Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wimbledon Day 8 Results: Venus and Clijsters Crumble; Serena and Kvitova Reaches Semis

Both Petra Kvitova and Kaia Kanepi entered their Wimbledon quarterfinal match as newcomers to the latter stages of Grand Slams. While the young Kvitova's career is on the rise, Kanepi has been around for quite a while, and after reaching a career high of no. 18 a few years ago, the Estonian had a streak of 11 consecutive first-round losses in 2009. It didn't take long for Kvitova's nerves to creep in, as the Czech dropped the first set 6-4. She saved 3 match points in the 2nd set tie-break to force a third set, where, again, she got off to a slow start. Kanepi dominated to take a 4-0 lead before Kvitova showed her mental toughness in coming back to win 8-6, saving a total of 5 match points.

Kvitova was honest and blunt in her press conference afterwards, getting laughs when she was asked if she believes she can be the 2010 Wimbledon champion, and answering, "No, I don't think so. I don't think so, no."

Stranger things have happened.

Unlucky for the 66th ranked Kvitova, her semifinal opponent will be Serena Williams (don't blame her for undermining her chances when she's playing the world number 1). Serena avoided joining the day's group of shock casualties by turning in yet another excellent serving performance in her 7-5, 6-3 win over 9th seed Li Na. The 12-time Major champ served 11 aces and was able to fend off Na, who was on pace to take the opener before dropping a 40-0 service game. The victory puts Serena in her 5th semi in the last 7 majors.

The stunner of the day was Tsvetana Pironkova. The 82nd ranked Bulgarian sent shock waves around the All-England Club and the tennis world, eliminating Venus Williams, a 5-time Wimbledon champion and world number 2, 6-2, 6-3. Venus lost 5 straight games from 2-2 in the first, ending the match with 29 errors, just 3 aces, and 5 double faults. Pironkova hit with power but was much steadier than Williams, who erratically lost her chance at gaining her 6th Venus Rosewater Dish. Pironkova, 22, showed her variety with her slice forehand and called the upset victory "like a dream."

Despite the devastating loss, Venus was very composed in her press conference adamantly reminding tennis fans that she's not going anywhere when asked if losses like this one make her want to pursue other things. "Well, why wouldn’t I want to pursue this? I’m pretty good at it most days. Today I didn’t seem to be the best tennis player, but for the most part, I rock and roll this game. I’ll give it up when I’m just terrible. It would take more than just a few bad days in a year to make me quit tennis. So that’s not even in the equation."

The second surprise upset of the day was at the hands of the usually emotionally-shaky Vera Zvonareva. The 21st seed lost the first set 6-4 of her match with Kim Clijsters but kept her focus, forcing a deciding set after taking the second 6-4. Clijsters than collapsed in the 3rd, hitting wandering forehands and showing vulnerability in her serve. Zvonareva took the final set easily 6-2 to reach her second career GS semifinal, the first being at the 2009 Australian Open. The Russian also converted 4 of her 13 break point opportunities, while Clijsters blew many of hers with unforced errors that totaled 36 by the conclusion of the match.

Zvonareva and Serena will both be heavy favorite to advance to the finals.

Isner Gets Comedic on Letterman

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wimbledon Day 7: Roddick Stunned by Lu, Federer, Nadal and Serena Win in Straights

If you looked at the schedule for day 7 of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, you probably would have thought, just as I did, that some of the match ups looked more fit for final-round encounters. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova took to Centre Court in a rematch of the final in 2004, as both women have had their fair share of ups and downs since they began their rivalry 6 years ago. Serena, though, avenged her loss to the then 17-year old Sharapova, serving beautifully to reach the quarters with a tight 7-6 (9), 6-4 win. Both women saw very few looks on each others serve, but Serena proved the opportunistic of the two, converting the two break points she had.

