Olympics Tennis Roundup

This weekend saw the conclusion of the Olympics tennis tournaments and it was a good weekend for the United States – who took three of the gold medals up for grabs – while Great Britain and Belarus took the other two. Argentina and Switzerland also picked up their first and second medals respectively of the Games.

Singles

Andy Murray took gold for Great Britain with an astonishing performance over Roger Federer. Murray saved all 9 break opportunities in an incredibly dominant performance while breaking Federer five times in a straight sets victory. In the first and second set Murray took 9 games in a row from 2-2 to 6-2 5-0 as Federer just could not deal with the Brit’s play. Murray could not seal the bagel in the end but served out for the breadstick after saving a break point. After breaking for 3-2 in the third set, Murray did not let up on serve and finished off in style serving an ace to take the match 6-2 6-1 6-4 to earn his first Gold Medal and his first best of five sets victory over Roger Federer.

Juan Martin Del Potro recovered from Friday’s gruelling encounter to take the Bronze Medal defeating Novak Djokovic. After failing to make any headway on the Djokovic serve for most of the first set, Del Potro broke at 5-5 to serve for the set. Djokovic hit back in the next service game bringing up multiple break points but Del Potro stood strong to save them and eventually take the set 7-5. An early break in the second for the Argentinian was never reclaimed by Djokovic who only had one break point in the set. Del Potro went down 15-30 serving for the match but as with most occasions where his service games looked in danger, Del Potro brought out the big serves to close out the match for a 7-5 6-4 victory and earn his first Olympic medal.

Olympic Mens Singles Medalists

Source: Getty Images/Paul Gilham

Serena Williams continued her complete dominance of the Women’s circuit with a thrashing of Maria Sharapova in the Women’s Singles final 6-0 6-1 in only 63 minutes. Serena quickly rushed into a 5-0 lead but it looked like Sharapova would avoid the bagel when she took a 40-0 lead in game six. Unfortunately, she was pegged back to deuce and eventually broken to drop the first set without winning a game. It looked like there was a chance of a double bagel as Serena quickly rushed into a 3-0 lead in the second to make it nine games in a row. However, Sharapova eventually held for 3-1 and even had chances to get back on serve in the second but could not take advantage of her only two break points in the match. After holding for 4-1, Williams broke once more and served it out to complete the humiliation of the World’s No.3 player. Victoria Azarenka took the Bronze with a 6-3 6-3 victory over Russia’s Maria Kirilenko, Azarenka had taken 3-0 leads in both sets before being pegged back on both occasions to 3-3 only to push on and win the last 3 games of both sets without reply.

Source: Getty Images/Clive Brunskill

Doubles

Serena Williams and Venus Williams became the first four-times Olympic gold medalists in Tennis as they dominated the Women’s Doubles once more, dropping just two service games in the whole tournament on their way to a third Gold in the doubles tournament. They defeated the Czech pairing of Andrea Hlavackova and Lucie Hradecka 6-4 6-4 saving all four break points faced in the match and breaking the Czechs in one game in each set to seal the victory. The Bronze Medal was taken by Maria Kirilenko and Nadia Petrova who came from a set down to beat the top seeds Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond. The victory will be especially sweet for Kirilenko who failed to take a medal in the Singles after making the semi final. The Russians took both their break point opportunities in the final set to pull away and seal a 4-6 6-4 6-1 victory.

Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan joined Serena Williams in completing a career golden slam after defeating the French pair of Michael Llodra and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in the Men’s Doubles final. The brothers were not broken once on their way to a 6-4 7-6 victory. In an incredibly serve-dominant second set, they took 27 of 29 points on the serve giving Llodra and Tsonga no chance at all. The French doubled their medal haul in the doubles as Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau took Bronze with a 7-6 6-2 victory over the Spanish team of David Ferrer and Feliciano Lopez. Ferrer and Lopez failed to make any inroads into the French serve and dropped their serve twice in the second set in their defeat.

Andy Murray failed to join Serena Williams in becoming a double gold medalist this year as he and Laura Robson were defeated in the Mixed Doubles final. After in an impressive first set, Murray and Robson could not hold off the pairing of Max Mirnyi and Victoria Azarenka who were too strong in the end. Robson’s double faults in the final set tiebreak did not help as the Belarussian’s sealed the victory with a huge serve from Max Mirnyi on their third match point to win 2-6 6-3 10-8. After defeat in the Bronze Medal match in Women’s Doubles, Lisa Raymond was more fortunate as she and Mike Bryan overcame the German pair of Sabine Lisicki and Christopher Kas. Serve was fairly dominant in this as the pair traded sets with just one break the difference in both. The Germans had no chance in the final set tiebreaker though, losing the first seven points before Raymond and Bryan took their third championship point for a 6-3 4-6 10-4 victory.

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ATP 1000 Toronto Masters Preview

Due to the Olympics, Toronto has suffered a big number of withdrawals including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. The field still does contain three of the four semi finalists though, with Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro scheduled to play at the time of writing.

