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Tenaciously Tennis


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.”

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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.

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.

Sharapova Wins in Singles; Davenport Advances in Doubles

Maria Sharapova beat Olga Govortsova in straight sets to get to the final 8 at Stanford. Lindsay Davenport paired with Liezel Huber to win, too. Here’s a brief recap of what happened today at the WTA tour even in California, a part of the US Open Series.

In Stanford:

  • Sharapova wins in a  6-3, 6-3  match over the 43rd-ranked Govortsova. Compatriot Elena Dementieva looked shaky against Dinara Safina’s slayer, Kimiko Date Krumm. Dementieva beat the veteran in three sets: 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Date Krumm played a great tournament  by ousting the former top women’s player Safina. She followed up the act with this impressive play, meaning she’s still a real threat these days — even at 39.
  • Ana Ivanovic, who showed signs of life by winning a match, lost to Marion Bartoli in two sets. Yes, Bartoli is a strong player, known for her two-handed strokes on both sides and run to the Wimbledon semifinals. The loss, however, just shows Ivanovic isn’t even close to being back to the level that won her a Grand Slam title a couple years ago. She has a long way to go before any titles — at any stage — go her way.
  • Sixth-seeded Shahar Peer of Israel fell to Maria Kirilenko, who made it to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, 6-4, 6-3. Is Kirilenko ready for another surprise run? She proved earlier this year she has the skill and belief to make it happen.
  • Victoria Azarenka beat the fan favorite Melanie Oudin 6-3, 6-1 to get to the quarterfinals. Oudin, entered in the doubles event with Michaella Krajicek, lost to Davenport and Huber. The pair, playing together for the first time, were defeated 6-4, 6-2.

Despite Williams Sisters Withdrawal, US Fed Cup Team Defeats Russia to Reach Final

In a surprise showing of spirit for their country, the Serena and Venus Williams-less US Fed Cup team featuring teenage sensations Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Liezel Huber defeated the Russian team, 3-2. With the win, the US advances to the finals against Italy, their opponents last year.

If the team can rally together once again and put in the same energy and drive that put them over the edge against the tricky Russian team, they will take home the title for the first time since 2000. According to an Associated Press article, “U.S. Beats Russia 3-2; Will Face Italy in Fed Cup Final,” much of the Americans’ success points to the powerful and patriotic play of Mattek-Sands, who is currently ranked outside of the top 100. Her performance, however, speaks more to her career-high ranking of 37, which occurred in March of last year.

Mattek-Sands beat Ekaterina Makarova “6-4, 2-6, 6-3 in the second match Sunday to keep the U.S. title hopes alive in the best-of-five contest. The match was all but over after Mattek-Sands got mad over a fault call on a first serve in the final set. She then double-faulted but responded with a nifty drop shot to go up 4-1, sticking her hands out palms-up and wriggling her fingers to the fans,” reported the article. Moreover, Mattek-Sands clinched the final point of the Fed Cup tie when she teamed up with Huber, the experienced doubles specialist, in a 6-3, 6-1 shut out of the newly formed team of Elena Dementieva and Alla Kudryavsteva.

Oudin, although she beat Dementieva during her run to the quarterfinals of last year’s US Open, proved unable to clinch the third set she typically dominates in her matches. She lost to Dementieva in two hours and thirty-seven minutes.

With this new drive and the wave of energy surely felt by this eclectic group of Americans, maybe the title can finally be brought up. In many ways, this was a much needed win not only for the purposes of Fed Cup, but for American women’s tennis in general. Not everything needs to be decided by the Williams Sisters. Unless, of course, we’re talking about a Grand Slam title.

American Mayhem: Serena, Venus Don’t Play Fed Cup, Roddick Withdraws

In a not so surprising move for the Williams sisters, playing for the United States in the Fed Cup will not occur. Venus Williams, who after weeks of keeping the public on edge about whether or not she would represent her country, cited a knee injury for withdrawing from the event.

The TENNIS.com article, “Venus Will Not Play in Fed Cup Semis,” reports that Mary Joe Fernandez, the captain for the US Fed Cup team was hoping that at least one of the Williams sisters, either Venus or Serena Williams, would be fit for play. However, that is obviously not the case.

That leaves the team of Melanie Oudin, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, and Liezel Huber as the current spot holders for the team. While certainly not the star status of the Williams sisters, it is excellent experience for the teenaged, Oudin. Hopefully, the team can pull-off a win in the semifinals and reclaim the past history of women’s tennis in America during the age of Chris Evert.

In other news, Andy Roddick, another American, chose to withdraw from the Rome Masters event due to personal reasons. The plausible reason? His marriage. With his exceptional play on the hard courts at the Sony Ericsson Open, maybe his decision to skip the clay event for some relaxation is justified. It’ll be interesting to see the American’s results on clay. Can he take it to the next level at the French?


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