Tuesday, April 28, 2009

UPDATED: Safin plummets in Rome

Steve Tignor posted on his blog, Concret Elbow, yesterday that after Nadal's 5th straight win in Barcelona, he "began to wonder whether it was finally time to add a third item to the brief list of life’s absolutes: Can we now say, Death, taxes, and Nadal on clay?". After today's first round match in Rome between Marat Safin and Tommy Robredo, I am beginning to wonder myself whether we can add to that list of absolute items: Safin squandering a match on any given surface.

Safin was absolutely in control of his delayed and rain-interrupted match against Robredo today, as he swept to a 6-2, 4-1 lead with a double break in that second set, which he served for at 5-3 but he somehow allowed the Spaniard back into the match.

Robredo, who was suddenly revived towards the end of the second set, broke back twice to force a tie-break, which he rightfully earned before he raced to take the deciding set 6-2, to further solidify the painful truth that Marat is no longer capable of closing out matches.

Before the Safin-meltdown, and actually from time to time during the meltdown, there were plenty of sublime safinesque shots. You know those inch-perfect down-the-line winners?!?! He was doing so well, and while I must say Robredo seemed practically asleep up until 4-1 in the second set before he decided to grace us with his aggressive form, Safin still had the match in his grasp and was hitting back with some crazy shots, but converting 4 out of 10 break point opportunities just couldn't cut it for the Russian, who besides squandering those breakpoints, had only 50% of his first serves in, and he double-faulted 4 times including one when he was serving for the match. Safin actually hit 9 more winners than Robredo throughout the match and only committed 1 additional unforced error but the Spaniard hit his winners when it mattered the most.
So I guess that pretty much says it all, except I forgot to say that on the Robredo match point in the decider, Safin didn't even budge an inch to try and return Robredo's serve as he instantly walked to the net to shake hands and leave. So basically when Safin was serving for the match, Robredo was fighting and hitting back with everything he had, but when Robredo had a match point, Safin was probably already thinking about booking a flight out of Rome. It's just sad!

It's raining again so there's absolutely no chance of seeing Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic in action today.

Only 3 matches were completed today, besides the one mentioned above, as Mikhail Youzhny wrapped up his suspended match from the day before, Kohlschreiber upset local hope Simone Bolleli 4-6, 6-1, 6-0 (what a blow) and Robin Soderling won in straights against Marcel Granollers.

UPDATED: The rain has subsided and several matches have been completed. Murray hasn't played but Djokovic vs Albert Montanes is taking place at the moment. Some matches have been suspended for darkness. Upset of the day is Tomas Berdych crashing out to qualifier Mischa Zverev in 3 sets.

Check here for complete results.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Quote of the Day - Federer on his confidence

"It's kind of hard to pinpoint to quite honest... I've won a decent amount of matches beaten the players I have to. Unfortunately I couldn't beat the best you know for some reason... At the moment Rafa's obviously been very very solid, that was a loss for me at the Australian Open and then Murray and Djokovic got me in Indian Wells and Miami. So it took away maybe a bit of my confidence just a touch, but now I don't quite know where I am because we're on clay, it's completely different."

- Roger Federer when asked about his confidence heading into the Rome Masters

Okay so he's being realistic and honest about how he's feeling right now which shouldn't be alarming but when asked about his expectations for Rome and what would be a good result for him at the event, Roger said:

"I think the semifinals would be good."

Correct me if am wrong but Classic Roger would have said am here to win, but semifinals!??! Come on! Wow times are truly a-changin everybody like the great Bob Dylan said.

You can watch the complete interview here.

Can't Stop the Raf, Can't Stop the Raf...

Well apparently titles come in fives for this lad. Rafael Nadal dispatched world number 13, David Ferrer 6-2, 7-5, to follow his 5th straight Monte Carlo title with a 5th straight Barcelona one.

Rafa's only just STARTING to be satisfied with his clay game, after he and his coach Toni both admitted following his Monte Carlo triumph that he was far from his best clay form. But it seems the world number 1 feels like he's getting there (can you believe it?!?! There's still more in store!):

“This has been my best match of the year so far on clay... David played very well and was very aggressive. It was hard to take control of the match and I was lucky that the second set didn’t slip away from me.”

Yes, Rafa... you got "lucky"!! Am sure that's what Ferrer is thinking: "Rafa's on a 5-year lucky streak, it must end soon!"

Both Spaniards fly to Rome next where Rafa faces either Andreas Seppi or Sam Querrey in the second round, while Ferrer opens against Paul-Henri Mathieu.

To be honest I wouldn't mind Rafa losing early in Rome like last year. The kid needs a break if he plans on doing well in Madrid and Roland Garros. Then again who am I to say he needs a break?!?! Rafa's used to heavy-lifting...

