Saturday, December 31, 2011

MWTC: Rafa adds a few grams of weight to his racquet

Although Nadal and Federer lost yesterday, that still leaves us with an incredible third-place playoff today at 3pm featuring the current second and third best players in the world.

Nadal reiterated his comments about treating his matches in Abu Dhabi and Doha as a mere practice but the Mallorcan also revealed he has made a slight adjustment to his racquet for the new season, adding a slight extra weight at the top, in hopes to get more power.

He says: “I’m playing with a little bit of more weight on the racquet. I suppose I have one month to practice with that, finally I had five days. I need hours on court with that. It’s a change that I consider will help me in the future but not immediately. Every change at the beginning is something new, and you go a little bit down and after you go up.

“We are trying to have a little bit more power with the racquet. Trying to find a little bit more winners. So that’s the reason. We believe that can help but when you are able just to practice with that for five, six days, that’s not enough. “I need more matches. Tomorrow I will have another practice, and Doha another one. These two, three weeks, will be very important for me.”

Meanwhile Federer isn’t putting too much weight on his smashing defeat to Djokovic yesterday as he prepares for yet another encounter with his archrival, Nadal.

He says: “It’s not going to affect me, because I knew it wasn’t the perfect start for me to play Novak first up knowing that he had another match beforehand, it’s not an excuse, it’s reality, and I wish you could start slower but they have amazing draws here, and when I saw the draw I was like… (laughs) OK it is what is, you know I’ll try to be as well-prepared as I can be then obviously this is now a disappointing result for me but I know that I can’t put myself too down, this is just the beginning, and I have another match tomorrow, then this one will be forgotten.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

MWTC: Nadal practices in Abu Dhabi, talks Djokovic, Davis Cup and more...

As an avid Rafa fan, I have to say watching him practice today got me rather concerned. Let me start by saying I have no doubt that he will get back to his very best, because once a fighter, always a fighter.

But right now, he seemed tired, a bit down and basically not fresh enough for the new season.

I guess his plan is to power through the next month and properly prepare in February for the hectic schedule that is to follow.

Here are some excerpts from his press conference today in Abu Dhabi:

On Djokovic:

"Novak played fantastic last year so he deserves to be there. For me I accept the situation, congratulate him, say he did fantastic, that’s sport. Roger is not going to be there forever, I’m not going to be there forever and Novak isn’t going to be there forever. Tennis changes, the sport changes and at the same time it’s good to have players to be there in the top for a long time because that’s good for the fans, makes things interesting, but it’s good to have different people, but Novak is nothing new, he has been No3 in the world for the past 3, 4 years and he deserves to be there today and that’s all."

On his shoulder injury:

Check the full story at Sport360

On Davis Cup and Alex Corretja:

"No, I haven’t talked to him (Corretja). I received a message from him two days ago, and I have a very good relationship with him. First two confrontations for me are going to be impossible, everybody knows that. Later we’ll see but the first two, I’m not going to be there. I have the shoulder now, I had a very long season last year, played more matches than almost everybody else, this year we have the Olympics so that makes the schedule with less breaks, so the beginning of Davis Cup is straight after Australia and I didn’t have the chance to practice, no physical, no tennis so I have to practice more and I need February more to practice well, physical, tennis to prepare for the rest of the season because for me the most important part of the season starts in Indian Wells and finishes normally in Wimbledon, this year will finish in Olympics and after it’s not going to finish because after the Olympics we will go to Canada, Cincinnati and US Open. And the second confrontation is just before Monte Carlo and I understand after Miami the normal thing is try to get back slowly to the clay. I always try my best for Davis Cup but we can’t be 100 per cent in every tournament and Davis Cup is a competition we won five times in the last ten years, that’s a lot. In Spain we have a lot of players that can keep winning confrontations, I will be there supporting my team, but not on court especially in the beginning of the year."

On whether he will change his game to counter Djokovic & co:

"I am doing always my way, that’s what I’ve done all my career. It’s not the time to change a lot of things, it’s the time to keep playing well, try to keep improving my tennis. My goal is always to be a better player. That’s my only goal, after if one player like Novak, Roger, David, Murray I don’t know, a few players play better than me, that’s all. But I work hard. I have been competitive last year in almost every tournament. I played a lot of finals. Three Grand Slam finals. I was happy, I wasn’t perfect, but I was playing really good, not perfect. With Djokovic last year I had to be perfect and I wasn’t. I have to be consistent this year. Try to create opportunities another time. That’s what I have to do."

On his priorities in 2012:

"For me the priority always is the same, be healthy, be happy playing tennis and be competitive in all the tournaments that I’m going to play. Ranking is important? Yes. Tournaments are important? Yes. But the most important thing at the end of the day is to be happy playing tennis, be healthy. I feel happier when I go on court and I feel that I can beat anybody when I go to a tournament and I believe that I can win the tournament. I prefer to be No1 than No2, everybody wants that, but I prefer to have the chance to win tournaments."

On Abu Dhabi:

"What I see from the city is unbelievable how the city is improving year by year. It’s amazing and I have to congratulate the people from Abu Dhabi because I believe they’re doing a fantastic job."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Five reasons why I'm psyched for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship

Abu Dhabi is two days away from hosting its fourth Mubadala World Tennis Championship, and there are a ton of reasons why you should be excited if you're here, and jealous if you're not. Here are the top five reasons why I'm psyched for this tournament...

Obvious reason #1 - The unrivaled field
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils... These six players are present at the same tournament about 13 times a year, but that's usually in 64+ player draws where the attention is divided across so many players, the early rounds can feature matches you don't necessarily want to see (not me of course), and you have to wait to the quarters before you get a match-up like Tsonga v Nadal or Djokovic v Ferrer. In Abu Dhabi, you get six of the most talented players in the world taking centre stage throughout the three days, and you get a day 1 match like Djokovic v Monfils and Ferrer v Tsonga. With the winners moving on to face Nadal or Federer. That kind of class and quality is unmatched anywhere outside the ATP Tour/Grand Slams and to think you have two matches per day of such standard is just too exciting. It's like you skipped out on the early rounds of a Masters Series and fast-forwarded to Friday, where all the juicy stuff really begins.

Obvious reason #2 - The perfect timing
The tournament is at a pretty strategic timing if you ask me. We're all having tennis withdrawals, the players have all just spent at least a couple of weeks getting over any niggles or injuries and preparing for the new season, and all six of them will be looking to test themselves before heading to Australia. This is way better than having an exhibition event mid-season where the players are exhausted and could easily pull out a day before it begins because they picked up an injury and need to recuperate before the following week.

Obvious reason #3 - The exhibition factor
While there's no doubt the players need this tournament to figure out where they stand heading into 2012, the fact that it's an exhibition will allow them to swing freely, hit big, take risks and try new things, all which mean we're in for a treat. There'll be autograph sessions, player clinics, and a Kids Q&A session scattered in between some spectacular tennis. The access to what I personally consider the royalty of tennis is just too good to be true in this event. Not to mention $250k are up for grabs which let's face it, is quite an incentive for just three days of work. I repeat, we're in for a treat!

Obvious reason #4 - The weather
It's times like these where I forget for a few seconds the unbearable bouts of heat we get during the long summers of the UAE. The weather right now in Abu Dhabi is just phenomenal. This is the climate created for playing tennis, watching tennis, and everything related to tennis. It's the time of the year where being indoors is basically sinful. I've been talking to many players who have been training in Abu Dhabi and Dubai this month and the consensus is: you can't get weather like this right now without getting on a plane for 20 hours. It's no wonder they're all here!

Obvious reason #5 - The revisited rivalries
We have a chance to see Federer v Djokovic on day 2, followed by Federer v Nadal or Djokovic v Nadal on day 3. With Federer coming off his best season finish ever (according to him), Djokovic coming off his best season ever, and Nadal being the two-time defending champion, it's safe to say these matches are gonna be no friendlies. Nadal will want to post at least one win over Djokovic after losing to him six straight times in 2011, while Federer will be looking to pick up where he left off - which was winning three straight titles to finish the season. That's not to forget Tsonga, who besides Federer and Andy Murray, had an incredibly strong last quarter of the season himself. Between September and now, Tsonga made the US Open quarters, won Metz and Vienna, and made the finals of Paris and London (losing both to Federer). Could we see a third straight final between the Frenchman and Federer? Por que no?

MWTC schedule at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex at Zayed Sports City:

Thursday 29th
3pm Ferrer v Tsonga
Not before 5pm Djokovic v Monfils

Friday 30th
3pm Federer v (winner of Djokovic v Monfils)
Not before 5pm Nadal v (winner of Ferrer v Tsonga)

Saturday 31st
3pm Third place play-off
Not before 5pm Final

Check here for detailed schedule with autograph session timings ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS: Federer humbles Nadal to book ticket to semis

So I guess this is what happens when Roger Federer faces Nadal in a round robin match on a really fast indoor hard-court.

It was the first time in 26 meetings the pair have met in a non-knockout stage and the result was a complete deconstruction from Federer of his greatest rival.

Granted the Swiss had never lost any of his previous three meetings against Rafa on indoor hard-court, but this is the biggest win Federer has ever posted over the Spaniard - 6-3, 6-0 in 61 minutes!

It was Federer minus the nerves plus the genius we all know he has.

The no nerves part can be partly attributed to the round robin effect, everything else is just good genes, and impeccable form gained from a lifetime of supremacy on the court.

The Swiss Master hit 28 winners using every shot in the book and didn't even give Rafa a single look at a break point.

It also wasn't a matter of poor play from Rafa. The world No2 hit only 7 errors, but his winner count was a lowly 4. He even had a higher first serve percentage than Federer (73% to Fed's 70%). Nadal just didn't stand a chance last night!

Nadal's match with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga now will be a must win for the Mallorcan and we should expect quite an interesting showdown.

I have to say though, no one knows how to lose better than Rafa. Magnanimous in victory and defeat.

Post-match quotes

"At least I've got one surface that goes my way." - Roger Federer on his rivalry with Rafa.

