Saturday, December 25, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
So as this year approaches its final days, I'd like to know who your Tennis Twitter Kings and Queens of 2010 are. Add your own if they're not in the list.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The unofficial start of the 2011 tennis season takes place in Abu Dhabi for the third time around, as the Mubadala World Tennis Championship kicks off on December 30th.
Six of the world's best tennis players will be spending their new year's eve in the Emirati capital enjoying the luxury of the spectacular Emirates Palace Hotel.
Once again the tournament features the top 2 tennis phenoms, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who will be joined by 2-time French Open runner-up, Robin Soderling, 2010 Wimbledon finalist, Tomas Berdych, and former Australian Open finalists, Marcos Baghdatis and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Backed by a new title sponsor and a stellar field, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship promises to open the new season with a bang.
“Considering every player has starred in or won at least one Grand-Slam final, the line-up in Abu Dhabi for the Mubadala World Tennis Championship is fitting of the final stages of any Grand-Slam tournament," said John Lickrish, Managing Director of tournament organizer, FLASH Entertainment.
"Each player is a fearless competitor and genuine title contender, capable of defeating whoever they are drawn against which sets up for some epic encounters."
Go to www.thinkflash.ae for tickets or visit www.mubadalawtc.com for more information.
The Mubadala World Tennis Championship draw is as follows:
Monday, November 29, 2010
The Masters Cup, or should I say now the ATP World Tour Finals, does not always live up to expectation. Quite often some of the top players choose to skip it as they try to recover from injuries in time for the new season only a few weeks away, or simply to regain their energies after a long and exhausting year. Other times, the players opt to participate but the matches are plagued with fatigue and the level of competition feels messed up.
Luckily, this year, none of the above happened and what we got was an excellent week of top-notch tennis that gave a grand finale to a fittingly fantastic season.
If what we saw in London is any indication of how the competition is going to be next year, then I certainly can't wait for the next four weeks to fast-forward because it looks like Nadal, Federer, Murray and Djokovic are all still as hungry as ever for those trophies.
Simply put, Federer ended this year the same way he started it, WITH A BANG! The 29-year-old who opened his 2010 season by winning the Australian Open, spent this past week in London demolishing whichever top-8 player that came his way. An incredible first serve, a blazing forehand, a stronger-than-normal backhand and some aggressive net-play saw the Swiss reaching the final without dropping a set before defeating top-seeded Nadal for the title, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.
The way Federer's backhand stayed as solid as ever against Nadal last night was beyond impressive. Even though Federer dropped the second set, it was clear that he was playing at such a high level, it would have been impossible for Nadal to do anything about it after that. Still the way Federer had beaten Djokovic and Murray so easily en route to the final clearly showed that he and Nadal remain at a different level than the rest. Although Murray's performance against Nadal in the semis is definitely commendable, particularly his confidence in front of a Brit-heavy packed O2 Arena.
So props to everyone who took part in the World Tour Finals, props to the ever-legendary Federer, props to Nadal for erasing the memory of last year's terrible Finals showing and props to Diego Maradona for attending every single day :)
Saturday, November 6, 2010
We all know Federer is classy and all, but he is also one to hold a grudge. Okay maybe a grudge is too big of a word, but what am trying to say is, he never forgets a loss to a certain opponent, especially if that loss was at his home tournament in Basel.
So the Swiss talisman must be thrilled that he carefully took care of business against Andy Roddick in the Basel semis on Saturday, to set up a much-anticipated rematch of last year's final against Novak Djokovic, which Federer had lost in 3 sets.
As the season is coming to its final stages, both Federer and Djokovic are merely 350 points apart in the ATP World Rankings and continue to swap the number 2 and 3 spots each tournament. But way more important for the Swiss than keeping his number 2 ranking, is reclaiming his home title from the person who took it from him last year.
On another note, I wonder how Roddick feels after suffering his 20th loss in 22 meetings against Federer? Only 5 other players in the past 30 years have managed to beat the same opponent 20 times. Frustrating much?!
The Federer-Djokovic final is scheduled at 3pm Swiss time. Don't miss it on Al Jazeera Sport 2.
Monday, October 11, 2010
It's been all over Facebook for over a week now, but now that it was officially announced in Egypt's national newspaper, Al Ahram, I can finally post this (I mean if Al Ahram says it, then it must be true, right??!). Rafael Nadal is coming to play an exhibition in Cairo during the first week of February 2011, in the Gezira Club, against his fellow Spaniard, Juan Carlos Ferrero.
The idea is believed to have come from Egypt's Minister of Tourism, Zoheir Garana, in efforts to boost sports tourism in Egypt.
Stay tuned for more details and feel free to contact me if you want to attend.
The match is no longer happening. As many of you might know, Juan Carlos Ferrero is injured and he won't be able to make it to Cairo before April. Nadal will not be free at that time so Ferrero is reportedly going to play David Ferrer instead.
The supersonic world number 1 just bagged his 7th title of the season as he breezed past France's Gael Monfils 6-1, 7-5 in the Tokyo final on Sunday.
