustova def. Galina Voskoboeva, 1-6 6-3 7-6 (11-9)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

JuJu Jumps Back In

Yeah, I was wrong. Justine Henin is coming back to tennis. Early next year, probably - Australian Open time.

But you know what? She can smile and say 'yay tennis!' as much as she wants... I still don't believe it.

Oh, I believe she's coming back. She said so, and she's nothing if not determined. But that is one of the main reasons I'm thinking that this comeback might not be so successful. When she retired, she was set. No more tennis. Tennis bad. No fire. No love. And I just don't know if a year is long enough to change that.

JuJu's greatest strength was never really that she loved tennis - as I said yesterday, I don't know if she ever did love tennis for itself - but that she loved competition. She loved tennis because she was good at it, and when her game started to fail her in the clay season last year, it was pull the plug, bye bye tennis. She didn't see the need to try and fight through it. She just pulled the plug.

It's really easy to make comparisons to Clijsters - the Belgians have been rivals for many a year - and if one is back, it stands to reason that the other won't be far behind. But I just can't see JuJu being quite as successful as Kim is - particularly because Kim's comeback started with such a bang. I know the WTA isn't exactly a place where the bar is set especially high at the moment, but I somehow can't see JuJu coming back and winning the Australian Open first go. And knowing that Kim managed to do that with the US Open... that's got to be galling.

And so that competitiveness might work against her. It's going to take a while to get back to where she was - even if the field isn't so hot, she can't expect just to slot right back into the top spot in the WTA and continue her domination. And that is something I think she'll find incredibly frustrating.

But you know what, JuJu? I want you to prove me wrong.

Today's Results

BCR Open Romania (Bucharest)

Oscar Hernandez def. Victor Hanescu, 7-6 (7-5) 6-4
Nicolas Almagro def. Simone Bolelli, 6-4 6-3
Juan Monaco def. Julio Silva, 6-2 6-4
Santiago Ventura def. Igor Andreev, 6-4 6-1
Albert Montanes def. Potito Starace, 6-4 6-2
Daniel Koellerer def. Filippo Volandri, 2-6 7-5 6-3
Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo def. Andreas Seppi, 6-4 6-4
Pere Riba def. Frederico Gil, 7-5 5-7 6-2
Marius Copil def. Victor Crivoi, 6-3 6-2
Alberto Martin def. Florent Serra, 4-6 6-0 6-4
Maximo Gonzalez def. Olivier Rochus, 6-7 (4-7) 6-1 6-4
Fabio Fognini def. Daniel Gimeno-Traver, 1-6 6-4 6-3

Open de Moselle (Metz)

Christophe Rochus def. Fabrice Santoro, 0-6 6-4 7-6 (7-3)
Evgeny Korolev def. Benjamin Becker, 6-2 6-3
Ivan Ljubicic def. Sebastien de Chaunac, 4-6 6-1 7-6 (7-1)
Marc Gicquel def. Roman Valent, 6-3 6-1
Denis Istomin def. Andrey Golubev, 6-2 6-4
Thierry Ascione def. Adrian Mannarino, 7-6 (7-5) 6-4
Janko Tipsarevic def. Arnaud Clement, 6-4 6-4
Richard Gasquet def. Michael Berrer, 6-3 2-6 7-6 (7-5)

Hansol Korea Open (Seoul)

Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Andrea Petkovic, 6-3 6-4
Francesca Schiavone def. Yurika Sema, 6-1 6-4
Anna-Lena Groenefeld def. Sorana Cirstea, 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-3
Alisa Kleybanova def. Katarina Srebotnik, 6-2 6-3
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova def. Angela Haynes, 7-6 (7-5) 6-2
Vera Dushevina def. Urszula Radwanska, 6-3 6-1
Sybille Bammer def. Ekaterina Makarova, 2-6 6-4 6-4
Magdalena Rybarikova def. Alberta Briani, 6-2 6-2
Maria Kirilenko def. Sophie Ferguson, 4-6 6-1 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova def. Mathilde Johansson, 6-2 7-5
Chan Yung-Jan def. Junri Namigata, 6-3 6-3
Chanelle Scheepers def. Kim So-Jung, 6-1 6-3
Meghann Shaughnessy def. Yoo Mi, 6-0 6-3
Chang Kai-Chen def. Viktoriya Kutuzova, 6-4 6-3

Tashkent Open (Tashkent)

Yaroslava Shvedova def. Maria Elena Camerin, 6-1 6-1
Ekaterina Bychkova def. Ioana Raluca Olaru, 7-5 7-5
Monica Niculescu def. Corinna Dentoni, 6-3 6-0
Patricia Mayr def. Ekaterina Dzehalevich, 7-5 6-4
Vesna Manasieva def. Aleksandra Kolesnichenko, 6-1 6-1
Akhul Amanmuradova def. Ksenia Lykina, 6-1 4-6 6-3
Evgeniya Rodina def. Kristina Kucova, 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-1)
Kathrin Woerle def. Sabina Sharipova, 7-6 (7-0) 7-5
Darya Kustova def. Yuliana Fedak, 6-2 6-4
Ekaterina Ivanova def. Lenka Wienerova, 7-6 (7-5) 7-5
Alexandra Panova def. Sandra Zahlavova, 6-2 6-1
Nigina Abduraimova def. Lesya Tsurenko, 6-3 6-2

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where's The Love?

Maybe I'm the last sceptic left. Maybe tomorrow I'll be writing here, eating my words. Hell, maybe this fabled press conference has already taken place and I'm making myself look like a moron for not doing my research properly.

But I just don't believe Justine Henin is coming back to tennis.

Pretty much everything I've heard out of her mouth since she retired was about how much she hated tennis and how she would never, ever return. Hell, that's why she retired! No motivation! She was playing lacklustre tennis because she didn't want to play tennis.

Sure, some time away from the game might rekindle some love, as we saw with Kim Clijsters, but I'm just not convinced that JuJu's heart was ever really in it. She was never a passionate tennis player - which Kim was. Sure, JuJu was - and probably still is - exceptionally talented, but without the love? I just don't know.

I suppose if there is anything that would inspire her to come back, it would be Kim's comeback. If Kim can do it, why can't JuJu? I can see that logic. But Kim loves tennis. I'm not convinced that JuJu ever did, and as late as May this year she was ragging on the sport and vowing never to return.

So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this press conference will be for JuJu to announce her return. But I won't believe it till I see it. And even if she does come back, without the love, I'm 100% sure she doesn't have a chance of emulating KimPossible.

Today's Results

BCR Open Romania (Bucharest)

Peter Luczak def. Karol Beck, 7-5 7-6 (8-6)
Marcel Granollers def. Petru-Alexandru Luncanu, 6-2 6-7 (3-7) 6-1

Open de Moselle (Metz)

Andreas Beck def. Yen-hsun Lu, 6-4 6-2
Bjorn Phau def. Rainer Schuettler, 7-6 (7-1) 7-6 (7-5)

Tashkent Open (Tashkent)

Stefanie Voegele def. Vitalia Diatchenko, 6-3 7-5
Galina Voskoboeva def. Neuza Silva, 6-4 3-6 6-4

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Third Day Blues

Roger Federer is pretty much the man, and he totally deserves his time off. That's all I have to say about that.

He revealed in his post-match press conference that he's suffering from fatigue-related injuries in his arm and leg and he 'needs to do some baby-sitting' so he's sitting out until at least October 5 - though truth be told, I'd be very surprised indeed if he showed up in Tokyo. You've just got to applaud the fact that he took to the court in this rubber against Italy when you have to think that if he didn't, Switzerland would face relegation - Wawrinka probably would have scored another rubber, but I don't know where the magical #3 would have come from. You da man, Roger. That's all I've got to say.