Exactly how heavy is that thing?! Do you think any other tennis player could manage to lift that trophy or are they just keepin it this way since no one else is winning this tournament?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Murray and Beckham join Malaria No More campaign

Photo via Sky Sport

British number 1 tennis player, Andy Murray, and English footballer, David Beckham, helped launch the Malaria No More campaign in the UK on Monday, alongside Olympic Gold medalist, Denise Lewis. The trio met British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, at the event at 10 Downing Street, and have been named members of the leadership council for the Malaria No More UK.

“This is the first global charity I’ve been involved with in this capacity and it was an easy decision."

“Malaria is completely preventable and stoppable but yet it still kills more children in Africa than any other single disease. We can radically change this, it is a huge opportunity and I’m urging the UK public to help save a life and get behind Malaria No More UK, a truly world-changing and life-saving initiative," said Murray.

Malaria is the world’s most serious, preventable health crisis. Malaria threatens half the world’s population and those most vulnerable are pregnant women and children. In Africa, malaria kills one child every 30 seconds; it kills more children under five than any other single disease.

The campaign which was initially launched in the US is having a lot of support lately especially with the awareness Ashton Kutcher and Larry King have spread through Twitter and on television.

It's nice to see Murray step up for a great cause like that.

For info on how to donate, check: http://www.malarianomore.org.uk

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Nadal fights his way to 5th straight Monte title

I had a nostalgic moment last night, and I went through all the posts, articles and news pieces I've written about Rafa's clay victories dating back to 2005, and I was in awe of how dominant the Spaniard has been and couldn't believe that it's 4 years later and still no one can really test him on clay. So imagine my surprise when I saw Novak Djokovic today step up and take a swing at it.

The Serb, who lost to Rafa 6-3, 2-6, 6-1, in the Monte Carlo final today, reminded us all why he had climbed to the number 3 spot in the world rankings and how he managed to take a Slam off Rafa and Federer last year. Okay he did lose 6-1 in the third, but still, during the match, we saw Djokovic's ability to dominate, regardless the surface, as he moved Rafa around the court, hitting all sorts of winners, forcing the Spaniard to defend and attacking all those Rafa shots that kept falling shorter and shorter on court.

It was quite refreshing to see someone challenge the world number one on clay, and being a Rafanatic, I never lost faith in Rafa despite the 6-2 drubbing he got in the second set, and I certainly enjoyed seeing him fight off all those breakpoints in that epic first game of the 3rd set. What was a bit disappointing was the way Djokovic broke down after those first couple of tight games in the third and how he threw it all away at the end, double faulting on breakpoint and allowing Rafa to race to a 5-1 lead. Don't get me wrong, I'm beyond thrilled that Nadal has claimed his 5th straight crown in Monte Carlo, but I'm just saying it would have been cooler had Djokovic tried to fight till the very end. Then again, whose spirits would not be broken against someone with the class of Rafa on clay?!?!

Rafa now equals Roger Federer's record of 14 Masters Series wins, trailing record-holder Andre Agassi by 3 titles.

Next stop for the world number 1 is Barcelona, where again he has been the champion for the past 4 years. Other seeds in the Barca draw include Fernando Verdasco, Nikolay Davydenko, David Ferrer, Fernando Gonzalez and Marat Safin.

Nadal opens his campaign on Wednesday against Yen-Hsun Lu or a qualifier. He is seeded to possibly face David Nalbandian in the quarters, Stanislas Wawrinka in the semis, and Verdasco in the final.

Video: Djokovic beats Wawrinka to set up Nadal final

World number 3, Novak Djokovic, beat Swiss number 2, Stanislas Wawrinka, in the Monte Carlo semis on Saturday 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, in a repeat to last year's Rome Masters final which also had gone Djokovic's way.

Djokovic will face the toughest test of all in the final, as he meets four-time Roland Garros and Monte Carlo champion, Rafael Nadal, who beat Andy Murray in the semis later on Saturday.

Djokovic said after the match that he must believe in himself heading into the final against Nadal:

"If I think 'Mission Impossible,' then I shouldn't go to the court (against Nadal), like with the white flag."

On the other hand, Nadal assured everyone he was not underestimating Djokovic as an opponent:

"I think he's playing well... He is having a very good tournament. Sure, I have to play my best tennis if I want to have chances to win. So I'm going to try to play aggressive and try my best."

The final is scheduled at 2:00pm (Monte Carlo and Cairo time).

Rafa leads Djokovic 11-4 in their head-to-head series, and their last meeting came in the Davis Cup on clay earlier this season, where Rafa thrashed the Serb, 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.

