Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Egypt's Safwat & Tunisia's Jaziri reach career-high rankings, Playing in Marrakech this week

Mohamed Safwat during a Davis Cup match vs Marcos Baghdatis last year
Photo via Flickr user RUGRLN

Egypt's number 1 tennis player, Mohamed Safwat has been quite busy recently crawling up the ATP rankings. The 20-year-old opened his 2011 season playing Futures in Spain and Portugal where he made 1 semifinal last month, a result that helped him reach a career high ranking of 523 in the latest ATP rankings released on Monday.

Safwat is playing in the Marrakech Challenger this week where he received a wildcard and opens his campaign against Spanish 3rd-seed, Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ranked 110). He could possibly face last week's Rabat Challenger finalist, Peter Luczak in the 2nd round.

Safwat vs Ramos-Vinolas is scheduled 3rd match from a 10:30 start (Morocco time) on Court 4.

Malek Jaziri at the Rabat Challenger last week

Meanwhile, Tunisia's in-form Malek Jaziri also reached a career-high ranking of 275 this week after a stellar performance at the Rabat Challenger where he made the semis (lost to Luczak).

This week, Jaziri managed to get through the Marrakech Challenger qualifying and faces 2nd seed Jan Hajek in the opening round.

Meanwhile Morocco's top player, Reda El Amrani (world #207), was forced to withdraw from the tournament with an injury (also retired from his match last week in Rabat) and was replaced in the draw by lucky loser Pablo Martin-Adalia.

The Marrakech Challenger is part of the 2011 Morocco Tennis Tour and has a total prize money of $50,000. Check here for the latest results and fixtures from Marrakech.

Friday, March 11, 2011

CNN VIDEO: Safin Tours Moscow with Pat Cash

To the "I Miss Marat Safin Clan"... Enjoy!

Pat Cash: So tell me, where are we now?
Marat Safin: I don't know. My first time in Moscow :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

TWIT WITS: Tursunov Tales vs Judy Murray

While Novak Djokovic - possibly inspired by Petkorazzi - has finally decided to take the social media world by storm, Dmitry Tursunov is the one we really ought to thank for all this. I'd say the Russian is the one who started it all back in 2006 when his blog for the ATP exposed us die-hard tennis fans to something we thought didn't really exist... The fact that our tennis players have personality, wit and a vicious sense of humor. Well at least some of them do.

While we've always had the chance to see players take part in off-court PR activities and ads for their sponsors, nothing is as uncensored and insightful as the social media trifecta: personal blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

So in honor of the hilarious, very often controversial and occasionally over the top, Dmitry Tursunov, I am featuring him in G,S,M's first edition of Twit Wits

This conversation happened between Tursunov and Judy Murray on Wednesday:

Our second player featured today in Twitter Wits is Andy Murray, who is quite frequently described by some fans as boring, I personally find him very funny and I came to that conclusion from Twitter of course. The Scot is one of, if not the first tennis players to join the social media site, exactly 3 years ago! This was Murray's idea of welcoming Djokovic to Twitter on Wednesday.

And my personal favorite tweet of the week did not come from tennis, but came from Manchester United defender, Rio Ferdinand, after he saw Leo Messi's slick moves that saw him score his 1st goal against Arsenal, Tuesday night.

I'll be posting more funny stuff said on Twitter here on Twit Wits. Let me know your favorite tweet of the week.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Davis Cup Wrap: Tunisia, Morocco lose despite Jaziri & Amrani efforts

Malek Al Jaziri shakes James Ward's hand after their Davis Cup match

Thirteen sets of valiant effort from Tunisia's Malek Al Jaziri were not enough to beat Great Britain in the Davis Cup Group II tie in Bolton.

The tie was left at 2-1 for the Brits after 3 rubbers and despite the 111 ranking spots that separate Jaziri from his higher-ranked opponent James Ward, it was obvious that this match-up was tough to call, considering Jaziri's level in the 2 previous matches he contested.

As expected the match was really tight and Jaziri, who was playing for the 3rd straight day and had played 8 sets already heading into Sunday's match, came really close to keeping Tunisia's hopes alive in the tie.

The 27-year-old was up 4-2 in the 5th set against Ward but exhaustion caught up with him and he eventually lost the match 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6 giving Great Britain an unassailable 3-1 lead in the tie.

Judy Murray tweets after GB win the tie

Slim Hamza lost the dead rubber to Jamie Baker 6-1, 6-4 and Great Britain advance to play Luxembourg at home in July a week after Wimbledon.