Both Israel and Croatia managed to score a consolation rubber, with Harel Levy scoring a win over Feliciano Lopez (a very decent win in and of itself) and Lovro Zovko managed to save some Croat pride by beating Lukas Dlouhy. I expected this whitewashing from Israel - Spain is swimming in excellent players, even with Nadal and Verdasco sidelined - but I really thought the Croats were going to, if not pull this out, make a better showing than this. They won the Davis Cup a few years' back basically on the back on Ivan Ljubicic, with Mario Ancic singing back-up. I thought the Cilic/Karlovic dynamic was even stronger, but apparently not. Not that this tie wasn't full of drama, especially in that first day, but it felt a little anti-climactic in the end.

All credit to the Czechs, though, who seriously stepped it up.

Other winners include Sweden, Serbia, Belgium (who knew they had blokes who played ball?), France and India. Other heroes include Robin Soderling, Steve Darcis, Somdev Devvarman and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. I always get into Davis Cup whenever it comes around, but it is so terribly shafted. I wish it was better organised. I wish it was better publicised. I wish... I wish...

Oh well. Pout.

Today's Results

Davis Cup (semi finals)

Czech Republic 4, Croatia 1

Jan Hajek def. Roko Karanusic, 7-6 (7-4) 6-4
Lovro Zovko def. Lukas Dlouhy, 6-3 6-4

Spain 4, Israel 1

David Ferrer def. Andy Ram, 6-3 6-1
Harel Levy def. Feliciano Lopez, 7-5 6-2

China GDD Guangzhou International Women's Open (Guangzhou)

Shahar Peer def. Alberta Brianti, 6-3 6-4

Bell Challenge (Quebec City)

Melinda Czink def. Lucie Safarova, 4-6 6-3 7-5

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Czeching In

We have ourselves a Davis Cup final - the Czech Republic vs Spain.

Spain I expected - there really was no way Israel were ever going to come through them, though I confess I expected a bit more of Erlich and Ram in the doubles - but I'm surprised the Czechs have come through. I expected a close tie, and it has been close - the 3-0 lead that the Czechs have totally belies the closeness of this tie - but I really thought the Croats would have it.

It would be unfair to dedicate this post to anyone other than that Czech pairing, Berdych and Stepanek. Seriously, they deserve a tickertape parade - and I hope they get one, when they're back in the Czech Republic. Both played five sets yesterday, which I discussed - that match from Stepanek in particular was insanely long. Like, INSANELY. And then to come out and play doubles... it really begs the question whether the Czechs have any players besides these two. It was a bit of a gamble - if Berdych and Stepanek had played today, come out and lost, then odds are they would have been so exhausted that Cilic and Karlovic would roll them over tomorrow. I guess they just wanted to clinch it, and it paid off. So well done, Czech Republic.

I don't know how well this method will work on Spain, however, because Spain have SO MUCH DEPTH it's not funny. They're currently playing their second-string team - can you imagine what a force to be reckoned with they'll be when Nadal and Verdasco slot back into place? That is pretty mighty.

But the final is ages away. For today, there is only congratulations.

Today's Results

Davis Cup (semi finals)

Czech Republic 3, Croatia 0

Berdych/Stepanek def. Cilic/Zovko, 6-1 6-3 6-4

Spain 3, Israel 0

Lopez/Robredo def. Erlich/Ram, 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 6-2

Bell Challenge (Quebec City)

Lucie Safarova def. Julia Goerges, 6-3 6-2

China GDD Guangzhou International Women's Open (Guangzhou)

Shahar Peer def. Peng Shuai, 6-4 1-0 retired
Alberta Brianti def. Ayumi Morita, 6-3 7-5

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stepping Up Everest

Well, I have completely underestimated the Czech Republic. There you go.

I gave Stepanek a good chance against Karlovic, but that somehow pales beside what actually happened. Five epic sets. A world-breaking 78 aces from Karlovic - which, to the best of my knowledge, breaks the previous record by about 20. And Stepanek still won.


I'm not a Stepanek fan really, mostly on the grounds that I find him totally creepy. But you cannot deny that the man can play ball. To withstand that kind of intense pressure and come out on top - particularly when you're facing someone who is pretty much unbreakable in a to-the-death five set... that is some serious grit. And guile. And some other stuff starting with g. You've got to applaud the man's mental toughness - facing Karlovic in that kind of fifth set is kind of like a tennis Everest. You can't count on a breaker to get you through. So kudos to you, Radek Stepanek.

And then the other match went five sets as well, though it didn't have anything like the same level of drama. Berdych triumphed over Cilic, which I personally found very surprising. Berdych has been pretty much a non-entity this year, whereas Cilic has been very much an entity. Hell, he made the quarters of the US Open, like, two seconds ago. Where has Berdych been? But Berdych is terribly talented and sometimes that will out. Still, I'm not counting Croatia out of this tie yet. We've got a lot of tennis left yet.

In the other semi, Goliath is currently whaling on David, with Ferrer and Ferrero scoring easy victories over Sela and Levy. I'd look for an inspired Israeli performance in the fourth rubber if they win the doubles... but I still don't really rate them a chance of winning a singles match. At this point, I don't know how high I rate their chances of winning a set.

And just a quick throw to the playoffs - Federer and Wawrinka are a totally mad team. They both demolished their respective Italians. And it's not something you hear often, but when Federer plays on clay, he looks just gorgeous. The way he was sliding into those shots... it was positively balletic. He played a great match and the US Open is clearly behind him. Watch out, indoor season!

Today's Results

Davis Cup (semi finals)

Czech Republic 2, Croatia 0

Tomas Berdych def. Marin Cilic, 6-3 6-3 3-6 4-6 6-3
Radek Stepanek def. Ivo Karlovic, 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6) 6-7 (2-7) 16-14

Spain 2, Israel 0

David Ferrer def. Harel Levy, 6-1 6-4 6-3
Juan Carlos Ferrero def. Dudi Sela, 6-4 6-2 6-0

Bell Challenge (Quebec City)

Melinda Czink def. Nadia Petrova, 7-6 (7-4) retired
Aleksandra Wozniak def. Alla Kudryavtseva, 6-1 6-1
Lucie Safarova def. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-3 6-4
Julia Goerges def. Lilia Osterloh, 6-2 6-4

China GDD Guangzhou International Women's Open (Guangzhou)

Peng Shuai def. Alexandra Panova, 6-2 6-3
Shahar Peer def. Chang Yung-Jan, 6-3 6-1
Ayumi Morita def. Olga Savchuk, 6-3 604
Alberta Brianti def. Anastasija Sevastova, 6-4 6-2

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Davis Cup Daze

So, in the complete absence of anything better to talk about today, due to us beign in that lull period after a Slam before tennis gets interesting again, I thought I might do a bit of a Davis Cup preview. That should keep me out of trouble/off the streets, etc etc.

So, semi final #1 - Croatia vs. Czech Republic. This is a team basically consisting of Cilic and Karlovic against Berdych and Stepanek.

This is an interesting matchup. I'm leaning towards the Czechs in the doubles, purely because they have Lukas Dlouhy, but doubles is not my area of expertise so I'm just going to talk about the singles. There are some very interesting match ups, because all four of these players are capable of beating just about anyone if they run hot.

Cilic is the most recent to demonstrate this, beating Andy Murray in straight sets at the US Open and then getting off to a flier against eventual champ JMDP before crumbling in a heap. If he can, you know, not crumble, I think he'll win both his singles matches. I think Stepanek will give him more trouble than Berdych, because Berdych has done pretty much fat nothing this year, whereas Stepanek has done some, like, good stuff and whatnot, but I think Cilic is the most talented of the four players out there and, meltdown aside, I think he'll bring home the bacon for Croatia.

I'm unsure whether Karlovic will be a great second banana or whether he'll be a liability. He's a strange way, Dr Ivo - that huge serve can beat just about anyone, but if they find a way around that, he's pretty much screwed. I can see Stepanek figuring him out pretty early on... Berdych maybe not so much. He might do the figuring, but I can't see him delivering.