Video: Nadal vs Murray semifinal highlights + Rafa interview

Rafael Nadal [1] defeated Andy Murray [4] 6-2, 7-6, in the Monte Carlo semifinals on Saturday. The four-time defending champion will face Novak Djokovic [3] in the final on Sunday.

Nadal's on court interview:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

French Stars Pull Out of Barcelona

World number 11, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and number 10, Gael Monfils, suffered another setback in their Roland Garros preparation campaigns as they both pulled out of the Barcelona Open next week.

The French duo, who both haven't had any proper action on clay so far (Monfils lost in Monte Carlo first round, Tsonga didn't play), sited knee problems as the main reason behind their withdrawal from Barcelona.

"Jo is training in Geneva at the moment and felt something in his right knee," said Tsonga's agent Morgan Menahem. "He won't go to Barcelona as a precaution but it's nothing to worry about."

Well the good news is they still have time to recover before the French Open, however they need to get some matches on clay under their belts if they plan on causing any stir in Paris. Hopefully they'll both be fit for Rome and Madrid.

Murray to face claycourt master Nadal in Monte semis

"If I was to beat Nadal [in the semifinal] it would be the best win of my career... I have to play the best match of my life to win."

- Andy Murray on the prospect of beating Rafael Nadal in the Monte Carlo semifinals on Saturday.

The world number 4 has just reached his first ever semifinal in a clay court event by beating a returning Nikolay Davydenko 7-6, 6-4, in the quarters on Friday.

Murray, who had to contest a delayed third round match against Fabio Fognini first on Friday before he came back to the courts to beat Davydenko, has an almost impossible test ahead of him in the semis, where he faces 4-time defending champion, Nadal.

Nadal, who has won his last 25 straight matches in Monte Carlo, has a 6-2 record lead over the Scot, and both those losses came on hardcourts.

The world number 1 also had to go through two matches on Friday, first he had to eliminate Nicolas Lapentti, then he brushed past Ivan Ljubicic. I say brushed past because when the match started, I headed downstairs to fix myself a quick snack and by the time I went back up, Rafa was shaking hands with Ljubicic at the net.

Although Murray's statement on having to play "the best match of his life" to beat Rafa seems a bit exaggerated, am sure many people will agree with him. For someone who had never gone past the 3rd round at any clay event prior to this week, Murray has a crazy task ahead of him. His only shot would be if Rafa has a really bad day and keeps committing errors, and the chances of that happening are about slim to none.

World number 3, Novak Djokovic, and 13th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka will compete in the earlier semifinal on Saturday, scheduled at 13:30.

For the complete Murray audio interview with BBC, check here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rafa finally graces us with his presence on clay, Fognini on a roll in Monte

Click here for the latest French Open coverage ...

There's something about the combination between that surface and that guy that makes me feel warm inside

Is anybody's Monte bracket still intact?!?! Cuz mine is in a dismal state cuz forgive me if I didn't pick Fabio Fognini to reach the third round and assumed people like Monfils, Simon and Almagro would win at least one match in Monte Carlo. I believe the least disappointing player for me so far in Monte must be David Ferrer. Now that's someone who's brutally knocking out people this week, like there's no tomorrow (6-1, 6-0 against Gicquel today... Impressive!).

The clay season has only officially started for me today because although I've been watching all the previous matches, for me the true kickoff of the claycourt swing is when Rafael Nadal takes to the courts and starts sliding his way past his opponents. So yeah, it officially began for me today, precisely at 3:45pm (Cairo time), when Rafa took off his headband and shook hands with Juan Ignacio Chela at the net after seeing off the Argentine 6-2, 6-3.

Fabio Fognini could be a real test for Murray

Back to Fabio Fognini, the Italian qualifier who convincingly toppled Tomas Berdych in the first round followed by a 6-2, 6-0 thrashing of 14th-seed, Marin Cilic in the second round. His next opponent is 4th-seeded Andy Murray, whom he has beaten at the Rogers Cup in 2007, their only previous meeting on tour.

"We know each other very well, so I hope to enjoy the match and we will see what will happen," said 108th-ranked Fognini on Murray.

"I don't think I have an advantage on clay, every match is different and you have to be solid and aggressive."

"We are the same age, we played junior so many times and doubles - so we know each other well... He is number four in the world now, so I'm a little bit underrated - but it's OK, this one is not important for me... I keep doing my best and I will try to complicate things on the court."

I haven't seen his match against Cilic, but I saw the Berdych match and despite Berdych's unforced errors, Fognini was really focused in the 2nd and 3rd sets and showed some incredible shot-making abilities. Let's hope he gives Murray a run for his money.

Shrug it out, Marat... That's all one can do!

