A plethora of intriguing encounters awaits audiences as the third round begins at the Australian Open. Foremost among them are two in the women’s draw, which we include in our latest preview.
Kerber vs. Keys (Rod Laver Arena): Long hovering on the horizon, the 17-year-old Madison Keys has soared into the consciousness of the tennis world by winning four main-draw matches in the last two weeks. Moreover, she has won most of them decisively, including routs of top-20 opponent Safarova in Sydney and the 30th-seeded Paszek here. The teenager’s serve could prove a crucial weapon against Kerber, whose superior steadiness and experience should prevail in rallies unless Keys can find a way to unsettle her, which she could with a strong start. Featured on the show court of a major for the first time, she seems more likely to rise to the occasion than crumble under the weight of the moment.
Li vs. Cirstea (RLA): Familiar with both rising and crumbling in spectacular style, the 2011 Australian Open runner-up split her two meetings with Cirstea at majors last year. Li defeated the heavy-hitting Romanian at Roland Garros but lost to her at Wimbledon before battling past her in a Cincinnati three-setter, so she will know what to expect. While Cirstea defeated Stosur in the first round here last year and can hope to capture that magic again, the moderately paced hard court in Australia would seem to favor Li’s more balanced game.
Sharapova vs. Williams (RLA): Scanning the WTA elite, one might not find two champions more similar in playing style than these two legends of first-strike tennis. Both Sharapova and Venus can hammer lethal missiles from both groundstroke wings, and both compete with the ferocity of women whose lungs illustrate their loathing for losing. Both have the ability to win free points in bunches with their serves, but both also can lose control of that shot beyond repair amidst cascades of double faults. Both have survived significant bouts of adversity, Sharapova by battling back from a career-threatening shoulder surgery and Venus by battling back from a career-threatening illness. While the American has accumulated a richer title haul, the Russian owns the more balanced resume.
Their record reflects much of the above, neatly balanced at 4-3 in Sharapova’s favor but skewed 4-1 in her favor away from Wimbledon, where Venus has claimed her greatest achievements. Not dropping a single game through her first two matches, Maria can expect a steep elevation in her opponent’s quality and must come as prepared to elevate her own quality as she did five years ago here against Davenport. Like her sister, Venus has produced some of her most dazzling surges when least expected, and she has looked quietly impressive if less overtly overpowering so far.
Ivanovic vs. Jankovic (Hisense): Those who appreciate tennis largely from an aesthetic perspective may wish to cover their eyes in a pairing of two women who sprayed disheveled errors to every corner of the court in their previous matches. Meanwhile, those who fancy their tennis served (or double-faulted) with a dollop of drama should enjoy this battle between two countrywomen who have feuded chronically but bitterly. The superior player by most measures, Ivanovic has dominated their head-to-head as her versatile forehand has hit through Jankovic’s baseline defense. So high do the emotions run in these matches, though, that one never knows what to expect from one point to the next.
Djokovic vs. Stepanek (RLA): In addition to their five-set epic at the 2007 US Open, Stepanek has troubled the Serb on two other occasions. He won a set from him at Wimbledon last year by using his idiosyncratic style to disrupt Djokovic’s rhythm. Even as his career has faded, Stepanek continues to revel in the spotlight and ended 2012 on a high note by winning the decisive match in Davis Cup. That momentum probably cannot lift him high enough to disturb Djokovic in Australia, where he looks as dominant as ever in all facets of his game.
Ferrer vs. Baghdatis (RLA): The fourth seed in Nadal’s absence, Ferrer can falter at times with the distractions caused by partisan crowds. Supported vociferously by Melbourne legions of Greeks and Cypriots, Baghdatis hopes to revive the memories of his charge to the 2006 final. At this tournament two years ago, he became the first man ever to win after losing the first two sets to Ferrer at a major, surprising in view of their relative fitness. The fourth seed looked vulnerable in stretches against an overmatched opponent in the last round, while Baghdatis did likewise in another mismatch. His flat, net-skimming groundstrokes should offer an intriguing contrast to Ferrer’s safer topspin.
Anderson vs. Verdasco (Hisense): Reprising their meeting at the Hopman Cup this month, this match pits a rising against a fading star. Like Baghdatis, Verdasco has failed to duplicate his breakthrough performance in Melbourne (a 2009 semifinal), and he should count himself fortunate to escape a five-setter to start the tournament. On the other hand, Anderson followed his strong results in Perth with a final in Sydney, where he showed poise under pressure. Expect plenty of quick holds as each man struggles to crack the other’s serve.
