For the first time since Wimbledon 2012, all of the Big Four convene at the same tournament. We take a detailed look at a balanced Indian Wells ATP draw.
First quarter: Twice a champion at Indian Wells, Djokovic brings a perfect 2013 record to the desert following titles at the Australian Open and Dubai. Having faced Federer at neither tournament, he could face the Federer facsimile Grigor Dimitrov in the third round. While his one-handed backhand certainly spurs thoughts of the Swiss star, this young Bulgarian continues to alternate encouraging results (Brisbane final) with disappointing setbacks (first-round loss in Melbourne). The towering serve of Isner ultimately undid Djokovic in an Indian Wells semifinal last year, and Querrey’s similar game toppled him at the Paris Indoors last fall. Now the Serb can eye an opportunity for revenge in the fourth round, where he could meet the latter and will hope to stay mentally sturdier than he did against Isner here. A higher-ranked potential opponent does loom in Juan Monaco, but the world #14 has not won a match this year outside the Davis Cup as injuries have sapped his confidence. Among the intriguing first-round matches in this section is serving leviathan Karlovic against future American star and forehand howitzer Jack Sock.
Winless against the top eight from the start of 2012 until last month, Tsonga may have gained confidence from finally snapping that skid against Berdych in the Marseille final. On the other hand, he also lost immediately in Rotterdam to an unheralded opponent and thus still seems less trustworthy than most of those ranked around him. Rarely has he made an impact on Indian Wells, outside a near-upset over Nadal in 2008, but his draw looks accommodating through the first few rounds. Returning American Mardy Fish, a former finalist here, surely cannot sustain the level of tennis necessary to discomfit Tsonga at this stage of his comeback if they meet in the third round. In the opposite side of this eighth lies Milos Raonic, tasked with outslugging the more balanced but less intimidating Marin Cilic in the third round. Lesser players of note in this area include French serve-volleyer Michael Llodra, who upset Tsonga in Dubai, and Vina del Mar champion Horacio Zeballos, who has not won a match since stunning Nadal there. Although Tsonga obtained considerable success early in his career, his results against him have tapered so sharply of late that one might think Raonic the sterner test for the Serb.
Second quarter: Assigned probably the smoothest route of any top-four man, Murray cannot expect much resistance at a tournament where he reached the final four years ago. Nevertheless, early losses to Donald Young and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in his last two appearances illustrated the Scot’s struggle to recover from his annual late-round disappointment in Australia. Murray will want to bounce back more smoothly this time on a slow hard court that suits his counterpunching so well. Looming in the fourth round is Memphis champion Kei Nishikori, who faces a potentially edgy opening test in Tursunov. Resuscitating his career in February, the Russian reached the Marseille semifinals as a qualifier and qualified for this draw as well. The mercurial Dolgopolov, the second-most notable player whom Murray could face in the fourth round, has floundered throughout 2013 and probably lacks the steadiness to threaten either Murray or Nishikori.
Of all the seeds whom he could have faced in the third round, Del Potro surely would have wished to avoid Australian Open nemesis Jeremy Chardy. The Frenchman receded into obscurity again after reaching the quarterfinals there, but he may hold the mental edge over Del Potro should each win his opener. Not since his first appearance in the desert five years ago, though, has the Tower of Tandil tumbled to anyone other than Federer or Nadal, and he has taken care of business against lower-ranked players with impressive consistency over the last year. One of the most compelling third rounds in the men’s draw could pit Almagro against Haas in a clash of exquisite one-handed backhands and volatile shot-making arsenals. The eleventh-seeded Spaniard has produced an early 2013 campaign inspiring and deflating in equal measure, but his Australian Open quarterfinal (nearly a semifinal) reminded viewers what a threat he can pose away from clay with his underrated serve. Accustomed to wearing down mentally dubious opponents, Murray should handle either Almagro or Haas with ease, and he compiled a flawless hard-court record against Del Potro even during the latter’s 2009 heights.
Third quarter: The section without any member of the Big Four often offers the most notable storylines of the early rounds, although Ferrer succeeded in living up to his top-four seed at both of the majors where he has held it. Never at his best in the desert, however, he may find his transition from clay to hard courts complicated by the two towering servers whom he could face at the outset in Kevin Anderson and Igor Sijsling. The latter upset Tsonga and nearly Cilic last month, while the former started the year impressively by reaching the second week of the Australian Open before injury sidelined him. Curiously, the fourth round might hold a less formidable test for Ferrer because his grinding game matches up more effectively to the two seeds projected there, Simon or Kohlschreiber. The quirky Benoit Paire and the lanky lefty from Luxembourg, Gilles Muller, add some individuality to an otherwise monochrome section, as does the invariably entertaining but terminally fading Verdasco.
Berdych may loom above the opposite eighth, considering his two February finals in strong fields at Marseille and Dubai. But an equally intriuging storyline may come from Jerzy Janowicz, still attempting to find his footing in the crucial post-breakthrough period when players encounter scrutiny for which they are not yet prepared. The next several months could prove critical for Janowicz in consolidating his seeded status, and he will deserve credit if he emerges from a neighborhood filled with diverse talent. Nalbandian could await in his opener, and the trio of Bellucci, Tomic, and Gasquet will vie for the right to face the Pole in the third round. Twice a titlist in 2013 already, the last of that trio has retained his top-ten ranking for a long time without scording a signature victory. Such a win could come in the quarterfinals if he can solve Berdych, unlikely to expend much energy before that stage against the likes of Troicki and Florian Mayer. The heavier serve of the Czech should propel him through on a hard court, though, as it should against a fourth seed who has not played as crisply this year as his results suggest.
Fourth quarter: Defending champion Federer can anticipate his first quarterfinal meeting with archrival Nadal in the history of their rivalry, but a few obstacles await before then. Like Del Potro, the second seed probably drew the least auspicious third-round opponent imaginable in Benneteau, who nearly upset him at Wimbledon last year and succeeded in finishing the job at Rotterdam last month. Federer obtained avenge for a February 2012 setback against Isner at Indian Wells a month later, so he can seek similar revenge this year. A rematch of last year’s final beckons against Isner himself in the fourth round, although little about the American’s recent form can infuse his fans with confidence that he even can reach that stage. Much more consistent this year is Stanislas Wawrinka, the Swiss #2 who played the most thrilling match of the Australian Open against Djokovic and backed it up with a February final. This section also features the most curious match on Thursday, an encounter between the battered Hewitt and the one-match wonder Lukas Rosol that should offer a clash of playing styles and personalities. Despite falling short of the final in his first three tournaments, Federer looks fully capable of sealing his side of the rendezvous with Nadal.