9th seeded Li Na will be Williams' opponent in the final 8, as the Chinese dominated a defensive Agnieszka Radwanska, seeded 7th, 6-3, 6-2. Li reached the quarterfinals at SW19 in 2006, and she'll be looking to turn the tables on Serena after the American beat her in the Aussie Open semis 6 months ago. Caroline Wozniacki was playing the best grass court tennis of her career ehading into her 4th round match with Petra Kvitova, but she looked helpless against her 62nd ranked opponent. 3rd seeded Wozzi lost 2 and 0 and just 45 minutes in yet another GS dissapointment. Kvitova will take on qualified Kaia Kanepi, who beat Klara Zakopalova, next.
In the bottom half of the men's draw lies British hope Andy Murray, who has quietly (at least here in the States) advanced to the quarters, his latest victory being a comfortable 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 over Sam Querrey on Monday. Murray is the only remaining player in the draw who has yet to have his serve broken, and that streak will be tested against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the next round. The Frenchman earned a 4-set win over countryman Julien Benneteau.

After two nail-biting 5-set victories, Rafael Nadal returned to his usual, dominating self with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 win against Paul-Henri Mathieu. Robin Soderling, a very familiar foe to the Spaniard, will be Rafa's opponent in the quarters. The 6th seeded Sod prevailed against David Ferrer in a thrilling 5-setter, 6-2, 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. Soderling and Nadal have played numerous times in the last year, most recently 3 weeks ago in the French Open final, where Rafa won easily.

The rivalry between Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin, one that dates back to their childhood in Belgium, was reignited on Monday, as the two contested their first matchin Major play since their 2006 Wimbledon semifinal. Henin got off to a quick start, overwhelming Clijsters with her crafty play to take the first 6-2. Kim, though, reversed the storyline in the next two sets to win the match in 3 and advance to the quarters, where she'll take on Vera Zvonareva. Jelena Jankovic retired against the Russian down 6-1, 3-0.

Venus Williams overcame a tough test from Jarmila Groth to win 6-4, 7-6 (5), while Tsvetana Pironkova, who took our Venus in the 2006 Australian open first round, beat Marion Bartoli, a 2007 Wimbledon finalist, 6-4, 6-4.

Roger Federer made quick work of Jurgen Melzer in their first ever head-to-head meeting, crushing the 16th seed 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Federer will face Tomas Berdych who dropped the first set against Daniel Brands but won the final 3. Novak Djokovic was tested by Lleyton hewitt, a popular dark-horse pick, but won in 4 sets to reach his 3rd Wimbledon quarterfinal.

The upset of the day was Yen-Hsun Lu's stunning 5 set victory over Andy Roddick. After the American won the opening set, the 26 year-old Lu won the next two in breakers. Roddick fought back to push the match to a fifth set, where he lost 9-7 to see yet another Wimbledon title get out of hand. Roddick's frustration and devastation was evident in his press conference, as it was clear he regretted his defensive play against an agressive Lu.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I'm Back- Wimbledon Week 1 Round-Up

Wimbledon´s first week was without a doubt a historic one and, of course, I didn´t see one single, solitary point of it. I was on a cruise (as I previously mentioned) and yes, there was TV, but no, absolutely no Wimby coverage. EVEYTHING World Cup- I was literally on the verge of jumping overboard, having no connection to the outside world except from the $1.75/per minute Internet and the Italians that told me to fuck off when I asked if they could put on some tennis at a bar. Other than that, it was a great time.

But let´s not focus on my about that of John Isner and Nicholas Mahut. You obviously already know about it but let me just say that most of the Internet bill was built up by me trying to track this match point by point. 70-68. I thought there was a glitch on the SW19 website. EPIC.

There was also the drama with Victor Hanescu being an annoying and obnoxious brat. Check out the video below. Serena has been dominant, particularly serving-wise. Fed had his first round scare and has look pretty good since while Rafa look dynamite initially and has been taken to two 5-setters since. The weather has been a blessing and the Queen even made an earlier-than-expected visit to the All England Club. Her fave player, Andy Murray has yet to crash and burn from the expectations of England while Stosur and Schiavo had major letdowns, losing in round 1.

Hope everyone is enjoying the middle-Sunday break. Day 7 will be jam packed. Plane ride home Monday- thank God. Here are some of the exciting matches to watch tomorrow.

Serena vs. Sharapova
Justine vs. Kimmie
Radwanska vs. Li
Zvonareva vs. Jankovic
Fed vs. Melzer
Djokovic vs. Hewitt
Querrey vs. Murray
Soderling vs. Ferrer

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Off to Europe

Wimbledon coverage on Serve and Return will be quite sporadic this year. I am 15 minutes away from boarding a plane to Barcelona, where I'll be embarking on a cruise that hits Rome, Florence, Monte Carlo, Mallorca (Rafa's birthplace) and Naples. Of course, it goes to all the European cities BUT London! So no, I won't be seeing any Wimby action. I'll try to update as often as possible based on how much internet is on the ship.

There isn't time to do a men's prediction post so I'll just tell you real quick here.

Semis: Federer def. Roddick, Nadal def. Murray

Finals: Nadal def. Federer

Enjoy your breakfast at Wimbledon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wimbledon Women's Predictions

This year's top two seeds in the Ladie's draw at the Wimbledon Championships are once again Serena and Venus Williams. years ago (8 to be exact) the world saw these two sisters contest in their first SW19 final against each other, and despite the time that has gone by, the WTA Tour has restored order. S and V may be dominate on the slick stuff, but this year the grass-court slam is no gimme for either of them. With Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters back, these next two weeks are sure to be enthralling.

1st Quarter
Once Serena Williams gets past the early rounds at a Grand Slam, where she usually isn't at her best, the world number 1 is nearly unstoppable. If you want to pull off an upset, the time to catch Serena is in the quarters or earlier (when she reaches the semis, she's won 4 of the last 5 Majors) and there are a handful of women who could be able to stun the tennis world with a win over Williams. The top seed starts with a toughie against Michelle Larcher de Brito, a teenager with heavy strokes and a grunt with an octave higher than even Serena's herself. The next potential upset is 16th seeded Maria Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion. She is slowly but surely returning to her pre-shoulder surgery form, and if she gets a hot hand, could hand Serena a defeat in their potential 4th-rounder. Li Na, who won Birmingham last week, Svetlana Kuznetsova, who's rank has fallen to 20th, and Agnieszka Radwanska, seeded 7th, all have the talent to knock off ReRe in the quarters, but lack the firepower the American has.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Sharapova vs. Daniela Hantuchova

Quarterfinals: S. Williams def. S. Kuznetsova

2nd Quarter

This section of the draw is the most wide-open one there is. None of these ladies can call themselves experienced on the grass-courts but a few of them are on the upswing. Caroline Woznaicki is not one of them though. The 3rd seed headlines this quarter but hasn't been playing her best tennis recently, and isn't very comfortable on grass. She is prone to an upset early, and I think Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a powerful young Russian, will be the one to knock out the Dane in their potential 3rd round encounter. Victoria Azarenka is another big hitter who has a certain prowess when she steps on the lawns. Despite a disastrous clay-court season, Azarenka's run in Eastbourne this week, which consisted of wins over Kim Clijsters, Radwanska and Marion Bartoli, is just the motivator that will allow Vika to make a lot of noise. Sam Stosur is coming off a brilliant run at the French, but her results at the Wimbledon warm-ups haven't been convincing, and she could suffer a letdown. Jie Zheng has experienced success here and could surprise many with a longer-than-expected stay in London.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Gisela Dulko vs. Flavia Pennetta

Quarterfinals: V. Azarenka def. S. Stosur

3rd Quarter

While the Wimbledon committee altered the men's seedings , they opted to follow the rankings in the seeding process for the women. Their decision to stray from moving women up or down accordingly has resulted in a possible 4th-round meeting between 8th seeded Kim Clijsters, a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist, and 17th seeded Justine Henin, a two-time finalist. The two Belgians will be competing in both of their first Wimbledons since their return to the tour, and both have great opportunities to pick up their first titles at the All England Club. Nadia Petrova, though, has pulled off two shocking upsets at the slams already this year, against Clijsters in Melbourne and Venus in Paris. Her possible early-round meeting with Henin could be trouble for the comeback girl. Jelena Jankovic is the highest seed in the section, and could go under-the-radar and reach the semis like she did in RG, but her game isn't fit for the grass. Vera Zvonareva and Yanina Wickmayer are potential dark-horses who shouldn't be ignored.