Benneteau vs. Tipsarevic (MCA): Which Tipsarevic will show up here? The man who fired his way past Hewitt with a blizzard of electric shot-making, or the man who barely edged past Lacko in an unimaginative performance? Tipsarevic looked a bit drained after the heroics of his opener, and he may pay the price if he enters this match flat, for Benneteau rolled past trendy dark horse pick Dimitrov in the first round. Although streaky, the Frenchman represents a clear notch upward in quality from Lacko.
Querrey vs. Wawrinka (MCA): The lanky American with the casual power got a little too casual early in each of his first two matches, dropping the opening sets in both. Against Wawrinka, a natural grinder who thrives on long rallies, Querrey should discipline himself to eliminate such gifts. Having lost both of his previous meetings to the Swiss, including a US Open five-setter, he will need to maintain a higher first-serve percentage this time and aim to end points more efficiently.
Almagro vs. Janowicz (Court 3): In the wake of a bizarre five-set comeback against Devvarman, one wondered whether to praise Janowicz for his tenacity in roaring back after losing the first two sets, or to linger on his immaturity for letting his emotions run astray early in the match. Without that costly burst of petulance, the match likely would not have lasted as long as it did. Similarly, Almagro needed much longer than expected to dismiss American neophyte Steve Johnson in another five-setter. Between the Spaniard’s backhand and the Pole’s forehand, fans should see risky, flamboyant shot-making as each man hopes to exploit a weak section of the draw.
The first day of the second round looks rather sparse in general, but we picked out a few potential diamonds in the rough. Let’s start with the ladies for a change.
Zheng vs. Stosur (Rod Laver Arena): When they met a week ago in Sydney, the Aussie suffered from a slow start, rallied to reach a final set, and then let a late lead slip away in a match of unpredictable twists and turns. Although Stosur improved on last year’s performance here by escaping the first round, her first victory of 2013 did not come without a series of wobbles such as donating an early break and failing to serve out the first set. She won fewer free points from her serve than she usually does, which could spell trouble against Zheng again. Despite her limitations on return, due to her short wingspan, the Chinese doubles specialist competes ferociously and should outlast Stosur from the baseline with her more balanced weapons. But she struggled even more to survive her opener and had stumbled through a string of losses before that upset of the Aussie in Sydney.
Venus vs. Cornet (RLA): At the 2009 Australian Open, Cornet stood within a point of the quarterfinals and a signature victory over then-#1 Safina. Match point upon match point slipped away, confidence evaporated, shoulder trouble sidelined her soon afterwards, and the petite Frenchwoman remained too mentally and physically dubious to fulfill her promise as a junior. The relatively slow court might suit her game more than the volatile, inconsistent style of Venus, but the American raised her level dramatically from the Hopman Cup while dropping just one game in the first round. By contrast, the Frenchwoman struggled to hold throughout that match, especially under pressure, so only an implosion by Venus could repeat the Suarez Navarro upset from the same Australian Open in which Cornet faced Safina.
Sharapova vs. Doi (Hisense Arena): On a late afternoon without many marquee matches, the Sharapova Show offers a decent way to end the day session. The 2008 champion has blitzed almost all first-week opponents at majors since the start of 2012, but the caliber of those opponents often has prevented one from accurately judging her form. Doi, who defeated Schiavone last year, may surpass expectations after defeating the more familiar Petra Martic in the first round. In general, though, the value of this match comes from juxtaposing Maria’s form here against what Venus shows in the night session, two days ahead of their highly anticipated third-round collision.
Pervak vs. Watson (Court 8): While Murray and Robson attract most of the attention currently circulating around British tennis, and justly so, Heather Watson may develop into a meaningful talent in her own right. The Bolletieri-trained baseliner twice has taken sets from Sharapova and defeated fellow rising star Sloane Stephens last year before finishing her season with a title in Osaka. Not lacking for durability, she won one of the season’s longest finals there and will attempt to grind down Pervak with a combination of depth and court coverage. Teenagers have excelled in the women’s draw so far, eleven reaching the second round, so this youth movement might bode well for the 20-year-old Watson.
Djokovic vs. Harrison (RLA): The Serb has won all five of their sets and looked his usual imposing self in the first round against Paul-Henri Mathieu, showing off his elastic movement and transition game at the major that most rewards it. For Harrison, who avenged his Olympics loss to Giraldo in four sets, an upset bid will require greater focus and competitive stamina than he has shown so far in his career. Typical of his stop-and-start results was a week in Brisbane when he defeated Isner and lost meekly to Benneteau in the next round. Harrison will need to take more chances earlier in the rallies than he did against Giraldo, especially on his forehand, to take Djokovic outside his comfort zone against an opponent who does nothing better than he does. As with his match against Murray last year, this meeting offers a useful measuring stick to test Harrison’s progress.