So in summation, I think Croatia will come away 3-1 in the singles, their one loss being Karlovic to Stepanek. This will put them back in the final, where they will face...

...the winner of semi final #2, Spain vs Israel. And look, I know Israel are the underdogs and people like supporting the underdogs, but if Spain lose this tie, I will eat my sofa. They are missing their best Davis Cup dudes, Nadal and Verdasco, but the depth that Spain presents is so ridiculous I can't see them losing. Then again, I didn't see Russia losing to Israel either, but I doubt the Spaniards will be quite as fragile.

I give Israel a very decent shot in the doubles. Erlich and Ram are a first rate team. But I really can't see either Dudi Sela or Harel Levy coming through the Mosquito, Juan Carlos Ferrero, who has been playing pretty damn good of late. The other singles player, David Ferrer, has occasionally proved to be a bit shaky, but I'd be a bit surprised if he took any major losses here. And even if he did, Feliciano Lopez and Tommy Robredo are both excellent players - actually, I wouldn't be surprised to see Robredo playing singles at all. Spain have options. I don't think Israel really have that luxury.

I think Spain's going to go 4-0 on singles here, whoever plays. Israel might win the doubles, but if Spain lose this tie, I will be very surprised.

So let the games begin. And let me be proven wrong.

Oh, and hopp Suisse!

Today's Results

Bell Challenge (Quebec City)

Lilia Osterloh def. Amra Sadikovic, 6-3 2-6 6-2
Bethanie Mattek-Sands def. Vania King, 6-3 6-3

China GDD Guangzhou International Women's Open (Guangzhou)

Anastasija Sevastova def. Anabel Medina Garrigues, 3-6 6-3 6-1
Peng Shuai def. Chanelle Scheepers, 6-3 6-2
Chang Yung-Jan def. Maria Elena Camerin, 6-3 3-6 7-6 (7-2)
Olga Savchuk def. Hsieh Su-Wei, 6-4 6-4

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

One Thing I Will Do When I Am President Of The ITF

So whose bright idea was it to put Davis Cup right after the US Open?

Okay, maybe it means that everyone gets a few days off where they have no obligation to play any tournaments, but for Davis Cup to have real prestige, you want the big guys to be there, yeah? You want your Federers and your Nadals and Murrays and del Potros, and... oh yeah, I bet these guys have just been in the final couple of rounds of the US Open! I bet the first thing they want to do is fly off to some farflung corner of the earth to play Davis Cup... especially if it's a relegation tie. They're everyone's favourites!

To be fair, most of the big guys are doing this - Nadal is out injured, which is hardly anyone's fault, but Federer is off to play, and a few of the other big guys as well. But I can't imagine they'd be especially pleased about having to hop off to somewhere halfway around the world when their collective heads are still in New York. It must be incredibly hard to refocus for them.

I can imagine that if there was a tournament the week after New York and Davis Cup was, say, a week after that, not many people would play that tournament. Only the lower ranked players who didn't quite make the cut for their nation's squad would be there. But I think it would be better for Davis Cup as a tournament. The big guys would have some time to refocus, the tennis world would have some time to catch their breath and regroup, and by the time the ten day break or whatever was over, everyone would be gagging for good tennis. Yesno?

I just realised how much this reads like a 'What I Will Do When I Am President Of The ITF' sort of kiddie essay. Oops. Blush. But Davis Cup and team tennis gets shafted a lot, and by playing it directly after one of the major events of the year, I think that reinforces that. I'd be interested to know if the player's council have a view on this. I know scheduling is Rafa's little pet issue, so I wonder if he has any opinion on this...

Today's Results

China GDD Guangzhou International Women's Open (Guangzhou)

Shahar Peer def. Akgul Amanmuradova, 6-3 6-3
Alexandra Panova def. Olga Govortsova, 7-5 6-4
Ayumi Morita def. Abigail Spears, 1-6 6-1 6-0
Alberta Brianti def. Lenka Wienerova, 6-3 6-1

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MacArthur Park

I have decided to take a MacArthur Park attitude to Federer's loss yesterday. For those of you not in the loop, here is what I mean:

There will be another song for me
For I will sing it
There will be another dream for me
Someone will bring it
I will take my life into my hands
And I will use it
I will win the worship in their eyes
And I will lose it
I will have the things that I desire
And my passion flow
Like rivers through the sky.

Probably not exactly right, but I'm liking the sentiment. Roger's got fifteen Slams and he's got a whole lot more ahead of him. Six in a row is not a lucky number for him, as we proved at Wimbledon last year. I have no doubt in my mind that he'll back at Flushing Meadows next year, ready to recapture his title with aplomb.

And to tell the truth, if there was one of the Slams I would least like him to win (though I obviously want him to win all of them) it's probably New York. The Aussie is my home Slam. Roland Garros had that anti-Fed mystique around it for so long. Wimbledon is the Holy Grail of tennis. The odd US Open to someone else probably won't hurt anyone too badly in the long run.

And even though I desperately wanted Roger to win yesterday, I find myself happy for del Potro. He seems to have grown up into a genuinely nice kid and it's sometimes heartening to see some young rando winning stuff. And this is an excellent win for him. I highly doubt he'll go on some Slam-winning tear now, though he might pick up a couple more - but this will be very good for him and his career. I'll be interested to see how he goes in Australia next year. He'll officially be a big contender.

Though that's enough now, Juan. Come Melbourne next year, I think the time will be just ripe for Federer to sing his next song, bring his next dream, and take home Slam #16.

Today's Results

Bell Challenge (Quebec City)

Nadia Petrova def. Carly Gullickson, 6-2 6-0
Lucie Safarova def. Stephanie Dubois, 6-1 6-3
Bethanie Mattek-Sands def. Varvara Lepchenko, 6-4 7-5
Julia Goerges def. Sofia Arvidsson, 6-3 7-5
Amra Sadikovic def. Olga Puchkova, 6-4 6-3
Regina Kulikova def. Jorgelina Cravero, 6-4 6-2
Lilia Osterloh def. Shenay Perry, 6-1 3-6 6-2
Severine Bremond Beltrame def. Heidi El Tabakh, 5-0 retired
Vania King def, Anna Tatishvili, 7-5 6-2

China GDD Guangzhou International Women's Open (Guangzhou)

Olga Savchuk def. Katarina Srebotnik, 3-6 7-5 6-2
Hsieh Su-Wei def. Yan Zi, 6-3 7-5
Chanelle Scheepers def. Arantxa Parra Santonja, 7-6 (14-12) 5-7 6-3
Peng Shuai def. Angela Haynes, 6-2 7-5
Maria Elena Camerin def. Chen Yanchong, 6-2 6-2
Lenka Wienerova def. Zhang Ling, 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4
Ayumi Morita def. Tatiana Poutchek, 6-3 6-3
Anabel Medina Garrigues def. Kimiko Date Krumm, 6-1 4-6 6-4
Abigail Spears def. Chang Kai-Chen, 6-3 7-6 (7-3)
Alberta Brianti def. Sophie Ferguson, 7-6 (7-1) 6-4
Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia) beat Lu Jingjing (China) 6-4 6-2
Chan Yung-Jan (Taiwan) beat Mathilde Johansson (France) 6-1 6-1

Monday, September 14, 2009

KimPossible and the Chosen Juan

So I'm going to have to talk about it sometime, I guess.

It never seemed likely that Federer would lose to del Potro, but somehow he managed it. Actually, I phrased that wrong. It never seemed likely that del Potro would win, but he did. Because he won this match. Federer didn't lose it. Federer's serve didn't exactly show up, and the match was won and lost on the conversion of break points - but Federer played well enough to win the match against most anyone else.

Del Potro won it.