Favourites – With such a depleted field in terms of the top players, the two big favourites are clear. Defending champion Novak Djokovic has not quite been showing his 2011 form with two recent semi final exits on the grass but is still a huge danger. The Australian Open champ has only lost twice on hard courts this year to Andy Murray and John Isner, both of which reside in the other half of the draw.

Andy Murray will be big on confidence after taking the Gold Medal and defeating Roger Federer with such ease. Murray did not take a hard court title post-Australian Open but was twice a finalist losing to Federer and Djokovic in Doha and Miami respectively. The draw appears to favour Murray, with the top seeds in his half being an out-of-form Tomas Berdych, Juan Monaco and John Isner – who Murray always performs well against.

Outsiders
While both players fitness is in question after record breaking matches at the Olympics, Juan Martin Del Potro (match length in minutes) and Milos Raonic (match length in games) are dark horses for this tournament. Raonic will be hoping for an excellent tournament in his home country, and has a nice route to the final if he can defeat the No.2 seed Andy Murray in a potential Round 3 clash. While Murray has dealt with big servers well in the past, Raonic will take heart from his victory on the clay in Barcelona earlier this year. Raonic has some extraordinary serving stats this year, topping the aces count as well as winning the highest percentage of service games this year.

Meanwhile, Juan Martin Del Potro looks somewhat back to his best after an excellent Olympics in which he picked up the bronze medal after defeating Novak Djokovic in straights. While often thought of as just a forehand, the tall Argentinian showcased it all in the latter stages as possibly should have beat Roger Federer in the semi final. After a long time out with injury, Del Potro finally looks like he is ready to take on the top players again.

One To Watch
Canadian number two Vasek Pospisil is one of three home players to receieve a wildcard. The 22 year old reached his career high of 85th in the world after taking the title in Granby Challenger, his second of the year. Pospisil will most likely float between low level ATP tournaments and North American challengers this year but does have a win over No. 8 seed John Isner to his name. He faces a tough tie in Round 1 taking on the Italian Andreas Seppi

Did You Know…?
The last eight Toronto Masters titles have been shared equally by the top four players – Roger Federer (04,06), Novak Djokovic (07,11), Rafael Nadal (05,08) and Andy Murray (09,10).

Novak Djokovic has winning records against all of the other top 8 seeds – though John Isner, Juan Martin Del Potro, Janko Tipsarevic and Andy Murray have all defeated him in their last encounters.

Finals Prediction Andy Murray defeats Novak Djokovic in three sets

For a more detailed preview of the tournament check out the write up I did for Stevegtennis here.

Federer edges past Del Potro in record breaking semi-final

Roger Federer has qualified for the Gold Medal match at the Olympics after an extraordinary semi final victory over the Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro winning  an Olympics record 4 hour and 26 minutes epic 3-6 7-6(5) 19-17. The World No.1 broke vitally in game 35 of the third set to set himself up for the victory.

Del Potro had been written off by most pre-match, with the 6-0 head to head since Delpo’s return from injury sticking out like a sore thumb while many felt that the Argentinian was not the same player that took the US Open title three years ago defeating the very same opponent as today. After a straight forward start where the pair exchanged holds to 15, it looked like Federer would be on his way to 7-0 with some ease when he earned himself a break point in the third game of the set. In what was to be recurring theme throughout most of the match, Del Potro got himself out of trouble with a mixture of poor returning and big serving to hold, with Federer vitally slicing the break point return long.

After this, it was only Federer being in danger on serve as he faced lost the first point in both games 6 and 8. While he was fortunate enough to get out of a 0-30 hole in the first instance, he was not so lucky the second time. Ironically, after his match point against Isner yesterday, a lucky net cord at 15-30 caused the Swiss to put a tough running-backwards backhand volley long. Del Potro took advantage of the second break point, forcing Federer deep with a powerful backhand that the No.1 could not return. The set was sealed as a great display of serving earned Del Potro a love hold and the set 6-3.

While Del Potro faded in his most recent encounter at Roland Garros as time went on, it didn’t seem to show here as he held his own in rallies and had a slight look-in in game 1 at 30-30 showcasing his huge forehand. The pair exchanged straight forward holds as serve began to become even more dominant. Much like the first set, it was Del Potro doing the damage but this time he failed to convert break points this time as Federer delivered more clutch serves to eventually hold. It looked like he would pay as a slack forehand long gave Federer another chance to break, but he failed to convert as a huge serve set up Del Potro for the open court forehand which he took easily. Excellent play at the net finally sealed the game to tie it up again.

With serve continuing to remain dominant throughout, a tie break looked a certainty. Bar the 4-4 game, where Federer rescued a break point after being 40-0 up with big serving, there was little to threaten that and so a tie break would decide whether this went three or Del Potro would be a silver medalist at worst.

Federer took control early with a mini-break for 2-1, Del Potro unable to return with any conviction after Federer had hit the baseline dead on. He had a chance to earn it straight back but his trusted forehand let him down at the vital moment as he put a gimme wide. After an ace had given him a 4-1 lead, a mix of poor returning and at 4-3 a dodgy volley tied it up. Federer won a lengthy point to go 5-4 up, which he ended with a comprehensive smash with Del Potro way off the court. Federer finally earned set points after a disappointing back hand from Del Potro who had controlled the point, and took the second with an ace to tie it up.

After the disappointment of the tiebreak, Del Potro had chances early on to redeem himself as he earned two break points. Unfortunately both were wasted as a vital slip on the second gave Federer an easy put away before eventually holding.

That was the last Del Potro saw of the Federer serve as he held comfortably time after time, while Del Potro’s service games looked ready to buckle at any moment but clutch play avoided breaks at 3-3 and 4-4 as the serve-forehand combo continued to work wonders.

After missing break points in the fifteenth game and going up 0-30 in the seventeenth (where Del Potro started the comeback with an incredible diving volley winner) but not breaking, Federer finally made the break through in game nineteen. Two double faults did not help his cause, and the break was sealed when Del Potro hit well long at 30-40.

Having broke for the first time, it looked as if it would be straight forward for the Swiss who had looked dominant on serve all set after the early break points had been saved. A shank started the rot as he served for the match and when the net took his shot and dropped it wide, Del Potro had got the break back to love. This turned out just to be a blip, as Federer had no such issues next time out, holding to love, finishing off with one of his trademark drop shots.

When Federer took a 0-40 lead in the twenty-ninth game of the set, it looked surely over. However, Del Potro had other ideas as the forehand wound up once more to assist him in a vital hold.

When Federer next held a 0-40 lead, he would not be so unfortunate. A netted backhand on the second break point gave Federer the opportunity to serve for a place in the Gold Medal match at 18-17.

Federer double faulted to bring up 15-30 and perhaps raised some concern with the wary centre court crowd who had witnessed this marathon match. He brought up match point when Del Potro hit way long but he failed to take it after dumping a poor volley into the net.

At the second time of asking, a beautiful slice into the corner of the court was too much for the tall Argentinian who couldn’t get it back to give Federer the victory and a minimum silver medal – the first for his country these games.

While Juan Martin Del Potro did not take victory here, this was a huge step in the right direction for him. Holding his own on grass with Roger Federer was extremely impressive and he deserved a lot of credit. More than just a serve and huge forehand, Del Potro showcased it all from an excellent array of backhands to some brilliant volleys at the net – none more so than his diving one midway through set three. If he can transfer this form to a five set tournament there is no reason why he cannot deliver a repeat of his 2009 US Open victory.

Federer will take on Andy Murray in a rematch of the Wimbledon final after the Brit defeated Novak Djokovic 7-5 7-5, breaking in game 12 of both sets.

Stats
Aces RF 24 JMDP 11
First Serve % RF 68% JMDP 70%
First Serve Points Won % RF 75% JMDP 72%
Winners RF 64 JMDP 51
Unforced Errors RF 41 JMDP 34
Net Points Won % RF 63% JMDP 71%
Total Points Won RF 186 JMDP 180

Dark Horse Del Potro?

After his recent title victory at the Estoril Open, is it worth a punt on Juan Martin del Potro to win at the French?

Well, yes, it’s certainly worth a couple of pounds, dollars or whatever your currency may be but just don’t bet your mortgage on the 22-year-old Argentine.

Rafael Nadal is still far and away the favourite to claim a sixth crown at Roland Garros at just 24-years-old. And should he lose it’s most likely going to be to Novak Djokovic.

Del Potro is a rare breed though, being one of only four men on the tour who have won a Grand Slam since Andy Roddick in 2003.

That scenario was also true with Djokovic before his unbelievable 2011 form brought an Australian Open title, several other ATP wins and advertising deals aplenty.

Djokovic is now considered by some to be the best player in the world right now after two tour final victories over Nadal when he’d always been living in the shadows of the Spaniard and Roger Federer. So can del Potro get there also?

Another Grand Slam is definitely possible. A French Open success this year may be too much for a man still climbing the rankings after being at number 484 last February following a wrist injury.

Now at #32 the 2009 French Open semi-finalist might not have the stamina to go two weeks on clay with the extended best of five set format.

But players must be wary. A straight sets win over the 2009 and 2010 French Open finalist Robin Soderling last week proves the dark horse tag is suitable.

We’ll learn more from del Potro this week in Madrid, especially with a third round match-up with Nadal on the cards.

Del Potro

Elsewhere in the Mutua Madrid Open:

  • After disappearing from the tennis scene for a while Bojana Jovanovski returned to WTA action with a first round 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 win over Greta Arn.
  • Kei Nishikori lost his first round match to Spain’s Pere Riba 2-6, 2-6.
  • Dutch 22-year-old qualifier Thiemo de Bakker saw off world former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.
  • Doubles specialist Vania King has aided her cause for a top 100 return in the singles rankings after a 6-1, 7-6 (7-5) win over Nadia Petrova.
  • Wildcard Arantxa Parra Santonja is enjoying a resurgence in form. The 28-year-old beat Flavia Pennetta and Andrea Petkovic in the first and second round respectively.

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