Tuesday, March 31, 2009
After losing the 2008 Australian Open final to Djokovic, 10th-seeded Tsonga has since beaten the Djokovic on 4 successive occasions, most recently in Marseille in February.
Tsonga already has 2 titles to his name this season, Johannesburg and Marseille, while Djokovic recently captured his first title of the year in Dubai.
I just love it when tournament draws keep putting good players in each others' paths over and over again. These 2 have faced each other 5 times in 13 months, we're lucky we're gonna get to see them face-off again on Thursday.
“I lost to Tsonga four times in a row, so he has a little advantage probably there... But I think all the matches we played were very close. It's going to be a challenge for me to win,” said Djokovic after his match on Tuesday.
When asked about his countryman, Viktor Troicki, who has reached the 4th round in Miami toppling David Nalbandian along the way, Djokovic said:
"Yeah, he's playing fantastic in the last two events. He's a physically very strong guy. He's always been like that, even in juniors. He had a little issues with the groundstrokes, with the technique, but now he is improved. His forehand is much better, and his movement has always been very powerful for his height. So we can expect him to do well in the future."
Looks like someone spoke a little bit too soon cuz there was nothing fantastic about Troicki in his last-16 match against Andy Murray later on Tuesday. The Serb barely escaped a double-bagel situation against Murray as he crashed out 6-1, 6-0 to the fourth seed.
Murray next takes on 8th-seed, Fernando Verdasco, who had ousted the Scot from the Aussie Open fourth round earlier this year, which was Verdasco's first victory over Murray in 6 meetings. The world number 4 however insisted that the Melbourne loss was not on his mind heading into the quarters in Miami:
"It's not like I'd be going for revenge or whatever, it's just another match," said Murray.
Friday, March 27, 2009
The 25-year-old Belgian, who had retired from tennis back in 2007 - 2 years after she had won her sole Grand Slam singles title at the US Open - announced her schedule for 2009 that will include playing in Cincinatti, Toronto and the US Open.
Clijsters' had cited injuries and her desire to start a family as the main reasons behind her retirement back then, and now 2 years later, she has a daughter, Jada, with her husband, pro basketball player, Brian Lynch.
Initially Clijsters was scheduled to appear in an exhibition on Wimbledon Centre Court alongside Tim Henman, Steffi Graff and Andre Agassi, but the plan obviously evolved into something juicier.
"It all started with preparing for the gala match at Wimbledon. It was all pretty laid back. But I liked it so much I was onto my training schedule from my pro days, and then the hunger for more came automatically."
"I look at this as a second career, not as a comeback, as I am now in a situation where not everything revolves around tennis 24 hours a day. We'll see how I, Jada and the others in my environment can handle this," said Clijsters on her return.
Kim's fellow tennis players all seem to be excited about her return; I know I am cuz am hoping she'd be able to spice things up a bit and at least we'll have one more active female player on tour who has a Grand Slam in her resume.
"It will be great for the game to have such a great sportswoman back... She is so nice, it will be good to have her around. She was so fit and she is young so I don't think she will have problems," said world number 1, Serena Williams.
"It's really cool. She is a great girl, a great champion and a great athlete... It has to be good for us, the sport is all about great competition and personalities," agreed third-ranked Jelena Jankovic.
So how do you feel about Clijsters' return!?!?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
But honestly, it doesn't really play on my mind a whole lot, you know, because I go out there and try to play every point as tough as I can. When errors happen, it's disappointing; and when they don't happen, it's what you expect, kind of.
It was a bit unexpected, but I just have to make sure I play well and have the right attitude. I was excited. I was playing okay midway through the second set, so it was surprising to play so bad towards the end."
Federer discusses his recent losses to Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, during a pre-Sony Ericsson Open press conference.
"Well, you know, I'm very excited, you know, so is Mirka. We're looking forward to see how it's going to, you know, impact, you know, our lives. You know, I hung around quite a few kids, you know, last few years, so it's been fun seeing, you know, how it all works. You know, before that, I was, you know, young myself. So I think it's sort of the right time now for us to do this move, and, yeah, we'll see how it goes."
Federer, you know, on becoming a dad, you know... "I was young myself" ?!?! Seriously?!