“A very surprising result,” he added. “I’m excited at how well I played tonight.” - Roger Federer

"The score is true, and today he played too good for me. Just accept that today when you play against Federer and he's playing like this, the only way to stay in the match is have free points with the serve, because for the rest his level was too high in this surface. And I didn't had these free points as usual." - Rafa Nadal

"Only Federer can play at this level; I accept normally the losses, it's not the first time I lose a match like this, won't be last. I am in perfect health today, it didn't affect the match at all." - Rafa Nadal

"Is not the moment to say goodbye. Is not the moment to go down; is the moment to keep fighting. I'm still in the tournament. I still have the chance to be in the semi-finals because if I win the next match I will be in semi-finals. So it's the moment to keep fighting with positive attitude and is the moment to accept when Federer plays like this he is better than me." - Rafa Nadal

"Federer was unbelievable when he destroyed Nadal,what a master class. Fed was my pick to win event and looks like it's going to happen." - Greg Rusedski

"Federer played like Federer! Even against Nadal!!! Wow what a performance. Real joy to watch." - Ivan Ljubicic

"Looking at Federer's level makes you appreciate the merit of Nadal who managed to beat him 17 times, and win 10 Grand Slams in this era." - Carlos Moya

Sania Mirza back in practice following her surgery

Photo credit: Erik Arazas

Indian sensation Sania Mirza returned to practice following her surgery, which she underwent six weeks ago.

The former world No27 was hitting the ball very cleanly this morning at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, with PSS coach, Roberto Rubio.

Looking forward to her comeback!!

Here's the link to my interview with Sania...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

WORLD TOUR FINALS: Quotes of the day - Tsonga, Federer, Rafa and Fish

"There's only three players winning Grand Slams right now, but I am never intimidated when I walk out on court. The only person who intimidates me is my mother, when she is angry with me." - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fears no one but his maman.

I'd love to meet Mama Tsonga, the woman has done a fine fine job I must say...

"I'm not taking anything away from Asia, but was Asia the strongest this year? I'm not sure. Novak wasn't there, I wasn't there – I played in the [Shanghai] final last year – and Rafa lost early, but it was a good effort by him." - Roger Federer talks to The Independent about Andy Murray's Asian hat-trick.

He does have a point but way to bring a man down, Roger. Not sure what the question was for him to give that answer but the result sounds a tad condescending. But either way, I do believe Fed respects Andy, so everyone should move on I guess.

"Maybe you have this feeling, but I don't. I played in the final of the last three Grand Slams and I've had a good season. I lost a few important matches this season, but I won a few ones too. I'm happy about my year. I didn't have a perfect year, but I've had a very good year." - Rafa Nadal on the defensive when asked if he felt like a forgotten man at this year's WTF's.

"Djokovic is not a goal for me. A goal is to be a better player than I was last year. Later we will see if that's enough." - Rafa Nadal doing what he does best, keeping things in perspective.

"Every time you play someone you learn something new. Last week, I learnt than Roger was better than me! At Wimbledon [in June], I was better than him." - Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

"To lose Shanghai was difficult to manage because I felt I was in a positive moment,” he said. “I felt I had an opportunity to play a good tournament, and I had a bad loss against Mayer, so that hurt me a little bit. I felt that I needed to stop, to practise a little bit, to recover a little bit physically and mentally, and that’s what I did…" - Rafa Nadal on losing to Florian Mayer in straight sets in the third round of Shanghai last month.

"I knew the guys who were sixth, seventh and eighth had a nice cushion going into the last couple of events of the year. During that period, I was the most stressed out - the most I have ever been in my career - because I didn't know how many points we were ahead and whether it would matter." Mardy Fish on the stress of fulfilling the dream of qualifying to the WTF's.

Group B action kicks off tomorrow with Federer facing Tsonga (not before 2pm UK time) and Rafa facing Fish (not before 8pm UK time).

WORLD TOUR FINALS: London tidbits...

The ATP World Tour Finals kick off tomorrow with some of the most talented players we've ever seen facing off at the O2 Arena.

Here are some updates from the English capital ahead of the tennis extravaganza we're about to be treated to.

The players and the ATP organised a charity gala on Thursday evening and they managed to raise more than £400,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity. Here's a video from the gala and you can find some cool photos of Rafa, Xisca, Federer and Murray here...

Djokovic and his girlfriend Jelena took some time to go see the Twilight: Breaking Dawn London premiere and British teen Laura Robson happened to be there too looking like an absolute rock star. Robson really knows how to glam up.

Photos via Getty

Tennis couple Jurgen Melzer and Iveta Benesova tweeted that they were also going to see Breaking Dawn, but a day later. Melzer is at the WTFs with his doubles partner Philipp Petzschner, and the pair are ranked fourth in the world.

Here's a photo of 'Melzsova' at the gala...
Djokovic practiced with Rafa for 2 and a half hours on Thursday and tweeted this photo of the "best teams" in tennis.

Tomas Berdych arrived at the gala with his new girlfriend Ester Satorova. First impression: Wow! Second thought: Poor Lucie Safarova (Berdych's ex)!

Photo via Reuters

And I'll leave you with this... The magnificent 8 ...

Photo via Getty

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy meet Ronaldo at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Photo credit: © Reem Abulleil

I have to admit I haven't been devoted to my beloved tennis as much as I am known to be, for quite some time and my new job of 5 months at Sport360° is mostly to blame.

That very job though allowed me to cover the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this past weekend (a surreal and incredible experience I must say) and look who I bumped into at the paddock Sunday night...

Tennis-Golf couple Caroline Wozniacki and Rory McIlroy watched the race from the McLaren garage and on their way out after the race was over, the couple stopped to take a photo with Brazilian footballing legend, Ronaldo.

Caro was nice enough to talk to me and said it was her first Grand Prix and that she had an amazing time. Sadly I didn't have time to discuss any tennis with her but it was still great to get an awesome reminder of my beloved sport.