The Spaniard continues to show that regardless the surface, the continent, the prize money or the opponent, the goal is always the same: to do his very best to win matches and titles. The kind of work ethic and determination that drives him to seek perfection by relentlessly trying to improve his game.
He is a true tennis phenomenon that takes nothing foregranted. A legend at 24 with inherent humility. A humility so rare in a human with so much success and superior talents.
After achieving the ultimate tennis dream of winning all 4 Slams, Nadal still finds it in himself to give his all in the waning stages of the season, after 9 long months of hard work on court.
The 9-time Grand Slam champion shows no signs of slowing down as he next heads to the Shanghai Masters where he awaits Gilles Simon or Stanislas Wawrinka in the second round.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Barely 48 hours after lifting the US Open trophy in New York, world number 1, Rafael Nadal was in Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu for the champions league match between Real Madrid and Ajax Amsterdam.
The Spanish phenomenon was asked to step on the pitch before kickoff, as the whole stadium watched footage of his US Open victory.
And just to top off an amazing night for Nadal, his favorite team, Real Madrid, notched their first champions league victory of the season with a 2-0 win over Ajax.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Possibly one of my favorite moments in this tournament was Djokovic taking the cheque from Rafa, so that Rafa can lift the trophy, then both players joking around about who gets to keep the cheque.
“Maybe emotionally I was a little bit drained after the semifinal match, but I recovered. I had two days, and I was motivated to win this match, and this is one of the matches where the opponent plays better than you, and you just have to congratulate him and tell him, ‘You're better.’ That's it. I don't think I played a bad match overall. It was very good performance from my side. But whenever it was important, he was the one who was playing just too good.”
-- World number 2 and US Open finalist, Novak Djokovic, after losing the US Open final to Rafael Nadal
People often called him a whiner, speculated his resilience and questioned his attitude, but Novak Djokovic silenced the skeptics on Monday night as he did everything he could to try and beat a superhuman Rafael Nadal in the 2010 US Open final. The Serb failed to win the trophy, but won the respect of 1000s of tennis fans instead, and the quote above just shows how much he has grown, and how we should expect much more from him in the future.
Friday, August 13, 2010
The excitement at the Rogers Cups in Toronto this week has been almost palpable and it wasn't just because all the top tennis stars were back in action. The second news of the Nadal/Djokovic doubles team up broke out, everyone just couldn't wait till the tournament got underway.
The number 1 and 2 players in the world were playing doubles together, for the first time since Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe did it in 1976 and once again, tennis was proven to be the sport of true class and grace.
This generation of tennis players certainly freaks some people out with how much respect they have for each other, to the extent that players who should be considered rivals, are in fact friends.
“He’s (Nadal) just a legend already in our sport and he’s a good friend of mine,” said second-ranked Djokovic of Rafael Nadal.
"I couldn't refuse the chance to play with Rafa... It will be an honour to play with him. I'm happy, and it's even a part of the history of tennis, that makes it even greater," said the Serb last Sunday in Toronto.
Meanwhile Nadal had nothing but good words to say of Djokovic:
"Playing with Novak will be positive. I am excited. He is one of the most talented players in the world. To have him in my half of the court will be a nice experience."
Even after the world's top two lost their first doubles match, videos kept showing up on YouTube of the two playing foot-tennis together between practice.
Some people think tennis lacks the competitive edge because the players are not hostile towards their rivals but I think that's what is really special about the sport at the moment. Those players will certainly be some tough class act to follow.
In singles, Nadal and Djokovic both made it to the quarterfinals after defeating Kevin Andersen and Victor Hanescu, respectively.
Monday, July 5, 2010
"The main thing I think is if you want to play well, you gonna find a way. So if you really want to play well in one surface and you are a good player, I think in the end you gonna find a way."
-- World number one, Rafael Nadal, on how he went from being called a clay-court specialist, to winning his 2nd Wimbledon title and 8th Grand Slam
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Murray on Nadal after losing to the Spaniard in the Wimbledon semifinals on Friday:
"I love watching him play. He's my favorite player to watch. That's why I enjoy playing him so much. So I hope he wins."
REPORTER: How well aware are you that he's (Andy Murray) such a big fan of yours? He kept talking about you're his favorite player to watch.
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, just can say thanks. He don't need to admire a lot of things of me because he's too good to admire me.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I mean, true, Rafa played terribly lately; Soderling is not a threat either. He's got an easy ride to this victory, that's for sure. Djokovic can't play tennis anymore it seems like.
Got to make your own work, please. Respect the players. Obviously Andy is a fantastic player and he's got all the chances to win here. We all know that.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
"Larry King has had marriages that didn't last this long..."
-- John Isner on The Late Show with David Letterman, when reciting the top 10 thoughts that went through his mind during his 11+ hours match against Nicolas Mahut in Wimbledon.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Bring them vuvuzelas down to Wimbledon, cuz Isner and Mahut just forced us all to ditch South Africa.
Besides having the most despised coach in the history of football, and suffering the most humiliating World Cup exit by a former champion, France is again all over the news and this time it's because of none other than one Nicolas Mahut and his gladiating efforts on court 18 at the All England Club.
