Archive for the ‘Clay Court’ Category
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.
Thursday, May 27th, 2010
Aleksandra Wozniak (Blainville, QC) has found her home away from home, in Paris on the red clay courts at Roland-Garros. The top-ranked Canadian reached the third round at the French Open, the season’s second Grand Slam event, for the third consecutive year on Friday thanks to a 6-4, 6-1 win over Kateryna Bondarenko of the Ukraine, ranked No. 35 in the world.
Wozniak posted some impressive stats during the 67-minute match, hitting 20 winners compared to only six unforced errors to go along with four aces and only one double fault. She also maintained a healthy first serve percentage of 75 percent.
Wozniak awaits the winner of the second round contest between World no. 6 Elena Dementieva and World No. 43 Anabel Medina Garrigues which will be completed on Thursday, weather permitting. If a winner is declared then Wozniak will return to the court on Friday for round three. She will also play her second round match in doubles with partner Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic against the thirteenth-seeded team of Iveta Benesova and Barbora Zahlavova-Strycova.
Wozniak spoke with me earlier today and the interview will be played in its entirety during Aces tonight at the FAN590.
Meanwhile, Daniel Nestor (Toronto, ON) and his Serbian partner Nenad Zimonjic are waiting out Thursday’s rain at Roland-Garros to play their first round match in men’s doubles against Ross Hutchins and Jordan Kerr.
(with files from Tennis Canada)
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Firstly, a big thank you to all of the Aces listeners and friends of mine for their condolences. I lost my (step)mother last week to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a horrible cancer that took my 54-year-old parent too soon.
Today is the first day back in action for me, just as things are starting to heat up in Paris. Although the only real news thus far is the amount of top-level players who were forced to miss the second Grand Slam of the season.
Both Nadal and Federer seem destined to meet again in the final a week from Sunday. Although with Tsonga, Soderling and Cilic in the top half of the draw with R-Fed, the road to a repeat won’t be easy. Federer has played nearly flawless tennis in my opinion during his first two matches, however so has Nadal, who won’t face a tough test until the fourth round against fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. The defending champion from Switzerland is one victory away from the 700th of his remarkable career and 150th on clay. Rafa is looking for pure clay court domination, having already won ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in Monte-Carlo (def. Verdasco), Rome (def. Ferrer) and Madrid (def. Federer). A clash of these two champions would renew a rivalry that brought tennis to global households like only Borg/McEnroe did.
When I was at Roland Garros last year, there was a very cool flare like no other event. Fans are educated but celebratory. They pack Court Suzanne Lenglen even for first and second round matches. In a city, like Toronto, that demands world-class talent, they too get it. Another French Open final with the two biggest stars in the game is a fitting reward for a fun tennis town.
The other “Rog” and I will be back on the airwaves tomorrow for another episode of Aces. As always, send in your emails to email@example.com or give us a call.
Until 7pm tomorrow mes amies.
Friday, April 16th, 2010
If you’re from these neck of the woods, nothing brings a cringe to you more than the thought of tennis on slow, red clay. But there’s no hiding that this is the time of year when the game moves to a pace that makes anyone outside of Europe and South America feel about as comfortable as the Leafs in the playoffs.
It’s this odd change of surface (and the upcoming abbreviated grass court season) that makes tennis very cool. In order to be successful in tennis in the same manner that a chosen few are ranked, you need to play well on all surfaces. As Canadians, we are used to playing on the hard cement that is highlighted on hard courts. Along with our friends south of the 49th parallel, we need to realize that there is more to tennis than this hard surface. Four months of the year, or one-third of the tennis season, is dedicated t0 clay and grass.
Very tough for facilities to maintain a clay or grass court in Canada, but you have to learn to adjust. At the elite level, you need to play at the lighting speed of the U.S. Open or the monotonous and methodical pace that is Roland Garros. Either way, you cannot be a one-dimensional player if you want to find the top of the ATP World Tour or Sony Ericsson WTA Tour rankings.
Rafael Nadal looks healthier and ready to compete again on the same level that saw him battle Roger Federer for the No. 1 ranking.However the Spaniard has some work to do in order to be in the same breath as the Great Swiss once again. The tennis world is hoping that the rivalry will take another global phase. There was nothing better outside of Yankees vs. Red Sox.
So while we welcome back the ‘boys of summer’ in baseball and say farewell to hockey and basketball, let us collectively enjoy the brief clay court season and the influx of European and South American tennis studs who will dominate the courts.