Tenaciously Tennis

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.


Soderling Defeats Monfils to Claim First Masters Title

Robing Soderling of Sweden beat France’s Gael Monfils in a relatively routine 6-1, 7-6 (1) match to take home his first Masters 1000 title. The tw0-setter comes right off two phenomenal three-set matches by Soderling and Monfils in the semifinals. Both went to at least two tie-breaks on the way to having their respective matches decided.

Along with the supreme satisfaction of winning one of the biggest tournaments in the game — and one which has alluded even Roger Federer’s distinguished career — Soderling will replace Great Britain’s Andy Murray as the fourth-ranked player in the world. The win, therefore, caps off an excellent season in which Soderling made his second straight consecutive final at Roland Garros, followed by quarterfinals showings at Wimbledon and the US Open. The victory should also feel pretty good going into the upcoming ATP World Tour Finals in London.

In the semifinals, Soderling saved three match points against France’s Michael Llodra. He advanced with a 6-7 (0), 7-5, 7-6 (6) win.

Monfils faced a particularly tough tests against Federer, who’d hoped to win the only Masters-level event that escapes him. The Swiss champion proved painstakingly close to advancing to the finals. After all, he had five match points to close the match while Monfils served at 5-6 in the third set. Monfils, however, denied him every time, showing a level of mental strength that has previously been viewed absent from his career at the later events of major tournaments. He beat Federer 7-6 (7), 6-7 (1), 7-6 (4).

The results of both matches prompted the following response from Federer, according to an Associated Press article, “There were two quite extraordinary matches today,” said Federer. “You could have had a Federer-Llodra final and it became a Soderling-Monfils final. “What’s disappointing is that I was in control of the situation and had a break in the third set. But I know that on a surface so quick, it can turn very quickly,” he continued.

Depending on Rafael Nadal’s form, I like Soderling to claim the year-ending championships in London. He’ll be confident and ready to go the distance with the form that has earned him this accomplishment in Paris.

Soderling, Jankovic Upset; Sweet Victories for the Unexpected

Watch out tennis world, there’s a dangerous floater in David Nalbandian in the field. The Argentine most recent win: over world number five Robin Soderling in three sets, including a dominant performance in the third. He won4-6, 6-4, 6-1 over the fifth seed.

After missing the last six major events, Nalbandian is back. After taking out Marcos Baghdatis last week to win his 11th title in Washington, Nalbandian improved his current match winning-streak to 11. With that win, he surged through the rankings by 72 spots and is currently ranked 45th. With the win over Soderling, he’s poised to be seeded once the US Open begins in two weeks.

Although fitness has been a problem for Nalbandian in the post, according to ESPN commentator and former player and coach Brad Gilbert, he’s in pretty good shape after the injury layoff. In the match versus Soderling, the backhand was spot on, too. Nalbandian would hit a blister backhand crosscourt, nailing Soderling into the corner, and then surprise with a world-class down-the-line backhand for a crisp winner. With this shot-making capability, and the belief that comes along with such results, Nalbandian can beat any player on any given day. In fact, over at ESPN, they were calling him one of the favorites at the US Open, behind Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, but potentially before Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the number two and four ranked player in the world, respectively.

And while Soderling was simply outplayed in that match, he wasn’t the only one. Top seed Jelena Jankovic in the Cincinnati tournament was ousted by qualifier and 114th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova in a lopsided 7-6 (2), 6-4 in the third round. The Serb is back after taking time off to heal her ankle, an injury sustained during the second round of the tournament in Slovenia. It seems like she’ll be needing some more time to recover physically and mentally after this tough defeat. Adding insult to injury, the win was Amanmuradova’s first over a top ten player.

Also losing in the third round in Cincinatti, third-ranked Caroline Wozniacki succumbed to Marion Bartoli 6-4, 6-1. Bartoli’s impressive play is highlighted further by the fact that Wozniacki is coming straight off a win in her home country last week. She should, therefore, be in strong form. Could it be the jet-lag? Bartoli simply being the better player? Who knows. The question now: Can the 2009 US Open finalist put together another deep run this year? That remains to be seen.

In other matches:

  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova ousted Israel’s Shahar Peer 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
  • Roger Federer fended off a tricky Michael Llodra, who employed an underhanded serve during the second set. Federer won 7-6 (2), 6-3 after a slow start and inspired play from his long-time friend, the veteran Frenchman.
  • Kim Clijsters easily advanced against the struggling Dinara Safina 7-5, 6-2. Will the former world number one ever get back on track?
  • Ana Ivanovic, another former top player, continued her good form by beating Elena Vesnina 6-0, 6-3.
  • Maria Sharapova didn’t waste time in her win against Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, who’s been having an excellent summer so far. She looked confident serving and powering the ball in the quick 6-2, 6-3 victory.

Roddick, Djokovic, Cilic Trounced Out of Tournament

Three of the top five seeds lost in the round of sixteen at the AEGON Championships in England. Andy Roddick (4), Novak Djokovic (2), and Marin Cilic (5) couldn’t muster the energy or drive to push past their respective lower-ranked opponents. Roddick, last year’s Wimbledon finalist opposite Roger Federer, lost to Dudi Sela of Israel, 6-4, 7-6 (8). Meanwhile, Djokovic choked in the third set against Xavier Malisse, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, while Cilic succumbed to Michael Llodra (12), 7-6 (2), 2.

With poor results from these possible contenders for the upcoming Wimbledon, it looks like an even better draw for Federer and Rafael Nadal to rematch their excellent 2008 affair. If the competition doesn’t step up, it’d be a great surprise for anyone else to claim the title other than the number one and/or number two player in the world.

Despite being pushed to a third set against Denis Istomin, look for Nadal to receive the trophy at the tournament. No one should be able to effectively intercept his run, especially without the big-serving Roddick. If Nadal can get enough experience on grass before Wimbledon and feel completely comfortable with the transition, there’ll be no stopping him until Federer stands in his way. Even that might prove to be a lesser challenge than in previous years.

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