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Henin vs Petrova

Quarterfinals: Clijsters def. Jankovic

4th Quarter

Venus Williams is hitting 30 in stride. The 2nd seed, who's birthday was yesterday, is without question the WTA's resident grass-court queen, and no one in the soft quarter she was placed in has much of a shot to dethrone her. V did succumb to her sister in last year's final, but she's had much more success at Wimbledon than any other woman in the draw, holding 5 titles. The next highest seed in the section is Francesca Schiavone, who's inspiring run at the French Open sets her up for a major letdown in London. The Italian reached the quarters here last year, but if she reached that result again this year it would be very surprising. 2007 runner-up Marion Bartoli is talented on the lawns but her current form isn't where it needs to be in order to have another magical run. Two former number one's, Dinara Safina and Ana Ivanovic, who have fallen from grace also find themselves located in Williams' section. Safina reached the semis here last year but has lost 5 straight matches since returning from a serious back injury. Ivanovic has mustered back-to-back wins in just one tournament this year, and the best part is, the two could meet in the 3rd round! With each of them playing the way they are, it will be lucky if they reach that stage, but does anyone care to guess how many unforced errors their would be in that potential encounter?

Early rounder to keep an eye on: Ivanovic vs. Shahar Peer

Quarterfinals: V. Williams def. M. Bartoli

Semifinals: S. Williams def. V. Azarenka, V. Williams def. K. Clijsters

Yet another battle of the sisters at Wimbledon. Venus takes back her crown this time.

Finals. V. Williams def. S. Williams

Thursday, June 17, 2010

WTA's Glamour Girls Get Dolled Up for Pre-Wimbledon Party

The Pre-Wimbledon party is one of the biggest red-carpet events for the ladies of the WTA Tour, as the extravaganza, this year hosted by Richard Branson, lets the athletes trade in their Nike and Adidas sneakers for Louboutins and Manolos. This year held at the Roof Gardens in London, the party's attendees hit the style mark on the head, for the most part, at least.

Maria Sharapova, pictured above, opted for a shiny and shimmery plunging gold number paired with brown strappy heels. The Russian's look was perfection, head to toe, as usual.

Serena Williams decided to let her hair and shoes do the talking. She wore a muted off-the-shoulder black mini, but her shoes were anything but quiet. The silver bedazzled ankle-booties were a little over the top, as was Williams' 80's style hair, but what would you expect from the WTA's resident drama queen.

Venus Williams was celebrating her 30th birthday today, and the b-day girl impressed with her look. V wore a simple ivory dress, putting the focus on her gold accessories, from her shoes, to her necklaces to her earrings and bracelets.

Not bad for a 30-year old. Not bad at all. Hope you enjoyed your big day, girl!

Despite Jelena Jankovic's tendency to go a little cray-cray with her red-carpet choices, the Serbian was a perfect 10 on Thursday, looking stunning in a gold and black lace number with a tulle overlay. She opted for matchy-matchy shoes, earning her the Serve and Return title of best dressed for the event.
Nice work, JJ!

Dinara Safina went low-key in a grey body-hugging, short-sleeved number with a belt. She seems to have gotten a haircut too. Let's hope she can turn her recent results around at Wimby.

Ana Ivanovic went total-glam for her outfit, from the hair all the way down to her sky-high strappy stilettos. Aussie Ana went with a kaleidoscope dress and she must have been the tallest girl there in her sky-scraping heels. Look at those legs!

Elena Baltacha wore a pretty lady-like dress, with a banded waist and an embellished neckline. BUT, the Brit should have ironed her ensemble before leaving the house. And couldn't anyone tell her about her very apparent sock tan-line!

Anne Keothavong was another best-dressed, donning a blue maxi dress with gold floral detailing. She looked great and was smart to keep her accessories to a minimum.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Stosur, Vika and Clijsters Reach Eastbourne Quarters; Simon Back to Winning Ways

Kim Clijster's return to the tour after a 6-week layoff due to an ankle injury has been a triumphant one. The Belgian looks primed for a good run at Wimbledon, as she has lost 2 games in 2 matches to reach the Eastbourne quarterfinals. After crushing Yanina Wickmayer, Clijsters handed a similar beat down to Lucie Safarova, earning a 6-1, 6-0 win in a whopping 38 minutes. Sam Stosur's win took on a different storyline, as the Aussie ousted Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 after having 3 match points.

Aravane Rezai retired down 6-2, 3-0 to Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, and Victoria Azarenka punished junior Heather Watson 1 and 1. Marion Bartoli worked hard for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 comeback win against Agnes Szavay while Nadia Petrova was crushed by Ekaterina Makarova, 6-2, 6-0. Svetlana Kuznetsova is unseeded at the Wimbledon warm-up, as her ranking has tumbled to 20th, but she pulled off an impressive 3-set victory against Sorana Cirstea, 4-6, 7-6 (6, 7-6, (4).

In the men's tournament, Gilles Simon, who had yet to play a match before his first round win over Evgeny Korolev, and the Frenchman continued his triumphant return with a a 3-set victory against Alex Kuznetsov, 6-1, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (2). Top seeded Nicolas Almagro was taken off the court on a stretcher after slipping at the baseline and suffering a hip injury against Denis Istomin. The Spaniard was down 6-4, 1-0. Julien Benneteau won in straights to reach the quarters, along with 8th seeded Michael Llodra, a 3 set winner.

Carlos Rodriguez Downplays Henin's Chances at a Wimbledon Title

Justine Henin cited her desire to win Wimbledon and complete the career Grand Slam as a main factor in her return to tennis in January of 2010, but her coach Carlos Rodriguez, is attenuating his pupil's chances at winning the title she wants so much.

Rodriguez told the press:

Justine is not a candidate for victory at Wimbledon. She has a chance, but there are girls who have more claim to the title than her. I'd like to [be] wrong, but she needs more time.

You tell me, is this just a strategic statement to distract Henin's peers or does Carlos truly believe that the Belgian's chances are slim. On one hand I do think that Henin's shaky serve and lack of power could equal an early trip home from London, but she hasn't reached two championship matches at SW19 for nothing.

While so many youngsters have difficulty adapting their games from clay to grass in such a short amount of time, henin is one of a handful, along with the Williams sisters, who has the experience and smarts to make the transition with ease. of course, with a seeding of 17, so much depends on where Henin is placed in the draw. An early round match with a heavy-hitter (think Azarenka, Kleybanova, Petrova) could mean trouble.

Federer Gets Wimbledon No. 1 Seed Over Nadal

Wimbledon sets itself apart from the other slams not only with the London traditions but with it's out of the ordinary seeding system. The directors of the year's 3rd slams give themselves the privilege of seeding the players not based on their rankings, but based on their grass-court records. This year the folks over at SW19 have made headlines in putting world number 2 Roger Federer as the top seed rather than the new world number 1, Rafael Nadal. Federer has won 6 titles at Wimbledon, while Rafa has just 1. The Spaniards last title, though, came the last time he played, in 2008, as injury kept him out of the 2009 championships.

Had Roger won that title in 2008, I would agree with the decision to swap the two but Rafa's current form is just too good, especially compared to Fed's, to not reward the reigning Roland Garros champion the top seed. But I'm sure he doesn't mind; most of his Majors have been won while seeded 2nd, right?

In other seeding changes, Lleyton Hewitt, who beat Federer last week in winning the Halle title, was bumped up 11 spots to no. 15, while big-serving Ivo Karlovic's impressive run at last year's tournament prompted a raise from number 33rd to 25th. Andy Roddick was seeded 5th, two higher than his world ranking.

There were minimal changes in the women's seedings, as Serena and Venus Williams take the 1 and 2 spot respectively. Elena Dementieva withdrew from the slam yesterday, meaning Francesca Schiavone gets raised one spot to 5th.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dementieva Pulls Out of Wimbledon

Elena Dementieva, ranked 5th in the world, has withdrawn from Wimbledon, the year's 3rd slam beginning next week, due to an injury to her calf that she sustained at the French Open. The Russian will be unable to defend her semifinal appearance at the grass-court slam from 2009, meaning a big drop in the rankings will be expected. She retired from her semifinal round match against Francesca Schiavone in Roland Garros and was unsure about her state for WImby, until it was announced today.

She's the last Russian left in the WTA top 10 and with her inevitable tumble in the rankings, there could be none left just a few weeks from now. Imagine that!

Recover quick, Elena! We'll be missing you!

Federer Stars in new Wilson BLX Ad

Roger Federer stars in this new cringe-worthy advertisement from Wilson promoting their BLX line of racquets. It's quite evident that Roger's happy place is not in front of the camera....thus contributing to the extreme awkwardness the video induces. Especially for die-hard Fed fans like me....I say this with love- stick to tennis.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Querrey Wins All-American Queens Final, Li Tops Sharapova for Birmingham Title

Sam Querrey became the first player on the ATP Tour to win titles on 3 different surfaces in 2010 by winning an all-American final at Queens Club over Mardy Fish on Sunday. Querrey overcame a loaded draw this week, one that included Nadal, Roddick, Murray and Djokovic, so the 7-6 (3), 7-5 victory over his compatriot should give him a much-needed boost heading into Wimbledon, starting on June 21st.