You know what's just as predictable as Rafa winning his match today?!?! Safin losing his!!! Squandering a 4-0 lead in the decider, losing match points all the way to reach a tiebreaker, catching up in the tie-break after trailing 1-5, then double-faulting at 6-6... Yep, that's the frustrating Marat we all adore so much, plus or minus a few broken racquets.

My match pick for Thursday is a no brainer. Definitely David Ferrer [10] vs Fernando Verdasco [7]!! A couple of in-form Spaniards facing off on the dirt?!?! I've already cleared my schedule for that one. The battle of the Swissmen follows of course where second seed Roger Federer (I refuse to reference him with the overused "newly-wed" term) will face 13th-seed Stanislas Wawrinka for the first time on clay.

Click here for the latest French Open coverage and make sure to read my daily column for Sport360°.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Safin not really psyched over Hewitt victory

World number 21, Marat Safin, defeated wildcard, Lleyton Hewitt, 6-4, 7-5, in the Monte Carlo first round on Tuesday.

The Russian two-time Grand Slam champion however was not too proud of his victory, given the fact that Hewitt, who won the Houston title only 48 hours before the match, had just arrived in Monte Carlo and had no time to rest nor adjust.

"He arrived like two hours before the match. But he played well. I took advantage of the fact he was not used to these balls, I guess, and (his) condition was not really at its best."

"That's why he missed a couple of easy shots in important moments and I took advantage of it and won the match. So, nothing great. Nothing incredible to write about."

I agree with the Russian; given the circumstances, Safin could have finished off Hewitt a lot faster instead of making all those unforced errors. I can't believe Hewitt had any energy to play to begin with, you gotta respect a spirit like that. He actually tried to fight off Safin, but come on, arriving two hours before the match is just ridiculous.

Safin next takes on qualifier, Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador, who upset 15th seeded Radek Stepanek, in the first round on Monday.

Safin and Hewitt are now tied at 7-7 in their head-to-head record.

"Obviously our rankings both aren't in the top 10 anymore, so you're not getting the protection of not playing each other early on... But, yeah, he's obviously still a class player when he's on," said Hewitt on his fellow former world number 1, Safin.

Safin's second round match on Wednesday is fourth from a 10:30a.m start on Court Des Princes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Safin faces Hewitt in Monte Carlo on Tuesday

This is a rivalry that dates back to 1999, which was when those two players met for the first time during the Davis Cup semifinals in Australia. Lleyton Hewitt aided by a home crowd got the better of Marat Safin that time but from then on, both players won an equal share of their subsequent 12 meetings, with the Australian owning a 7-6 head-to-head record lead over Safin.

There has in fact been a pattern in the history between these two; since that first Davis Cup meeting between Safin and Hewitt, each player has alternated winning two straight matches against the other, up until Hewitt's last 2 victories over Safin in Las Vegas in 2007 and 2008. Which means that for the sake of the continuity of this pattern, Safin should win on Tuesday in his Monte Carlo first round match.

But all patterns and superstition aside, the numbers say that Safin and Hewitt are 1-1 against one another on clay, but those meetings came way back in 2001 and 2002.

Hewitt, who is currently ranked 57 in the world (36 spots below Safin), is coming off his first career claycourt title win in Houston, which means he's finding some form on that surface but could be suffering from a terrible jetlag right about now. Meanwhile, Safin should be all relaxed and ready for the event in Monte Carlo, since he resides in Monaco when he's not traveling on tour.

Since reaching the 3rd round at the Australian Open earlier this season, Safin has not won two consecutive matches in any of the tournaments he participated in, while Hewitt has reached the semis in Memphis and the quarters in Sydney, besides his Houston triumph.

However, Hewitt is far from a regular at the tournament in Monte Carlo as this will only be his 3rd showing at the event, unlike Safin who has only missed the tournament once since 1999. Safin's best appearance in Monte Carlo was reaching the semis in 2004 (lost to Coria).

The winner of this match will face Nicolas Lapentti in the second round with a possible third round match-up against top-seed, Rafael Nadal.

My verdict: Safin will keep the pattern going and will beat Hewitt in 3.

Pic This: Andy Murray and Alex Corretja

Photo via PAPhotos

Check out the latest on Murray at the 2011 Australian Open

I like the looks of that!! Looks like the Andy Murray-Alex Corretja pairing is working fine in Monte Carlo. The world number four has the help of Corretja for the claycourt swing, just like last year. Murray is yet to reach a quarterfinal in a clay event but he believes he is improving, especially with the help of two-time Roland Garros finalist, Corretja:

"He just brings something a bit different, certain drills and stuff, and tactically as well, that are fundamental on clay, that obviously he would have done playing and a lot of top guys do on clay now... It's nice sometimes to have a different opinion on things."

