Tenaciously Tennis

Juan Martin Del Potro’s Return to the Top

He’s back.

Although a wrist injury sidelined Juan Martin del Potro for 2010 soon after his victory over Roger Federer in the US Open finals, the Argentine is out no longer.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Del Potro has returned to winning form by collecting the Delray Beach title against Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic. He won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.

And, now, the ATP tour has a real threat on its hands. Del Potro closed out the first set with the champion’s mentality that won him the major title and seven other tour-level events. Tipsarevic claimed the lead — up 4-1 — before del Potro raised his level, clawing his way to victory. That’s huge for del Potro’s confidence.

With Federer on something of a decline with his recent losses to Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal’s knee injury and Andy Murray’s hurt wrist (and sore mental game), there’s more than enough room for del Potro to reclaim his rightful place in the top ten.

If he can keep healthy, there’s no stopping him.

Watch below to relive the moment of del Potro’s upset of Federer at the US Open.


Harrison and Capra Win, Roddick and Oudin Fall in Second Round

American Teen Ryan Harrison secured the biggest win of his young career during one of, if not the, biggest tournaments. Harrison routed 15th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the US Open. Another young American talent to look out for is the 18-year-old wild card Beatrice Capra, ranked 371 in the world. A changing of the guard, however, welcomes these two Americans into the equation as veteran Andy Roddick lost to Janko Tipsarevic in four disheartening sets, while Melanie Oudin, last year’s breakout American star, lost to Alona Bondarenko  6-2, 7-5.

Harrison next draws a strong player in Sergiy Stakhovsky, who won his fourth title at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven last week. Stakhovsky, currently ranked a career-high of 36, won’t have the crowd’s support, but he does have the form needed to get to the third round and end a good run by the youngest man left in the draw. Then again, Stakhovsky could be fatigued after winning the title. Plus, he escaped an intense first round match against Peter Luczak. Stakhovsky needed four sets, 6-7 (8), 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, to advance.

As much as I like Harrison, and what he means for American tennis, I’m going with the Ukrainian to reach his career-best major showing. Harrison, on the other hand, has a bright future. We’ll see what kind of tennis he produces tomorrow, and if he can handle the pressure associated with scoring a big upset in the previous round.

The Maryland-native Capra, who trained at College Park’s Junior Champions Tennis Center before heading to Chris Evert’s tennis academy, defeated the 18th seed Aravane Rezai 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Her next opponent: Maria Sharapova. Can Capra channel Oudin, who had success over the Russian champion last year, to get to the fourth round? I’m guessing not. Sharapova’s on a mission: her strong US Open Series and dominating performance in the first two matches of the US Open show she means business.  I don’t see Capra overcoming Sharapova anymore than I expected Oudin’s run. But, of course, Cinderella stories do happen in tennis, and they’ve happened quite frequently in the majors this year, especially on the WTA tour.

On the flip side, it’s sad to report that both Roddick and Oudin failed to meet expectations. While Roddick was outplayed by a sharp Tipsarevic, Oudin looked lost in the first set against Bondarenko, before putting up a fight in the second. She looked shaky thoughout, not holding serve effectively, while committing a staggering 38 unforced errors to only nine winners. She has the game, she’s proven that. Now, it’s all about coming to terms with the pressure success brings. It’ll happen one day. Look for Oudin to reemerge in 2011 with the same belief and courage that got her to the 2009 Wimbledon fourth round and the quarters at the US Open.

In other news:

  • Robin Soderling defeated Taylor Dent 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
  • The 19th-seeded Mardy Fish advanced against Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-0, 6-2.
  • Wild card James Blake fended off Peter Polansky 6-7 (1), 6-3 6-2, 6-4.

Stosur Outserves Oudin; Querrey and Safina Lose

It’s been another packed day of tennis for the US Open series, all of which I didn’t get to see, as usual. But going by the scores, it was an exciting day. Wouldn’t it be fun to follow the results live, in-person, actually enjoying the beauty of the game, being there to witness the fight of the competitors in real, tangible time, and then following-up the exctimenet by meeting the athletes after the match concludes? Well, that’s the plan. One day.

