Friday, May 30, 2008

RG Day 5 Tidbits

Another rain-interrupted day in Paris however, most of the matches managed to reach completion. The main highlights on Day 5 include:

* Rafa Saved by the Rain: Rafael Nadal endured some tough rallies in his first set against Monacan, Nicolas Devilder, who seemed to be matching Rafa's game aided by a loud home crowd. The set however steered in Rafa's way when the rain started falling, as an unaffected Rafa stepped up his game and notched a crucial break at 5-4 to seal the first set. The rest of the match which was resumed after a rain delay was a breezer to the Mallorcan who completed a 6-4, 6-0, 6-1 win to reach the third round.

* Marat Safin fell to a very solid Davydenko in second round action, but let's not rule him out for the rest of the season. Safin is definitely improving and maybe there's hope for him just yet.

* Federer, Ferrer, Hewitt, Ancic and Wawrinka all advanced. Federer and Ancic had to drop a set though before they secured their third round spots.

* Nalbandian, Blake and Andreev crash out!! Ernests Gulbis of Latvia eliminated Blake (7th seed) in four sets. Nalbandian (6th-seed) fell to French wildcard, Jeremy Chardy, ranked 145 in the world. Nalbandian had a 2-set lead over the Frenchman before Chardy turned the match around. Andreev (27th-seed) was shocked by American Robby Ginepri.

* Ljubicic advanced in straight sets to set up a classic third round encounter with Davydenko.

Matches worth checking out on Day 6 include:

Andy Murray [10] vs. Nicolas Almagro [19]

Eduardo Schwank vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu [18]

Rafael Nadal [2] vs. Jarkko Nieminen [26]

Thursday, May 29, 2008

RG Day 4 Tidbits

The rain wait was finally over and Day 4 at Roland Garros was filled with delayed first round matches as well as plenty of second round action.

* Three-time defending champion, Rafa Nadal, finally managed to play his first round match which was originially scheduled to be played last Monday. Rafa struggled a bit in the first set before he moved past his Brazilian opponent, Thomaz Bellucci, 5, 3 and 1.

* Marat Safin is hilarious!! I watched the highlights from his match against Jean-Rene Lisnard of Monaco, and judging from the racquet-breaking frenzy he was in, I only assumed he lost, and lost bad. Turns out he won 6-7, 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 and is finally in the second round. Next up for Safin is his Davis Cup team mate, Nikolay Davydenko.

* Tomas Berdych's easy first round match apparently didn't do him good. The 11th-seeded Czech crashed out to France's Michael Llodra in 5 sets.

* Moya-conquerer, Eduardo Schwank, is still on a roll. The Argentine qualifier is through to the third round after disposing of Spain's Marcel Granollers in 4 sets.

* Djokovic and Murray both advanced to the third round with comfortable wins, while Ferrer, Hewitt and Stepanek sealed their first round wins in straight sets.

* Former world number one, Ferrero (23rd seed) had to retire against Brazilian, Marcos Daniel, after the Spaniard captured the first set 7-6.

Match of the day:

Paul Henri Mathieu (18th seed) vs. Oscar Hernandez

French favorite, Mathieu crawled back from 2 sets down to oust the Spanish claycourt specialist 2-6, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. The rallies were incredible in this match as Hernandez kept going for every single shot and Mathieu kept on slamming those forehands left and right.

Day 5 Matches to Check Out:

Roger Federer [1] vs. Albert Montanes

Rafael Nadal [2] vs. Nicolas Devilder (French qualifier)

** Nikolay Davydenko [4] vs. Marat Safin **

Mario Ancic vs. David Marrero

James Blake [7] vs. Ernests Gulbis

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

RG Day 2 Tidbits

* Tomas Berdych makes a strong statement that he's injury-free and ready for business. The Czech who recently recovered from an ankle injury demolished his Australian opponent, Robert Smeets, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0. Next up for the 11th-seed is France's Michael Llodra.

* Federer faces little competition from strong-serving American, Sam Querrey, and advances with ease to the second round.

