Tenaciously Tennis

Federer Escapes First Round Upset

Roger Federer beat Alejandro Falla, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0, in a surprising uphill battle from the start. The six-time Wimbledon champion looked set for defeat after losing the first two sets. However, he started playing at a new level in the last three sets, deflecting Falla’s impressive shot-making. In the final set, Federer reigned supreme and didn’t lose a game.

The question is: Can Federer overcome this scare and make it to his eighth Wimbledon final in a row? It won’t be an easy route. I see him dropping more sets over the course of the tournament, especially in the projected match against Berdych in the quarterfinals. Being Federer, however, his game will continue to improve as the tournament progresses. Hopefully, there aren’t any more scares of the sort.

By the way, congrats to Federer for earning his 200th win. It was well deserved.

Other notable five set escape artists: Novak Dkokovic (over Olivier Rochus) anad Nikolai Davydenko (against Kevin Anderson).

Noteworthy Winners: Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Florian Mayer (over Marin Cilic), Lleyton Hewitt, and Tomas Berdych.

In other news, the French Open champion Francesca Schiavone lost in the first round to Vera Douchevine, while Melanie Oudin reclaimed some Grand Slam success by breaking her first round curse at the majors. She beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-3, 6-0.

Speaking of young Americans, Alison Riske, who made it to the semifinals at her Wimbledon warm-up event lost to Yanina Wickmayer in three sets. I see a big future for her in the coming majors. The US Open perhaps?

Sadly, a personal favorite, Patty Schnyder, faltered against Yung-jan Chan of China in two sets.

Other noteworthy wins: Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli, Shahar Peer (over Ana Ivanovic), Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, and Ekaterina Makarova.


Wimbledon Predictions – The WTA Tour

Should I even be looking at anyone besides the Williams sisters given their track record at Wimbledon? Probably not. But, then again, anything can happen, and it’s always fun tracking the draws of a Grand Slam. There’s a strong showing this year with the Belgians back, others making big moves, a certain Russian looking good, and a slew of other players vying for the breakthrough feeling Francesca Schiavone captured at the French Open. So, without further ado, here are my predictions.

The First Quarter:

Notables – Serena Williams (1), Dominika Cibulkova, Lucie Safarova (25), Daniela Hantuchova (24), Maria Sharapova (16), Na Li (9), Anne Keothavong, Svetlana Kuznetsova (19), Sara Errani (32), Agnieszka Radwanska (7)

This section of the draw belongs to the younger Williams sister and Sharapova. With Michelle Larcher de Brito along the way, Serena faces a loud opponent, but should dismantle her easily. In the fourth round, the decibels will drop, but the competition will get much fiercer with Sharapova in her future. I see that match being an excellent display of tennis. It’s too bad it’ll need to come so soon. Of the two, I’m going with Serena to win in three sets. Sharapova brings the intensity and the grass court experience from the pre-Wimbledon warm-up, but Serena’s healthier, and she has the career edge with a 5-2 record against the Russian. In fact, the only times Sharapova prevailed over Serena was during her momentous 2004 Wimbledon final win and in the tour championships later that year. Fast forward a few years, and it’s a completely different setting. On the bottom half, I see Radwanska making it to the fourth round, where she’s likely to face Na Li of China. There, Li’s recent win over Sharapova will show itself, and she’ll make it to the quarterfinals to face Serena.

The Final Four: Serena plays and beats Sharapova, while Radwanska loses to Li in two lopsided sets.