The Frenchman took to the courts at Wimbledon on Tuesday to face 23rd seed John Isner in a routine first round match only to find himself still contesting that match on Wednesday night. Mahut and Isner broke a handful of records by playing for 10 hours, tallying up 193 aces between them, and tying at 59-59 in the fifth set of their match, which was suspended for the second straight day due to darkness.
The fifth set alone has lasted just over 7 hours and will be resumed on Thursday. Isner broke Ivo Karlovic's record of 78 aces in one match by hitting 98 past Mahut on Tuesday and Wednesday.
These numbers are just unheard of in tennis and just like that, the World Cup has taken a backseat to the action at SW19.
It also must be noted that Mahut, who had to qualify for the Championships, had to beat Alex Bogdanovic 3-6, 6-3, 24-22 in the quallies, followed by a 5 set win over Koubek, to make it to the main draw. I am really curious to see how the 28-year-old will stand on his feet come tomorrow morning.
Mahut was serving from behind throughout the entire fifth set, i.e. the entire Wednesday, all the way until 59-59.
“I just wanted to win the game I was playing, that was it,” said Mahut after play was suspended for darkness on Wednesday.
How much more simply put can it be?
“Nothing like this will ever happen again, ever,” said an exhausted Isner.
Well it's not over yet! Are there anymore records that haven't been broken?!
The one thing I can't stop thinking about is, how will the loser feel after such a match? Will the fact that he took part in such a history-making showdown, with such great magnitude, manage to cushion the blow somehow?
All I know is that it takes nerves of steel to be able to serve from behind 59 times and still stay in the match. Andy Roddick did it last year in the final for 14 times and I thought that was heroic.
It's a matter of the bare minimum recovery now. Both players have until 15:30 tomorrow to get their bodies working again, cuz am sure as hell the whole world will be waiting for the conclusion of this match.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Sunday, June 6, 2010
This match is being labeled by many as the ultimate revenge match. The Rafanatics can't wait till their beloved king avenges his loss to Soderling last year at the French, while the press are just dying to put a spin to an albeit spectacular final. Rafa however is simply looking for a 5th Roland Garros title.
"No, no, no. I want to seriously I prefer to play against Tomas the final, because I won against him the last six times. That's the true. I play against Robin, gonna be a difficult match. I never believe on revenges. I believe on try my best in every moment, and if I lose, I lose, and congratulate Robin because he did better than me. But I go on court trying to play my best tennis and thinking about Roland Garros, not thinking about Robin, Tomas, or another one. You know, for me, doesn't exist revenge in not one match, and especially we talk about final of Roland Garros," said Nadal after his semifinal match against Melzer.
I think both players are entering this final with a great mentality. At least that's what we can infer from their press conferences. Rafa isn't thinking about last year and Robin isn't taking anything for granted just because he beat the Spaniard last year.
"Well, we played many times. He beat me a lot of times, and I beat him a few times. So it was not the last match. You know, we played one or two times after that. But of course it's always good to have beaten a player before. I know that I can beat him. I showed it. But, again, you know, every match is a new match, and every match is different," said Soderling.
Press talk aside, what can we tell from both players' matches so far in Paris?
Let's start with Soderling. To say that the Swede has had to overcome some tough opponents to get to the final is an understatement. Before even getting to Roger Federer, Soderling had a tough 3rd rounder against Albert Montanes, who had just beaten Federer in Estoril a few weeks back. Marin Cilic was an obstacle but not as hard to surpass as Tomas Berdych was in the semis.
After Soderling played an incredible match against Federer in the quarters, he wasn't his best against Berdych, however he still managed to comeback from 2 sets to 1 down and beat the Czech even though in all fairness, Berdych was the better player throughout the match. The fact that Soderling pulled off that victory without his best game definitely places him amongst the likes of Federer and Nadal, who manage to pull off wins on any given day, regardless how good or bad they are playing.
I think Soderling was tight against Berdych because he feels he has a real chance of winning the French Open. He had already beaten Federer, and has confidence against Nadal, so playing tight against Berdych was natural.
As for Nadal, he is peaking at the very right time. The 4-time Roland Garros champion said that his match against Melzer was his best yet in Paris this year, and he admitted he was calmer than he was during his earlier matches.
I think the victory over Nicolas Almagro gave him that calmness because that match was tough, yet he still won in straights.
The fact that he is undefeated this season on clay certainly helps as well, although come tomorrow, I think all bets are off and it really all depends on how confident both of them are going to be against one another. If both players are at their best, then we are all a bunch of lucky %$#$%...
I do maintain though that a perfect Rafa should beat a perfect Soderling on clay, provided Rafa serves exceptionally well.
Can't wait to see how it all goes down...
Cheers from Paris
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
He will now definitely be known as the ultimate party-pooping, ball-busting, streak-ending, tennis star. Robin Soderling returned to Roland Garros this year, having ended Rafael Nadal's 31 match winning streak in Paris last year, only to beat another world number one, Roger Federer, in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, to end the Swiss' unparalleled run of reaching 23 straight Grand Slam semifinals.
