Monday, June 15, 2015

More agony for Del Potro as he announces a third surgery on his left wrist

Former world No4 Juan Martin del Potro has suffered yet another setback in his road to recovery from injury as the Argentine announced on Monday that he will be undergoing a third surgery on his troublesome left wrist.

In an emotional and heartfelt 15-minute video message, Del Potro revealed he will have surgery on Thursday in the United States to try and fix the damaged tendon in his wrist.

Del Potro first sustained the injury in 2012 and kept playing for a year and a half, using injections to control the problem, but his wrist stopped responding to the treatment at the Australian Open last year and his last match of the 2014 season came in Dubai in February soon after.

The 26-year-old then had surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and returned to the circuit nine months later – at the Sydney tournament in January.

Despite making it to the quarter-finals in Sydney with wins over Sergiy Stakhovsky and Fabio Fognini, Del Potro withdrew from the Australian Open and underwent a minor surgery which was meant to have a short recovery period.

He came back in Miami at the end of March but lost in the opening round to Vasek Pospisil and has not been seen on a tennis court since.

“Since my last tournament in Miami until today I’ve spent some tough weeks and months, sad days, dark days with not much light at the end of the tunnel because of my serious wrist injury” Del Potro said in the video message.

“But I never gave up. If there's one thing I want to do, it's to fight for what I love and that is to play tennis.

“But since Miami, when I left the court, my sensations weren’t good. I felt bad throughout the whole tournament. The whole situation made me realise it wasn’t wise to go on in that condition. That I didn’t deserve to step onto a tennis court with pain in the wrist again.”

Del Potro explained that despite having injury troubles in the past – he missed most of 2010 with a right wrist problem after winning the 2009 US Open – this is the first time he has stepped away completely from tennis, without practicing or working out.

“I told myself I didn’t want to fight against tennis, I didn’t want to hate this sport,” said the Olympic bronze medallist.

“I’d rather take the time off that’s needed to recover myself as a human being, and leave the tennis player aside for a moment... “I just find myself fighting mentally and psychologically, not giving up and trying to find solutions for my wrist problem.

“As I still dream about stepping onto a tennis court one day, I’m not choosing conservative treatments to cure the pain, which at first was diagnosed as tendinitis but it’s more serious than that because the tendon is damaged. Several doctors, including the one that has treated my wrist all this time, recommend another surgery.

“I’ve decided to commit myself again and undergo surgery hoping it will be the final solution.”

“Next Thursday I'll undergo surgery in the United States so if you want to support me or pray for me, you are welcomed.”

**I interviewed Del Potro in Dubai before he played his very last match of 2014. He had so much hope in recovery then. I really hope he keeps up that spirit.

Monday, June 8, 2015

ROLAND GARROS: Wawrinka hails "special" win over Djokovic to win the French Open

Stan Wawrinka was in awe of his own performance in his four-set victory over Novak Djokovic in the French Open final and admits that his achievements throughout his career so far have well exceeded his expectations.

Wawrinka became the 30th man to win multiple grand slams in the Open Era when he added the French Open on Sunday to his 2014 Australian Open title with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 win over Djokovic.

The Swiss also became the first player since Albert Costa in 2002 to lose in the first round at Roland Garros then return the following year to win it.

Last year after his shock opening round exit, he was at a McDonald’s with his coach Magnus Norman commiserating over a burger. This year, he leaves Paris on the third Sunday of the tournament, rather than the first one, as a two-time major champion.

“It's quite strange when I tell myself that I have a gold medal in Davis Cup and I have two grand slams. Something quite amazing. Never expected to be that far in my career. Never expected to be that strong,” said an elated Wawrinka.

“It is amazing, for sure. I still have a problem to really realise that I won the French Open.

“I'm still surprised the way I played, because I think I played amazing today. I was really nervous, but I didn't really choke. I was always going for my shots, always going for the right play. I'm really happy with the trophy tonight.”

Wawrinka had beaten Djokovic at a major before, en route to winning the Australian Open last year, but had lost to him in Melbourne last January and on 16 other occasions. With Djokovic gunning for the one major that has eluded him thus far and running on a 28-match winning streak, Wawrinka knew what he was up against.

“For me this one is really special for sure playing Novak here in final, the No1 player,” said the 30-year-old. “He won almost everything since beginning of the year. And especially the way I played and the way I finished the match, the way I was focused all the match, the way I changed the momentum.

“I'm proud of winning today against Novak. He's such a tough player to play, especially in a final. I have a lot of respect to him and his team. He's a great friend. I know he's looking for that title. I hope he will get one one day because he deserves one.”

Djokovic was clearly upset to suffer a third defeat in a Roland Garros final.

“It's a loss. Of course it hurts, especially because it was in the finals. I think I have played a great clay court season, a great Roland Garros. But he just found the solutions on the court. This is sport. That's what happens on this level. You have to accept the loss,” said the world No1.

