Advertisements

Tenaciously Tennis


Milos Raonic Wins SAP Open for First Career Title

The big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic upset top-seeded Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) at the SAP Open to claim his first title. With the win, he becomes the first Canadian to take home an ATP title since Greg Rusedski in 1995.

With a fourth round appearance at the Australian Open to start the season, the 20-year old looks to be on a quick upward trend in the rankings. At a career-high of 59th, Raonic has cemented his huge game by claiming the maiden title. The question is: Can he keep the momentum going, or will the pressure to succeed bear down? With his play these past few weeks, it seems like he’ll keep up the form.

Additionally, he had a tough road to the finals, beating Xavier Malisse, James Blake, Richard Berankis, and an ailing Gael Monfils. Verdasco, the player he defeated to take the title, was the tournament’s top seed. These solid wins should further boost his confidence going forward.

To make things even more interesting, Raonic is set for a rematch against Verdasco in their next tournament at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships next week. There, look for another close match between the Spaniard and Canadian with Raonic coming out the victor once more.

To see some of Raonic’s big game, check out this video of him playing Ivo Karlovic in an exhibition match at the SAP Open before the final below.

Advertisements

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.

Vandeweghe Victorious Against Zvonareva

In an excellent upset for teenager Coco Vandeweghe, the American stunned the Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the second round of the Mercury Insurance Open to get to the quarterfinals. Until this point, Vandeweghe, currently ranked 205, has lost 13 of her 15 WTA matches. To make it to her match against Zvonareva, she won three qualifying matches.

This big win could very well be a career-changer. If Vandeweghe can continue to hold the belief and consistency that won her the match, she has a strong chance to be a top player in the future. While she lost in the quarterfinals against her next opponent, a player prone to choking, Svetlana Kuznetsova, things are looking up for the young American.

Kuznetsova beat Vandeweghe 7-5, 6-2 to get to the semifinals. It’s a strong result for the Russian, who barely got through her match against Sara Errani of Italy in the second round. After winning the first set easily, she slid through 6-1, 5-7 (5), 7-5.

Kuznetsova hasn’t had a good year until making the semifinals of this tournament. The two-time Grand Slam champion couldn’t perform in her attempt to defend her 2009 French Open title — she lost in the third round. At Wimbledon, the Russian succumbed in the second round, dropping her ranking outside the top twenty (she’s now ranked 21st). If she continues this mediocre track record at the majors, she’ll find her way outside the top 20 for the first time in seven years when the year-end rankings are announced. It’s a big slip, indeed.

While I haven’t seen Vandeweghe play since her match against Ekaterina Bychkova in the first round of US Open qualifying last year, I think the confidence from beating Zvonareva and holding her own against Kuznetsova will get her far in the match-up. Even if she doesn’t come out the victor, she should see a bump in the rankings and a good chance to win a few more matches before the US Open.

Zvonareva, known for her emotional outbursts, reportedly cried during her press conference after the match. She’s quoted: “I don’t think she surprised me. I’ve seen her play before. It’s more that I surprised myself. I started pretty good and then I just started playing stupid. I didn’t change anything, I just kept playing stupid.”

The semifinals of the event are as follows: Agnieszka Radwanska versus Daniela Hantuchova and Kuznetsova against Flavia Pennetta, who beat Sam Stosur 6-4, 6-3. I see Radwanska taking the title of the four — she’s the most consistent, and I believe the most mentally tough.

In other headlines:

  • John Isner lost to Xavier Malisse in Washington, joining Sam Querrey. Malisse defeated him 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5) in the third round of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic.
  • Joining these two in a big surprise upset: Andy Roddick, the tournament’s second seed. He lost in a lopsided 6-3, 6-3. Said Roddick of the match: “It was just a bad night. I don’t really have any defense for it. I didn’t feel right physically. I didn’t feel right mentally. I wish I had answers for you right now, but I just don’t. I promise you, I’m going to figure this out before I do that again.”
  • Both Lleyton Hewitt and Venus Williams pulled out of their next events. Hewitt will be out of the Toronto Masters with a calf strain, while Venus cited knee pain.

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).

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.


%d bloggers like this: