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Tenaciously Tennis


Harrison and Capra Win, Roddick and Oudin Fall in Second Round

American Teen Ryan Harrison secured the biggest win of his young career during one of, if not the, biggest tournaments. Harrison routed 15th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round of the US Open. Another young American talent to look out for is the 18-year-old wild card Beatrice Capra, ranked 371 in the world. A changing of the guard, however, welcomes these two Americans into the equation as veteran Andy Roddick lost to Janko Tipsarevic in four disheartening sets, while Melanie Oudin, last year’s breakout American star, lost to Alona Bondarenko  6-2, 7-5.

Harrison next draws a strong player in Sergiy Stakhovsky, who won his fourth title at the Pilot Pen Tennis Tournament in New Haven last week. Stakhovsky, currently ranked a career-high of 36, won’t have the crowd’s support, but he does have the form needed to get to the third round and end a good run by the youngest man left in the draw. Then again, Stakhovsky could be fatigued after winning the title. Plus, he escaped an intense first round match against Peter Luczak. Stakhovsky needed four sets, 6-7 (8), 7-5, 6-4, 6-2, to advance.

As much as I like Harrison, and what he means for American tennis, I’m going with the Ukrainian to reach his career-best major showing. Harrison, on the other hand, has a bright future. We’ll see what kind of tennis he produces tomorrow, and if he can handle the pressure associated with scoring a big upset in the previous round.

The Maryland-native Capra, who trained at College Park’s Junior Champions Tennis Center before heading to Chris Evert’s tennis academy, defeated the 18th seed Aravane Rezai 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Her next opponent: Maria Sharapova. Can Capra channel Oudin, who had success over the Russian champion last year, to get to the fourth round? I’m guessing not. Sharapova’s on a mission: her strong US Open Series and dominating performance in the first two matches of the US Open show she means business.  I don’t see Capra overcoming Sharapova anymore than I expected Oudin’s run. But, of course, Cinderella stories do happen in tennis, and they’ve happened quite frequently in the majors this year, especially on the WTA tour.

On the flip side, it’s sad to report that both Roddick and Oudin failed to meet expectations. While Roddick was outplayed by a sharp Tipsarevic, Oudin looked lost in the first set against Bondarenko, before putting up a fight in the second. She looked shaky thoughout, not holding serve effectively, while committing a staggering 38 unforced errors to only nine winners. She has the game, she’s proven that. Now, it’s all about coming to terms with the pressure success brings. It’ll happen one day. Look for Oudin to reemerge in 2011 with the same belief and courage that got her to the 2009 Wimbledon fourth round and the quarters at the US Open.

In other news:

  • Robin Soderling defeated Taylor Dent 6-2, 6-2, 6-4.
  • The 19th-seeded Mardy Fish advanced against Pablo Cuevas 7-5, 6-0, 6-2.
  • Wild card James Blake fended off Peter Polansky 6-7 (1), 6-3 6-2, 6-4.
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Wozniacki Wins in Toronto; New Haven Tournament Begins

Caroline Wozniacki, the number two player in the world, needed to win two matches in one day to take the title in Toronto. She did, quite easily. In the morning, she outplayed a recently resurgent Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-3. Just a few hours later, Wozniacki took to the courts again, ousting an error-prone and emotional Vera Zvonareva. The Dane’s crisp strokes proved too much for the Wimbledon finalist — she won 6-3, 6-2, putting an end to a tournament re-scheduled due to rain.

The question becomes this: Can Wozniacki, who’s going to be seeded first at the US Open with Serena Williams’ withdrawal, take advantage of the field to win her maiden major title? Last year, she made the finals. This year, she’s on fire, winning three titles already. With numerous others hampered by injury, including Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Venus Williams, and possibly last year’s champion Kim Clijsters, the field currently looks like hers for the taking.

In New Haven, the Pilot Pen tournament got underway with a strong effort by the struggling Dinara Safina on the WTA tour. Safina ousted this year’s French Open winner, the third-seeded Francesca Schiavone of Italy 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, as a wild card. Also victorious: Elena Dementieva over Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez and the lucky loser Dominika Cibulkova over fan favorite Melanie Oudin.

For the men, wild card James Blake, who’s been struggling on tour with injury this season, dominated Pere Riba 6-0, 6-1. Americans Donald Young and Taylor Dent also advanced: Young won with a 6-1, 6-2 drubbing of Stephane Robert, while Dent needed three sets to beat Eduardo Schwank.