Meanwhile in Marrakech, the tie between Morocco and Bosnia-Herzegovina heated up when Reda El Amrani held his nerve and won the 4th rubber for Morocco by beating Aldin Setkic 6-2, 7-6(4), 6-4, to level the tie at 2-2.

Bosnia's talented Amer Delic, a former NCAA champion who up till last year represented the United States in tennis, was up against Talal Ouahabi in the deciding rubber.

Delic who was ranked as high as 60 in the world back in 2007 was forced out of the game for almost a year due to injury and is now making his comeback playing for his home country.

33-year-old Ouahabi, a former top-400 player but currently ranked outside the top 1000, unfortunately failed to seal the deal for Morocco against Delic, who pulled off his 2nd win playing for his country with a 1-6, 3-6, 6-4, 1-6 victory to earn a spot against Estonia in the 2nd round.

Amer Delic tweets after winning the tie against Morocco

I'd like to see more of Amrani and Jaziri on tour this season as both players - together with Algeria's Lamine Ouahab - seem to have game and are carrying the hopes of Arab tennis.

Davis Cup Update: Missed chance for Tunisia against Great Britain, Morocco down 1-2

Tunisia REALLY had a chance today against Great Britain in the doubles rubber. It was wishful thinking ahead of the match that Malek Jaziri and Slim Hamza had any sort of chance in beating Jamie Murray and Colin Fleming but as the match went by and somehow Tunisia was up 3-0 in the 4th set, and later, Jamie Murray was serving from 0/40 down at 3-4 in the 4th set, I was almost sure Jaziri/Hamza were going to break for a 5-3 lead and serve out the set to force a deciding 5th.

I was only following the scores, so I don't know how it happened, but Murray pulled off that hold and the Brits broke next and went on to win the match 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Such a disappointment considering the scorn the Tunisia team is continuously getting from the British media and British journalists on Twitter. If they're that pathetic, then how come Great Britain don't already have this tie in the bag, may I ask?

Great Britain currently lead Tunisia 2-1 and Jaziri will face James Ward tomorrow to keep Tunisia alive in the tie, otherwise, it's au revoir Tunis.

World number 201, Reda El Amrani of Morocco

Fellow North Africans, Morocco suffered a similar fate on Saturday as they also lost their doubles match against the Amer Delic/Ismar Gorcic Bosnian duo, 3-6, 2-6, 6-1, 4-6.

Reda El Amrani, the highest ranked player in the Moroccan squad, at 201, partnered world number 1126, Talal Ouahabi and gave Delic and Gorcic a tough match particularly in the 4th set, but unfortunately lost the rubber to go down 1-2 against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Sunday will see Amrani face Aldin Setkic in the 4th rubber, followed by Ouahabi versus Delic. Good luck to my fellow Arabs, Morocco and Tunisia!

Video: Karlovic Sets New Record For World's Fastest Serve

Ivan Dodig and Ivo Karlovic may have lost the doubles rubber against Germany in the Davis Cup World Group tie on Saturday, but Karlovic did something that will put him in the record books.

The giant Croat broke Andy Roddick's 249km/h record for fastest serve in the history of tennis, when he hit a 251km/h serve in the 4th set against Philipp Petzschner and Christopher Kas.

Croatia are down 1-2 in their tie against Germany and despite his disappointment for losing the doubles match, Karlovic certainly enjoys the fact that he hit a world record-breaking serve, at home in Zagreb nonetheless.

Roddick's former record was set in Davis Cup as well, back in the 2004 semifinals against Belarus.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Major ePICness: Look who Federer and Sampras met courtside...

Photo courtesy of the ATP World Tour

You all know I love it when greatness meets like this. It's just too good. Roger Federer and Pete Sampras practiced together in Los Angeles the other day and treated themselves to a Lakers-Bobcats game at the Staples Center. Of course the two tennis phenomena sat courtside and there's quite a few legends one can bump into at a spot like that... Yes, Federer and Sampras met the Black Mamba himself. Federer, Sampras and Kobe in one frame!! Major ePICness!

Davis Cup Update: Everyone is playing… ¿pero dónde está Egipto?

Day 1 of Davis Cup weekend has passed and it felt like tennis fans from all corners of the Earth had a home team to cheer for… except me! After Egypt got relegated from Group II last year having lost to Denmark 5-0 at home, I found myself jealous that almost every tennis fan I knew was pumped for their nation’s team, so I decided to devote myself to Tunisia today.

