Category Archives: Roger Federer

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Serena and Venus Williams lost their singles matches and their doubles match at the Australian Open. Are other players passing them by?

As Ana Ivanovic powered Venus Williams off the court in their quarterfinal match at the Australian Open – Ivanovic won the match by the score of 7-6(3), 6-4 – I couldn’t help wondering if I wasn’t seeing the tail end of the Williams sisters era.

Venus’ sister Serena lost to Jelena Jankovic in the quarterfinals and the sisters also lost their doubles match.

Both sisters were injured but neither one would reveal her injury. Serena was moving awkwardly and Venus walked onto the court with a slight limp and her thigh wrapped with enough bandage to cover a mummy. This is what Serena had to say about her injury situation:

I was having some issues, but I don’t like to make excuses. We won’t discuss those.

Neither Venus’ mother nor her hitting partner knew why Venus was limping and Venus wasn’t telling. Here’s what she said about the subject:

I never talk about my injuries.

Listen, nobody thinks you’re making an excuse if you divulge an injury after a loss. Justine Henin said her knee was bothering her after her lopsided loss to Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals and nobody is complaining about her today. Players refuse to reveal their injuries so they can maintain a mystique of invulnerability but Serena and Venus have been injured so much that there’s no mystique left.

I am apparently not the only person wondering about the sisters. Someone asked Venus the following question after her match with Ivanovic:

Has to be a long time, if ever, since you and Serena lost singles and doubles within 24 hours at a big tournament. If people start talking about the Williams era being over, what would you have to say to them?

What can she say? Yes, you’re right? What she did say is that she’s a champion and she expects to be a champion. It’s hard to count out either sister and we’re not sure how much Venus’ thigh was bothering her but there were points in her match when it very much looked like Ivanovic was passing her by.

Both players started out slowly. Ivanovic has a bad habit of being very nervous coming out of the gate. When she got to the French Open final last year, she was so nervous she couldn’t serve properly. Venus couldn’t get her serve over 100mph (160kmh) herself.

By the end of the second set, though, both players looked strong and Venus was just pounding the ball. At 4-4, she pounded a bunch of balls at Ivanovic’s backhand then sent a ball down the line. Ivanovic ran the ball down then got Venus on the run for few shots before putting an inside out forehand away. Ivanovic then leaned back and let out a big “Oh yeahhhhh.” Venus had hit her with her best shot and ended up playing defense.

Venus didn’t give up. She pounded a few more balls and got two break points as Ivanovic was serving for the match, but Ivanovic had found her serve by now and a few good serves put the match away.

It was a great show by Ivanovic but I wouldn’t say she’s ready to win a slam just yet. It’s those nerves! She should have rolled over Daniela Hantuchova in the semifinals but she started slowly again: she lost the first set 6-0. She won the match, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4, and she’s into her second slam final but she won’t get away with that against Maria Sharapova who ran over Jelena Jankovic, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the final.

Blake is Getting Better, Really He Is

I’m encouraged by James Blake’s play. I really am. He looked sharp against Roger Federer in their quarterfinal match and that’s progress.

Federer wiped him off the court in Cincinnati last year. Blake doesn’t have enough game to beat Federer. He doesn’t have enough variety and his strength – hard flat shots – feeds right into Federer’s strength – quicksilver defense. Blake also has an average serve and he’s not going to outduel too many players from the baseline. But he kept attacking Federer and played a very high level of tennis. Check this out.

Blake was serving at 3-2 in the first set when he got to the net and hit a drop volley. Fed ran from one corner of the court to the other to get to the ball and hit a lob that landed just inside the baseline. Blake spun and raced back to the baseline and when he got there – no lie – he hit a between-the-legs lob! I have never ever seen a between-the-legs lob before, have you? Fed hit a soft overhead in response then followed that up with a forehand error. Definitely a top ten candidate if not top five for best point of the fortnight.

Blake is now back in the top ten and it looks like he really is getting better at age 28.

The question now is: can Novak Djokovic beat Federer?

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 219 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Philipp Kohlschreiber have performed well at the Australian Open. We’re still not sure about Roger Federer.

