Advertisements

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.”

Advertisements

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.

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.


%d bloggers like this: