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Tenaciously Tennis


Harrison Making His Mark in Atlanta

Ryan Harrison’s leap into the top 100 this week at No. 94 is to be expected. He’s long proven to hold the talent necessary to reach that level. His recent semifinal foray into the league of the big boys in Atlanta, where he set up a meeting with top ranked American Mardy Fish, sends a clear message regarding the possibilities his future holds. Of course, Harrison has a ways to go before the praise can be slathered on. His straight sets loss to Fish speaks to just that.

Having claimed his first tour doubles title earlier this year at Newport, it’s time for Harrison to step up in singles like Bernard Tomic did at Wimbledon earlier this summer at the Grand Slam level. He’s proven he can, making it to the fourth round at Indian Wells, which is widely considered the fifth major tournament in the world.

But the Grand Slams are called such and held in especially high esteem for a reason. That’s where Harrison needs to display his worth to be taken as a serious contender on the ATP level and to be appointed the United States’ next big hope — if that’s even a title a young up-and-comer wants to bear.

Regardless, if Harrison can better last year’s second round showing at the US Open, he’ll be golden given the crowd’s overwhelming support in his favor. No doubt he has the game and the belief, now it’s just a question of transferring that confidence to results on the big stages.

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All-American Affair Hits Italian Open Doubles Final

There may not be any Americans in the top ten for the men or women, but at least there’s a strong US presence in doubles at the Italian Open this week. For the men, Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish advanced to final with a huge upset over Bob and Mike Bryan in the quarterfinals. Meeting them in the championship match will be Sam Querrey and John Isn.

And who said US talent can’t play on clay? Step aside, Michael Chang.

What’s exciting about this marquee match-up is that it symbolizes the older wave of American talent taking on the young guns. Both Roddick and Fish have been in the top ten (with Fish actually replacing Roddick for a brief period before a recent slip in the rankings). Meanwhile, Querrey and Isner have the talent, but not the results quite yet when it counts most.

Therefore, it’ll be a fascinating display of tennis and a potential coming-of-age if the Querrey-Isner combo can overcome the favorites, Roddick and Fish.

My thoughts? It’s not quite their time yet. Roddick’s serve will match up well with Isner’s, so it should go into at least one tiebreak in this best-of-three format. I’ll give Fish the edge over Querrey on groundstrokes.

It’ll be a battle, but the older guys will prove to be just a little stronger in the end.

Harrison Beats Raonic in Battle of Rising Stars

It was a match pitting two wild cards again one another: one from the United States and the other from Canada.

Up-and-comer Ryan Harrison took on Australian Open sensation Milos Raonic in the third round of Indian Wells. The two have generated a lot of attention on the ATP tour these past few months, lauded for their big games, their young ages and fierce competitive streaks. It’s great to see it transferred to a stage as large as Indian Wells, widely considered the fifth major.

With the match that ensued, let’s hope the upward progress continues.

Closely fought throughout, Harrison ended up on top with a 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-4 victory. As Harrison, 18, and Raonic, 20, took to the court and preceded to give it their all, it’s safe to say one thing: the next generation of tennis sensations have arrived.

Sure, they still have Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray to contend with on tour. At the same time, they’re young and fresh — and hungry. That counts for a lot, and it’ll be interesting to see in what ways their confidence increases to the point where they can really take it to the biggest guns.

And, who knows? Maybe a rivalry has been born between Harrison and Raonic. It’d definitely make sense. They’re close enough in age and talent. It’ll be interesting to see in what ways future matches between the North Americans pan out.

Is this the next Nadal – Federer? Let’s hope.

American Tennis Analysis: Why Does Sam Querrey Keep Losing?

A loss at the Davis Cup last year, Beijing, Basel, Paris, and twice in Australia. Then, a straight sets defeat in California as the third seed.

These are all American number three Sam Querrey’s most recent first round defeats.

To paint an even clearer picture, the California native, 24, has won just two of his last 11 matches. If he wants to stay in the top 20 and one day take over from Andy Roddick, whose career can’t last forever, Sam needs to make a move. He needs to start winning again.

Despite matching his career-best showing at last year’s US Open by getting to the fourth round, and taking home four titles in 2010 on all the surfaces, Querrey’s had a tough time reclaiming the consistency needed to win. He’s proven he has the firepower and the belief in the past, but this needs to happen more regularly to make a move into the top 10.

30-year-old Mardy Fish, like Roddick, can’t hang on at this level much longer, despite holding the 16th spot. The younger Americans must step in and play big to claim their rightful spot as the next wave of American tennis talent. And with 23rd-ranked John Isner, another US hope, at 6’9, and with Querrey at 6’6, they certainly don’t lack the physicality necessary for success.

The rest is mental, and Querrey’s time to prove this strength starts now.

Serena Williams to Play Exhibition: Why Tennis Needs Her Now

Serena Williams needs to get better, quickly. Skipping out of the last couple majors with a foot injury sustained after her win at Wimbledon in July, it’s been long enough.

And not only for the purposes of her own career — Serena recently dropped out of the top ten for the first time in about four years –, but also to resuscitate the current state of American tennis. Andy Roddick didn’t do too hot at the Aussie Open, neither did Sam Querrey or John Isner on the men’s side. For the women, there’s sister Venus, who retired in the third round and is currently sidelined with injury after hurting her hip during her second round match against Sandra Zahlavova. US Open sensation Melanie Oudin continues to disappoint, too, with a first round loss at the Australian Open.

It’d be nice to get the WTA-dominating force that is Serena back on the big stages. Kim Clijsters pretty much owns that role now in unchallenged fashion. Remember, she dropped just one set at the Sunny Slam and that came in the final against Li. Justine Henin’s retirement also leaves more room for the Belgian to keep conquering competition.

But, apparently, things are starting to look up for the younger Williams sister as she’ll be (potentially) playing in March at a Nike exhibition with other big names Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. United States Fed Cup captain Mary Jo Fernandez also said Serena would be available to playing in a possible April tie. Given her track record, I wouldn’t count on it, although she’d needs to be around for two to play in the 2012 Olympics.

The real thing is: We need Serena at majors again. Sure, this year’s Australian Open was a feel-good story featuring the lovable mom Aussie Kim triumphing over Chinese sensation Li Na in a high-stakes, historic match. The whole tournament, however, wasn’t the same without Serena. Plus, who wants to keep a Grand Slam singles title count at an unlucky number 13?

Also, Serena’s absence is making mother Oracene antsy. She recently went Twitter-crazy, writing, “Will some one tweet me who is in the final on the women’s side?” and after getting the answer, “Thank you I hope Na is not to nervous to kick some butt,” among many other comments. Poor Oracene, she wouldn’t have to stoop to that level. If only she should could just enjoy her daughters’ success at majors.

Well, the drought continues, but let’s hope for not much longer. When March rolls around, let’s see an in-shape Serena on court, who’s back to stay.


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