"No, I play as well as I can against him. I've tried many different things against Rafa."
"Usually, it's the aggressive playing style that makes me beat Rafa. And especially on the hardcourts, you know, I didn't get that many chances if I look back. I've had so many more times on clay... You know, on a hardcourt I have to play aggressive against him. There's no way around that. I know how I have to play him. I've beat him enough to know."
Federer on facing Rafael Nadal.
Well here's a thought, if you knows how you're supposed to play Rafa, how come you've lost your last 5 matches against him?! Mix it up Roger and enough with the ego issues!
Ana Ivanovic is seeded 7th in Miami and opens her campaign against Ukraine's Mariya Koryttseva, while top-seeded Rafael Nadal awaits either Simone Bolelli or Teimuraz Gabashvili in the second round.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Ernests Gulbis vs Marcos Baghdatis
While Gulbis has done nothing so far this year to fulfill our expectations, I could never quite write him off in any match, without a little bit of wondering... Could this be the match where Gulbis will step up?!?!
Well I honestly don't think so this time. Baghdatis holds a 3-0 record over Gulbis, including a win over the Latvian in Delray Beach last month. While Baghdatis has slipped to 105 in the world rankings and Gulbis is lurking around the edge of the top 40, Baghdatis has had a way better year so far, reaching the Aussie Open 4th round, 2 quarterfinals (Johannesburg, Delray Beach) and helping Cyprus advance in the Davis Cup. Gulbis on the other hand has not won 2 successive matches this year which leaves him with a disappointing 7-8 win/loss record for the year so far.
Nonetheless, this match is definitely worth watching on Wednesday. Who knows, am almost always wrong :)
Mikhail Youzhny vs Jeremy Chardy
Former world number 8, Mikhail Youzhny, has a tough opponent to face in the Miami first round. Jeremy Chardy, who is currently enjoying a career-high of 45 in the world, started the year coming through qualifying to reach the Sydney quarterfinals. He then reached the final in Johannesburg, toppling David Ferrer along the way, and followed that by making it to the semis in Delray Beach, where he posted wins over Baghdatis and Tommy Haas. He lost in the 3rd round of Indian Wells last week, but he came close to beating Ferrer again but ended up falling in 3 sets.
Youzhny however has slipped to 62 in the rankings and was forced to retire from his Indian Wells first round match against Viktor Troicki. He then entered the Sunrise Challenger event where he lost in the second round to Feliciano Lopez. Youzhny's success so far this year has been limited to 2 quarterfinal showings in Marseille and Rotterdam. His record this season is a dismal 6-7, and he has 4th round points to defend this year in Miami.
I say Chardy will continue his good form and will win this one.
For Wednesday's complete order of play check here...
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Fernando Verdasco, Eva Longoria, Adrian Bellani and Cristian De La Fuente
Fernando Verdasco is not just climbing the rankings this year, but he also seems to be joining the "cliques" with his rumored relationship with Camilla Belle and his participation in the Hope 5km charity run organized by Desperate Housewives' Eva Longoria for the 'Padres contra el cáncer' foundation. Other celebrities at the event in Miami included Cristian De La Fuente, Amaury Nolasco of Prison Break and Adrian Bellani.
Am sure that having players like Rafa and Ana present on tour just makes the lives of the ATP and WTA promoters way easier don't you think?!
Venus Williams and Andy Murray playing in an exhibition in Miami before the kick off of the Sony Ericsson Open.
Why Venus would decide to wear something like that is beyond me...
(Photos via shareapic.net)
Monday, March 23, 2009
Rafael Nadal crushed Andy Murray 6-1, 6-2 in the Indian Wells Masters final on Sunday to capture his 13th Masters Series shield and improve his record over the Scotsman to 6-2.
The conditions were ridiculously windy on court today, and both players struggled to serve and place the ball within the lines - obviously one player struggled way more than the other.
Nadal once again proved to the world why he is the number 1 player, because honestly I don’t see anyone capable of handling today’s tough conditions as well as the Spaniard has managed to do so.
It takes some real smart tennis to beat the conditions like that, and while Murray was obsessing over flying papers, Nadal was 100% focused on the task at hand, and seemed to be enjoying the challenge.
