Saturday, January 31, 2009

Australian Open: Video - Serena Crushes Safina to Win 4th Aussie Title

Serena Williams crushed Dinara Safina 6-0, 6-3 in 58 minutes to win her 4th Australian Open title, and become the world number 1 in women's tennis once again. Serena has won the title now in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, so the every-other-year streak is still alive!! Will the American still be around in 2011?!?!

Congratz to Serena who also won the doubles title with sister Venus, on Friday. What a fortnight for the Williams family huh?!?!

Australian Open: Federer Thinks Nadal Will Be Ready For The Final

On Rafa having one less day than him to prepare for the final, Federer said:

"I don't think it's really going to affect Rafa that much. He's had very easy matches going into this semifinal.

Okay, he has a day less. But, look, I mean, you got to be fit and recover from this kind of a match. I think he will, even though he took a while. His matches usually take longer than other matches because he takes his time out on the court. I don't think he will be really affected on Sunday."

"I don't think [I have an advantage]. I mean, you still got a day off. It's not like he has to play right now, so this is a different story."

"At the US Open we have no days off, so let's be happy we have a day off here, to be quite honest... I don't think Rafa will struggle too much to get over this kind of a match. Like I said before, he's had an easy tournament so far. This was the tough one. I'm sure he's going to get over it. I see the point, but I don't think it's a valid one on this occasion."

On playing Nadal in the final on Sunday:

"I mean, it's an unbelievable opportunity for me, of course, you know, not being No. 1 anymore, you know, trying to beat No. 1 in the world and getting the 14th Grand Slam.

You know, this is where I won the Grand Slam to become No. 1 in the world back in 2004 really, so I've always had a specially liaison with this tournament. You know, the stage is set, basically, for a great match. I hope we can live up to them like we did in Wimbledon.

I think it's going to be a close match. I think he's playing well, and he showed it throughout the tournament. Yesterday his match was fantastic, so I'm looking forward to a great match and then hopefully equal Pete's record."

What do you guys think? Is Federer going to equal Pete's record tomorrow? Or will Rafa finally win a Slam on hardcourt?!?! Do tell !!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Australian Open: Day 12 - Nadal vs Verdasco Video Highlights

Courtesy of ESPN

This is what Verdasco had to say about that unbelievable point in the fourth set that Rafa finished off with a cross court passing shot:

"Today was a lot of points like this. You know, I remember that point unbelievable that I made a smash like so close to the net, and he just put the ball in. I put it again to the forehand, and he made unbelievable passing shot cross‑court with the forehand. I was, like, I couldn't believe, no?

But, you know, with Rafa after, I start laughing because I say like, With him is normal. With the others, no. But with him, I'm not surprised of this, no? I saw him play a lot of times, and he made things that all the other doesn't make. So this is why he's also No. 1 in the world."

Here's what Rafa had to say after the match, talking to Brad Gilbert:

Australian Open: Nadal Hoping To Recover Before Federer Final

"... Special play against Federer any match, no? You play another final of Grand Slam is more exciting, no?

Little bit unlucky. Don't know how I gonna be for the final. I gonna try my best for sure for recover my body and my physical performance. But, you know, after one match like this, the next days you feel much heavier, no?

But for sure for me is amazing play another final of Grand Slam. Here in Australia, the first one. Well, unlucky all the time is against the same: the best. For sure, I prefer another opponent. But that's makes big the sport, too, no, finals like this."

Yes Rafa, please do it for tennis' sake :D

After 5 hours and 14 minutes of battling on court, Nadal has one less day than Federer - who beat Roddick in straights on Thursday - to prepare himself for the final on Sunday.

This will be Nadal's first encounter with Federer in a hardcourt Grand Slam final, as well as it being the Spaniard's first final in Melbourne.

The last time both players met was in the Wimbledon final last year, and we all know what happened there.

Stay tuned for more preview about the upcoming final...

Australian Open: Day 12 - Verdasco Rooting for Rafa in the Final

"Is also a pity that, you know, now for Rafa for sure that he won the match that he played that long match for the final, when Roger played one day before and a much shorter match.

You know, is really a pity. I want him to be 100% to play that final and to try to win. I lost against him. He's a big friend. I wish him the best of luck in the final. I hope that he will win," Verdasco said after the match.

That is just pure sportsmanship at its very best !! The guy knows how to lose like a champ. Hats off to Fernando!!!

Australian Open: Day 12 - Yet Another Historical Win for Nadal

I couldn't have imagined a better way to spend this Friday morning. Am speechless... Rafael Nadal put yet another match in the history books by defeating his friend and compatriot, Fernando Verdasco, 6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, in 5 hours and 14 minutes, to record the longest match in the history of the Australian Open, and reach the finals in Melbourne for the first time.

