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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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Querrey and Venus Advance; Isner Falls in Four

Sam Querrey and Venus Williams won their respective third and fourth round matches at the US Open, while John Isner fell in four tight sets to Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny. The news comes a day after Americans James Blake and Beatrice Capra failed to advance in their own matches.

Here’s what to make of the American’s results, and what to look forward to in future action at the year’s final major.

Querrey’s straight sets win over Nicholas Almagro sets the stage for speculation over the American’s strong form going into his next match. His opponent, however, Stanislas Wawrinka cannot be written off. He recently beat Andy Murray, the tournament’s 4th seed, in a surprising 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-3 victory. With a tied head-to-head record, this is a tough match to call. I’m going with Querrey in five sets.

Getting into the quarterfinals was Venus, who advanced in another straight sets victory. This time, she beat Israel’s Shahar Peer 7-6 (3), 6-3. Her next opponent: Francesca Schiavone. Schiavone’s form seems to be back after a roller-coaster couple months after winning the French Open. The Italian plays some beautiful tennis, reminiscent of Tsvetana Pironkova’s brand of game, which knocked out Venus in the Wimbledon quarters. In the end, however, this is a hard court. I take Venus advancing in two. With a 7-0 head-to-head against Schiavone and a chance to reach her first US Open semifinal since 2007, Venus wants the win very badly.

Although Isner served 33 aces in his match against Youzhny, he lost 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (5), 6-4. With a staggering number of errors, Isner’s game wasn’t up to par, and he suffered as a result. Let’s hope the American giant makes some real noise at the Grand Slam events next year by getting deep into a major — quarters or better. He’s certainly had some dramatic runs in 2010, but they’ve been cut a little too short for his ability.

US Open Predictions – ATP Tour

The US Open is finally upon us. The stage has been set, the qualifying is over, and the last major of the year is underway. Here’s my review of each section of the draw.

Rafael Nadal’s Quarter:

This section of the draw is owned by one man: Rafael Nadal, the number one player in the world, and the winner of both the French Open and Wimbledon. He’s primed to take home his first US Open title on paper, but his US Open Series has been severely lacking, raising some questions about his most recent form on the hard courts. Regardless, this is a major tournament, and there’s no one that enjoys the grind more than Nadal.

The first real test for the Spaniard seems to be Ivan Ljubicic, but even that’s a stretch. I’m going for Nadal to get through to the quarterfinals in dominating fashion.

Other notables: Ryan Harrison, the young American qualifier, plays Ljubicic in the first round. Can he get the upset? Probably not.

Fernando Verdasco’s Quarter:

Verdasco and David Ferrer, both Spaniards, own this section of the draw. There is, however, a very dangerous 31st seed in the Argentinian David Nalbandian. Something about Ernests Gulbis, the 24th seed, is also enticing. I’ll pick Gulbis to face against Nalbandian for a spot in the quarters. In that match, I’m going with Nalbandian to find himself across the net from Nadal.

Other notables: None. I’ll just stress that Gulbis and Nalbandian are ones to watch.

Andy Murray’s Quarter:

With a strong US Open Series, including his win over both Nadal and Federer in Toronto, I like the looks of Murray going into this event. And his path doesn’t look to difficult until getting to the fourth round. There, I’m going with Sam Querrey to fight for the chance at the second week.

Murray, however, will win in three or four sets. He’s too masterful of a tactician to get shocked by Querrey’s power.

Other notables: Can the 14th seed Nicholas Almagro make any noise by defeating the home favorite Querrey in the third round?

Tomas Berdych’s Quarter:

The tennis world hasn’t heard too much from Berdych since his stunning run to the Wimbledon finals, where he was promptly dominated by Nadal. This section of the draw won’t make a repeat performance any easier. With Mikhail Youzhny, Xavier Malisse, and John Isner looming in the background, Berdych will need to prove he’s ready to continue his success at the majors. He made the semifinals at the French Open, too. Can he keep up the form when the pressure’s really on?

I’m going for the compelling match-up featuring Isner and Berdych. Although Isner’s health looks questionable, get injured in the last tournament he played, I’m looking for a good showing for the American giant. In the fourth round, however, Berdych stops the big guy without a problem.

Other notables: Youzhny could very well break my prediction with some inspired play against Isner in the third round. Watch out.

Nikolai Davydenko’s Quarter:

While this is called Davydenko’s section — he’s the sixth seed?! — it really belongs to Andy Roddick. Davydenko has been suffering recently with injury, and while Roddick isn’t doing too much better health-wise with his mono, he’s proven he’s on the fast track to recovery. I say it’s already a thing of the past.

Roddick shouldn’t have too much trouble making it to the fourth round. Gael Monfil had a lot of trouble in his first round match, barely getting by Robert Kendrick in the first round. I predict Roddick gets into the quarterfinals.

Other notables: The Frenchman Richard Gasquet may very well have the form to take out Davydenko early on. Even so, I’d say Roddick can dispatch Gasquet without too much trouble.

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter:

This section also reads incredibly tough on paper. While Djokovic stands out as the heavy favorite to get through by seeding, one American, Mardy Fish, has been playing some incredible tennis recently. At the top of the quarter, the 16th seed Marcos Baghdatis is more fit than ever before. I call Fish advancing in a tight and dramatic four-setter against the Cypriot. The winner faces Djokovic without a doubt.

Other notables: Wild card James Blake and Robby Ginepri might become inspired by the home crowd. Both made the US Open quarterfinals a few years ago.

Robin Soderling’s Quarter:

Although Soderling, the 5th seed, looked shaky in the opening round, he gains confidence as the tournament progress. He’ll make the fourth round without dropping another set.

Marin Cilic finds good form — he looked good in practice when the qualifying tournament was going on — and doesn’t drop a set on his way to play Soderling. That is, unless one Japanese qualifer doesn’t get in his way (explained below) In the probably match Cilic-Soderling, however, Soderling prevails in five sets.

Other notables: Qualifier Kei Nishikori, who made the fourth round before injury set in, has looked sharp so far in his four matches. With a withdrawal after two sets in the first round, he’ll have the extra rest to do some damage. He may give Cilic a real test in the third round. In fact, I hope he does.

Roger Federer’s Quarter:

This section, of course, belongs to Federer. He’s gunning for his second major in a year and number 17 in total. After losing in two straight Grand Slam quarterfinals, he’s hungry for the win. With Paul Annacone as his full-time coach and his new, aggressive brand of tennis, he’s looking very, very good. Federer cruises into the quarterfinals in straight sets all the way.

Other notables: Jurgen Melzer and Lleyton Hewitt are promising, but there’s no way either can get past Federer in a major tournament.

The Quarters and Semis:

In the top half, Nadal defeats Nalbandian in four, while Andy Murray loses to Berdych in five sets. In the semis — a rematch of Wimbledon — Nadal dispatches Berdych, although this time in four sets.

In the bottom half, Roddick faces Djokovic, a player he’s beaten four times in a row. He continues the streak to make the semis. There, he faces Federer, the winner versus Soderling to avenge his quarterfinal defeat at Roland Garros. Federer beats Roddick in three.

Almagro, Kanepi, and Szavay Succeed on Clay

In a stunning upset, Nicholas Almagro beat Robin Soderling on his home turf at the Swedish Open. For the women, Kaia Kanepi and Agnes Szavay posted wins, improving upon their current streaks on tour.

Soderling, the French Open finalist for the past two years, was a heavy favorite to win the event. To fall to Almagro, a strong clay-court player, is even more surprising given the home-court advantage. Regardless, I’m not seeing it as indicative of a lapse in the Swedes’ play. He’s done well making it to the finals at Roland Garros, followed by his quarterfinal showing at Wimbledon. Soderling lost to Almagro in a close 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 match. I strongly believe that Soderling will end the season with continued impressive play at the US Open and at the year-end event. There’s no evidence to say otherwise.

About the WTA, it’s pleasing that Kanepi and Szavay took home titles. Kanepi, the qualifier that made her way to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, deserved the win against Flavia Pennetta. She beat the Italian to win the Palermo event with an easy 6-3, 6-2 match. Kanepi’s on a roll, and there’s no sign of her stopping any time soon. I’m guessing she’ll be a threat on the hard courts of the US Open series, too.

Finally, Szavay,  who beat Patty Schnyder in Budapest, beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 to win the Prague Open. I see Szavay also continuing this form into the US Open series.

It’s great seeing these hard-working athletes garnering the benefits of their dedication. Hopefully, their success takes them far into the last major. They’re ones on which to keep a close eye.

Soderling, Almagro into Swedish Open Finals

Posted in David Ferrer,Nicholas Almagro,Robin Soderling,Tommy Robredo by Ben on July 18, 2010

Robin Soderling and Nicholas Almagro are set to stage a rematch of this year’s Madrid Open after posting wins in the semifinals of the Swedish Open. Soderling, the top seed, needed another three-set win to advance against David Ferrer 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Almagro easily took out Tommy Robredo in just over an hour — winning 6-1, 6-3.

While Soderling leads the head-to-head 3-2, Almagro won during their last meeting on clay, 6-4, 7-5. Look for Soderling to rise to the occasion in front of his home crowd to collect his sixth title. This season, both players have proven they’re at home on clay. Soderling, however, has the experience with the two French Open finals to his credit. I take him over the Spaniard in two tight sets.

After the match is over and the US Open Series begins, I’m watching Soderling to continue his high form. I’m calling a title during the Series and a place in the quarterfinals (and probably better) during the season’s last major. As for Almagro, he’ll have a tougher time at the hard court events.

Day Three Results Rundown

Day three proved to be filled with upsets and sharp play from the top tier of the current tennis all-stars. Here’s a brief summary of noteworthy results.

The WTA:

  • Serena Williams, Caroline Wozniacki, and Maria Sharapova all record easy victories in their first round matches.
  • Agnieszka Radwanska and Victoria Azarenka advance with their 6-3, 6-3 wins. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova only needs one more again to beat Iveta Benesova.
  • French Open finalist Sam Stosur joins Francesca Schiavone in defeat after straight sets loss to Kaia Kanepi.
  • Na Li and Jie Zheng make it to round two in straight sets.
  • Petra Kvitova, a player I have my eye on, takes out Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-2.
  • American Vania King set to play decisive match against Daniela Hantuchova tomorrow.
  • Serena and Venus Williams team up to continue their doubles major title string up success. They’re shooting for five in a row.

The ATP:

  • Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Sam Querrey, and Robin Soderling advance in three sets.
  • Jo-Wilfried Tsonga comes back strong in first match after retiring at the French Open.
  • Seeds Nicholas Almagro, Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Marcos Baghdatis fall, while unseeded American James Blake continues to struggle. Fabio Fognini upset Fernando Verdasco, too.
  • John Isner’s match is held at two sets apiece against Nicholas Mahut.

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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