The wind was so bad that the little ball kids who held the umbrellas for the players during the breaks looked like they were about to take off like Mary Poppins. Anyone noticed how hard they tried to hold on to those umbrellas?!?!
And how heavy was that Baccarat trophy to make someone with arms like Rafa fail to lift it up in the air for more than a few seconds??! Rafa looked hilarious when he was attempting to smile while lifting that trophy, as he clearly felt like he was gonna drop it any second.
Well congratz to the champ and am glad Murray seems to be fit again, despite the hefty drubbing he received today.
Miami kicks off in a few days… How lucky are we ?!! :)
I'll leave you with some highlights from the final:
Notice how Kate Walsh is thrilled with Rafa!!!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
“Going to be a really tough match... I have to play very well. I must serve well if I want to win and be focused all the time, play aggressive on the return and play right.”
Nadal  leads Roddick  4-2 in their previous encounters, and their last match was in the Davis Cup semis in Spain last year, which obviously Nadal won.
Roddick easily dispatched Novak Djokovic  6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals on Friday to set up the semifinal match with Nadal, who defeated Juan Martin Del Potro  6-2, 6-4.
The match will follow Roger Federer's semifinal against Andy Murray which is scheduled to be played not before 1pm California time (10pm Cairo time).
The Swiss, who has lost in the finals to Rafael Nadal the last 3 seasons, told the tournament organizers that he will have to miss the event this year due to changes in his clay season schedule.
Federer, who is determined to win the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, has made an interesting choice by missing Monte Carlo... I don't know if this will strengthen or weaken his chances in grabbing that elusive Roland Garros trophy.
Federer, who recently said that he "[doesn't] have a problem on clay. [He has] a Rafa problem on clay", will get his necessary pre-French Open prep on the clay of Rome followed by the new Masters Series event in Madrid.
So why do you think Federer is gonna miss Monte Carlo??! Are Rome and Madrid gonna be enough, or is he giving up on Roland Garros and saving up some energy for the rest of the season?? Let me know your thoughts on that...
Friday, March 20, 2009
Some of us didn't catch the entire Rafa-Nalbandian match last night because of how late it started, and in my case, with the whole 9-hour time difference and all, I woke up right before the second set tie-break started and watched the rest of the match, or what was left of it anyways, which given the 3-6, 7-6, 6-0 result, wasn't a whole lot.
I watched a lot of highlights from the match to try and figure out how Rafa saved 5 match points against a rival, who had practically destroyed him the only 2 times they played before, and then snatch the final set 6-0, just like that??!?!
Everyone is saying Nalbandian choked... Why the heck would he choke against Nadal, whom he beat 6-4, 6-0 in Paris and 6-1, 6-2 in Madrid, less than 2 years ago?? If anything, Rafa was the one who wasn't confident and was totally dominated in the first set and a half.
Am guessing it's a little bit of both, cuz we all know how strong Rafa is mentally and he probably pulled some mental strength from a reserve somewhere just when he needed it, while Nalbandian must have been overwhelmed by Rafa's sudden elevated performance at 3-5 down in the second set. After losing the tiebreak, Nalbandian just ran out of gas completely in the 3rd set, where he was probably replaying those 5 match points he couldn't convert over and over in his mind.
What Rafa said after the match:
"I think today [I] was lucky. Anyway, well, I am not happy. I'm not very happy about myself and the first two sets. I think I had from the memory, a lot the last two matches. He played well, yes, but I… was a little bit scared about his backhand. I didn't go to the match with the best mentality."
"I think I didn't go to the match with [a] clear idea how to play the match… I didn't have exactly the tactic or the things I had to do to win this match. Probably because I lost very easy in the last two matches against him."
Next up for Rafa is Nalbandian's compatriot and doubles partner this week, Juan Martin Del Potro. I think after Wednesday's match, Nadal will step on court for the quarterfinal with a totally different mindset than the one he had against Nalbandian. Nadal is never easy on himself and he will approach Friday's match with a much stronger attitude and will try to redeem himself. In other words... I believe Del Potro is up for a drubbing.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Of course he's much more talented than he looks, because also a lot of people thought he doesn't have such great hands, but apparently he has unbelievable touch. He sees the ball quite well, unbelievable athlete.