"It's challenging, when I have never made the quarter-finals of a (clay) tournament before. I'm just working hard to just try and keep up with the top guys... I'm trying to reach quarter-finals and semi-finals of tournaments for the first time that I've never been past the second or third round of before, and that's pretty exciting."

"It takes a bit of time to get used to the movement again. I haven't hit a ball on clay since the French last year... So it comes down to getting used to sliding, not being 100 per cent sure under your feet, it takes a bit of time but I'm hitting the ball well."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Quote of the Day - Lleyton Hewitt after winning in Houston

Image via Associated Press

"This is what all the hard work is for, to play weeks like this and have this kind of feeling at the end... It makes going through the surgery and all the hard work worth it."

"It's a big day to win a clay court event. I feel every year I'm getting better on clay. Now I'm looking really forward to the French Open - with a good draw I think I can do some damage there."

- Lleyton Hewitt after grabbing the Houston title on Sunday.

The former world number 1, who is currently ranked 57, captured his first title in 2 years with his victory in Houston, which is Hewitt's first career clay title.

Hewitt, who is looking to do some damage at the French Open this year, has made it as far as the quarters in Roland Garros twice in his career, in 2001 and 2004 (lost to Ferrero and Gaudio respectively).

It must feel great to achieve new feats like that at this point in one's career. Congratz, Lleyton, am happy for you, but please don't oust Safin from Monte tomorrow :)

Players' Take on Roger Federer

Besides Gilles Simon, other top players were asked about Roger Federer in Monte Carlo, and it looks like the verdict was unanimous: Roger Federer is still a major threat!

Here's what they had to say:

World number one, Rafael Nadal:

"He has played a grand slam final and two Masters Series semi-finals, these are very good results."

"Everybody talks about the racket he smashed in Miami but that's nothing. It happens to everyone.
.. He just needs a title to confirm his good start to the season."

World number 3, Novak Djokovic:

"I found it strange he broke his racket in Miami, he who always keeps calm... But these things happen when you are frustrated on the court."

"Federer won everything for four years and now he starts losing against some players but you cannot say he is in crisis."

World number 8, Fernando Verdasco:

"Two years ago he was winning everything. Now, since the beginning of the year, he has been beaten by Nadal, Djokovic and (Andy) Murray... I think mentally it is not easy to handle."

World number 10, Gael Monfils:

"We must not forget who he is... He will be out for revenge."

I gotta say I agree with the Slider-man; Federer is not one to forget a single loss and he will hunt people down sooner or later.

Quotes via Reuters, Images via BBC and ATPWorldTour.com

Quote of the Day - Gilles Simon on Roger Federer

"Why does he lose his temper on the court? Because he did not need to before as he used to slaughter everyone."

"To me, on a good day, he still is the best player in the world. He had already broken rackets before, now he is frustrated so he does it again.

"In a way it makes him more human."

- Gilles Simon on Roger Federer

So far the Frenchman has escaped that slaughter since Simon is actually 2-0 head-to-head against Federer, with both wins coming last year.

Federer could have a look at some revenge this week in Monte Carlo since 7th-seeded Simon is a potential fourth round opponent for the world number 2.

Nadal says he's pressure-free heading into Monte Carlo

World number 1 and four-time defending champion, Rafael Nadal, said he is very calm heading into the kick-off clay season event in Monte Carlo with "less pressure than ever" despite having four titles to defend in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros.

"I've had the best start to the season of my career, I won in Australia, at Indian Wells and this allows me to reach this moment calmer than in previous years," said the 22-year-old Spaniard.

Nadal, who opens his Monte Carlo campaign against Juan Ignacio Chela on Wednesday, has a heavy schedule ahead of him where he is supposed to compete in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Madrid over a 5 week period, before Roland Garros.

"A few days with friends and family in Manacor have helped me a lot, but now I need a little more time to adapt to the surface."

Nadal joined world number 4, Andy Murray, in an exhibition in front of Prince Albert's palace on Sunday, to launch the event. Here's an interview with the top seed following the exhibition:

Quotes above from Sport.es, translation from Google.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Federer Accepts Monte Carlo Wildcard

After announcing earlier that he will miss Monte Carlo, Roger Federer made this announcement on his official website today:

Dear Fans

I have decided to accept a wildcard into the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters tournament that begins on Monday. I will head there this weekend to start the clay court season.

Thanks to all of you for your continued support.

All the best,


Looks like someone might stand in the way of Nadal's attempt to win a 5th straight title in Monte Carlo. It wouldn't have been the same with you Roger. I'm glad you changed your mind.

Federer has never won the Masters title in Monte Carlo and has lost to Nadal in the finals for the past 3 years.

Comedy Spots: Early Doors on Chelsea's Ivanovic

"If you had been given a list of all 26 players who took to the field at Anfield last night and told to rank them in order of their likelihood of making a match-winning contribution, Branislav Ivanovic would have been dead last...

