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Tenaciously Tennis


French Open Predictions 2011: ATP Tour

Novak Djokovic has owned this year so far with a staggering number of consecutive wins, including a handful over the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal. The question of the tournament, therefore, becomes: Can Djokovic take this all-time high confidence to a Grand Slam on Nadal’s own turf? That is, if both make it that far. How about Roger Federer, once a contender for any and every title on tour? With Andy Roddick and 2003 French Open champion Juan Carlos Ferrero out, the field looks a little wider (although whether or not those two could have significantly swayed the flow of competition also comes into question). Regardless, here’s a preview of the second Grand Slam of the year on the red clay of Paris.

Rafael Nadal’s Section:

He may be struggling to defeat Djokovic on clay in the Masters events. Roland Garros, however, is Nadal’s Grand Slam comfort zone. With the best-of-five set format, there doesn’t seem to be anyone in this section of the draw who can put a dent in his aura of clay court invincibility. Except for one guy. That’s none other than Robin Soderling, who defeated Nadal in the fourth round in 2009, as the no. 23 seed. The Swede then went on to make the finals, falling to Federer. In 2010, he came out swinging again by repeating the result. In the end, however, Nadal got his revenge in straight sets, winning 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

With a potential (and highly probable) clash in the quarterfinals, it’ll be Nadal making good on his performance last year against Soderling. He’ll win again in three sets, although by a closer margin.

One to Watch: The one name other than Nadal and Soderling who sticks out as a potential giant-killer is Gilles Simon. With a fourth round match against the Swede a distinct possibility, it’ll be interesting to see in what shape the victor advances. Nadal looms for him right after. Additionally, American Mardy Fish also appears in Soderling’s section to make things even more interesting.

Bottom Line: Nadal faces a tougher test against Soderling in the quarterfinals, but ultimately seals a solid win to get to the semifinals.

Andy Murray’s Section:

Since making it to the Australian Open finals, Murray lost the spark for competition and regained it with some solid clay results leading up to this event. His first tough test comes with a potential third round meeting against Milos Raonic, the Canadian who shocked all with his trip from the qualifying to the fourth round. Since then, he’s held success on tour, winning his first title on the hard courts of San Jose. On clay, he’s held modest success, despite losing in the first round of his last two events at Madrid and Rome.

While Murray and Raonic have yet to meet, it’ll be tough for the young Canadian to take out the Scot in the best-of-five setting. That possible match will be decided in four sets.

Ones to Watch: While the Murray / Raonic combo grabs most of the hype in this section of the draw, watch out for Gilles Simon, who exhibited flashes of brilliance in an epic, five-set match again Roger Federer during the second round of the Australian Open. He shouldn’t pose to much of a threat here, however, given his latest, sketchy results on clay, including losses to both Murray and Raonic in Madrid, Monte-Car (to Murray) and in Estoril (to Raonic).

Also making this section of the draw a little trickier is last year’s semifinalist, Jurgen Melzer, who eventually bowed out to Nadal. Quite notably, he took out Djokovic in the quarters in five. Nicholas Almagro, too, has been having a strong clay season and has the game to take out Melzer in the fourth round.

Bottom Line: Murray makes the fourth round after a tough test from Raonic. There, he’s likely to face Melzer. Murray wins in five.

Roger Federer’s Section: Federer’s section constitutes a heavy part of the draw, filled with talented players, such as David Ferrer, Kei Nishikori, Gael Monfils, Stanislas Wawrinka, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Of course, if anyone can handles these players to get to the quarters, it’d be Federer. Although he does face Feliciano Lopez in his opening round, a solid player, who he owns a 8-0 advantage over in head-to-head meetings. Regardless, Federer’s been off these days, losing early to Richard Gasquet and Melzer in two tournaments.

Ones to Watch: All the men listed above have the ability to make it deep in a Grand Slam, although Nishikori may be the one with the least experience at this point in his young career.

Bottom Line: Look for a quarterfinal match pitting Ferrer, who played well in his first three clay tournaments before falling to Nadal twice and Djokovic, against Federer.

Novak Djokovic’s Section: He’s owned the tour this year, taking the first Grand Slam of the season. Can he grab the second, too? It’s his to win with Nadal the only one truly standing in his way. Of course, he’s defeated Nadal in four finals this year, including the last two on clay. His main competition comes in the form of the number six seed, Tomas Berdych, who hasn’t been too successful on clay this year. He did, however, make it to the semifinals of the French Open last year, losing to Soderling. He then proceeded to make it to the Wimbledon final.

Ones to Watch: Marin Cilic, Mikhail Youzhny, Richard Gasquet, and Juan Martin del Potro all reside in this section of the draw. While none of them have the ability to touch Djokovic at this point in his career, they may give Berdych difficulty. Look for Rome semifinalist Gasquet to put up a fight against Djokovic in the fourth round.

Bottom Line: Djokovic defeats Gasquet to get to the quarterfinals.

In the Quarterfinals: With the above predictions, the quarterfinals will showcase Nadal taking on Soderling; Murray against Melzer; Ferrer against Federer; and Berdych against Djokovic.

In the Semifinals: Here, I see Nadal facing Murray and Federer against Djokovic to round out the final four.

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Australian Open 2011 Predictions: ATP Tour

Note: Please see my most recent predictions for the ATP tour’s 2011 Australian Open here.

With just two days until the Australian Open begins, it’s time to predict the finalists with a bracket-by-bracket breakdown. Will a recently ailing Rafael Nadal overcome any physical woes to take his fourth straight major title? Maybe Roger Federer feels the need to get to his first Grand Slam final since his win Down Under last year. Then, there’s the rest of the tour aching for a title. Here goes the potential results of the year’s Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal’s Section:

As the top seed and winner of the 2008 Australian Open, Nadal has proven he can take the title once more, especially with the win at the US Open against Djokovic in September. Nadal has a relatively easy draw as his first match against a seeded player pits him against compatriot Feliciano Lopez, a man he owns in their career head-to-head. That is, if Lopez, who lost to Nadal in straight sets in the fourth round of the US Open, can even make it that far. He’s lost an astounding eight-of-ten matches, since losing to Nadal. Although the seventh-seeded David Ferrer looks formidable with a win over David Nalbandian in the Auckland finals, Nadal hasn’t lost to him since 2007.

The only foreseeable obstacle standing in the number one’s way, therefore, is Nadal’s own health. He lost in a lopsided affair to Nikolai Davydenko in the Doha semifinals, but came back to win the doubles title.

Ones to Watch: John Isner, who helped the United States win the Hopman Cup, could put together some wins to get to the fourth round. He’ll potentially meet Marin Cilic, last year’s semifinalist along the way. The tenth-seeded Youzhny also lurks in the bottom half. Lleyton Hewitt, who made it to the fourth round last year, also appears in the bottom half, but faces Nalbandian first.

Bottom Line: Nadal has a ticket to the quarterfinals.

Robin Soderling’s Section:

Fresh off a title, Soderling is a dangerous fourth-seed. Having never made it past the second round, there may be some doubts. That, however, should change with a pretty comfortable draw until he meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in a possible fourth round match.

At the bottom of the section, Murray, last year’s finalist cannot be discounted. He won his last three matches at the Hopman Cup. He’ll be in the fourth round, where he might meet a number of solid-looking players.

Ones to Watch: Besides Tsonga, things look clear for Soderling at the top of this section. Murray’s half, however, seems stronger with 2006 finalist Marcos Baghdatis and the 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro back after a wrist injury both present. Jurgen Melzer, seeded eleventh, may also put up a strong effort as his semifinal appearance at last year’s French Open and subsequent fourth round finishes at Wimbledon and the US Open illustrated.

Bottom Line: Soderling and Murray should get to the quarterfinals. There, it’s tough to say who will win. Murray edges Soderling with a recent victory at Barclays in their 3-2 career head-to-head. They’ve never played at a major, however, so endurance will also play heavily into the match. In that case, I see Murray advancing to join Nadal.

Novak Djokovic’s Section:

Things get tougher here with a slew of talented players. Djokovic, however, shines through, having won his last five matches between the Hopman Cup and the Davis Cup at the end of last year. His trip to the US Open final against Nadal also proves relevant along with his lone major title at the Australian Open in 2008. His biggest challenges come against Sydney finalist and compatriot Viktor Troicki in the fourth round. Djokovic, however, probably won’t have a problem. He’s defeated Troicki six straight matches in their seven match head-to-head.

Ones to Watch: For sixth-seeded Tomas Berdych, a cast of characters could prevent him from getting far in the draw, such as the American Ryan Harrison, the resurgent Richard Gasquet and Kei Nishikori, who now has Brad Gilbert on his team. Nikolai Davydenko and Fernando Verdasco also loom in potential fourth-round matches.

Bottom Line: Djokovic looks like a clear favorite into the fourth round. For Berdych, that’s not the case at all. I’ll go with Davydenko defeating Verdasco as he boasts a 7-1 head-to-head against the ninth-seed.

Roger Federer’s Section:

Federer, like Nadal, won’t have it too hard to get into the second week of the Sunny Slam. He’ll need to beat a number of Americans to do it, but that shouldn’t pose any threat. He owns Andy Roddick (21-2), Sam Querrey (2-0), and Mardy Fish (6-1) in their respective head-to-heads.

Ones to Watch: Gael Monfils and Chennai winner Stanislas Wawrinka also appear in Federer’s section.

Bottom Line: This is Federer’s chance to advance to the quarterfinals without dropping a set. Can Andy Roddick fight through, too?

In the Quarterfinals:

With these predictions, we’ll see Nadal facing Ferrer; Soderling against Murray; Davydenko against Djokovic; and Federer versus Roddick.

In the Semifinals:

Here, I see Nadal against Murray and Federer versus Djokovic to emerge as the final four.

After Finals Loss, Turbulance Increases for French Davis Cup Team

Posted in Jurgen Melzer,Michael Llodra,Viktor Troicki by Ben on December 24, 2010

If it wasn’t difficult enough to suffer defeat against Serbia in the Davis Cup finals, the French Davis Cup team’s spirits probably won’t be flying much higher any time soon. In fact, France won’t even get to play their next tie at an actual tennis stadium. Instead, the match against Austria will take place in a re-purposed aircraft hangar.

According to a recent Associated Press article, “A hangar at Austria’s main airport currently being used for airplane maintenance will be transformed into a 6,000-capacity tennis stadium for the March 4-6 match.”

Get this, the Davis Cup website briefly explains the list of venues for the first round matches. For Austria versus France, it reads:

Austria v France
Venue: Vienna Airport – Hangar 3
Location: Vienna, Austria
Surface: Indoor clay

Austrian Jurgen Melzer, who had a breakout year on tour with a semifinal showing at the French Open, doesn’t believe the noise from airplanes flying overhead will be problematic. In the Associated Press article, Melzer likens the conditions to the US Open, which is located near JFK airport.

The only problem, Melzer, is that you’ll actually be playing in an airport. It might just be a little louder.

Luckily for France, Austria hasn’t advanced past the first round since 1995.

Although not in English, view the video below of Serbia’s Victor Troicki beating France’s Michael Llodra in straight sets. The energy is intense, and the emotion truly exemplifies the spirit of the Davis Cup.

Nadal Triumphs Over Berdych in Three Sets

To go along with Serena William’s easy win over Vera Zvonareva, Rafael Nadal defeated Tomas Berdych 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 to take his second title at the tournament. Although nothing like the 2008 epic — hailed by many as one of the best matches in tennis history — Nadal looked sharp from the beginning.

Berdych — who took out the reigning champion Roger Federer and number three seed Novak Djokovic — lagged behind Nadal. He failed to convert his break point chances. Nadal’s superb shot making threw off the big-hitting Czech from playing his aggressive game. Nadal looked completely in control of the match all the way until his last forehand passing shot hit its mark.

Along with solidifying his number one world ranking, Nadal’s win also means he’s repeated the difficult feat of winning the French Open and Wimbledon titles back-to-back. The impressive list includes such champions in the Open Era as Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, and Federer. The later won both titles last year when Nadal struggled with injury and his parents’ divorce.

After a tough couple rounds in the beginning against Robin Haase and Philipp Petzschner — who won the men’s doubles title with Jurgen Melzer — Nadal rolled through the rest of the rounds. He dispatched Robin Soderling in a rematch of the French Open final and Andy Murray in three.

With this added confidence and his eighth major title overall, Nadal now holds the same number as tennis legends Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, and Jimmy Connors. With this performance, there’s no reason why he can’t push through to his first final at the US Open.

Berdych played admirably, proving he’s a real threat to win a big title in the coming years. For making it through to the finals, Berdych will enjoy cracking through to the top ten. If his US Open series plays out well — which I am confident it will — his momentum will carry over to the final Slam of the year, the US open.

Well, that concludes Wimbledon 2010. I’ll go over the tournament in more detail in the coming days.

Mega Monday Brings High Drama to Wimbledon

The best day in tennis didn’t fail to surprise. Big names left stunned, great battles were fought, and Wimbledon remains left with a whittled down number of eight men and women. Let’s look at the fourth round action.

The ATP Tour:

  • Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal look solid with both winning in three relatively easy sets to advance to the quarterfinals. It looks like they’re on course for a collision in the finals. Federer took out French Open semifinalist Jurgen Melzer, while Nadal ousted Paul-Henri Mathieu.
  • Up next for the number one and number two? Nadal plays Robin Soderling in a rematch of the French Open. Soderling, who didn’t lose a set until his match today against David Ferrer, needs to muster all his energy to eliminate a revived Nadal in this second week. He isn’t the same player that lost two sets to relative unknowns. He’s in it to win. Federer will next have his hands full with Tomas Berdych, who’s given him trouble in the past. I don’t see that happening here. He’s just too good.
  • But before the two settle themselves into the final, Andy Murray is poised to stand in the way of Nadal. Murray, who has the crowd distinctly on his side, took control against the American Sam Querrey, and continues to play without dropping a set. He won 7-6, 6-3, 6-4 and will next face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France. Tsonga beat a fellow Frenchman Julien Benneteau in four sets to continue his run under the radar. I see Murray winning in four.
  • Also looking particularly sharp today was Novak Djokovic. Despite my prediction that he’d lose to Lleyton Hewitt in a major upset, the Serb took the match in four sets, 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. He next takes on Yen-Hsun Lu, which brings me to my next point.
  • Yup, that’s right. Andy Roddick, last year’s finalist, is out. Lu took out the defending finalist in five sets with a 9-7 win in the fifth — the match was the second longest of the season trailing only the John Isner – Nicholas Mahut marathon. It’s a sad result for Roddick, who really looked set for another semifinal showing at Wimbledon at the least. Everyone was hoping for him to face off against Federer. But Lu played better tennis in the end, capturing the only break in the match. He becomes the first Asian man in the quarterfinals of a major in 15 years. Congratulations are certainly due.

I’ll update this post with the women’s results tomorrow.

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.

Isner fades in three; Belgians Advance to Set Up 25th Meeting

After an extraordinary match hailed as one of the best in the Open Era, and the longest in tennis history, the winner John Isner fell in straight sets to Thiemo De Bakker, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2. Rightfully exhausted, Isner deserves to take a long rest, and recollect himself after such an amazing effort in the first round.

In other men’s matches, Roger Federer regained his form of old — he struggled in the first two rounds —  with a three sets win over Arnaud Clement of France. He won 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 to make it to the fourth round of a Grand Slam yet again. Also advancing were Novak Djokovic in three sets, Andy Roddick in four sets, Jurgen Melzer in four sets, Tomas Berdych in five sets, and Lleyton Hewitt in three over Gael Monfils.

A match to look out for: Hewitt over Djokovic in the next round. I think there’s a huge upset in Djokovic’s future. Hewitt has been playing some spectacular grass court tennis, and he recently took out Federer in the pre-Wimbledon tournament he played. I say the veteran dispatches Djokovic in four sets.

As for the WTA, both Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin won their matches in straight sets. The Belgians will meet for the 25th time. As I mentioned in my WTA predictions before the tournament began, I’m sticking with Henin to pull out the win.

Other players to advance include: Venus Williams, Jelena Jankovic, Marion Bartoli, and Vera Zvonareva. Serena Williams teamed up with her older sister to knock out the doubles team of Timea Bacsinsky and Tathiana Garbin in two sets, 6-1, 7-6 (2). The sisters are looking to add to their “Williams Slam,” meaning the four major doubles titles they’ve won in a row.

