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.

Advertisements

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

Olympics Preview – Men’s Singles

While the Women’s previous Gold medalists since the introduction of tennis to the Olympics read like a who’s who of WTA in the last 25 years, the Men’s side has a few more surprise winners including Marc Rosset, Miroslav Mecir and more recently Nicolas Massu. The Chilean is the only male in the modern era of Olympic tennis to have two gold medals – one in singles and one in men’s doubles.

Draw

Quarter 1 (1) Roger Federer-Janko Tipsarevic (7)

I think that Roger Federer will be very pleased with his draw here. Although his first opponent Alejandro Falla famously almost knocked out the Wimbledon champion two years ago, there is no such danger here. Federer is showing new found confidence and with nemesis Rafael Nadal out yet again, will be confident of making the Gold Medal match at least. The round 2 possibilities for Federer are at two extremes – the Frenchman Julien Benneteau, who took the first two sets against him at Wimbledon and so would have won in this format. His other potential opponent is Mikhail Youzhny, the Russian has never beat Federer and was dispatched of with ease in the quarter finals this year. His potential third round opponent is tough to pick out – big serving Gilles Muller has the chance but would get woefully exposed by the Swiss if it came to it. Spaniard Fernando Verdasco is always capable of a big match (see Madrid 2012 vs Nadal) but is often weak mentally. If Verdasco manages to beat Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin then his record against the No.1 looks almost certain to go to Won 0 Lost 6.

John Isner will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing couple of months, where he most notably suffered early exits in both the French Open and Wimbledon. The American takes on Olivier Rochus, whom he has a 2-0 record over including victory in the final of North American grass tournament Newport last year in straight sets. Yen-hsun Lu would be his expected opponent in the second round. The Chinese Taipei player has fairly decent grass form over the years and is well known for his defeat of Andy Roddick in Wimbledon 2010 to reach the quarter finals and takes on Malek Jaziri in the first round. An intriguing tie will be that of Janko Tipsarevic vs David Nalbandian. Nalbandian has always been incredibly talented but never quite hit the heights expected of him after early promise. The pair have a 2-2 head to head but Janko Tipsarevic has got the better of the Argentinian twice this year, including at Wimbledon where the Serb won in straights. The winner of this match will take on Lukas Lacko or Philipp Petzschner in the second round.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Roger Federer defeats John Isner in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Janko Tipsarevic vs David Nalbandian

Did You Know…?

Mikhail Youzhny’s woeful record against Roger Federer is as follows – Won 0 Lost 14, picking up just 3 sets in the process.#

There is a 16 inch height difference between John Isner and his Round 1 opponent Olivier Rochus – 6ft9 to 5ft5.

Quarter 2 (4) David Ferrer-Juan Martin Del Potro (8)

Without Nadal, David Ferrer is bumped up to a top 4 seeding and as such this seems the one quarter that perhaps is more expected to produce a surprise Semi Finalist. The section contains a fair amount of incredibly talented players but without the consistency that has saw Ferrer make the top 5 in the rankings. Wimbledon 2012 quarter-finalist Philipp Kohlschreiber is one such player, but the fact that he is currently still in Kitzbuhel, Austria as a type cannot be a great preparation for this tournament – especially since he is playing a clay court tournament! Nikolay Davydenko will do well to defeat Radek Stepanek in the first round, the Russian has only made the second week at Wimbledon once and generally struggles on grass. Kei Nishikori-Bernard Tomic is probably the pick of the ties in this section, two highly rated players who have the game to trouble the top 10. Nishikori showed this last year in his run in that took him into the top 25 while 19 year old Tomic memorably made the quarter finals at SW19 last year.