And congratulations to him. No one would ever have picked the towering Argentine to beat Andy Murray to his first Slam. I'd really like to focus on Juan's achievement here instead of weeping over Roger's spilt milk, because even though I'm very sad, this is a momentous moment for JMDP. Not just anyone can win a Slam. In the Hispano-Suisse era, if we say it started at Wimbledon '04, only two other men have won Slams - Safin and Djokovic. That's pretty exalted company Juan is in. And he fought for this and he wanted this and he thoroughly deserves it.

Well done, Juan.

Now, onto the women's final, before I start sobbing.

Could you have a more likeable, lovely winner than Kim Clijsters? Before I forget, Caroline Wozniacki was also a gracious, lovely runner up, but today was really all about Clijsters. Has there ever been a tennis ceremony with a more lovely image than that of little Jada running about on the court? For Clijsters to have done what she has done - to take two years out, get married, have a baby - and then to come back... the enormity of that cannot be overstated.

This was the ultimate feel good story - and I hope that it proves inspiring to women's tennis and especially to mums everywhere. I do not, as some people do, think that this shows that women's tennis is in a bad bad place. Women's tennis is not at its strongest, yes - but this is testament to nothing more than the amazing Zen calmness, steel and phenomenal talent of Kim Clijsters. To suggest that the win was a product of the times is insulting. Kim did this all by herself.

And for that I salute her. May her (second) career be long and glorious, and I hope Jada gets to see her win a few more Slams yet!

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Juan Martin del Potro def. Roger Federer, 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2

Women's Draw

Kim Clijsters def. Caroline Wozniacki, 7-5 6-3

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Stroke of Genius

I hadn't intended to blog today until after the women's final, but whatevs, I'll talk about Kimmie and Caro tomorrow. No matter what happens, it can't possibly be as dramatic as Serena incident.

And I need to talk about THE SHOT.

Roger didn't play the greatest match today - though he still managed to beat Novak Djokovic in straight sets, so he didn't play sucky either. His serve wasn't in the zone, but he still managed to come through, so well done.

But the match won't be remembered for any of that. It probably won't even be remembered for the fact that Federer won en route to (hopefully) his sixth US Open title.

It'll be remembered for THE SHOT.

Federer is up two sets to love, 6-5 in the third. Djokovic is serving. 0-30.

Federer rushes the net. Djokovic lobs him.

Federer scrambles backwards and, on the dead run, hits a crosscourt pass between his legs for the winner.

He then follows it up with a screaming forehand winner off the return to win the match, but it's THE SHOT that's going to be remembered. There is no one else alive who could make that shot. Hell, even Federer admitted he couldn't make it most of the time. But when it mattered, he came with the goods. He came up with... wow. This is why he is the greatest player of all time. No one else has ever displayed such genius.


And we have to give a few words to Juan Martin del Potro, who is into his first ever Slam final - nice work, Juan! You have to feel sorry for poor Rafa Nadal, though... pummelled again in the one Slam he has never won, and he's now going to be out for a month with an abdominal tear. He's won the Aussie Open this year, but it just hasn't been his year on the whole, poor dude. Here's hoping he'll come back better than ever next year... if nothing else, I think he gets his #2 ranking back from Andy Murray. And let's face it - Roger and Rafa belong in slots #1 and #128. It's just the way it is.

Sorry if I've been a little incoherent, but wow. WOW. You don't see shots like that every day. Or, you know, ever. Roger Federer, you amaze me.

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Roger Federer def. Novak Djokovic, 7-6 (7-3) 7-5 7-5
Juan Martin del Potro def. Rafael Nadal, 6-2 6-2 6-2

PS. Vale Jack Kramer. You will be missed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009



I'm not that old, but I've been following tennis for a very significant portion of my life and I have never, ever, EVER seen anything like this.

The scene: Kim Clijsters vs Serena Williams. Clijsters up a set and leading 6-5 in the second. Williams serving. 15-30.

First serve - fault.

Second serve - foot fault.

Whether or not it actually was a foot fault is debatable, but Serena certainly didn't think it was. She marched to within six feet of the linesperson, started waving her racquet and saying something incomprehensible, very, very mad. Which is understandable, given as it was sort of an important point and all.

Up gets the linesperson and reports what was said to the umpire.

Out comes the tournament referee.

A conference. With shouting.

Serena Williams is defaulted. Kim Clijsters is through to the final.

I have never, ever, ever seen anything like it.

I don't know if it was a 'hey, you threatened to kill the linesperson' (which is what the linesperson reported) or a simple point penalty (Serena received a racquet abuse warning earlier in the match) which came at the worst possible time. But this was terrible. It was a shocking example of behaviour from Serena and a bizarre end to the match, and you know who I feel sorry for? Kim Clijsters. She had two match points and chances are she would have converted on one of them anyway, but this is not the way she wanted to win this match. This is not the way at all.

I'll be interested to see how this plays out in the media and what Serena has to say. I understand that she was angry but her behaviour was genuinely terrible and I think she should be extremely ashamed. I don't know if she deserved to lose the match because of it but if it was a point penalty I support it 100%. If that is the case, Serena will reap what she has sown.

One thing is certain, though. We are going to have a totally random winner of this US Open. Kim Clijsters, the comeback queen and Belgian sweetheart - will this brouhaha affect her? How will the crowd respond to her? And she'll be facing Danish teenager Caroline Wozniacki, who cut down Yanina Wickmayer three and three... will her defensive wall be enough to penetrate the defenses of Kim Possible.

But one thing is certain. Not one person in the world could have predicted today's events. Not even close.

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Rafael Nadal def. Fernando Gonzalez, 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-2) 6-0

Women's Draw

Kim Clijsters def. Serena Williams, 6-4 7-5
Caroline Wozniacki def. Yanina Wickmayer, 6-3 6-3

Friday, September 11, 2009

Living on the Ceiling

Rain delay, rain delay, more rain delay.


You know what, USTA? Get a frigging roof!

If I were Rafa Nadal or Fernando Gonzalez I would be mighty pissed off right about now. Whichever one of them manages to get through to the final - Rafa, I would be betting - will have to play three consecutive days. (If one gets through to the final, that is - JMDP might have something to say about that). To sit around waiting for this amount of time and then playing in the tiny breaks between the rain delays puts them at a mammoth disadvantage. And what if the rain continues for a couple of days? We could be here well into next week.

I feel sorry for the women too - particularly Wozniacki and Wickmayer, who would have suffered the ignominy of being moved to Grandstand if the rain had let up - but at least they're all equally disadvantaged. Federer and Djokovic will have a huge amount of rest leading into their semi, and will probably be able to carry that over to the final. JMDP will certainly be more rested than his opponent. Add to which the tournament hassle and the spectator disappointment and all the other badness that comes along with inclement weather...

...which could be saved if they'd just get themselves a frigging roof.

Sure, it's a huge investment. Sure, the US Open is an outdoor tournament - but so is the Aussie Open, and the roof is the best damn thing they ever did. And guess what, US Open: what's good enough for Wimbledon is good enough for you!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bright Young Thing

Juan Martin del Potro has snuck through this draw without too many people talking about him. Kind of hard to do, when you're six foot five, but he's managed it. I suppose in a half which contains Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal, you're necessarily going to be third banana.

But you know what? I would not be surprised at all to see Juan Martin del Potro teeing off on Sunday in the final. I don't think he'll win the final, but I would not be at all surprised to see him there. Andy Murray is gone - JMDP just beat his conqueror, Marin Cilic, in four sets in the quarters. You've got to imagine that Rafa Nadal would await in the semis (though Fernando Gonzalez might have something to say about that) and that is a match that I think is immensely winnable for Juan.

Let's think about this. If we count out his second round loss at Wimbledon, JMDP has been playing great ever since Roland Garros, when he really pushed the Great One to the wire in the semis there. His win against Andy Roddick in Washington (it was Washington, yesno?) cannot be discounted either - with the quality stuff A-Rod's been playing, that's a big win. And he's been beating quality players here in the US as well, even if he didn't have conquer Mt Murray in the quarters (wouldn't that have been a match up!)