“I’m playing great on the grass, and now I’ve got a week to practice and regroup,” said Querrey, now ranked 23rd. “I’d love to win Wimbledon. I’m kind of going with baby steps (to) try and make the third round this year, because the second round is the best I’ve ever done there."

Querrey hit 15 aces against Fish, who ousted Andy Murray and Feliciano Lopez in what was also a very impressive week. Sam, though, looks primed to improve greatly on that career-best 2nd-round Wimby finish. Perhaps we could see a surprise 2nd round appearance.

In Birmingham, top-seeded Li Na had a brilliant week herself, capping off her title run with a 7-5, 6-1 won over Maria Sharapova. Li kept her composure with Sharapova hit 7 double faults on a serving day that was much different than that of her semifinal match, where she hit 12 aces. Li fell in the 2009 Birmingham final but was able to one-up that performance, earning the world number 11 her 1st title of 2010.

Both ladies should have a lot of confidence heading into the year's 3rd slam. Li's game has been continually consistent, while Sharapova reached her first grass-court final in 3 years, clinching 4 impressive wins to get there. If the Russian can keep her serve under control she could possibly make a lot of noise at the slam she won in 2004 at age 17.

Hewitt Shocks Federer in Halle Final

Hats must got off to lleyton Hewitt, who stunned Roger Federer in 3 sets today in the finals of the Wimbledon lead-up tournament in Halle, handing the Swiss just his 2nd grass-court loss in 7 year. The 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory snapped a 15-match losing streak against the world number 2, who has not won a non-Grand Slam event in nearly 11 months. The 29 year-old Hewitt's last victory over Federer was in 2003, telling the press the win was "fantastic."

“Roger is a hell of an opponent and everybody knows how good he is on the grass court. His record speaks for itself,” said Hewitt, who was appearing in his first final of the 2010 season. Hewitt earned an early break in the deciding set and never looked back, sending shock waves around the tennis world and putting Federer's chances of defending his Wimbledon crown in serious doubt. But, despite his lackluster recent play, the Swiss remains confident, saying "the loss does not worry me in any way."

Sorry Roger, but it worries me!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Top Seeds Struggle on the Queens Grass Courts

If you were expecting a restoration of ATP order at Wimbledon you wouldn't have current form on your side, because the top seeds at the AEGON Championships at Queens Club have looked very unimpressive.

Andy Roddick started the trend with a disheartening loss to Dudi Sela 6-4, 7-6 (8) on Thursday, failing to play his usual tennis and lacking the aggression that helped him reach the Wimby finals last year. Sela did play a solid all-around game, mixing up his spins to counter-act A-Rod's, but If this is any preview of what the American will look like at the year's 3rd slam, he should prepare himself for a huge dip in the rankings, as the world number 7 has a boatload of points to defend.

Novak Djokovic probably has even more to worry about than Roddick, having reached just one semifinal since his win in Dubai in February. Nole has complained of allergies, slippery courts and butt rashes, but I'd give more credit to his completely uninspired play. The Serb went crashing out to Xavier Mallisse, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 in Queens, but the problems lye more in the the world number 3's brain than in his strokes. Any chronic psychological effects from his choke against Jurgen Melzer in the quarters of the French wouldn't surprise me, but Djokovic isn't making a nearly good enough argument for me to consider him a contender in London.

Marin Cilic's loss to Michael Llodra was the least surprising of the seeded upsets on Thursday, but it's an upset nonetheless. Llodra, as I previously mentioned, has began working with '06 Wimbledon champ Amelie Mauresmo to improve his grass-court game, and it looks like the two's partnership is already showing successful results, considering the Frenchman's 7-6 (2), 6-2 defeat of the 5th seeded Cilic.

Rafael Nadal also struggled, but prevailed, in a 3-set encounter with Denis Istomin. 3rd seeded Andy Murray's match with Mardy Fish has been suspended due to darkness, as the two were split 1-set a piece and 3-3 before the ump stopped play. Read about the drams between the two HERE.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kim Sears Shows Up to Support Her Ex, Murray

A few months ago Kim Sears decided to call things off with boyfriend of 4 years Andy Murray because the world number 4 was reportedly spending too much time on his playstation and less time with his woman, but it seems things have heated up between the two again, as Sears was spotted supporting Murray at his opening Queen's Club match against Ivan Navarro.