Since his controversial comments regarding equal pay, Gilles Simon seems to be suffer a bit of a dip in form. The Frenchman exited in the second round of each of his last three tournaments including Queens and Wimbledon in matches he would be expected to win. Mikhail Kukushkin shouldn’t pose enough to threaten him but in the second round awaits a potential meeting with Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian has always been highly rated but like most young players failed to remain consistent enough. However recently, Dimitrov has kept his good form going for longer than usual – making the semi final in three of his last 4 tournaments and having to withdraw at Wimbledon due to injury. In this form, he is a darkhorse for a medal and in this section of the draw has a decent chance of making the medal match if all goes right for him. Andreas Seppi should progress easily against an incredibly out-of-form Donald Young and the same applies for Juan Martin Del Potro, who should have too much power for the Croatian Ivan Dodig.

My Quarter Final Prediction – David Ferrer defeats Grigor Dimitrov in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Bernard Tomic vs Kei Nishikori

Did You Know…?

Donald Young is on a 13 match losing streak, having only picked up two wins this year and being defeated seventeen times.

David Ferrer does not have a losing head to head against anyone of his potential opponents from the first round to the third.

Quarter 3 (6) Tomas Berdych-Andy Murray(3)

After suffering an embarrassing first round straight sets defeat at Wimbledon to Ernests Gulbis, Tomas Berdych will be keen to redeem himself. The one time finalist is still a very good grass court player and should have no trouble with Steve Darcis. Ryan Harrison showed plenty of promise in his defeat at Wimbledon to Novak Djokovic, and really should have took a set if it wasn’t for disapponting play on break points. His match with Santiago Giraldo should be interesting, the Colombian is on decent form but was dispatched of by Milos Raonic at Wimbledon – finding it hard to break the Canadian’s big serve. Since his change of nationality to Russian Alex Bogomolov has been struggling a lot, trying to deal with the expectations of what seems to now have been a year of overachievement than progress in 2011. Carlos Berlocq is a clay courter for the most part but may feel he has a good chance to progress to the second round here against Bogomolov. Nicolas Almagro is another who prefers the clay, but has had good grass court results in his rare forays on to the surface including victories over John Isner and Olivier Rochus. He holds a 2-0 head to head record over Viktor Troicki, who has the better grass results but may still not have enough to beat the Spaniard. A potential third round meeting should be tasty between Almagro and Berdych – they had a falling out when Almagro played a shot to pass Berdych at the net by hitting it right in his direct and the Czech felt it was being aimed at him.

Much like Philipp Kohlschreiber, Robin Haase is another currently in Kitzbuhel as he gears up for the final of the clay court tournament. Again, this won’t be ideal for the Dutchman though winning and added confidence can’t be a problem! He faces a tough first round tie against Richard Gasquet who will have his eyes set on a third round tie and revenge against Andy Murray in France last month. Gasquet controlled large parts of the match early only to buckle under the pressure of Murray’s injury doubts to lose in four sets. Murray probably has the hardest tie of the lot, drawing Stanislas Wawrinka in the first round. Murray’s most famous matches with the Swiss No.2 are his five set epic under the roof at Wimbledon where he prevailed, and his disappointing defeat in the US Open third round. If Murray makes it past the Swiss he should be fairly confident of making it to the rematch with the Frenchman, potential opponents are either a returning from injury Somdev Devvarman 0r Jarkko Niemenen – who also didn’t deal well with the pressure the possible Murray injury put him under. Marcos Baghdatis could give Gasquet or Haase problems if he makes the second round, the Cypriot loves the big occasion and has taken sets from Murray and Djokovic in recent Wimbledons.

My Quarter Final Prediction – Andy Murray defeats Nicolas Almagro in 2 sets

Must Watch Match – Andy Murray vs Stanislas Wawrinka

Did You Know…?