Enough of the crystal ball (well, for now at least). On to the results.

Sam Stosur, who made it to the semifinals last week at the Bank of the West Classic, breezed through her match against the sprightly Melanie Oudin in two humdrum sets. Using her powerful kick serve, the Australian ousted the American youngster 6-4, 6-4.

I hate hearing about Oudin’s losses. I really do. Ever since I watched her beat Russian after Russian after…(you get the point), I’ve been a fan of her fight and, yes, belief. Her counter-punching, athletic style entices the fan so used to “big babe” tennis. Oudin’s is a refreshing game, and she still has a refreshing face and spirit, which equate to likability.

And, so, when someone beats Oudin, I don’t like it, ever. But, Stosur did a great job, I’ll give her that. She’s shed the air of mental mystery after getting to the French Open final and then falling at Wimbledon’s first round — she’s ready to fight.

Meanwhile, Oudin’s still learning her game and filling in the big shoes she made for herself getting to the quarterfinals at that US Open. Mentally, she wasn’t with it for most of the year following the tournament. This result, although a loss, is a positive in my opinion. Melanie think so, too. In an Associated Press article, she’s quoted: “I thought I played pretty well. She’s five in the world and I was right in there with her the whole time. I’m not going to get down on myself.” I like this response — it’s real, and it portrays the inner reserve of confidence that will eventually get Oudin to the top ten in the world. Yup, there’s the crystal ball again.

In other news, comeback kid Sam Querrey lost to Janko Tipsarevic. The Serbian sought revenge after a painful loss to the American in the semifinals of the Los Angeles event. He beat (an I’m guessing fatigued?) Querrey 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Safina also lost, again. This time to Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 6-3. Marion Bartoli, Tsvetana Pironkova, and Lleyton Hewitt were other big names to fall.

Azarenka Stuns Sharapova; Querrey Collects Fourth Title

Victoria Azarenka beat Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-1 to take her first title of the season, and her first since April 2009. This was Azarenka’s third final of the year. Sharapova, on the other hand, was vying for her third title this year.

With piercing shots and a voracious desire to win, Azarenka hit her way to the lopsided conclusion, which saw a great deal of service breaks for both players. In fact, Azarenka converted six of 11 break points, illustrating a strong mental reserve. With injury sidelining her from this sort of play for months, it’s refreshing to see (although maybe not hear) Azarenka back in the big leagues. The win takes her to number 12 in the rankings. For Sharapova, she’s inching back to the top ten as the number 13 player in the world.

Although a rightfully fatigued Azarenka pulled out of the San Diego tournament beginning this week, I see her cracking into the top ten before the US Open begins later this month. Sharapova next plays at the tournament in Cincinnati, another good way to get back to the top tier of the WTA tour.

At the Farmers Classic, Sam Querrey has proven yet again he’s a comeback kid, not a “Debbie Downer.” After losing  a tight first set 5-7, Querrey capitalized on Andy Murray’s defensive play with huge forehands to win the next two sets. Before this match, Querrey had never taken a set off the fourth-ranked two-time major finalist. Querrey won 5-7, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

With the win, the American becomes the first player to successfully defend the title since Andre Agassi won it in 2001-2002. According to an Associated Press article, “Querrey became the first player since last year to win two matches from match point down in the same tournament. He saved one match point in the semifinals against Janko Tipsarevic.”

Querrey looks primed to continue this form — the win was his fourth for the year. He’ll be a serious contender at the US Open. As for Murray, he did well to make the final after parting ways with his coach Miles Maclagan.

Querrey, Murray, Sharapova, and Azarenka Advance to Finals

Andy Murray and Sam Querrey will meet in the Farmers’ Classic final as the number one and two seeds, respectively. As for the WTA event in Stanford, Victoria Azarenka ousted Sam Stosur in two quick sets, while Maria Sharapova beat Agnieszka Radwanska in three.

