Archive for January, 2010
Sunday, January 31st, 2010
I’d love to say I told you so, since in my January 15 blog I said Federer over Murray and Serena over Clijsters (at least it was still a Belgian finalist), but nobody was really surprised at the outcome of the first Grand Slam of 2010. Federer secured his fourth Australian Open win with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (11) victory at Rod Laver Arena that, other than a fun and dramatic tiebreaker, lacked the same punch we witnessed in several other matches throughout the past fortnight. The win was the 16th major for the Swiss giant, increasing his lead on the game’s past greats. He has also widened the gap on the rest of the field currently playing on the ATP World Tour.
The pressure on Murray, who hails from Scotland, was incredible. He had the weight of the British world on his shoulders along with the ghost of Fred Perry, who has the last Brit to win a Grand Slam, 74 years ago. Murray was feeling heat in the headlines that can only be equaled by the Habs here in the Great White North. While he denies giving in to the pressure, Murray played most of Sunday’s final in Melbourne with a great amount of stiffness.
In a similar post-match speech to Federer’s emotional collapse in 2009 after losing to Nadal in five sets, Murray couldn’t hold in the disappointment any longer.
“I can cry like Roger, it’s just a shame I can’t play like him,” said the great Scot.
The way Murray played over the course of the past two weeks, he should have posted a better result than what was on display over the two hours and 41 minutes in the final. I’m not suggesting he should’ve won, but he statistics showed that with a cleaner match, Murray could’ve done some damage.
Federer played like the most successful man in tennis history. His poise and experience came through and despite committing six more unforced errors than his opponent, Federer was tactically lethal.
When the world ranking get released Monday, daddy Federer, who stated during his post-match speech that this was his first major win as a father, will have an even larger lead on the men looking up at him. There will also be a shuffle near the top as Novak Djokovic, winner in Melbourne two years ago, will rise to the No. 2 spot, followed by Murray, who remains the only Top 5 to not have won a major. The great Spaniard, Rafael Nadal, champion last year in Australia, and who withdrew from his quarter-final match against Murray, will fall to No. 4, the worst ranking he has possessed in nearly five years.
So with Nadal forced to sit for at least a month due to a bummed knee, U.S. Open champ Juan Martin del Potro still experiencing pain in his wrist, and the other contenders – Djokovic, Murray and Nikolay Davydenko – left scratching their heads after the start to this year, there’s no stopping Federer from dominating the 2010 calendar.
A bold prediction? Not when it comes to the great Roger Federer.
Saturday, January 30th, 2010
Daniel Nestor (Toronto) and his Serbian partner Nenad Zimonjic narrowly missed adding to their trophy case, losing the Australian Open final on Saturday night with a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-3 defeat at the hands of American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan.
Nestor/Zimonjic let the match slip away in the third set, despite being ahead 30-0 on serve at 1-2. The Bryans earned five consecutive points to steal the first break in the final frame. They held serve for the remainder of the match and a slicing serve by Bob Bryan gave the American brothers their fourth Australian Open title and eighth Grand Slam.
“It’s been a great two years, playing against these two guys (Nestor/Zimonjic),” said an elated Bob Bryan following the win. “They’ve had the best of us many times, and we were fortunate to win. Tonight was great. It’s 5 a.m. on the west coast so we thanks all of those people having pajama parties in California.”
In a surprising move, the Bryan twins – Mike, right handed and Bob, left handed – switched sides of attack. The rare positional change altered the strategy for both teams in this much-hyped final.
Looking like the match was all but done much earlier, down 5-2 in the second set tiebreak, Nestor/Zimonjic rallied to win five straight points of their own to force a third and deciding set. The Bryans broke the Canadian/Serbian duo midway through the opening set to go ahead 3-2 and held on to take the first frame.
In what has become the best doubles rivalry in recent memory, the two teams have only met in championship matches, but surprisingly, this was only their second contest in a Grand Slam final. The Bryan Brothers snapped a five-match losing streak to their on-court rivals.
“First, I want to congratulate the boys (Bryans), we always bring out the best out of each other and tonight was no exception,” said Nestor during the on-court trophy presentation. “They were the better team tonight.”