Tomas Berdych sealed his arrival to the tennis world in the 2004 Olympics defeating the World No.1 Roger Federer in three sets 4-6 7-5 7-5

Berdych does not have a losing head to head against the three seeds in his quarter

Quarter 4 (5) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga-Novak Djokovic (2)

Another of the in-form clay courters around at the moment is Thomaz Bellucci, who just took the title in Gstaad, he faces Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first round. Bellucci only played once and lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal, but really should have took at least one set considering he held a double break in the first! Milos Raonic is the likely Round 2 opponent for the winner, the Canadian’s big serve should be enough to see off Japan’s Tatsuma Ito but against more experienced players his movement has been found a little wanting and needs to improve if he wants to go deep here. Expect tiebreaks in the Feliciano Lopez/Dmitry Tursunov match – both are traditional grass courters with big serves. The winner will face either David Goffin or Juan Monaco in what promises to be an intriguing tie. Monaco has always preferred the clay courts too, but will be high on confidence after breaking into the top 10 this month. Goffin showed a lot of promise at Wimbledon, defeating Bernard Tomic amongst others and is definitely one to watch.

Novak Djokovic opens his account with a tie against Italy’s Fabio Fognini. Some believe that the Serb’s momentum was killed slightly when Fognini withdrew from their quarter final match at the French Open and left Djokovic without a match for longer than he really wanted to. Djokovic should deal with him fairly easily. A potential second round with a revitalised Andy Roddick could make for a cracker in the three set format. Roddick has won two titles in the past 2 months (Eastbourne, Atlanta) and dominated David Ferrer for a set and a half before running out of steam. His opponent, Martin Klizan, comes off a decent run in Kitzbuhel but shouldn’t trouble Roddick too much here even if he plays poorly. Another former Wimbledon champion in Lleyton Hewitt has been handed a wildcard to the tournament and showed good form in Newport to make the final where he lost to John Isner. He takes on Sergei Stakhovsky who appears to be dealing with a number of injuries having retired twice over the grass court season. Another in-form player in Marin Cilic heads this part of the draw, the Croatian picked up the Umag title this month and looked impressive at Wimbledon including taking a 5 set 5 hour epic against the American Sam Querrey. He faces Jurgen Melzer who departed disappointingly to Lukas Lacko in Round 2 at Wimbledon.

Cilic/Melzer
Hewitt/Stakhovsky

My Quarter Final Prediction – Novak Djokovic defeats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 3 sets

Must Watch Match – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vs Thomaz Bellucci

Did You Know…? 

The Second and Third Round’s in this quarter could see a match between two former world No.1’s – Novak Djokovic, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick all lie in this section.

In defeating Roger Federer last year at Wimbledon from two sets down, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga managed to end an 178-0 streak the Swiss held when leading 2-0 in a match.

Medal Predictions

Gold Roger Federer

Silver Andy Murray 

Bronze Novak Djokovic

Who do you think will go well in the Mens side of the draw? Who can cause a shock? Let me know in the comments below!

Tennis Power Couples

Ace of Baseline takes a look at high profile tennis relationships..

The relationship between former World No. 1’s Caroline Wozniacki and Rory Mcilroy is one of the most famous in the sporting world between two athletes that are at the top level of their sport. However, criticism has been fired at the pair with many feeling that the relationship is having a negative influence on their sporting performance.  With this in mind I thought I’d take a look at other high profile tennis relationships to compare.

Since becoming a couple, both have performed fairly poorly in their major events with Mcilroy failing to make the cut at his most recent Major while Caroline Wozniacki exiting Wimbledon in the first round after being overpowered by Tamira Paszek in an entertaining three set encounter. This defeat knocked her to No. 8 in the rankings.

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Wozniacki’s game has always concentrated on staying consistent and drawing errors as opposed to a more aggressive game that many believe she should play. Although often disappointing on the big stage, there is no doubt her style was key to her twelve titles and 67 weeks as World No. 1 from 2010 to early 2012.