"It was a great run. Now I've got the quarterfinal streak going, I guess," said Federer light-heartedly after the match.
Indeed the 2010 French Open is becoming a sequel to the Robin Soderling epic upset story and the victims in both parts were world number 1's, defending champions, and had clean records against the Swede. Good thing for Soderling's next opponent, Tomas Berdych, he is none of the above.
The scary thing about Soderling is that he can overpower his opponent even on clay as slow as today's. When you combine that kind of power, with extreme precision, the result is sure to be an incredible one... think Soderling, think Del Potro... you'll know what I mean.
More important than ending his opponent's streak, is Soderling finally snapping his 0-12 losing record to Federer. From the spectator's eye, a record like that certainly ensured Federer a win today, but tennis isn't like that, and lucky for us, tennis stars don't see it that way.
"I think even though I lost so many times, I always have a chance to win. I came close a couple of times before, and I really feel like one or two times I actually been a little bit unlucky. With a little bit of lucky I could have won before. Now I'm here finally with a win, and it's great," said Soderling on his losing record to Federer.
Tomorrow Nadal faces Nicolas Almagro, whose racquet speed in his groundstrokes against Fernando Verdasco on Monday, kind of blew my mind. Will we witness more upsets tomorrow? I hope not!!
Saturday, May 29, 2010
When it rains in Paris during the French Open, it generally means misery for everyone from the players, to the tournament organizers, to the spectators, to the media. However, the washed out schedule on Thursday at Roland Garros meant that the Friday schedule just got mind-blowingly awesome for someone who was actually going to Roland Garros... And yes that someone was me :D
For a true tennis fan, any given day at the French Open is suffice to change one's life, however; attending Roland Garros on a day that has Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Tsonga, Verdasco, Ferrero, Cilic, Youzhny, Serena, Henin and Sharapova, all in action, is a religious experience...
After Nadal posted a routine win over Horacio Zeballos on Chatrier, I went to see Juan Carlos Ferrer play a super long tie-break against Pere Riba on court 6. The beauty of the small courts at Roland Garros is that you are extremely close to the players and can see every single facial expression they make while they're playing and between points. Which is kind of cool!!
I head to court 3 after that and caught some of the Marin Cilic-Leonardo Mayer match which was pretty incredible. I was particularly impressed by Mayer who served huge against the towering Croat, especially in that second set which he won. The sun was out and the conditions seemed to make the court faster as both players served big and played some amazing net points.
I left midway through the Cilic match and met up with a commentator from Eurosport Spain, who generously offered to show me around. We went through the media entrance at Chatrier and I literally started getting the chills from the people I was seeing just hanging out in the lounge taking breaks from their work. From Conchita Martinez to Mats Wilander, to Karim el Alami to Annabel Croft... We even stopped for a quick chat with Heinz Gunthardt, Ana Ivanovic's coach, who is doing some commentating for Swiss TV.
I watched the Jo-Wilfried Tsonga match against Thiemo De Bakker from the media gallery and I gotta say, the atmosphere for that match was simply great! The crowd really pulled through for Tsonga, who suffered from muscle pain towards the end of the second set but kept on fighting against the impressive Dutchman, until he won 6-7(6), 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-4.
After that I went to the production zone where most channels have on-site studios for their live coverage. I visited the set of Game, Set & Mats where I saw Barbara Schett, Annabel Croft and of course Mats Wilander. No words can describe how charming and elegant Wilander is. He is a true natural on camera too. I watched a short live session with Croft and Schett, who gave a quick midday update, then moved on to catch some more tennis action.
I was torn between returning to court 3 to catch the rest of Cilic-Mayer or heading to court 6 to watch Youzhny-Troicki. I chose the latter and I didn't regret it. Both players were playing really well but the match was eventually halted cuz of the darkness and was resumed the next day. Youzhny ended up winning in 5. Youzhny's crazy reactions to his bad points are really funny up close I gotta say. Again the net play was rather impressive as the conditions remained fast all day.
All in all it was one hell of a day. I hope I can go again before the tournament ends although my work schedule is pretty mad. At least my job involves watching the matches all day, so that's definitely a consolation.
Monday, May 24, 2010
Mina, who made it to number one in the junior rankings a mere 2 months ago after reaching the Roland Garros juniors final last year as well as the US Open and Australian Open juniors semifinals, played his first ATP match in Nice last week (lost to Lukasz Kubot 5-7, 4-6).
The Guadeloupe native turned to French stars, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils, who both managed to post victories over Nadal last year, for advice on how to handle his match against the King of Clay.
"I have spoken to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils. They told me he (Nadal) will hit the ball hard at the beginning but I must not allow myself to be frightened. They say I must enjoy it but that will not be easy," said Mina.
I bet you Monfils or Tsonga would be a little scared if they were to play Nadal at Roland Garros this year, don't you think?? Best of luck to the "mini Monfils". Rarely does a player get to have his Grand Slam debut so early in his career and he should relish every moment of it.
