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!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Murray needs a new game face... cuz that's just mind-numbing to watch!

It really baffles me when Andy Murray shows up on court that uninterested in playing a tennis match.

The contrast between his game-face and non-game-face is like that of night and day, and it really is unacceptable for a regular world number 4.

I'd like to call it a shame-face actually!

The Scot lost to a very aggressive and spot-on Kevin Anderson today in the second round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, but he did absolutely NOTHING to stop the spanking he got from the South African.

Hitting five double-faults and God knows how many errors, cuz I surely couldn't count that high, Murray was tasteless in his first hard-court appearance in the pre-US Open swing.

I realize it's always tough in your first match and lower-ranked players have nothing to lose and bla bla bla... I don't really care about that. How can someone appear that lifeless on court when it's their first match on Tour in five weeks (I'm not counting Davis Cup)?

How could you be bored already?! If you listen to Federer's interview on the ATP website, the Swiss said it's nice for the tennis players to return after a long break, and it's usually after several weeks of play that they actually lose some gas and seem exhausted and careless. This is Murray's first outing since Wimbledon and it's his first chance to make a statement ahead of the US Open. Is that how you treat a match like that?

We were saying that Murray was going for history in Montreal and trying to become the first player in 25 years to win 3 straight Rogers Cup titles... After what I saw today, clearly history was the LAST thing on Muzza's mind!

The no-longer two-time defending champion has now lost in his first match in all the hard-court Masters 1000 events of the season, losing to Donald Young in Indian Wells, Alex Bogomolov Jr. in Miami, and now Anderson in Montreal... ALL IN STRAIGHTS!

Murray plays doubles with his brother Jamie tomorrow. Hopefully he'll try to have some fun on the court and go to Cincy in a better mood... I mean a smile or a "come on!" or a high-five with Jamie will do... Just anything to make us believe he actually "likes" tennis. That's all I'm asking!

P.S I love Andy Murray!

Monday, August 8, 2011

They're back! Catch the 'Awesome Foursome' in Montreal with Djoko as #1

Novak Djokovic returns to the Rogers Cup as the top seed for the first time in his career as the Serbian superstar joins a stellar field at the ATP 1000 event in Montreal.

Those suffering from top-tier tennis withdrawals since Wimbledon are in for a treat this week with eight of the top ten players in the world in action in Canada, with only No.5 Robin Soderling and No.6 David Ferrer missing out due to injury.

Read the rest of the Montreal preview at Sport360°...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

No rain can spoil the Monfils parade

Gael Monfils withstood rain delays, home crowds, 19 aces and a match point for John Isner to reach the final of the Legg Mason Washington Classic.

The acrobatic Frenchman avenged his loss to Isner at the same stage of the tournament four years ago to edge through 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6), finishing the match at 1:15a.m.

The match started almost two hours later than its scheduled time because of the rain which interrupted play twice but when Monfils and Isner returned after the second break the American managed to take the second set to level the match and force a decider.

In the final set, Isner saved all three break points he faced, but couldn’t get break point chances himself. Monfils saved a match point in the tie break at 5-6 with an ace and then went on to clinch his only mini-break of the game to book his final spot.

"It was a bit tough in the head to go and then come back. The weather was like Wimbledon," said Monfils.

"I'm very happy. It's not finished, but almost a great achievement.

“I have had a tough year. I had an injury and a new coach. To come up strong again, it feels good."

The top seed had split with his coach Roger Rasheed last month after a three-year spell and also suffered a wrist injury that sidelined him for six weeks where he had to miss the American hardcourt swing in the spring.

Despite the testing season he’s having, the Paris-born showman is currently enjoying a career-high ranking of No7 and should he win the title in Washington D.C, he will rise to the No2 spot in the US Open Series standings.

The top three in the standings have a chance of earning additional prize money (up to $1million) should they win the US Open.

The 24-year-old Monfils will play his first final of the year against Czech former top tenner, Radek Stepanek, who is in his first championship match since he finished runner-up to Andy Roddick in Brisbane in January last year.

Monfils beat Stepanek – the oldest player in the top 100 – on the clay of Hamburg less than two weeks ago and leads the world No54 5-2 head-to-head.

Monday, August 1, 2011

California Luuuuuuv!

A 38th WTA title for Serena Williams, a second ATP title for Ernests Gulbis.
Serena's first title in America in three years, and first title since Wimbledon last year.
Gulbis' first title since his maiden triumph in Delray Beach in February 2010.
Gulbis' first top-10 win since Mikhail Youzhny retired against him in Paris in November last year.
Serena has jumped from 169 to 79 in the rankings, while Gulbis is up from 89 to 55.

There are two very happy people in California right now!

After two weeks, the US Open Series is shaping up to be quite AWESOME!

"I hated those triple digits. I've got to get to single digits." - Serena Williams

"I a little bit lost trust that I could compete with the best guys. Now it's a big confidence boost." - Ernests Gulbis