Not in much greater doubt is Rafa’s side of that appointment, for he could face no opponent more intimidating that Tipsarevic through the first four rounds. Young American Ryan Harrison looks set to become Nadal’s first hard-court opponent of 2013 (exhibitions aside), and his woeful results of the last several months intersect with a non-competitive effort against Djokovic in Melbourne to suggest a lack of confidence fatal here. While Youzhny has enjoyed several successes and near-successes against the Spaniard before, the Russian has left his prime several years behind him and lacks the power to outhit him for a full match. Hampered by injuries recently, the ninth-seeded Tipsarevic never has tested Nadal in their previous meetings and should count himself lucky to reach that projected meeting. The Serb’s current four-match losing streak could reach five in an opener against lefty serve-volleyer Feliciano Lopez or Delray Beach champion Gulbis, who carries a ten-match winning streak of his own. Either the winner of that first-round meeting or the unpredictable Baghdatis seems a safer bet than Tipsarevic to meet Nadal one match before Federer. Afterwards, the Swiss should repeat his victory in their semifinal last year.
Check out the companion piece that we wrote yesterday to preview the women’s draw if you enjoyed this article.
Each Monday morning, I will break down ATP and WTA draws quarter by quarter with a prediction of who may meet in the final and perhaps the semifinals. Fans can look forward this week to three ATP 250 tournaments in Montpellier, Zagreb, and Vina del Mar. The most significant storyline concerns the highly anticipated return of Rafael Nadal in the last of those events, but the other two merit the attention of dedicated fans too.
Montpellier: After a weekend satisfying but exhausting, Berdych travels from a Davis Cup tie in Switzerland to neighboring France and one of his most productive surfaces: an indoor hard court. Clearly the best player in his half and probably the best in the tournament, the top seed might face an intriguing quarterfinal test in Nikolay Davydenko, also proficient on this surface. A champion in Doha last month, the Russian owns a stunning 9-2 record against the Czech. But most of Davydenko’s success comes from before 2010, the year when his decline and Berdych’s breakthrough began. The greatest pre-semifinal obstacle for the top seed probably lies in his ability to recover from the longest match in Davis Cup history, which spanned a remarkable 422 minutes.
As one would expect in a draw littered with Frenchmen (10 of the 24 direct entrants), the home crowd should find plenty of reasons to cheer. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the second quarter, where Gasquet could meet Monfils in the second round. Both men shone at the Australian Open by their standards, as did occasional upset threat Julien Benneteau. While all of these French stars have faltered on home soil at times, they also can point to notable achievements from Gael’s two appearances in the Paris Masters final to Julien’s upset of Federer at the same event. Like that doubles specialist, the third-seeded Gasquet will bring momentum from a commanding Davis Cup effort on French soil.
Less impressive is the lower half of the draw, spearheaded in the third quarter by Gilles Simon. The fourth seed shares Gasquet’s task of surmounting the compatriots scattered around him. A group that features Benoit Paire, Adrian Mannarino, and Paul-Henri Mathieu includes no challenger of a competitive will comparable to Simon. This Frenchman’s first real test should come in the semifinals against the winner of a tantalizing all-Serbian quarterfinal.
While the second-seeded Tipsarevic has produced much better tennis than Troicki lately, the former arrives from an injury and the latter from a fine Davis Cup performance in Belgium. In a small, fervently patriotic nation like Serbia, rivalries among compatriots can prove more tightly contested than their relative talents would suggest. Hoping to disrupt that projected clash, the aging Michael Llodra seeks to rekindle his former magic from the Paris Indoors with a net-rushing style that reaps rewards on these courts. If Tipsarevic does advance, he will need to reverse a poor history against Simon, not an easy task in view of his unimpressive recent form.
Final: Gasquet vs. Simon
Zagreb: Twice a titlist at his home tournament, top-ranked Croat Marin Cilic has started to knock on the door of the top ten again after an encouraging campaign in the second half of 2012. He holds the top seed in a draw that features several rising stars from the region, including Blaz Kavcic and Aljaz Bedene. The former reached the third round of a major for the first time at the Australian Open in the wake of a five-set, five-hour marathon, while the latter reached a semifinal in Chennai by defeating Wawrinka (more impressive in retrospect) and winning a set from Tipsarevic. If the winner can survive the mercurial Marcos Baghdatis, an exciting quarterfinal with Cilic would beckon.
Among the most notable figures in the second quarter is seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, assigned a difficult opening assignment against serving leviathan Ivo Karlovic. The young player popularly likened to Federer endured a January of extremes that lurched from his first career final in Brisbane to a first-round exit in straight sets at the Australian Open. Beyond Karlovic, another local threat in Ivan Dodig would unleash his first-strike power against the maturing Dimitrov, which should test his focus. The third-seeded Mikhail Youzhny, well past his prime, looks less intimidating in a quarterfinal that could showcase two elegant one-handed backhands.
Another aging veteran in lefty Jurgen Melzer holds the fourth seed in a tournament near his native Austria, where he will attempt to raise his level from an unimpressive Davis Cup display in Kazakhstan. Explosive upset artist Lukas Rosol might test him in the quarterfinals should he survive another Lukas, the eighth-seeded Lacko. The latter Lukas nearly upset Tipsarevic at the Australian Open, so he may fancy his chances against the Czech Lukas or a Polish Lukasz (Kubot), better known in doubles but dangerous in singles with his pinpoint serves and returns.
The bottom quarter may hold the least interest for local fans, since the only Croats received wildcards to compensate for their low rankings. But its two seeds, Martin Klizan and Andreas Seppi, enjoyed their best seasons to date in 2012. Seppi in particular has hinted at building upon that momentum in 2013 by reaching the second week in Melbourne, although this surface does not much suit his patient style.
Final: Cilic vs. Melzer
Vina del Mar: The toast of Chile when he arrived last week, Nadal celebrated his return to professional competition after a six-month absence by basking in a ceremonial welcome from the nation’s president and noted tennis stars. Fans throughout the world, even those who never especially admired him, should welcome the return of a warrior whose presence injects much more intrigue into the ATP elite. While Nadal probably will not find his finest form immediately, he may not need to find it here to win a title on the clay that he relishes so deeply. Nobody in his quarter should muster the nerve to contemplate stopping the Spaniard, including compatriot Daniel Gimeno-Traver and home hope Nicolas Massu, a former Olympic gold medalist.
