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 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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

COMEDY SPOTS: Video - Djokovic hits with McEnroe on Arthur Ashe, Shares laughs with NY crowd

The New York crowd definitely got more than what they paid for Monday night. Looks like Djokovic has won over the New Yorkers once again after getting booed last year when he responded to some comments from Andy Roddick.

The fourth seed eliminated Radek Stepanek in straight sets and will face Fernando Verdasco in the quarterfinals.

Video by spatzlelg via New Balls, Please

US Open Week 1 Wrap - The Ladies - Watch out for 'Melanie the Russian Slayer'

So we’re into the second week at the US Open and so much has happened, it’s insanely hard to keep track.

So here’s a little bit of what you need to know in case you haven’t been following regularly, or in case you’re one of those tennis fans who only get sucked into the Slams when they’re well into their second week. Either way, here’s some of what you missed on the women's side:

Melanie Oudin reacts to a point against Nadia Petrova
Photo credit: AFP/Getty

* Well if you don’t know who Melanie Oudin is by now, then all I can say is ... shame on you!!! The 17-year-old is living her very own American version of the movie Braveheart, where she’s William Wallace and the Russians are the English.

Oudin, who entered the US Open ranked at number 70 in the world rankings, has eliminated 4 consecutive Russians, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (36 in the world), Elena Dementieva (4th seed and 2004 finalist), Maria Sharapova (2006 champion and 29th seed), and Nadia Petrova (13th seed), to reach the quarterfinals where, for a change, she will meet someone from a country other than Russia, all thanks to Caroline Wozniacki, who eliminated Russian 6th-seed, Svetlana Kutznetsova in the 4th round.

The girl has BELIEVE written on her shoes and certainly acts like it. Let’s see if she can keep the dream alive and go one step further in this minefield of a draw. Here’s her reaction to reaching the quarters on only her second appearance at the Open (she lost 1st round last year):

* Comeback Mommy, Kim Clijsters, is in the quarters and she eliminated third seed, Venus Williams in a weird 6-0, 0-6, 6-4, fourth round match.

The 2005 US Open champion, who is only playing her third event since her return to tennis following a 2-year retirement period, also beat 14th seed, Marion Bartoli, en route to the quarters. Next up for Kimmie is 18th-seed, Na Li of China.

Here's Clijsters' reaction to her victory over Venus:

* Second seed, Serena Williams, is the only remaining top 5 player in the draw after Dinara Safina, Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva and Jelena Jankovic all suffered early upsets.

Photo credit: DON EMMERT / AFP/Getty Images

* If you wanna know if anything controversial happened in the 1st week, well actually it did. World number 1, Dinara Safina, was really pissed that her 3rd round match against Petra Kvitova (which she lost after squandering 3 match points) was bumped at the very last second to Louis Armstrong stadium, so that James Blake can play on Arthur Ashe right away, instead of waiting for Safina's match, due to the fact that the day session matches ran longer than expected and crept into the night session.

So instead of keeping Safina's match (which was initially scheduled at 7pm on Ashe followed by Blake) and bumping the men, the organizers said they wanted the fans to enjoy a best of five match instead of three and decided to move the women.

"From my side, I can say, 'I’m No. 1 player in the world, why did they move me?'” complained the Russian. "They just told us, ’We’re switching you to Armstrong.’ And basically that’s it. And I think it’s very unfair.

Fellow tennis blogger, Rich, at Down the Line!, kindly followed up on the situation and reported that the USTA has apologized to Safina and Kvitova. You can read more about this here.

* The quarterfinal lineup for the ladies is as follows:

Yanina Wickmayer BEL vs Kateryna Bondarenko UKR
Melanie Oudin USA vs Caroline Wozniacki DEN (9)
Na Li CHN (18) vs Kim Clijsters BEL
Flavia Pennetta ITA (10) vs Serena Williams USA (2)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

US Open: Nadal gets tested but advances to third round

There’s vintage Rafa, modern Rafa and genius Rafa, and lucky for us, all three were present on Arthur Ashe Stadium Friday night, to withstand a tough challenge from 32-year-old, Nicolas Kiefer.

Nadal breezed through the first set 6-0, before the German realized he was in fact playing at the US Open, not inside a game of Wii tennis, and leveled the match at 1 set all.

From then on, the level of tennis from both players just kept getting higher and higher as drop shots were made, lobs were perfected, ground strokes were fired, net points were sealed and Kiefer even gave us some sweet serve 'n' volleying as a bonus.