Malisse vs. Verdasco (MCA): Even in the twilight of his career, the Belgian defeated the Spaniard on the latter’s weakest surface at Wimbledon last summer. Malisse still can unleash blistering backhands when he times his short swings effectively, and Verdasco looked thoroughly human in a five-set rollercoaster against David Goffin. Both men have shown a tendency to alternate the sublime with the ridiculous, often finding the latter at the least opportune moments, but a comedy of errors could provide its own form of entertainment.
Lacko vs. Tipsarevic (Court 2): The eighth seed played his best tennis in months when he battled past Hewitt in a straight-setter closer than it looked. Ripping winner after winner down the sidelines, Tipsarevic looked every inch the elite player that he has become and could charge deep into a draw where he inhabits the least formidable quarter. He has struggled for much of his career with sustaining a high performance level from match to match, though, which makes a letdown a plausible possibility. If he does, Lacko might have just enough talent to punish him for it.
Lopez vs. Stepanek (Court 3): Aligned opposite each other are two net-rushers from opposite sides, the Spaniard from the left and the Czech from the right. As a result, the tennis might trigger memories of decades past before baseline tennis established its stranglehold over the ATP. Stepanek rallied from a two-set deficit in the first round to ambush Troicki, but a comeback would prove more difficult against a server like Lopez, who has won sets from Federer before. While the Czech has dominated most of their rivalry, the Spaniard did win their last meeting on a similar speed of court in Montreal.
Querrey vs. Baker (Court 6): The man who mounted a long-term comeback meets a man who mounted a more ordinary comeback that culminated last year when he rejoined the top 30. Querrey typically has struggled at majors other than the US Open, however, and he lost a set to an anonymous, underpowered Spaniard in his opener. If he can bomb a high percentage of first serves, Baker may not match him hold for hold. On the other hand, a sloppy effort from Querrey would open the door for his compatriot to expose his meager backhand, one-dimensional tactics, and unsteady footwork.
By Yeshayahu Ginsburg
There was a lot of very good tennis scheduled and played on the first day of the Australian Open. Unlike other Slams, which split up the first round into three days, the Australian Open plays exactly half of the first-round singles matches on each of the first two days. That means 32 of each men’s and women’s matches on Day 1, with the same scheduled for Day 2. The problem with that, for myself and for every other fan not actually on the grounds in Melbourne, is that less than half of them are available to be viewed.
The tournament uses 16 courts on each of these first two days for singles play. Of those 16, only 7 of those have television cameras. If you want to watch a certain player or match, the first thing you have to do is check what court he or she is playing on. Unless you go to Melbourne, you can’t see the match if it’s not on one of those courts (Rod Laver Arena, Hisense Arena, Margaret Court Arena, and Courts 2, 3, 6, and 8).
Of course, it’s also not just about planning what matches you want to watch. Tennis is so unpredictable and amazing matches can come out of anywhere. We should have the availability of turning to those at any time should a compelling match come up. Three of the six 5-setters on Day 1 weren’t televised. Three matches went past 6-6 in the final set of Day 1 (two men’s and one women’s), two of which were on untelevised courts, including Radek Stepanek’s defeat of Viktor Troicki and Fabio Fognini’s loss to Roberto Bautista Agut. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I know that a match in a Slam is at 6-6 in the final set, I want to turn to it. People pay money for tennis packages so that they can watch every match. So why can’t the watch every match?
The real travesty in all of this, of course, is that the year is 2013. It’s so easy to have cameras on the courts. It doesn’t even have to be anything really special. Just put a camera there. This isn’t the 90s, where companies had only one channel and could only show one match at a time anyway. Cable could get you a second channel. This is the day of digital and satellite packages; with live streaming of every available court on the internet. Is it really so impossible to just put cameras on every court? No commentary is necessary; just have a camera at every match so fans can watch their favorite players or good developing matches.
The most disappointing thing of all is that it shows that the Slams refuse to learn from potential disasters. Can anyone imagine what would have happened if, in 2010, Isner/Mahut had been on untelevised Court 19 instead of Court 18? I’m sure there would have been some sort of mad scramble to get a camera crew and commentators to that court. But that’s not the point. It’s so easy nowadays to have everything televised. I just hope that it won’t have to take us fans missing out on a historic match before those in charge come to their senses.
In a sport with such a short offseason, players often can translate their momentum from a strong end to one year into a solid start to the next year. We look at six of the players who distinguished themselves just before the curtain came down on 2012. How did they fare when the curtain rose on 2013?