Final Previews: Kuznetsova, Baghdatis, and More

It’s championship match time as the hard court summer swing heads into the second half. Surprises are everywhere with top seeds exiting early in some events, especially the American men, and familiar faces making their way back to the later stages of tournaments. If anything, this has been a refreshing week for tennis, showing that it’s never right to count out any player on any given day. Upsets happen, and they happen frequently in this sport.

The Legg Mason Tennis Classic:

With a win over Xavier Malisse, Marcos Baghdatis makes his first tour final since taking the title in Sydney at this year’s start. The Cypriot won 6-2, 7-6 (4). He next plays the resurgent David Nalbandian, who breezed by Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2. This compelling match puts two solid shot-makers against one another. Both men want this win for reaffirmation. They’ll both fight with a lot of heart and spirit. In the end, I’m calling Baghdatis to win over Nalbandian. He’s in better shape and might just want the title that much more. I call it going the distance — three sets in Baghdatis’ favor.

The e-Boks Danish Open:

This is Caroline Wozniacki’s tournament to win. She’s got the home advantage against Klara Zakopalova, who’s currently ranked just inside the top 50. Furthermore, Zakopalova doesn’t have the game to hurt Wozniacki, and her results at majors show that. Her best run at a Grand Slam tournament came at this year’s Wimbledon — she made the fourth round.

I see Wozniacki shaking off the ankle injury that’s plagued her this year to get a title, cementing her return to strong form before her best major — the US Open. She made the finals last year against Kim Clijsters, and I’m betting she’s inspired to get into the second week again this year. My prediction: Wozniacki wins in two sets.

Vancouver:

Taylor Dent, the tournament’s first seed, faces Dudi Sela of Israel, the third seed. It’s nice to see both guys doing well. I’ll go with the American Dent to take it in three. He’s been impressive in his comeback, and there’s no reason why he can’t get a title, too. This would be his first in approximately seven years.

The Mercury Insurance Open:

Svetlana Kuznetsova needs to win this tournament in order to salvage an otherwise abysmal year. As last year’s French Open champion, she isn’t doing much to show her capabilities so far. Whatever the reason for this poor form, the Russian has the ability to overpower Agnieszka Radwanska in the finals to claim her first title of the season. Kuznetsova beat the fifth seed, Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-0 — a telling result.

Radwanska, regardless, is a tricky opponent. Plus, her form has been excellent going into this match, pulling Maria Sharapova to three sets last week. At the same time, Kuznetsova owns their head-to-head 6-3, including the last two wins. The last one went her way easily at the finals of Beijing: 6-2, 6-4. I don’t, however, think it’ll be decided so soundly. Radwanska’s been playing too well for that in the last couple weeks. Instead, I’m saying it goes Kuznetsova’s way in three roller-coaster sets.

American Men Succeed at US Open Series

Led by the top-seed Andy Roddick, the American men continue to win as the US Open Series recently got underway. At the Atlanta event, John Isner and Mardy Fish posted wins, both reaching the semifinals along with Roddick. At the Lexington tournament, Jesse Levine’s got to the semis, too.

Roddick may not be looking sharp, he needed three sets to beat Xavier Malisse in the quarterfinals. He should, however, begin to raise his game in the next couple rounds, and throughout the summer. He next faces his friend Fish, who beat Taylor Dent — a player I see having a strong US Open Series.

But before getting back to the singles, let’s examine the doubles quickly. Roddick and Fish pulled out of the doubles to focus on singles. Now that’s something with which I have a problem. When you sign-up to play in a tournament, you’re making a commitment. For the American duo to win their first match, and then decide it isn’t worth their time playing together, is a huge snub. This gets at the heart of why people consider doubles a second-rate version of singles. The top players simply don’t care enough for a number of reasons, with low prize money being at the forefront. Roddick and Fish could’ve rolled through the draw together.

Instead, they’ll face one another in the semifinals. There, Roddick should easily win. He has a 9-1 career head-to-head against Fish, although a couple of their meets went to three sets.

Along with the Roddick and Fish, Isner’s performing very well. In the quarterfinals, he eliminated his low-profile compatriot Michael Russell 6-1, 6-2.  He next faces Kevin Anderson of South Africa, who’s currently ranked 96th in the world. Isner will win in two sets to make it to the final, where he’ll more than likely meet Roddick.