Juan's style of play does not really appeal to me. But I cannot deny that it is mighty effective. He's had big wins over big players - he's beaten Murray, Djokovic, Nadal... I would kill to see a Nadal/DelPo semi. That would be such an interesting match to watch. It would be very interesting to see how much Rafa is capable of bringing to the court, how much that injury is playing on him. So far he's been playing fine, but I don't think he's been that unstoppable Rafinator we've come to know and love. And even if he was, JMDP is capable of troubling him. A very interesting match. A very interesting match indeed.

But Rafa has to go one match more first, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The US Open final for the last couple of years has been Federer vs Bright Young Thing - Djokovic in '07, Murray in '08. It would be oddly fitting for JMDP to be this year's Bright Young Thing - with the way he's been playing, he sort of deserves a Grand Slam final. That semi at Roland Garros alone, where he was far away, so close, shows that he is ready for the big time.

Speaking of the Great One RF, a couple of words on his match yesterday... Robin Soderling, it sucks to be you. He played terribly in the first two sets and Federer played great, but then Soderling managed to grab a set off him and nearly force five, even though Federer was still playing great. Sure, it was in breakers and Federer was not broken in the whole match, but that is a major skill. Not many players could grab a set off Roger when he's zoning, so props to the Yoker. I feel sorry for him. If he'd been in another section of the draw, he could have made the semis or even the finals. That's three majors this year where he's been eliminated by R-Fed - sure, one was in the final, but still. Here's hoping for his sake next year he manages to stay out of Roger's way a bit more!

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Juan Martin del Potro def. Marin Cilic, 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-1

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Brava Belgium!

If there is one nation on the earth that is tennis-happy right now, it has to be Belgium.

Once upon a time it was pretty normal for Belgium to have two women in the semis of a major, but ever since the retirements, one year apart, of Clijsters and Henin, Belgium has been pretty much reliant on the Rochus brothers and Kristof Vliegen for its tennis jollies... which means it really hasn't been that merry. But would you look at this now - here we are again. Two Belgian women in the final four of a major.

Kim Clijsters is no stranger to the semis, though she hasn't been here for a while, what with that whole baby/retirement thing she had going on. This has got to be the best comeback I've ever seen - I can't think of one better. Martina Hingis, eat your heart out. You've got to think that whoever wins the clash between her and Serena will win the tournament... and you'd pretty much put your money on Serena, but if anyone can give her a run for her money, then it's Kim. She took out one Williams sister. If Serena blinks, you can bet Kim'll pounce.

But I wanted to focus a little more on the other Belgian woman in the semis, someone you don't really hear much about - Yanina Wickmayer. She's come through the draw very quietly, making the best of a quarter that was pretty much totally deseeded by the second round and definitely by the third, and although she hasn't been pulling major upsets, it's because she hasn't had the chance yet. She had a great win over Kateryna Bondarenko today, who was coming off a double bagel, and will go on to face the winner of Oudin/Wozniacki in the semis. Either opponent, you would think, is a winnable match. That side of the draw is so wide open it is not even funny.

Yanina gave a lovely press conference the other day where we got to hear a bit of her life story, and I have to say, her dad sounds like the best tennis dad ever. Her mother died when she was young and Yanina wanted to play tennis, and so her dad packed up their life and let her. Not because he was pressuring her - but because he wanted to make her happy. How lovely is that? Good on you, Mr Wickmayer, and good on you, Yanina, for making it to your first Slam semi final. If we were to see you in the final, then you know what? I think I'd pull for you.

But in conclusion - brava, Belgium. You have two fine ladies in the semis - I hope you are very proud!

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Novak Djokovic def. Fernando Verdasco, 7-6 (7-2) 1-6 7-5 6-2

Women's Draw

Yanina Wickmayer def. Kateryna Bondarenko, 7-5 6-4

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mighty Marin Massacres Murray


Marin Cilic, dude, I knew you had it in you. You aren't one of my special favourite Stars of the Future for nothing!

But I don't know if anyone would have picked this one. Andy Murray, who was, according to some, tournament favourite, knocked out in the round of sixteen by Marin Cilic. Especially after Andy made the final last year. Wow. Just wow.

Pretty much Murray sucked today. I didn't see the match but I've gathered that that was the case. And Mighty Marin played very very well - here's hoping he can make some stuff happen in the quarters! His first quarter final ever... nice work, Marin! I feel all proud.

But let's go back to Murray, because on account of him being out, this is really the last time we can talk about him this tournament. He has just not performed that well at Slams this year - by the standards he should be holding himself to, that is. By most people's standards, a semi, a quarter and two fourth rounds is a very respectable year. But for someone who managed to knock Rafa Nadal off his perch? Not so much.

This was supposed to be Murray's year. This was supposed to be the year where he won his Slam, where he made stuff happen. Like Djokovic in 2007, he made the final of the US Open and was supposed to go on to greatness. Djokovic came away with a Slam. Murray hasn't even made another finals appearance. Before the Aussie Open, before Wimbledon and before the US Open, he was talked about as a serious contender and even potential favourite. In no circumstance did he deliver. I mean, semis at Wimbledon was pretty good, and with the way Roddick was playing you can't blame him for losing... but for me, his best result was quarters at Roland Garros, where I feel he exceeded expectations. Losing to Verdasco in Australia? Now Cilic in the US? Not so much.

I mean, it's certainly not the end of the road for Andy Murray or anything like that. He's still got Slam-winning potential and whatnot. But I think he's got to have a long hard look at himself. The top guys do perform well at the Slams, and he's just not going all the way yet. Once Murray can figure out why... I think we'll be seeing him deep in the second week.

Oh, and GO MARIN!

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Marin Cilic def. Andy Murray, 7-5 6-2 6-2
Juan Martin del Potro def. Juan Carlos Ferrero, 6-3 6-3 6-3

Women's Draw

Kim Clijsters def. Li Na, 6-2 6-4

Monday, September 7, 2009

Russian Kryptonite

All of Russia must be cursing Melanie Oudin. This is the fourth Russian in a row she's taken out - and I bet she's praying for Svetlana Kuznetsova to come up with the goods against Caroline Wozniacki to make it Russian #5. Unfortunately she can't play Russians ALL the way to the final... but she can get a good way there.

Anyway, we've talked a lot about the seeds in the women's draw falling, but we haven't talked much about the players that have got through, with a few notable exceptions, like Clijsters and Oudin - and Serena, I suppose, the only one of the top five seeds to remain in the draw. Everyone's talking about how it could be a final between two unseeded players, but two players that haven't received much attention are the two seeds who are facing off tonight - Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki. Both are ranked within the top ten and you've got to think that whichever one of them comes out on top tonight will make the final, whatever Melanie Oudin has to say about that.

It's pretty rare for two players of this calibre to get swept under the carpet, but it's happened. Caro shares the teen queen crown with Victoria Azarenka, and though she's underperformed at the Slams thus far, she's got some serious game. And Svetlana Kuznetsova won Roland Garros this year. How did we forget about these two?

I know Oudin is the fairy tale, but I'm calling it. Either Sveta or Caro will make the final, where they will play Serena. Le prediction de Jodi d'official, excuse my franglaise.

And a shout out to two other players in the quarters, one of whom will be in the semis. I don't think Yanina Wickmayer vs Kateryna Bondarenko is quite the match that the tournament organisers would have been hoping for, but big kudos to both of these girls for making it this far. Awesome work.

And speaking of awesome work - Roger Federer's into the quarters. Again. He looked brilliant beating Tommy Robredo - I'm hoping his third round match against Lleyton Hewitt was his token yippy match and it's all smooth sailing from here on in. It'd be great if he won and Clijsters won on the women's side - victories for the parental units!

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Roger Federer def. Tommy Robredo, 7-5 6-2 6-2
Fernando Verdasco def. John Isner, 4-6 6-4 6-4 6-4
Robin Soderling def. Nikolay Davydenko, 7-5 3-6 6-2 retired

Women's Draw

Kateryna Bondarenko def. Gisela Dulko, 6-0 6-0
Melanie Oudin def. Nadia Petrova, 1-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-3
Yanina Wickmayer def. Petra Kvitova, 4-6 6-4 7-5

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kim Possible Strikes Again

There is seemingly no limit to what Kim Clijsters can do.

Her match against Venus was totally weird, to say the least - I can't remember the last time I saw players trade bagels! Momentum was an issue, but once Kim got that vital break in the third set it just sort of felt Clijsters all the way... even when she was down break points serving for the match.

Beating Venus is a totally different thing than beating Serena, but the achievement of beating a Williams in New York is still massive. You've got to like Kimmie's chances of making the semis now - she plays Li Na in the quarters, and that is extraordinarily winnable, when you consider the scalps she's already claimed. This has got to be the best comeback I have ever seen.

If Serena and Kim make the semis, whoever wins that match will win the title. I don't know if you can gainsay that.

I don't really have much more to say, apart from whoa. And, oh yeah, how weird was yesterday? (And I know she lost, but I still stand by Dinara Safina. She'll come back... hopefully with that mechanical problem with her serve fixed - please, Zeljko!) The result that got me the most was Andy Roddick. That is such a terrible, terrible shame for him. I guess losing to Isner proves that anyone on pretty much any given day can succumb to one of those Karlovician monsters. Isner played some great shots - droppers especially - but it was the cheap points on the serve that got him over the line.

I have to say that it's a bit of a shame for US tennis that Isner got through, because although he came through Roddick, I can't really see him coming through anyone else, whereas Roddick certainly would have had that ability. You've got to like Djokovic to make it to the semis on that side now... though he struggled a bit against unheralded American Jesse Witten. It's not a bloodbath like the women's side, but the holes are beginning to open...

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Rafael Nadal def. Nicolas Almagro, 7-5 6-4 6-4
Juan Martin del Potro def. Daniel Koellerer, 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-3
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Julien Benneteau, 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 6-4
Juan Carlos Ferrero def. Gilles Simon, 1-6 6-4 7-6 (7-5) 1-0 retired
Fernando Gonzalez def. Tomas Berdych, 7-5 6-4 6-4

Women's Draw

Serena Williams def. Daniela Hantuchova, 6-2 6-0
Kim Clijsters def. Venus Williams, 6-0 0-6 6-4
Li Na def. Francesca Schiavone, 6-2 6-3

Saturday, September 5, 2009

USA Fairy Tale

I talked yesterday about the lack of consistency on the WTA tour as opposed to the ATP- all top sixteen men are through to the round of thirty two for the first time in history, whereas eleven of the top twenty women have fallen. Generally, you'd take le tour de bloke any day, given as good opponents = good matches and whatnot, but you know what? There is an upside to this whole WTA scattiness.

It leaves the door open for a fairy tale.

And that's exactly what has happened to Melanie Oudin.

I just realised I sounded like I was suggesting that the fact that the top girls are playing crap has sort of made her win by default, which is not what I mean at all, just to clarify. What she has done is analogous to what Casey Dellacqua did at the Aussie Open in 2008 - knocking off some top players by playing some completely great, out of the blue stuff. And that's what the WTA is allowing room for at the moment - someone to come out of the blue.

This is the second Slam in a row where Oudin has fought her way to the big W against top ten moments. Her Slam scalps now include Jankovic, Dementieva and Sharapova - and can I just say I am very sad to see MaSha go. I was kind of pulling for her to go deep - but how can you resist a fairy tale like Oudin? Hometown girl with a lot of fire... she's such a great story and I think she proves that if she can keep this up, the future of American tennis is in same hands.

One result of hers that hasn't been much talked about is her first round, where she totally demolished Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova - I think it was 6-2 6-1 or something similar. Readers of this blog will know that I think very highly of Pavlyuchenkova. She's very young as well - eighteen, I think - and has about 237048948239 junior Slams under her belt. I think she's going to be very, very good in a few years.

And Oudin, who is her generation, effectively, totally destroyed her. The victories over the top seeds are sending a message to the current field, but I feel like the one over Pavlyuchenkova sent one to the future. Oudin is here, she's here to stay - and she's got her eyes on the top prize. And as no one else seems to want it that much... how about Mel?

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Roger Federer def. Lleyton Hewitt, 4-6 6-3 7-5 6-3
Novak Djokovic def. Jesse Witten, 6-7 (2-7) 6-3 7-6 (7-2) 6-4
Radek Stepanek def. Philipp Kohlschreiber, 4-6 6-2 6-3 6-3
Nikolay Davydenko def. Marco Chiudinelli, 6-4 7-5 7-5
Robin Soderling def. Sam Querrey, 6-2 7-5 6-7 (6-8) 6-1

Women's Draw

Melanie Oudin def. Maria Sharapova, 3-6 6-4 7-5
Nadia Petrova def. Jie Zheng, 6-4 6-1
Gisela Dulko def. Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-3 6-4

Friday, September 4, 2009

Comebacks in the Not-Golden Age

Nothing as major as the seed bloodbath we saw yesterday, but another big women's name made the long journey out of the tournament today - Victoria Azarenka, one of the widely touted next best things, goneski. Now, readers of this blog will know I am pretty much totally anti-Azarenka due to her repellent attitude, but this really is a shame. This means that over half the women's top twenty seeds are out. What kind of tournament is that?

This is why comeback makers like Clijsters and Sharapova have such a chance at this tournament. The players that are theoretically the top players are sweeping themselves under the carpet before they even come close to playing these comeback queens. (That said, Clijsters vs Venus in the round of sixteen is totally mouthwatering, and I am coming out right now and saying that Kim Possible is going to take it. Oh yes.)

Then we look at the blokes, and the top ten is totally intact (Rafa is still battling Nicolas Kiefer as I write this, but he's looking in decent shape), and we've only lost two top twenty seeds en route to the round of thirty two (that I noticed, anyway - Ferrer and Wawrinka). The dudes are stepping up to the plate like they should. This is testament to the totally different places men and women's tennis are in at the moment. Men's tennis is in a Federer-led golden age, where we have incredible depth and talent floating around (any world where someone who is playing as sharp as Roddick is right now can be ranked less than #1 is a pretty amazing world). And women's tennis... is not in a golden age.

To say the least.

That said, I think the result of the US Open on both sides is going to be very interesting. I think there are six major contenders on the men's side (some more major than others) and they are ranked one through six in the world. On the women... Serena has to be the favourite, and then there's Venus, and it's trendy to leave Dinara out of the mix, but after my post yesterday we all know I'm a Safina believer, and she's still there, which is more than can be said for some of her compatriots... maybe C-Woz, and definitely Sharapova and Clijsters. There are contenders... just not the usual suspects.

Bit of a change of subject now... one guy - who I don't think will win the US Open, but who put in a tremendous effort today - who deserves a shoutout is Taylor Dent. His game is boring as hell but he fought tooth and nail against Ivan Navarro today and came out on top. Though I hate fifth set breakers. They seem so... arbitrary. Give me an epic fifth set any day of the week.