Serena: Enjoying the best second half imaginable last year, she surged from the grass of Wimbledon and the Olympics to the hard courts of the US Open and the year-end championships. With all of those illustrious titles in her trophy cabinet, Serena could have been forgiven for a dip in motivation when 2013 began. On the contrary, she stormed to the Brisbane title without dropping a set and while losing her serve just once in the week. The heavy favorite for the Australian Open never faced a challenger worthy of her steel as she collected her 47th career title. Having won 32 of her last 33 sets, Serena moved ever closer to the #1 ranking that she should claim in Melbourne.
Djokovic: After a disappointing summer, he ended the season in scintillating style by winning the Shanghai Masters (where he avenged his Olympics and US Open losses to Murray) and charging undefeated through the field at the year-end championships. Djokovic also finished #1 for the second straight year, and he looked every inch the man to beat when he demolished Ferrer at an Abu Dhabi exhibition to start the season. Later exhibitions there and at the Hopman Cup in Perth did not showcase the Serb at his finest for extended stretches, but he won five of the six matches that he played in a clean if not crushing display. With a week off before attempting the first Melbourne three-peat in the Open era, he seems to have struck just the right balance between preparation and rest.
Azarenka: Barely denied by Serena in New York, she rebounded to win the Premier Mandatory title in Beijing and clinch the year-end #1 ranking. Azarenka now must defend huge quantities of points in the coming months during the same span when she won 26 straight matches last year. Comfortable victories en route to the Brisbane semifinals, including a straight-sets dismissal of the dangerous Lisicki, marked a fine start to that effort. The pedicure-caused toe injury that forced her withdrawal prior to yet another clash with Serena may prove a blessing in disguise, allowing her to reach Melbourne with her confidence fully intact. Nothing spectacular from the first two weeks, but no serious concerns either.
Ferrer: In the last Masters 1000 tournament of the season, he won his first career title at that level by capitalizing on a decimated field at the Paris Indoors. Ferrer also ended the best year of his career by leading the ATP in matches won and tying for the lead in titles won. Always vulnerable to a shot-maker on a torrid streak, he fell to Davydenko in Doha as the top seed and only entrant in the top eight. Considering the Russian’s previous success at that tournament, including a title and two victories over Nadal, the result perhaps should not come as a great surprise. Nevertheless, Ferrer looked much less sharp than he had at the 250 level last year, when he rarely lost to opponents ranked so much lower.
Stepanek: The hero of the Davis Cup final last year, this wily veteran pulled the Czech Republic past Spain by defeating top-15 foe Nicolas Almagro in a four-set fifth rubber. Outstanding performances in Davis Cup finals often have catapulted players to a strong set the next season, which begins just a month later. But Stepanek could not ride the same tide of momentum that Serbian men did after winning the 2010 Cup. Sidelined with an eye infection, he started 2013 by withdrawing from Brisbane, a tournament where he twice had reached the final (winning one title). At his age, the Davis Cup glory probably represents more of a swan song and signature moment than the foundation for something greater.
Safarova: Led by Kvitova for much of its consecutive title runs in 2011-12, the Czech Fed Cup team leaned heavily on Safarova when its singles #1 entered last year’s final struggling with a virus. The Czech #2 answered the bell with bravado in recording straight-sets victories over two former world #1s, Ivanovic and Jankovic. Always a player who has blown hot and cold, the volatile shot-maker then lost her first match in Brisbane to Lisicki in a pair of routine sets. Routine, that is, except for the flustered consultations between Safarova and her coach, which suggested that her recent turn in the spotlight as Fed Cup heroine had not bolstered her confidence in any lasting way.
Apparently, not everyone starts where they finished.
By Maud Watson
Party in Prague
When it comes to the elite team competition in tennis, 2012 will forever be remembered as the year of the Czechs. Tomas Berdych and Petra Kvitova got the ball rolling with their victory run at the Hopman Cup in January, and they played their parts in helping the Czech Republic to end the year in style as Fed and Davis Cup champions. It was the Czech Davis Cup team that completed the trio of championships, which was no small feat with power house Spain standing in their way to the title. It was a true team effort by the duo of Berdych and Radek Stepanek. Each won a point for singles and teamed up to secure a crucial point in the doubles to defeat Spain 3-2. As with other top players in the past, the victory will likely help Berdych continue his upward trend. He’ll be able to draw on the experience of coming through in a clutch five-set win in the second rubber to draw even with Spain on the opening day of the tie. But the bigger moment of the tie belongs to Stepanek. He’s never enjoyed near the same amount of success as game’s greats, so coming through in the decisive fifth rubber to seal the deal is likely to be the crowning moment of his career. It was a phenomenal effort by the Czechs, and going forward, they’re going to be a tough out for any nation.