Now that the F1 with its flashiness, celebrities, super-awesome fast cars, glamorous drivers and magnanimous venue will depart the city, I vow to return to tennis for the London ATP World Tour Finals.

And just to prove I've been following the Tour through Twitter while I was at the Yas Marina Circuit... I'd like to say... way to go, Fed :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Catching up with Malek Jaziri...

As I checked the draws of the Challenger tournaments taking place next week, one proud reality quickly crept through my mind - Malek Jaziri has officially joined the big leagues!

The No1 Arab tennis player will be playing this Monday in the main draw of his 10th Challenger this season in the €106,500 tournament in Mons, Belgium, where ATP regulars like Xavier Malisse, Andreas Seppi, Nicolas Mahut, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Julien Benneteau are amongst the big names he could face.

A couple of weeks ago, he lost to German veteran Philipp Kohlschreiber - currently ranked 48 in the world - in the Istanbul semi-finals and it looks like the Tunisian's experience at the US Open has only given him a greater desire to climb new peaks.

144th-ranked Jaziri made an entire Arab region proud when he battled through qualies in New York to capture an elusive main draw spot in a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.

It was the first time in six years an Arab/North African player featured in the main draw of the US Open but the 27-year-old's accomplishment did not stop there.

He played big-serving Dutchman Thiemo De Bakker (was world No40 last year) in the first round and beat him 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 to set up a match-up with US Open Series champion and America's man of the hour, Mardy Fish.

"I never played a top-10 player before and on a big court like Louis Armstrong," Jaziri told G,S,M of his second rounder with world No8, Fish.

"It was not easy, pretty stressful but as the match progressed I was playing better and better.

"It's a good opportunity to see where I am. I am definitely improving and I got to see how players in the high level play.

"I believe more now that I have a big chance to be a top player."

Jaziri turned pro seven years ago but in our parts of the world, it's not easy to breakthrough quickly.

It's a region where sponsorship for individual sports takes a backseat to the endless stream of money poured into football and being lucky is almost more important than the effort you put in to excel.

Jaziri, originally from Bizerte, has trained in Tunis all his life in the National Centre with Tunisian coach Walid Jallali. While he admitted he gets some help from the government, Jaziri needs a sponsor to help him prosper in a sport he clearly has proven he could shine in.

With his ranking going up every week now, he hopes the tournament organizers in the Middle East will finally give him the chance he deserves.

"I'm playing better, feeling better. I hope Qatar and Dubai give me a wildcard next year," said Jaziri.

On Friday, he played an exhibition with fellow Tunisian and reigning Roland Garros Junior champion, Ons Jabeur with tennis legends Yannick Noah (the last Frenchman to win Roland Garros back in 1983) and resident Champions Tour entertainer, Mansour Bahrami.

While many could say that 27 is too old for a player to make a breakthrough in tennis, Jaziri is opting to defy expectation and his self-belief is already starting to pay off.

He faces a qualifier in the opening round in Mons on Monday and is drawn to face second seed Andreas Seppi in the second round.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Jaziri and Safwat playing Challengers in Turkey

Arabs' No1 player, Malek Jaziri, who is fresh off his second round showing in the US Open, where he fell to Mardy Fish, made it to the semi-finals of the Istanbul Challenger in Turkey before falling to top seed and world No47, Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-2.

The Tunisian will next play in the Izmir Challenger also in Turkey where Egypt's Mohamed Safwat is battling it out in the qualifying draw.

Egypt's No1 has won his first qualie 6-1, 6-0 over Russian Valentine Dunenkov and next faces the same player he lost to in the Istanbul qualies last week, Dimitar Kutrovsky.

Hopefully this time the Egyptian makes it into the main draw.

Jaziri is seeded No6 in a strong Izmir field and the 27-year-old opens against Germany's Andre Begemann. Bosnian star Amer Delic is in his same section of the draw and could face him in the second round.

Home favourite Marsel Ilhan is the top seed in Izmir, while Belgium's Steve Darcis and Italy's Flavio Cipolla are seeded 2 and 3.

The players are competing on hard courts for a total prize money of €64,000.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

US OPEN: Serena's fine is pathetic and plain wrong!

Serena Williams has got off scot free from her second successive tantrum at the US Open after another disgraceful decision was made by the US Tennis Association to cap off two weeks of a succession of failures on their part.

After Sunday’s final it had become glaringly obvious that the American needs to be taught a lesson and she needs to be taught it now.

Sadly Tournament referee Brian Earley chose to turn a blind eye to her latest offence and Williams has been fined a measly $2,000 and her probation is officially over. Her fine is 1/700 of her prize money and frankly it’s an insult to an umpire who was simply doing her job.

Read more at Sport360°...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

US OPEN: Outrage on Twitter over Stosur/Kerber Ashe snub

Sam Stosur (via Facebook): I think my Semi Final is at 6pm on Grandstand, if anyone wants to watch the ONLY SEMI FINAL not on Arthur Ashe Stadium, come out tomorrow.

Another day at the US Open and another fiasco – this time it’s because the organisers denied semi-finalists Angelique Kerber and world No9 Sam Stosur the implicit right of playing their last-four match on the main Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The unseeded German is scheduled to face Stosur - the 2010 French Open runner-up - on Saturday on the third biggest stadium (the second is Louis Armstrong but which is messed up from the rain) in Flushing Meadows, the Grandstand, taking a back seat to the two men’s semi-final matches and Serena Williams’ match with Caroline Wozniacki, which are all taking place on Arthur Ashe.