The Second Quarter:

Notables – Caroline Wozniacki (3), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (29), Jie Zheng (23), Sorana Cirstea, Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka (14), Flavia Pennetta (10), Aravane Rezai (18), Alexandra Dulgheru (31), Kimiko Date Krumm, Sam Stosur (6)

This is a difficult part of the draw. So many strong players appeal to the avid tennis fan that I can hardly make a decision. Going based on the seeding might not work. Therefore, I’m going to go with my gut. Wozniacki should make it to the third round, where I suspect she’ll meet Pavlyuchenkova. I think the Russian will put up a stronger fight than in the past, despite her poor record against Wozniacki. She’s lost each of their three meetings. Regardless, I see the Dane advancing. In the fourth round an even tougher test awaits her with the feisty Azarenka back on track. Although she lost to Makarova last week, I don’t see her being stopped by Wozniacki. She’ll win in three sets to make it to the quarterfinals, proving she belongs back in the top ten. I’m also seeing something interesting happening with Cirstea and Kvitova, whichever one passes their first round battle. In the bottom half, I like Rezai and Sam Stosur to advance to the fourth round. Sam’s experience should pay off, although her loss at the French might still be effecting her. I put Rezai as wanting it a little more than Stosur.

The Final Four: Azarenka surprises Wozniacki, and Rezai tops Stosur in three sets (although that’s a serious question mark).

The Third Quarter:

Notables – Kim Clijsters (8), Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Maria Kirlenko (27), Justine Henin (17), Patty Schnyder, Nadia Petrova (12), Yanina Wickmayer (15), Vera Zvonareva (21), Alyona Bondarenko (28), Jelena Jankovic (4)

The battle of the Belgians is bound to take place in the fourth round. There, I put Henin a notch above Clijsters, who was out of the French Open with injury. Henin wants it more — this is the reason she’s back, and she will go down fighting her hardest. Along the way, she needs to watch out for Petrova (unless Schnyder takes her out first, which I really hope will happen!). In the bottom section, I’m betting that Alison Riske of the United States continues her exceptional streak at Wimbledon. If she can take out Wickmayer in the first round, I see her fighting her way in a string of three set wins to the fourth round, where’ll probably meet up with Jankovic. At that point, she’s likely to be too tired out and mentally fatigued for the experienced Serb, who by the way won’t have problem making it there with a pretty open draw as it stands.

The Final Four: Henin dismisses her compatriot Clijsters in three sets. In the bottom half, Riske (who I hope can take out Wickmayer) reaches the fourth round before falling to Jankovic in another serious showdown that goes the length.

The Fourth Quarter:

Notables – Francesca Schiavone (5), Yaroslava Schvedova (30), Kateryna Bondarenko (34), Marion Bartoli (11), Shahar Peer (13), Ana Ivanovic, Sania Mirza, Melanie Oudin (33), Alisa Kleybanova (26), Ekaterina Makarova, Venus Williams (2).

I like this section a lot. There’s a lot of potential for a strong showing by a few surprises, although ultimately there’s no picking against Venus to make the quarterfinals. The top section is a much easier pick. I don’t see Schiavone channeling the champion spirit that won her a Grand Slam. I do see her making the fourth round, where she’ll face Bartoli. Remember her? She made it to the Wimbledon final a few years ago (although it really feels like decades. I have a feeling we’ll see a quarterfinal rematch with Bartoli losing to Venus eventually. In the bottom section, Ivanovic is likely to fall to the Israeli peer in the first round. Another disappointment for the former world number one. Hopefully, Oudin gets her game back to take out Peer in the third round. If so, she’ll no doubt meet Venus. However, the older Williams sister will face a tough challenge in Makarova, the winner over Azarenka a few days ago.

The Final Four: Schiavone falls to Bartoli in two sets, while Venus ousts Oudin.

Second Week Predictions:

  • Sharapova screeches to a halt against Serena in three. Serena sends off Li in two sets.
  • Azarenka raises her game to defeat Rezai in two sets.
  • Henin handles Jankovic easily in the hopes of finally realizing her dream to hold the Wimbledon trophy up high.
  • Venus comes away with another win against Bartoli.

In the semifinals, Serena beats Azarenka in a repeat of the Australian open semifinal, although much quicker this time. In the bottom half, I’m having difficulty deciding between Venus and Henin. Both want to make it so badly. I think Venus’ experience will pay off, and she’ll stop Henin in three close sets to prevent deja vu of this year’s Australian Open final.