This year at Roland Garros, Richard Mille have given Nadal a $535,000 watch provided the Spaniard wears it during his matches. Is Nadal willing to replace his left wristband for Richard Mille or will his lifelong habit of never wearing a watch during a match prevail?
“It is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about and don’t yet know what to do... We shall see but it will be a change and that is unusual for me. No?” said the 4-time French Open champion.
So we still aren't sure whether Nadal will be wearing the watch or not but one habit the 23-year old isn't breaking this year is his blog for Times Online. Be sure to check it here.
Nadal opens his French Open campaign on Tuesday against French teenager, Gianni Mina.
American duo, Sam Querrey and John Isner, are seeded 18 and 17 at Roland Garros this year, are best friends on tour, play doubles together, and have already played each other 3 times this year including a final on clay in Belgrade, which Querrey won.
Querrey and Isner are blogging for Tennis.com from the French Open, where they are looking to change the perception about American tennis players on clay.
"I think both Sam and I have shown that we have game on clay and are looking to do some damage here in Paris," said Isner in his first post from Paris.
Querrey faces fellow American, Robby Ginepri in the first round, while Isner will play Andrey Golubev.
You can follow the "Americans in Paris" blog here...
The 2010 French Open kicked off today and am happy to say I am actually in Paris working for Eurosport this summer, so I will do my best to try and update G,S,M as often as I can.
Today I randomly bumped into Jelena Jankovic outside her hotel near the Tour Eiffel and she seemed to be in a heated discussion with someone from her team which I certainly didn't interrupt. It was a lucky coincidence though, considering I was only there checking out a flat for my stay in Paris.
The action on day 1 at Roland Garros saw the sad retirement of Ernests Gulbis against local favorite, Julien Benneteau. Gulbis' clay season so far had seen the Latvian reach the quarters at Barcelona and Madrid, and the semis in Rome where he beat Roger Federer before losing to Rafael Nadal in 3 tight sets. Naturally everyone was waiting to see some Ernie magic in Paris, and unfortunately, we won't get to see it, as it seems the 21-year-old had peaked in Rome.
Gulbis, who reached a career-high ranking of 27 last week, will have his hamstring injury checked to ensure he'll be ready for the grass season, now that his clay swing has come to an abrupt end.
French hot shot, Jo Willy Tsonga gave the Parisian crowd a scare when he was stretched to 5 sets by Germany's Daniel Brands. The 8th seed seemed out of sorts during his first round match, despite a decent ratio of 67 winners to 28 unforced errors.
Meanwhile on the women's side, Gisela Dulko crushed 10th seed, Victoria Azarenka, 6-1, 6-2, to book a second round spot. It's not a big surprise considering Dulko certainly has got game while Azarenka has had a somewhat unsuccessful clay swing prior to Roland Garros.
Make sure to catch Andy Murray face freshly crowned Nice champion, Richard Gasquet on Monday (third match from 11:00a.m. start, Paris local time).
World number 1, Roger Federer, is also in action on day 2, as he opens his title defense campaign against Australia's Peter Luczak.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
For die-hard Rafael Nadal fans, Monte Carlo was a breath of fresh air; for the Nadal skeptics, it was a huge surprise. The world number three seemed to be back at his fiercest form, as he took out his compatriot, Fernando Verdasco, to win a record breaking sixth straight Monte Carlo trophy. It was the Spaniard’ s first title since Rome last year, and he claimed it in emphatic fashion. Does Nadal’s performance in Monte Carlo mean his injury woes are behind him and that he’s officially back as a top Grand Slam contender?
Some might say that Nadal never really left for him to actually make a comeback. Afterall, winning the Australian Open and reaching the US Open semis last year would hardly be considered an unsuccessful season. However, doubts over Nadal’s form are certainly justifiable since he hadn’t won a title in 11 months, prior to Monaco, and despite showing signs of his vicious self this season in Doha, Melbourne, Indian Wells and Miami, he still lost in all those tournaments and admitted his confidence was still a bit shaky, as his knee worries continue to haunt him.
Last week however, Nadal returned to where he feels most at home. He was back on clay, and unlike at Roland Garros last year, the Spaniard felt fresh, fit and hungry for success. Over the course of 5 matches, the claycourt talisman dropped only 14 games in total, including a 6-0, 6-1 victory over 12th-ranked Verdasco in the final.
“I think that the results, the scores this week, was too much. I think that's not real. But I was playing really good. I was very focused in all points. When you didn't win for a while, you are playing really well, you really want to win, you are focused more than ever, no? So maybe for that reason I won easier than usual,” admitted the six-time Grand Slam champion after his win.
Nadal insisted he never felt invincible on clay to begin with, and that he knows he can never play at his top level for the rest of his career, but for now, the Spaniard seems to be unstoppable on the dirt. So is he back to his very best? Here’s the answer to that question in Nadal’s own words:
“I back to my best level in January, 1st of January. I win a tournament now. In Abu Dhabi, 1st of January, I was playing my best level.”