At the Lexington event, the fifth-seeded Levine beat Sergei Bubka 6-4, 6-0 to make it to the semifinals. He next meets another American, Alex Bogomolov, Jr., who’s ranked outside the top 200. With the way Levine’s playing, he shouldn’t have a problem getting a real shot at the title.

Isner Wins in Atlanta; Other Americans Advance, Too

As the US Open Series gets underway with the ATP’s Atlanta and Lexington events, a slew of American men advanced, signifying a strong start on home territory. John Isner, seeded second in Atlanta, won his first match back on tour since his marathon Wimbledon win over Nicholas Mahut. James Blake, however, fell to Taylor Dent in three sets in the tournament’s first round– indicative of his lackluster year. Let’s take a look at the results.

Isner, the winner of the longest match in tennis history, deserves to go far in Atlanta after his historic result (followed by a quick three-set loss in the major’s second round). Isner beat Gilles Muller 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7)  in his first match back.

Blake, a former top ten player with a career-high rank of four in 2006, hasn’t been in form for over a year now. The last time he made it past the third round of a major was at the 2009 Australian Open. Once a threat at Grand Slams, his results this year include a second round result at the Sunny Slam and a loss in the first round of Wimbledon. Blake didn’t play at the French Open. With the way things are going, Blake isn’t looking sharp heading into his best major — the US Open. There, he made it to consecutive quarterfinals in 2005 and 2006.

Regardless, it’s great to see Dent advance. Prone to injury, Dent, who reached a career-high ranking of 21 in 2005, looks poised to get back into the top 50 if he keeps excelling. Currently ranked 94, I see the California native building off his second round results at the past three majors to get a good showing at the US Open, an event he made it to the fourth round in 2003. If his draw is kind, look for a repeat performance of that result. After beating Blake in the round of 32, Dent won against the fourth-seeded Horacio Zeballos in three sets, including a bagel in the third, to get to his first ATP quarter-final since 2005.

At the same event, longtime friends and doubles partners, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish advanced in two sets. Look for the duo to take home the title. Both Roddick and Fish are into the final 16 in singles, too. After an early loss at Wimbledon, Roddick could definitely use the win, especially on home turf. As the event’s top seed, look for a smooth ride into the finals, including over Rajeev Ram in the next round. The main competition in his quarter — Xavier Malisse in the semis.

Fish next meets compatriot Robby Ginepri, an opponent noteworthy for getting to the fourth round at this year’s French Open — a rare result for an American man. I see Ginepri pulling off the upset.

Wild card Donald Young won his match against Israel’s Dudi Sela along with Michael Russell, who beat Germany’s Benjamin Becker. At the Lexington tournament, Jesse Levine overcame a tough test from Brydan Klein to win 7-6 (4), 7-6 (8).

Federer Escapes First Round Upset

Roger Federer beat Alejandro Falla, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0, in a surprising uphill battle from the start. The six-time Wimbledon champion looked set for defeat after losing the first two sets. However, he started playing at a new level in the last three sets, deflecting Falla’s impressive shot-making. In the final set, Federer reigned supreme and didn’t lose a game.

The question is: Can Federer overcome this scare and make it to his eighth Wimbledon final in a row? It won’t be an easy route. I see him dropping more sets over the course of the tournament, especially in the projected match against Berdych in the quarterfinals. Being Federer, however, his game will continue to improve as the tournament progresses. Hopefully, there aren’t any more scares of the sort.

By the way, congrats to Federer for earning his 200th win. It was well deserved.

Other notable five set escape artists: Novak Dkokovic (over Olivier Rochus) anad Nikolai Davydenko (against Kevin Anderson).

Noteworthy Winners: Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, Taylor Dent, Florian Mayer (over Marin Cilic), Lleyton Hewitt, and Tomas Berdych.

In other news, the French Open champion Francesca Schiavone lost in the first round to Vera Douchevine, while Melanie Oudin reclaimed some Grand Slam success by breaking her first round curse at the majors. She beat Anna-Lena Groenefeld, 6-3, 6-0.

Speaking of young Americans, Alison Riske, who made it to the semifinals at her Wimbledon warm-up event lost to Yanina Wickmayer in three sets. I see a big future for her in the coming majors. The US Open perhaps?

Sadly, a personal favorite, Patty Schnyder, faltered against Yung-jan Chan of China in two sets.

Other noteworthy wins: Venus Williams, Marion Bartoli, Shahar Peer (over Ana Ivanovic), Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, and Ekaterina Makarova.

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.


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