So just it's easier to adapt yourself to other surfaces, and he adapt very well. Also he improved his serve and decided to go to the net. Just he breaks everybody mentally. Before the match, everybody knows that they don't have any chance.
He learnt how to play on other surfaces, and I think it just was amazing. Nobody thought actually he managed to play great on grass, but he made it. It's really surprising, but it also makes you can take the head off in front of him to show his my appreciation that he managed to do that in such a short period of time."
Okay I think taking one's "head" off is a bit much to show some respect, but we get the idea, Marat.
"He will win them (Roland Garros and Wimbledon) again. He will win them. What's the problem. If he's not injured and he's playing well, so he will win it again."
"He has all the chance. But I don't know, for some reason he didn't play very well on that tournament, in US Open, but I think he has a chance. This year will be his year. I think he going to manage, because he's playing too good."
I know what you're thinking... "What?!?! This year is gonna be Rafa's year?! I thought last year was his year... "
Unlike Rafa, who said his chances of completing the Grand Slam this year are "really small", Safin obviously believes the Spaniard is up for yet another incredible season. Safin, who crashed out to Isner at Indian Wells on Tuesday, thinks Nadal should be able to defend his French Open and Wimbledon trophies this year, as well as having a shot at the US Open.
Anyone else think Rafa will pull a "Rod Laver" this year?!?! I'd sure love to believe so :)
Second seed, Roger Federer, booked himself a spot in the Indian Wells quarterfinals after he battled past 17th seed, Fernando Gonzalez 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, on Wednesday.
Awaiting the Swiss in the quarters is another Fernando, but this one has more muscle and uglier hair. 10th seed, Fernando Verdasco made it to the quarters after a 3-set win over Philip Kohlschreiber.
Federer leads Verdasco 2-0 in previous meetings, which both came on the clay of Hamburg in 2005 and 2008. But we all know that Verdasco of 2008 or 2005 is far from the present mighty Verdasco, who beat Richard Gasquet 3 and 2 en route to the quarters this week, and took Rafael Nadal to 5 sets in the Aussie Open semis, recording one of the longest matches in the tournament's history.
I am really curious to see how Verdasco will do against Federer. His game is similar to Rafa's and he could be able to trouble Federer.
Federer and Verdasco have an equal 12-2 win-loss record so far this year, where Federer has reached the Aussie Open finals and Doha semis, while Verdasco has made the Brisbane final and lost in the Aussie Open semis.
The other 2 quarterfinalists in the same half of the draw are 4th seeded Andy Murray and unseeded Ivan Ljubicic.
Murray had an easy 4th round where he faced 15th-seed Tommy Robredo, who retired when he was trailing the Scot 2-6, 0-3.
Ljubicic is having an unbelievable run at Indian Wells this week, and it looks like the former world number 3 is making a comeback after having slipped to number 74 in the world. Besides playing 2 really close matches at the Australian Open in January, Ljubicic pretty much had a horrible year so far. So the fact that he's in the quarters this week after knocking out the likes of Gilles Simon  and Igor Andreev  is rather impressive.
Murray hasn't been quite challenged so far this week and Robredo's retirement in their 4th round match hasn't helped much.
Will Ljubicic hold his ground against Murray, or will the Scot just brush past him?!? How well do you think Verdasco will do against Federer?? Is an upset possible?!
Let me know!!!
Monday, March 16, 2009
James Blake  vs Fernando Gonzalez 
Gonzalez leads Blake 6-3, and has won their last 6 straight meetings.
Most recent encounter was at the Beijing Olympics, where Gonzalez edged out Blake 11-9 in the final set.
No reason not to expect another incredible match between the pair at Indian Wells on Monday.
Fernando Verdasco  vs Richard Gasquet 
Gasquet leads their career meetings 4-1, but all those came in the pre-Aussie-Open-success period for Verdasco. Last meeting was at the Canada Masters back in 2007, where Verdasco posted his sole victory over the Frenchman. They're both having a good year so far, so this should be good.