Dissension in the Ranks
Spain’s loss in the Davis Cup final left a bad taste in the mouth, and it had nothing to do with the defeat that they’d been dealt at the hands of the Czech Republic. Instead, it came from within the team itself, and the bulk of the blame lies primarily on the shoulders of Feliciano Lopez. It was ultimately Nicolas Almagro that came up short in the singles, and his teammates did little console him after his two heartbreaking losses. But the fact that this team wouldn’t quite gel was made evident by F. Lopez’s comments before the tie even began – comments that may have played a part in Almagro’s nervous play as he likely felt the need to justify his place on the squad. All credit to Captain Corretja, who stood by Almagro and declared he’d pick the same four guys if he had it to do all over again. It was instead F. Lopez who was left with the most egg on his face, as he attempted to backtrack and smooth over his previous comments. This was an ugly loss for Spain, and Corretja is going to have a bit of work to do in order to mend fences and prepare a team for a 2013 Davis Cup run.
American tennis took another hit this past week when the Farmer’s Classic held at UCLA was discontinued, and its ATP sanction was sold to a group in Bogota, Colombia. It was tremendous loss as the historic event dated back to 1927 and saw many of tennis’ greats grace its courts, including Laver, Ashe, Sampras, and Agassi. But in recent years, the event struggled to find solid sponsors, the fields became less star-studded, which led to lower revenues, and therefore resulted in the difficult realization that the tournament needed to be sold. It’s a blow to tennis in that region, and it also means one less opportunity to expose young American sports enthusiasts to the game. It’s a worrying trend for American tennis, and one organizers at all levels of the game in the United States need to reverse, and reverse fast.
The brainchild of StarGames President Jerry Solomon and the ITF, World Tennis Day is set for March 4, and there’s some tantalizing tennis on offer. As has been the case the last few years, there will be some entertaining matches at New York’s Madison Square Garden, with Azarenka playing Serena Williams and Nadal facing del Potro. But also on that day, on the other side of the world in Asia, Li Na will compete against Wozniacki, and even Lendl and McEnroe will renew their rivalry. More star-studded matchups may be scheduled, as the hope is to hold several pro events around the world and tie them to grassroots programs in order to grow the game. They couldn’t have picked two better markets in which to stage the events, with the matches likely to continue the forward momentum of tennis in Asia and with any luck reverse the downward spiral the game is enduring in the United States. So here’s to hoping this initiative is not only a success, but the start of many more successes to come.
Arguably the biggest question in tennis for 2013 is what will happen with Rafael Nadal. Video footage surfaced earlier this week of the Spaniard practicing on hard courts, and you can be sure he’ll give everything he has to be ready to go when the season gets underway. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a player with more grit, determination, and drive. Still, it’s hard to predict how he’ll fair. When we last saw Nadal, he’d suffered his worst defeat at a major when he was bounced out of the second round of Wimbledon. A rejuvenated Federer took back the No. 1 ranking and had a very successful summer. Andy Murray upped his level to claim Olympic and US Open glory. Guys like Ferrer, Berdych, and del Potro stepped up to the plate with statements of their own, with de Potro in particular looking like he might now finally be ready to crash into the Big Four. And then Nadal’s most troublesome nemesis, Djokovic, capped off a good year with a strong autumn and finished No. 1. Granted, some of these events were potentially helped by the absences of the Spaniard, but that won’t take away from the confidence these players have gained through those accomplishments. Nothing is impossible when it comes to Nadal, but on anything outside of clay, when you take stock of what has transpired in the second half of 2012 and add it to his extended layoff, it appears likely that Nadal will find it trickier to find his footing than he did when he returned from injury in 2009. But no matter what happens, we all look forward to seeing Nadal and the rest of the competitors duke it out for bragging rights in 2013.
By Jane Voigt, owner of DownTheTee.com
November 7, 2012 — You’ve heard this before, “Why don’t they show more doubles?”
But ask any producer and you’ll hear the expected rap, “It doesn’t sell ad space.”
The response is enough to shove dreams of American realism – the rags to riches story – in a deep hole. Their reasoning diverts to money, not entertainment, not consumer desires, not the absolutely awesome nature of the game of doubles.
Have they ever really watched it? Followed it? Way more interesting than singles.
First, four players are on court. That mathematically equals twice the entertainment and ticket value, twice the tennis, and twice what you would expect as added coverage. That means more jobs! Think about that you international politicians. You want an uptick in popularity, promise to televise doubles. It’s a slick ticket made in re-election heaven.
