Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 SEASON WRAP: Matches of the Year

This is definitely long overdue, but now that I am finally back in Cairo for a few days, the nostalgic feeling I got when I switched on my laptop in my very comfortable bed at home, drove me to look back at the 2009 tennis season and these are the moments that stood out:

Matches of the Year

Gael Monfils vs Rafael Nadal
Qatar Open quarterfinals

The Frenchman posted his first victory over Nadal and although that match was during the first week of the season, its unbelievable rallies are still fresh in mind. The acrobatic Monfils showed some ruthless form to earn that 6-4,6-4 win over the then, top-ranked Nadal.

Rafael Nadal vs Fernando Verdasco
Australian Open semifinals

In one of the longest matches in the history of the Australian Open, Nadal fought off a blasting Verdasco for 5 hours and 14 minutes to post a 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, win over his Davis Cup teammate, and reach the Australian Open final for the very first time. Less than 2 days later, Nadal went on to win another epic 5-setter, against his archrival, Roger Federer, to claim the first Grand Slam of the season. Verdasco saved 16 out of 20 break opportunities against Nadal, and hit a jaw-dropping 95 winners, yet still couldn't stop his compatriot.

Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic
Madrid Masters semifinals

Playing their third straight clay Masters 1000 final, the competition between those two players had reached its very peak and the result was the longest best-of-three Masters match ever.
Having lost the Monte Carlo and Rome finals to Nadal, Djokovic played the first set in Madrid with such a vengeance that left the spectators in no doubt, that he would finally conquer Rafa on clay. But the way Nadal bounced back and squeezed past Djokovic in the third-set tiebreak, forced the Spaniard to celebrate the victory as if he had won the whole event. It was the match that possibly destroyed Nadal's knees for the season, but will be remembered nonetheless as one of the best matches of the year.

Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick
Wimbledon final

It may not have been as long as Federer's Wimbledon final against Nadal the previous year, nor were the rallies as intense, but this match was mind-blowing in many aspects. This was the third time Roddick had faced Federer in a Wimbledon final, and the American seemed determined to shatter Federer's clean record against him in Grand Slam finals. Roddick entered this match having dispatched tournament and home favorite, Andy Murray. He was moving in a way we hadn't seen him move before on the grass at the All England Club and when he won that first set, I honestly believed he had a real chance of winning.

Federer ended up winning the 4-hour, 16-minute battle, 5-7, 7-6(6), 7-6(5), 3-6, 16-14. The Swiss fired 107 winners including 50 aces, yet had his service broken more times than Roddick during the match. Roddick's resilience and mental strength were praise-worthy as he held serve throughout the entire match all the way until the 77th game, where he eventually faltered and was broken at 14-14 in the fifth set. The match culminated with the triumph of Federer winning his 15th Grand Slam title and breaking Pete Sampras' record.

Juan Martin Del Potro vs Roger Federer
US Open final

A tennis season wouldn't be complete without a mind-boggling upset, and when it comes in the form of a US Open final, and Federer is the person suffering the upset from a first-time Grand Slam finalist, well that simply says it all. Del Potro's 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 win over Federer, halted the Swiss' 41-match winning streak in New York, and meant that for the first time in 32 years, a South American player became the US Open champion. It also meant that he joined Djokovic, as only 1 of 2 players who managed to win a Grand Slam off Nadal or Federer since Safin won the 2005 Australian Open.

Marat Safin vs Nikolay Davydenko

Kremlin Cup 1st round

This match may not have been as huge as the rest, but it was Safin's last appearance in his home tournament in Moscow before his retirement and he was playing his compatriot and good friend, Davydenko. Davydenko was coming off a great title win in Shanghai where he beat Nadal, and Safin was having a dismal year. The shots we saw from the 2-time Grand Slam champion that day, reminded us all of his unmatched talent, and although Safin lost in the very next round, his match against Davydenko will definitely be remembered as the one match Safin gave his all in 2009.

GSM's pick:

Nadal vs Verdasco - Australian Open semis

What about you...? Vote below!

VIDEO: Rafael Nadal reflects on his 2009 season (IB3 Report)

The Past is not Eternal!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Justine Henin to Face Nadia Petrova in Exo in Cairo

Former world number 1, Justine Henin, is set to face world number 20, Nadia Petrova, in an exhibition match in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on December 12th.

The Belgian star was set to play an exo in Dubai, but it was canceled and will now face Petrova at the Gezira Sporting Club in Cairo.