However, Wozniacki isn’t the only player to date/marry a similarly high profile athlete.  Ana Ivanovic 18-month relationship in with golfer Adam Scott coincided with a trophyless period in 2009-2010 as Ivanovic dropped out of the top ten. Failure to defend big points at the Australian Open and French Open cost her, following up a final appearance and a win with fourth and third round performances respectively.  Defeat to Vera Zvonareva at Indian Wells was as close as the Serb got to a title in this period. Ivanovic’s most recent successes lie in the Tournament of Champions and her form over the past three years seems to indicate that her 2007/2008 form was of a career year than representative of what was to come. She has floated around the top 20 in the year end rankings, with her serving issues still working strongly against her. New coach Nigel Sears appears to have made improvements in 2012 with more consistency in the slams, making the third round at all three so far. Previous to this, Ana also dated Fernando Verdasco for a short period in late 2008, mostly during the tennis off-season.

Fresh from her split with fellow Russian tennis star Igor Andreev is Maria Kirilenko, the 25 year old is dating Alexander Ovechkin, captain of the Washington Capitals in the NHL. Ovechkin is one of the most famous male athletes in Russia, having represented them regularly at international level and at one stage there could be a case made that he was one of the top stars in the NHL alongside Sidney Crosby. While the beginning of many other relationships coincided with a drop in form for players, things have never been better for Kirilenko, reaching a career high ranking of No. 14 after making it to the quarter finals of Wimbledon, pushing Agnieszka Radwanska extremely close in an epic three set encounter.

It is interesting to note the lack of high profile relationships involving the top level men, with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal all in long term relationships while Roger Federer married former tennis player Miraslava “Mirka” Vavrinec in 2009 with the couple now proud parents of twin girls.

While there are many inter-sport relationships involving tennis stars, there are two couples of tennis players that were some of the very best in their time. Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi must be the most decorate couple in tennis; the pair possess over 150 titles between them, including 30 grand slams singles titles – Steffi with 22 and Andre with 8. While retirement was looming for Graf by the time the couple got together, Agassi added an additional four titles to add to his previously completed Career Slam before retiring in 2006. In 2005, Agassi even managed to break his own wife’s record at the Miami Masters, overtaking her record of five titles by earning his sixth with victory over Carlos Moya. The pair first met at the 1992 Wimbledon Champions’ Ball, where the now famous photograph of the pair was taken, with Agassi sporting his now infamous mullet.

Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi at Wimbledon ’92 Champions Ball

Kim Clijsters and Lleyton Hewitt had a four year relationship even getting engaged, before the pair split up in 2004. Affectionately dubbed by Australians “Aussie Kim”, the young Clijsters was slamless in this time while Hewitt became US Open and Wimbledon champion in ’01 and ’02 respectively with convincing finals victories. The pair also made the Mixed Doubles final in 2000 but were defeated in straight sets. After the split Kim went on to become a quadruple slam winner, however the majority of these were after her comeback from a 2007 retirement. Hewitt definitely suffered from the emergence of Roger Federer on the ATP Tour, losing to him seven times in a row at Grand Slams with the Swiss making the final every single time he had beat the Aussie. While Kim was slamless during this period, she did reach the No. 1 spot in the rankings as a 20 year-old in 2003 and there is no doubt that she matured as a player in this time picking up plenty of titles and the No. 1 spot in doubles.

Other notable tennis relationships include Iveta Benesova and Jurgen Melzer. The pair teamed up both off and on the court, even earning themselves the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles title, with Benesova’s singles form improving for a short period of time. It seems Melzer is no stranger to the leading ladies on the tour having previously dating 2004 French Open champion Anastasia Myskina and also Nicole Vaidisova, the latter of which is now married to fellow Czech Radek Stepanek.

Personally, I am sceptical of the idea that relationships are to blame for a loss of form. In the case of Wozniacki, I just feel that a lack of a plan B has hit her hard and relying on opponents errors can only get you so far. As seen even before Rory was on the scene, when a big hitter has been on their “A” game she has struggled and she cannot generate enough offense to fight back. She is young enough to come back and learn from it, so I think she can definitely re-enter the top 5 but to go any further much more progress is needed at the slams. Along with New Haven, where she is a four-times winner her most consistent performances come in the US Open with a semi final place or better each of the last three years so this could be just the thing to reignite her struggling year.