You'd think that the score and length of the match would say it all, but nothing can describe the experience of watching this match. Verdasco showed some nerves of steel at many moments during the match, which explains the fact that Rafa only managed to convert 4 out of 20 break point opportunities. So credit to Verdasco for hanging in there through all these chances.

Another important match fact is the 95 winners Verdasco hit during the match. What kinda statistic is that exactly?!?! Sure he committed 76 errors but still... 95 winners?!?!

Which brings us to Rafa... That kid is a born champion. He's got it in his blood. Cuz when Verdasco was hitting those winners, Rafa was taking it all in, waiting for the right moment to pull off the win at the very end. He ended up winning only one point more than Verdasco.

There's so much more I gotta say, so stay tuned !!!! Let me know what you thought of this match...

UPDATE: Thanks to GSM reader Brandan Lowden who reminded me that the first round match between Feliciano Lopez and Gilles Muller lasted 5 hours and 34 minutes, which was actually reported as the longest match in the history of the Australian Open. I don't know why it's all over the media now that the Nadal-Verdasco match is the longest, and the link to the match stats from the Lopez-Muller match is the only missing link in the results page of the opening round. Now some sources on the internet say the Lopez-Muller match was 4 hours and 24 minutes (it ended 16-14 in the 5th) and some still have it as 5 hours and 34 minutes. I think it's weird that the link is missing on the Australian Open website, but anyways... Am just giving you guys all the facts.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Australian Open: Day 11 Highlights - Federer Into 18th Slam Final

Roger Federer moved into his 18th Grand Slam final when he beat 7th-seed, Andy Roddick, 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 in the semis on Thursday. The 3-time Australian Open champion, awaits Rafael Nadal or Fernando Verdasco in the final, where he will try to capture his 14th Slam to match Pete Sampras' record.

Federer, who now leads Roddick 16-2 head-to-head, played an incredible match, and he kind of made me feel like another dominating streak is about to start. The Swiss outplayed an in-form Roddick in every aspect of the game, including the number of aces, which is supposed to be Roddick's thing. Here's what Roddick had to say after the match:

"Let's not kid ourselves. You're down two sets to him and scraping, trying to survive. I hit the ball pretty well. If you look at his stats for the match, both of us had pretty good stats. You know, he just came up with shots when he needed to. That's what he does."

"The thing about Roger is you can know where to go, and you can still come out on the bad end of it sometimes. So that's where it differs from a lot of people... A lot of people you know exactly what have to do and the majority of the time you execute it, you're going to come out on the good end it of. That part is a little bit frustrating at times."

"Overall, it was an okay match. He just beat me. It's plain and simple."

In the meantime, Nadal was working on the practice courts, and am wondering if that ice is there to help him cope with the heat, or to calm him down after seeing Federer's form against Roddick?!? I gotta admit Federer from the Del Potro and the Roddick match is a pretty alarming sight!!

Nadal faces Verdasco tomorrow (Friday), not before 7:30pm Melbourne time, 10:30 a.m. Cairo time.

Australian Open: Video - Rafael Nadal On Playing Verdasco in Semis

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Australian Open: Day 10 - Confident Verdasco Says Nadal is the Toughest

"Rafa is the toughest player in five‑set matches. If I play against him, is going to be, you know, the toughest match as possible."

"But, you know, I'm feeling pretty good and I just want to go out there for first time in semifinals in Grand Slam and enjoy that moment, do my best, just enjoy and try my best. Right now I'm believing so much about me, about my game, I'm feeling pretty good, and I just think that I can beat anyone. But, you know, the same way that I can win, I can lose."

"But I believe in myself that I can win that matches. I don't put a limit in this tournament. I'm in semifinals right now and I think that I can lose in semifinals but also be in the final or win the tournament. So I will try to, for sure, win the tournament."

Fernando Verdasco's thoughts about his upcoming match against Rafael Nadal in the Aussie Open semifinals, after beating last year's finalist, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters on Wednesday.

It's good Verdasco has all this confidence heading into his semifinal, but the fact that Rafa is the toughest is not news... Just ask Gilles Simon! The poor Frenchman played pretty well in his quarterfinal match against Rafa, but sadly for Simon that didn't mean he stood a chance against the mighty Spaniard, who is yet to drop a set at the Australian Open.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Australian Open: Day 9 - Federer Judges Djokovic for Retiring

"It's happened before... He's not the guy who's never given up in his career... That's kind of disappointing to see when you got two top guys playing each other and you give up."

"Andy probably would have run away anyway with the match."

"I mean he (Djokovic) gave up against me in Monaco last year because of a sore throat. Those are the kind of things you wonder about... I've only given up basically once in my career... In Paris against (James) Blake when I couldn't move because of my back."

Okay I must say I found it slightly amusing when players created some sort of buzz with their not-so-trashy trash talk against each other so far at the Aussie Open, because it meant that competition was getting fiercer in tennis, and the outcome would bring us better matches; but it's one thing to defend your position as a tournament favorite and it's another to blatantly judge a player for retiring from a match... A match that you weren't even involved in to begin with...

We all know how classy Federer can be, and what a champion he is, but I find it weird that he went all out and said that stuff about Djokovic's retirement from his quarterfinal match against Roddick.

Federer was basically calling Djokovic a quitter, and although he's not the only one saying that; it's one thing for the fans and media to speculate about Djokovic's commitment to the game and question his drive to win, cuz at the end of the day, we are looking at it from the outside and let's face it, who are we to really know what the players are going through? We just get kicks from talking about it. But when a fellow player - whose words are heard and respected by millions of people - accuse him of giving up too easily, that's just harsh! And then Federer goes on and defends himself by saying, I never give up... What the hell was that?!?!? Who said this has anything to do with you?!?!

It's true that Djokovic retires a lot, and it's true he calls for trainers a lot, and it's disappointing for fans and probably a bit annoying to the other tennis players, but do people really think Djokovic doesn't wanna defend his title?!?! That he just decided to take the day off and hand the match to Roddick?

I think it's just a case of what a person's body can handle. People have different staminas, different thresholds and different levels of concern about one's own health. I don't know what really was wrong with Djokovic today, because the excuses were rather vague about the heat and some "cramps" and my first reaction when I found out he retired was "what the hell?!?! he dumped his title defence cuz he was too hot??!"; especially that I live in a country where 40 degree weather is a daily fact of life. But then Federer's words shocked me even more, and made me feel like we're all being a bit too harsh. Who are we to judge?!?!? Tell me your thoughts about Federer's comments. Here's a video of this interview, courtesy of ESPN:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Australian Open: Strong Field "Sans Murray" in Men's Quarterfinals

While the women's seeds have fallen left and right, seven out of the eight men's top seeds at the Australian Open will feature in the quarterfinals on Tuesday and Wednesday in Melbourne... + Fernando Verdasco of course!!

# 5 vs #14

# 1 vs #6

The quarterfinal matchups from the top half of the draw make it seem like there's a mini Davis Cup going on, with two Spaniards, facing two Frenchmen. Nadal is 2-1 against Simon, but the last time they played, was at the Madrid Masters semifinals, and Simon shocked the Spaniard in 3 sets, 7-6 in the third. The only previous Grand Slam meeting between the two occurred last year at the Australian Open, where Nadal ousted Simon from the third round in straight sets. Simon reached the quarters this year after his opponent, Monfils, retired due to injury, so it's tough to say how well he can perform against Nadal on Wednesday, especially that Nadal has been steamrolling everyone so far, including Fernando Gonzalez in the 4th round.

Tsonga and Verdasco have never met before on tour. Verdasco is coming off an incredible 5-set victory over Murray, and seems to have gained the kind of mental toughness required at this stage at a Slam (who knew the Davis Cup could give anyone such confidence?!). If Verdasco manages to maintain his form, which shouldn't be tough given the huge confidence boost he got from his victory over Murray, then this matchup will be very intriguing, and speculations that Verdasco can be this year's surprise finalist shouldn't be that far-fetched. On the other hand, Tsonga was extremely solid against Blake in the 4th round, and made it look easy against the skillful American.

# 3 vs # 7

# 2 vs # 8

Quarterfinal matches from the bottom half of the draw take place on Tuesday. Roddick is scheduled to face the defending champion, Djokovic, on Rod Laver, not before 3pm Melbourne time.

Djokovic leads Roddick 2-1 and the last time they met, the Serb ousted Roddick from the 2008 US Open quarters in 4 sets. Following a 4-set challenge from Malisse in the opening round, Roddick has cruised to the quarters with comfortable wins over Santoro and Robredo.

Djokovic however, has had some tough opponents like Baghdatis and Delic, who both took the world number 3 to four sets. But Djokovic went through these matches with conviction, and managed to hold is ground on the important points.

Federer, whose 5-set victory over Berdych in the 4th round was described as "ugly", will face Juan Martin Del Potro for the 4th time. The Swiss champ has a clean record against Del Potro, most recently beating the Argentine in Madrid late last year. Given the fact that this is the Aussie Open, and people always expect upsets and surprise finalists, some may say that Del Potro can pull it off, but I don't think Federer will be losing to anyone other than Nadal (if they meet) this tournament, despite the sluggish performance against Berdych.

Federer plays Del Potro last on Rod Laver, following the Safina-Dokic quarterfinal scheduled at 7:30pm Melbourne time.