Petrova, who reached a career high of number 3 back in 2006, started her tennis career in Cairo, where she spent most of her youth training, since her parents were athletics coaches there.

Petrova and Henin have met on 13 previous occasions, where the Russian only managed to win twice.

Henin just won an exhibition match against her compatriot Kirsten Flipkens in Charleroi in straight sets, and will make her official return to the tour - after her 18-month retirement- in Brisbane next January.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

VIDEO: Players say goodbye to Marat Safin

I don't know if it is possible to overuse the word 'charismatic' when describing Marat Safin. I don't think it is.

Today is a very sad day for tennis. An emotional one to say the least. Marat Safin, one of the most adored players to ever hit the tennis courts, was handed his very final defeat by the hands of Juan Martin Del Potro, in the Paris Masters second round on Wednesday.

Like Stepanek said in the video above, and like hundreds of tennis experts have said before him; on a good day, Marat Safin can beat anyone!

Although Safin hasn't broken any records like Federer, hasn't won as many Slams as Sampras or Agassi, nor has he shown the tenacity like that of Nadal's, the Russian is indisputably one of the most gifted tennis players to ever compete in the game, and his wild personality just added to his appeal, making him without a doubt, one of the most memorable characters we have had the privilege to watch.

I don't think we will witness someone like him again on court, but he sure has given us a hell of a lot of memories and moments to remember him by.

Au revoir Marat!!!

Some footage from the farewell ceremony in Bercy:

Share you favorite Marat moment, tantrum, quote... Whatever you've got. Hit me up in the comments section!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Safin's last chance to impress in Russia

Former world number one, and soon-to-be-retiring, Marat Safin, is playing his very last tournament in Russia this week in St. Petersburg, where he will face former top-tenner, Richard Gasquet, in the first round on Wednesday.

Safin, who treated us to an exceptional first round match against his compatriot, Nikolay Davydenko, in Moscow's first round last week, before falling to Evgeny Korolev in the following round, will be looking to extend his 3-2 H2H record lead over Gasquet.

The two have met earlier this year in Dubai, where the Frenchman defeated Safin in a tight 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 match.

Safin, a two-time champion in St. Petersburg (2000, 2001), will play his final tournament of his career in Bercy, Paris; where he has had tremendous success winning titles in 2000, 2002 and 2004, after reaching the finals on debut in 1999. I don't think anywhere else could be more fit for his farewell!

In the meantime, here's a video of Safin and Teimuraz Gabashvili visiting the Warm Home Charity Foundation, which takes care of children from troubled families, on Tuesday.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nadal gets crushed in Beijing semis, Next stop Shanghai

Rafael Nadal's perfect record in Beijing got shattered on Saturday after the world number two suffered a humbling 6-1, 6-3, loss to 8th-seed, Marin Cilic in the China Open semifinals on Friday.

The Spaniard, who won the China Open title in 2005 and the Gold medal at the Beijing Olympics last year, couldn't match his excellent performance that saw him oust Marat Safin in the quarters, as Cilic proved too strong of an opponent for him.

"I played worst for sure than the last 2 days and he played well. First he didn’t give me lots of options. I can lose for sure against one player. Cilic is good and has good serve. I can accept to win and I can accept to lose but mentally probably I wasn’t there. If you’re losing 6-1, 6-3 then there’s something wrong," said Nadal after his loss.

"I can do better next time. I must do."

Meanwhile Cilic believed his resilience was the main key to his success against Rafa:

"He [Rafa] played some great tennis. From the beginning of the match to end I didn’t let my level of play drop. With more confidence and not giving him too much time to adjust. And I was aggressive when I had to be. In the second set when he came back the match wasn’t easy but I think I kept with what I did in the first set and the best thing was that I didn’t back off and I was just stubborn with my style of play."

Cilic, who reached the quarterfinals at the US Open last month, will face 2nd seed, Novak Djokovic, in the final.

The tour's next stop is the ATP World Tour 1000 event in Shanghai (no longer home of the Masters Cup).

Rafa could have a tough first match in Shanghai since he awaits the winner of the first round clash between James Blake (who gave Rafa a tough time in Beijing) and serving machine, Ivo Karlovic.

The top seed could face the likes of Gael Monfils or Fernando Verdasco in the quarters should he make it that far, and could face Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, or Robin Soderling in the semis.