* Two seeds gone, Marcos Baghdatis (17th) and Guillermo Canas (29th), who both lost to their respective opponents in straight sets. I predicted the Baghdatis defeat to Simone Bolelli (he's had an impressive clay season so far) but I didn't see the Canas defeat coming. The Argentine lost to American, Wayne Odesnik.

* The rain ruined the second half of the day. Lots of matches were pushed till Tuesday.

* Nadal's opening match will be played second on Philippe Chatrier following Mauresmo's match. Play starts at 13:45.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Au Revoir Guga :(

It was quite an emotional day for French Open fans as they bid farewell three-time former champion, Gustavo Kuerten, who played his final match on Philipe Chatrier against home favorite, Paul-Henri Mathieu, on the opening day of the 2008 French Open.

No disrespect to Guga, I honestly loved watching the guy on clay, but I felt that he needed an inhaler and a stretcher to be ready for him the second the match was over. The Brazilian legend really struggled with his fitness in the third set and I really felt for him, especially given his recent trouble with hip injuries.

The third set of the match felt more like an exhibition match rather than a Grand Slam first round, as Guga, who could barely catch his breath, celebrated with the crowd, who were going crazy with the Mexican waves and were actually cheering against their own man, Mathieu, whenever Guga managed to hit a phenomenal backhand winner.

At some point, Guga corrected a wrong line call and awarded Mathieu an ace instead of a fault, before the Frenchman immediately reciprocated the gesture and corrected a line call in Guga's favor.

As much as Mathieu tried to be a gentlemen, he dispatched Guga in straight sets before he went over and hugged the claycourt veteran.

Guga instantly broke into tears as he thanked his fans and said goodbye to the tournament where he was crowned in 1997, 2000 and 2001. The tournament director awarded him a trophy containing all the different layers of the claycourt enclosed in a glass frame.

The French Open audience has lost 2 great players in one month, as four-time champion, Justine Henin, made an abrupt end to her career a couple of weeks back and will not be featuring in this year's Roland Garros.

Paris, Je T'Aime - My French Picks

So the French Open kicks off today, and I am super excited. The draw came out on Friday and from the first glance, I knew it was a bit harsh on Rafa. But let's do this the right way and take the draw from the top.

1st Quarter

If we're just looking at numbers, one would say we'd have a Federer-Gasquet quarterfinal, but I truly doubt that's gonna happen. Gasquet is on a horrible run this season. With his only success coming in doubles, the Frenchman has only won a single match on clay this season against Kristof Vliegen in Monte Carlo. Having said that, I think recent entrant to the world's top 10, Stanislas Wawrinka (seeded 9th), or Russian number 3, Igor Andreev (seeded 27th), have a better chance of making the quarters.

2nd Quarter

Okay, I think the second quarter of the draw should go with the numbers, with Davydenko (seeded 4th) and Ferrer (seeded 5th) on either side of it. Possible obstacles for Davydenko would be, former top 5 rival, Ljubicic (seeded 28th), fellow Russian, Marat Safin, or former world number one, Juan Carlos Ferrero (seeded 23rd).

Ferrer would possibly have to tackle the likes of Lleyton Hewitt (seeded 25th), Tommy Robredo (seeded 12th) or Radek Stepanek (seeded 21st).

Possible yet far-fetched surprises could come from home favorites, Gilles Simon or Gael Monfils.

3rd Quarter (The walk in the park!)

The third quarter is home of world number 3, Novak Djokovic, one of the top contenders for the title. I don't see anyone who could stop Djokovic from reaching the semis at the French Open this year.

Apart from a tricky first round match against Germany's Denis Gremylmayr, who has had 2 surprise runs to the semis in Estoril and Barcelona, Djokovic should be able to cruise to the quarters.

Djokovic's possible quarterfinal opponent could be seventh seeded James Blake, but my personal pick would be Janko Tipsarevic (seeded 32). Who would have thought we'd get to a point in men's tennis where 2 Serbs would faceoff for a spot in the semis?!?!

Janko or Blake could find some resistance from Berdych (seeded 11), who was injured recently which brings his fitness into question.