Australian Open: Day 8 Shock Alert - Verdasco Knocks Out Murray to Make the Quarterfinals

Murray vs Verdasco highlights courtesy of Eurosport

14th-seed, Fernando Verdasco, delivered the largest upset of the men's draw so far at the Australian Open, when he defeated 4th-seed, Andy Murray, 2-6, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, in the last 16 on Monday, to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the very first time.

The bookies must be really pissed, because everyone (myself included) assumed Murray was gonna win this match, and many thought Murray was actually going to win the Australian Open altogether, but Verdasco managed to pull off what could possibly be the upset of the tournament. I bet you one or two players are quite relieved now that Murray's out of the picture, don't you think?

Here's what Murray had to say after his loss:

"I didn't feel terrible at all. You know, I had my chances. He [Verdasco] served incredible in the fourth and fifth sets. So, you know, he deserves the credit for the win."

"... he served huge. You know, he started serving like, 215 plus on a lot of his first serves. The fourth set, I think he served like 93% first serves. Sometimes you've just got to say too good, and he played better than me."

"I don't think it was anything to do with physical, concentration, or my game. He played too good for me. That's what happens. I'm not here to try to make excuses for why I lost."

"I don't know if I'll be the favorite for a slam, you know, in the next year or so after today. But it doesn't really bother me. For me, I play the match. If I'm the favorite to win, whatever, I play the same as I am when I'm the underdog. I try my best to win. I think I give a hundred percent in all my matches. You know, if I lose, I lose. If I win, I win."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Australian Open: Day 8 Fourth Round Preview

Matches of the top half of the round 16 draw will take place on Monday, to complete the 4 remaining spots in the quarterfinals. There is a chance that we can have the top 8 seeds competing in the quarterfinals this year, which is incredible.

Here are the 4 last-16 matches scheduled on Monday:

Rafael Nadal [1] vs Fernando Gonzalez [13]

Nadal leads the 2007 finalist, Gonzalez, 4-3 in their previous meetings. Their last match was the Beijing Olympics final last August, where Nadal won the Gold medal with a straight sets win over the Chilean.

Gonzalez' path to the fourth round this year at the Australian Open has been far rockier than Nadal's. Gonzalez had a tough five-setter against home favorite, Lleyton Hewitt, in the first round, which he won 6-3 in the fifth, followed by a straight sets victory over Guillermo Canas in the second round. The 13th-seed was then stretched to his limit in the third round where he endured a marathon five-setter against 24th-seed, Richard Gasquet, which ended 12-10 in the fifth.

Nadal on the other hand has spent way less time on court, winning his first 3 matches in straight sets and dropping less than 20 games altogether. This doesn't necessarily give the Spaniard an advantage over Gonzalez, since Nadal has not been really tested in his previous matches, compared to the level of tennis he can face in his 4th round match. Gonzalez however, will be playing Nadal with the a kind of mental toughness from the 2 five-setters he managed to pull through.

The two players have met once before at the Australian Open, 2 years ago, where Gonzalez ousted Nadal in the quarters in straights, en route to his first and only Grand Slam final appearance.

Gilles Simon [6] vs Gael Monfils [12]

These two Frenchmen have never played each other on the ATP tour before, but they grew up together and know each others games very well.

Simon's performance in the first 3 rounds was solid and he dropped only one set against Australian, Chris Guccione in the second round. His preparation for the Australian Open was not quite what he would have wanted, as he didn't reach the final of the Hopman Cup exo, where he was partnering Alize Cornet, and he also lost in his opening match against Richard Gasquet in Sydney. The 6th-seed however should enter this match with some confidence especially after easily defeating a dangerous Mario Ancic in the previous round.

Monfils could be considered a favorite in this match despite his lower seeding. The entertaining Frenchman, who like Simon dropped only one set en route to the 4th round, had an excellent preparation for Melbourne as he reached the Doha semifinals defeating Nadal along the way.

Andy Murray [4] vs Fernando Verdasco [14]

Murray, who has been endlessly tipped as a favorite for this tournament, is 5-0 against Verdasco in previous meetings, but Verdasco is playing tennis at a level he has never reached before.

Murray said he is used to playing lefties like Verdasco, since he grew up practicing with his left-handed brother, and the leadup to this match bodes nothing but good signs for the Scot, who not only won the Abu Dhabi exo title (defeated Federer and Nadal) followed by the Doha title (defeated Federer and Roddick), but has also shown some ruthless form in the first 3 rounds in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Verdasco has reached the singles and doubles finals in Brisbane earlier this month, and has only dropped 12 games in his first 3 matches in Melbourne, including a crushing 6-4, 6-0, 6-0 win over 22nd-seed, Radek Stepanek. But still... None of his past opponents are even close to Murray. Sorry to say it, but I don't think Verdasco has a chance.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [5] vs James Blake [9]

These two have only met once before, which was late last season at the Paris Masters, where Tsonga beat Blake in straights, before capturing the title at home. Tsonga, a finalist in Melbourne last year, had a tough 2nd round encounter with Ivan Ljubicic, which he won 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2, and he also dropped a set against Dudi Sela in the third round.

The good news for Tsonga is that there are no signs of his back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Sydney quarterfinals right before the Australian Open. He also reached the quarters in Brisbane before he lost to Gasquet.

Blake on the other hand is playing rather well and has dropped only one set so far, which was against Igor Andreev in the 3rd round. This match will definitely be a toss-up and could go either way.

What the players have to say

Nadal on playing Gonzalez:

"This match going to be a very tough match. He's coming with big confidence after two big wins against Hewitt the first round, and right now against Gasquet with unbelievable comeback, two sets down. He's coming with confidence. Going to be a very tough opponent."

"He beat me very easy two years ago here. So it wasn't play one of my best matches. He played well."

"He's tough. He's very good player. He can beat me, for sure, another time. Hopefully not. But I gonna try my best for try to change the situation from two years, for try to play the same level like last year in Olympics."

Simon on playing Monfils:

"He's really hard to defeat because he doesn't do any mistakes. Also he can have a huge serve, too... So it won't be easy. But I know him very well. So it will be a special match for both of us, I mean. It's the first time we are meeting each other on the tour. I don't know what to expect. I mean, I'm pretty happy to play this match because he's really a good friend of mine. So I hope we're gonna enjoy this match."

Verdasco on playing Murray:

"He's a very good player. So complete in all the aspects in the game. He serve good. He have unbelievable backhand. I think physically he's one of the best right now also. He has so good hand also for slice, to defend. So he's pretty complete in all the aspects of the game."

"But, you know, I think I need to do my game anyway and try to beat him like this. Don't change my game because he's one player, you know, one kind of player of another one."

Murray on playing Verdasco:

"Against Verdasco, it's very important to use my head. I have a very good record against left‑handers. The only one I've lost to on the tour has been Nadal. I need to use my head, make him do a lot of thinking and moving. If I play like I did tonight [against Melzer], I can definitely win that one."

Blake on playing Tsonga:

"He played really well there in Paris. He kind of just overpowered me a little. He was serving unbelievable, didn't give me too many looks, just was taking rips and feeling loose on my serve."

"If he does that and plays just as well as he possibly can, it's going to be tough for me to get looks. But I have a feeling this time in a three‑out‑of‑five‑set match, I'll get my chance, I'll get some opportunity, maybe looks at second serves, get an advantage. "

"He's obviously been playing some pretty good tennis to beat guys like Ljubicic. I didn't see much of his match today because I was out there today. Must have played well. Pretty convincing score line at the end. I know it will be tough."

Australian Open: Dodgy Safina Saves Match Points to Reach Quarterfinals

Melbourne's third seed, Dinara Safina, gave us a taste of her unbelievable comebacks from last year's French Open where she reached the finals, when she turned around a double-break deficit, to squeeze past Alize Cornet 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.

I saw the first set of the match, where Safina cruised to a 5-0 lead before she allowed Cornet to break her and make it 5-2, but the Russian managed to break again and win the first set. Safina's game then totally fell apart in the second set and by the third, I assumed she was going to lose, but somehow she broke back and snatched the win from Cornet's teeth, to reach the quarters where she faces Australia's returning hero, Jelena Dokic.

Here's what Safina told ESPN after her match:

Australian Open: Berdych Takes Federer to 5, But it Wasn't Enough!!

First you have to check out some highlights from the Federer-Berdych match (courtesy of ESPN):

Then you can find out what the players had to say... Beware, Federer smack-talking Murray coming up ahead!!!

"I wouldn't say I was so close. I won two sets and then I was 3‑All. Still, I mean, even if you have a match point you're closer, but not close enough to beat him [Federer].

When the last ball is finished, the referee call the score, then it's finished. I was quite far from this situation. But, yeah, I'm pretty happy with it. I won two sets with him. I give him a little more pressure."
Tomas Berdych, after losing to Roger Federer 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2, in the Australian Open 4th round.

The Czech 20th seed stretched Federer to five sets in the last 16 on Sunday, but his efforts failed to secure him a spot in the quarterfinals.

Federer next takes on 8th-seed, Juan Martin Del Potro, who overcame 19th-seed, Marin Cilic, in 4 sets.

The Swiss second seed is now 2 matches away from a potential highly anticipated final against Andy Murray, and Federer seems confident ahead of the possible match-up:

"I don't know how fit Murray is. I'll take him on any day in a five‑setter. He's younger so he's probably not so experienced, you know... In the end it becomes very mental, and I know that this is where my biggest strengths always comes into play. That's why I'm always going to favor myself in a fifth set."

Woah!! Looks like Federer has his flare gun cranked up and he's sending out some serious warnings. Let's hope he can back it up with an actual victory if he really does meet Murray in the final.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Australian Open: Day 5 & 6 - Round 32 Wrap

Between ethnic fights, streakers, upsets and marathon matches, round 32 at the Aussie Open didn't leave much room for prime time TV to offer the last 2 days (okay not really, Lost is back and am sure everyone watched those 2 episodes more than once to try and understand what the hell is going on on that island right?!). Anyhow, here's a summary of the main things that happened on days 5 and 6 in Melbourne:

Best Comeback

That would have to be Fernando Gonzalez' victory over Richard Gasquet, who was leading the Chilean 13th-seed, 6-3, 6-3, before Gonzalez struck back to win the marathon match 3-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-2, 12-10. The good news is, Gonzalez is now in the last 16, the not so good news is that he'll be facing top-seed Rafael Nadal. Let's see if the 2007 finalist manages to recover from such a long match before Sunday.

Lethal Form Alert

Top-seeded Rafael Nadal, 4th-seed Andy Murray and 14th-seed Fernando Verdasco have all had unbelievable matches so far in Melbourne, particularly in the 3rd round. Nadal almost effortlessly ousted former world number 2, Tommy Haas, Murray defeated Melzer 5, 0 and 3, and Verdasco beat Stepanek 4, 0 and 0. Of course a special nod to second-seed, Roger Federer, is also necessary, as the Swiss ace disposed of Marat Safin in sublime fashion 6-3, 6-2, 7-6. Let's see how these players will perform with their tougher oppositions in the 4th round.

Relative Upsets

19th-seed, Marin Cilic, and 20th-seed Tomas Berdych, both managed to post wins over higher ranked players, to reach the 4th round. Cilic convincingly eliminated 11th-seed David Ferrer in straights, while Berdych dropped the first set before he dispatched Olympic doubles Gold medalist, Stanislas Wawrinka (seeded 15).

The Match-Turned-Brawl

Of course am referring to the Novak Djokovic - Amer Delic matchup which was brilliant on the tennis front but the fans got carried away and suddenly Serbian and Bosnian fans were throwing fists and chairs at one another. Djokovic, who is from Serbia and Delic, who is an American of Bosnian origin, were actually very friendly towards each other during the match, but apparently that made no difference to the crowds, who decided that creating a mini-civil war is a great idea at a tennis tournament.

Frenchmen Watch: 1 Man Down, 3 March On

As Gasquet suffered a heart-breaking loss in R32, his fellow Frenchmen, Tsonga, Simon and Monfils all avoided that fate as they booked themselves last 16 spots. Unfortunately for them, Simon and Monfils will next face one another, for the first time on the ATP tour.

Saying goodbye to Melbourne for the last time...

Marat Safin and Fabrice Santoro were both handed their final losses in Melbourne on Friday, as the Russian icon and the French veteran were both playing their very last Australian Open, after announcing their approaching retirement end of this year. Safin said his goodbyes with a not-so-terrible defeat to Federer, while Santoro received his exit pass from Andy Roddick. While Safin, a former finalist and champion in Melbourne, refrained from making a big fuss of his pending retirement, Santoro, the 2006 quarterfinalist, received a heart-warming ceremony after his defeat.

Last but not least... the streaking incident!!

Everyone is freaking out about the streaker who showed up on court during a doubles match featuring Venus and Serena Williams. The incident is being referred to as "scary" by most media channels, I kinda thought it was funny. The guy looked really silly and harmless, but the media are having a feast out of it. Here is a video of the incident:

Check here for the complete third round results.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quote of the Day - Roger Federer on Marat Safin

"I love playing against the guy [Safin]. He brings something different to the tennis world with his character, the way he is on the court and the way he is off the court. He's larger than life."

"Yeah, I respect him for what a competitor he is. I hope it's not the last one tonight. If it were to be the last one at the Australian Open, I think we both kind of feel good about having played each other at the highest level. We tried to come with a good match." Roger Federer on Marat Safin

Some very kind words from one of the game's best players ever, Roger Federer. Federer beat Marat Safin at the Aussie Open 3rd round on Friday. The match was probably Safin's last ever at the Australian Open, given the fact that the former world number 1 announced that he's playing his final ATP season. Am sure the Russian star will be missed in Melbourne, where he reached the final in 2004 and clinched his 2nd Grand Slam title, in 2005.

Violence Mars Djokovic Victory at Aussie Open

After defending champion, Novak Djokovic, edged past his American opponent of Bosnian origin, Amer Delic in 4 tight sets, hell broke loose in Melbourne as Bosnian and Serbian fans got carried away and started fighting. What started with chanting on court during the match, evolved to violence between opposing fans, who started throwing chairs at each other.

Here is Delic's reaction to what happened:

Safin Talks to Mats Wilander Ahead of Federer Clash

Federer [2] vs Safin [26] Match Preview

The world number 2 owns a 9-2 record lead over Safin, with the most recent victory coming in the Wimbledon semifinals last year, where Federer won 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-4.

The two former number 1s met twice before at the Australian Open, in 2005, when eventual champion Safin edged the Swiss in an epic 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6), 9-7 semifinal match, and in 2004, when Federer had the upperhand and ousted Safin, 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-2, in the final.

Federer's leadup to this year's Aussie Open included a semifinal showing at the Qatar Open and a title win at the exhibition in Kooyong. Safin reached the exhibition Hopman Cup final partnering his sister, Dinara, and then pulled out of Kooyong prior to the Australian Open.

Federer's first 2 rounds at the Open were straight sets victories over Andreas Seppi and Evgeny Korolev, while Safin beat Ivan Navarro and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez also in straights.

The match is scheduled last on Rod Laver on Friday, following the Wozniacki-Dokic match which starts at 7:30 pm Melbourne time, 10:30 am Cairo time

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Australian Open: Day 4 Video Highlights - Serena Advances Despite D- Performance

Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal advance!

Venus Crashes Out to Carla Suarez Navarro!!

Murray Hits Back at Fed and Djoko

"... quite big contradictions. You know, they [Federer and Djokovic] don't ‑‑ you know, they say there's a lot of pressure on them, but then people aren't saying they're the favorites, but they want to be the favorites. Therefore, by saying they're the favorites, they're putting more pressure back on themselves."

"I don't really understand the whole thing. I mean, I think I played well enough in the last six or seven months to be in that sort of group. Whether I'm the favorite or not, I don't know"

"... there's a reason why people think I have a chance to win here, because I played very well the last few months and won against them."

Well said Andy. A bit of a tongue twister, but still, you made your point!! I don't really know why they're bothering about who's being called favorite, we all know what really counts at the very end... Winning!!!

To know how all THAT started, check here and here...

Australian Open: Day 4 Wrap – Nadal, Murray March On, Gulbis Crashes Out

The Ballad of Rafa and Roko

Actually it was far from a ballad and more like a stampede from Rafael Nadal, but I couldn’t help myself and not use the Lennon song reference (silly I know). In my opinion, Roko Karanusic seemed just as eccentric as Yoko Ono. The Croat reminded me of one of the villains on Alias, and his facial expressions and tantrums throughout the match were rather frightening. But we gotta give credit to Roko, the guy is a pretty good returner.

Up until the last game of the first set, Rafa was pretty much on cruise control; his service was impressive, he was hitting the lines almost flawlessly, but then the errors showed up in the last game, when he was serving for the first set. The top seed didn’t get broken but he struggled before he clinched the set 6-2. Sets 2 and 3 saw some smart returning efforts from the Croat, but Rafa was too strong and he finally finished off his angry opponent, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. Next up for the Spaniard in round 3, is Tommy Haas who cruised past Flavio Cipolla, 1,2 and 1.

The French 4 Keep Going

Frenchmen, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils, and Richard Gasquet, all advanced to the third round on Thursday, but some faced tougher opposition than others. Gasquet cruised in straights while Tsonga endured 3 tie-break sets before nailing an easy 4th set. Simon and Monfils also came through in 4, but the end result is: the French seeds are moving strong!! The unseeded ones however, not so much. Arnaud Clement suffered a miserable straight sets loss to 14th seed, Fernando Verdasco, while Sebastien de Chaunac, whose fancy name makes him sound like a French prince or something, fell to 9th-seeded, James Blake.

Gasquet is now one match away from a potential 4th round matchup against Nadal, but the Frenchman must overcome 13-seed, Fernando Gonzalez first.

Gulbis’ Melbourne Campaign Ends in 5

Latvian hope, Ernests Gulbis, stumbled out of the Aussie Open second round to the hands of 18th-seed, Igor Andreev. The 2 players battled it out in 5 sets, before the Russian claimed his spot in the third round. Andreev next faces Blake.

Match of the Day

Mario Ancic vs Ivo Karlovic [25]

In the battle of the tall Croats – of course one particularly taller than the other – Mario Ancic stood his ground and eliminated the serving giant, Ivo Karlovic. The match had a retaliatory aspect to it, considering the 5-7, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 scoreline. Ancic has a tough test coming up against 6th-seeded Simon. Let’s hope the 5-setter didn’t wear him down!

Other seeds who marched on, on Thursday, include Andy Murray [4], Radek Stepanek [22], Nicolas Almagro [17], Jurgen Melzer [31] and Fernando Gonzalez [13]. For complete Thursday results, check here...

Unmiss-able Day 5 Matches include:

Roger Federer [2] vs Marat Safin
Marin Cilic [19] vs David Ferrer [11]
Stanislas Wawrinka [15] vs Tomas Berdych [20]
Amer Delic vs Novak Djokovic [3]

Safin Wants to be in Federer's Shoes...

Photo credit: Getty Images via

"He [Federer] won a couple of Grand Slams afterwards. And me, I got injured. I had to recover from the injuries, so we went in different ways. He got much more confident throughout the years, and I had to recover from injury. So I want to be in his shoes... But, anyway, it's our lives, part of our lives."

I don't blame you man, who doesn't wanna be in Fed's shoes?!?! But "a couple" of Grand Slams after your 2005 Aussie Open encounter?!?! That's like the understatement of the year, Marat!!

Federer and Safin will face off in the third round of the Aussie Open on Friday. Anyone else psyched to see that match?!?! I know I am...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Australian Open: Day 3 Mid-day Update - Safin Through to Round 3

Melbourne's former champion, and this year's 26th-seed, Marat Safin, earned himself a spot in the third round of the Australian Open after posting a comfortable 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Wednesday. The Russian, who is playing his last Australian Open after announcing that this will be his final season on tour, may face Roger Federer in the third round, if the second-seeded Swiss wins his second round match today against Evgeny Korolev.

Safin's sister, Dinara Safina, seeded third, overcame a first-set hiccup against Ekaterina Makarova to come back and win the match 6-7, 6-3, 6-0.

19th-seed, Marin Cilic, edged past Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, to book a third round meeting with 11th-seed David Ferrer, who crushed Dominik Hrbaty, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1.

5th-seeded Ana Ivanovic claimed a convincing 6-3, 6-2, victory over Italy's Alberta Brianti, while her Serbian compatriot and defending champion, Novak Djokovic, looks like he's making quick work of Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy. The third-seed is up 7-5, 6-1, 4-0. Am sure he'll wrap this one up pretty soon. OR NOT!!! Chardy just broke Djokovic to love and pulled back one of those service breaks. That match ain't over yet!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Australian Open: Day 2 Summary and Video Highlights

Day 2 Summary

Seeds who marched on

Top seed Rafael Nadal crushed Christophe Rochus in the final match of the men's singles first round. 4th-seed, Andy Murray, barely had time to break some sweat on court when his opponent, Romanian veteran, Andrei Pavel, had to withdraw early in the second set due to injury, and later announced his retirement from the sport.

13th-seed, Fernando Gonzalez, outlasted home favorite, Lleyton Hewitt in a 5-set battle, while 9th-seed James Blake eased past Canada's Frank Dancevic.

The French seeds, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (5), Gilles Simon (6), Gael Monfils (12) and Richard Gasquet (24) all secured passage to the second round, with Tsonga easing his fans' concerns about his back problems, that seem to have subsided, at least for now.

14th-seed, Fernando Verdasco, thrashed his French opponent, Adrian Mannarino, while 17th-seed, Nicolas Almagro and 18th-seed, Igor Andreev, both needed 5 sets to get past their opponents. 22nd-seed, Radek Stepanek and 25th-seed, Ivo Karlovic also made it to the second round, as well as 31st-seed, Jurgen Melzer, who eliminated the dangerous up-and-comer, Kei Nishikori.

Fallen Seeds

29th-seed, Dmitry Tursunov, continued his disappointing streak, as he fell to Flavio Cipolla in 4 sets, while 30th-seed Rainer Schuettler, last year's surprise Wimbledon quarterfinalist, lost to Dudi Sela.

The Unseeded Hustlers

Mario Ancic, Ernests Gulbis, Guillermo Canas, Ivan Ljubicic and Tommy Haas are all still alive as they all booked their 2nd round spots on Tuesday.

Quote of the Day

"We're in some situations that are less than ideal in our country. I think if there's any man for the job that's ahead of him that can deal with the tasks and the pressures of being President in this tumultuous time, it's Barack Obama..." "I was proud to donate and help with the campaign. I'm proud to ‑‑ I'm always proud to say I'm an American, but I'm going to be especially proud at 4 a.m. here. It's going to be a very significant inauguration..."

James Blake on Tuesday's inauguration of Barack Obama

Day 3 Matches to Watch

Marat Safin [26] vs Guillermo Garcia-Lopez H2H:0-0
Dominik Hrbaty vs David Ferrer [11] H2H:3-4
Novak Djokovic [3] vs Jeremy Chardy H2H:0-0
Roger Federer [2] vs Evgeny Korolev H2H:0-0
Andy Roddick [7] vs Xavier Malisse H2H:7-0
Marin Cilic [19] vs Janko Tipsarevic H2H:1-0