As for the men, I’m waiting on predicting the champion of the event until I feel strongly one way or the other.

Click here to look at the complete women’s draw.

Wimbledon Warm-up Finals Predictions

With less than a month between the French Open and Wimbledon, the grass court season already pits the best against one another to prep for the biggest Grand Slam of them all. With three tournaments piquing my interest, let’s take a look at the final match-ups to see whose preparations will be mightier than the rest.

1. The Gerry Weber Open

The final will pit long-time rivals Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt against one another. Look for this to be a fairly easy affair for Federer, who currently holds a fifteen match winning streak against the Australian. The last match Hewitt won against Federer was in a 2003 Davis Cup match. Federer should finesse his way to the title in two easy sets. With the win, the tournament will prove to be a strong warm-up to Wimbledon, where Federer seems all but secured to make the final.

2. The AEGON Championships

In an All-American battle, Sam Querrey and Mardy Fish are the last men standing in a tournament full of major upsets and overall surprises. Querrey looks to redeem himself from his first round exit in Paris, while Fish hopes to get another title. Only playing one match against each other, with Fish holding the win in 2007, the results are somewhat a mystery. Look for Querrey, however, to be the bigger player from the baseline and serve his way to a two set victory. The big American has a lot to prove after his French Open disappointment.

3. The AEGON Classic

First off, congratulations to the American teenager Alison Riske for her superb play. As a qualifier ranked outside the top ten, the Pennsylvanian fought her way to the semifinals where she lost in three sets to Maria Sharapova of Russia. There are big things in her future, not to mention Wimbledon just around the corner. Yup, that’s right, Riske earned herself a well-deserved wild card with her strong play.

In the final, Sharapova will face Na Li of China. Sharapova is on a roll these days and should be able to handle Li in three sets. Last year, Li won their semifinal match. However, things will be different this time around. Sharapova’s hungry for another title on grass and her third of the year.

So, there we have it. I’m calling Federer, Querrey, and Sharapova. Let’s see what happens. Hopefully in my favor. I did a horrendous job for this past French Open, except, of course, calling Nadal to win.

Riske Reaches Semifinals, ATP Upsets Ensue

Alison Riske, a nineteen year old from the United States, strung together an impressive number of wins to land herself in the Birmingham semifinals against the much more well-known champion, Maria Sharapova. Having never won a WTA tour level match before this week, Riske is showing Melanie Oudin-like promise with these recent victories. Making it to the semifinals, the young Pennsylvanian took out Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium in a three set affair. Riske won the last two sets 6-4, 6-3, showing an impressive ability to fight through a disappointing first set tiebreak defeat.

While not much is known about Riske, the only highlight on her WTA profile is a 2005 finals showing at a Miami ITF doubles event, her ranking and popularity will surely raise immensely. With a current ranking of 185, look for Riske to rapidly improve within the coming weeks leading up to Wimbledon, probably the first Grand Slam she’ll get to play at in the main draw if given a wild card.

I see Sharapova knocking out the teenager easily to get to the final. Riske is likely to be starstruck and nervous, while Sharapova looks to be on a roll and feeling at home on the turf that gave her international recognition in 2004. Back then, at Wimbledon, she was only a little younger than her semifinal opponent. Go figure.

On the ATP side at the Queen’s Club event, the upsets continued with Rafael Nadal succumbing to Feliciano Lopez and Andy Murray checking out against a strong Mardy Fish. Of the results, I’d have to say Nadal’s carries a lot more weight. Expected to make the Wimbledon final, he has a lot to prove in these tournaments leading up to it. Congrats to Lopez for getting his first win against Nadal in quite some time. It’s important to note that Lopez snapped Nadal’s winning streak of 24 matches, too.

Look for Fish and American Sam Querrey, now the event’s highest remaining seed at number seven, get to the finals.

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