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Tenaciously Tennis


All-American Affair Hits Italian Open Doubles Final

There may not be any Americans in the top ten for the men or women, but at least there’s a strong US presence in doubles at the Italian Open this week. For the men, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish advanced to final with a huge upset over Bob and Mike Bryan in the quarterfinals. Meeting them in the championship match will be Sam Querrey and John Isn.

And who said US talent can’t play on clay? Step aside, Michael Chang.

What’s exciting about this marquee match-up is that it symbolizes the older wave of American talent taking on the young guns. Both Roddick and Fish have been in the top ten (with Fish actually replacing Roddick for a brief period before a recent slip in the rankings). Meanwhile, Querrey and Isner have the talent, but not the results quite yet when it counts most.

Therefore, it’ll be a fascinating display of tennis and a potential coming-of-age if the Querrey-Isner combo can overcome the favorites, Roddick and Fish.

My thoughts? It’s not quite their time yet. Roddick’s serve will match up well with Isner’s, so it should go into at least one tiebreak in this best-of-three format. I’ll give Fish the edge over Querrey on groundstrokes.

It’ll be a battle, but the older guys will prove to be just a little stronger in the end.

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Federer Clinches Cincinnati Title Over Fish in Three

After trailing a newly reinvented Mardy Fish, Roger Federer picked up his level of play in the second and third sets to claim his second title of the season. Federer won 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-4 to take out the American wild card in a high quality match. Federer now leads their head-to-head by a dominating 6-to-1.

Although Fish looked poised to win with his effective serve, increased fitness, and powerful backhand, Federer pulled away like a true champion in the end. Fish, however, shouldn’t feel badly. Already playing an exceptional US Open Series leading up to this celebrated Master’s 1000 level event, his showing here proves he’s playing some of the best tennis of his career. In fact, Fish’s ranking will hover right around his career best ranking of 16. On Monday, he’ll be 21 in the world. Expect Fish to be a dangerous player at the US Open this year. He’ll have around a week of rest before taking to the courts again. When he’s back, no one on tour will be safe from his form. To get to the final, he took out big-time players, including compatriot Andy Roddick in a stunning three-set win.

Also, because Fish didn’t play at the US Open last year due to a knee injury, he should expect another bump in the rankings with a strong result — like in 2008 when he made the quarters. Depending on his draw, and even if it’s difficult, I predict Fish gets into the second week, surprising more big names along the way. But, then again, that’s no surprise given the way he’s playing.

On the other hand, I’m sure Federer was relieved to get another title after a long drought. Since winning the Australian Open, Federer has had his chances, making four other finals this year (including his Sunny Slam win). By closing out Fish in such exhilarating fashion — along with Paul Annacone as coach and a new brand of aggressive tennis — Federer looks fit to break past his recent quarterfinal curse at the year’s final major.

In doubles, the second-seeded team of Bob and Mike Bryan beat Mahesh Bhupathi and Max Mirnyi 6-4, 6-3 to increase their already historic number of titles to 64.

No American Men in Top Ten — Why I’m Not Worried

With Andy Roddick’s recent loss  in the third round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, there is no American man in the ATP’s top ten — a first since 1973. While Roddick may be suffering (physically or otherwise), I don’t believe American tennis is in trouble at all. In fact, there’s a lot of which to be proud.

Even Roddick isn’t doing too shabby — he’s simply hitting a rough patch right now, and I’m sure he’ll bounce back in the coming weeks. Plus, he just announced he’ll be out of the Rogers Cup due to illness. If he’s down enough to pull out of such a major North American event, there’s something serious going on. Roddick isn’t the type of guy to simply drop playing a tournament over a loss. Time’s too precious.

Back to the positive: John Isner and Sam Querrey are big threats hovering around the top 20 in the world. Right there, we have three Americans ranked in the top 20. Mardy Fish, too, has been playing some spectacular tennis claiming titles and being extremely fit. He’s playing the best in his career, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.

Robby Ginepri, not typically in the conversation, did well to make it to the fourth round at the French Open — the major that most Americans typically don’t fare well playing. That’s a big deal right there, and a welcome one.