It’s true that Nadal has played really well so far this season, but he was missing this title win to shatter any small doubts he had about himself. A true sign that Nadal is more careful than usual this season is that he opted to miss his home tournament, Barcelona, to rest his body for the remaining clay events. Nadal had won the last 5 titles in Barcelona, and missing it must truly hurt, however he seems to finally understand that compromises must be done in order to get back that French Open trophy.
So things are certainly looking up for Nadal at the moment. Winning Monte Carlo, choosing to miss Barcelona, and seeing him so happy on court again, are all signs that the 4-time French Open champion is back to business.
For me, it was the first time to notice an Arab in the main draw at a Grand Slam since Morocco's Younes el Aynaoui and I was instantly interested in following Ouahab's news, whenever I actually managed to find out his whereabouts and latest results.Sadly Ouahab was crushed in his first round match in Melbourne that year against Florian Mayer, but still I was impressed he managed to qualify.
It is quite evident from his track record on the ATP website, that Ouahab is a hardworker, which makes him standout amongst most players from the region. The 25-year-old chose Barcelona as his residence and spent the 2009 season improving his ranking by some impressive performances that saw him win back-to-back Futures events in Morocco, where he also made one final, one semifinal and two quarters in Challengers events.
This helped him grab spots in the qualifying draws of some ATP events, and besides qualifying for the Australian Open in the beginning of the year, Ouahab claimed himself a spot in the main draw of the ATP 250 event in Munich, where he fell to Paul-Henri Mathieu in the first round.
Ouahab tried to emulate his Australian Open efforts in Roland Garros, but he fell at the very last hurdle in the 3rd round of the qualies to Monaco native, Jean-Rene Lisnard. Unfortunately, he was less successful in Wimbledon as he lost to Rajeev Ram in the first round of the qualies.
The Algerian almost qualified for the ATP event in Bastad but also fell in the final round, however that did not deter him from making it to the semifinals of a Challengers event in Italy 2 weeks later. That and a final showing in a Challengers in Slovakia, helped Ouahab reach a career high ranking of 114 in September 2009 and he ended his season playing in the main draw of the ATP tournament in Lyon, where he fell to Michael Llodra in the 1st round.
This season, Ouahab made back-to-back Challenger semifinals and is currently coming off an incredible final showing at the Rome Challenger that took place last week, where he fell to former world number 25, Filippo Volandri.
It is true that Ouahab has not won a Challenger title since his only two triumphs back in 2006 in Tunisia and France, however the 25-year-old's success is unmatched by any of his fellow Arab tennis players. His choice to train in Barcelona, undoubtedly paved the way for his success. A young Lamine Ouahab got the chance to face the likes of Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco in his debut season on the seniors circuit in 2002, in Futures events around Spain. Despite losing to both those tennis stars, it's still a pretty cool story to tell your kids later on, that you played Nadal when he was young.
Am not sure if Ouahab will try to qualify for Roland Garros this month, but his final appearance in Rome last week is a good sign that he might.
Friday, April 16, 2010
World number 3, Rafael Nadal, ruthlessly took out yet another opponent in Monte Carlo, dropping just a single game against Michael Berrer in the third round on Thursday.
The Spaniard may have dropped just 2 games in 2 matches, but his quarterfinal opponent, Juan Carlos Ferrero, might give him a much harder time considering he won 17 of his 18 matches on clay this season.
Ferrero, who is currently ranked at 16 after dropping out of the top 100 only a year ago, took out Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 3 sets to earn his meeting with Nadal.
Am certainly looking forward to this match. Nadal has been unscathed so far, let's see if Ferrero will give him a run for his money.
Have I mentioned that 5 out of the 8 quarterfinalists in Monte Carlo are Spaniards?!!? They're really living up to the stereotype aren't they??
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
For someone who never felt invincible on clay, five-time defending champion, Rafael Nadal, certainly commenced his clay season with a bang, as he crushed his Monte Carlo second round opponent, Thiemo De Bakker, 6-1, 6-0, to advance to the third round, where he faces Germany's Michael Berrer.
I think it's funny that the reporters asked whether Rafa's confidence has wavered on clay. The world number three lost 5 clay matches in 5 years (from 2005 to date). Thats 5 losses in 163 matches on the dirt. It might fair to question his confidence if they were referring to winning titles in general, since it's been 11 months since the Spaniard has won a title; but to question his confidence on clay because he lost to Federer in Madrid, and to Soderling in the French Open last year is a bit ridiculous I must say. Again I repeat, 5 losses in 5 years!!
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
16th seed, Tomas Berdych, made it 2 in 10 against Roger Federer, as he hopped on the Miami upset train to oust Federer 6-4, 6-7, 7-6, in the 4th round on Tuesday.
The Czech had only beaten Federer once in their previous 9 matches, when he eliminated the Swiss in the Athens Olympics in 2004. Berdych came close in Australia last year, when he was up 2 sets to love against Federer in the last 16, but still failed to seal the win.
Federer, who also lost early in Indian Wells last week, admitted that timing issues and lack of confidence have been the main reasons behind his sub-par performances on the American hardcourts this month.