The world number 3 however didn't falter, as he earned himself a break in each of the third and fourth sets to book himself a spot in the third round against another Nicolas, but this time it's his compatriot, Nicolas Almagro.

This victory for Rafa should be nothing but reassuring, since it's always nice to be tested in the early stages yet still manage to pull through in such sublime fashion.

Imagine if Rafa just cruises to the quarters only to find someone like Tsonga waiting for him there, and someone like Murray awaiting in the semis. That would definitely be a shock to his system had he not been challenged in any of his prior matches. I certainly find this Kiefer match a very beneficial and confidence-boosting one.

Nadal's late night win, ensured that the US Open's top 16 seeds are all competing in the third round (last 32) for the first time in tournament history.

Don't miss Saturday's marquee line-up which includes:

Roger Federer [1] vs Lleyton Hewitt [31]
Melanie Oudin (poor girl facing back-to-back vicious Russians) vs Maria Sharapova [29]
Andy Roddick [5] vs John Isner
Fernando Verdasco [10] vs Tommy Haas [20]

and many more...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quote of the Day - Marat Safin on Novak Djokovic

"Djokovic has the breaking news, huh? (Laughter) I think he should stick to his tennis and keep his mind into tennis instead of giving up my private life. (laughter)"

-- Marat Safin responds to a reporter who said that Novak Djokovic revealed the Russian was off to climb a mountain in South America after he retires.

Former world number 1 and 2000 US Open champion, Marat Safin, played his very last US Open match today when he lost to Jurgen Melzer in the first round.

I am wondering who will we quote when this guy retires?!? He gives us endless material to talk about with his snarky comments, his on-court outbursts, his off-court romances and yes, a few years back, we loved to talk about his genius tennis too.

Marat, you will be missed!

Check here for the full transcript of the post-match presser and here if you prefer to watch it.

Top 5 reasons why I’m psyched about the US Open

I have had a lot on my plate lately, which is why I never got a chance to write proper previews for the Open, however I did manage to catch some of the first round matches of the men’s singles draw which got me psyched about what’s to come in the 2009 US Open.

Things I’m psyched about:

#1 – The possibility of Rafa completing a career slam

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that this season is far from a great one for Rafael Nadal, who despite becoming the first Spaniard ever to win the Australian Open title at the start of this season, has failed to defend his Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles and was sidelined for over 2 months with a recurring knee injury. And just like that, Rafa has found himself in the 3rd quarter of the draw at the US Open with a number 3 lying next to his name, for the first time since July 2005.

So even though he repeatedly announced in his press conference on Tuesday, that he is 100% fit to play, many are skeptic of how well he can do at the US Open these couple of weeks. Which got me thinking that such skepticism from the media and the public could be just the kind of motivation the world number 3 needs to step up and prove everyone wrong. Kinda like what Federer did last year at the same event.

Another incentive with a much higher value to the Spaniard could be the fact that if Rafa wins the US Open, he could complete a career slam, having previously captured the other 3 Grand Slams (4 French Opens, 1 Wimbledon, 1 Aussie Open). A feat that has only been achieved by only 6 other players in the history of tennis, and one that Roger Federer only managed to accomplish last June in Paris.

So despite the ranking drop, the recent injury and the lack of match play, Rafa still has what it takes to win the Open, a heart of an ultimate competitor and the motivation to join the all time greats.

#2 – The competition between the top 4, should they meet in the semis

This past month, we were blessed with some great matchups in the two Masters Series events leading up to the Open. The top 8 seeds featured in the Montreal quarters, while the top 4 seeds faced off in the Cincy semis, and boy did it get ruthless.

The unprecedented changes that took place in the top 4 positions in the rankings this year have spiced up the tour big time and each player has a hell of a lot of incentive to try and grab this final Major of the year.

Roger Federer will be looking to add a 16th Grand Slam title to his name and a 6th straight US Open title. Nadal will be looking to complete a career slam, silence the concerns about his fitness and try to climb to the top of the rankings once again. Murray is looking to capture a first and long overdue Grand Slam title and is hoping to inch closer to Federer in the rankings. As for Novak Djokovic, the world number 4 has been somewhat outside the spotlight this year, and wants to prove to everyone he still belongs in the same league as Federer, Murray and Rafa. The former Australian Open champion will be looking to add a second Grand Slam title to his tally and has had a great preparation for the Open reaching the quarters in Montreal, and the final in Cincy (beat Rafa in the semis).

