Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MIAMI UPSETS: Berdych sends Federer packing

16th seed, Tomas Berdych, made it 2 in 10 against Roger Federer, as he hopped on the Miami upset train to oust Federer 6-4, 6-7, 7-6, in the 4th round on Tuesday.

The Czech had only beaten Federer once in their previous 9 matches, when he eliminated the Swiss in the Athens Olympics in 2004. Berdych came close in Australia last year, when he was up 2 sets to love against Federer in the last 16, but still failed to seal the win.

Federer, who also lost early in Indian Wells last week, admitted that timing issues and lack of confidence have been the main reasons behind his sub-par performances on the American hardcourts this month.

"Look, it's no secret I've struggled the last, what is it, five matches I've played here in the States. It's disappointing... But I fought as much as I could under the understood circumstances with my game having issues at the moment. Definitely lack timing. I don't know where that comes from because I played so nicely in Australia."

"He's a good player, so I knew the danger coming in, especially with the timing issues I've had already the last couple weeks. But I thought I worked hard enough to iron those things out. Maybe I did. It was still the confidence lacking, and that's what kind of cost me these last two tournaments. "

"Look, I never felt great the whole night. I just fought with what I had. I knew it was gonna be a tough third set, because thank God he wasn't in too many of my service games in the second set, which made it a bit easier for me to relax and concentrate on the return games... But, look, I had tons of chances at the end. Match point was my serve, I mean, what more can I do? I tried everything I could. It's just not happening for me at the moment. "

Miami has now lost its top 3 seeds... Could Tsonga make it 4 tonight?

Last man standing?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Miami Quote of the Day - Words of wisdom from Nadal

"I think about me, no? That's like a league, and every tournament is like another match. We will see what's happening end of the season, no? For me, every match is important. I try to do my best in every tournament, in every moment when I am on court. Well, for me, doesn't affect a lot if Murray or Djokovic is outside if I lose today."

-- Rafael Nadal responds to whether he cares that Djokovic and Murray have lost early in Miami.

Monday, March 29, 2010

MIAMI VIDEO: Sunday's Hot Shot - Nadal vs Nalbandian

Rafael Nadal, who is the second highest seed standing in the draw in Miami, overpowered David Nalbandian to reach the fourth round. After dropping a tight first set in an 18-point tiebreak, Nadal outclassed the Argentine to take the match 6-7 (10-8), 6-2, 6-2.

While other serious contenders like Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have crashed out early in Miami, Nadal seems to be hitting top form as he managed to overcome an opponent he considers to be exceptionally dangerous.

"I know how well he [Nalbandian can] serve and how well he can play. Well, I know for sure, because, you know, the first two meetings against him how was, 62, 6 1, 6 4, 6 0 for him... So when you go another time on court against one player with this talent, you are always a little bit scared," said the fourth seed after the match.

"He's very complete player. Anyway, look, I'm very happy to see him back after important surgery. He's a close friend of mine. He is talent, no? He can play very easy. He can make very difficult things very easy... So, you know, when he's playing at his best level he makes you feel like you are nothing in the middle of the court, no? So I think it's strange that one player like David don't have a Grand Slam victory, because he has everything to win."

I love how Nadal held nothing back while praising Nalbandian. I mean for someone like Rafa to say that Nalbandian can make him feel like he is "nothing" on court... That's class!!

Here's a video of Rafa's post-match interview:

Nadal faces fellow Spaniard and Miami's 15th seed, David Ferrer, in the fourth round on Tuesday. The match is scheduled third from a 1pm start (Miami local time).

Friday, March 26, 2010

MIAMI PHOTO: Venus continues search for world's ugliest dress...

Last year...

This year...

Miami certainly brings the "hideous" out of Venus, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

MIAMI VIDEO: Ivanovic and Jay Sean too strong for Djokovic and Scary Spice

The Sony Ericsson Open never fails to deliver when it comes to pre-tournament entertainment. Yes, the whole players swimming with the dolphins thing has gotten pretty boring, but this year Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic got to play mixed doubles with Spice Girl, Mel B, and singer/songwriter, Jay Sean, on center court, in an event named Glam Slam Match to promote the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open.

The Serbian beauty, Ana not Novak, and Jay Sean, beat Djokovic and Scary Spice, who certainly had no idea what she was doing. Too bad it seems like only 10 people showed up for the exhibition match... That promo plan certainly flopped!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CATCH UP POST - Indian Wells

Indian Wells ended 3 days ago and I've barely had enough time to process everything that happened in the Californian desert. I mean between Baghdatis upsetting Federer, Ljubicic beating Djokovic and Nadal en route to the title, and Kate Walsh's live tennis updates on Twitter, us tennis fans were certainly treated to an exceptional Indian Wells this year.

So here are my random thoughts after the first Masters event of the season:

* Mario Ancic is finally back

The former world number 7 and one of G,S,M's personal favorites has graced us with his appearance on the ATP tour after slumming it for a bit in the Challengers and Futures events (no disrespect to either), as he makes an official return to tennis following rumors of him quitting the game and becoming a full-time lawyer. How horrible would that have been?!?! Lucky for us, Super Mario's days as a law intern seem to be over now and after his first ATP showing in 2010, the Croat has already moved up 253 rankings spots that landed him at 441. Ancic, who made it to the 3rd round at Indian Wells with victories over Bobby Reynolds and Julien Benneteau, before falling to Nadal, has a wild card for Miami, where he faces talented Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, in the first round.

* Nadal played some kickass tennis, yet dropped to number 4

Four incredible performances and one single flop in Indian Wells, earned Rafa a drop to number 4 in the world rankings (I blame the shorts, shame on you Nike). The Spaniard played some punishing tennis against Rainer Schuettler, Ancic, John Isner and Tomas Berdych, before he suffered what he called "an accident" against eventual champion, Ivan Ljubicic, in the semis. The good news for Rafanatics is that the forehand is as brutal as ever, the knees seem strong, and our beloved Nadal is upbeat about the future:

"The mental thing, I gonna do it well. I always was a winner. I was a very good competitor, and I gonna be very good competitor and winner another time, no?"

-- Nadal after losing to Ljubicic in the Indian Wells semifinals, before heading to the Masters event in Miami.

* Ljubicic enjoys new tennis highs at the age of 31

My first reaction to the Ljubicic - Roddick final was: "What is this, 2006?"
Naturally my first reaction to Ljubicic winning the whole thing was: "Wow, he really hadn't won a Masters Series title already?"
The former world number 3 said it himself:

¨There were times in 2005, 2006, when I really felt like I deserved one. Madrid, I was break up in the fifth against Rafa in the final. Tomas Berdych, Bercy, lost in five. Not really the one I lost in Miami to Roger. I mean, it was three tiebreaks, but he was dominating it... But, I mean, looking at my career, you know, in general, I did feel like, you know, I was missing it. It's really fantastic feeling to finally have it.¨

The Croat is back at number 13 in the world rankings and has become the oldest player to win a Masters title for the first time. Now I wanna know what Ljubicic has been eating to be able to serve like that all week? Good for him!!

* Jankovic mans up to win Indian Wells for the first time

Ok, seriously, who cares if she couldn't lift the trophy?? Jelena Jankovic overcame extreme heat and some tough conditions throughout the week to grab her maiden Indian Wells title. Her near-loss to Sara Errani in the 3rd round was what the Serb called "a wake up call" and indeed, following that match, Jankovic played the kind of tennis that saw her rise to number 1 in the world 2 years ago.

The 25-year-old was having a terrible year up until Indian Wells... Could this be a real turning point for Jankovic? I certainly hope so.

* Serving master Roddick commends Ljubicic's serve

From one serving machine to another, Indian Wells runner-up, Andy Roddick expressed his awe of Ljubicic's serving throughout the tournament.

"He served great. The last two days was an exhibition in how to on serving big points... I felt I had a lot more opportunities throughout the sets than he did, but he just served hugely. He had complete control over all four spots. You know, he hit em," said Roddick after the final.

Coming from Roddick, I think Ljubicic must feel like a serving god!!