Tunisia are facing Great Britain this weekend in Group II first round action and after I found out Andy Murray wasn’t showing up for the tie, I figured I’d check out the action and see what the post-revolution Tunisia team had to offer.

The Great Britain Davis Cup Squad

I checked both squads before the matches started and saw that Great Britain was lead by world number 214, James Ward, number 416, Jamie Baker, doubles world number 48, Jamie Murray, and his doubles partner for the weekend, Colin Fleming (ranked 79 in doubles).

Tunisia, who had a tough time preparing for this Davis Cup considering the revolution and all, was headlined by world number 325, Malek Al Jaziri. The 26-year-old is joined by world number 1602, Slim Hamza, and 2 unranked compatriots, Sami Ghorbel, and Jaziri's coach, Walid Jallali, who is only part of the squad because team member, Ahmed Triki, couldn't get his UK visa in time for the trip to Bolton due to the unrest in Tunisia.

"I was on the court with Malek when we heard guns being fired and we had to leave. People were shouting: 'They're coming! The helicopters are coming!' We did not leave our houses for a week. It was scary," Jallali told The Independent, of an incident during training in January.

Jaziri had just returned from a training camp in Spain when the revolution happened. "It wasn't easy. I had six days when I didn't practice. There were very big problems, though it's safe now," said the Tunisian #1.

Jaziri may have not prepared for the tie under ideal circumstances, but he went to Bolton coming off a final showing at a Futures event in Colombia only 3 weeks ago.

Malek Al Jaziri talks to the LTA on Thursday ahead of the Davis Cup tie between Tunisia and Great Britain

I had hopes for Jaziri and the Tunisian delivered. He opened the tie against Baker and managed to score a point for the North Africans with a well-deserved 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 2-6 win.

British captain, Leon Smith, admitted he didn't know much about Jaziri before the tie and it wasn't a complete shock that he won the 1st rubber.

"It hasn’t been that easy to find out information, but I’ve done a good job with it, I think. I’ve asked as many people as possible. Jaziri is decent, and we will take him very seriously," said Smith.

"I did actually manage to get some footage of him. That was a team effort involving Jamie’s (Murray) wife, as Jaziri had been playing in Colombia, and we wanted some video footage to be sent over. She helped out."

James Ward and Leon Smith during the 2nd rubber on Friday

The second match of the day saw Ward demolish Ghorbel 6-0, 6-2, 6-0 to level the tie for Great Britain and if Jaziri and Hamza don't miraculously beat Murray and Fleming on Saturday in the doubles rubber, it is pretty much over for the Tunisians, although I would like to watch Jaziri face Ward and see how well he fairs against the Brit at home.

World Group Action

While I was fussing over a tie in Group II, all eyes were on the World Group where some interesting things went down.

While Spain easily raced to a 2-0 lead over Belgium thanks to Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco, defending champions, Serbia, suffered a bit of a shock in their tie against India where they found themselves leveled at 1-1 at the end of the first day.

Tipsarevic had a bad day in front of a partisan Serbian home crowd

The absence of their star, Novak Djokovic, seemed to have an impact on the Serbian squad, as Viktor Troicki had to go through 5 sets to outlast India's Rohan Bopanna, who is ranked more than 600 spots below the Serb, followed by a shock defeat of Serbian #3, Janko Tipsarevic, by Somdev Devvarman. As is the case in most Davis Cup ties, the doubles rubber tomorrow is crucial for the Serbs, who are playing at home.

Argentina went up 2-0 in Buenos Aires against Romania in their opening 2 rubbers as David Nalbandian and Juan Monaco earned points for their country, despite Nalbandian's hernia trouble.

The same however cannot be said of the USA whose tie against Chile in Santiago ended up a trending topic on Twitter. While Andy Roddick needed 4 sets to take care of Nicolas Massu, John Isner (ranked 32 in the world) lost a 4 hour 22 minute 5-setter to Chile's Paul Capdeville, who is ranked 133 spots below Isner, leaving the tie locked at 1-all.

Other surprises included world number 10, Jurgen Melzer, losing to Jeremy Chardy who helped France to a 2-0 lead over Austria, and 749th-ranked Joachim Johansson made it 2-0 for Sweden with a shock win over world number 76, Teymouraz Gabashvili of Russia.

The absence of Mikhail Youzhny and Nikolay Davydenko has certainly hurt Russia's chances. It's highly doubtful that they can pull of 3 wins in a row now, especially that Robin Soderling is on the Swedish side and he has won his last 11 straight matches including 2 back-to-back titles. So I guess what am trying to prematurely say is, Do svidaniya Russia!!