Murray looked incredibly sharp in the first set against Lopez, closing the Spaniard out easily with a bagel (6-0). In the second set, however, Lopez brought his game up a few notches, winning 6-1. The third saw Murray get back on track to finish 6-4. Amid a switch in coaches and a late entry into the tournament, he’s looking great to get to the finals of the event. His opponent across the next seems to have luck on his side (along with a ton of skill and confidence going into the event).

Querrey came back from the edge of defeat once more against Janko Tipsarevic. After being unable to close out the first set in the tiebreak, Querrey evened the score in the second after the tiebreak went his way 7-6 (5). He fended off a 5-1 deficit to take the set, boosting his belief to take the third 6-4. With a ranking of 20, one spot shy of his career-best of 19, a home crowd advantage, and three titles in single to his name this year, everything’s going right for the American. It’ll be a battle out there, and I see the upset occurring with Querrey defeating Murray in three tight sets.

For the WTA tour, Azarenka looked back to top form in her 6-2, 6-3 domination of Stosur, a player she hasn’t had trouble with in the past. Stosur, however, is a different player these days with her excellent French Open. For Azarenka to push that confidence aside and player her game means she’s ready to take on anyone once again.

Regardless, her opponent, Sharapova, might just have the answer. After a three-set battle against Elena Dementieva in the quarterfinals, it looked like she might have an easier time against Radwanska. That wasn’t the case at all. With a beautiful display of finesse, spins, angles, and penetrating groundstrokes, Radwanksa kept Sharapova from getting a rhythm in the first set. In the second, Sharapova got focused winning almost all of the points on her serve. In the end, her mental toughness and desire to win got her the match. Sharapova prevailed 1-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Also noteworthy, Lindsay Davenport and Liezel Huber made it to the doubles finals after their semifinal opponents retired. As wild cards, they’ll face the second-seeded Chinese pair of Yung-Jan Chan and Jie Zheng.

Top Men Show Wear and Tear Early in Season

With Roger Federer ill, Rafael Nadal sidelined by injury and both Andy Murray and Nikolay Davydenko succumbing to much lower ranked players early on in Dubai, the men’s game is not looking too healthy at the moment. But then again with the season as long as it is, maybe that’s too be expected.

What’s especially worrisome about this all is Nadal’s own “worry” about his knee injuries, as reported in a recent Associated Press article, “Costa: Nadal ‘worried’ about constant injuries” in which the Spanish Davis Cup Captain Albert Costa relayed the troubling news. Yes, Nadal is hurt, but to actually go so far as to report worry to the media shows a very, un-Nadal-like sign. One that proves that the physical pain is transcending deeply into the emotional. This could be a sign that even Nadal himself doesn’t hold that same belief in his ability to recover, that’s there are some deeper issues beginning to surface than simply those plaguing his knees.

In other news, Murray and Davydenko disappoint in Dubai with the Brit falling to the other male Serbian, Janko Tipsarevic, while the Russian retired due to his nagging wrist injury. While Davydenko’s story is justified, what went wrong with Murray? Losing 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4 to Tipsarevic is certainly a shocker. In fact, according to the AP article, Tipsarevic has barely strung together any wins on the ATP level recently, not to mention over a top-ten player in the world, and recent Grand Slam singles finalist. The article reports, “Tipsarevic, who hadn’t won on tour this year until this week, served for the match at 5-3 in the third set but was broken by Murray’s double-fisted backhand passing shot on the run.”

Only Novak Djokovic is continuing his form, securing a well-fought win over another Serb, Viktor Troicki, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

With the way things are going, the ATP tour is looking pretty weak. Maybe it’s time for some up-and-comers to emerge and claim a sport at the top echelon of tennis. If there were ever a time, it’s right now.

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