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Andy Murray def. Paul Capdeville, 6-2 3-6 6-0 6-2
Juan Martin Del Potro def. Jurgen Melzer, 7-6 (10-8) 6-3 6-3
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Jarkko Nieminen, 7-5 6-3 6-4
Gilles Simon def. Thomaz Bellucci, 6-3 6-2 6-4
Fernando Gonzalez def. Josselin Ouanna, 6-4 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4
Gael Monfils def. Andreas Beck, 6-3 7-5 6-3
Marin Cilic def. Jesse Levine, 4-6 2-6 6-0 6-3 6-0
Tomas Berdych def. Horacio Zeballos, 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-2
Jose Acasuso def. David Ferrer, 6-3 3-6 1-6 6-3 6-2
Juan Carlos Ferrero def. Philipp Petzschner, 1-6 3-6 6-4 6-2 6-4
Julien Benneteau def. Viktor Troicki, 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-0
Nicolas Almagro def. Robby Ginepri, 6-7 (9-11) 6-2 6-3 4-6 6-4
Taylor Dent def. Ivan Navarro, 6-4 5-7 6-7 (1-7) 7-5 7-6 (11-9)
Denis Istomin def. Nicolas Lapentti, 2-6 6-4 4-6 7-5 7-6 (7-4)
Daniel Koellerer def. Pablo Cuevas, 3-6 6-2 6-1 6-4

Women's Draw

Serena Williams def. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, 6-3 7-5
Venus Williams def. Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-2 7-5
Vera Zvonareva def. Elena Vesnina, 6-2 6-4
Francesca Schiavone def. Victoria Azarenka, 4-6 6-2 6-2
Flavia Pennetta def. Aleksandra Wozniak, 6-1 6-1
Li Na def. Maria Kirilenko, 6-4 6-2
Daniela Hantuchova def. Vania King, 6-2 6-2
Kim Clijsters def. Kirsten Flipkens, 6-0 6-2

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In Defence of Dinara

There are three players in the women's top ten who are widely considered to be Slamless wonders - Jelena Jankovic, Elena Dementieva and Dinara Safina. Elena's been around for about 7957934875 years and though she's reached the odd final, she's never taken the prize. Jelena made the US Open final last year and has been ranked #1, but no cigar. Dinara is the current #1 and has made three finals, but has only ever come away with the cookie tray.

All three players - maybe Dementieva a very little less, but certainly Jankovic and Safina, as they've both spent considerable time ranked #1 - are thought to need a Slam to validate their careers. And Safina, given as she's crumbled in three Slam finals and is the current #1, is bearing the brunt of that pressure at the moment, but you can bet the other two feel it as well.

Everyone's been ragging on Dinara Safina this year. Why is she #1? they ask. She has no spine. She crumbles in finals. She relies too much on her coach, who is the captain of her anti-cheer squad. Bitch bitch, moan moan. I read an article yesterday called 'What Makes A Champion? Don't Ask Safina'. She may be #1 at the moment and the #1 seed, but no one is picking her to win this tournament. Dementieva and Jankovic would both have been picked above her.

All three of these players played today. Two lost, one won. And guess who it was that won.

Dementieva lost, rolled over by American teenager Melanie Oudin on Arthur Ashe. And then right after her, Ashe saw Jelena Jankovic go down in a third set breaker to Yaroslava Shvedova.

Safina struggled. She went three sets against a player which her ranking states she should beat easily, Kristina Barrois. Similarly, she came heartbreakingly close to losing to young Aussie Olivia Rogowska in the first round. And everyone's picking on her for not playing that well.

But you know what no one's picked up?

She still won.

She was down a break and nearly a double break in that final set against Rogowska. And sure, Rogowska was nervous, and is not yet the player Dinara is, but Dinara stuck it out. She didn't give up, which must surely be tempting at that point. She held her nerve. She gritted it out. And she won.

She's not playing that well at the moment. I'm not going to deny that. Her serve is all over the place and she's missing shots she should make. But that can be fixed. She can play her way into this tournament. As long as she gets that W on the board, that's all that matters. Because there is one thing that has not deserted her, and it's the thing that has left her in the past on the big stage.

She hasn't lost her steel.

When she started coming up in '08, when she had that big win in Berlin and made the final of Roland Garros, that was what got her there. It was her determination, the 'you'll have to shoot me to win' mentality. And when she's been in the Slam finals, that's what's left her - most evident in that 'why am I such a chicken?' moment at Roland Garros this year.

But right now? She's playing bad, and she's still finding a way to win. And that, I feel, says something very important about Dinara Safina. That is the quality of a champion.

Roland Garros this year, when she made the final, she pretty much cruised there. If she makes it to the US Open final this year - and with Jankovic and Dementieva out of her section, her chances are improving - she will have had to fight to get there. I'm not saying she'll win it - but I bet that she'll show up.

So while most everyone else is condemning her, I still believe in Dinara Safina. Her brother yesterday came out vociferously in her defence and I back him up 100%. Dinara does have what it takes. Because she loves the game and she's got grit - and there's fight in here, and if nothing else, that is what she has brought to the table this tournament.

So there it is. I am a Safina believer. And I think she just might do me proud.

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Nikolay Davydenko def. Jan Hernych, 6-4 6-1 6-2
Fernando Verdasco def. Florent Serra, 6-3 6-0 6-3
Robin Soderling def. Marcel Granollers, 2-0 retired
Tommy Robredo def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-2 4-6 6-2 6-4
Tommy Haas def. Robert Kendrick, 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-3)
Sam Querrey def. Kevin Kim, 7-5 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-4
Jesse Witten def. Maximo Gonzalez, 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 7-5 6-2
Marco Chiudinelli def. Mikhail Youzhny, 2-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 6-3

Women's Draw

Dinara Safina def. Kristina Barrois, 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-3
Melanie Oudin def. Elena Dementieva, 5-7 6-4 6-3
Yaroslava Shvedova def. Jelena Jankovic, 6-3 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (8-6)
Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Anastasija Sevastova, 6-4 6-2
Caroline Wozniacki def. Petra Marticm 6-1 6-0
Nadia Petrova def. Julie Coin, 6-4 7-6 (7-3)
Sara Errani def. Patty Schnyder, 7-5 6-2
Zheng Jie def. Alize Cornet, 1-6 6-3 6-3
Anastasia Rodionova def. Sabine Lisicki, 6-3 3-6 7-5
Sorana Cirstea def. Stephanie Dubois, 6-4 5-7 6-4
Gisela Dulko def. Alona Bondarenko, 6-4 6-0
Yanina Wickmayer def. Peng Shuai, 2-6 6-1 6-4
Kateryna Bondarenko def. Shenay Perry, 6-1 6-1
Petra Kvitova def. Tathiana Garbin, 6-1 6-3

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

End of an Era

Today we saw the end of an era. Two of the great players, the great characters of the game today have played their final Grand Slam match.

The first is Fabrice Santoro, the French magician, who played in his 69th and final Slam today, going down in the first round to Juan Carlos Ferrero. He has got to be one of the most unique, dynamic players to watch and I think the game will miss him tremendously. He brings a great verve and vigour to everything he does - he isn't a big guy, but his presence is huge.

Actually, one of the most memorable tennis shots I ever saw was from Santoro. It was Australian Open '06, I think - he was playing quarters against David Nalbandian. Nalbandian ended up crushing him in straights, but there was this beautiful shot Santoro played... a drop shot that landed just over the net but which had so much spin on it that it dropped back onto Santoro's side before Nalbandian could come anywhere near it. It was beautiful.

Santoro plays with his mind rather than with brawn, and I really appreciate it. There is an art to his tennis which is simply stunning. I wonder if there are any French juniors coming up who have chosen to emulate Santoro. If there are, I would love to see them play.

Marat Safin once said that being told he had to play Santoro was like being told he was going to die, and indeed these two have had an interesting head to head over the years... even at the height of Marat's powers, he was still frustrated by the little French wizard. It is fitting, perhaps, that their Slam careers end on the same day - and that, for Marat, it ends at the US Open, the place where, in a way, it all began for him. It was nearly ten years ago that he scored that phenomenal win over Sampras in the final... he may have left in the first round this year, but the US Open will never forget this one of their favourite sons. Indeed, tennis will never forget Marat Safin. There have been wild players, tempestuous players, players with tempers and fits of rage and lots of girls - but I don't think there has ever been anyone quite like Marat Safin.