The political benefits aside, doubles fanatics, which we all know are more numerous than singles fanatics, can get their fill this week by tuning in to The Barclay’s World Tour Finals from London. Not only are the top eight teams from the year on hand to delight the packed O2 Arena, they are first up each session. You could conclude they are the premier matches of the week.
Here are more reasons doubles are twice the fun.
Two people play to win a point, game, set and match. Two means a relationship; they are partners. This logically suggests the introduction of complicated human interactions, which is lost in singles competition. Unless, of course, you construe the rantings of a player toward a support box as interaction.
Teams converse between points. Do knuckle bumps, high fives, signal tactics to their partner before a toss, and if the Bryan brothers are battling … chest bumps. Can’t see that in any other sport. Soccer players may leap into each others arms, but so can the brothers. They won’t skid across a tennis court on their knees though, for obvious and injurious reasons. Well, maybe on grass.
Let’s face it, doubles is way more interesting to watch. Teams serve and volley, change sides, yell ‘out’ so their partners don’t do something stupid like give away a point, and find every lucky angle and spot on a court.
They hit deep ground strokes, short under-spins, half-volleys, and magnificent overhead smashes that crack like a whip.
With four players at the net, the rata-tat-tat of volley exchanges builds audience energy to a fevered pitch. It’s a wonder the men don’t hear it.
It’s wild. It’s exciting.
Doubles is a complicated game, too, because of its nature. In singles every ball is for you. Not so in doubles. There is order to returns and movement, although scrambling to cover an open spot may look like mayhem.
Bob and Mike Bryan are the best at movement. As twins, they intuitively know what the other will do. Their expectations are in sync, which puts them at a mighty high level of performance in sports. One person can enter the zone, yes, but two acting as a team … not so easy. They are the number one seeds this week.
Throughout their career they have clinched 82 ATP titles — the most of any doubles team. They will end 2013 at number one for the eighth time, and the fourth consecutive. At the U. S. Open they won their 12th slam, an Open-era record. To top off their season, they won a gold medal at the London Olympics.
Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi are the defending champions. So far they are 1-1 in round robin play. They seem to be in the ‘harder’ group, along with Wimbledon doubles champions, Jonathan Marray and Frederik Nielson. They are 2-0 and the most unlikely team on hand.
Marray is the first native-born Briton to play in this tournament; and Nielsen teamed with Marray seconds before the deadline to enter Wimbledon this summer. Nielsen’s record has been about singles and after this week he will return to that discipline, leaving Marray to search for a partner. If they continue to mesmerize win, he won’t be left out in the cold for long. But, then again, partners are not just a matter of availability.
Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek were the last team to qualify. It’s Stepanek’s inaugural World Tour Championship.
With all the fun available for fans, the choice of no-ad scoring has been hard to understand. And, any promotion that dares to intimate this is a ‘fifth grand slam’ should have their funding cut. No major tournament would allow no-add scoring.
The lovely dynamics of doubles is negated in this format. At 40-all, the serving team picks the side from where they’d like to serve. This point ends the game. Ordinarily, these top-flight teams groove to a different rhythm. Teetering between ad-in and ad-out is familiar. They are trained for this. It gives them chances to come back, use their strengths – both mental and tactical. The better team can hold with more consistency, which is the pinnacle of skill in tennis.
The no-ad scoring in London, though, throws randomness at the competition. It doesn’t serve the tournament, players, or 15,000 fans that pack the house every session.
As a result the outcomes of the matches have an odd undercurrent. If you look at the match stats, the losing teams have won more points than the winning teams. Not by much, but it’s lopsided. This means they’ve won more service and return points.
In their loss to Mirnyi and Nestor on Monday, Robert Lindstedt and Horacio Tecau won 83% of their second service points, an incredibly high percentage. Their opponents won 43%. Lindstedt/Tecau converted all their break point changes, too. Mirnyi/Nestor went 0 for 2.
Five of the six matches have been decided by 10-point champions tiebreaks. First to ten by two. This is the only remnants of normalcy in London. They are used throughout the season. And every world tour player knows that tiebreaks should be avoided. Without regular scoring, though, the outcomes this week will not reflect the depth that these men can achieve in the sets that precede the tiebreaks. The scoring robbed them of a type of play that demonstrates their excellence. They literally cannot play their games, which is a shame for the deserved prestige assigned them.
Jane Voigt lives, breathes and writes tennis. She wrote about John Isner’s ground-breaking wildcard run at the formerly named Legg Mason Tennis Classic in 2007 for Tennis.com. She has written tennis commentary for the late, great Tennis Week print publication and online version. Hundreds of articles from Jane have been seen on TennisServer.com, too. She now maintains her own website at DownTheTee.com, and has traveled throughout the U. S. and Canada to cover tournaments. Ask her to play tennis, and she’ll prefer singles to doubles.