Despite the loss in the final, when the ATP World Tour rankings are released Monday, Nestor and Zimonjic will reclaim the No. 1 world ranking, bringing Nestor’s career total to 65 weeks at the top. This was Nestor/Zimonjic’s fourth Grand Slam final together. They are the two-time reigning Wimbledon champions. The pair were also runners-up at 2008 Roland Garros. Nestor and Zimonjic recently captured the Sydney tournament, a warmup event to the Australian Open. Nestor holds 65 career doubles titles, the most among active players and fifth in the Open Era.
The 37-year-old doubles specialist is one of only five men in the history of tennis (Agassi, Federer, Woodbridge, Woodforde) to have earned the career Golden Slam, winning all four major titles and an Olympic gold medal. Nestor was named the 2009 Toronto Sun / George Gross Sportsman of the Year.
ATP WORLD TOUR RECORDS
Career Doubles Titles (Open Era)
83 Todd Woodbridge (AUS)
71 John McEnroe (USA)
69 Tom Okker (NED)
67 Mark Woodforde (AUS)
65 Daniel Nestor (CAN)
63 Frew McMillan (AUS)
60 Peter Fleming (USA)
59 Anders Jarryd (SWE)
59 Raul Ramirez (MEX)
59 Mike Bryan (USA)
Most Doubles Titles (Among active players)
65 Daniel Nestor (CAN)
59 Mike Bryan (USA)
57 Bob Bryan (USA)
52 Mark Knowles (BAH)
45 Mahesh Bhupathi (IND)
41 Leander Paes (IND)
40 Martin Damm (CZE)
36 Max Mirnyi (BLR)
33 Nenad Zimonjic (SRB)
33 Kevin Ullyett (ZIM)
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
When I was in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics, I could see how China embraced tennis not only as a spectator sport but also as a recreational activity. As one of the fastest growing sports in the country, tennis was becoming the sport of the 21st century. Courts were popping up everywhere and the people came out in droves to watch tennis at the Games.
While the popularity of NBA star Yao Ming may never be duplicated, Chinese tennis stars Li Na and Zheng Jie are quickly becoming the darlings of the most populated nation on the planet. Now, the two young ladies have reached the semifinals of the Australian Open, marking the first time two Asian players have reached the final four of a Grand Slam. It’s a wonderful tribute to two great athletes, but also to a country that has grown to quickly appreciate a sport nearly foreign to them just a decade ago.
This will mark the second Grand Slam semifinal for Zheng, having reached the last Friday at Wimbledon in 2008. While given a favorable draw Down Under, she has still earned every victory, including a crushing straight sets win over Maria Kirilenko in the quarter-final. She will face the latest comeback Belgian and former No. 1 Justine Henin in the semifinal. Most will pick Henin, who left the game in 2008 as the top player in tennis, however those that have watched all of the action in Australia will notice that Henin is playing through some pain and Zheng is simply inflicting pain on her opponents.
In Australia on Wednesday, Li found herself down a set and a break to one of the game’s greatest, Venus Williams. But Li clawed her way back to defeat the eldest Williams sister 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5, showcasing a power and athleticism that has been her trademark since she started as a pro in 1999. Earlier in the tournament, she dismantled U.S. Open finalist and fourth-seed Caroline Wozniaki. For Li, this will mark the first semifinal at a major, having reached the quarter-final at the U.S. Open last year and also at Wimbledon in 2006.
It’s a historic day in China and for the sport. In the largest market in the world, it also doesn’t hurt having tennis dominate the headlines in Asia. They may not be everyday names such as Sharapova and Williams that the average tennis fan is accustomed to seeing, but Li and Zheng, with their current run to the semis in Melbourne, have taken tennis to a new global stage.
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
You could hear the gasps from Melbourne all the way here in Toronto. Tennis fans held their collective breath on Tuesday at the Australian Open as two of the biggest names in men’s tennis, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick, both experienced enough pain to seriously hamper their chances of victory. Both men exited the first Grand Slam. Roddick losing five sets to Croatian Marin Cilic while Nadal withdrew from his much-anticipated quarter-final match versus Scot Andy Murray.
While I’m not the biggest fan of Andy Roddick, specifically his antics, I have grown to respect his perseverance. He fought nobly against the world’s best, Roger Federer in a marathon five-set Wimbledon final last July and played through obvious pain Tuesday night Down Under, falling short against the up-and-coming Cilic in five sets. Down and out early in the match, when the American called for a trainer and was medically assessed, he asked if the injury would cause long-term damage if he continued. With a shake of the head, Roddick got all the treatment he needed and hopped back on court. He was able to wow fans, and Cilic, but missed his ultimate chance, triple-break point in the opening game of the fifth set. Make no mistake about it, Andy Roddick is back.