On the other side of the draw, second seed, Djokovic, could face a tricky second round opponent, Ernests Gulbis. The Serb's quarter of the draw also includes Tommy Haas (potential 3rd round opponent), Marat Safin, Gilles Simon, Cilic, and Tomas Berdych, who are all possible quarterfinalists up against Djokovic.

Should Djokovic follow up his strong showing in Beijing with another one in Shanghai, the soon to be world number 3 might have to overcome the likes of Nikolay Davydenko or Andy Roddick in the semis first.

Interesting first round match-ups in Shanghai include:

David Ferrer [16] vs Richard Gasquet
John Isner vs Lleyton Hewitt
James Blake vs Ivo Karlovic
Juan Carlos Ferrero vs Radek Stepanek [13]
Marin Cilic [12] vs Tomas Berdych

THIS JUST IN: Barcelona to host Davis Cup final

According to Marca, Barcelona has finally been selected to host the Davis Cup final scheduled to take place between Spain and the Czech Republic between the 4th and 6th of December.

After all the bickering between the players who were arguing over Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona, the Palau Sant Jordi (St. George Palace) has been chosen as the venue for the finals, in the Catalan city.

The Spaniards should be happy since the last time they played the finals in that same venue, they won the 2000 Davis Cup against an Australian squad that included Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter.

The Palau Sant Jordi arena was one of the main venues in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics and can hold up to 17600 spectators.

Beijing says goodbye to Safin after falling to Nadal in quarters

Top seed, Rafael Nadal, put an end to Marat Safin's run at the China Open in Beijing on Friday, as the Spaniard proved too strong for the soon-to-be-retiring Safin.

They're both former world number ones, both former Beijing champions, and both belong to the elite group of those who are arguably the most gifted tennis players to ever play the game, and they had only met once before, prior to Friday's quarterfinal. So we should consider ourselves lucky that we were rewarded with this match-up only weeks before Safin quits the game for good.

Despite Nadal winning comfortably 6-3, 6-1 in only a little over an hour, the match was far from a snoozefest and Safin made it quite competitive actually. Rafa was extremely focused though and whatever Marat threw at him, the world number 2 knew exactly what to do (including an acrobatic fall to the ground to dodge a shot from Safin).

The match had such a nice feel to it especially when both players approached the net to shake hands with huge smiles on their faces. Yes Safin was smiling!!

Although the Russian repeatedly said he wasn't interested in any farewell ceremonies until his very last tournament, the Chinese ended up throwing him a small farewell shindig anyway (see videos below).

It's awfully sad to see Safin play his last few matches, particularly when he's playing such good tennis like he played in Beijing this week.

The remaining stops on Safin's farewell tour are Shanghai, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Paris.

Rafa's semifinal opponent will be 8th seed, Marin Cilic, who disposed of Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets earlier on Friday.

I don't know how many times am gonna keep saying this but Marat, you will be missed!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

BEIJING - Marat Safin sets up Nadal quarterfinal showdown, Is he saving the best for last?

Former world number 1, Marat Safin, who is retiring from tennis end of this season, posted a fantastic 6-3, 6-4, victory over seventh-seed, Fernando Gonzalez, in the China Open second round on Thursday, to book himself a spot in the quarterfinals.

The Russian who is currently at 59 in the world rankings, had lost his last 4 matches to Gonzalez in straight sets, had not won back-to-back matches since July in Los Angeles (a feat he only managed to achieve only one other time this season, back in the Aussie Open), and was 0 in 6 against top 20 players this season heading into this match. So you can imagine my disbelief when I saw Safin (recently know as Mr. Meltdown) closing out this match in utter confidence.

Safin, who won the title in Beijing in 2004 on his sole other appearance in the Chinese capital, served 12 aces against Gonzalez and served a healthy 62% first serves in. I don't think I've seen Safin play this loosely all year. He was focused, confident and calm against the Chilean; something very refreshing to see although it's kind of sad to see this sharp form from Safin only a few weeks away from his retirement.

The juicy part is yet to come though... Safin's quarterfinal opponent is none other than top seed, Rafael Nadal, who had to fight hard against James Blake to earn himself a spot in the last eight. Safin and Nadal had only met once before on tour and that was 2 years ago in the Canada Masters, which Nadal won 7-6, 6-0.

I can't wait to see this match. I'll definitely be rooting for both and I really hope it'll be a tight one. Any chance Marat still has some fight in him for this one??! We find out Friday.