The decision has caused an outburst on social media websites leading former Major doubles champion Rennae Stubbs to call it a “travesty” while former US Open runner-up, Greg Rusedski described it as a “disgrace”.

Stubbs took to Twitter saying:

Rusedski - a former US Open runner-up - echoed Stubbs’ comments saying:

ESPN tennis analyst, coach and former US Open semi-finalist, Darren Cahill joined the bandwagon as well and tweeted this:

Considering the outrage from all tennis fans on Twitter, it was only natural that Stosur made the comment above about the issue on her Facebook page. She has every right to and I actually applaud the classy way she did it.

Yes there are scheduling factors that the USTA are considering but this has TV ratings written all over it.

It's not hard to fit four matches on Ashe, regardless of whatever problems they have with the schedule and after the whole rain shambles that took place the past couple of days, they really should be more careful and avoid doing something that stupid, thinking they weren't going to get called on it.

I feel bad for Kerber even more than Stosur because this is the German's first big break in a Slam and while of course they both deserve to be on Ashe, it must mean a little more to Kerber than Stosur, who had the luxury of playing on the main courts in all the other Slams (or at least on Philippe Chatrier and Rod Laver Arena).

Once again the US Open falls short!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

US OPEN: Nadal leads a mini-revolt against organizers

It's been a stressful day for everyone from organizers to players to spectators to journalists but what we can all agree on is that the players' safety comes first. Because that's who this sport centers around.

The rain that canceled all match play on Tuesday, wreaked havoc with the schedule again on Wednesday where the players in Rafa and Murray's half of the draw were asked to step on court during a supposedly brief break from the showers in an effort to get these delayed fourth round matches over and done with but the result was pretty disastrous.

Rafa, Murray, Roddick and their opponents stepped on court in misty conditions and wet lines and played for a brief 15 minutes before the rain came pouring down again leaving Rafa and co frustrated that they were called on court to begin with, in such "unsafe" conditions.

Rafa's irritation started before the match because he wasn't given enough time to do his tapings and whatnot, which left his opponent Gilles Muller waiting for the Spaniard for almost 10 minutes. Here's what Rafa said ahead of stepping on court:

After 15 minutes of play where Rafa found himself down 3-1, the defending champion gave an earful to tournament referee Brian Earely, saying something along the lines of: "It’s the same old story. All you think about is money." Possibly referring to the US Open's policy of not having to refund tickets if 90 minutes of play or only one match is completed. Here's the video of Rafa's mini-rant:

After play was suspended on all three show courts, Rafa, Murray and Roddick head to Earley's office to complain about being forced to play in unsafe conditions and here's Rafa mouthing off to Pam Shriver on ESPN:

Rafa El Revolucionario

Roddick shared his sentiments saying: “I understand they need to put tennis on TV, and I understand the business side of it, but first and foremost the players need to be safe on the court.”

The moment of solidarity continued as Murray said: "The players, I think, more than anyone, want to play and that’s what we were kind of saying. With each day that passes, for the guys that are on me and Rafa’s side of the draw, it reduces our chances. So for us, we want to play. Four best-of-five matches in four days is a huge task physically, so that would be really tough. We want to play, but if it’s dangerous, we’re not going to go out there."

"When we went onto the court it was still raining, the back of the court, the net and the balls were wet too. We talked to the umpire but he said it was fine. So we told him it doesn’t make sense to get us out there for seven or eight minutes, so I don’t think that will happen again today."

Finally the USTA made an announcement that all the men's matches (fourth round and quarter-finals) were canceled for the day but they would do their utmost to get the women's quarter-finals done, spreading them on four courts simultaneously if a brief window between the rain allows it.

I love how the players stepped up like that, because it's not just for themselves, it's also for each other. Let's hope the next few days are less stressful!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

US OPEN: The ATP talks to Tunisia's Malek Jaziri after his match against Mardy Fish

Tunisia's Malek Jaziri made an entire Arab nation proud, first when he qualified for the main draw at the US Open, and then when he won his first round match against Thiemo De Bakker.

Unfortunately his second round opponent was none other than Mardy Fish and the Tunisian's US Open dream run came to an end at the hands of America's number one player, but this is definitely not the last we will see of Jaziri.

His ranking is projected to rise to around 140 and hopefully he will continue to keep it up until the end of the season.

US OPEN: How the players wait out the rain...

With the weather raining on everyone’s parade it got me thinking what the players do to pass the time during those annoying rain delays. Here are a few educated guesses…

Serena Williams
The American diva is probably blasting her karaoke machine, rocking some Rihanna making herself feel like she’s “the only girl in the world”. Quite appropriate considering she’s the only one in her 'League of Extraordinary Tennis' at the moment.

Andrea Petkovic
Petkorazzi is most definitely choreographing an anti-rain dance possibly with the help of Novak Djokovic. Expect a viral video out on YouTube shortly!