* Tennis players finally discover social media

It's been a long time coming, and it's true that both Federer and Nadal have both been Facebookers for quite some time now, but more recently, many other players have hopped on the social media band wagon and are filling our news feeds and twitter pages with updates on their lives, some of which we truly appreciate, while others... well let's just say some athletes are better left unheard :)

Recent Facebook joiners include Marcos Baghdatis, Mario Ancic and Juan Monaco, while the Twitterverse has welcomed Baghdatis, Daniela Hantuchova, Gael Monfils,and Svetlana Kutznetsova to name a few.

* Rafa + Federer = Class Act; Agassi + Sampras = Not

I have to say the pettiness of the whole Agassi-Sampras debacle that took place during the Hit for Haiti before the tournament kicked off was really beneath both of them. I mean sure it gave the press something to talk about for several days, first the video of the awkward moment on court, then the reactions from Nadal and Federer, who obviously felt like leaving at that point, then Sampras acting like a victim and finally Agassi's apology.

I think what we can conclude from all this is that the contrast between a rivalry like that between Federer and Nadal, and that of any other former sports legends is humungous. The respect they bring to the game is just beautiful!! That's the word. And as for Sampras and Agassi... They seriously need to grow up!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

VIDEO: Baghdatis stuns Federer in Indian Wells - Post match interview

Video courtesy of Baghdatis' Official website

Former Australian Open finalist, Marcos Baghdatis, managed to snap a 0-6 losing record to Roger Federer by upsetting the world number one in the Indian Wells third round, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(4), on Tuesday.

"Seven is my lucky number," said Baghdatis to the crowd after beating the Swiss on their 7th encounter.

The Cypriot number 1, saved 3 match points en route to his incredible victory, and will next face Spain´s Tommy Robredo in the fourth round.

Baghdatis, whose ranking had slipped to as low as 151 mid last season and was playing challengers to improve his ranking until last October, is enjoying a decent comeback so far this season, which includes a title win in Sydney, a third round showing at the Australian Open and a semifinal appearance in Dubai (lost to Djokovic in 3).

The former world number 8, currently ranked at 33, expressed his delight following his win over Federer:

¨Don't know what to say...the biggest win in my career...I am so happy!¨ said Baghdatis on his twitter and facebook pages.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

DAVIS CUP: Egypt lose to Cyprus 3-2

Egypt have lost their Davis Cup Group II first round tie to Cyprus 3-2. Following the first day, when both nations were tied at 1-1, Egyptian duo, Karim Maamoun and Sherif Sabry lost the doubles rubber on Saturday 7-6, 7-5, 6-1, to Marcos Baghdatis and Photos Kallias.

The third and final day of the tie saw a switch in the line up from the Egyptian side as Egypt team captain Mostafa Naim Dalam opted for playing Mohamed Safwat instead of Karim Maamoun in the 4th rubber against Baghdatis. The 19-year-old was crushed by Baghdatis 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 which gave the Cypriots an unassailable 3-1 lead.

Egypt number 2, Sabry, won the dead rubber against Christopher Koutrouzas to give Egypt a consolation point with a thrashing 6-1, 6-0 victory.

Egypt will now have to play some play-off matches to ensure they stay in Group II and avoid relegation.

All in all, I think Egypt put up a decent fight. The doubles rubber was crucial and the scoreline shows that the first 2 sets were pretty tight. Baghdatis is back playing in lethal form this year and it was a tough task for the North Africans.

Cyrpus will now play Portugal in the second round.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

DAVIS CUP: Egypt tied at 1-1 against Baghdatis' Cyprus

Davis Cup matches are taking place this weekend and while all eyes are on the World Group first round ties of course, I wanted to check on the Group II Europe/Africa tie taking place in Limassol, Cyprus between Egypt and a Marcos Baghdatis-led Cypriot squad.

Two singles rubbers took place yesterday where Egyptian number 1, Karim Maamoun took out Rares Cuzdriorean in straights, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 before former Australian Open finalist, Baghdatis leveled the tie for Cyprus by easing past Sherif Sabry 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.

Egyptian duo, Maamoun and Sabry will face Baghdatis and Photos Kallias in the doubles tie today to try and salvage another point for Egypt.

Sunday's matches will feature the reversed singles where Maamoun faces Baghdatis and Sabry takes on Cuzdriorean (barring any last minute changes by the team captains).

Best of luck to the Egyptian squad who have a hefty task ahead of them against a recently rejuvenated Baghdatis.