Other Friday quarterfinal matchups include Fernando Verdasco [6] vs Novak Djokovic [2] and Nikolay Davydenko [4] vs Marin Cilic [8].

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Nadal consoles Spain after Olympics bid loss, Kuerten celebrates Brazilian triumph

World number 2, Rafael Nadal, who is in Beijing preparing for the China Open next week, released a statement on his official website after Madrid lost the 2016 Olympics bid in the final round to Rio de Janeiro on Friday.

The Spaniard's reaction to the result was exactly what one would expect from him; graceful, proud and sportsmanlike:

“Keep your head up high, we were very close. We made it to the final round and now we have to stay close to each other and support the organizers of our campaign more than ever.” 

“We knew there could only be one winner at the end and unfortunately it wasn’t us. Nevertheless, the key is to keep on fighting.”

“Personally, I couldn’t make it to Copenhagen to support Madrid’s bid because my profession didn’t allow me. But I was glued to the TV last night watching the live broadcast”.

“I know next time we will win because we deserve it. Madrid deserves it and as it has always been the case, I will be there to help as much as I possibly can for whatever you need”.

“Finally, as the good sportsmen that we are, we should also congratulate Rio de Janeiro and Brazilians. We wish them the best of luck with the organization of the Olympic Games.” 

Meanwhile, Brazilian former world number 1, Gustavo Kuerten, who attended the election ceremony in Copenhagen, was thrilled by his country's victory:

“It is amazing... Some years ago this chance seemed so far [away], but I believed that Brazil was getting prepared to face this new opportunity."

“I think that we [have] got everything quite will organized, and as a consequence we will have the chance to develop all kinds of sports in our country.”

So the Olympics are in Rio in 2016, and the Fifa World Cup is in Brazil in 2014. Which one would you prefer attending?

I say both :D

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Does anyone really enjoy the tennis after the US Open?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to sense that the post-US Open tennis season is pretty much a downer. First there are those ATP World Tour 250 events that no one really cares about. I’d like to call them the low self-esteem tourneys, where players who haven’t won a title in a while, go and feel good about themselves (exhibit A, Gael Monfils in Metz today, ended a 4-year title drought).

Then there’s the Asian swing which most top players attempt to make, but end up pulling out cuz their bodies are worn out (the jetlag alone must be a nightmare). They did however manage to squeeze in a Masters 1000 event over there in Shanghai, but am not sure if it’s a required event or not, so I’ll hold off the mocking until I see the confirmed players list.

Then we’re back to the lame 250s but this time it’s just in way colder cities and the players are even more tired. At that point they’re trying to convince us that the tennis is getting hotter cuz players are fighting for spots in the Masters Cup in London. Then again, how many players can actually fight for a spot in the top 8 when 5 spots have been filled already? And even when players make it, some of them pull out injured and people like Stepanek get a free pass to the Cup as an alternate (remember last year?).

Two ATP 500 events are to take place before the Paris Masters and the Cup in London, which are Valencia (bumped from the spring season disguised as an indoor event) and Basel, a.k.a Federer’s personal playground. It’s not that much fun when you already know who’s gonna win, but anyhow…

So am just wondering, does anyone really watch that much tennis after the US Open? I admit that some cool stuff happened in the past during the indoor season, like Nalbandian’s crazy back-to-back Masters Series wins recording upsets over Federer, Rafa and Nole, and like that time Federer talked about his d**k in his on-court interview in Basel, but what are the chances stuff like that happen again?!?! Very slim I must say. The one thing am actually looking forward to myself is watching the Davis Cup finals in Spain, hoping that the Czechs will put up a fight but still lose in the end.

So while, us tennis fans, wait around hoping for something interesting to happen before the season ends (besides anticipating Justine Henin's exact comeback date), we could always check out the WTA and witness yet another Ana Ivanovic humbling loss. That's very refreshing am I right?!?!

Notice how as the season moves along, the trophies/trophy ceremonies get creepier and creepier!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

DAVIS CUP SEMIS: Stepanek fights off 78 aces from Karlovic, Spain leads Israel 2-0

The Czechs dug really deep to prevail 2-0 on day one of the Davis Cup semifinal tie between the Czech Republic and Croatia.

I don't really know how Radek Stepanek did it, but somehow the Czech endured a 6 hour match against towering Croat, Ivo Karlovic, who slammed past Stepanek a new record of 78 aces yet still managed to lose the match, despite holding 4 match points.