"Look, it's no secret I've struggled the last, what is it, five matches I've played here in the States. It's disappointing... But I fought as much as I could under the understood circumstances with my game having issues at the moment. Definitely lack timing. I don't know where that comes from because I played so nicely in Australia."
"He's a good player, so I knew the danger coming in, especially with the timing issues I've had already the last couple weeks. But I thought I worked hard enough to iron those things out. Maybe I did. It was still the confidence lacking, and that's what kind of cost me these last two tournaments. "
"Look, I never felt great the whole night. I just fought with what I had. I knew it was gonna be a tough third set, because thank God he wasn't in too many of my service games in the second set, which made it a bit easier for me to relax and concentrate on the return games... But, look, I had tons of chances at the end. Match point was my serve, I mean, what more can I do? I tried everything I could. It's just not happening for me at the moment. "
Miami has now lost its top 3 seeds... Could Tsonga make it 4 tonight?
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
"I think about me, no? That's like a league, and every tournament is like another match. We will see what's happening end of the season, no? For me, every match is important. I try to do my best in every tournament, in every moment when I am on court. Well, for me, doesn't affect a lot if Murray or Djokovic is outside if I lose today."
-- Rafael Nadal responds to whether he cares that Djokovic and Murray have lost early in Miami.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Rafael Nadal, who is the second highest seed standing in the draw in Miami, overpowered David Nalbandian to reach the fourth round. After dropping a tight first set in an 18-point tiebreak, Nadal outclassed the Argentine to take the match 6-7 (10-8), 6-2, 6-2.
While other serious contenders like Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic have crashed out early in Miami, Nadal seems to be hitting top form as he managed to overcome an opponent he considers to be exceptionally dangerous.
"I know how well he [Nalbandian can] serve and how well he can play. Well, I know for sure, because, you know, the first two meetings against him how was, 62, 6 1, 6 4, 6 0 for him... So when you go another time on court against one player with this talent, you are always a little bit scared," said the fourth seed after the match.
"He's very complete player. Anyway, look, I'm very happy to see him back after important surgery. He's a close friend of mine. He is talent, no? He can play very easy. He can make very difficult things very easy... So, you know, when he's playing at his best level he makes you feel like you are nothing in the middle of the court, no? So I think it's strange that one player like David don't have a Grand Slam victory, because he has everything to win."
I love how Nadal held nothing back while praising Nalbandian. I mean for someone like Rafa to say that Nalbandian can make him feel like he is "nothing" on court... That's class!!
Here's a video of Rafa's post-match interview:
Nadal faces fellow Spaniard and Miami's 15th seed, David Ferrer, in the fourth round on Tuesday. The match is scheduled third from a 1pm start (Miami local time).
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
The Sony Ericsson Open never fails to deliver when it comes to pre-tournament entertainment. Yes, the whole players swimming with the dolphins thing has gotten pretty boring, but this year Ana Ivanovic and Novak Djokovic got to play mixed doubles with Spice Girl, Mel B, and singer/songwriter, Jay Sean, on center court, in an event named Glam Slam Match to promote the 2010 Sony Ericsson Open.
The Serbian beauty, Ana not Novak, and Jay Sean, beat Djokovic and Scary Spice, who certainly had no idea what she was doing. Too bad it seems like only 10 people showed up for the exhibition match... That promo plan certainly flopped!!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
So here are my random thoughts after the first Masters event of the season:
* Mario Ancic is finally back
The former world number 7 and one of G,S,M's personal favorites has graced us with his appearance on the ATP tour after slumming it for a bit in the Challengers and Futures events (no disrespect to either), as he makes an official return to tennis following rumors of him quitting the game and becoming a full-time lawyer. How horrible would that have been?!?! Lucky for us, Super Mario's days as a law intern seem to be over now and after his first ATP showing in 2010, the Croat has already moved up 253 rankings spots that landed him at 441. Ancic, who made it to the 3rd round at Indian Wells with victories over Bobby Reynolds and Julien Benneteau, before falling to Nadal, has a wild card for Miami, where he faces talented Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, in the first round.
* Nadal played some kickass tennis, yet dropped to number 4
Four incredible performances and one single flop in Indian Wells, earned Rafa a drop to number 4 in the world rankings (I blame the shorts, shame on you Nike). The Spaniard played some punishing tennis against Rainer Schuettler, Ancic, John Isner and Tomas Berdych, before he suffered what he called "an accident" against eventual champion, Ivan Ljubicic, in the semis. The good news for Rafanatics is that the forehand is as brutal as ever, the knees seem strong, and our beloved Nadal is upbeat about the future:
"The mental thing, I gonna do it well. I always was a winner. I was a very good competitor, and I gonna be very good competitor and winner another time, no?"
-- Nadal after losing to Ljubicic in the Indian Wells semifinals, before heading to the Masters event in Miami.
* Ljubicic enjoys new tennis highs at the age of 31
My first reaction to the Ljubicic - Roddick final was: "What is this, 2006?"
Naturally my first reaction to Ljubicic winning the whole thing was: "Wow, he really hadn't won a Masters Series title already?"