Is Tsonga Only a Serve and Volleyer?

I let out a sigh of relief after David Nalbandian lost to Juan Carlos Ferrero by the score of 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round at the Australian Open. It’s not that I wish David any ill will, I’d love to see him win a slam, but I would have felt like a total idiot if he’d won this tournament because it would have been the third time I doubted him and paid for it. I didn’t pick him for my fantasy tennis team in Madrid or Paris and that knocked me out of the ATP fantasy tennis game top 100.

What’s up with that lopsided score, and to Ferrero too? Did David’s back spasms finally catch up with him? I couldn’t find any injury information about him and he didn’t talk to the media.

On the other hand, I picked Richard Gasquet to beat Rafael Nadal in the semifinals and now he’s gone. He was beaten by his good friend and countryman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(6), 6-3 in the fourth round. Tsonga is a serve and volleyer in my mind and I expected the slow court here in Melbourne to limit his results. Either the players are lying and the court is not that slow or Tsonga is a more complete player that I gave him credit for. Let’s see which it is.

On thing is for sure: Tsonga is driving his opponents crazy. He knocked Andy Murray out in the first round by attacking him nonstop early in the match. Something happened to Gasquet too. How else could you explain 73 net approached in one match. I doubt Gasquet has ever done that before but he had no choice, nothing else was working.

Tsonga attacked Gasquet early too and he was also winning the baseline game. Gasquet is the shotmaker but it was Tsonga who made the shots in this match. He was up 4-3 in the third set when he ran Gasquet first to one corner then the next and followed that up with a sweet forehand dropshot winner.

Tsonga is quick and it showed in his defense. In the third set tiebreaker, Tsonga hit his bread and butter shot, an inside out forehand approach. He backed up to get to a deep passing shot then ran to the opposite corner to track down a Gasquet approach. Gasquet followed that up with a pretty hard overhead shot but Tsonga tracked that down too and Gasquet put the ball into the net. On the next point, Tsonga dug another ball out of the corner and Gasquet put the ball into the net again to give Tsonga a set point.

You can see why Gasquet was trying to attack. He was lucky to stay as close as he did in this match .

Tsonga is still a bit inexperienced. He ran around his backhand too much and got himself out of position and he wasn’t always sure when he should attack. But all the tools are there and he deals with pressure very well judging by today’s match. He hit three aces when his serve was under pressure early in the fourth set and he hit another passing shot at the attacking Gasquet to win that game. That’s right, at this point Gasquet was attacking and Tsonga staying back. So much for being a serve and volleyer.

Federer Wins – Roddick Doesn’t

Tsonga is the second player to have a coming out at this party. The first was Philipp Kohlschreiber who beat Andy Roddick in the third round by taking the fifth set 8-6. Roger Federer almost suffered the same result at the hands of Janko Tipsarevic before finally winning 10-8 in the fifth set.

Kohlschreiber played a very good match and Roddick couldn’t do much about it. The question is: Was this a coming out party for Tipsarevic too?

No. Kohlschreiber should keep moving up the ranking but Tipsarevic will most likely continue to ping pong back and forth between the 40’s and 60’s in the rankings.

Tipsarevic played inspired tennis but Federer converted exactly five of 21 break points. That is bad tennis. And he had problems with his forehand. You think David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal – those energizer bunnies of the baseline – didn’t take note of that? Nadal can’t pass Federer in the rankings here even if he wins the title but I’m tellin’ ya, he can taste that number one ranking.

Blake Takes Advantage

James Blake beat Marin Cilic by the score of 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals and that’s exactly where he should be. Both Ivan Ljubicic and Fernando Gonzalez were knocked out before Blake could meet up with them and that’s what we call the luck of the draw. Blake got to the fourth round here last here so it’s fair enough to expect him to reach the quarterfinals.

Lest you think I’m being too demanding, I do not expect him to beat his next opponent: Federer.

Okay, people, here’s the question of the day: Can Federer win this tournament or not? Please chime in.

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 157 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Australian Open final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday morning, January 27, at 12:30am (PST)/3:30am (EST)/9:30am (CET). We’ll stay up if you’ll stay up.

Marcos Baghdatis beat Marat Safin in five sets in the second round of the Australian Open, but Baghdatis’ career might look a lot like Safin’s by the time it’s over.

To be a championship tennis player you need the appropriate balance between intensity and amnesia. You need enough fire in your belly to slog through five set matches in ungodly heat for two weeks straight and enough amnesia to forget a stretch of bad tennis.

While I was watching Marcos Baghdatis beat Marat Safin by the score of 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2, I spent a little time placing both players on the intensity/amnesia spectrum. The exercise brought up a number of interesting comparisons between these two players.

First of all, we know Safin does not have amnesia. He not only doesn’t forget his last bad shot but he’s very likely to respond to a stretch of bad tennis by getting into an argument with the chair umpire, or any other willing participant.

You could never, however, accuse Safin of lacking intensity or lacking effort. Safin had game point at 4-2 in the third set when Baghdatis hit a beautiful running forehand down the line. Safin was at the net and he lunged towards the sideline and hit what could only be called a stretch stab volley. I mean, he launched all six foot four inches of his body horizontal. The volley was perfect.

Baghdatis, on the other hand, is short on intensity. He’s not as aggressive as he needs to be. He’s my top candidate to take Safin’s place as the player most likely to fail to fulfill his potential. Here’s a guy who made it all the way to the final at the 2006 Australian Open and got up to the number eight ranking and he’s been rattling around with a 15-20 ranking ever since.

Whereas Safin is a tall powerful tennis player who’ll attack the net – he’s the most powerful tennis player I’ve ever seen, Baghdatis has a lot of baby fat on that body and he ventures to the net only when the situation requires it. He could impose his game on opponents by moving forward much more but he seems to float above the game instead of get down and dirty.

Baghdatis started the match off doing what he does well: aggressive counterpunching. He was on fire for the first two sets and got out to a two set lead. Safin fought back to win the next two sets as he went through is own patch of exceptional tennis.

When the fifth set came around, Safin went on a walkabout. As he put it,

..unfortunately my concentration and my — everything went a little bit downhill, and he was just preparing himself for the fifth set. So it’s a little bit unlucky.

Consistency is neither player’s hallmark but I have hope for Baghdatis. He’s only 22 years old and he’s playing more aggressively than he used to. He plays very well indoors and on grass courts – he has a semifinal and quarterfinal at Wimbledon already. I could see him winning a Wimbledon some day, maybe even two.

Two slams. That exactly the number of slams owned by one Marat Safin.

Grinders/Retrievers

Safin hit the shot of the tournament but Roger Federer and Fabrice Santoro played the point of the tournament and it tells you why grinders and retrievers are such a pain in the butt. Those are the players with ugly games that get the ball back no matter what you do.

Here is a point from that match that demonstrates what I mean.

Santoro blocked a wide serve into the court then ran deep to the ad corner to retrieve Federer’s response. Santoro’s response was short so Federer came in and hit an approach to deuce corner. Santoro got to it and hit a lob to the middle of the court which Federer hit softly to the ad corner. Another short response by Santoro was followed by yet another Federer approach. This time Santoro’s lob hit the sky and landed just inside the sideline. Federer telegraphed his overhead and off went Santoro to retrieve it. By the time he got there he was at least ten feet beyond the sideline, but get to it he did and his lob pushed Federer back to the baseline where he….yup, shanked the ball and lost the point.

Federer beat Santoro easily, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0, but this point shows you why most people want to strangle player like Santoro. Have any of you readers had a similar experience? I know I have and I was none too successful at dealing with it either.

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 186 user reviews.

The first grand slam of the year has arrived and the number one ranking is already in question.

Think about this for a minute: Roger Federer could lose the number one ranking to Rafael Nadal by the end of the Australian Open. Will it happen? Let’s see.

Roger Federer’s Quarter

Juan Monaco and Tomas Berdych are waiting around in the top half of Federer’s quarter but Monaco still isn’t good enough on hard court and 2004 was the last time Berdych beat Federer.

In the bottom half of Federer’s quarter there are a few stories. Ivan Ljubicic’s ranking has been sinking since last August and I don’t expect him to recover. James Blake dropped out of the top ten last October and is currently ranked number 15. I don’t expect him to drop further but I also don’t expect him to get back to the top ten. Ljubicic has a 4-1 record over Blake but his victories came over two years ago and Blake won their last match. If they meet in the fourth round, Blake should win.

Then we come to Fernando Gonzalez. He reached the final here last year then played through the most wildly inconsistent year I’ve every seen from a top player. He lost his first match in eight tournaments yet still ended up in the top ten. Well, except for Nikolay Davydenko who also lost his first match in eight tournaments but we expect that from him.

If Gonzalez gets to the fourth round and meets Blake, he should be golden because he’s won their last five matches. That would put him in the quarterfinals against Federer but Gonzalez can’t win that match.

Novak Djokovic’s Quarter

Marcos Baghdatis is in Novak Djokovic’s half of this quarter but he’s right up there with Gonzalez and Davydenko for inconsistency. Still, Baghdatis should be able to beat Lleyton Hewitt and that should put him in the fourth round against Djokovic. That will be as far as Baghdatis gets because he’s lost both of his matches to Djokovic.

I think Nicolas Kiefer will take out Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round. Kiefer is one of my two dark horses. He could get to the fourth round because David Nalbandian is having trouble with back spasms. That wouldn’t be shocking because Kiefer got to the semifinals here in 2006. He’d meet David Ferrer and though he beat Ferrer in their only meeting, this time Ferrer should prevail.

I’d love to tell you that Ferrer could beat Djokovic in the quarterfinals but I’d be lying. Djokovic has beaten Ferrer every time they’ve met on hard courts and he beat him in straight sets at last year’s U.S. Open.

Nikolay Davydenko’s Quarter

My second dark horse is Stanislas Wawrinka. I say he beats Davydenko in the third round then loses to Mikhail Youzhny. The big match here is a possible fourth round matchup between Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray. I think one of them gets out of this quarter and into the semifinals. Which one?

This is the toughest match in the draw to call because Gasquet and Murray have similar hard court records. Gasquet has beaten Murray both times they’ve met but that’s not why I’m choosing him. I just think Gasquet is a bit more mature than Murray and is ready to reach the semifinals here.

Rafael Nadal’s Quarter

We’ve been concerned about Nadal’s fragility on hard courts and we saw it again in Chennai two weeks ago. Nadal survived a four hour semifinal with Carlos Moya then suffered a lopsided loss in the final the day after. This doesn’t happen on clay and it doesn’t even happen at Wimbledon. Nadal played seven straight days in Wimbledon last year due to the rain and still got to the final.

Given Nadal’s fragility I didn’t think he’d go far here but now I’ve changed my mind. I was expecting a knock down drag out fight between Moya and Nadal in the fourth round but Moya has bombed out in the first round the last three years. He just beat his first round opponent, Stefan Koubek, in Sydney last week but Koubek won both their hard court matches last year. And Moya lost to his second round opponent, Agustin Calleri, in Sydney.

That leaves Andy Roddick in the top half of Nadal’s quarter. Philipp Kohlschreiber should be Roddick’s third round opponent and I wanted to pick him as one of my dark horses because he just won Auckland. But Roddick takes care of business in slams so let’s look at Roddick versus Nadal in the quarterfinals.

Nadal beat Roddick in the semifinals at Indian Wells last year so I’m going with Nadal to get to the semis.

Australian Open Draw

My Picks

Semifinalists: Roger Federer plays Novak Djokovic, Richard Gasquet plays Rafael Nadal.
Finalists: Federer, Gasquet
Winner: Federer

The answer is no, Federer won’t lose his number one ranking but Nadal may get even closer to the top.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 232 user reviews.

Installment two of notable tennis events in the year 2007.