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.
Change is coming to the nation’s capital and it might take tennis fans some time to adjust.
The Legg Mason Tennis Classic is now the Citi Open, after Legg Mason, the title sponsor of the ATP tournament in Washington, D.C. for the past 18 years, has decided not to renew its contract.
No reason was given for the why the Baltimore-based Legg Mason will no longer be the title sponsor, but Donald Dell, the chairman and co-founder of the tournament, emphasized that both sides parted on good terms.
“I want to thank Legg Mason for their tremendous sponsorship,” he said. “They have been with us 18 years – they were the longest running title sponsor in tennis in North America. We owe the Legg Mason a great bit. They decided not to come back – their contract expired in November. It was a very amicable transition.”
Stepping in to replace Legg Mason is Citigroup Inc., the sponsor of the inaugural professional women’s tournament in College Park, MD last summer, for a five-year deal. The Citi Open will combine the ATP tournament with the women’s event in efforts to attract an even more diverse fan base.
“We are very excited about [having a joint tournament], because over the years we’ve had lots of requests and lots of pressure to have both events – men and women – and the demographics of tennis is 52 percent men and 48 percent women,” said Dell.
The men’s tournament will remain an ATP 500 event, one of only two in the United States (the other is in Memphis), and the women’s will be a $250,000 International Level tournament. Last year’s winner on the men’s side was Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, while Russia’s Nadia Petrova claimed the women’s trophy.
Along with the name change and the inclusion of the women’s tournament will be stadium upgrades to accommodate the increase of players. The renovations, which will begin in May and finish before the start of the summer tournament, will include a new show court that seats 2,500 people and five new practice courts. The Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (WTEF), a charitable foundation that provides tennis instruction and education to DC-area youth, privately funded the expansion. The tournament is owned by the organization.
“We built [the stadium] with [WTEF] in 1989, and we just think it’s time to upgrade in a lot of different ways,” said Dell. “We are competing on the world tour. It is very competitive that we have a facility and proper usage of the court site for the players.”
The Citi Open will continue to be held at the William H.G. Fitzgerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park and will run from July 28 to Aug. 5.
Because the tournament coincides with the London Olympics, the draw size will decrease from the usual 48 players to 32. While several marquee players will be competing for Olympic medals, current world No. 9 Mardy Fish has already confirmed to play at the Citi Open in preparations for the U.S. Open. Also expected is former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt.
Despite the tournament expansion, Dell said that there are no plans on increasing parking, but that General Admission ticket prices will most likely not rise.
The name may take some getting used to, but the changes should give tennis fans in the metropolitan area much to be excited about.
Things are heating up in Indian Wells—at least for those players that are still healthy. Nikolay Davydenko pulled out this morning, paving the way for Thomasz Belluci to make it into the round of 16.
Fernando Verdasco and Juan Martin Del Potro started things off on center court. Del Potro began well, taking the first set 6-2. Clearly, Verdasco’s neon yellow and orange outfit wasn’t too distracting for him. Verdasco turned on his forehand in the second set and took the match to a tiebreak, but Del Potro managed to eke out a win. Both players did well. Unfortunately, it just came too late for Verdasco.
In the doubles world, John Isner and Sam Querry faced Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau. The trouble for the fourth-seeded doubles team started on Lindstedt’s serve as a mix of errors and strong play from Quisner forced a break much to the delight of the very pro-American crowd. Lindstedt and Tecau fought back for a super breaker but ultimately failed to do much with it, losing 10-5.
On center court, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova both pulled out convincing wins. I’m hoping for a replay of the Australian Open final this weekend at the BNP Paribas Open.
My favorite match of the day was Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Radek Stepanek. Stepanek fought hard in the first set and managed to win the tiebreaker with surprising ease. The second set was a different story, though. Stepanek played well, but Tsonga came back strong in the second and third and proved to be too tough for the Czech.
Alexandr Dolgopolov and Marcos Baghdatis were up next and continued the theme of neon orange. It’s great to see the Cypriot back in action. He gave Dolgopolov some trouble, but in the end, Baghdatis couldn’t do enough.
Center court was packed again when Rafael Nadal took on countryman, Marcel Granollers. Granollers wasn’t able to throw too much at Nadal, who got through the match quite comfortably. He made very few errors in the first set, but Nadal tightened up in the second and looked a bit shaky, making several mistakes. He did enough, though, to see off Granollers.
The night session started on time tonight with Roger Federer playing Milos Raonic, which proved to be an interesting match. Check out Andrea Lubinsky’s article for analysis of the match. It certainly set a great atmosphere for Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic.