Do you think that having a famous sporting partner can distract your performance? Feel free to post comments below!

Weekly Roundup: The Week’s Winners

A quick look at the week’s winners…

ATP Challenger Tour

Thomas Bellucci picked up the Braunschweig singles title with a 7-6(4) 6-3 win over Tobias Kamke while Polish pairing Tomasz Bednarek and Mateusz Kowalczyk picked up the Doubles trophy winning 7-5 6-7 10-8 for their second victory as a pairing this year.

Unseeded Guido Andreozzi notched another shock in the Lima final over Facundo Arguello, making it three seeds he has defeated on his way to becoming the champion, this time with a 6-3 6-7(6-8) 6-2 victory for his first Challenger title. Arguello wasn’t so unlucky in the doubles though, as he and partner Agustin Velotti defeated Italian pair Luca Vanni and Claudio Grassi in two tiebreak sets 7-6(4) 7-6(5).

John Patrick-Smith  is another first time winner on the Challenger tour, defeating Richard Berankis 3-6 6-3 7-6(3) to take the Winnetka title. He wasn’t so fortunate in the doubles though, being on the losing side of a three set encounter with Devin Britton and Jeff Dadamo who took the title 1-6 6-2 10-6.

Unlike his young compatriots at Wimbledon Peter Polansky had a weekend to forget in Panama City. He was beaten convincingly by Rogerio Dutra da Silva 3 and 0 in the Singles final and didn’t fare much better with his parter Daniel Kosakowski in the Doubles against Júlio César Campozano and Alejandro González who took the final 6-4 7-5.

In Arad, Victor Hanescu was unable to hold on to a 1st set lead, losing 5 games in a row from 4-1 up to Facundo Bagnis who gained his 2nd Challenger title with a 6-4 6-4 victory. It was an all Croatian affair in the final as Nikola Mektic and Antonio Veic took the Doubles title with a 7-6(5) 4-6 10-3 win over Marin Draganja and Dino Marcan.

ITF Men’s Pro Circuit Results

Romania F5 Futures Jordi SAMPER-MONTANA (ESP) [1]     6-3 3-6(6) 7-6(5)     Theodoros ANGELINOS (GRE)

Netherlands F4 Futures Matwe MIDDELKOOP (NED) [5]     4-6 6-2 6-3     Niels DESEIN (BEL) [8]

Italy F16 Futures Nicolas PASTOR (ARG) [1]     6-4 6-3     Sandro EHRAT (SUI) [8]

Great Britain F9 Futures Albano OLIVETTI (FRA) [2]    7-5 6-1    Josh GOODALL (GBR) [1]

Serbia F4 Futures Ivan BJELICA (SRB) [1]     7-6(3) 6-4     Vladimir OBRADOVIC (SRB) [4]

Argentina F16 Futures Leandro MIGANI (ARG) [1]    6-1 6-1 Hernan CASANOVA (ARG)

Indonesia F2 Futures Yuichi SUGITA (JPN) [1]     6-2 7-5     Ti CHEN (TPE) [2]

Brazil F16 Futures Nicolas Gustavo KAUER (CHI)     6-2 6-1     Daniel DUTRA DA SILVA (BRA) [8]

Armenia F1 Futures Arthur DE GREEF (BEL) [5]     6-0 6-1     Nikoloz BASILASHVILI (RUS) [6]

Belgium F2 Futures Yannik REUTER (BEL) [5]     5-7 7-6(8) 7-6(1)     Juan Carlos SAEZ (CHI) [7]

USA F18 Futures Alex BOGDANOVIC (GBR) [1]     6-2 6-4     Matheson KLEIN (AUS)

Canada F3 Futures Nikita KRYVONOS (USA)     6-3 4-6 6-4 Nicolas MEISTER (USA) [4]  