Caroline Wozniacki
We have to admit Caro has been an attention seeker lately and the world No1 will probably wait out the rain plotting her next media stunt. Cute tweets to her beau Rory McIlroy, flirtatious ones to John Isner, and Rafa imitations in the press room just won’t cut it anymore. She knows she’s done all that and will probably go bigger this time. I wonder what she’ll do next? What’s weirder than posing for a kiss with Rory in front of an entire American football team? Carrying Mats Wilander’s baby perhaps?!

Rafael Nadal
I bet Rafa spends his rain delays taping and de-taping his fingers and knees. We all know the Spaniard has his rituals and no rain nor sunshine will stop him from going through his routine before stepping on the court, even though he doesn’t really know when that actually might happen. My advice for Rafa though would be to read his own autobiography instead of getting to it next month like he mentioned in the press the other day. It’s not a bad read, he can improve his English and maybe finally he’ll understand the difference between the words ‘ambition’ and ‘illusion’ in English!

Roger Federer
The Swiss is probably working on learning Japanese or something to add another language to the 10 he already knows. It’s either that or he’s changing diapers. Scratch that, he’s learning Japanese. There’s no way the elegant Federer gets near Myla/Charlene’s poop.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
The explosive Frenchman can probably be spotted practicing his dives as he waits out the rain. His diving has been looking quite impeccable lately that there’s no way they just come to him naturally on court. Someone get a camera down to that locker room and I guarantee Tsonga is lying flat on his belly in some corner.

Novak Djokovic
I hear Novak is planning to run for President in Serbia and that he’s plotting his campaign to re-establish Yugoslavia. He’s probably reading a Politics for Dummies book during the rain breaks while practicing his presidential wave and fake smile. Contrary to what Ana Ivanovic said the other day in the press room, Djokovic is believed to be in fact way more famous than the existing Serbian President.

Andy Murray
Sadly the Scot is way too predictable. I’ve got two words for him. Fantasy Football! I hear he’s been trying to trade every Arsenal player he has but nothing can fix that mistake Muzza.

Sam Stosur
Is it too obvious to imagine Sam conditioning her biceps while the rain pours outside? It’s either that or she’s preparing herself for another exceptionally long match by playing a ridiculously long game of Wii Tennis.

Janko Tipsarevic
The Serbian No3 is big on reading. I say he’s alternating between Descartes and How to Take Down Novak Djokovic. The latter has been printed in many languages including Spanish and German and free copies have been lying around the locker room all week.

Vera Zvonareva

The world No2 is probably staking out Robin Van Persie’s Twitter page to find an opening to drop him a line. That birthday tweet she sent him was a big hit and now she’s thinking of a way to take that relationship to the next level. Or was it Khalid Boulahrouz? I’m confused… how do these people know each other again?

US OPEN VIDEO: Wozniacki under-fire for a harmless joke about Rafa's cramps

World No1 Caroline Wozniacki is under-fire after she jokingly imitated Rafael Nadal getting cramps in the press room for 10 brief seconds. That Rafa cramp story is taking a life of its own and I really don't understand where all this is coming from.

It's true that when I saw footage of Rafa on TV suffering the cramps for the first time, I was worried-sick for a few minutes until he showed up again, explained the situation and later said it was nothing but cramps.

I don't know how many people out there have actually suffered cramps but yes it's painful and yes it goes away shortly after, and yes it is NOT LIFE-THREATENING!

So calling it a "sensational health scare" is completely out of proportion and wanting to murder Wozniacki because she actually did something funny in one of her attempts to please the press is a huge overreaction.

Like Andy Roddick said: "Cramps are fine. It's not an injury. A cramp is a cramp. When you go to bed and your foot cramps, it's the same thing but your entire leg. For me, I heard about it. They were telling me it was like this whole thing and people were surrounding him. I kind of started laughing. I mean, I saw Rafa and he was laughing about it later on."

So if Andy's laughing about it and Rafa is laughing about it, why can't Caro do it? Everyone needs to take a chill pill or go and look up what a cramp really is.

Can't believe she even had to tweet this to clarify her intentions:

"Had a bit of fun last night b4 my press conference.Hope it was not taken the wrong way. I have the utmost respect and admiration of Rafa!!!"

Here's the Rafa press room incident in case you missed it.

What do you guys think? Funny or distasteful?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

US OPEN: Djokovic on playing buddy Tipsarevic in the quarters

Q. Speaking of your homeland, your opponent Tipsarevic talked a lot about facing you. One of the things he talked about was whether it's harder or easier to face someone you're familiar with. What is your mental approach?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: What did he say? (Smiling.)

Q. He said it's both easier and harder.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It's strange feeling. You know, we are professionals. Certainly we both want to win the match when we play against each other. So you kind of forget about, you know, friendship. You put that aside. You know, we never played Grand Slam, though. We never played best of five against each other, so it's going to be a first time experience for both of us. I think it's his first quarterfinals ever in Grand Slam. He's playing the best tennis of his life. He's very confident. But there is certainly this mentally strange feeling when you're playing somebody that is one of your best friends in the private life, as well. So you got to handle that, as well.

Monday, September 5, 2011

US OPEN: Day 8 Preview - Tsonga v Fish is unmissable!

Roger Federer SUI (3) v Juan Monaco ARG

The five-time US Open champion withstood a tough challenge from Marin Cilic in the previous round despite hitting nine fewer winners than the Croat.