The Scot struggled to pull off the victory, winning 6 and 3, but more importantly is the fact that the two have clearly patched things up (or maybe Andy's playstation broke and he got bored). Murray's play suffered a significant drop during his few months as a single man so maybe we could see an inspired run at Wimbledon.

Mauresmo to Assist Llodra at Wimby

It may not be a comeback a la Clijsters, Henin or Hingis, but at least she's back in the tennis circle!

It has been confirmed in today's L'Equippe that Amelie Mauresmo, who won the Wimbledon title in 2006, will be used as an assistant coach to Michael Llodra during the grass-court slam this year. The former number 1 was reportedly delighted to help, and Llodra has expressed his excitement in Mauresmo's assistance, whether it be "friendly or professional."

Amelie can probably bring a lot to Llodra's game, especially in the big moments. We'll see you in the player's box!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Rankings Report: Schiavo Debuts in Top 10, Rafa Back to 1, Safina/Kuzzie Free Fall

Rafael Nadal's resounding victory in Paris at the French Open has catapulted the Spaniard back to the ATP driver's seat, replacing 16-time Major champ Rogerb Federer. Rafa lost the top spot last summer after a disappointing showing at RG and a forced withdrawal from Wimbledon, but less than a year later, he is back at the top. other significant ranking moves amongst the men were Juan Martin del Potro, who is unable to play until at least October, causing the Argentine to drop two spots to number 8. Jurgen Melzer moved up 11 spots to number 16, Tomas Berdych reentered the top 15, Fernando Gonzalez fell out of the top 20 and Robby Ginepri improved 28 spots, to number 70, after a pleasantly surprising run to the final 16 at the French.

In the women's rankings, Francesca Schiavone, fresh off her remarkable triumph in France, went from 17th to 6th. Schiavone's compatriot, Flavia Pennetta, went up 5 spots to number 10 while the top 5 was unchanged. Svetlana Kuznetsova had a boatload of points to defend after her 2009 RG win, but she failed to repeat, descending rapidly from number 6 to number 19. Fellow Russian Dinara Safina fell from 9th to 20th after going out in the 1st round. Elena Dementieva is now the only Russian in the top 10, just a couple year's after the women from her country revolutionized the sport, while Italy has 2 women. WTF!? Shahar Peer and Nadia Petrova both joined the top 15 after impressive results at the clay slam, while Sorana Cirstea suffered a 24-ranking fall to number 58.

Rafa Rocks Robin in RG Final; Regains Title and No.1 Ranking

Rafael Nadaln capped off a perfect clay-court season with a dominating victory over Robin Soderling in the French Open final. Nadal, who went 22-0 over the past 2 months of play on the red dirt, proved that he is without a doubt the best clay-courter of all time, crushing his Swedish opponent, who was in his 2nd consecutive French open final, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 with brilliant defense and a serve that was not broken once. Not only did the Spaniard win his 5th French open title without dropping a set, but Rafa didn't even face a set point, plowing through the draw like a one man recking machine.

Nadal will return to the top spot in the ATP rankings, as Roger Federer lost tons of points after failing to match his championship effort from 2009. Soderling had few chances to get himself into the match, as Nadal's relentless legs seemed to track down each shot the 7th seed hit, returning them back for passing shots few knew were possible to hit. The win earns Rafa his 7th major title, tying him with John McEnroe and Matz Wilander and leaving him one shy of Andre Agassi. The new world number 1 won the titles in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid before his win in Parisand en route to the final match, Rafa took out Lleyton Hewitt, Nicholas Almagro and Jurgen Melzer, while Soderling went through Marin Cilic, Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych.

Nadal explained why this win was particularly emotional for him in his post-match presser:

Is important because is one of the most important because I had difficult year, and for some moments was difficult to accept the injuries and everything. You know, for moments you don't know if you are ready another time to compete, you are 100%.

At the same time, sometimes is a big frustration when you are in US Open and you broke your an abdominal one week before and you are in Australia and have to retire during the quarterfinals match. So all these moments are difficult to accept. I was there all the time, and for that reason, today is a very, very special day for me.