Ivo Karlovic  vs Roger Federer 
2 reasons am looking forward to this match. First, I always enjoy seeing Federer try to avenge a previous loss and in this case, Karlovic will be suffering the consequences of eliminating Federer from last year's Cincinnati Masters. Second reason is, Federer wasn't returning so well in his first match and I'd like to see how he's gonna handle the serving machine a.k.a Karlovic.
Check the complete order of play here...
A baby hippo, called Farasi, was born at the Basel zoo and caused too much of a stir in Switzerland that it was voted "Swiss of the Year" beating out Roger Federer. (source: Wall Street Journal)
The Swiss will have to settle for second place in yet another contest, but this time it's not to Rafa, but to baby Farasi.
"I only heard about the hippo like a day ago. (laughter) I never heard of the story, but at least the hippo is from Basel, right? I can take that loss. That's okay (laughter)," said Federer to reporters at Indian Wells.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Q. This shoe, correct me if I'm wrong, it's called Genius, and it's attached to your name. I was wondering who came up with the name?
Novak Djokovic: They did. There's no connection with my ideas for that. I'm not really that in love with myself.
Do you blame the reporter for considering that as a possibility?!?!
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Lleyton Hewitt vs Fernando Gonzalez 
The last time these two faced off was last January in the Australian Open first round, where Gonzalez beat Hewitt in 5 sets, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Gonzalez leads their career head-to-head record 4-2, and has won their last 3 encounters.
Hewitt is not having a that bad of a year so far, as he's reached the semis in Memphis, and the quarters in Sydney, but the former world number 1 has slipped to a current 77 in the world and I don't think today's match will be as tight as their Melbourne encounter, because the main reason that match was close was because Gonzalez was facing Hewitt in Australia in front of an incredible home crowd.
So am guessing Gonzalez should have no trouble eliminating Hewitt, assuming he is fully recovered from his injury that forced him to withdraw from the Davis Cup last week. The Chilean could be a little short on match play since this is only his 3rd tournament of the year, but he did reach the Oz Open 4th round (fell to Rafa), and he won the tourney in Vina Del Mar, which means he has a pretty solid 7-1 record for the year.
Ernests Gulbis vs Igor Andreev 
Here's another Oz Open rematch between the promising yet constantly disappointing Gulbis and Russia's Igor Andreev. Andreev dismissed Gulbis from the Australian Open second round earlier this year, in 5 sets, 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 3-6, 6-4, and that was their only previous meeting.
The talented Latvian has not managed to win 2 back-to-back matches from the start of the year, while Andreev's best performance in 2009 came just a few weeks back in Dubai where he reached the quarters before he fell to David Ferrer in straights.
This could be a tight match and it could go Gulbis' way, assuming he doesn't choke like he did in Melbourne.
Ivan Ljubicic vs Mario Ancic 
Ljubicic leads his compatriot 4-1 in head-to-head meetings, but I gotta say he's having a lousy year so far and Ancic is actually on the rise.
Ljubicic has crashed out of the first round in his last 3 tournaments and has a 2-5 record this year. Ancic on the other hand, has reached the final in Zagreb, the semis in Rotterdam and the quarters in Sydney, and he played a pivotal role in Croatia's 5-0 whitewash of Chile in the Davis Cup last weekend. Ancic should definitely win this one.
Other seeds playing on Saturday include:
Roger Federer  vs Marc Gicquel
Andy Murray  vs Albert Montanes
Gilles Simon  vs Yen-Hsun Lu
Fernando Verdasco  vs Thomaz Bellucci
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga  vs Teimuraz Gabashvili
James Blake  vs Jarkko Nieminen
Richard Gasquet  vs Michael Llodra
For the complete order of play, check here...
Lucky loser Olivier Patience will take Davydenko's place in the draw. Actually Patience is more like a very lucky loser since he will go directly into the second round since Davydenko had a first round bye like all the other seeds.
I feel bad for Youzhny, who was slowly coming out of his rough patch that saw him slip out of the world's top 50 (he's currently 59). He reached 2 back-to-back quarterfinals in Rotterdam and Marseille, but then lost in the Dubai first round to Jan Hernych. The Russian did however earn a point for his country in the Davis Cup last weekend and I was hoping he would do well in the desert this week. I hope he recovers in time for Miami.
As for Davydenko, Indian Wells was only gonna be his third tournament of the year, as he missed most of the last two months with injury. The world number 5, will surely be trying his best to recover by Miami next week, where he has a title to defend, or else he won't be able to hold on to that number 5 spot much longer.
"My chances are really small."
"What Rod Laver did was amazing. But at the same time it was a little bit easier in that moment than right now, because in that moment I think they only had two different surfaces (grass and clay)... Now we have three and Australia and the US Open are not exactly the same."
"The US Open is a big goal right now... I would love to have that, the fourth. But I know how tough everything is and I'm happy with my results.
"I am going to continue working, but to win every tournament, it's very tough. And if you are talking about the Grand Slam, even more."
"I'm trying to play a little bit more aggressive, serve a little bit better, be a more complete player. If you can slice, you have another option. If you can go to the net, it's another option.
"In the end, when you have more options, you have more resources. When you have tough matches, that's really important."
Kutznetsova joined a whole bunch of other seeded losers like Marion Bartoli , Carla Suarez Navarro , Patty Schnyder , Alona Bondarenko , Annabel Medina Garrigues  and Iveta Benesova , who were all sent packing during Friday's second round action.
Olympic star, Michael Phelps, talked to Matt Lauer of NBC about the "bong photo" incident in his first interview since the photo surfaced. I won't say much about what Phelps said, so you can watch the video yourself but I liked how he responded to one of the questions saying:
"I've come to realize people wanna bring you up, but more people wanna bring you down."
It's weird how Lauer has the exact same tone whether he's saying something mean, or something nice, don't you think?!. He really grilled Phelps, which is understandable, but comparing him to A-Rod?!?! Come on, that's a bit much and it's a totally different situation, but anyways...
Check the video, and let me know what you think!!
Friday, March 13, 2009
Blondes or brunettes??!?!... Haha Ancic sure is the ladies man!! Enjoy the video ladies (and gents) ...
Ancic is seeded 28 at Indian Wells, and his first match is against his Croatian countryman, Ivan Ljubicic, in the second round.
"I am not putting too much pressure on myself to play well this week because I took 10 full days off."
"Obviously, because of that I lost a little bit of fitness and (I am) not hitting the ball as well as I was before I was sick, but hopefully if I can get through a couple of matches I can start to work myself into the tournament."
"There's no point in me coming in here and saying I'm feeling perfect and I've had the best preparation possible... Like before Australia, I felt really good going in there. In Rotterdam, I didn't feel my best going in but I found a way to win the tournament and I played better as week went on."
"But as you get older, you start to understand that you're not going to feel perfect every week and you try and find a way to get through the first couple of matches."
Murray opens against Spain's Albert Montanes in the second round.
Roger Federer hasn't played since he lost the Australian Open final. This is what he had to say ahead of Indian Wells, about the prospect of meeting Rafael Nadal in yet another final:
"I love playing matches against him, especially those five-setters, seeing if I can hang with him physically without a problem. He's the greatest challenger I've ever had."
"I am really motivated because I don't know how much better he can play. I don't know how much better I can play but I am right there and he's playing the tennis of his life."
The daddy-to-be, who just found out his gf Mirka is pregnant, is trying to show a brave face here but we all know better... Am sure Federer would rather face anyone in a final than to suffer another humiliating loss to Nadal.
Speaking of Nadal, the world number 1 was spotted practicing at Indian Wells. Check out that footwork:
Nadal has a doubles match today with Marc Lopez, against Mertinak/Cermak. Am actually surprised that all these top players are taking part in doubles this week. Are the players broke or something and they decided that getting some doubles earnings will ease them through the credit crunch?!?! or are they just trying to wear their bodies faster so they all skip the indoors season together, leaving the Paris and Masters cup titles to the likes of Radek Stepanek?!?! Beats me, but I guess that's good news for us fans, at least for now. I guess am gonna have to get used to not switching the channel when I find a doubles match on this week.
Besides Nadal and M. Lopez, Federer is playing doubles with Wawrinka, Roddick is with Fish, Simon's with Chardy, Murray's with Hutchins, Berdych is with Kiefer, Fernando Gonzalez is with Robredo, Ferrer's with Montanes... Most of those pairs will be in action today so make sure you check them out.