While Federer’s next opponent Juan “Pico” Monaco is not as adept on hardcourts as Cilic may be, the Argentine gave Federer a hard time in their match in Miami earlier this year, however the world No3 still won in straights and is 2-0 head-to-head over Monaco.
Pico is looking to get past the fourth round for the first time in New York while Federer is trying to equal Andre Agassi’s Open era record of 46 hardcourt titles, should he capture the US Open title this fortnight.

The Swiss hasn’t showed his best so far in Flushing Meadows but it doesn’t look like Pico can deliver the upset against Federer on hardcourts.

Afterall, Federer is 59-6 in New York while Monaco is 6-7 and has lost in the opening round in his last three attempts at the US Open.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga FRA (11) v Mardy Fish USA (8)

This is a match-up between the two men who have stood out the most this season outside the top four.

Since the French Open, Tsonga has won 19 out of 24 matches making the final in Queen’s and the semi-finals in Wimbledon and Montreal, where he twice beat Roger Federer. A run that saw him rise to No11 in the rankings.

Meanwhile Fish has been acting more like a shark this summer and his US Open Series title is proof of how dominant he has been on the North American hardcourts having won in Atlanta before making the finals in Los Angeles and Montreal, and the semis in Cincinnati.

Both players are yet to drop a set in New York and have never faced off on Tour. Their combined ranking is the lowest amongst the four men’s last-16 matches taking place today; a clear indication that it’s going to be a tight clash that is both unpredictable and unmissable.

Serena Williams USA (28) v Ana Ivanovic SRB (16)

There was a reason why many people were calling for Serena’s seeding to be bumped and No4 seed Victoria Azarenka’s third round loss to Serena is precisely that reason. Serena’s low seeding is a threat not to Serena but to her helpless opponents who had to face her early on in the draw.
Ana Ivanovic is next up on the American’s hit list and just in case Serena’s steamrolling frenzy is not intimidating enough for the Serb, Ivanovic enters this match knowing she hasn’t won a single set against Serena in both their previous encounters - in the US Open in 2006 and in Dubai in 2009. Odds are, she won’t win one today either.

Ivanovic is trying to make the quarter-finals for the first time in New York while Serena is gunning for a fourth US Open title and a 14th Major cup to accessorise her trophy cabinet.
Ivanovic is on the rise, armoured by a new coach, but her semi-final showing in San Diego is nowhere close to as impressive as Serena’s back-to-back titles in Stanford and Toronto.

Caroline Wozniacki DEN (1) v Svetlana Kuznetsova RUS (15)

Those two are familiar with each others’ games as this will be their seventh meeting in three years. Wozniacki leads the Russian 4-2 head-to-head and between them, they own a title, two runner-up showings and a semi-final in New York.

While Kuznetsova has gone one better than Wozniacki and has actually lifted the US Open trophy back in 2004, the top-seeded Dane has beaten Kuznetsova in their last three meetings, which were all on hardcourts and included a clash at the US Open at the very same stage two years ago.

Kuznetsova’s build-up to the US Open has been far from ideal while Wozniacki salvaged her preparations for New York by winning the title in New Haven eight days ago after suffering opening round losses in Toronto and Cincinnati.

From the looks of things, Wozniacki has the upperhand and is more likely to clinch that quarter-final spot.

Monday, August 29, 2011

US OPEN: Who can handle Hurricane Novak?

The final Grand Slam of the season is upon us and while New York has been preparing to deal with Hurricane Irene, the tennis players in Flushing Meadows have been thinking of ways to deal with Hurricane Novak.

Top seed Novak Djokovic arrives to the US Open with a stellar 57-2 record this season, meaning in the 11 tournaments he’s played so far this year, the Serb has completely swept the opposition in nine of them.

While Ireland’s Conor Niland is the first on Djokovic’s hit list, the 24-year-old has the rest of the field terrorised and the million-dollar-question remains: who can beat Djokovic at the US Open?

On the women’s side, Serena Williams’ return to her almost-winning-best has been the story of the summer in North America but can she win herself a fourth US Open trophy fighting her way through the draw from her No.28 seeding?

The following may help you come up with answers... read more at Sport360°.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quote of the Day - For Rafa Nadal, friendship comes first

After Rafa Nadal played for 3 hours and 38 minutes against Fernando Verdasco on Thursday, the world No2 then went to play doubles with his friend Marc Lopez a few hours later. He played at 11:00a.m his singles match against Verdasco in scorching heat and humidity, then played doubles at around 17:30, then played Mardy Fish in the quarters the next day at 13:00.

Most players would pull out of doubles in this situation to try and get some rest. Here's what Rafa told reporters when they asked him if he considered withdrawing from the doubles after his grueling encounter with Verdasco:

"No for me it wasn't a choice. I have a friend here, I'm playing with one of my best friends. He came from Spain to play the doubles here and if I don't go on court today he won't have the points nor the prize money of the second round, so I can't think about that even if I am tired. That's what happened and I had to play and I tried my best and we lost. I will go home... well not home, to the hotel (laughs) and I will try to relax a little bit and try to be competitive for tomorrow." --Rafael Nadal, Cincinnati Masters, 18-08-2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

CINCY MASTERS: Nadal vs Verdasco is a match we could all forget...

Sadly, the match was as attractive as this photo

I'd like to start by saying that not just because a match went to three tie-breaks, lasted over 3.5 hours and swung back and forth many times, then it means it was a great or "gripping" match. Because really it wasn't!