The Serb was playing for a third consecutive day after his semi-final against Andy Murray had to be played over two days due to a storm. He needed five sets to overcome the Scot, which came three days after defeating Rafael Nadal in the quarters. But Djokovic refused to use fatigue as an excuse for his loss.

“I don't want to come up with excuses, saying these two matches took a lot out of me and I lost today. I don't think that's fair to Stan. I don't think that's fair to sit here and whine about now what has happened,” said Djokovic.

Friday, June 5, 2015

ROLAND GARROS: Gasquet tips Djokovic to win the French Open

Richard Gasquet has tipped Novak Djokovic to win the French Open after the Serb’s demolition of nine-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.

The French ex-world No7 was in the stands for most of the clash, which Djokovic won in straight sets, and says there’s nothing stopping the world No1 now from capturing his first Roland Garros title.

While facing Nadal may have come prematurely in the tournament for Djokovic, due to the Spaniard’s lower seeding this year, Gasquet believes following up that win with two more is well within the top seed’s reach.

I think Djokovic is used to it, he’s an incredible player so now he’s very happy with the way he played and he’ll take a lot of confidence after that,” said Gasquet, who lost to Djokovic in the fourth round this week.

He doesn’t need to think about beating Rafa in the quarter-finals. Now he’s ready to compete again in semis. It took a lot of confidence after beating Rafa here in three sets on centre court. I think for sure he’s a big favourite of the tournament.”

Djokovic is undefeated in 15 matches on clay this season and is on a 27-match winning streak. He has won the opening grand slam of the season along with four Masters 1000 titles in 2015 and is 4,610 points ahead of world No2 Roger Federer in the ATP rankings.

Asked if he felt Djokovic is at a different level than the rest of the players, Gasquet said: “Of course he is. He’s No1 in the world, he hasn’t lost much this year. For me, he’ll win the tournament. He’s the favourite and we saw it on the court today (in the quarter-finals).”

Djokovic faces Andy Murray in the second semi-final on Friday, following the conclusion of the showdown between Stan Wawrinka and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who are both gunning for a maiden final in Boulogne.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

ROLAND GARROS: Djokovic ends Nadal's French Open reign, books semi against Murray

As Rafael Nadal double-faulted to surrender a straight-sets victory to Novak Djokovic on centre court at Roland Garros yesterday, you half-expected the red carpet to be rolled on the clay and the Coupe des Mousquetaires to be shuttled in.

Except Djokovic’s reward for finally defeating Nadal for the first time in seven meetings on that court and ending the Spaniard’s 39-match winning streak in Boulogne was simply a place in the semi-finals.

It was a dream 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 win for Djokovic and while it hasn’t earned him the elusive French Open trophy just yet, it feels like it has placed him infinitely closer it.

Nadal and Djokovic have faced off 44 times now, a match-up contested more than any other in the Open Era. And as much as they’re used being on opposite ends, they both agreed on one thing yesterday – that Djokovic is at the pinnacle of his career right now.

“Well, he has to win two more matches, but this match only increased the confidence. He's probably in the best moment of his career. He has a good chance to win here,” said Nadal, a nine-time champion in Paris.

Djokovic, looking to complete his career grand slam, knows he is ever-so-close to achieving his goal. But he’s also in a unique spot. After overcoming the toughest obstacle in his career thus far, he must gather himself and his thoughts and step on court tomorrow for a semi-final against Andy Murray.

But the Serb, who extended his winning streak to 27 consecutive matches, agrees with Nadal; he does feel like a man in his prime and is ready to go all the way.

“Everything coming together in my life and experiencing probably the pinnacle of my career, of my life, complete person, very satisfied on and off the court, and I think it all influences the results in my performance,” said Djokovic, who ended a four-match losing run to Nadal in grand slams.

In a match that had one player targeting a lifelong dream and the other protecting a historic legacy, it was the fire of the former that burned brighter from that start.

Djokovic leapt to a 4-0 lead, breaking Nadal for a second time on a sensational point that had dropshots, lobs and everything in between.

But what looked like one-way traffic soon got more competitive as Nadal fired a passing shot to get his first break point of the match. Djokovic gave him a thumbs up and gifted him back one of the breaks with a long forehand.

Nadal clawed his way back to 4-4, benefitting from a couple of horrendous volley misses from Djokovic along the way.

The Spaniard saved three set points in the 10th game to hold for 5-all but Djokovic got the best of him two games later, converting on his sixth set point to take the lead after 67 minutes of quality tennis.

The second set went on serve until Djokovic broke for a 5-3 lead and this time the world No1 did not blink twice. He served out the set and galloped in the third, handing Nadal just his second loss in 72 meetings at Roland Garros.

The top seed finished with 45 winners to just 16 from Nadal.