Nadal pulled out in the third set, with Murray leading 6-3 7-6(2) 3-0 at the time. The Spaniard took a medical time-out in the second game of the third set for treatment on his knee, and played one further game before telling Murray and the chair umpire that he couldn’t continue. Due to the style of play he possesses, nobody has ever questioned the heart of Nadal. After not being able to play at the All-England Club last year to defend his grass court crown, several fans of the Spaniard, including this blogger, thought he regained form, trimmed up and looked even stronger upon his return. I now join a list of reporters who have become fearful this latest on-court injury symbolizes a serious pattern. Murray, the defending Rogers Cup presented by National Bank champion, will no face Cilic in an intriguing semifinal Thursday.
Monday, January 25th, 2010
The first week of the first Grand Slam of the first year of the decade produced some fantastic story lines. There are quite a few big names that will be watching the second week of the Australian Open from their living rooms. We’ve witnessed former number one players, past Grand Slam champions and several Top 10 players fade into the Melbourne sunset.
del Potro, Soderling, Safina, Ivanovic, Sharapova, Jankovic, Wozniacki – all gone. However few tennis fans would complain about the quality of tennis and the drama that has unfolded Down Under already.
The Williams sisters appear to be on a collision course for the semifinals and most would be shocked if Saturday’s final doesn’t also include Justine Henin. The draw on the women’s side was certainly top heavy.
With the exception of 2009 U.S. Open winner Juan Martin del Potro leaving the tournament in the fourth round, the men’s draw has worked out to perfection for the folks at the ATP World Tour. The last eight men standing represent one of the best quarter-finals in recent Grand Slam history. The big boys are all sticking around and it’s scary to think, but it looks like Roger Federer is getting stronger with each match. Only problem for Fed fans is that he is scheduled to face the hottest player on Tour right now in the quiet Russian Nikolay Davydenko.
I might actually set my alarm and wake up to watch the Nadal versus Murray match tonight. While the general public foam at the mouth with a Federer versus Nadal final, both men could be eliminated before Sunday and it wouldn’t be that much of a shock. Whoever wins this first major of 2010 will certainly have earned it.
Before I forget, a hearty congratulations to the students at College of Sports Media in Toronto for the launch of Topspin Radio, Season 3. The show will certainly complement Aces with myself and ‘The Rog.”
Friday, January 22nd, 2010
After four straight late nights watching the hot sun pour onto the courts in Melbourne (via my living room), I passed out early, thinking that there were no real surprises schedule for Thursday night. Boy was I wrong.
The only people who probably picked Nadia Petrova to knock off Belgian Kim Clijsters were those whose last name was Petrov or Petrova. While the 19th seeded Russian was, at one time, a Grand Slam contender, I certainly didn’t see this lopsided, 6-0, 6-1 outcome. The first set lasted 18 minutes, which is the amount of time it generally takes Maria Sharapova to serve twice. Call the win, revenge against Belgium, as Petrova was knocked out of the second round in Brisbane by the other comeback kid Justine Henin. Casual fans may not remember that Petrova was once ranked No. 3 in the world. She has only advanced out of the fourth round once in 10 years but the way she brushed Clijsters, the 2009 U.S. Open champion aside, you might think she has a chance, despite being pitted against the third seeded fellow Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova in the next round.
Another day, another Serbian ousted. I’m still stunned at the sudden and sad fall of Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic. Both former No. 1, but with weapons to dominate the game, and both missing the psychological strength to get past their own demons. It’s not like either of them played qualifiers in their losses, Ivanovic dropped a heartbreaking three-setter to Argentine Gisela Dulko while Jankovic got thumped by Ukraine Alona Bonadarenko 6-2, 6-3, however they have failed, once again to reach the second week of a Grand Slam. If they keep struggling, both young ladies will soon lose that little number after their names in the majors, signifying a seeded player.
With some pretty intriguing matchups in the next round, including two all-Russian matches (Kuznetova vs. Petrova and Kirilenko vs. Safina) along with an all-Belgian affair (Henin vs. Wickmeyer), one thing is certain, I won’t be falling asleep early again.
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Headlines all over the world today talked about Federer narrowly escaping defeat at the hands of Russian Igor Andreev in the first round at the Australian Open. I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and exhale. Roger is fine. Deep breath and repeat. Roger is fine.