My prediction: they’re too good to get any serious competition for the title. The Williams sister should expect title number five in a row to be in their possession soon enough.

Wimbledon Predictions – The ATP Tour

Roger Federer’s loss to Lleyton Hewitt last week and a tough draw for Rafael Nadal signify a tough time for the two previous champions. Can both overcome the tough challenge that lays ahead of them? I think so. Let’s take a systematic look at the draw and crack this year’s Wimbledon code.

The First Quarter:

Notables – Roger Federer (1), Tommy Robredo (30), Feliciano Lopez (22), Jurgen Melzer (16), Tomas Berdych (12), Stanislas Wawrinka (20), Victor Hanescu (31), Nikolai Davydenko (7)

In this section, the obvious person to pull through is Federer, the five time champion. I see him advancing to the fourth round without much trouble. Once there, however, I see a tough test against Tomas Berdych in the future. Also noteworthy, Lopez of Spain, who beat Nadal a couple weeks ago. While Federer didn’t play too sharply against Hewitt in his pre-Wimbledon warm-up, it’s a different story in a Grand Slam. Watch Davydenko, whose been having a tough year so far, falter before the fourth round.

The Final Four: Federer faces Lopez, and Berdych handily defeats an ailing Davydenko.

The Second Quarter:

NotablesNovak Djokovic (3), Taylor Dent, Albert Montanes (28), Gael Monfils (21), Lleyton Hewitt (15), Marin Cilic (11), Mardy Fish, Ivan Ljubicic (17), Philipp Kohlschreiber (29), Andy Roddick (5)

This is a difficult part of the draw for Roddick, the guy I’m rooting for. He’s had some poor results this past few months, including a basically non-existent clay court season. Yes, he made it to the third round, which is as good as a showing as any for the top male American, but his third showing at Queens Club was his worst ever. Hopefully, this 2009 Wimbledon finalist can recall the drive and belief that took him to a fifth set against Federer last year. That match his to win. I see Roddick making it to the fourth round without losing a set. There’s no one to do any damage to his exceptional serving game and strong baseline rallying capabilities. The rest these past few months might also help. If anything, he’s fresh. It’s all up to the Roddick serve. Once he makes it there, I see a tough match against Marin Cilic in his future. He should, however, pull through.

The Final Four: Hewitt looks to be a difficult opponent with his win against Federer. I say he dismantles Djokovic. In the bottom half, Roddick proves to be too much for Cilic.

The Third Quarter:

Notables – Fernando Verdasco (8), Julien Benneteau (32), Nicholas Almagro (19), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10), Juan Carlos Ferrero (14), Sam Querrey (18), Gilles Simon (26), Andy Murray (4)

Out of this slew of players, the only one that I feel holds a chance at victory is Sam Querrey, which is surprising given his lackluster Grand Slam performances in the past. With his best performance coming in the fourth round of the 2008 US Open, and only making it to the second round at Wimbledon last year, he has a lot to prove. Regardless, his career high ranking and win over compatriot Mardy Fish in the finals of Queens Club shows he’s ready to do well on grass. With three titles to his name already this year, I see at least a quarterfinal run for the giant American. It won’t be easy with Murray as a potential fourth round opponent, but I like his chances. A lot.

The Final Four: Tsonga surprises Verdasco in five close sets in the top half. In the bottom section, Querrey gives everything to take out Britain’s hope Murray in another five set blockbuster to make his first quarterfinal showing in a Grand Slam.

The Fourth Quarter:

Notables – Robin Soderling (7), Robby Ginepri, Thomaz Bellucci (25), Marcos Baghdatis (24), David Ferrer (9), Mikhail Youzhny (13), John Isner (23), Philipp Petzschner (33), James Blake, Rafael Nadal (2)

Notice Nadal’s section as probably one of, if not the, most difficult in all four sections. I think he needs to watch out for John Isner big time. There’s no saying how Isner will play on a given day. But if he’s at his best, and his baseline game mirrors his wicked serve, the American can take out anyone, even Nadal. I’m not saying that’s probable, but it’s a slim possibility. On the top section, Soderling has a difficult match afainst Ginepri to go through. Other than that, it should be an easy time to make it to the fourth round. There, I see him facing Marcos Baghatis.