“When you lose in the way I lost today, I'd say ‘c'est la vie’. It's the way it is. That is, if you look at the score I'd say I didn't win enough games. He played better than I did,” admitted Nadal, who will drop to No10 in the rankings on Monday (or No11 if Jo-Wilfried Tsonga makes the final).

“First thing is to congratulate him, second is to accept the loss, third is to analyse why I lost then work really hard. “I gonna fight. I lost in 2009 and was not the end. I lost in 2015, and it is not the end. I hope to be back here the next year with another chance.”

Djokovic’s family and team celebrated quietly with champagne in the players’ restaurant, with Nadal’s group sitting just two tables down. It can be a cruel sport sometimes but yesterday it was a fair one.

“It's definitely a big win, a match that I will remember for a long time,” said Djokovic, who is now 21-23 against Nadal lifetime.

“Obviously an ideal scenario is today could have been finals and could have a different discussion. But right now I'm aware that this is a big win, which I will enjoy tonight. But tomorrow is a new day and I have to move on. It's only quarter-finals, and I want to fight for the title. That's what I came here for. I have to kind of direct my thoughts to the semis.”

Monday, June 1, 2015

ROLAND GARROS: Week 1 highlights, quotes, fashion hits and misses, and more

This past week at Roland Garros has been without a doubt one of the most eventful starts we’ve had in Paris in a very long time, be it for on-court reasons or off-court drama. Here are our highlights from week one...

Most Impressive debutant
Thanasi Kokkinakis
 Coming back from two sets down to beat Bernard Tomic and reach the third round of a grand slam for the first time – on his Roland Garros debut – was just one of Kokkinakis’ impressive feats.
The 19-year-old Australian held his own against Novak Djokovic in the last 32, keeping up in the long rallies and was broken just once in each set en route to defeat.
Nick Kyrgios may be the flashier Aussie but Kokkinakis seems to be the one with a greater shot at consistency.

Best match
Francesca Schiavone v Svetlana Kuznetsova
 It’s the longest women’s match of the year so far and it fell just 10 minutes short of four hours.
The two former French Open champions seem to bring out the warrior side in each other and just like their near-five-hour clash at the Australian Open four years ago, their second round in Paris last week was one incredible battle.
Two of the feistiest characters of the game, Schiavone and Kuznetsova gave us a match to remember, filled with slices, spins, chilling backhands and nervy mistakes. As was the case in Melbourne in 2011, Schiavone came out on top.

Least likely fourth-rounder
Teymuraz Gabashvili
 For a Russian power-hitter, it’s surprising that Gabashvili’s best results have come on clay. What’s more surprising was his run to the fourth round this fortnight, beating the likes of Feliciano Lopez (No11 seed), Juan Monaco and Lukas Rosol, all in straight sets to make the second week in Paris for the first time since 2010. Gabashvili, coached by Argentina’s Guillermo Canas, had won just five tour-level matches heading into the French Open. But he won two Challenger titles in the build-up and they clearly paid off.

Craziest moment
The Paris pigeon
During Richard Gasquet’s second round win over Carlos Berlocq, a pigeon tragically got stuck in the aerial camera and died. It interrupted the match on Suzanne Lenglen and Gasquet later said: “I don’t think I have ever seen like this. I remember the feathers all over the place, and the public, they thought it was crazy, too. Sometimes I jog, and I know that sometimes birds will attack you. I thought that’s what was happening. Seriously. This was unbelievable. It’s a tough death.”
Djokovic touching a ball on its way out to concede a point is a close second, while Fabrice Santoro interviewing Andy Murray in a kilt a definite third.
Best cheerleader
Bastian Schweinsteiger
 The German World Cup winner has been the liveliest supporter in a players’ box all week, constantly on his feet cheering for his girlfriend Ana Ivanovic, who is in the quarters for the first time since triumphing in 2008.

Stat of the week
3 – Only three Spanish men have made it to the third round in Paris. The fewest since 1996.

Quotes of the week
 “Are you from Serbia? I don’t talk to Serbians.” -- Toni Nadal jokes as he is approached by a Serbian journalist after a Rafael Nadal practice. The coach of course gave the reporter an interview.

That call was bullshit and everybody knows it.” -- Victoria Azarenka holds nothing back regarding a poor call from umpire Kader Nouni.

We don't have any air to clear. But I gave her a pair of my shorts because she really liked them. True story.” -- Azarenka on whether she needed to clear the air with Serena after their match.

Notable outfits (The good, the bad and the totally unnecessary)

Alize Lim's romper
Sveta's post-match swag 

Sharapova's dress 
She covered it with a marine-like striped top the whole time because of the weather but that dress is just gorgeous!

Federer's candy kit 

Sloane Stephens
Advantage Under Armour!
Victoria Azarenka
Risky business!

Agnieszka Radwanska
Unforced error!