Karlovic breaks his own record of most aces per match in the same way Usain Bolt breaks his own world record for the 100m sprint; both leave us in disbelief as they improve on their own records with surreal margins (Karlovic's old record was 55 aces).

My question is: How do you hit 78 aces yet still manage to lose a match? Or more like, how do you face 78 aces yet still manage to break serve and prevail after 6 hours, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-7, 16-14?

I haven't seen the match but somehow I am certain it was pretty boring. The tie-break sets and the ace count say it all.

“I am very happy that I was able to pull it through... The match was going crazy; we were not able to break each other. I was the one who was using more fitness. He had 4 match points in the 5th set but I stayed mentally strong and it paid off at the end. You can’t live through bigger emotions than Davis Cup and this match just proved it.”

This match says a lot about Stepanek, who together with Tomas Berdych, have put Czech Republic in an excellent position to close in on the final.

Berdych overcame US Open quarterfinalist, Marin Cilic, 6-3, 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, to make it 2-0 for the Czechs. Again this scoreline shows resilience from Berdych, who managed to close the match despite Cilic's comeback from 2 sets to love down.

So kudos to the Czech duo for pulling off some awesome victories. Now they are 1 rubber away from reaching the final.

Meanwhile, the Spaniards did not seem to be bothered by the absence of Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco from their semifinal squad as they eased to a 2-0 lead over Israel, as both Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer recorded straight sets wins.

From where we are right now, it looks like it'll be a Spain-Czech final... unless someone is really in the mood for a major comeback. We'll find out more after the doubles on Saturday.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Federer fined for swearing at umpire

Image via AFP

World number 1, Roger Federer, has been fined an amount of $1500 by the USTA, for using profanity while arguing with the umpire of his US Open final match against Juan Martin Del Potro.

I am still amazed by how little attention this incident has been getting, probably because JMDP's win is bigger than anything else that happened last week. But still, Roger Federer cussing on court and then getting a fine is quite disturbing; to me at least.

Of course Federer's incident definitely takes a backseat to Serena William's tantrum, which is clearly evident in the difference in fine amount (Williams was fined $10,000).

Federer is in Genoa, Italy, this weekend for the Davis Cup and has already helped Switzerland, along with Stanislas Wawrinka, to a 2-0 lead over the Italians in their World Group playoff tie.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

US OPEN VIDEO: Federer drops S-Bomb AND F-Bomb on umpire

For those of you who haven't seen the incident and need this scene set up for you, here's what happened:

Juan Martin Del Potro lost a game to Roger Federer when the Argentine's ball was called out, and as the players walked to their seats for the changeover, Del Potro decided to challenge the call instead of immediately asking for the challenge while the players were on court. So Federer decided to pull a "Serena" and went ballistic over the umpire's decision to allow the late challenge.

The dialogue between the world number 1 and the umpire includes:

"Don't tell me to be quiet okay? When I wanna talk I talk..."

"I don't give a sh** what he said..."

"Don't f***ing tell me the rules..."

I was completely shocked when I heard those words from Federer on live TV, in a Grand Slam final. I bet you even Del Potro was completely bewildered, which would explain the 2 double faults from the tall Argentine in the following game that handed Federer the third set.

How is it possible that suddenly Federer and Serena Williams have something in common other than their sponsor and their double-digit Grand Slam titles?!?! This is sooo not cool, Federer!!

US OPEN: Quote of the Day - Del Potro to Roger Federer

"I had two dreams this week. One was to win the US Open and the other one is to be like Roger. One is done, but I need to improve a lot to be like you."

-- US Open champion, Juan Martin Del Potro, graciously addresses Roger Federer, after defeating the 15-time Grand Slam champion in the final on Monday.

I was literally in tears when Del Potro spoke after the match. There is something epic about witnessing someone achieve their life-long dream, and watching Del Potro fall to the ground after outlasting Federer 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 in the US Open final on Monday, was just priceless.

So you can imagine how annoyed I was when Del Potro asked to say a few words in Spanish to his family and team, and was denied the chance so that they can present him with a freakin' Lexus. Luckily the Argentine insisted once again and was given the chance to speak, but I still can't believe that actually happened. The kid won the whole event for crying out loud, and they wouldn't give him a few minutes to speak?!?! Freakin' Yankees!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

US OPEN VIDEO: Federer hits a tweener to down Djokovic, Del Potro awaits in final

World number 1, Roger Federer, made it to his 6th straight US Open final, but this time he decided to hit a between-the-legs passing shot to set himself up with a triple match point in the semis, before makin' it to the finals.