I am also not trying to be mean because I know it was exceptionally hot but surely they are used to this, no? Or maybe not because some moments of this match could only be explained if some sort of heat stroke were involved!

Rafael Nadal's 3+ hour grind against Fernando Verdasco is a match we can all choose to forget, saving that space in our brains for something a little prettier.

It's no secret Nadal is having confidence issues, simply because he's repeated it countless times in his press conferences over the past two weeks, but it's astounding how that dip in confidence has disintegrated almost every element of his game.

In his match against Benneteau on Wednesday, I thought his forehand was the main problem, but I realized against Verdasco that the movement itself was a disaster, his serve was predictable and ineffective, his net approaches were misguided and any sort of consistency was thrown out the window.

He'd pull off two aces to save two break points, which is grand, but then he'd serve like crap and hand over another break to Verdasco, who in the meantime was committing a truckload of errors and seemed to have a phobia from actually holding a lead throughout the match. Seriously Fernando, what's up with that? The rule is break then consolidate... Spitting on the baseline after you lost was no class act either, by the way!

Verdasco took the initiative in the first two sets and always broke first but followed that with some dismal displays of tennis to allow Nadal back in the game every single time.

I'm not even going to talk about the final set tiebreak where the world No21 again had the win at his fingertips but in the end all I could see is a match that had a combined unforced error count from both lefty Spaniards of 100. That says it all I think!

Besides Nadal's 41 errors, the world No2 seemed pretty slow in reacting to some of Verdasco's deep shots. He kept getting caught on the back foot and seemed understandably miserable throughout with barely any "vamosing" going on...

Next up for Rafa is Mardy Fish (Friday 1pm Cincy time, 8pm Cairo time) and considering the American made three back-to-back finals winning in Atlanta and finishing runner-up in LA and Montreal, Fish is currently the polar opposite of Rafa, at least in terms of state of mind.

I think if Rafa were playing anyone else today other than Verdasco, the 25-year-old would've lost in straights.. possibly even 2 and 2.

Those short shots will not go unpunished against Fish tomorrow and Rafa needs to find a solution between tonight and tomorrow.

I don't care if he loses but I care if his shots are lacking depth and his forehand is on vacation! Even worse, it's scary that he looks like he's not going for his shots showing hints of hesitation at every opportunity.

I'm not saying there is a crisis; everyone has rough patches and Rafa is no exception, but the last time he had a lapse was when his parents were getting divorced and he had tendinitis. Now he is fit and his only problem was losing to Novak Djokovic (like everybody else on Tour) a few times.

The US Open is 10 days away and all I want is to see Rafa in good shape just to give Djokovic a run for his money. It really is no fun when there's no fight at the top!

Friday, August 12, 2011

MONTREAL: Is Djokovic distancing himself from the rest at the top?

And then there was one…

It’s become a daily routine this week; tennis fans waking up in this side of the world to the news that one of the big guns in Montreal has suffered an upset in the Rogers Cup. All but one actually.

Once again, Novak Djokovic sets himself apart from the rest of the pack forcing us to wonder how much longer will we be able to refer to the Serb along with Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray as the Big Four?

Are the cracks that separate those players in terms of form and consistency starting to grow?

This time around, Djokovic did not have to do anything spectacular to stand out; all he did was win his two opening rounds in the Canadian city, except that turned out to be an uneasy task for his fellow top-four stars.

With Murray going through a miserable match against Kevin Anderson where he was almost invisible on court, Nadal inexplicably squandering a 6-1, 3-1 lead against Ivan Dodig before failing to close out the match again in the decider at 5-3, and finally Federer showing some fight against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before getting romped in the final set 6-1, it’s getting harder to see anyone threatening Djokovic at the US Open, which is less than three weeks away.

Simply because while those former champions were flailing in Montreal, Djokovic was booking himself a quarter-final spot after two rounds, where he pulled himself out of a messy situation in the first set against Nikolay Davydenko before he tamed an in-form Marin Cilic in the following round.

Unlike the rest, Djokovic is at the top of the game and he is successfully playing the part.

It may be premature to discard Nadal, Federer and Murray from the US Open contention conversation but the trio have less than three weeks to get back in the ring and make a statement.

If mere rustiness is to blame for the triple-upset then things should improve come Cincinnati next week as they get more match play on hardcourts, but I think it’s hard to give one explanation for all three defeats, given that each player lost to three very different opponents and under different circumstances.

There may be reasons for us to believe that this was just a coincidence and that Murray was still recovering from his Wimbledon letdown, Nadal lacked practice due to the minor foot problem that delayed his preparations, and Federer was unlucky to face someone like Tsonga early in the tournament, especially that the Frenchman is enjoying an exceptionally strong run this summer.

So while explanations may vary on why – for the first time since 2005 – only one of the “Awesome Foursome” has made the quarters of the Rogers Cup, the undisputed truth is that Djokovic is forging a bigger gap between himself and everyone else.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

TWIT WITS: Mardy Fishes for the Scoop on Wozniacki/McIlroy

Mardy Fish is not just the No1 American in the ATP rankings, he just shot up the Twitter ranks as well and has become the No1 tennis tweeter thanks to his efforts in squeezing the deets from Caroline Wozniacki on her "relationship" with golf superstar, Rory McIlroy.

Follow this Twitter conversation and enjoy...

Not bad Mardy, not bad at all!