Turkey F26 Futures Sergio GUTIERREZ-FERROL (ESP) [1] 6-1 6-4 Miljan ZEKIC (SRB) [2]

Spain F19 Futures Brydan KLEIN (AUS) [2]     6-2 6-2     Jules MARIE (FRA) [3]

France F12 Futures Pierre-Hugues HERBERT (FRA) [3]     7-6(8) 7-5     David GUEZ (FRA) [5]

Germany F8 Futures Uladzimir IGNATIK (BLR) [2]     6-4 7-6(3)     Jan MINAR (CZE) [6]

ITF Women’s Pro Circuit Results

100k Biella Johanna LARSSON (SWE) [7]     6-3 6-4     Anna TATISHVILI (GEO) [3]

50k Denver Nicole GIBBS (USA)        6-2 3-6 6-4      Julie COIN (FRA)

50k Versmold Annika BECK (GER)     6-3 6-1     Anastasija SEVASTOVA (LAT)

25k Denain Kristina KUCOVA (SVK) [5]     6-2 1-6 6-2     Michaela HONCOVA (SVK)

25k Torun Danka KOVINIC (MNE)     6-3 4-6 6-3     Paula KANIA (POL)

25k Middleburg Kirsten FLIPKENS (BEL) [2]     6-1 6-0     Aravane REZAI (FRA) [1]

15k Huzhu Chang LIU (CHN) [8]     6-3 6-4     Kai-Lin ZHANG (CHN) [5]

15k Rovereto Timea BACSINSZKY (SUI) [7]     6-0 6-2     Anne SCHAEFER (GER) [2]

10k Brussels Natalia RYZHONKOVA (RUS)     6-2 Retired    Karolina WLODARCZAK (AUS) [2]

10k Istanbul Melis SEZER (TUR) [1]     7-6(5) 6-4     Sandra ROMA (SWE)

10k New Delhi Miyabi INOUE (JPN) [3]     6-2 6-2     Ankita RAINA (IND) [8]

10k Pattaya Luksika KUMKHUM (THA) [1]     6-2 6-2     Nungnadda WANNASUK (THA) [4]

10k Prokuplje Victoria KAN (RUS) [5]     6-1 6-2     Maria MOKH (RUS)

10k Sharm-el Sheikh Anna MORGINA (RUS) [8]     6-3 6-1     Kamila KERIMBAYEVA (KAZ) [3]

 

Not to forget these two…

(Photo: Getty Images)

Shanghai Heights

Andy Murray wins Japan Open 2011 over Nadal Following the conclusion of the Shanghai Masters, Andy Murray will rise to number three in the world after taking the title in China as part of his immense end-of-season form.

The Brit has now won three consecutive titles to surpass Roger Federer as the world’s third best player. It’s the first time Federer has been outside the top three since winning Wimbledon in 2003.

If Murray can build on that and finish the year-end rankings at No.3 then it could be hugely significant for the future of men’s tennis.

Federer is clearly in decline having not won a Grand Slam title since the 2010 Australian Open and the chances of him adding to his 16-strong tally are getting exceedingly unlikely at the age of 30.

For 24-year-old Murray, he is now in a very strong position. Should he make the third spot his own, his opponent in any future Grand Slam semi-final will most likely turn out to be Novak Djokovic.

Though playing the current world number one sounds daunting Murray has had a decent record over the Serb in the past. Djokovic was something of a surprise package this year having only won two majors in his career before 2011 to now holding three of the four.

That surprise element won’t be at his disposal next year and Murray can learn from Djokovic’s ability to convert a No.3 spot in the world to the top during the winter break.

The ultimatum of winning a major is still a great one with Djokovic’s currently unstoppable form and Rafael Nadal waiting in the wings but at least the greatest player of all time looks to be going in the opposite direction to help him out.

Elsewhere in Shanghai, there was a great run from Japan’s Kei Nishikori – a player Ace of Baseline has been tracking all year.