The only clay tournament in a week otherwise spent on indoor hard courts, Vina del Mar has attracted a host of players from South America and the Mediterranean. Australian Open quarterfinalist Jeremy Chardy will seek to shift his momentum from hard courts to clay, a surface that could reward his asymmetrical baseline game but not his preference for shortening points in the forecourt. The third seed in Chile, this Frenchman might encounter veteran Spaniard and clay specialist Tommy Robredo in the quarterfinals. Or perhaps Chardy will meet Lorenzi, who once nearly upset Nadal in Rome.
Often neglected among Spanish men, fourth-seeded Pablo Andujar occasionally drifts within range of an ardent fan’s radar during the clay season. This week, he could collide with a compatriot ranked just six slots below him in Albert Ramos, who looked rather crisp at the Australian Open in a five-set loss to Baghdatis. South Americans Rogerio Dutra Silva, Leonardo Mayer, and Horacio Zeballos add some local interest without heightening the level of competition significantly.
Like his fellow second seed Seppi in Zagreb, world #12 Juan Monaco produced a season far more productive last year than any before it. A veteran clay specialist, he notched his greatest success last year on hard courts, where he reached the Miami semifinal. But he regained his groove on his favorite surface while contributing to Argentina’s Davis Cup victory over Germany this weekend, and he often has excelled during the February South American clay swing. Fellow Argentine Carlos Berlocq, known as the worst server in the top 100, should pose little threat in a weak section. Can Monaco test Nadal in the final, as he has Djokovic and Murray on clay? We will know better once the tournament unfolds.
Final: Nadal vs. Monaco
I will return on Friday morning to look at the first round of Fed Cup. Ahead on next Monday are previews of ATP events in Rotterdam, San Jose, and Sao Paulo, in addition to a more detailed preview of the WTA Premier Five tournament in Doha.
Eight first-round Davis Cup ties unfold around the world this weekend. We discuss the key players and themes that might emerge from each of them.
Canada vs. Spain: Without any of their top three men, Davis Cup Goliath Spain finds itself at a surprising disadvantage when it travels to the western coast of North America. Had either Nadal or Ferrer participated in this tie against Canada, the visitors would remain heavy favorites even against a squad spearheaded by Milos Raonic and aging doubles star Daniel Nestor. Instead, Canada now can rely on two victories from their singles #1 against the overmatched pair of Marcel Granollers and Albert Ramos, forcing Spain to sweep the remaining three matches. Among those is a doubles rubber that pits Nestor against World Tour Finals champions Granollers and Marc Lopez, who lost three of their four Davis Cup doubles rubbers last year. If the tie reaches a live fifth rubber, as seems plausible, Spanish champion Alex Corretja might consider substituting Guillermo Garcia-Lopez for Ramos against the net-rushing Frank Dancevic. Buoyed by their home crowd, though, Canada should find a way to snatch one of the three non-Raonic rubbers and send Spain to the playoff round for the first time in recent memory.
Italy vs. Croatia: This tie should hinge on home-court advantage and the choice of ground that it entails. On a fast hard court, the formidable serves of Marin Cilic and Ivan Dodig would stifle the less imposing firepower of the Italians. But Croatia faces Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini on the red clay of Turin, a slow surface where the superior consistency of the hosts should lead them to victory. The visitors will face the intriguing choice of whether to substitute their singles stars on Saturday for a doubles pairing almost certainly doomed to defeat. Three straight days of best-of-five matches for Cilic, Dodig, or both would leave them even more vulnerable to the Italian war of attrition, though. At any rate, the contrast of styles between the fearless first strikes of the Croats and the patient baseline rallying of the Italians should provide entertaining viewing.
Belgium vs. Serbia: One might see Djokovic’s name on the schedule and automatically checking off the “Serbia” box, but a few flickers of doubt persist. First, the Australian Open champion may have arrived physically and mentally drained from his recent exploits, and he has struggled against Friday opponent Olivier Rochus throughout his career. Breaking from a long history of Davis Cup participation, Serbian #2 Janko Tipsarevic cannot step into the breach if Djokovic falters. That duty lies in the suspect hands of Viktor Troicki, who endured a miserable 2012, and in the aging hands of Nenad Zimonjic, well past his prime despite his many accomplishments. Serbia thus might find itself in real trouble if they played a team with a notable talent, like Canada. With just the 32-year-old Rochus and the volatile but unreliable David Goffin barring their path, however, they should advance even if their stars underperform.
USA vs. Brazil: Tennis Grandstand will feature more detailed coverage of this tie over the weekend. For the moment, we will note that Team USA stands in promising position with two serving leviathans on an indoor hard court, complemented by the reigning Australian Open doubles champions. While Isner did not win a match in January as he struggled with a knee injury, and Querrey did not impress in Melbourne, both should steamroll the harmless Brazilian #2 Thiago Alves. In the best-case scenario for Brazil, which would feature two victories for their #1 Bellucci, their doubles duo of Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares still should fall short against the Bryans. All of these Americans have played some of their best tennis on home soil and in Davis Cup, including on less friendly surfaces, whereas Brazil has accomplished little of note in this competition recently.
France vs. Israel: Across from one team that often proves less than the sum of its talents in Davis Cup stands a team that typically overperforms expectations at the national level. Whereas France will bring two members of the top 10 to this tie, Israel can claim no top-100 threat in singles. The fast indoor hard court should allow the offensive might of Tsonga to overwhelm Dudi Sela and Amir Weintraub, although the latter has developed into a more credible threat over the last several months. In a tantalizing doubles rubber, a battle of all-stars pits Jonathan Ehrlich and Andy Ram against Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra. Underdogs in every singles rubber and arguably the doubles too, Israel can hope for an upset only if Gasquet crumbles under the pressure of playing for national pride on home soil as he has so infamously before. Otherwise, the talent gap simply looms too large.
Argentina vs. Germany: Perhaps the most tightly contested tie, this battle on outdoor red clay will unfold in the absence of Del Potro, who would have given the home squad a clear edge. While Argentina will field a squad of clay specialists, leading Germans Philipp Kohlschreiber and Florian Mayer have acquitted themselves well on the surafce and should not find themselves at a disadvantage parallel to Croatia in Italy. Much rests on the shoulders of Juan Monaco, tasked with avoiding the daunting 0-2 deficit after Kohlschreiber likely opens the tie by dismissing Carlos Berlocq. The top Argentine here enjoyed his best season to date last year but did not start 2013 especially well. Lurking in the shadows, as he so often does, is long-time Argentine Davis Cup hero David Nalbandian. Argentina will hope that Nalbandian’s contribution in doubles on Saturday will combine with two Monaco victories to give them the points that they need without reaching a live fifth rubber. There, one would favor Mayer to overcome both Berlocq and the Argentine crowd.
Pick: Er, Argentina?
Kazakhstan vs. Austria: In a tie without a singles star of note, the opportunity beckons for someone to seize the spotlight in a way that he could not at a major. The most likely candidate to do so would seem Austrian #1 Jurgen Melzer, the only top-100 singles player on either side. His opponents can produce better tennis than their current rankings suggest, though, and Andrey Golubev already has started the tie in promising fashion with a straight-sets victory over Andreas Haider-Maurer. The doubles edge probably belongs to Austria with the greater expertise of Alexander Peya and Julian Knowle, specialists who will allow the 31-year-old Melzer to rest for Sunday. Excluded from the initial lineup is top-ranked Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin, whose absence will force #211 Evgeny Korolev to win a best-of-five match for the hosts to survive.
Switzerland vs. Czech Republic: While Tomas Berdych is the highest-ranked man in this clash between nearby nations, the most intriguing role goes to opposing #1 Stanislas Wawrinka. After he came far closer than anyone to toppling Djokovic at the Australian Open, the latter may suffer a hangover in a competition where he has struggled lately. Moreover, Switzerland leans on Wawrinka to win both of his singles matches and contribute to a doubles victory on the intervening day, an enormous challenge for the sternest of competitors when the last of those matches involves Berdych. The Czech Republic will not enlist the services of Radek Stepanek, a rare absentee this weekend like Tipsarevic, but singles #2 Lukas Rosol intimidates much more than anyone that Switzerland can throw at him. In the Federer/Wawrinka era, no Swiss team ever has presented the united front that the defending champions have behind Berdych. The medium-slow hard court should not trouble the broad-shouldered world #6 unduly.
Pick: Czech Republic
Looking for a jumbo preview of the Australian Open men’s draw that breaks down each section of the brackets? Look no further. We take one quarter at a time in tracing the route of each leading contender, locating the most intriguing matches, projecting the semifinalists, and identifying one notable player to watch in each section.
First quarter: Seeking the first men’s three-peat Down Under of the Open era, Djokovic will want to conserve his energy during the first week and probably will. Although rising American star Ryan Harrison could threaten briefly in the second round, he lacks the experience to test the Serb in a best-of-five format, while potential third-round opponent Stepanek lacks the consistency to do so as his career wanes. Among the other figures of note in this vicinity are two resurgent Americans in Querrey and Baker, destined to meet in the second round. The winner may fancy his chances against Wawrinka, more comfortable on clay, and Querrey in particular could bring confidence from his upset of Djokovic in Paris to another clash with the Serb when the second week starts.
The quarter’s lower section features several men who share Wawrinka’s affinity for clay, such as Monaco and Verdasco. While the Spaniard’s career has sagged over the past year or two, the Argentine enjoyed his best season to date in 2012 as he reached the top ten for the first time. His reward lies in a clear route to the second week and an appointment with the enigmatic Berdych. Always susceptible to ebbs and flows, the world #6 ended last season optimistically with a semifinal at the US Open, where he upset Federer. But then Berdych started this season miserably by falling in Chennai to an opponent outside the top 50. He has won just one of his twelve career meetings with Djokovic, although the only victory came in one of their most important matches: a Wimbledon semifinal. While Berdych’s route to the quarterfinals looks comfortable, then, only a superb serving performance can shield him from the Serb’s more balanced array of weapons when he arrives there.
Player to watch: Querrey
Second quarter: The only section without a clear favorite proliferates with question marks but also with talent and intriguing narratives. In the draw’s most notable first-round match, Hewitt will open his 17th Australian Open campaign against the eighth-seeded Tipsarevic. A mismatch on paper, this encounter could develop into one of the late-night thrillers that have become a Melbourne tradition, and the home crowd might lift their Aussie to an improbable victory over an opponent less untouchable than those ranked above him. Other storylines include the apparent emergence of Grigor Dimitrov, previously familiar only for his facsimile of Federer’s playing style but now a Brisbane finalist. While the Bulgarian never has reached the third round of a major, his recent accomplishments and his desire to impress romantic interest Maria Sharapova might inspire him. He faces a challenging initial test against Benneteau, who fell just short of his second straight Sydney final.
Awarded his first seed in the main draw of a major, Jerzy Janowicz looks to continue his momentum from last fall when he reached the final at the Paris Masters 1000 tournament. Unlike Dimitrov, his route through the first round or two looks clear, and projected third-round opponent Almagro does not pose an insurmountable obstacle. Unless Janowicz improves upon his January efforts so far, however, Almagro can look ahead to the second week and perhaps even a quarterfinal against compatriot Ferrer. The highest seed in this section, the latter Spaniard will reach the top four after the tournament no matter his result. His fitness should carry him past erratic opponents like Baghdatis or Youzhny, although the titanic serve of Karlovic has troubled him before and merits watching in their second-round match. Having recorded multiple victories over Ferrer on marquee stages, Nishikori poses his most convincing pre-quarterfinal threat. But he has struggled with injury recently and may prove no better able to grind past the Spaniard in the heat than Almagro, who never has defeated him. If Tipsarevic reaches the quarterfinals, on the other hand, he will aim to reverse the outcome of their US Open quarterfinal last year, which he lost to Ferrer in a fifth-set tiebreak.
Player to watch: Dimitrov
Third quarter: Never has a man won his second major immediately after winning his first. Never, however, in the Open era had a British man won any major at all, so this bit of history should not intimidate the reigning US Open champion. Murray will start his campaign by reprising an odd encounter with Robin Haase at the 2011 US Open, which he rallied to win in five sets after losing the first two. The lanky Dutchman behind him, he will face nobody over the next few rounds with the firepower to discomfit him over this extended format. Throughout his section lie counterpunchers like Simon or Robredo or tactically limited players like Mayer and Stakhovsky. The two exceptions who could threaten Murray will meet in the first round. Reviving his career with solid results in Doha and Auckland, Monfils will pit his momentum against fellow showman Dolgopolov in a match likely to showcase plenty of electrifying shot-making.