Djokovic could meet Canas (seeded 29), Moya (seeded 16) or rising star, Eduardo Schwank, before he reaches the quarters. Schwank has caused a recent buzz on the circuit as he managed to capture 3 challenger titles before he came through the qualies at Roland Garros. So he's definitely one to watch this tournament. Who knows, maybe he's the coming Nalbandian?!?! Oh, did I mention he's from Argentina and is Nalbandian's brother's protégé??!

4th Quarter (Home of the Reigning King)

Rafa's quarter is just filled with mines, who could explode any second. On the opposite side of his quarter he has sixth-seeded Nalbandian. If Nalbandian doesn't make it to the quarters, Rafa could face Andy Murray or clay-court specialist Almagro.

In order for Rafa, to make it to the quarters himself, he has to overcome speedbumps like Mikhail Youzhny, Fernando Verdasco, Jarko Nieminen or his good friend, Feliciano Lopez.

Poor Rafa has to dig really deep if he plans on grabbing a fourth straight French Open title.

If no surprises happen, I'd say the top 4 players reaching the semis is not a long shot. Who knows?!?! I'm just psyched it's all starting today :)

Sunday's Order of Play

On Philippe Chatrier starting 11a.m. Paris Time:

1 Women's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) v. Ana Ivanovic (SRB)[2]

followed by
2 Men's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Denis Gremelmayr (GER) v. Novak Djokovic (SRB)[3]

3 Men's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Gustavo Kuerten (BRA) v. Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA)[18] (This is Guga's farewell)

4 Women's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Julia Vakulenko (UKR) v. Alize Cornet (FRA)[19]

On Suzanne Lenglen:

1 Men's Singles - 1st Rnd.
David Nalbandian (ARG)[6] v. Carlos Berlocq (ARG)

followed by
2 Women's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Virginie Razzano (FRA)[24] v. Klara Zakopalova (CZE)

3 Men's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Jonathan Eysseric (FRA) v. Andy Murray (GBR)[10]

4 Women's Singles - 1st Rnd.
Serena Williams (USA)[5] v. Ashley Harkleroad (USA)

For the rest of the schedule, check : http://www.rolandgarros.com/en_FR/scores/schedule/index.html


Cheers and Vamos Rafa!!!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I Am Rafa, Hear Me Roar ...


We all witnessed on Sunday, yet another Rafa-Fed epic final. But this one however ranks way up high on the rollercoaster charts. The match turned around so many times before Spanish sensation, Rafael Nadal, finally came through 7-5, 6-7, 6-3, to lift his first Hamburg shield and rock Roger Federer's hopes ahead of the French Open.

Nadal stepped on court on Sunday coming off an intense fight the day before, against Novak Djokovic, who was threatening Nadal's 3-year residency as the world number 2 in the tennis rankings.

Federer on the other hand, had cruised past his semifinal opponent, Andreas Seppi, and stepped on court on Sunday with the kind of conviction that saw him snap the Spaniard's 80-something winning streak on clay by defeating him in the Hamburg final last year.

The Swiss number one raced to a 5-1 lead in the first set before Nadal, who needed some medical attention to a muscle in his right thigh, stormed back winning the next 6 games to grab the first set 7-5, and also broke Federer's serve in the opening game of the second set.

It was then time for Federer to turn the tables once again, when we all thought the match was going Rafa's way, as the Swiss broke back and managed to take a 5-2 lead before a stubborn Rafa retaliated and forced the set into a tie-break, where Federer finally prevailed.

If the first two sets swayed us back and forth between the world's top two players, the deciding set was strictly Rafa's. The claycourt talisman notched a precious break to go 4-1 up and confidently closed out the match to avenge his 2007 loss to Federer and make a solid statement ahead of Roland Garros.

The French Open kicks off next Sunday, the 25th, where Rafa will be hoping to capture a fourth straight title and preserve his clean record in Paris.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sweet Baby!

I had to put this in a separate post cuz the kids at the beginning of the video are so cute and the song is really good. It's a Macy Gray song called Sweet Baby. Check out the video:



Oh and I just found out am currently number 29 out of 10135 people in this week's ATP Bracket Challenege for the Hamburg Masters. How cool is that?!?! I've never been in the top 1000 let alone the top 30 :) Okay you guys probably have no idea what am talking about but the Bracket Challenge is for all ATP Masters Series events where you're supposed to make picks for the winner of every single match in the draw all the way up to the final. Hamburg is the fifth Master Series event of the year and I'm number 29 :D This is cool cuz guessing the first round is really tough and I only missed like 3 games and hit jackpot in all the rest. Sweeeeet!!!