The 21-year-old reached his first Masters semi-final after wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Alexandr Dolgopolov before being beaten by Murray.

Nishikori will now become the highest ranked male Japanese player of all time beating Shuzo Matsuoka’s record of No.46 which he’d already equalled. He’s now expected to be just outside the top 30.

Another player who’s enjoyed success this year is Bernard Tomic who defeated the second top 10 player of his career when he took out Mardy Fish in the second round.

Ryan Harrison lost at the same stage to Matthew Ebden having beaten Viktor Troicki in the previous round.

Grigor Dimitrov

Last week at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham I reluctantly purchased a programme for £5 to pile on top of the expenses of my four-day Parisian venture.

Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli were featured inside despite not partaking in the tournament whilst Ana Ivanovic wasn’t despite making the semi-finals. The joys of an ever-changing sporting landscape.

Luckily the advertisement-filled glossy proved a decent buy thanks to a three-page section entitled “The Next Generation”. You can see why it would be of some interest.

In it, there were six players (three from either sex) whom we are told to “keep an eye on”.

I arrogantly told my accompanying friend I’d been tracking Bojana Jovanovski, Heather Watson and Milos Raonic since the early days of this blog and had also covered Alexandr Dolgopolov and Christina McHale in some capacity too. But the one I hadn’t mentioned at all on here was Grigor Dimitrov.

This is how they described the Bulgarian:

Sees himself as a future world no.1 and believes he has no weaknesses. Former coach Peter Lundgren, who helped Roger Federer to his first Grand Slam title, has said that Dimitrov is a better player as a teenager than the Swiss was in his teens.

Without wanting to reach cocky-level again, I did know of Dimitrov before but thought against writing a post or checking his progress at Grand Slams or on tour.

Yet he’s being compared to Roger Federer? A closer inspection, therefore, is a must.

So far Dimitrov has reached a peak of #63 (on his 20th birthday no less) and hasn’t moved much from that position achieved a month ago, dropping just one place.

He’s quite a tall player at 6’2” and possesses the element that draws the Federer comparisons, the one-handed backhand.

His best achievements have been the boys’ singles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open which led to his junior world ranking of number one. Federer didn’t succeed with the middle of these three triumphs but did reach the final at Flushing Meadows losing to David Nalbandian.

And this is where the career paths begin to shift in opposite directions. Dimitrov has yet to win an ATP World Tour title or make a mark on the Grand Slam stage at senior level.

Comparing him to the greatest player of all time is daunting. Looking at his chances compared to his fellow prospects shows he’s still in with a chance of making it, albeit not to Federer’s level.

Also featured next to Dimitrov were Raonic and Dolgopolov. The former just turned 20 when he made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open before going on to win his first ATP World Tour title in San Jose whilst the latter made it to the last eight in Melbourne as a 21-year-old.

Therefore the next few months are going to be critical for Dimitrov. Raonic and Dolgopolov are now established top 50 players and earning seeding positions.

If Dimitrov is to make half as much impact as Federer he’ll have to catch up with the aforementioned duo rapidly. With the grass court season upon us, he may just do that but improving his return of serve is critical having only won 18% of 154 return games played this year.

Certainly, I’ll be looking out for him more in the next 12 months. The Federer backhand is the most wonderful stroke in the sport and to see it executed for another ten years at the top of the game via the hands of Dimitrov would be a delight.

The decline of Roger Federer

Finale Roland Garros 2009 : Roger Federer Roger Federer should quit tennis by the end of the year.

His latest quarter-final defeat to the hands of Austrian Jurgen Melzer at the Monte Carlo Masters has proven how far he’s fallen.

Having already lost his number one world ranking to Rafael Nadal, the 16-time Grand Slam winner has dropped to number three in the world and looks more likely to fall further than return to his former glory.