So if all that doesn’t warrant some incredible competition between those 4 players, I don’t what does. If the top 4 players reach the semis in the US Open next week (Federer to face Djokovic, Rafa to face Murray), we should expect nothing short of a bloodbath. I think the one player who could spoil this prospect is Andy Roddick, who Djokovic must surpass first in order to make the semis.

I do realize I am way ahead of myself since we’re only in the 2nd round but a girl can dream right?!?!

#3 – The possibility of a Murray-Del Potro quarterfinal

The reason I would be looking forward to a matchup like this is because I vividly remember their quarterfinal at the US Open last year, which was one of the best matches I have had the privilege of watching during the whole tournament, and one which Andy Murray ended up winning 7-6(2), 7-6(1), 4-6, 7-5.

Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro have played each other 5 times in less than 18 months. They are known to be far from friends on tour with some silly confrontations happening between them last year, and have already played each other 3 times this year (Murray leads 4-1 all-time, and 2-1 in 2009).

Heading into The Open, Murray denied Del Potro a chance of winning his first Masters Series title when he beat the Argentine in the Montreal final last month. Both players exchanged tie-break sets in that final, before Murray cruised to win the decider 6-1. But despite the defeat, Del Potro travelled to New York with lots of confidence from winning a title in Washington and beating the likes of Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick en route to his final showing in Montreal.

Needless to say Murray should have just as much confidence (if not more) in the US Open this fortnight. With a title in Montreal and a semifinal appearance in Cincy, the new world number 2 will be just as ready as JMDP should they meet in the quarters.

Murray’s part of the draw leading up to the quarters has opened up nicely for the Scotsman as Ivo Karlovic, Feliciano Lopez and Stanislas Wawrinka have all suffered upsets and are no longer possible opponents, while Del Potro should have to overcome the likes of a rejuvenated Juan Carlos Ferrero, or ninth seed Gilles Simon before making the quarters.

#4 – Seeing how far Andy Roddick can go

I think everyone wants to see how Andy Roddick will bounce back from that heartbreaking Wimbledon defeat last July. He hasn’t won a title since, but he has reached the Washington final and the Montreal semis (beat Djokovic in quarters).

What Roddick showed us at Wimbledon this year is that he was barely an inch away from winning another Grand Slam, and losing that one-slam-wonder title that has been haunting him since his 2003 US Open triumph.

He changed his physique, came more to the net, worked on his volleys, improved his movement on court and of course his serve remains as fierce as ever. So does that make the world number 5 a top contender for the 2009 US Open title? He may be a contender but not a top one. The American is just simply unlucky to share the field with the likes of Federer, Murray, Nadal and Djokovic. But still, I’m interested to see if he has got more in his tank that can take him a step further than he has gone at Wimbledon.

#5 – Checking out the up-and-comers and the veterans

Okay I wouldn’t be a true tennis fan if all I cared about were the people at the very top. There are certainly countless reasons why I stay glued to my TV for two weeks watching a tournament that is taking place in a city with a 6 hour time zone difference.

One of my favorite experiences when I went to Wimbledon this summer was watching Juan Carlos Ferrero easing past Gilles Simon in the fourth round. It’s incredible how Ferrero has managed to climb his way back into the world’s top 30 and at 29 years old, is competing with all the youngsters without a care in the world.

Ferrero, who was number 1 in the world in 2003, was forced to play the qualifying rounds in Montreal last month; something that didn’t deter him from reaching the last 16, beating Lleyton Hewitt and Gael Monfils, before falling to Murray.

Besides Ferrero, Hewitt and Tommy Haas have also bounced back this season, recording some amazing results as they all managed to grab seedings in the US Open (Haas 20, Ferrero 24, Hewitt 31). Those three players were all in the world’s top 2 at some point in time and each one slipped down the rankings for different reasons, but they are all back in the top 32 now and are nothing but inspiring to watch.

They have all won their first round matches and it seems that Hewitt is the unluckiest of them all, as he potentially has Federer in the 3rd round.

As for the up-and-comers, I am looking forward to watch US Open Series champion, Sam Querrey and rising Frenchman Josselin Ouanna.

We should expect a good US Open from Querrey, who is playing with lots of confidence and the support from the home crowd. I actually think he can reach the quarters and face Federer, especially that his potential 4th round opponent, Nikolay Davydenko, just lost to the American in New Haven last week.

As for Ouanna, I realize we haven’t seen him since the French Open third round, but I liked what I saw back then and when I saw that he won his first round match against Rajeev Ram yesterday, and that his next opponent is Fernando Gonzalez (who beat Ouanna at Roland Garros this year), I figured I must check out the Frenchman’s skills on hard courts.