Perhaps of more interest is the route traced by Del Potro, the most likely title contender outside the top three seeds. In the second round, the Tower of Tandil could meet surprising Slovakian Aljaz Bedene, who reached the Chennai semifinals to start the year and nearly upset Tipsarevic there. Owning more than enough weapons to dispatch the passive baseliner Granollers afterwards, Del Potro would open the second week against Marin Cilic. The Croat developed around the same time as the Argentine and honed a similar playing style to complement his similar physique. But Cilic has disappointed those who anointed him a future major champion and top-10 fixture, appearing to content himself with a lesser level of accomplishment. He must brace himself for an opening battle against home hope Marinko Matosevic, who took him to five sets in New York last fall. If Del Potro can reverse his 2009 loss to Cilic in that projected fourth-round encounter, he also must halt his winless hard-court record against Murray. The task does not loom as large as it might appear, for he has won sets in all four of those matches.
Player to watch: Del Potro
Fourth quarter: What a pity that leading Aussie hope Bernard Tomic can play only two rounds before descending into the maw of the GOAT, as he did in the fourth round here last year. All the same, Tomic will have the opportunity to knock off a seeded opponent in Martin Klizan while praying for a miracle from Federer’s second-round opponent, Nikolay Davydenko. (Those who saw their match at the 2010 Australian Open will remember how impressive the Russian looked against the Swiss—for a set and a half, after which he utterly collapsed.) Perhaps more formidable than the momentum of Tomic is the mighty serve of Milos Raonic, which nearly toppled Federer three times last year. In each of their matches, Federer managed to win the crucial handful of points late in final sets, but can he continue to escape so narrowly? The younger man cannot look too far ahead too soon, however, for a second-round match against Lukas Rosol lurks, and everyone knows what Rosol has done in the second round of majors.
Winless against top-eight opponents in 2012, former finalist Tsonga hopes to turn over a new leaf in 2013. To snap that streak, though, he must survive the early stages of the tournament against dangerous lurkers like Llodra and Bellucci. Tsonga has struggled at times against compatriots and has a losing career record against Gasquet, his projected fourth-round opponent. Fresh from his title in Doha, the world #10 never has plowed deep into the Australian draw and may not benefit this time from the weak first-week slates that he received at majors last year. Eyeing a possible upset is Haas, another artist of the one-handed backhand who has collaborated with Gasquet on memorable matches before. But the question remains whether any of these men currently can compete with Federer across a best-of-five match, and the answer seems clear.
Player to watch: Tomic
Final: Djokovic vs. Murray
Champion: Novak Djokovic
Come back tomorrow for the women’s preview, designed with the same level of detail!
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
During the weekend there were Davis Cup matches taking place all around the globe. Some countries were fighting to stay in their world group category; others were fighting for a place in the final of the Davis Cup. In Gijon, Spain, the home country favourites took on the USA and booked their place in the final despite a comeback attempt from the Bryan brothers on Saturday where they won their 5-set thriller to keep the USA’s hopes alive. By Sunday, their dream was crushed after David Ferrer defeated American, John Isner, in their encounter after a fairly straightforward 4 sets victory.
The question on their lips afterwards was, where would Spain be playing and whom will they face in the final? Spain had to wait to see the outcome of the other semifinal between Argentina and the Czech Republic and what a weekend of thrilling matches that was for both countries and that for me, was the standout Davis Cup tie of the weekend. The Czech Republic made it through after another nail-biting match by Czech hero, Tomas Berdych and he proved himself to be an impressive and formidable player that weekend. Here are the top reasons why Berdych should be very satisfied with his imposing performances over the weekend:
Fighting against fatigue
Coming into the Davis Cup semifinal in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Berdych had admitted that it was going to be a big last minute adjustment to get use to the clay again after the hard courts of New York and he like many other players who were competing in the Davis Cup, was also feeling the effects of a long summer on the courts. Berdych reached the fourth round in the ATP Masters 1000 events in Toronto, Cincinnati, he was a runner-up in the last event before the US Open at Winston Salem and then progressed to the semifinals in New York defeating Roger Federer en route, before losing to eventual champion Andy Murray. Coming into the tie, many questioned his physical condition, but despite the 4-hours he spent on court against Mónaco, 2-hours and 30 minutes in his doubles match and a further 2-hours and 30 minutes on Sunday, he fought against his weariness to win all three matches.
The Argentinean home crowd was fantastic, animated, loyal and very involved. Drums were banging, trumpets were played and the crowd was creating enough noise to resemble that of a football match. Every point that was won by an Argentinean player was celebrated as though they had won the match and in each of those matches, it was Berdych who had to face the crowd. The Czech player was extremely impressive having kept his cool during every battle and he did not let the crowd interrupt his flow or concentration of the game. Even as Berdych was winning his matches, making an astounding comeback against Juan Mónaco and he kept Charly Berlocq at bay, the increasingly hostile crowds who cheered when he netted a ball or jeered when he questioned a call were still unable to break him. That is the beauty of Davis Cup and no doubt he will be pleased that the final will take place on his home soil and this time the crowd will be cheering him on!
Three days, three matches, three victories
Originally, Tomas Berdych was only suppose to play in the singles and reverse singles initially, but after his win against Juan Mónaco, their tie was leveled at one point a piece and many began to wonder if he would also feature in the doubles to try and seal the third and valuable point to give the Czech Republic the advantage at 2-1 and surprise, surprise, he did. Berdych paired up with Radek Stepanek who also featured on Friday in the singles match against Juan Martin Del Potro, to win their doubles encounter on Saturday. After their Davis Cup semifinal victory, Tomas Berdych was understandably proud that he had won all three matches that he had played in to secure the win for his country.
Keeping his cool
During all three matches, there was not one occasion when Tomas Berdych lost his cool on the tennis court with himself, his opponent or with the crowd, which he has been known for in the past. For me, there was an occasion when I held my breath and thought that now is the time when Berdych will become angry during his match on Sunday against Berlocq as the umpire, James Keothavong, addressed the Czech crowd in English at 5-3, a pivotal time during the match, asking them to be quiet and respectful during play. The Czech crowd was clearly the minority and the laughable request did not even make Berdych flicker with surprise or rage, he simply adjusted his hat and continued play, not allowing the demand to affect him. This was impressive given the absurdity of the call as he served out for the set regardless.
On Monday, it was Tomas Berdych’s 27th birthday and no doubt for him it was an extra special celebration with his family, friends, team and compatriots after securing all three points for the Czech Republic and along with Radek Stepanek, he contributed enormously to booking their place in the final in November.
By Romi Cvitkovic
Admit it. We’ve all dabbled in a tennis quiz or two in our lifetime before. Whether it was testing our knowledge of grunting, tennis trivia or past grand slam champions, we’ve all laughed at our wrong answers and marveled at the right ones.
Well, here’s a new quiz to test your skills on.
We know you know your tennis. But how well can you recognize the top professional male and female tennis players based solely on their various body parts? That’s right: arms, legs, mouths, abs, thighs and tushes. Yes, I just used the word ‘tushes.’ Get over it.
Warning: Not for the weak in tennis. Click the START button below to begin. (You will get a chance to review your results at the end.)
All photos taken from the 2012 U.S. Open.
Celebrities and fellow tennis players swarmed to Twitter to give their congratulations to tennis’ newest Slam winner, Andy Murray as he defeated Novak Djokovic in a nearly five hour championship match.
Congratulations, Andy! You are a true fighter and champion!
Have a look at the warm wishes below from players like Juan Monaco, Andre Agassi, Sabine Lisicki,Victoria Azarenka and Ross Hutchins and celebrities like Russell Crowe, Pau Gasol, Ewan McGregor, Rory McIlroy, Piers Morgan and Mario Andretti!
Brother of Andy Murray:
What a historic night! Tonight Andy achieved his dream. He got the result his talent dedication and perseverance deserved. So proud of him.
— Jamie Murray (@jamie_murray) September 11, 2012
Coach of Roger Federer:
Congratulations Andy Murray a great effort and a war of a match- enjoy the win !
— Paul Annacone (@paul_annacone) September 11, 2012
Novak Djokovic’s hitting partner:
— DUŠAN VEMIĆ (@dusanVemic) September 11, 2012
Former ATP pro:
Well deserved…Congratulations to the #USOPEN Champion Andy Murray!!!
— Andre Agassi (@AndreAgassi) September 11, 2012
Former WTA player:
@andy_murray won this match in Melbourne when he came so close and didnt truly believe! tonight he believed! very happy for him and his team
— rennae stubbs (@rennaestubbs) September 11, 2012
Former coach of Andy Murray and current ESPN commentator:
What a close from the muzzard that was and epic final major props to the guys a pleasure to watch
— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) September 11, 2012
Former ATP pro and current Tennis Channel commentator:
— Justin Gimelstob (@justingimelstob) September 11, 2012
Former ATP pro and current ESPN commentator:
— Patrick McEnroe (@PatrickMcEnroe) September 11, 2012
Former ATP pro and current tennis commentator:
Murray has done it !!!
— Boris Becker (@TheBorisBecker) September 11, 2012
Congrats to @andy_murray! First of quite a few Slams, IMO. Well earned. His joy and relief evident. Even Lendl was hugging people!
— Chris Fowler (@cbfowler) September 11, 2012
Fellow tennis players:
@andy_murray well done Andy! really happy for u! well done to all ur team as well
— victoria azarenka (@vika7) September 11, 2012
— Juan Monaco (@picomonaco) September 11, 2012
I am SO pumped for Andy Murray!! Wow! Love the Joker but it was Andy's time… Gutsy performance by both players! GB has to be proud!!
— Bethanie MattekSands (@BMATTEK) September 11, 2012
Congrats to @andy_murray to achieve his first Grand Slam! He and Nole has been played a great US Open final, both deserved to win.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) September 11, 2012
Incredible, amzaing, unbelievable!!!!! Soooo happy for him, deserves everything
— Ross Hutchins (@RoscoHutchins) September 11, 2012
Us Open Champion Andy Murray. So happy for him. #proud
— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) September 11, 2012
Great job @Andy_Murray! Incredible improvement this year! Still need to work on your emotions after winning:) Smiling and jumping would do:)
— Alina Jidkova (@AlinaJidkova) September 11, 2012
What an EPIC final!!! Great match from both players! Big congrats to @andy_murray for his 1st Grand slam title!! Happy for him 🙂
— Sabine Lisicki (@sabinelisicki) September 11, 2012
— Fernando Verdasco (@FerVerdasco) September 11, 2012
Huge congrats to@andy_murray!Well played and off course well deserved!Enjoyed watching final.Novak is a great champion,now it was Andy turn.
— Elena Vesnina (@EVesnina001) September 11, 2012
Well done @andy_murray. Totally deserved…a true british hero!
— julien benneteau (@julienbenneteau) September 11, 2012
Well done to @andy_murray , great effort by him and truly well deserved.
— Rohan Bopanna (@rohanbopanna) September 11, 2012
He's done it! Andy Murray – Grand Slam Champion!
— Colin Fleming (@colin_fleming) September 11, 2012
Amazing match today, was rooting for Andy!
— Vania King (@queen_v21) September 11, 2012
— Janko Tipsarevic (@TipsarevicJanko) September 11, 2012
First Grand Slam Treasure for Andy Murray!!! So AWESOME!!!
— Aleksandra Wozniak (@alekswoz) September 11, 2012
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 11, 2012
Congratulations @Andy_Murray on your well deserved, brilliant win at US Open. I cheer your victory & everyone back home is so happy for you!
— Kevin Spacey (@KevinSpacey) September 11, 2012
Congrats to Andy Murray for winning the Mens U.S Open Championship!! Great match
— Michael Strahan (@michaelstrahan) September 11, 2012
Its been a great couple of months for @andy_murray. Pretty awesome!
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) September 11, 2012
— josh groban (@joshgroban) September 11, 2012
@andy_murray We don't change, just become more like ourselves… YOU made history, well played!
— Jeremy Piven (@jeremypiven) September 11, 2012
Massive congrats Andy Murray!!!! The first of many and well worth the wait!
— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) September 11, 2012
— Pau Gasol (@paugasol) September 11, 2012
@andy_murray Massive congratulations. What a champion.
— Coldplay (@coldplay) September 11, 2012
— Matthew Lewis (@Mattdavelewis) September 11, 2012
Murray wins historic first major!! http://t.co/hKQU5RU9
— Ewan McGregor (@mcgregor_ewan) September 11, 2012
Looks like I missed a heck of a us open final. Went to bed after second set. Epic match. Happy for Murray and Lendl. Well deserved
— Dirk Nowitzki (@swish41) September 11, 2012
Congrats Andy Murray!! Such an incredible match! #makinghistory
— Kevin McHale (@druidDUDE) September 11, 2012
Huge congrats to @andy_murray. The flood gates have opened
— Ben Ainslie (@AinslieBen) September 11, 2012
Andy Murray on a roll. You champion.
— Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) September 11, 2012
Congrats Andy Murray! Finally! #USOpenFinal
— Official Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) September 11, 2012
Andy Murray is the US Open Champions! Congrats.
— Cristiano Ronaldo (@CRonaldoNews) September 11, 2012
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) September 11, 2012
Listening to tennis on the radio: actually pretty exciting! Congrats Andy Murray!!
— James Valentine (@jamesbvalentine) September 11, 2012
Congrats to Andy Murray! Hell of a win. #USOpen
— Shane West (@shanewest_1) September 11, 2012
So pleased for Andy Murray, thoroughly deserved after the frustrations of the last couple of years. Great job mate!
— Chris Hoy (@chrishoy) September 11, 2012
Brilliant Andy Murray. When we think of this date we will always remember your historic victory.
— Frankie Boyle (@frankieboyle) September 11, 2012
Congratulations Andy Murray for winning the U.S Open, top effort. #champion
— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) September 11, 2012
Fantastic tennis by Djokovic & Murray. Fab first Gran Slam win for Andy. Big congrats! @usopen
— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) September 11, 2012
Last, but not least, Prince Charles. Well, the parody account anyway…
Well done Andy Murray on winning the US Open, and finally becoming British.
— Prince Charles (@Charles_HRH) September 11, 2012
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
On Tuesday it was only the second day of the US Open main draw action in New York, but yesterday served up some fantastic round one matches which entertained for hours and thrilled the audience.
The three five set matches involving Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco vs Guillermo García-Lopez, Fabio Fognini vs Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Alexandr Dolgopolov vs Jesse Levine may not have featured the infamous rivalries between the top guys that we have been so accustomed to seeing, but last night at Flushing Meadows, audiences both at home and on site were treated to matches worthy of that caliber.
The matches that took place between the players mentioned above showed the spirit and the fight of a toe-to-toe match reminiscent of the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
On Grandstand Argentine and No.10 seed Juan Mónaco had an extremely tough first round opponent against Spain’s Guillermo García-Lopez who proved to be more than a handful for Mónaco. The Argentine took the advantage quickly as he led by two sets and 4-1 up in the third, but García-Lopez had other plans – he was not giving up that easily.
In a match that was played with as many highs and lows as a roller coaster and with such determined grit from both players, you would not have thought it was a first round match, the way the players fought and with such heart, you would have been forgiven for being fooled into thinking it was a Grand Slam final and they were fighting for the trophy, not a place in the second round.
Mónaco and García-Lopez fought against their nerves and against each other as it clearly meant so much to them to win. They ventured into the all-important fifth set tiebreak, after Mónaco broke back twice in the set from the brink of defeat and stopped the Spaniard from serving out the match. With a Davis Cup atmosphere on the tennis court and football style chants heavily in the favour of the Argentine with ‘Olé, olé, olé, olé, Pi-co, Pi-co,’ the match was there for the taking and it all boiled down to who could hold their nerve and the realization suddenly dawned that one of them was going to win… but also that one was going to lose and it would be a painful loss.
The joy and jubilation belonged to Guillermo García-Lopez after playing a very solid tiebreak, releasing his heavily weighted forehand continuously and used his well placed serve to give him the upper hand. After his 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(3) victory a very relieved and emotional García-Lopez sat in his chair with a tear in his eye, whilst Mónaco visibly annoyed and understandably upset quickly exited the court.
Up next for García-Lopez is Fabio Fognini of Italy who was also involved in an epic five-set encounter against Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France. The Italian will be equally as tired going into his second round match against the Spaniard as he too was on court for nearly four hours with his 3-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 comeback victory against the Frenchman and will be relieved of the day off to recover from that match.
It was during the key moments that Fognini was able to withstand the pressure and contained his fraught emotions to claw his way back into the match. As match point dawned on the Italian, the atmosphere around the court was raucous with expectation and disbelief with what Fognini was about to achieve. The Italian was clearly delighted with the turnaround of the match, but visibly tired too, as he and his weary legs exited the court knowing that he had finally booked his place into the second round.
Alexandr Dolgopolov found himself caught up in a difficult opening round against home country hopeful, Jesse Levine on court 17. The first two sets did not go as planned for the Ukrainian who played some loose service games which proved to be costly as he was suddenly staring at defeat after losing the first two sets.
At the start of the third set, Dolgopolov was quickly broken again and found himself 0-4 down and two games away from packing up his belongings and leaving New York. As Levine became tight, Dolgopolov began his revival and battled his way back into the match. Despite facing a heavily partisan crowd, Dolgopolov kept his composure to break back and take the third set 6-4 and stamped his authority in the fourth set by taking it 6-1.
Eyebrows were raised at his comeback and it was evident that Levine was disappointed with the renaissance that Dolgopolov was bringing to the court. Eventually the Ukrainian won 3-6 4-6 6-4 6-1 6-2 and he will now play Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis in the second round.
There was so much entertainment and drama in one evening and we are still only in the early stages of the tournament, but it shows that for all of these players, it does not matter whether it is the first round or the final, they will fight for the win – yesterday they were the comeback kings. Their matches may not have been pretty, but a win is a win and they will be happy to take it all the same and improve ready for their next battles.
After the matches feelings of being emotionally, mentally and physically drained were evident – and that was just me! I don’t know how the players do it!
By Maud Watson
Breaking New Ground
Before he jetted off to London, Juan Monaco was in Hamburg, Germany, where he picked up his sixth singles title. But this title run meant more than the previous five, as the win propelled him to No. 10 in the rankings – the highest the Argentine has ever been ranked in his professional career. While some may question his decision to not only compete in a tournament so close to the Olympic Games, but one that was staged on clay no less, I somehow think it’s a decision he won’t regret. Winning, like losing, is a habit. There’s no substitute for confidence, and Juan Monaco ought to be feeling pretty decent about his chances of making a run in London, even if it is on grass.
Recapturing the Magic
Much like Monaco, pundits may question Andy Roddick’s logic in choosing to play Atlanta before he made the trip to London, but this was a smart move on the American’s part. After finding some success during the brief grass court season, Roddick knew he would be best served to attempt to continue to gain momentum during the time of year that has typically served as his bread and butter – the American summer hard court season. He played some impressive tennis in Atlanta, which included wins over John Isner and the always dangerous Gilles Muller. Much like with Monaco, there’s no substitute for that winning feeling. Couple that confidence with Roddick’s grass court résumé, and he could be a tough out for anybody during the London Games.
Last week in California, the WTA saw a pint-size winner in Dominika Cibulkova. The Slovak with the deceptively big game persevered to take the title at the Mercury Insurance Open over Marion Bartoli in the final. The title comes nearly three months after she split with her previous coach of two years, Zeljko Krajan. Fans will remember Krajan as the coach of former No. 1 Dinara Safina. Safina frequently talked about how hard Krajan could be on her, and Cibulkova spins a very similar tale. While noting that Krajan was a “great coach,” she also admitted that he could be overly hard on her, which led to her mentally blowing any unforced error way out of proportion. She has since promoted her hitting partner, Peter Miklusicak, to head coach, and it appears the change is already paying dividends. Cibulkova has always had potential. With a little more consistency and a new mental approach to the game, there’s no reason she couldn’t be Top 10 material and give the game’s biggest names more than they bargain for.
Music to the Ears
Tennis fans in the United States were undoubtedly happy to hear that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has once again sided with the Tennis Channel in denying an appeal put forth by Comcast in its dispute with the sport network. Back in December, Tennis Channel won its case against Comcast, with the verdict being that aside from being slapped with a $375,000 fine, Comcast would also have to put Tennis Channel on the same tier of cable channels that included two of its own networks – Versus (now NBC Sports Channel) and the Golf Channel. Since being denied their appeal, Comcast has been told that they have 45 days to comply with the original December ruling, which hopefully means extensive tennis coverage that’s readily available will be just around the corner.
The Olympics are rare enough given that they’re only staged every four years, but this year tennis fans are going to see something that may never happen again in our lifetime – color at Wimbledon. Photographs show the purple and lime green colors of the Olympics splashed around the grounds, and the players are free to wear whatever color strikes their fancy. While it’s understandable that the players may want to be decked out in the colors of their home nations, the colored backdrops are a bit much. In any case, the folks who have prepared the grounds have done a great job to do everything possible to ensure this feels like a whole different event and not just a second take at SW19.
By Lisa-Marie Burrows
What qualities does a tennis player need to have to be continuously successful? Talent? Passion? Physicality? Mentality? Perseverance? Endurance? Attributes such as these are all part and parcel of a professional tennis player, but to maintain all of these things week in week out, tournament after tournament, having packed the suitcase in one country only to step on an airplane and open it another country whilst fighting off fatigue is not easy, but it must be done.
Many of the players have these qualities, but not letting any of these attributes waiver when you are tired, disappointed or homesick are one of the toughest challenges week after week, year after year, yet for some players this comes naturally.
Argentina’s Juan Mónaco is a prime example of a player who possesses such qualities and this week he has enjoyed breaking into the Top 10 for the first time in his career after winning his first 500 tournament at the bet-at-home Open – German Tennis Championships in Hamburg. It was not an easy final for the new world No.10 as he had to take on home town favourite Tommy Haas and of course his adoring partisan audience who were hoping that the German would lift the trophy, but it was not to be, as Mónaco won in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.
The 28-year-old Monaco has landed the tenth spot amongst the worlds most elite players – in a generation that comprises arguably some of the greatest players of all time with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in the mix. Entering the Top 10 is not an easy feat to achieve in an era so heavily dominated by three top athletes such as those mentioned and he now joins compatriot and former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro who assumes the ninth position in the rankings.
It has not been an easy road to achieve for Mónaco, a six-time title winner, who has compiled an impressive 31-10 match record in 2012. He has put together his most successful season and is enjoying a career best year having won two other tournaments in 2012 at Vina del Mar and in Houston and he was also a finalist in Stuttgart the preceding week to Hamburg, where he lost to Janko Tipsarevic. It is not easy to bounce back from any defeat – particularly in a closely fought match (especially a final with a beautiful Mercedes up for grabs too!), but Mónaco picked up his racquet and got back on with it and refused to let defeat hinder his performance in Hamburg, which has made his title win all the more impressive.
Juan Mónaco has had a challenging 2012 having come back from a horrific ankle injury, which he sustained on the clay courts of Monte Carlo, leaving many wondering if he would be able to participate in the tournaments during the rest of the season, but participate he did. He surmounted his come back in Rome where he impressively pushed Novak Djokovic, who was No.1 in the world at that time, to three sets and almost had him on the brink of defeat.
As his injury improved, so did his confidence. At Roland Garros he made it through to the fourth round before losing to eventual champion, Rafael Nadal and on the grass courts of Wimbledon Mónaco reached the third round, having never gotten past the first round match before.
Upon reaching the Top 10, nobody can deny that Juan ‘Pico’ Mónaco is one of the hardest working players on Tour, who puts in the hours daily on the tennis court and trains hard off court to achieve the goal of being amongst the elite in the world. Many were delighted to see that he has allocated the position, as he is such a popular competitor with players, media and fans of tennis.
He may have achieved this at 28-years of age, but he is a prime example of it is better late than never. In fact 2012 has been a great year for many of the ‘older’ players on the ATP and WTA Tours and like a fine wine, many have continued to get better with age. Andreas Seppi is also 28-years old and has enjoyed achieving a career high ranking in June of No.24 after an impressive clay court season, particularly in his home country tournament in Rome where he made it to the quarterfinals. His Italian compatriot, Sara Errani, is 25-years old and has won four titles this year and was the surprise runner up at the French Open.
Wimbledon featured two champions who are no strangers to the tournament – Roger Federer and Serena Williams. We all know about their illustrious history and outstanding achievements at SW19 and this year is no exception, as Roger Federer lifted his record breaking 7th Wimbledon trophy and Serena Williams leveled her sister’s record of five victories at the Championships.
As one of the hardest working players around, Pico has never seemed to worry about simply trying to be better than his contemporaries or predecessors, but only to be better than himself and push his own tennis capabilities to the limit.
Will he continue with this fantastic form and win a Masters Series title? A Grand Slam? An Olympic medal? Who knows? But the one thing for sure, is that he will go out there fighting for one and his continued resilience and determination have proven that he has rightfully earned that Top 10 place in the rankings.