As of yesterday early evening, his only claim to fame was sharing his name with an attractive tennis player. He was to Ana Ivanovic what Weird Al is to Jelena Jankovic.

Now he is the man who put Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals.

- Early Doors' take on defender, Bransilav Ivanovic's brace during Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinals 1st leg against Liverpool. The Serb, who was only playing because Jose Bosingwa was injured, contributed twice to the 3-1 away victory for Chelsea.

Video: Interview with a 12-year-old Nadal

I came across this video of Rafael Nadal when he was still a work in progress back in 1998, way before the muscle, the butt and the whole best player in the world thing. Notice how 12-year-old Rafa had the exact same facial expressions as macho Rafa has now?!?!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Juan Martin Del Potro breaks into the top 5

20-year-old Argentine, Juan Martin Del Potro, is the latest addition to the world's top 5 as his semifinal showing in Miami last week lifted him to a career-high ranking of number 5.

The Argentine, who beat Rafael Nadal in the quarters of Miami, is having a successful season so far that includes a title win in Auckland, quarterfinal appearances at the Australian Open and Indian Wells, besides his Miami efforts last week.

Simon Reed of Eurosport, questioned
JMDP's ability to maintain this ranking and said that he is "not at all convinced that Del Potro can sustain his momentum".

JMDP is a talented, aggressive player, but I still maintain that he struggles against top players, despite his win over Nadal, which I still consider a fluke. It was a good fluke, don't get me wrong (one that took him to the top 5 for the 1st time), but we can't start expecting this young lad to be a threat to the top players just yet.

Right now, I'd like to congratulate JMDP on this amazing effort. This same time last year, he had lost in the second rounds of both Indian Wells and Miami, and he couldn't even make it through qualifying in Monte Carlo. I think it's key for him right now to try and do well on clay, where he has a great chance of winning plenty of extra points, and try to stick around in the top 5 as long as he could, because after Wimbledon, he's got that insane task of defending 4 back-to-back titles. Good luck with that !!!

What do you think?!?! How long can JMDP keep this new ranking?!?!

Miami Watch: Quote of the Day - Novak Djokovic

"I think I played volleys quite well, but he was managing to find a little space to pass me. He just made a good passing shot. You have to say, Well done. I was positioning myself as best as I can." - Novak Djokovic on how well he covered the net during his final against Andy Murray.

It's not often that Djokovic doesn't sound conceded in a press conference, let alone give credit to his opponent after losing a match. So I felt compelled to post this quote and celebrate this rare occasion.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Miami Video: Federer sounding pissed off in his post-match presser

Okay that press conference seems a lot different when you actually see Federer's face. I mean we've all read the transcripts and could tell he's pissed off but the look on his face and his tone throughout this video show a lot more. There's lots of bitterness and anger besides the understandable disappointment expected after any loss.

There are a few seconds in there where I felt he was gonna bite the head off one of the reporters. Well after the way he played, I don't blame the guy. It's just one of those matches he should forget about altogether... as well as this press conference for that matter.

Snap out of it Fed. Creating a habit of being a sore loser is not very becoming!!!

Miami Watch: Let's hope for a good final everyone...

The third and fourth best players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, will fight tomorrow (Sunday) for the Miami title that comes with a $605,500 cheque and 1000 points.

You can find a full preview of this match on the ATP's official website, but I just wanted to note that if Murray wins tomorrow, the Scot will only be 170 points behind Djokovic in the rankings and while Murray has 520 points to defend in the upcoming claycourt swing, Djokovic has the burden of defending 2800 points (remember he won Rome last year and reached the semis in Monte Carlo, Hamburg and Roland Garros). The Serb sure has his work cut out for him the coming 2 months.

So it's safe to say that Murray has an excellent chance of moving up the rankings during the coming couple of months, and who knows, if Federer keeps up his bizarre third set meltdowns, perhaps the number 2 spot will be up for grabs as well.

It's weird how Murray and Djokovic have only previously met in Masters Series events right?!?! I mean never in a Grand Slam, never in a 250 lame event, but 6 times in Masters Series. They met in Miami 2 years ago where Djokovic crushed Murray 6-1, 6-0 en route to grabbing the title. Murray has sure come a long way since that spanking.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's final. I hope we're rewarded after enduring that dreadful Djoko-Fed semi.

Lame trivia: did you guys know that Murray is exactly 1 week older than Djokovic?!?!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Miami Video: Federer pulls a "Marat" as he angrily falls to Djokovic

How disappointing is it to you as a tennis fan, when you anticipate a match of the Federer-Djokovic caliber but end up with a disastrous version of it where Federer has no forehand, has the temper of Marat Safin and is actually less popular on court than Djokovic is?!?!! It's horrifying ain't it?!

The world number 2 fell to Djokovic 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 in a windy semifinal in Miami where his forehands were flying all over the place and when they weren't out of bounds they just hit the net.

"It was unfortunate, you know, but thank God the hardcourt season is over... I don't care anymore. I'm moving over to clay, a new chapter," said a seemingly bitter Federer after the match.

The Swiss is not scheduled to play Monte Carlo, and is free till Rome (starts April 27th), so I guess he has some time now to rest, shake off that loss and get ready for Roland Garros.

As for Djokovic, he awaits Andy Murray or Juan Martin Del Potro in the final.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Miami Watch: What a vengeful day - Del Potro axes Nadal from quarters

Well, Rafael Nadal finally proved to us all that he is in fact, just human, as he fell short against Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, in the Miami quarterfinals on Thursday. Rafa was completely out of steam, out of sorts, out of everything I can think of as he allowed Del Potro to move him from one side of the court to the other, surrendering a 3-0 (double break) lead in the third set to crash out of Miami.

Sixth-seeded Del Potro was far more focused than we have seen him in a long time, as he finally shrugged off all names formerly attached to him, from choker to gutless.

The Argentine not only avenged his quarterfinal loss to Nadal at Indian Wells last week, but he also caused the biggest upset of the tournament so far and snapped a 4-match losing streak to Nadal, whom he hadn't won a single set off prior to Thursday.

What particularly amazed me about Del Potro against Nadal was how well he kept pulling off those volleys. For someone who is not a natural volleyer, Del Potro sure had some smooth hands tonight.

Next up for Del Potro is 4th-seeded Andy Murray, who posted a vengeful victory himself over 8th-seeded Fernando Verdasco, who had eliminated Murray from the Aussie Open earlier this season. Murray crushed a struggling Verdasco 6-1, 6-2 and will definitely be a tough rock to crack for Del Potro.

Despite Del Potro's aggressive performance today, I must say am sensing that today was more of a fluke than a turning point for the 20-year-old against top players. Don't get me wrong am a fan of Del Potro and I highly appreciate his game when he's on, but am referring to his ability to overcome top 5 players. Thursday night, Nadal was out of steam and didn't play his game so we're just gonna have to wait and see how well Del Potro is gonna perform against Murray. My guess is: not much! Feel free to rub it in my face later if am wrong :)

"Always I was keeping going and keeping trying... I beat him with my mind and with my game. When we played long points, I was dominating every time, so that was the key of the last set, of the tie-break. I served very good, and with my forehand with big confidence."

"To beat Rafa, you have to be in good shape and every part of your game, and today I did a great job. I played unbelievable. I beat the No. 1 of the world."

“I didn't came back very strong... He started to make a lot of mistakes; I think I played really badly all the time. That's the truth of the match. Later when I have 3-0 in the third set I played worse. It was an amazing disaster. I think he didn't play an unbelievable match, but I didn't play on my best level today."

“But anyway, I want to congratulate for my team and Del Potro. He started the season playing well. It's a good win for him. Yeah, congratulate him."

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Miami Watch: Make sure not to miss blockbuster Thursday

We've got some great matches ahead of us on Thursday in Miami.

Make sure you're all set up in front of your TVs starting 3pm Miami time (9pm Cairo time) for what am sure is gonna be an afternoon/night of some high quality tennis.

Not Before 3:00 PM
[1] R Nadal (ESP) vs [6] J Del Potro (ARG)

In a repeat to last week's quarterfinal at Indian Wells, Nadal will be looking to extend his record lead over JMDP to 5-0.

Not Before 7:00 PM
[4] A Murray (GBR) vs [8] F Verdasco (ESP)

Verdasco snapped a 5-match losing streak to Murray earlier this year at the Australian Open, where he eliminated the Scot from the 4th round. Murray reached the final at Indian Wells last week, but he suffered a dismal defeat to Nadal in a very windy match. The fourth seed had a couple of dodgy rounds in Miami, coming through in 3 sets against Juan Monaco and Nicolas Massu but then his last win was a 6-1, 6-0 demolition of Viktor Troicki. So my advice to Verdasco is: beware and be brave.

Verdsaco had a tough match against his fellow Spaniard, Felicano Lopez, but then he cruised past Radek Stepanek 6-2, 6-2, so he's not doing too bad himself.

Not Before 9:00 PM
[1] S Williams (USA) vs [5] V Williams (USA)

This will be the sisters' 20th meeting on tour and their 4th in Miami. Venus has won their last two meetings, in Dubai last Feb, and in the season-ending championships in Qatar late last year. Overall, Venus leads Serena 10-9 head-to-head and is 2-1 against Serena in Miami (their last Miami meeting was in the 2005 quarters where Venus won 6-1, 7-6).