Federer is not new to playing tricks on court, even at the US Open (remember the point against Tim Henman?), but hitting a shot like that against the 4th best player in the world, at this stage in the US Open, and at that point in a match to get 3 match points, that's just CRUEL man...!!

The reaction on Novak Djokovic's face was just pure bafflement!! Is that even a word?!?! I can't imagine how he felt but what a way for Federer to close on the final?!

Well he certainly has the intimidation factor covered, heading into the final, something he certainly needs given that he's got a giant 20-year-old awaiting in the championship match. A 20-year-old who is hitting the ball as hard and as clean as we've seen in a while, who is thirsty to grab a first victory over Federer, and a first Grand Slam title at his very favorite tennis tournament.

Yes Juan Martin Del Potro can be a threat even to the greatest player in the history of tennis.

The 6'6" world number 6 demolished a struggling Rafael Nadal in the semis on Sunday and is as ready as can be for his first Grand Slam final showdown. The last time he met Federer at a Slam was last June at Roland Garros, where he stretched the Swiss to 5 sets before surrendering. Of course Federer in New York is a way tougher Federer but let's just wait and see how things pan out.

Check here for Federer-Del Potro H2H summary.
The final is scheduled at 4pm NY time, 10pm Cairo time.

Clijsters Completes Dream Run, Wins 2009 US Open

Wildcard Kim Clijsters, defeated 9th-seed, Caroline Wozniacki, 7-5, 6-3, to win the 2009 US Open title, after only one month from her return to professional tennis. The Belgian, who quit tennis in 2007, got married and had a baby (which was the star of the night I must add), before she decided to show up again on tour, only to find out that staying away that long wasn't such a big deal afterall.

Clijsters beat both Serena and Venus Williams en route to the title, and now has 2 US Open titles to her name, since she had previously won back in 2005.

Kim just proved to everyone that you can really have it all. If Sunday's US Open triumph isn't inspirational to everyone, I don't know what is... Congratz Kim!!

More to follow...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

US OPEN VIDEO: Impressive Clijsters reaches final as Serena threatens line judge

The drama continues at the 2009 US Open as the women's semifinal between comeback mommy, Kim Clijsters, and the no-longer-defending-champion, Serena Williams. came to an abrupt and bizarre conclusion, when Williams was handed a penalty point at match point down, to lose the final 6-4, 7-5.

Williams had gotten a warning earlier in the match, when she smashed her racquet as an impressive Clijsters broke her at 5-4 to grab the first set.

The American was up a break early in the second set but Clijsters broke back immediately to level the set. The duo exchanged breaks again until at 5-6, 15-30 down, on second serve, Serena was given a foot-fault to set up a match point for Clijsters. That's when a furious Serena seemed to repeatedly direct some angry comments towards the line judge, who was called to the umpire's chair and reported that Serena had said something along the lines of "I'm going to kill you".

It looked like Serena said something about shoving the ball down the line judge's throat. As you will see in the video, Serena went to the umpire and the tournament referee, Brian Early, came out and she denied saying what was reported as she said "I never said I would kill you, are you serious?".

Serena then immediately went to the other side of the net to shake the hands of a bewildered Clijsters and walked off the court amidst chaotic boos coming from the crowd.

Turns out Serena was awarded a penalty point which ended the match, she didn't just forfeit the match.

Check the video here:

Ok it sucks to get a questionable foot-fault at a time like that in a match, but Serena clearly deserved the penalty point due to her conduct towards the line judge. It's normal for her to get furious, but after all those years of playing on tour, she should know better, and that's that!

As for Clijsters, I certainly feel for her because she couldn't even celebrate her incredible achievement in reaching the finals, eliminating Venus AND Serena along the way, on just her third tournament since her return to tennis. That is just huge, and the way she played last night will obviously be overshadowed by all this drama.

Still, she shouldn't think about that right now, since she actually has a chance of winning her second US Open title, as she faces 9th seed, Caroline Wozniacki, in the final on Sunday.

Speaking of overshadowed, you know what was completely ignored last night?!?! The Wozniacki-Wickmayer semifinal. The two players played in a virtually deserted Louis Armstrong stadium due to the scheduling that forced both semis to be played simultaneously.

Despite everything, I gotta say the US Open has been nothing but entertaining throughout this fortnight, now we should just hope for a great final, with no rain, on Arthur Ashe, and with plenty of spectators.

Whether Wozniacki clinches her maiden Grand Slam title on Sunday, or Clijsters' dream run continues and wins the Open, either way the WTA wins that's for sure.

Friday, September 11, 2009

UPDATED - US OPEN: Rain pushes Nadal, Gonzalez quarterfinal to Friday

So Rafael Nadal's US Open quarterfinal against 11th seed Fernando Gonzalez was postponed to Friday due to some pain-in-the-***-rain that forced play to get suspended twice until the decision was finally made to push the match to Friday.

The players walked off the court when the world number 3 (can I say 2 already?!) was up 7-6, 6-6, with Gonzalez ready to serve at 2-3 in the second set tie-break.

Nadal's abdomen problem seemed to flare up again in the match as he called the trainer between sets to attend to it. Despite Rafa's efforts in attempting to keep a straight face on court, someone somehow managed to catch the Spaniard wincing during his time with the trainer (see photo above).

The windy and cold conditions made it very hard for both players to play at their highest level, but still besides the first set tiebreak (which was hideous in every sense of the word), both players pushed each other pretty hard and as the scoreline indicates, the match was pretty tight.

The match is scheduled to be completed tomorrow after the semifinal between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters, which starts at 12:30pm NY time, 6:30pm Cairo time.

Despite Rafa's obvious distaste on court during the rain delays, this delay might benefit the Spaniard considering his injury woes. Maybe he can get that abdomen checked out before tomorrow. But still the bad news is, he left the site after midnight and will have to be on site again early tomorrow. So I guess that's not cool. Tomorrow will really depend on who gets least affected by all these circumstances.

Meanwhile, Juan Martin Del Potro recovered from a sluggish start against Marin Cilic in the other quarterfinal on Thursday, as the Argentine moved on to his second Grand Slam semi of the season, with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, win over the Croat.

Del Potro was actually a set and a break down, before he turned around a 1-3 deficit in the second set, to grab the set and the following two and book himself a semifinal berth against either Nadal or Gonzalez.

Chilling in the rain!

Wow, cool toys :)

Poor drying people, they kept doing that all night only for the match to get postponed!

UPDATE: Due to a horrible forecast the schedule has changed and the Rafa-Gonzo match will now be played on Louis Armstrong not before 15:30 NY time, 21:30 Cairo time. Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters will play their semifinal on Arthur Ashe at the same time, assuming it isn't going to be raining. The other semifinal between Yanina Wickmayer and Caroline Wozniacki will take place simultaneously on the Grand Stand.

LATEST UPDATE: All matches were moved to Saturday due to the rain. Nadal and Gonzalez are scheduled to play on Arthur Ashe at 12:00pm (NY time) on Saturday followed by the men's doubles final and the women's semifinals. Matches following Nadal and Gonzalez' quarterfinal are subject to be moved to Louis Armstrong. Check usopen.org for regular updates.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

US OPEN: Federer overcomes late surge from Soderling, Djokovic awaits in semis

Photo Credit: EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

So for the third straight year, Roger Federer will face Novak Djokovic at the US Open. Last year it was the semis, the year before it was the final, and this Saturday, the number 1 and 4 seeds shall meet in the 2009 US Open semifinals.

Federer had to overcome Sweden's Robin Soderling in the quarters to reach his 22nd straight Grand Slam semifinal.

I watched the first 2 sets of this match before I decided I couldn't bare the snoozefest anymore since Federer was up 6-0, 6-3, and was hitting the ball as clean as ever, while Soderling had zero solutions. So my question is: when exactly did this match get competitive??!?! Because even when I randomly switched back to catch the third set tiebreak, Soderling was down 0-3, so I switched to football once again assuming the match was over.

So you can imagine my surprise when a while later, I switched back to find Federer and Soderling tied on serve at 2-2 in the fourth set, and somehow the Swede found a way to get his shots in place and give Federer a run for his money.

The fourth set which also ended with a tiebreak was super tight as both players served canon balls from each side, but it only took one single mini-break at 7-6, for Federer to grab the W, and record his 12th straight win over Soderling (in case you were wondering, Soderling has zero wins over Federer).

So it's gonna be showdown number 13 between Federer and the Djoker, who trails the Swiss 4-8 in their head-to-head record. Djokovic however is 2-1 against Federer this year alone, including a hard court victory in Miami (before Federer's dream season began).

