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Tenaciously Tennis


Australian Open 2011 Predictions: ATP Tour, Week Two

With the final eight men and women set, it’s time to revise predictions for the 2011 Australian Open tournament’s future path on both the ATP and WTA tours. Here’s a look at the last men standing.

Previously predicting that we’d see Rafael Nadal facing David Ferrer; Robin Soderling against Andy Murray; Nikolai Davydenko against Novak Djokovic; and Roger Federer versus Andy Roddick, I wasn’t too off the mark with five-of-eight advancing. A claim to perfect picking, however, was dismantled early in the tournament with Davydenko’s first round loss to Florian Mayer. Soderling succumbed in the fourth round to Alexandr Dolgopolov, while Roddick got served a straight sets loss by Stanislas Wawrinka.

For the next three rounds, my picks are as follows:

Nadal versus Ferrer:

Despite the recent announcement that he’s still suffering from sickness, no one’s looked better than Nadal in the tournament. The Spaniard looks poised to defeat his compatriot Ferrer in straight sets. Not only did the world’s 7th-ranked player hit a lot of balls against the up-and-coming power-player from Canada, Milos Raonic, in the last round, he also has a losing record to the world number one. Nadal’s won 12-of-15 matches against Federer, including the last six in straight sets. He can’t get much more dominant than that. Expect the same here.

Bottom Line: Nadal advances in three.

Murray versus Dolgopolov:

Last year’s finalist Murray has looked strong, too, in his run to this year’s quarterfinals. Without dropping a set, he now faces the tricky Dolgopolov, the winner over Soderling. The Ukrainian, ranked just inside the top 50, however, has played ten sets in his last two matches. Although he has no pressure versus Murray, look for him to wilt against the fifth seed.

Bottom Line: Murray counterpunches his way to the semifinals in four sets after a strong early push from Dolgopolov to cap the Hungarian’s excellent Australian Open.

Berdych versus Djokovic:

I didn’t see Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych advancing this far in the tournament given his slow end to 2010. He has, however, emerged as a contender for the title with excellent performances in his last four matches, especially against Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round. In that match, everything was working for him in the straight sets victory. He’s dropped only one set so far.

Djokovic, however, looks like just the guy to stop Berdych from making a deeper run into the tournament. With a 4-1 head-to-head, a nine match winning streak, a Davis Cup title, and a need for revenge after losing to Berdych in the Wimbledon semifinals, the Serb wants this badly. He’ll get that victory, provided his fitness holds up against his opponent’s onslaught of power and precision.

Bottom Line: Djokovic edges Berdych in a four-set, grueling test of athleticism.

Federer versus Wawrinka:

In a match-up between the 2008 doubles gold medalists, we should see some good competition for a place in the semifinals. Although Federer leads his head-to-head against Wawrinka, the world number 19 hasn’t lost a match this year. Of course, neither has Federer. The difference: Wawrinka hasn’t lost a set this tournament, even against the higher-ranked Gael Monfils and Roddick. It’ll be a test for Federer, but he’ll overcome it with emotion. He wants to repeat his win Down Under last year, badly. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he leads 8-1 against Wawrinka.

Bottom Line: Federer breaks down the Wawrinka game to make the semifinals.

Road to the Finals:

With Nadal against Murray and Djokovic facing Federer, it’s so tempting to say we’ll see the Nadal-Federer rivalry renewed for the first time in a major since the 2009 Australian Open. I want to see it, and so do many tennis fans around the world.

Bottom Line: Nadal and Federer face-off in the final.

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Federer Wins 64th Career Title; Azarenka Makes Doha

Roger Federer has tied Pete Sampras’ record of 64 career titles with his win in Sweden over Florian Mayer of Germany. Federer beat the 47th-ranked player with a smooth 6-4, 6-3 score in the tournamant during which he also claimed his 50th match of the season. This distinction, reports an Associated Press article, makes Federer “only the fifth man, and the first since Sampras, to win 50 matches in at least nine straight years in the Open era.”

The article continues, “Since 1968, only Jimmy Connors (109), Ivan Lendl (94) and John McEnroe (77) have won more singles tournaments than Federer and Sampras,” highlighting the extent of Federer’s impressive career thus far.

Can Federer keep going to match Connors’ 109 titles? I wouldn’t count him out by any means, although 45 more title would certainly be a stretch. The win in Sweden marked his 3rd of the year. If he continues on this path, he’d need to play over 15 years. And that, we all know, isn’t happening.

Regardless, it’ll be great to see just where the next few years takes Federer. Can he get to 20 major titles? Can he overtake McEnroes’ record 77 titles? This will all come with time.

In other news, Victoria Azarenka is back winning. This time, in the Kremlin Cup against Maria Kirilenko. The title marks the fifth of her career in a season hampered with injury, including the frightening end to her US Open run in August due to a collapse. She looked strong in her 6-3, 6-4 victory.

In other news, her win qualifies her for the year-ending tournament in Doha. In fact, Azarenka only needed to make the quarterfinals of the event. She’ll be confident and ready to make some noise at the event in which both Serena and Venus Williams pulled-out due to injury.

“It’s a big boost to win ahead of Doha. The win gave me confidence and perfect fitness. I feel my rhythm and I’m ready to go and play there,” said Azarenka. That sounds good coming at a time where many of the other top women are struggling.

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.


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