Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2010 Australian Open - First round wrap

So the men's first round matches have all been completed over the opening two days of the Australian Open and a lot has happened on and off court...

Surprises

The biggest surprise so far has been (no not the ball kid who peed himself and delayed a match) but 8th seed, Robin Soderling's five-set loss to Marcel Granollers of Spain. The French Open runner-up was considered a serious threat in the draw and his potential quarterfinal against Novak Djokovic was highly anticipated but instead, Soderling fell to world number 113, Granollers. Do all Spaniards hold a grudge against the Swede or what?! Well both Federer and Djokovic have Granollers to thank for taking care of Soderling for them.

On the women's side, Maria Sharapova, who won the Australian Open the last time she was in Melbourne, 2 years ago, crashed out to her compatriot and friend, Maria Kirilenko in three sets.

Non-surprises

Besides Soderling, all the big names have safely secured their second round spots, although some seeds needed more than three sets. US Open champion, Juan Martin Del Potro needed 4 sets to overcome American, Michael Russell, so did last year's Australian Open semifinalist, Fernando Verdasco, against local favorite, Carsten Ball. Even Federer dropped the first set against Igor Andreev but I wouldn't say the Swiss scraped through considering he grabbed the fourth set 6-0.

Latvian underachiever, Ernests Gulbis, disappointed once again as he fell easily to 30th seed, Juan Monaco in straights.

Comeback queens, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters both made smooth advances to the second round. Henin however has a tough task ahead of her as she faces Elena Dementieva in the second round. Talk about an unlucky draw!!

Revenge match


The last time 13th seed, Radek Stepanek, played the giant that is Ivo Karlovic, he fought off 78 aces from the towering Croat over a 6 hour match in the Davis Cup semis last year and managed to clinch the point for the Czech Republic, who eventually made it to the finals. This time Karlovic fired only 34 aces but he managed to upset Stepanek in 5 sets, as he moves on to face Julien Benneteau in the second round.

Quotes

Third seed and former champion, Novak Djokovic, when asked if it was realistic to say that there's maybe six or seven guys that could win the Australian Open this year:

"I agree. I think this is one of the most exciting Grand Slams in the last five or six years because of the reason you just said: You have a group of players that are able to lift the trophy in two weeks... Next of course two big favorites, Federer and Nadal. I think Murray, Del Potro, Roddick, and myself. Davydenko plays exceptionally well lately. Gonna be interesting for the fans and for the sport to see who will win it in the end."

Roger Federer on Fabrice Santoro, who made a sudden appearance at Melbourne this week after announcing his retirement last season:

"If I could pick a guy to play against, I would like to play against him. Every day I would pick him. He would try something different and I would try something different. We would almost allow each other to do that; whereas with other players you get tangled up in the same rallies. He's not the power player and he uses a lot touch. So obviously I have a lot of respect for everything he's done in our game."

Nikolay Davydenko when asked if his Masters Cup win has made him more of a celebrity:

"I hope not. Then is not so many like say celebrity guys. I am not Paris Hilton. I don't want to be like this. I don't want to be like Nadal, Federer. These guys I never see by breakfast. They stay in the room and take room service. For me better go downstairs, you know, take breakfast, or dinner to go somewhere, not to be so much famous."

Rafael Nadal when asked by the press for the 100th if he has lost weight:

"Can we bring scales tomorrow? Everybody ask me the same. If we bring something here, I gonna put... I have the same weight than last year. I weigh the same five years ago. I didn't change."

Hot second round matches to watch

Juan Martin Del Potro [4] vs James Blake
David Ferrer [17] vs Marcos Baghdatis
Marin Cilic [14] vs Bernard Tomic
Ana Ivanovic [20] vs Gisela Dulko
Justine Henin vs Elena Dementieva [5]
Flavia Pennetta [12] vs Yanina Wickmayer

Sunday, January 17, 2010

2010 Australian Open Draw Breakdown – For once Federer seems to have a tougher draw

Is it me or has 2009 just simply swooshed by? Cuz I swear last year’s Australian Open trophy ceremony featuring Federer’s waterworks seems just like yesterday.

Anyways the 2010 Australian Open kicks off on Monday and here’s what you need to know about the draw:
The Federer Quarter

This time last year, Federer was playing at the Australian Open as the number 2 seed for the first time in ages, but the Swiss managed to turn things around and now he’s back as Melbourne’s top seed.

First round opponent - Igor Andreev

The Russian can be dangerous at times despite the fact that he has dropped out of the world’s top 30 and is not seeded in Melbourne this year. The last time Andreev played Federer, he took the Swiss to 5 sets in the 2008 US Open 4th round. Andreev, who reached the third round at the Oz Open last year, has only played one single match so far this season when he lost to Leonardo Mayer in Sydney this past week.

First possible clash with a seed - Third round against Albert Montanes [31]

Possible fourth round opponents

2005 Australian Open finalist and home favorite, Lleyton Hewitt [22], David Ferrer [17], and 2010 Sydney champion and former Australian Open finalist, Marcos Baghdatis.

Possible quarterfinal opponents

2009 ATP World Tour finals champion and 2010 Doha champion, Nikolay Davydenko [6], 2009 Australian Open semifinalist and this year's Kooyong champion, Fernando Verdasco [9], Juan Carlos Ferrero [23] and Latvian talent, Ernests Gulbis.

Possible semifinal opponents

2008 Australian Open champion, Novak Djokovic [3], 2009 Roland Garros finalist, Robin Soderling [8] and 2008 Australian Open runner-up, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [10].