Anyways.... Just wanted to share the moment. Oh and check the song!

Flavor of the week - May 14th

Music

I listened to a lot of really good music this week. I checked out all the songs on Gnarls Barkley's new album, "The Odd Couple", and I liked a few of them. I also got some of Kate Voegele's new songs. I got to know her from the show "One Tree Hill" where she appears as an up and coming artist. Her songs on the show were pretty cool so I decided to check out more of her stuff. Not bad at all! A friend of mine recommended Erykah Badu to me and she turned out to be awesome. And my happiest moment was when I found out that Gavin DeGraw finally came up with a new single - I'm in Love With a Girl. Check it out!

This week's recommendations are:

Gnarls Barkley - A Little Better
Kate Voegele - Kindly Unspoken
Kate Voegele - The Other Side
Erykah Badu - Didn't Cha Know

Movies

I saw a bunch of movies this past week in between study sessions which means they were all light movies, nothing with action or anything that remotely requires thinking. I saw Over Her Dead Body, P.S I Love You, and I Could Never Be Your Woman. The three of them weren't bad, but don't expect much from them. They're those type of movies you watch at home to pass some time.

TV

Season finales will be comin up next week so make the most out of this week's and next week's episodes cuz then there's a drought till the fall. Just giving you guys a heads up.

I also started watching Dirty Sexy Money and I absolutely LOVE it. The first season was cut short cuz of the stupid strike so it was only 10 episodes, but make sure to watch them before next fall when the show returns for a second season.

That's it for today.

Cheers :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Rome Theory: Why Most Seeds Stumbled !!

Okay so I haven't written in almost a week cuz I've been trying to focus on my GMAT preparation and also cuz my best friend just moved away to the US and I was busy bidding him goodbye. I do however have a lot to say about the tennis events that took place at the Rome Masters last week.

Weird Scenario #1 - Rafa bows out early to JC

Three-time defending champion, Rafael Nadal, crashed out to former world number one, Juan Carlos Ferrero, in the second round, 7-5, 6-1.

A fatigued Rafa was outplayed by his fellow Spaniard in every aspect of the game as the 21-year-old claycourt specialist was forced to take a medical break to attend to some major cuts and blisters in his foot (a sight that wasn't pretty upclose on screen I must add).

Rafa came to Rome off two major titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the 2 weeks leading up to the Rome Masters. He had a large number of points to defend, had won the last 104 out of 105 clay matches, and had a 6-1 head-to-head lead against Ferrero, the most recent win coming in Monte Carlo last month. So what happened?!

Weird Scenario # 2 - Seeds, Ferrer, Nalbandian, suffer early exits

Valencia champion, Barcelona finalist and fifth-seeded David Ferrer suffered a surprising second round exit to Czech Republic's Radek Stepanek 4-6, 6-2, 6-1. Ferrer, who also reached the quarters in Monte Carlo 2 weeks earlier, had not lost to Stepanek since 2004.

Stepanek had only played one clay match this season in Monte Carlo where he lost in three sets to Sweden's Robin Soderling.

Meanwhile, seventh-seeded David Nalbandian also lost his first match in Rome against unseeded Spaniard, Nicolas Almagro, 6-4, 7-5.

Nalbandian has had some success on clay this season as he captured the Buenos Aires title earlier this year as well as reaching the final in Acapulco and the quarters in Monte Carlo.

Weird Scenario # 3 - Two Americans feature in the quarters at a claycourt event

Americans Andy Roddick and James Blake both made it to the quarters in Rome beating Spaniards Tommy Robredo and Fernando Verdasco on the way.

Roddick was playing his first clay event of the season while Blake had played one match in Barcelona where he lost to Germany's Denis Gremelmayr in straight sets.

Neither player had ever had much success on clay unlike their Spaniard opponents who are well-known for their great form on that surface.