Outside of singles, there’s doubles excellence: Bob and Mike Bryan just claimed their 62nd title to make history, while Fish teamed up with Mark Knowles to take home the trophy together at the Legg Mason tournament.

So, while there hasn’t been an American man hoisting a major title since Roddick’s US Open win in 2003 — an event that may not happen for some time — there are serious contenders poised for the spotlight. Will it be Isner? Querrey? Or a veteran making a surprise run to a big title? The US Open would be the place for it to happen.

I’m excited by these results the past few months on tour for US tennis, and I don’t think anyone should get too caught up in the rankings. These days, the field has great depth — especially in the men’s field — to linger on it too long, except, of course, if we’re talking about Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer. That’s another matter entirely.

Why 2010 Has Been Ridiculously Good for Doubles

This year makes the mark on a multitude of levels — the longest match in history happened, Roger Federer faded a little in majors (if a win and two quarterfinals can be called such), Serena Williams looks sharp as ever with her two titles, Venus Williams faltered at Wimbledon (the quarterfinal curse?), and a well-loved Spaniard with a disappointing 2009  cemented his lead in the rankings, collecting the French Open — Wimbledon titles, and securing the top ranking. That Spaniard is Rafael Nadal (in case you were wondering).

And that’s just in singles.

But this year, doubles captures just as much of the excitement and accomplishment as it’s lonelier (get it?) counterpart. Here’s how.

First, the Williams sisters team dominated the last four of five majors — they didn’t quite make it at Wimbledon where they lost in…the quarterfinals.  Regardless, this year will be remembered for their holding the last consecutive four titles in process. They call it the “Williams Slam,” a good name for a historic effort by the duo. At the time of hoisting the French Open title, Serena and Venus were ranked number one and two, respectively.

On the men’s side, this powerful combination will soon be a reality, too. At the majors? Probably not for a long time. But, anyway, here’s what a post on the Facebook page for the Rogers Cup tournament in Montreal read: “Huge news straight from Rogers Cup Tournament Director Karl Hale: Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic will play doubles together in Toronto!”

That’s a huge step for the sport, and definitely deserving of that exclamation point. To have the top players invested in doubles means more attention is paid, there’s more excitement, more energy, more people watching, and, therefore, a greater overall appreciation for it. While it’s too early to say how the Nadal – Djokovic combination will fare — both on and off court — it’s a step in the right direction. I can only hope that more guys inside the top twenty will follow suite, and soon.

At the head of the ATP doubles circuit are, of course, the Bryan brothers, who recently scored their 62nd title — and 100th tour-level final — to overtake the record set by Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde of Australia. The American twins are going strong, and I have no doubt that they will soon surpass the record 11 major titles that the “Woodies” won. Currently, the Bryans have eight to their name. Nine should be theirs once the US Open comes to a close. Number ten — their beloved Australian Open. At the Sunny Slam, they’ve won the last two titles with four overall.

Other noteworthy news: Lindsay Davenport is back in the mix, partnering with Liezel Huber, albeit briefly. Sandra Klemenschits made some appearances in the last couple tournaments. She played with veteran Patty Schnyder as the number three seed in Istanbul.

Even Martina Hingis and Anna Kournikova are making headlines with their play at the senior’s event at Wimbledon. Hingis isn’t ruling out making a comeback on tour, maybe partnering with Davenport. It’d be great to see these fine players continue their games in the coming months. I’ll follow their compelling stories as the season winds down. You should, too.

All these results point to one thing — doubles matters, and it’s relevant in today’s world of tennis. Very relevant. There needs to be more involvement from the top tier of players, and more overlap between the singles and doubles tours. In the words of Sarah Unke, Tennis.com’s editor, “Now if only Roger Federer and Andy Murray would team up.”

Bryan Brothers Make History with 62nd Title; Davenports Wins

Bob and Mike Bryan joined Sam Querry in the winner’s circle at the Farmers Classic, rewriting history by collecting title number 62 and making it to their 100th career final. The twins took out American Eric Butorac and Jean-Julien Rojer of Netherlands Antilles to get one more title than the famous doubles champions and Hall of Famers, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde of Australia. The Bryans won the historic match 6-7 (8-6), 6-2, 10-7.

