Archive for June, 2010
Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
For the first time since 2002, Roger Federer will not be playing in the Wimbledon final. The most decorated Grand Slam champion fell to Tomas Berdych 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 4-6 on Wednesday in the gentlemen’s quarter-final, ending one of the most remarkable runs at the All-England Lawn Tennis Club.
“It’s tough to describe what I’m feeling, it’s really amazing,” said Berdych to the BBC following the match. “If I go through my career, this (last) game was the toughest to serve and close out the match.”
The 23-year-old from the Czech Republic is coming off a semifinal appearance at Roland Garros. Berdych becomes the first man from his country to reach the final four since the great Ivan Lendl in 1990.
If you simply looked at the match on paper, you would think Federer won handily. The Swiss had a better first serve percentage, more aces, fewer double faults and fewer unforced errors. He had his chances, but only converted on one-of-eight break point chances.
“I feel like the semis (at Roland Garros) gave me a big box of confidence,” added Berdych. “I was hungry.”
Berdych will face Serbian Novak Djokovic in Friday’s semifinal. Djokovic knocked off giant killer Yen-Hsun Lu from Chinese Taipei who upset Andy Roddick in the fourth round.
Federer, who will drop to No. 3 on the ATP World Tour rankings come Monday, is generally a man with no excuses for a poor performance. However at the post-match interview on Wednesday, he gave a indication as to why he may have lost, having been bothered by back and leg trouble.
“If I’m healthy, I can handle these guys,” he said. “When you can’t play freely, that’s the kind of performance you get.”
Berdych gave the performance of his life and will be rewarded with a consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearance and a Top 10 ranking.
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
Two of the biggest upsets at this year’s Wimbledon have come at the hands of two players ranked No. 82 in the world. Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova, the 82nd ranked woman, provided the shock of Tuesday in London, taking down five-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams 6-2, 6-3, to move on to her first Grand Slam semifinal.
There was no lack of confidence from Pironkova on Tuesday. Winning the coin toss and electing to serve first, something that doesn’t happen often in tennis. She sent a message from the moment the players stepped on the court.
“I thought that I could win and was really going for it,” she remarked right after the match. “I’m really happy with the way I played.”
On Monday, 82nd ranked Chinese Taipei player Yen-Hsun Lu upset last year’s Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick in five sets. Lu will face Djokovic in the quarter-finals while Pironkova meets Russian Vera Zvonarenva in Thursday’s semifinal.
Two big-time Americans ousted by two Cinderellas.
This really has been a Wimbledon to remember.
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
Nothing can be said to accurately describe what went on at Court No. 18 today at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. In a match that will be continued for a third day, John Isner of the United States and Nicolas Mahut of France are the most talked about men on earth today. The score currently stands (Isner first): 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-7(3), 59-59. Not a typo folks, 59-59. Act III, Scene III tomorrow.
The scoreboard broke, however the will of two tennis players did not.
The longest tennis match ever played will resume on Thursday but not before the sports world exhales. In a day that included an earthquake in Toronto and the soon-to-be-arrival of the most influential political leaders on the planet in front of a slew of protests – the chatter around water coolers is Wimbledon.
On Twitter, this match represented three of the most trending topics worldwide.
Mahut and Isner were the only two people on Court No. 18 today. In a normal order of play, a court would have four matches. More than nine hours – with no coaches, no caddies, no teammates. They have each served nearly 450 times each already. Think about that, a pitcher who throws 110 pitches in a game is pushing the boundaries. With 877 points behind them, the match moves on.
There will be much debate regarding the need for a fifth-set tiebreaker, but as a respected national columnist reminded me today, this is why we play sports.
Tune in tomorrow…
Monday, June 21st, 2010
Think about it this way, Roger Federer losing to Alejandro Falla in Wimbledon on Monday would’ve been about the same as me taking a leisurely drive in downtown Toronto this coming weekend. The reigning Wimbledon champion came from down two sets to defeat the Colombian 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-0 on Day One in London.
“I definitely got very lucky out there today,” said the top seed but No. 2 ranked player in the world. “I’ve lost many matches this year I should have won. This is one I should have lost.”
Going into this amazing Monday, Falla had only won six games in five sets on grass against Federer. The last time the great Swiss lost in the first round of a Grand Slam was 2003. It was the greatest played match of Falla’s career, no question. He was all over the court and made Federer look human at times. Federer earned every point he won. Falla, looked like he was privy to the Swiss’ game plan before the match.
Down two sets, 4-4 and 0-40, Federer clawed his way back from the depths of despair and forced a fourth frame. His forehand winner down the line was followed by a scream and a fist pump by the six-time Wimbledon champion. It was at that moment, you thought he might have a chance to stick around.
Falla did not give up until losing six consecutive points in the fourth-set tiebreaker. He was absent in the final stanza.
The tennis world collectively exhaled at about 4:30 p.m. London time today. The champ lives another day. It would have easily been the greatest tennis upset in decades. Instead, Federer moves on, and for his fans, a hope that today was just an off day and not a sign of things to come.
If this is the way the next fortnight is going to trend, we’re in for the most peculiar Grand Slam of my generation. I’m a man who has been accused to talking too much, but on this Monday, I am at a loss for words.
Friday, June 18th, 2010
Sunday, June 6th, 2010
The 2010 French Open will be remembered as one of the most dominating performances by any man in the history of this illustrious Grand Slam. When Spaniard Rafael Nadal crushed two-time finalist Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday, he captured his fifth crown at Roland Garros, secured the top spot in the world ranking and sent a message to the rest of men’s tennis that he’s healthy. Beware.