If Fabrice was responsible for one of my favourite shots, Marat was responsible for one of my favourite matches - the only match Roger Federer has lost I can say I genuinely enjoyed. The semi final of the Australian Open 2005. Two greats, both talented beyond belief, going toe to toe for five sets on Rod Laver Arena. Marat came out on top but tennis was the winner that night. People talk about the final of Wimbledon '08 as the greatest match of all time but I personally think this one was better. Federer and Safin, whatever their respective results might have been, are certainly the most talented players of their generation. And the game will miss Marat, miss it sorely.

However, I think Marat is a little over the game. It is time for them to part ways, at least for a little while. But I hope he rediscovers his love for it sometime. Not as a player, necessarily - but as long as tennis endures, there will always be a place within in it for Marat Safin.

So farewell from the Slams and the Slam fans, Marat, Fabrice. You will be missed - and you will be remembered.

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Rafael Nadal def. Richard Gasquet, 6-2 6-2 6-3
Gael Monfils def. Jeremy Chardy, 6-1 6-4 6-3
Juan Carlos Ferrero def. Fabrice Santoro, 6-4 6-3 6-3
Nicolas Almagro def. Steve Darcis, 6-2 6-4 2-6 7-6 (10-8)
Jurgen Melzer def. Marat Safin, 1-6 6-4 6-3 6-4
Andreas Beck def. Evgeny Korolev, 6-3 6-4 2-6 2-6 6-4
Nicolas Kiefer def. Michael Llodra, 6-3 6-4 6-4
Pablo Cuevas def. Chris Guccione, 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-0
Thomaz Bellucci def. Yen-hsun Lu, 6-4 6-2 6-3
Jose Acasuso def. Marcos Daniel, 6-2 6-4 6-3
Daniel Koellerer def. Rui Machado, 6-2 6-4 2-6 6-2

Women's Draw

Venus Williams def. Bethanie Mattek-Sands, 6-4 6-2
Vera Zvonareva def. Anna Chakvetadze, 3-6 6-1 6-1
Victoria Azarenka def. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova, 6-2 6-1
Flavia Pennetta def. Sania Mirza, 6-0 6-0
Maria Kirilenko def. Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-4 2-6 6-4
Kim Clijsters def. Marion Bartoli, 5-7 6-1 6-2
Vania King def. Samantha Stosur, 7-5 6-4
Aleksandra Wozniak def. Amelie Mauresmo, 6-4 6-0
Li Na def. Michelle Larcher de Brito, 6-1 6-3
Kirsten Flipkens def. Anabel Medina Garrigues, 6-1 6-3
Francesca Schiavone def. Stefanie Voegele, 6-4 6-4
Elena Vesnina def. Jill Craybas, 7-6 (8-6) 6-1
Maria Jose Martinez Sanches def. Angelique Kerber, 7-5 6-3
Magdalena Rybarikova def. Chang Kai-Chen, 4-6 6-2 6-2

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Girl From Oz

Let me first say this - I am very glad Dinara Safina is through to the second round. I would really like to see her do well in this tournament and rebuild the pieces of her shattered confidence.

But how about Olivia Rogowska?

This kid is something a little special, I feel. To come out in her first ever US Open match on Arthur Ashe stadium, the biggest, noisiest stadium in tennis, as a total no one, expected to roll over and lose - and to play the world number #1 that close and that tight for so long - this is something she is going to remember for a very, very long time. And it's something I hope the nation of Australia takes notice of, because she is going to be very, very good.

Women's tennis is actually in a pretty good place right now in Australia. People always bemoan the state of the game, but we have had a really, really good year this year. We have Sam Stosur leading the way, dear old unlucky Jelena Dokic and her princess run at the Aussie Open, we have Alicia Molik and Casey Dellacqua on the comeback trail, Jarmila Groth and Anastasia Rodionova playing solidly and then Olivia Rogowska, leading a pack of really excellent young guns like Isabella Holland, Sally Peers and Monika Wejnert. We're good now - in a couple of years I think we're going to be amazing.

And you can damn well quote me on that.

Back to Dinara for a moment - I think it might actually do her good to have had a bit of a struggle in the first round. She was down a break in that third set and fought her way out of it. One of the things that made her most remarkable when she first started her run in May of 2008 was her determination and her fight. At Roland Garros, where she lost in the final - in the lead up, she was crushing opponents, apart from a bit of a battle with Victoria Azarenka. So, I could be wrong, but if she has to fight her way through the whole tournament, she might be a bit more battle-hardened when she gets to the crunch (if she gets to the crunch). She's been rolling over and dying in finals... maybe this can help her out a bit.

Today's Results

US Open (Flushing Meadows)

Men's Draw

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga def. Chase Buchanan, 6-0 6-2 6-1
Fernando Verdasco def. Benjamin Becker, 7-5 6-4 7-5
Fernando Gonzalez def. Nicolas Massu, 6-3 6-3 6-3
Marin Cilic def. Ryan Sweeting, 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 7-6 (7-4)
Tomas Berdych def. Wayne Odesnik, 7-5 6-4 6-4
Jesse Witten def. Igor Andreev, 6-4 6-0 6-2
Viktor Troicki def. Peter Luczak, 6-3 6-3 1-6 2-6 6-1
Jarkko Nieminen def. Fabio Fognini, 7-5 7-6 (8-6) 6-4
Maximo Gonzalez def. Karol Beck, 2-6 1-6 6-1 6-4 6-3
Julien Benneteau def. Flavio Cipolla, 4-6 6-1 6-3 6-3
Horacio Zeballos def. Michael Berrer, 6-3 7-6 (9-7) 3-6 6-0
Denis Istomin def. Brendan Evans, 6-4 6-4 7-6 (7-3)
Josselin Ouanna def. Rajeev Ram, 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 3-6 6-3
Jesse Levine def. Teimuraz Gabashvili, 7-5 6-1 6-2
Paul Capdeville def. Viktor Crivoi, 6-3 6-0 7-6 (7-2)
Novak Djokovic def. Ivan Ljubicic, 6-3 6-1 6-3
Florent Serra def. Janko Tipsarevic, 7-6 (10-8) 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-5)

Women's Draw

Dinara Safina def. Olivia Rogowska, 6-7 (5-7) 6-2 6-4
Svetlana Kuznetsova def. Julia Goerges, 6-3 6-2
Caroline Wozniacki def. Galina Voskoboeva, 6-4 6-0
Nadia Petrova def. Katarina Srebotnik, 6-3 6-3
Yanina Wickmayer def. Virginie Razzano, 6-4 6-3
Patty Schnyder def. Lucie Safarova, 4-6 6-3 7-6 (8-6)
Sabine Lisicki def. Aravane Rezai, 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (4-7) 6-1
Sorana Cirstea def. Ayumi Morita, 6-1 6-3
Petra Kvitova def. Alisa Kleybanova, 6-7 (4-7) 6-3 6-2
Alona Bondarenko def. Alla Kudryavtseva, 3-6 6-3 6-2
Gisela Dulko def. Ekaterina Makarova, 6-3 5-7 6-4
Sara Errani def. Arantxa Rus, 6-0 6-3
Peng Shuai def. Jarmila Groth, 6-2 6-3
Tathiana Garbin def. Mallory Cecil, 6-0 6-1
Julie Coin def. Eva Hrdinova, 6-3 6-3
Kristina Barrois def. Urszula Radwanska, 6-4 6-4
Melanie Oudin def. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-1 6-2
Anastasija Sevastova def. Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-3 7-5
Stephanie Dubois def. Kristina Mladenovic, 6-0 6-4
Petra Martin def. Severine Bremond Beltrame, 6-4 6-2
Anastasia Rodionova def. Lourdes Dominguez Lino, 6-0 4-6 6-1