It’s a sad state of affairs for the Swiss. Many people, me included, would say he’s the best player in tennis history so for his sake he should retire rather than turn into a Lleyton Hewitt.

Pete Sampras left the sport around the same age as Federer is now after winning the 2002 US Open and was remembered in such high esteem despite a similar bad patch during the turn of the millennium.

One hopes Federer can also produce one more triumph before retirement but here’s how I see the 29-year-old’s season from here.

He’ll no doubt lose at the French Open. Before it was always to Nadal in the final but the likelihood is he will fall at the quarter-finals or semis.

When he then loses at his beloved Wimbledon again the mind will then creep towards retirement. Losing to Tomas Berdych in last year’s quarter-finals was a huge shock and if he does something similar in 2011 it could spell the end.

Another tournament he’s always been dominant in is the US Open. Novak Djokovic has proven unstoppable on the hard courts during the early stages of this season and that may well see him crowned winner at Flushing Meadows should he continue his fine form on his charge to number one.

Come the time when the ATP World Tour Finals is set to take place Federer may have won a few more singles titles but his previous dominance will have diminished.

The chances are he’ll want to say goodbye to Wimbledon’s centre court so one more send-off year could happen but the end of the Federer reign is undeniably here.

Looking at it from a different perspective, what does that mean for the rest of the ATP tour? It certainly gives the likes of Andy Murray a chance of a first Slam and Juan Martin Del Potro the chance of more.

Djokovic and Nadal may be fantastic players but they’ve never really had a dominating career like the one Federer has had. Djokovic is reaping the benefits of Federer’s decline already and others could follow.

Whilst every major had Nadal or Federer as clear favourites some more of the top ten will be fancied in this new era of tennis.

As unfortunate a loss to tennis as Roger Federer is, it will blow the men’s tennis field a little bit more open.


Some classic Federer from his 2010 US Open fourth round tie against Brian Dabul

The Curious Case of Ernests Gulbis

Ernests Gulbis

Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis should be in the world’s top 10, if not for his tennis skills then certainly for his crazy antics.

At the age of 22, he’s already been to jail in Sweden after an incident involving a prostitute and on court breaks more rackets than a noise officer.

Novak Djokovic is the only top player with a bit of spunk. He’s become a star via two Grand Slam titles and an increasingly popular internet career thanks partly to some hilarious impressions at the US Open (and Ace of Baseline also recommends his advert for Head).

“Ernie” is even more wilder than the in-form Serb but the potential for even more scenes like the ones from Djokovic are hindered by his poor performances on the big stages.

First round defeats have been next to Gulbis’ name in major tournaments since the 2009 US Open and he has won only one ATP tour title. His record against top 10 players is also appalling.

Yet Gulbis did reach the quarter finals of the French Open three years ago so the talent is there, particularly on clay.

What’s missing is the attitude to make it to the top. Most players who suffer a setback use the same line of trying harder in practice but for Gulbis he’d rather not bother with it.

There’s also a case he may not even care about performing to the crowd but we’ll never know until we see him on a regular basis.

A friend of Marat Safin, the two have drawn comparisons by their casual approach to the sport, somewhat refreshing but it doesn’t garnish that much success.

Another problem facing Gulbis is he’s a bit of a headcase. On the prostitute fiasco, an alleged solicitation attempt, he commented that everyone should experience jail once in their lives with six hours of his spent behind bars.

Gulbis didn’t know of his lady friend’s career choice because he didn’t ask and after a fine he was free to go. On court he’s known to get frustrated quite often and destroying his racket heads in the process.

It’s a shame really that Gulbis isn’t seen more by the public. When beating Roger Federer after missing six match points he said in an interview “I was shitting in my pants”. Just imagine the kind of things he’d come out with. He’s the kind of guy who’d snog Sue Barker on-air for a laugh.

The game needs more characters and the public will be grateful if Gulbis can one day match the feats of Djokovic on and off centre court.

And of course we’ll be watching, in Ernests.

%d bloggers like this: