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Tenaciously Tennis


Clijsters Claims Win Over Serena with Biggest Crowd Ever

When Justine Henin withdrew from the “Battle of the Belgians,” Serena Williams took her place to meet Kim Clijsters. That decision didn’t work out quite so well for the American, who lost to Clijsters 6-3, 6-2 in Brussels on Thursday.

At the same time, the exhibition was successful. In fact, it’ll be known as the most successful match since the famed “Battle of the Sexes” epic between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs decades ago. While not the longest match in history by about 10 hours, it was the most attended.

According to an Associated Press article, “The crowd of 35,681 at King Baudouin Stadium on Thursday surpassed the previous record of 30,472 set in 1973 at the Houston Astrodome in the Battle of the Sexes match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.” The match was chaired by Martina Navratilova.

The implications of such a historic match are astounding. The parallels between this match and the John Isner and Nicholas Mahut marathon, especially occurring so close to one another, many things for tennis — yet to be seen. The longest match, and the most attended — both in one month’s time? Then, to have a tennis player — Serena Williams — on the cover of the one of the most, if not the, most widely read sports magazine, Sports Illustrated, sends a clear message: tennis is set for a popularity boom.

I’m going out on a limb here. I’m not using statistics. Sure, people widely consider those the definitive statistics necessary to calculate whether or not tennis is being played more frequently, and thus boasts future popularity gains. But I’m going on a more basic, emotional level. The game is getting good. It’s getting really good, very quickly.

There’s drama now: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal aren’t the only ones doing major damage at the Grand Slams. Okay, so Federer won the Australian Open and Nadal took the other two. Fine. But they’re being tested, and that’s a great thing for the sport.

On the women’s side, variety is creeping back into the game. Caroline Wozniacki, a player that can get hit off the court (think about her lopsided loss to Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon) is holding her own. She’s ranked three in the world. There’s also Jelena Jankovic, Agnieszka Radwanska, and a slew of other players poised to keep power at bay and put spin, sharp angles, and sound tactics ahead of brute force. Francesca Schiavone won the French Open at 30 — an amazing feat. We’re seeing great confidence surging throughout the lesser-tiered players — Kaia Kanepi and Tsvetana Pironkova played their hearts out to win the big matches despite being ranked outside the top 50. Tomas Berdych on the men’s side is back in a big way.

There’s a changing of the guard in the game of tennis, and it’s an exciting one to witness. I’m saying it does wonders for popularity, too. And if not, who cares? The current fans couldn’t be happier. Well, this fan couldn’t be happier.

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Serena Wins Fourth Wimbledon, Collects 13th Major

Serena Williams has claimed her fourth Wimbledon title in dominating fashion. In a quick affair, slightly over the one hour mark, Serena took out surprise finalist Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-2. The win marks her 13th major singles title, raising her above Billie Jean King’s record 12 major titles. Her next goal? 18 titles to tie with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

The win also means that Serena or Venus Williams has secured the title nine out of the past eleven years.

Serena looked composed throughout the match. Her serve was spot on as it has been all tournament. Zvonareva, the second-lowest-ranked woman to reach a Wimbledon final, was never an issue.

The win is the first title for Serena since her victory at the Australian Open this January. Her next title? The US Open. That is, of course, unless she decides to give it her all during the US hard court season leading up to the final Slam of the year. If so, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t be a huge success for the rest of the season.

For Zvonareva, although she failed to be competition in the final, she played an excellent tournament. While I’m not sure if she’ll win a Grand Slam, there’s a lot of promise for her to secure big wins in the coming months. If she can keep her head in the game, there’s no reason why not she won’t make another she can make a deep run at the US Open.

Speaking of Zvonareva’s mental game, it’s interesting to take a look at the women’s doubles final, which she played with Elena Vesnina. The team, who  took out the Williams sisters in the quarterfinals, played against Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova. After losing the first set 7-6 (6), the Russian began to cry, meaning she isn’t quite there yet (although it’s understandable given the two losses in one day).

But more about King and Shvedova, they’re the first unseeded pair to take the title since 1975. They pulled out the win, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

Congrats to all who put their passion to the test and came out victorious in a truly exceptional Wimbledon.

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.


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