Weird Scenario # 4 - Federer stopped by Stepanek

World number one, Roger Federer, who had the week off after his final loss to Rafa in Monte Carlo, was stunned by Stepanek 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7).

The last time Stepanek had the upper hand against Federer was back in 2002. Federer had won all their four subsequent meetings, 2 of which took place on clay.

Weird Scenario # 5 - Players get ahead as opponents retire

It started when Andy Murray advanced to the second round after Juan Martin Del Potro retired in the third set. But that was okay. The Scott obviously needed a break given his below-par performance on clay so far this season, so we're gonna give him that.

Then Almagro was handed a walkover cuz Fernando Gonzalez couldn't make it to their last-16 match.

Almagro himself then retired from his quarterfinal against third-seed, Novak Djokovic, in the second set after dropping the first one 6-1 to the Serbian ace.

It started to get a little annoying when Swiss number 2, Stanislas Wawrinka, booked himself a final spot benefitting from Andy Roddick's retirement, early in the first semifinal on Saturday.

What really topped it all was the fact that Stepanek, who was coming off an incredible victory over Federer, retired during the second semifinal on Saturday, against Djokovic, who had hammered the Czech 6-0 in the first set.

I can just imagine how the fans in Rome felt, as they didn't get their money's worth at all.

The explanation

In case you haven't come across Rafa's recent blasting of the ATP and how they messed up the clay schedule this year, I'm gonna fill you in.

The ATP has squeezed the claycourt schedule cuz of the Olympics this year in China causing the likes of Rafa and many players who have a lot of clay points to defend to play 4 big tournaments (including 3 Masters Series events) in 4 consecutive weeks, Monte Carlo, Barcelona (or Munich), Rome and Hamburg and then only one week off before the French Open. Which I believe is ridiculous.

This was never the case before, since there were always breaks in between the clay tournaments. Much-needed breaks as the stamina required on clay is way more than that needed for any other surface giving the slowness of the ground and consequently, the length of the rallies. It was only natural for players like Rafa, Ferrer, Nalbandian and many more to breakdown by the third week.

The players either had to withdraw from events to give themselves a break, risking losing a huge number of points like Djokovic who chose not to defend his title in Estoril, or play till they broke down which evidently happened in Rome. Just look at the early losses and the crazy retirements.

Most of the top players who played and won for 2 or 3 straight weeks couldn't survive (ex: Ferrer won Valencia, reached MC quarters, Barca final, Rafa won MC and Barca).

Let's see what's gonna happen in Hamburg this week. Which of the players will crack and who will be able to grab the shield from Federer?

Congratulations Djoker!!

Nonetheless, we need to congratulate Djokovic, who played it smart and took a well-deserved break before and after Monte Carlo, to come through in Rome and lift the shield, inching closer to Rafa in the rankings (they are now 310 points apart).

Monday, May 5, 2008

Rafa Wins Fourth Barca Title

Nadal continued his four-in-a-row spree by adding a fourth consecutive Barcelona title to his tally after he defeated his compatriot and good friend, David Ferrer 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 in the final on Sunday.

The victory gave Nadal the number one spot in the race as he currently leads the ATP circuit with 32 match wins this season.

Having secured a fourth straight Monte Carlo title the week before his Barca triumph, Rafa's next challenge will be defending his Rome title, in hopes to capture a fourth shield in the Eternal City.

Rafa has a bye in the first round and awaits the winner from the Nicolas Kiefer-Juan Carlos Ferrero clash, in the second round

Flavor of the week - May 5th

Music

I've got two words for this week... JACK JOHNSON. I keep falling in love with this guy each time I hear any of his songs. So this week am recommending a whole bunch of his songs:

Jack Johnson - Upside Down (from the soundtrack of Curious George)
Jack Johnson - Girl I Wanna Lay You Down
Jack Johnson - Good People
Jack Johnson - Banana Pancakes
Jack Johnson with Ben Harper- You Might Just Let it Go

TV

Grey's picked up a little bit last Thursday, it was nice to have Addison back for an episode. I don't like the rubbish with Rebecca/Ava and Karev though. Lost are still on crack and I've got nothing special to say about Ugly Betty.

Am still crying my eyeballs out from the Ally McBeal episode where Billy dies. It's weird how this episode can make me cry instantly even though the show ended ages and we all know Billy died. It's still heartbreaking every single time you see it.

Comedy

I watched two Ellen Degeneres standups last weekend. Pretty funny stuff in a classic standup comedy kinda way.

That's it for this week.

Cheers!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Happy Birthday Becks, Thank You ED !!

Since David Beckham's 33rd birthday was last Friday (May 2nd), Early Doors decided to remind us how the sarong-wearing footballer could be so entertaining. Here are some classic Becks quotes I came across on Early Doors' Friday post:

"My parents have been there for me, ever since I was about 7"

"I remember so clearly us going into hospital so Victoria could have Brooklyn. I was eating a Lion bar at the time"

"Alex Ferguson is the best manager I've ever had at this level. Well, he's the only manager I've actually had at this level. But he's the best manager I've ever had"

"We're definitely going to get Brooklyn christened, but we don't know into which religion"

These quotes narrated in his squeaky voice is a whole other story :)

Cheers!!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Gonzalez Ends El Aynaoui Run, Rafa Goes 102 for 103

Second-seed Fernando Gonzalez ended Younes El-Ayanoui's surprise run at the BMW Open in Munich as the Chilean edged past El-Aynaoui 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Saturday, to reach his second clay final this season.

World number 15, Gonzalez seems to have found his form in Munich as he ousted Marat Safin in the quarters earlier this week, before he topped the resurgent Moroccan in the semis.

El-Aynaoui, who was playing his first semifinal since the 2003 Madrid Masters, became the oldest ATP semifinalist, at 36 years 7 months, since Jimmy Connors reached the 1993 San Francisco semis at age 40.

Gonzalez' final opponent will be Italy's Simone Bolelli, who eliminated top-seed Paul-Henri Mathieu.

Rafa Eases to Barca Final

World number 2, Rafael Nadal, almost double-bageled his semifinal opponent, Denis Gremelmayr, as he breezed past the German, 6-1, 6-0 on Saturday, to inch closer to grabbing a fourth consecutive Barcelona title.

Nadal, who has not lost in Barcelona since his second round loss to Alex Corretja in 2003, has won the 102 of his last 103 claycourt matches, with his only loss coming to Roger Federer in the Hamburg final last season.

Nadal is awaiting the winner from the other semifinal which is currently taking place between last year's Barcelona runner-up, David Ferrer, and Stanislas Wawrinka.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Tell Me How Much Greatness is in this Frame??!?!


The Argentine phenomenon, Lionel Messi, paid Rafa a visit in the locker room at the Barcelona Open.

Rafa ousted his good friend and compatriot, Feliciano Lopez, on Thursday, to reach the quarterfinals in Barcelona. The three-time defending champion next faces Argentine, Juan Ignacio Chela.

Remember Younes el Aynaoui ???

Moroccan qualifier, Younes El Aynaoui, notched his second straight victory at the BMW Open in Munich, as he ousted seventh-seeded Belgian, Steve Darcis 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 to reach his first quarterfinal since the Madrid Masters in 2003.

The 36-year-old North African, who won the Munich title in 2002, has slipped to 295 in the world rankings after reaching a career-high of 14 back in 2003.

El Aynaoui, who is best known for the epic match he lost to Andy Roddick, that ended 21-19 in the fifth set at the 2003 Australian Open, next faces Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro.

El Aynaoui has not won an ATP level match, prior to the event in Munich, since he beat Thomas Johansson at the Doha Open first round in January last year.

Safin Finally Makes Two in a Row in Munich

Two-time Grand Slam champion, Marat Safin, reached his first quarterfinal since Washington last July, by defeating home favorite, Michael Berrer, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3.

The Russian wildcard, who had failed to win back-to-back matches this season, faces second seed, Fernando Gonzalez in the quarters.

It seems that the tournament officials, who received shocking last-minute withdrawals from the third and fifth seeds, Philipp Kohlschreiber and Tommy Haas, have been rewarded as Safin seems to be finding his form on German clay.

It's great to see former world number one, Safin, back to his winning ways. Lets see how he holds up against the strong-hitting Chilean.