The former world number 3 said it himself:
¨There were times in 2005, 2006, when I really felt like I deserved one. Madrid, I was break up in the fifth against Rafa in the final. Tomas Berdych, Bercy, lost in five. Not really the one I lost in Miami to Roger. I mean, it was three tiebreaks, but he was dominating it... But, I mean, looking at my career, you know, in general, I did feel like, you know, I was missing it. It's really fantastic feeling to finally have it.¨
The Croat is back at number 13 in the world rankings and has become the oldest player to win a Masters title for the first time. Now I wanna know what Ljubicic has been eating to be able to serve like that all week? Good for him!!
* Jankovic mans up to win Indian Wells for the first time
Ok, seriously, who cares if she couldn't lift the trophy?? Jelena Jankovic overcame extreme heat and some tough conditions throughout the week to grab her maiden Indian Wells title. Her near-loss to Sara Errani in the 3rd round was what the Serb called "a wake up call" and indeed, following that match, Jankovic played the kind of tennis that saw her rise to number 1 in the world 2 years ago.
* Serving master Roddick commends Ljubicic's serve
From one serving machine to another, Indian Wells runner-up, Andy Roddick expressed his awe of Ljubicic's serving throughout the tournament.
"He served great. The last two days was an exhibition in how to on serving big points... I felt I had a lot more opportunities throughout the sets than he did, but he just served hugely. He had complete control over all four spots. You know, he hit em," said Roddick after the final.
Coming from Roddick, I think Ljubicic must feel like a serving god!!
* Tennis players finally discover social media
It's been a long time coming, and it's true that both Federer and Nadal have both been Facebookers for quite some time now, but more recently, many other players have hopped on the social media band wagon and are filling our news feeds and twitter pages with updates on their lives, some of which we truly appreciate, while others... well let's just say some athletes are better left unheard :)
Recent Facebook joiners include Marcos Baghdatis, Mario Ancic and Juan Monaco, while the Twitterverse has welcomed Baghdatis, Daniela Hantuchova, Gael Monfils,and Svetlana Kutznetsova to name a few.
* Rafa + Federer = Class Act; Agassi + Sampras = Not
I have to say the pettiness of the whole Agassi-Sampras debacle that took place during the Hit for Haiti before the tournament kicked off was really beneath both of them. I mean sure it gave the press something to talk about for several days, first the video of the awkward moment on court, then the reactions from Nadal and Federer, who obviously felt like leaving at that point, then Sampras acting like a victim and finally Agassi's apology.
I think what we can conclude from all this is that the contrast between a rivalry like that between Federer and Nadal, and that of any other former sports legends is humungous. The respect they bring to the game is just beautiful!! That's the word. And as for Sampras and Agassi... They seriously need to grow up!!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Video courtesy of Baghdatis' Official website
Former Australian Open finalist, Marcos Baghdatis, managed to snap a 0-6 losing record to Roger Federer by upsetting the world number one in the Indian Wells third round, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(4), on Tuesday.
"Seven is my lucky number," said Baghdatis to the crowd after beating the Swiss on their 7th encounter.
The Cypriot number 1, saved 3 match points en route to his incredible victory, and will next face Spain´s Tommy Robredo in the fourth round.
Baghdatis, whose ranking had slipped to as low as 151 mid last season and was playing challengers to improve his ranking until last October, is enjoying a decent comeback so far this season, which includes a title win in Sydney, a third round showing at the Australian Open and a semifinal appearance in Dubai (lost to Djokovic in 3).
The former world number 8, currently ranked at 33, expressed his delight following his win over Federer:
¨Don't know what to say...the biggest win in my career...I am so happy!¨ said Baghdatis on his twitter and facebook pages.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
The third and final day of the tie saw a switch in the line up from the Egyptian side as Egypt team captain Mostafa Naim Dalam opted for playing Mohamed Safwat instead of Karim Maamoun in the 4th rubber against Baghdatis. The 19-year-old was crushed by Baghdatis 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 which gave the Cypriots an unassailable 3-1 lead.
Egypt number 2, Sabry, won the dead rubber against Christopher Koutrouzas to give Egypt a consolation point with a thrashing 6-1, 6-0 victory.
Egypt will now have to play some play-off matches to ensure they stay in Group II and avoid relegation.
All in all, I think Egypt put up a decent fight. The doubles rubber was crucial and the scoreline shows that the first 2 sets were pretty tight. Baghdatis is back playing in lethal form this year and it was a tough task for the North Africans.
Cyrpus will now play Portugal in the second round.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Two singles rubbers took place yesterday where Egyptian number 1, Karim Maamoun took out Rares Cuzdriorean in straights, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 before former Australian Open finalist, Baghdatis leveled the tie for Cyprus by easing past Sherif Sabry 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.
Egyptian duo, Maamoun and Sabry will face Baghdatis and Photos Kallias in the doubles tie today to try and salvage another point for Egypt.
Best of luck to the Egyptian squad who have a hefty task ahead of them against a recently rejuvenated Baghdatis.