The reason Federer’s draw seems pretty daunting is because some of the players in his half of the draw have actually managed to beat him at least once over the last 12 months; like Davydenko who’s snapped his 12 match losing streak to Federer by beating the Swiss twice in a row, in the semifinals of the ATP World Tour finals and in the Qatar Open semifinals earlier this month. Soderling also beat Federer in the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi 2 weeks ago, while Djokovic has beaten him 3 times out of 5 last year. Tsonga also beat Federer the last time they played at the quarters of the Montreal Masters last year. So the world number one certainly has some tough hurdles to jump if he wants to reclaim that Australian Open trophy that has eluded him the last 2 years.

The Djokovic Quarter

The Serb sensation, who won the title in 2008 beating Federer in the semis and Tsonga in the finals, has not played any matches so far in 2010; but if the end of last season is any indication of how dangerous he is at the moment, then everyone should be more than scared, since Djokovic managed to win back-to-back titles in Basel and Paris, made the finals in Cincinnati and the semis at the US Open, all in the last 4 months of the season. The world number 3 is also in a great position to leapfrog Rafael Nadal in the rankings, if the Spaniard doesn’t do well in Melbourne this fortnight.

First round opponent – Daniel Gimeno-Traver

First possible clash with a seed – Third round against Jeremy Chardy [32]

Possible fourth round opponents


Tommy Robredo [16], Mikhail Youzhny [20] and Sydney finalist, Richard Gasquet.

Possible quarterfinal opponents

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga [10], Tommy Haas [18] and Robin Soderling [8].

The Del Potro Quarter

For the first time since August 2008, the top 4 seeds in a Grand Slam are not Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. A tall Argentine has intervened and has squeezed Murray out of the foursome just in time to get the number 4 seeding for the Australian Open; yes, Juan Martin Del Potro is in fact seeded fourth for the first time at a Grand Slam. The US Open champion has been the talk of the tennis world since his triumph over Federer in the US Open final and will now face his opponents in Melbourne from a very different position, a position that is of a Grand Slam champion!

First round opponent – Michael Russell

Possible second round opponents

James Blake
or Auckland finalist, and former Australian Open finalist, Arnaud Clement.

First possible clash with a seed – Third round against Viktor Troicki [29]

Possible fourth round opponents


Marin Cilic [14] and Stanislas Wawrinka [19].

Possible quarterfinal opponents

Brisbane champion, Andy Roddick [7], Tomas Berdych [21] and former Australian Open finalist, Fernando Gonzalez [11].

Possible semifinal opponents

Defending champion, Rafael Nadal [2] and Andy Murray [5].

The Nadal Quarter

The world number 2 returns to Melbourne for the first time as the defending champion. The Spaniard had mixed results in the second half of last season and admitted he wasn’t playing with much confidence nor was he at his best level, but after his Davis Cup triumph in December and some vigorous training, Nadal showed up in 2010 in some gruesome fashion. He won the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi beating Robin Soderling in the final and reached the Doha final where he fell to Davydenko in one of the best matches we’ve seen in a long time. From what we’ve seen of Nadal so far this season, the 23-year-old certainly seems ready to defend his title.

First round opponent – Australia’s Peter Luczak

First possible clash with a seed – Philipp Kohlschreiber [27]

Possible fourth round opponents

Radek Stepanek [13], Ivan Ljubicic [24] and Ivo Karlovic.

Possible quarterfinal opponents

Gael Monfils [12], Andy Murray [5] and Auckland champion, John Isner [33].

Possible semifinal opponents

Juan Martin Del Potro [4], Andy Roddick [7] and Marin Cilic [14].

Nadal’s path to the quarters seems smoother than Federer’s but come the quarterfinal stage, Nadal will certainly have mountains to climb if he wants to defend his title.

The second seed opens his title defense campaign on Monday at 7pm (Melbourne time) on Rod Laver Arena.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Davydenko, Nadal Rock Tennis World in Doha (Video highlights included)

In the first week of the 2008 season, Rafael Nadal played an epic match against his compatriot and good friend, Carlos Moya. The Chennai semifinal match lasted almost 4 hours and ended 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in Nadal's favor. And although the Spaniard went on to lose miserably to Mikhail Youzhny the next day in the final, that match was remembered throughout the season as one of the most entertaining and competitive clashes of 2008.

The same time in 2009, Nadal opened his season with another unforgettable performance; against Gael Monfils in the Doha quarterfinals. He lost to the Frenchman, but once again, the level of athleticism, competition and tennis was remarkable, and of course the match easily made the top 10 list for the 2009 season.

Last week was the 2010 season opener, and Rafael Nadal delivered once again. The world number two, together with Nikolay Davydenko, gave us a Saturday to remember as they both schooled us on what true competition really means.

The common denominator in all the matches mentioned above is obviously Rafael Nadal, but it certainly takes 2 players to produce such gripping encounters and I must say that Davydenko played some jaw-dropping tennis last Saturday (in fact throughout the whole tournament) as he beat Nadal despite losing the first set 6-0. It's one thing to beat Roger Federer in the semifinals 6-4, 6-4, and it's certainly another thing to come back against someone like Nadal having trailed 0-6 down and saving match points along the way.

Davydenko and Nadal played like they were contesting a Grand Slam final. I can only imagine their disappointment when they realized after the match that this was only an ATP 250 event. Both players hit every shot possibly conceivable in tennis... MORE THAN ONCE. If anything, this match just gives us a glimpse of what we can expect from both players this season. It is officially time for Davydenko to take this form into a Grand Slam and, for once, make it to the final.

As for the Rafa skeptics, I think they should rest now or unleash their skepticism onto someone else because the Australian Open defending champion has shown that, what does not kill him, can only make him stronger (and I'm not quoting Kanye, people have been saying that for the longest time ok?).

Less than one week till the Australian Open, people. Who else is super psyched?

For now, you can enjoy these highlights from the Doha final.
Davydenko d. Nadal 0-6, 7-6, 6-4