Nadal didn’t not give up a set en route to capturing his seventh Grand Slam title and barring an on-court catastrophe, will remain No.1 in the ATP World Tour for quite some time. He turned 24-years-old this week, looks in the best shape of his young and amazing career and has next to no points to defend for the remainder of the calendar. I would say, the man is back.
Nobody, including myself, would ever argue that Roger Ferderer shouldn’t be considered the best player of this generation. I’ve written before that his masterful play has been combined with a relatively healthy career. Nadal hasn’t been as lucky. I was impressed with Rafa’s maturity and patience in rehabbing from this recent injury. So many athletes rush back to play because of ego, fear, the love of money and boredom. The Spaniard was smart enough to realize that if he recovered properly, he could reclaim the top billing in men’s tennis.
Fans have been treated to two of the most wonderful athletes in sport, watching Federer and Nadal re-write the record books. I still believe that Federer has some Grand Slam titles left to win, however the rankings for the foreseeable future belong to the soft-spoken young Spaniard who just created poetry on clay.
Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
When the unlikely finalists Samantha Stosur and Francesca Schiavone take to the red clay courts at Roland Garros on Saturday, they will let the kids on Tour know that sometimes things take time. The Aussie is 26 while Schiavone, the first Italian woman to reach a Grand Slam final, is 29 years young. The combined ages of the finalists (54) this year is the oldest since legends Chris Evert (31) defeated Martina Navratilova (29) during the 1986 French Open.
The average age of this year’s semifinalists in France was 27 years old. It proves that on the slow and methodical courts, patience is power. More than any other surface, you also need to possess amazing stamina on clay.
No matter the outcome in the French Open final, Schiavone will reach a carer-high of No. 7. It also marks the highest ranking ever for an Italian woman. Considering that she turns the evil ago of 30 later this month, and didn’t win her first Premier title until 2009, and failed to advance past a quarter-final at a major until now, Schiavone took her time to rise.
Stosur is playing incredible tennis, just ask world No. 1 Serena Williams, four-time French Open champ Justine Henin and former No. 1 Jelena Jankovic, who all fell the the big serving Aussie this week.
So when you sit and watch two Grand Slam final newbies on Saturday, remember that some good things come to those who wait.
Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Last year it was Rafa, this time it was Roger.
The joke heading into Tuesday’s quarter-final at Roland Garros was that Robin Soderling’s favourite number was indeed 13. After going 0-for-12 in his first dozen meetings with world No. 1 Roger Federer, the silent but big-hitting Swede provided the largest upset of the 2010 French Open by knocking off the defending champion 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.
In addition to defeating Federer, the fifth-seeded Soderling also snapped arguably the most impressive streak in professional sports today. Tuesday’s loss ended Federer’s record streak of reaching the semifinals in 23 consecutive major events. The next highest mark ever was 10 by Ivan Lendl. Yes, that’s impressive.
Enough for now about Federer, his dominance and his streak. Today is about the 25-year-old Swede who played with a bit of an edge. When looking at the match stats, it would seem that the two players were a lot closer than the four-set score provided. Soderling actually served more double faults (6-2) and more unforced errors (42-27) than his opponent. However, Soderling played with conviction and without fear. He didn’t care how many times the ball went long or how often the serve left a dimple just outside the box. Soderling knew that in order to defeat Federer, he had to play near-perfect tennis and take more chances than normal.
Despite taking the first set in just 32 minutes, Federer could not seemingly take control of the match. After splitting the first two sets, Federer and Soderling were knotted a 5-5 in the third when rain sent the players off the court. Following the delay, Soderling simply had the better of the play, winning eight-of-12 games to pull off the stunner.
This was a different Soderling who lost to Federer in straight sets during last year’s French Open final. He stayed aggressive and played with conviction. Soderling is now the destroyer of two of the most impressive streaks in tennis, Federer’s semifinal mark, and Nadal’s 31-match winning streak at Roland Garros, which ended on the sword of Soderling during the fourth round in 2009.
Soderling has a legitimate shot at returning to the final. His semifinal opponent is Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. I’ve always like Berdych’s game but on this stage, it will be interesting to see if he can match Soderling’s intensity.
When Federer hit the final ball long on a rainy afternoon in Paris, Soderling simply pumped his fist, looked over at his coach and walked to the net to shake hands. He’s taken down a giant before and he continues to play like he did on Tuesday, he will have two more casualties en route to his first Grand Slam title.
(With files from CP).
Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Caroline Wozniacki will one day be the No. 1 player in the world, mark my words. However right now, at the tender age of 19, she has to settle with being No. 3 on a good day and grow within her game.
Today at Roland Garros, the gorgeous Dane was easily handled by Francesca Schiavone 6-2, 6-3 and ended her run at the French Open in the quarter-finals.
The Italian has played some inspiring tennis this year and Shiavone becomes the first from her country to reach the final four in France in more than a half-century. Tuesday was a clean and quiet assassination on court. No aces, no double faults and converted 81% of her net approaches (compared to 38% by Wozniacki). While Shiavone was seeded 17th, many in the tennis circle was not surprised by today’s outcome. Shiavone has been to the puppet show and has seen the strings. She is playing on borrowed time in tennis circles, turning 30 at the end of the month. Wozniacki turns 20 in mid-July and has already experienced a Grand Slam final, having lost to Kim Clijsters last year in New York. The quarter-final appearance in Paris marks the second-best finish at a major for the booming baseline blonde.
Slams are about patience, calming nerves and execution. Schiavone possesses those qualities after 12 years on Tour. Wozniacki will get there. She is not a flash in the pan, however she will need to remain mentally strong after the disappointment in Paris and head to the grass court with the same conviction that got her as high as No. 2 in the world. As soon as she can learn to win a Slam, watch out ladies, they will come in droves.