The Final Four: Soderling defeats Baghdatis in three sets, and Nadal faces a test against Isner in four.

Second Week Predictions:

  • Federer fends off Berdych
  • Roddick stops Hewitt’s string of grass wins in three
  • Querrey, assuming he plays the match of his life against Murray, faces a pumped up Tsonga. Querrey wins in five for a second straight top ten victory.
  • Nadal notches another win against the Swedish Soderling in a three set repeat of the French Open final.

In the semifinals, I don’t see Roddick repeating the excellent play against Federer. I think he’ll bow out in four sets, much to my chagrin. As for Querrey (or Murray with a serious asterisk), Nadal’s too much to handle in a Grand Slam semifinal. Get ready for much-needed Federer – Nadal final. We’ll leave that prediction for another day — it’s just too close to decide in my mind.

For the men’s official draw, look here.

Soderling Sends Off Federer; Stosur Stops Serena

In the past two days, both world number ones lost to hard-hitting, confident underdogs willing to do anything for the win, and the chance to advance to the semifinals at Roland Garros. Roger Federer, last year’s champion, fell in four tight sets to the Swede, Robin Soderling, snapping his Grand Slam six year long semifinal streak. The loss also means that Federer will not be in the French Open final for the first time in four years. Should Rafael Nadal take home the title, Federer could also lose his number one ranking. Serena Williams succumbed to Australia’s Sam Stosur in three.

Soderling played the role of upset king on clay just as he did last year against Nadal. With his powerful winding shots, the Swede prevented Federer from really getting into the match and attacking. Moreover, Soderling’s high level of confidence presented a much different re-match of last year’s French Open, during which Federer won in three relatively painless sets. Of course, that was not to be this year. Federer, who had a strong clay court season towards the end, including making it to the final in Madrid, did have his chances to take the match to a fifth set. Soderling, however, proved relentless, playing the big points fitting of his number seven ranking in the world.

Soderling next plays Tomas Berdych, whose run has also been full of major upsets, including Andy Murray in the fourth round. With Soderling leading the career head-to-head by 4-3, the match can go any way. However, given Soderling’s experience at the French and the way he’s been playing, I’ll say he’ll make it to his second consecutive French Open final. It’s sure to be a real brawl on Roland Garros’ red clay, regardless. I take Soderling in four thrilling sets and a promising effort by Berdych, who’s playing in his first Grand Slam semifinal. In fact, the best he’s played at the French was a fourth round showing in 2006.

While the loss certainly shakes up Federer’s invincibility (and his hopes to capture the Grand Slam of all four major tournaments in a calendar year), it will probably mean little going into Wimbledon, a tournament he’s won six times in total. In fact, Federer reportedly is confident going into the grass season as a result. Will he take the biggest title of tennis for a record seventh time? We’ll see. Luckily for fans the wait isn’t long.

Just as Federer was felled by an underdog and the seventh player in the world, so was Serena. Stosur, also ranked seven and seeded seven in the tournament, took an improved power and confidence to yet again make it to the semifinals of the Slam. She won in a seesaw 6-2, 6-7 (2), 8-6 win. In the previous round, Stosur took out the heavy favorite, Justine Henin of Belgium.

Although Serena had a less than stellar season, she should have taken the match. With a match point lost, the win truly was on her racket. She will, however, keep her number one ranking, regardless of the outcome. Furthermore, pairing with her sister in Venus, the two made it to the finals of the doubles tournament. The sisters also claimed the number one doubles ranking for the first time. So, Serena has a lot for which to be happy. Look for Serena to brush away the loss with the fast approaching grass season in stow.

In other matches, Novak Djokovic was upset by Jurgen Melzer of Austria, the tournament’s oldest male entrant at 29, in five sets. Rafael Nadal also advanced with a close three set win over Nicholas Almagro, 7-6 (2) 7-6 (3), 6-4. For the WTA, Jelena Jankovic beat Yaroslava Shvedova , 7-5, 6-4. She will next take on Stosur, while Dementieva will face off against Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

If my predictions have any worth in this tournament (despite the already horrendous ones), I see the ATP final being a rematch of last year’s fourth round with Nadal taking on Soderling. For the women, I foresee Jankovic and Dementieva battling it out, both vying for their Grand Slam first title.


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