Congrats Rafa!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Schiavone Takes French with 2 Set Win Over Stosur; Becomes First Female Italian GS Winner

Maybe your favorite players are the usual champions like Federer, Rafa or Serena, but on Saturday i realized that their is a unique satisfaction in seeing someone new take the crown, especially when they're as genuinely happy as Francesca Schiavone was after her masterful all-court display in the Roland Garros final against Sam Stosur. The Italian became the first women from her country to win a Major title, and she did it in beautiful fashion, out-serving her Aussie opponent, who had an incredible run, too, beating Serena, Henin and Jankovic en route to the championship match. The 17th seed's family and friends all donned shirts that read "Schiavo, Nothing is Impossible" and the 29 year-old proved it, having never reached a GS semi before her enchanting run that included wins over Li Na, Caroline Wozniacki and Elena Dementieva.

Both women held serve until 4-4 in the first, where Schiavone made her move and began attacking the difficult Stosur kick-serve. Stosur, who looked flat and nervous throughout the encounter, dropped the set 6-4 but jumped out to an early 4-1 lead in the second, before, again, nerves got to her. Schiavone's high topspin rattled the 7th seed, but it was her net game that proved a major difference, as she hit 7 volley winners to Stosur's 2. It was clear that both women being avid doubles players helped their singles immensely throughout the fortnight. The 2nd set breaker was where the most brilliant tennis was played though, as the adrenaline rushed through Schiavo's body, helping her take the set 7-2 and the match, ecstatically falling to the ground afterwards.

The Italian's display proved that the single most important thing in earning a Major title is self-belief, and it was Stosur who lacked it at times, while Schiavone had plenty. "Everybody has the chance to be who you really want to be, and do everything in your life,” said Schiavone, expected to be ranked 6th in next week's WTA rankings. “This is what has happened to me.”

When asked about match point, where the first-time champion hit a high backhand in the corner, forcing Stosur into an error, she said, "I was feeling much more energy, more and more and more. I couldn’t stop it. I really felt that was my moment, and I took it. I didn’t lose the chance."

On Saturday, it really was her moment. A moment of a lifetime.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Roland Garros Results: Stosur and Schiavone into Finals; Dementieva Retires

Although Thursday's women's semifinals were about as anti-climactic as grand slam semifinals get, a win is a win, and consequently, Samantha Stosur and Francesca Schiavone will be facing off in both of their first Major finals. Stosur took on Serbian Jelena Jankovic, the highest seed remaining going into day 11. Stosur stayed cool, calm and collected in her 6-1, 6-2 win, as she has been the entire tournament, hitting 7 aces to Jankovic's 2. Another key statistic: Stosur hit 18 winners and 16 erros while the passive Jankovic's ratio was 9 to 22.

Most impressive of Stosur's destroying of JJ was that the Aussie avoided a letdown after taking out Serena and Henin. Sammy's match was just about as long game-wise as her epid third set with Williams in the quarters. In her presser, Stosur stressed self-belief and movement (she looks like a natural the way she moves on the red dirt) as key factors in her improving:

"I think it's a lot of things. It's not just one aspect. My fitness and strength is something I've been working on for probably a good five years very seriously. That hasn't been an overnight process. And, you know, really understanding my game and how to use it and my strengths and weaknesses and all that, I've got a lot better at understanding everything that I can do over the last few years a lot better. And then self belief and starting to win big matches. So I think it's a combination of lots of things all coming together."

And the first semi was just as much, if not more, of a snooze fest as the Stosur/JJ one, as Elena Dementieva saw yet another chance to grab that well overdue first Major title come crashing down again, as a torn calf muscle that she has apparently been dealing with since the second round, forced her to retire after dropping the first set 7-6 (3) to Francesca Schiavone. Dementieva continued her aggressive play but the Italian's relentless defense and heavy topspin proved too much for the emotional Dementieva to handle.

Schiavone becomes the first Italia women in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam final, and when asked about her chances in the championship match, where Stosur will be a heavy favorite, the 17th seed responded:

"I don't know. I really don't know, but I'm really happy to be here. I will go on the court and I will fight at the best that I will do it, that I can do. Now is time to relax, and Saturday will be the time to put everything that I work until now."

Here's to hoping that the men's semis bring a little more excitement.