Joining the American success in California was Lindsay Davenport at Stanford, who teaming up with Liezel Huber, beat Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng in a close 7-5, 6-7 (8), 10-8 affair. The win was Davenport’s first doubles title since 2008, and her first tournament since the 2008 US Open, where she made it to the third round.

Davenport and Huber, who’s now ranked number one in doubles with the win, will play at this week’s second US Open Series WTA event in San Diego.

First Week of Historic Wimbledon Comes to a Close

The first week of the 2010 Wimbledon has finished, and it’s been one of the most talked about events in tennis history with a slew of stories intriguing both on and off the court. Here’s a rundown of the events that have collectively turned this year’s Wimbledon into one to be remembered for years.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal Begin with Shaky Results:

With order relatively restored to the top rankings, and a “healthy” Nadal back at Wimbledon, audiences everywhere expected the top two seeds to advance easily to make it to the second week. In fact, I’m calling for there to be a rematch of the 2008 Wimbledon final.

However, both have played their fair share of dangerously close matches. In the first round, Alejandro Falla pushed Federer to the limit, forcing him to come back from two sets down. Federer, the 2009 champion, prevailed with a 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-0 win.

While many thought he’d refocus in the second round with a straights sets win, the qualifier Ilija Bozoljac of Serbia, proved otherwise. The 153rd player in the world used his two-handed swings, powerful game, and wacky serve to unnerve Federer. Bozoljac, who calls himself “Bozo,” took Federer to four sets before losing, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6.

In the third round, however, Federer won easily in straight sets against Arnaud Clement to set up a match with French Open semifinalist Jurgen Melzer.

Nadal has had an equally, if not more, difficult path to the second week. After a quick win in the first round over Kei Nishikori, Nadal needed five sets over Robin Haase, ranked 151st in the world. In the third round, Nadal was also pushed to the brink of defeat when Philipp Petzschner of Germany played an inspired second and third set. Nadal, warned for accepting coaching repeatedly and after taking a questionable medical timeout, beat the 39th ranked Petzschner 6-4, 4-6, 6-7, 6-2. 6-3.

Nadal will next play against Paul-Henri Mathieu of France, who ousted the 13th seed Mikhail Youzhny, in the second round.

John Isner and Nicholas Mahut Play the Longest Match Ever:

Not just the best match of the tournament so far, the 11 hour and five minute battle between Isner and Mahut is ensured to be one of the best matches for years to come. The atmosphere must have been phenomenal, and the poise both players showed at the 70-68 conclusion in Isner’s favor is to be applauded as one of the best instances of sportsmanship.

For a more detailed post on the match, click here.

While Isner lost in the second round in ironically the shortest men’s match of the first week, the American and Mahut, who qualified to get into the main draw, showed a level of dedication and passion unmatched so far. Both deserve to take the time to regroup. It’ll be exciting to witness their renewed form by the time the US Open rolls around in August.

The Queen of England Pays Wimbledon a Visit for the First Time in Decades:

On Thursday, Queens Elizabeth II watched Andy Murray beat Jarko Nieminen 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 before having lunch with Federer. She also met with many other players including: Andy Roddick, Venus and Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Billie Jean King, and Martina Navratilova. The visit was her first at Wimbledon in 33 years.

The Williams Sisters Look Sharp in Singles and Doubles:

In contrast to the shoddy play of both Federer and Nadal, Serena and Venus look ready to take Wimbledon by storm — again. The younger sister came through the first three rounds bagel-ing her opponents in the first set each time. Her next obstacle to the finals, however, is much harder. Williams shouldn’t expect a 6-0 set against her next opponent: Maria Sharapova. Regardless, look for Williams to get the win, albeit in three sets.

Venus, while getting just one bagel set in her three rounds, looks just as good. Up next for her is the much less well-known Jarmila Groth, who’s currently ranked 92nd in the world. Expect Venus to trounce the Australian in two painless sets to make it to the quarterfinals.