The two met as recent as last month in the Cincinnati final, where Federer beat Djokovic to clinch the title.

The two remaining quarterfinals will be played on Thursday, as Juan Martin Del Potro faces Marin Cilic third match from 11:00 a.m. (NY time) while Rafael Nadal faces Fernando Gonzalez at 7:00 pm (NY time).

Random Fact (courtesy of the ATP website):

World number 4, Djokovic, can rise to number 2 in the rankings, if he wins the US Open and if Nadal loses in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Far-fetched but good to know !!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

UPDATED - Video: Nadal, Monfils epic rally in US Open last 16

Rafael Nadal and Gael Monfils gave us almost 2 sets of some superhuman tennis before the Frenchman ran out of gas. I sure don't blame LeMonf considering the fact that the rally above was one of many epic ones during the first 2 sets.

The court coverage displayed by those two was just incredible, am just sad it didn't stay as competitive until the very end.

Rafa ended up winning 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. I guess we needn't be concerned about the knees, the abs, or anything of that sort... At least for now!

Vamos Rafa!

Check out this video from ESPN including some highlights and Rafa's on-court interview after the win:

US Open Men's Quarterfinals Preview - Who are you rooting for?

Novak Djokovic [4] vs Fernando Verdasco [10]

H2H: Djokovic 3-2
Last meeting: 2009 Masters Series Monte Carlo quarterfinals, Djokovic won 6-2, 4-6, 6-3

Roger Federer [1] vs Robin Soderling [12]

H2H: Federer 11-0
Last meeting: 2009 Wimbledon 4th round, Federer won 6-4, 7-6, 7-6

Rafael Nadal [3] vs Fernando Gonzalez [11]

H2H: Nadal 6-3
Last Meeting: 2009 Masters Series Rome, Nadal won 6-3, 6-3

Juan Martin Del Potro [6] vs Marin Cilic [16]

H2H: Del Potro 1-0
Sole previous meeting: 2009 Australian Open fourth round, Del Potro won 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

Notes on the quarterfinals

* Marin Cilic is the youngest quarterfinalist in the draw. He is one week younger than Del Potro. They both turn 21 this month.

* For the first time in US Open history, there are no Americans in the US Open quarterfinals. The last American to linger in the draw was John Isner, who lost to Verdasco in the 4th round.

* Rafael Nadal will recapture his number 2 spots in the world rankings come Monday, after Andy Murray suffered a 4th round loss to fierce Croat, Cilic.

* This is the third straight Grand Slam where Federer and Soderling will face off. They played the final at Roland Garros and the fourth round at Wimbledon. Needless to say Federer won both times.

* Djokovic has won the last 3 straight meetings against Verdasco. The last time Verdasco beat Djokovic on hard court was in the 2005 US Open third round.

* This will be the 10th encounter between Rafa and Gonzo. Rafa has won their last 5 meetings including faceoffs in the 2009 Australian Open and the Beijing Olympics last year (Rafa won both tournaments).

* This is Marin Cilic's first quarterfinal showing at a Grand Slam event.

* Federer is bidding for a sixth straight US Open title and a 16th Grand Slam trophy.

* Soderling will be featuring in his first US Open quarterfinal in 7 attempts. Before reaching the Roland Garros final earlier this year, the Swede had never surpassed the 3rd round at any Grand Slam event.

* This is Djokovic's third Grand Slam quarterfinal of the year (also reached Oz Open and Roland Wimbledon). The Serb has made the semis at the US Open last year, and was runner-up to Federer in 2007.

* This is Verdasco's 1st US Open quarterfinal in 7 attempts. His best Grand Slam showing came at the 2009 Australian Open where he reached the semis before falling to eventual champion Nadal.

* This is the second quarterfinal appearance for Gonzalez at the US Open (also reached in 2002). The Chilean also had success at Roland Garros this season where he made the semis.

* This is Rafa's third quarterfinal at the US Open. He made the semis last year before losing to Andy Murray. The Spaniard is shooting for a career Grand Slam in New York this year, since the US Open is the only Major he has not won yet.

* This is Del Potro's third Grand Slam quarterfinal of the season (made QFs in Australia, SFs in Roland Garros) and 2nd straight quarterfinal at the US Open. Of all the quarterfinalists, the tall Argentine has been the most solid so far at the Open.

Check here for Wednesday's order of play.