Serena has come through some tough matches this week in Miami and if she doesn't make it to the finals, she will lose her top spot to Dinara Safina. Will Venus dispatch her sister from the WTA penthouse, or will Serena prevail??!

Miami Watch: Federer overcomes Roddick in quarters, Djokovic next

Second seed, Roger Federer, made it to the Miami semis after a hard-fought 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win over a rejuvenated Andy Roddick.

The American fifth-seed gave Federer a hard time and I was suprised at how well Roddick was outrallying Federer from the back of the court, but what is truly beyond me, is why Roddick insisted on those careless approach shots, allowing Federer to hit the exact same pass almost every single time. Roddick clearly had the upperhand most of the time from the back of the court, especially in the second set when Federer seemed to be losing focus, and I know it's courageous to go up to the net and try to mix things up, but it just wasn't working for A-Rod Wednesday night.

Next up for Fed is third-seed, Novak Djokovic, who finally snapped his 4-match losing streak to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga by defeating the Frenchman 6-3, 6-4.

"I think that I should have had it under control in the second set. Kind of lost that and was under quite a bit of pressure in the third set. So I'm happy I got through it. Got maybe a touch lucky at that deuce passing shot. But, I mean, I hit it well and came up with a great shot and match point. So I was really happy," - Federer on that lucky net cord that set him up with a match point.

Some Andy-bashing:

"... 40-Love, to be broken, that should never happen, especially against Andy. I mean, he's a good player, but he's not the greatest returner of all time. It just shouldn't happen, so that was disappointing."

And then some Andy-complimenting:

"... you don't break Andy Roddick every day either. So it's always a highlight when you get a chance to break him. That's why I was happy."

"You got to create yourself chances. If you do get lucky on a big point, it just happens. But you got to put yourself in that position, and that's what I was able to do."
- We get it Roger, you didn't win cuz of the net cord.

"I think it's going to help me with my confidence. I think it was a decent match. I don't think I played my best tennis tonight, but I served well. I had the short lapses in the second set. I just have to make sure they don't happen, because it happened in the third set against Murray."

On his next opponent, Djokovic:

"I also beat him [Djokovic] in Monaco. He gave up there. But it's good to have, you know, won the last couple matches against him. In the beginning when he was up and coming, you know, I figured him out pretty quickly, you know. I'm always anxious to play him, especially in the big occasions. You know, I kind of like his game, you know, to play that kind of style player."

And finally how Roger really feels after beating Roddick in the quarters:

"When I get through those kind of tough matches, sometimes I go on to win the tournament and I don't never look back. I hope that's what's going to happen right now."
- Someone's getting a little carried away... There's still potentially Rafa or Murray in the finals if Federer takes out Djokovic. I don't think he really fancies his odds against either one.

"Yeah, I mean, it's easier if I would have just played terrible the whole time it would have been probably tougher. I at least gave it a go there in the third, and didn't really catch a break there. You know, he had a couple good let cords when it was a breakpoint against him, and one to set up the match. He hit forehand on the outside of the line down breakpoint, too, " said Roddick after the match.

"You know, but at least it became a battle." - One you could have won, Andy!!!!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Miami Video: Nadal vs Wawrinka Highlights

World number 1, Rafael Nadal edged past Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6, 7-6 in 2 hours, 43 minutes of high quality tennis, in the Miami Masters last-16 action on Tuesday.

"Yeah, today was good match. Yeah. I had a lot of breakpoints and I didn't convert not one -- only one in the second set after a lot of chances. So maybe if I won a little bit more breakpoints the match seems like I was playing better, no? But I think, yeah, it was very important win. Wasn't a bad match," said Nadal after the match.

"I have Love-40 in the 5-4, 0-40, and I didn't have any chance. He played all the serves inside. First serves, very hard first serves. So I didn't have chances. Nothing. Just wait and try to be focus all the time to have more opportunities," added the Spaniard.

Nadal's quarterfinal opponent will be sixth-seed, Juan Martin Del Potro, who eliminated David Ferrer earlier on Tuesday.

The quarterfinals field is rock solid with all 8 players seeded in the top 10.

The complete quarterfinal fixtures are:

Roger Federer[2] vs Andy Roddick [5]
Novak Djokovic [3] vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [10]

Andy Murray [4] vs Fernando Verdasco [8]
Rafael Nadal [1] vs Juan Martin Del Potro [6]

Miami Watch: Dementieva's Shot of the Day

She may have crashed out to Caroline Wozniacki on Monday, but at least Elena Dementieva's efforts in that rally earned her a feature in "Shot of the Day". Check it out!