Round Robins and Monkey’s Balls

The subject of round robin tournaments churned up a lot of strong feelings among tennis fans. I love round robins and I posted an online petition to drum up support. I didn’t get much. In fact one guy was so annoyed that he told me I should do something unsavory with monkey’s balls. I declined but I understand why everyone was so upset. People like tidiness, they don’t like chaos. Look at this for instance, it describes the possible ways that Jan Hernych could have advanced to the quarterfinals at the ATP Las Vegas event which was a round robin tournament:

Hernych will advance to the quarters by winning a set OR by winning eight or more games in a loss UNLESS one set loss goes to seven game, in which case he advances by winning nine games or more in a loss.

You weren’t the only one who couldn’t follow that. Juan Martin Del Potro retired during his match with James Blake and thereby robbed Blake of the chance to advance to the quarterfinals because he had fewer completed matches. Etienne de Villiers, president of the ATP, ignored the rule and advanced Blake anyway though he came to his senses the next day and advanced the proper player.

Here’s the thing. De Villiers doesn’t have the power to shorten the calendar – see below – so the round robin format is a good idea for small tournaments because everyone plays at least two matches. That’s a good thing because fans can count on seeing the top players at least twice.

And tennis fans should get over it. Tennis could use some unpredictability and complexity when it comes to tournament structure. Thousands of people in the U.S. spend days filling out tournament brackets when the NCAA basketball championship rolls round. Tennis fans should be able to figure out a round robin draw with a little practice.

Match of the Year

Most people are picking the Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal or the WTA Championships final between Justine Henin and Maria Sharapova as the best match of the year. But my favorite was the knock down, drag out drama between Andy Murray and Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals at Indian Wells. Already down a set, Murray stumbled and injured his ankle and bruised his side but still managed to win the match on one good ankle, a mixture of moonballs, drops shots, and slice forehands and a ton or heart.

Surly Serena

Serena Williams falls into the same category – players with heart. She strained her calf and bruised her thumb in her third round match at Wimbledon against Daniela Hantuchova. After Hantuchova tried to take advantage of her with a drop shot, Serena got mad and pushed herself to victory. That’s a good thing because Serena is a bad loser. After she lost to Justine Henin in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, she was most ungracious. She blamed the loss on her errors and Henin’s lucky shots instead of giving Henin the credit she deserved. No wonder you can find a video on youtube showing Serena mouthing the word “bitch” during her match with Henin.

Benni Becker’s Rookie Year

I got all excited about Benjamin Becker after he ended Andre Agassi’s career at the 2006 U.S. Open. Especially as I had been following his career and he is one of the few ATP players who grant my interview requests. He had a few semifinal finishes at the beginning of the year but then he dropped like a stone. His only highlight was a 129mph(208kph) serve to Marc Gicquel‘s private parts. I’d never seen that in a tennis match before. Benni’s got game. Here’s hoping he rises back up the rankings in 2008.

The Shorter Calendar Is Not Shorter

The ATP put a lot of work into shortening the tour calendar so that more top players would turn up at top events. It was also supposed to help reduce the number of injuries. It failed on both accounts. The ATP tried to take away Monte Carlo’s status as a Masters level event and failed. Monte Carlo organizers took the ATP to court and the two parties reached a settlement. Monte Carlo is still a Masters level event but it is not required. The ATP did succeed in reducing Hamburg’s status but then added a hard court Masters event in Shanghai. The upshoot is that there are still nine Masters events but one less on clay. Therefore, the calendar is no shorter and injuries are more likely because bodies take a bigger pounding on hard courts than on clay.

One last thing. The ATP also extended many tournaments to eight days so they could cover two weekends and increase attendance. Many tournaments will now start on Sunday and end on Sunday. The calendar is not shorter and the tournaments are longer. Exactly how does this help players?

Arlen Sticks Up for Federer

This is actually a news event from today but I want to put it in here anyway. Arlen Kantarian, CEO of the United States Tennis Association, wrote a letter to Sports Illustrated wondering just what Roger Federer has to do to win Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year Award. This year it went to Brett Favre instead. Good job Arlen, we ask the same question here every year.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 291 user reviews.