On the outside courts, men’s doubles with the Murray brother against Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor as well as Richard Gasquet and Paul Hanley facing Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya while Marion Bartoli closed out the night by winning against Lucie Safarova on court two.
Check in with us tomorrow for more coverage!
With the opening round of the Davis Cup wrapping up on Sunday, the ATP World Tour will now shift back into form with three tournaments in Rotterdam, San Jose and Sao Paulo. Here’s a closer look at the draws from all three events and some analysis on who stands the best chance of making it to the final weekend.
ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament
The largest of the three being played this week, the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament is a level 500 event. An indoor hard-court event, Roger Federer will be looking for the surface to bring him some much needed success. A disastrous Davis Cup showing at home on clay has left Federer clearly confused about the status of his game. Rather than admit he played poorly, Federer instead shifted the blame onto country-man Stan Wawrinka. It was a rare moment of bad judgement from Federer. He opens with Nicolas Mahut from France and then could potentially face a dangerous opponent in Mikhail Youzhny who won the title recently in Zagreb.
The always tricky Alexandr Dolgopolov is also in the same quarter as Federer. The two have only played once, with Federer winning in Basel two years ago. Dolgopolov has come a long way since then and with the way Roger played this past week, you’d have to think this could be a great QF match.
Richard Gasquet, Feliciano Lopez and former top-ten presence Nikolay Davydenko are in the following quarter of the draw. I’d give a well-rested Gasquet (he did not travel to Canada for Davis Cup) the best shot of emerging here.
Juan Martin Del Potro is the third seed and should be able to navigate his way through the third quarter of the draw. He opens against Michael Llodra of France who has to get all the way from Vancouver, Canada to Rotterdam in the next twenty-four hours.
At the bottom of the draw is second seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic who has had some success lately with a big win in Montpellier over Gael Monfils. Berdych had a very solid 2011 where he won one event and reached eight tournament semi-finals and seven tournament quarter-finals. He is really starting to find that consistency that will make him a mainstay in the top-ten. A meeting in the second round with Marcos Baghdatis looms, but otherwise Berdych should be able to set-up a semi-final encounter with Del Potro that would be highly entertaining.
Regardless of the results, the tournament is guaranteed a new winner this year as Robin Soderling is not yet healthy enough to defend the title which he has held for the past two years. I’m gonna give the nod to Berdych in this one and I have a feeling that Federer’s recent troubles might continue with an early exit this week.
Brasil Open 2012
Played on clay, the Brasil Open attracts some of the usual dirt-ballers one might expect to see. Nicolas Almagro is the defending champion and also won this event in 2008. He has played some pretty decent ball on hard-courts so far this year so we’ll see if that continues on his favourite surface. Almagro is seeded first and gets a bye into the second round. His quarter is pretty sparse which should help him get his clay-court wheels going.
Fernando Verdasco is the third seed and has a nice section in his quarter as well. Take a look at veteran Fernando Gonzalez from Chile if possible as he has already announced his retirement to take place in Miami this coming March. Injuries have really taken away Gonzo’s physical and mental endurance but hopefully he has a little magic left in him before he says goodbye.
In the bottom-half of the draw, aging Juan Carlos Ferrero the eighth seed and Thomaz Bellucci the fourth seed will likely fight it out for a spot in the quarter, while the bottom quarter is the most interesting with David Nalbandian who is unseeded, Albert Montanes and second seeded Gilles Simon.
Almagro gets my vote of confidence to take this one based on his clay-court prowess and success at this venue in previous years.
A year ago the ATP World Tour took notice of fast-rising Canadian sensation Milos Raonic when he won his first-ever event here in San Jose. Unfortunately for Canadian tennis fans, a repeat will be very difficult to achieve for several reasons.
Firstly, Raonic was forced to pull-out of the Davis Cup tie against France on Sunday with pain in his knee that had been already taped throughout the event. Will he even be healthy enough to play in San Jose?
Beyond the injury debate, Milos has a tough draw that sets him up with first-seeded Gael Monfils in a possible semi-final match-up. He will also have to contend with having the entire draw gunning for him as the defending champ. Coming into an event as the title-holder is quite different from what he experienced a year ago.
In the bottom-half things will be pretty wide-open with Andy Roddick returning from an injury he suffered at the Australian Open and occupying the second seed. Who knows what kind of game the former American No. 1 will bring with him but his lack of match play will hinder his changes.
Underachieving Sam Querrey, aging Radek Stepanek and vet Julien Benneteau round-out the bottom half in terms of potential contenders. I’d look for one of them rather than Roddick to make their way to the finals against Monfils who appears to be over the knee problems that he was dealing with upon his arrival to Canada for the Davis Cup.