In doubles, the sisters are well on the way to taking home a fifth consecutive major doubles title, improving upon their “Williams Slam.” Read more about that here.

Under the Radar – Murray and Robin Soderling Poised for Success:

With all of the drama going on, relatively little attention has been paid to the players flying through the field. Murray and Soderling, who’ve fought their way through the rounds in straight sets,  can safely be considered dark horse picks for the title with the first round scares from Federer and Nadal.

In the fourth round, both need to continue stepping up their games. Murray faces Sam Querrey, who I previously picked getting into the quarterfinals. We’ll see if that’s still the case given Murray’s fantastic play. Either way, I see that match going the lengths.

Soderling’s next match, against David Ferrer, will also be a test. Soderling’s been on fire these past few weeks, and I see no chance of this coming to a conclusion just yet. That is until he meets Nadal in the quarterfinals.

The WTA Tour is Full of Surprises:

Along with the Williams sisters and Sharapova swinging their ways easily into the second week, a bunch of surprise players are also showing their stuff. Players to look out for include: unseeded Petra Kvitova, ranked 62nd, who took out Victoria Azarenka in the third round, Klara Zakapalova, ranked 66th, and qualifier Kaia Kanepi, ranked 80th.

The draws opened wide when the French Open finalists Francesca Schiavone and Sam Stosur bowed out in first round upsets.

Props to the Belgians Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters for making their way to a 25th meeting in the fourth round. I see Henin coming through with the win in three.

Lindsay Davenport Wins First Round in Mixed Doubles:

Three-time major title winner and mother of two Davenport is back, yet again. This time, the 34-year old American played and won her first round mixed doubles match with Bob Bryan. The two won over Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Alla Kudryavtseva 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Davenport mentioned that she’ll also be playing two other doubles events during the season leading up to the US Open. Without much pressure, look for Bryan and Davenport to sweep through the rounds and win the title.

The Curious Cases of Victor Hanescu and James Blake:

In weird fashion, both Blake and Hanescu suffered on-court drama before falling in their respective rounds. Blake, once a top ten player, now currently ranks outside of the top 100. During his match, he reportedly heard ESPN commentator Pam Shriver talking about his dismal playing, prompting some harsh remarks  during the match. Blake lost to Haase 6-2, 6-4, 6-4. Read more here.

Hanescu, who made it to the third round, was heckled by the crowd. His response? To spit. Afterward, he allegedly didn’t do his best. Hanescu foot-faulted, double-faulted, and complained his way before retiring against Germany’s Daniel Brands. The Romanian has been fined $15,000 as a result.

Two of the Last Men Standing – An Unlikely Pair

With the final sixteen decided, only one man is left for both the United States and France. While unseeded Robby Ginepri now represents the US, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stands for his country. Tsonga’s latest win also means he’s the last Frenchman standing, period. The US is fairing slightly better, however, with Serena and Venus Williams joining Ginepri in the fourth round.

The latest casualties for the US include some of the biggest names: Andy Roddick and Mike and Bob Bryan. Roddick, according to an Associated Press article, “lost to Russian qualifier Teimuraz Gabashvili 6-4, 6-4, 6-2. Roddick threw rackets and argued with the umpire, but the fits of temper failed to produce a turnaround against an opponent ranked 114th.” To be honest, this poor showing on the clay was to be expected. Roddick did not play before coming to Paris, and it is not surprising in the least that he’d fall so soon.

On Tsonga’s side, losses by Marion Bartoli and Aravane Rezai have left him alone. With Gael Monfils exiting the day before, he has the weight of his country to deal with in the coming rounds.

Predictions: I see Ginepri falling in three sets to Novak Djokovic in the next round. Ginepri has done well to make it this far, but his play during the two sets he lost against Juan Carlos Ferrero was unsettling. After playing exceptionally for the first half of the match, the American looked unstoppable. However, he quickly lost his accuracy, and it went to a fifth. He won’t have that sort of mental lapse of luxury against the world’s number three, who is a good clay court player in his own right.

As for Tsonga, I call him getting past Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in four and finding a tough match against Andy Murray later on.


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