There is no question that the three-time Australian Open champion had to work hard against Andreev. He lost the opening set and fought off three set points in the third frame before turning on the “Federer grear” and running away with the match. It’s not like the world’s top player was so awful that he needed luck to get by his opponent. He committed 38 unforced errors in four sets – the same number as Nadal in his first match Down Under, and he won in straight sets. Davydenko, arguable the hottest player on Tour right now, made 35 errors in his first-round bout, and he won 6-1, 6-0, 6-3. Most players will tell you that the first match of a Grand Slam is a lot tougher than you would expect. Far from perfect, but Federer was mentally in control.
Let’s remember that the big-serving Russian, who ranked as high as No. 18 last year on Tour, took Federer to five sets in the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open in September. While Tuesday was the first time the big Swiss has given up a set in the opening round of a Grand Slam since 2003 in New York, I’m sure he would agree that this match up was never supposed to be a cake walk.
Top seeds Robin Soderling (called it), Radek Stepanek and Tommy Robredo made early exits from the first major of the 2010 calendar. While they are world class, Top 20 athletes, they are not Roger Federer. So let’s all sit back and enjoy some late nights in front of the television because I’m sure there will be lots of Federer to see over the course of the next two weeks.
Saturday, January 16th, 2010
Not only is he the most decorated athlete in tennis today, he also understands the impact he has within the community. Everyone is trying to do something to help the thousands in need after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and now Roger Federer, world No. 1, has assembled some of his elite friends in Melbourne to raise some much needed money in a Hit for Haiti.
Today’s Hit for Haiti appeal will be live streamed on australianopen.com where, from 2pm (AEST) you can view the world’s top tennis players compete in a fundraising event at Rod Laver Arena to help raise money for survivors of Tuesday’s Haiti earthquake.Although it’s the eve of the Australian Open’s first round, Federer has put aside thoughts of his preparation and brought together an entourage of fellow stars to play a special mixed-doubles event at the stadium to support Haiti.
Top-ranked players Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur will also give up their last day of preparation to take to the court for the special event that was Federer’s brainchild.
Federer said all proceeds will go to the Haiti earthquake victims, and he hopes to “fill the stadium”.
“I had the idea we could do something to help Haiti after the tragic earthquake. So, I spoke to some other top players … they said ‘yes, we should do something’,” Federer said.
The play will be mixed doubles matches, with pairings of the star players. Federer had not decided on a partner late Saturday, but joked that he would “choose wisely”. The scoring format is best of two sets and Hawkeye will be used to settle any questionnable calls.“I think it’s something as a tennis family we’re very happy to do. I know it’s on the eve of the first Grand Slam of the season, so it’s for some not so easy maybe mentally to separate, you know, a few things – but I think it’s a great initiative.”
Federer encourage Melburnians to come down and support the players and the cause.
The devastating earthquake which hit Haiti on Tuesday measured 7.0 on the Richter Scale and has left tens of thousands of people dead. The United Nations has launched an appeal for hundreds of millions of dollars to try to help around three million people in need.
Donations can be made online to Partners in Health www.pih.org
Fans attending today’s match at Melbourne Park will be asked to make a $10 donation.
Files from Australian Open website and Mike Steere
Friday, January 15th, 2010
The official draw took place Friday morning in Melbourne for the 2010 Australian Open with tennis sweetheart Ana Ivanovic and John McEnroe on hand. At quick glance, some interesting paths for many of the top names in tennis as the first Grand Slam of the new season gets underway.
2009 Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year Aleksandra Wozniak got euchred once again as she will face U.S. Open finalist and world No. 4 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the opening round. Wozniak has about as much luck as Charlie Brown when it comes to draws. Good luck if you’re the public address announcer, chair umpire or TV commentator for this match. For those that don’t remember the great Dane, have a look at the Toronto street tennis stunt she participated in last summer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U3VY0J7snk
The men’s draw Down Under shows that it will not be a walk in the park for the king of Grand Slams, Roger Federer. Federer could meet sixth seed Nikolay Davydenko in the quarter-finals, with Davydenko beating Federer in their last two meetings. The Russian captured the tour championship in November. Federer opens against Russian Igor Andreev, while Aussie Lleyton Hewitt could be the fourth round opponent for the Swiss. Certainly some big names for Federer to take on in his quarter.
I don’t want to say a walk in the park for defending champion Rafael Nadal, but… Radek Stepanek seems to be the only tough opponent until the quarter-finals. If the Spaniard gets to the final eight, it would set up a potential showdown with Andy Murray. Now that is a match everyone wants to see. The great Scot entered the Aussie Open as the fifth seed, giving up his usual No. 4 spot to Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who captured his first Grand Slam (something that has eluded Murray) by defeating Federer in Flushing Meadows last fall. Melbourne is usually a place where players get their first big break so Murray is a legitimate contender. del Potro has entered the tournament with question marks surrounding his wrist. In my opinion, he’s in the toughest quarter of the draw with Andy Roddick, Marin Cilic and Fernando Gonzalez. If del Potro plays and advances to the second round, he’ll face American James Blake, who has fallen rapidly down the rankings but someone how has potential to make some noise.
On the women’s side, the William sisters, Serena and Venus, were placed on the same half of the draw, guaranteeing a non all-Williams final. Serena has played enough tennis already that she will not need a few rounds to warm up in Melbourne. Although she got smoked by Rogers Cup champion Elena Dementieva in the Sydney final on Friday, it’s a different game when it comes to the majors. Serena has a relatively easy quarter, which may include some challenges from Victoria Azarenka and Ana Ivanovic.
After an amazing all-Belgian final just two weeks ago, the comeback girls, Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin (monkey-see, monkey do?) are found in the same quarter of the Melbourne draw. As an unseeded wildcard, I’m sure all of the top seeds were holding their collective breaths hoping to avoid Henin in the first round. She will play another Belgian, Kirsten Flipkins in the opening match and then a date with Dementieva in the second round. Poor Russian.
There will be many early tests for glamour girl, and let’s not forget, 2008 Australian Open champion, Maria Sharapova. She meets fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko in a visually appealing opening round and then could meet Dominika Cibulkova in the second round. With Dinara Safina, Jelena Jankovic and Marion Bartoli in her quarter, Sharapova will certainly have to earn her way into the last eight. She played an exhibition earlier this year and her surgically-repaired shoulder seemed to be holding up just fine. Her serve has returned to some form of respectability. Don’t let the pretty smile fool you, she is one of the most intense athletes I’ve ever met.
Just three weeks into the 2010 tennis season, and fans are treated to a Grand Slam. It’s unlike any other sport. The winners will not just be the men and women who play the best tennis, but also the athletes who rested well, repaired wounds and made tweaks to their game during the longest break they will get all year.
Men’s Champion: Roger Federer defeats Andy Murray
Women’s Champion: Serena Williams defeats Kim Clijsters
Early Exit: Robin Soderling / Venus Williams
Surprise Run: Marin Cilic / Shahar Peer
Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
After successful pilot shows last year, Aces returns for entire 2010 season
Toronto Sports Radio The FAN 590 (CJCL 590 AM) and Tennis Canada have partnered to showcase Aces, the first all-tennis radio program for 2010. Beginning on January 14 at 7 p.m. Eastern, the hour-long tennis show will bring players, coaches, administrators and members of the media together to discuss current topics from both on and off the court. The first show features former ATP No. 1 and two-time Australian Open champion Jim Courier, 2009 Canadian Press Female Athlete of the Year Aleksandra Wozniak, and Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox. Fans can listen live on AM 590 or by visiting www.fan590.com.
“There is a dedicated audience for tennis in the Greater Toronto Area,” said Doug Farraway, sports director, FAN 590. “In addition to the local following, fans from around the world have tuned in online. Aces was a hit with its pilot programs during 2009 and so it was obvious for us to extend the show throughout the entire professional tennis season this year.”
The FAN 590 produced three pilot shows of Aces last summer leading up to Rogers Cup in Toronto. Previous guests have included a slew of world-class tennis talent including world No. 1 Serena Williams, reigning U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters and Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova. This year, Aces will preview and summarize each of the four Grand Slams as well as tell the summer tennis tale before Rogers Cup presented by National Bank.
“The partnership between Rogers Communications, which includes the FAN 590, continues to grow,” said Michael S. Downey, president and chief executive officer, Tennis Canada. “Aces will provide tennis fans with a great forum to celebrate our exciting sport.”
Co-hosting Aces again will be the on-air tandem of veteran radio personality Roger Lajoie, and Olympic tennis broadcaster Michael Cvitkovic. Aces will follow Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown on scheduled Thursdays, beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern.