Monthly Archives: September 2010

Rafa Gets The Red Carpet Treatment

I have seen the likes Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova all play in 250/International events, but never have I seen any tournament go as far as to lay a red carpet down for their marquee star. That is, of course, until today. Rafa’s entrance to his match resembled a movie premiere - red carpet, screaming fans, huge bodyguards. It was mayhem. The match was uneventful though, and he dropped only five games en route to a straight sets victory over Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium. He also had a chance to meet the Prime Minister which was pretty cool. Oh, and he smiled. A lot.

A clean-shaven Ernests Gulbis (*gasp*, an oxymoron) toughed out a tight 3 setter to defeat Schuettler yesterday and so a Nadal-Gulbis semi is still on the cards. A matchup more than worthy of a red carpet entrance.

Posted in Bangkok, Ernests Gulbis, Rafael Nadal | Leave a comment

Rafael Nadal: The Struggle For Perfection

Rafael Nadal has achieved it all; he has reached the summit of the ATP World Tour Ranking, he has won an Olympic Gold medal, clinched the Davis Cup twice, won 18 ATP 1000 titles, and most recently he achieved the Career Grand Slam, defeating Novak Djokovic to capture that elusive US Open title. He has achieved so much in so many different areas of tennis, on different surfaces and in different continents. However, he wasn’t always the well-rounded player that we see today. This has been achieved through an abundance of determination, hard work and most importantly – a hell of a lot of heart.

2002-2005: Rafael Nadal’s Big Arrival

In April 2002, a 762nd ranked 15 year old by the name of Rafael Nadal played in his debut match on the ATP tour in his hometown of Mallorca. He won it, defeating Ramon Delgado of Paraguay in straight sets and throwing himself into the record books by becoming only the 9th player in the Open Era to win an ATP Main Draw match. Rafael Nadal had arrived.

Throughout this period, Nadal was seen solely as a claycourt player. And rightly so. Though he achieved a handful of impressive results on hard, it was on the claycourts where he really excelled. At this time he had a number of limitations – his backhand, his net-game, his slice and serve. Nadal compensated for these weaknesses by standing miles behind the baseline and using his outstanding athleticism and highly-revered forehand to grind his opponents into the ground. And it worked. Easily. By 2005 he had won his first French Open in his very first appearance. He was already being proclaimed the “King of Clay”, and while his fans were exuberant at the victory, Nadal himself was far from satisfied. In fact, he took that title as an insult.

2006-2008: Attacking the Grass

Though Nadal continued to waltz through the claycourt seasons, his eyes were firmly set elsewhere. The Spaniard had always maintained that Grass is and was his favourite surface. Not the best surface for his game, of course, but the mystery and prestige surrounding it simply proved too much for him. Growing up in Majorca, the surface of grass was probably akin to a forbidden fruit to him, and one that he longed to taste. After his victory at the French Open in 2005, he finally had the chance to do just that.

Between 2006 and 2008, Nadal worked tirelessly on the qualities he needed to succeed on grass. He worked on attacking and playing more aggressive tennis, he developed a formidable traditional lefty slider to compliment the grass, and he added a slice to his ever-growing repertoire of shots. He was transforming at a magnificent rate. A year later he was in his first Wimbledon final and in two years from that, he took the title in magnificent circumstances – defeating Roger Federer 9-7 in the 5th set in one of tennis’ all time classic matches. Wimbledon? Check.

2008-2010: Breaking down the Hardcourts

With 5 Grand Slams to his name, he had already achieved so much at the tender age of 22. However, Nadal still wasn’t satisfied. And he wouldn’t until he mastered the hardcourts, and so he got to work. He continued to refine his game while working on further flattening out both his serve and groundstrokes. A month later he would snatch the Olympic Gold Medal in Beijing, before taking his third Grand Slam in Australia 2009, yet again defeating Federer in the final. Still, people doubted that he would ever win the US Open to complete the set. It was too fast for him, his serve wasn’t good enough and his knee problems during the clay and grass seasons gave people more reason to doubt him. He simply didn’t have the game to win on such a quick surface, they said.

They were, of course, categorically wrong. At the 2010 US Open he would clinch that final slam, completing the Career Golden Grand Slam and catapulting him into the history books once again. He consistently unleashed serves above 130mph, he strolled into the forecourt and easily put away the most testing volleys and he hugged the baseline as if it was a long-lost friend. What is ironic is that the French Open wasn’t where he played his best tennis in 2010, nor at Wimbledon. He played his best match of the year in the finals of the US Open. Now that is special.

What Is Next For Rafael Nadal?

Rafael Nadal has to be considered the hardest worker and most determined player in the history of the game. He has exceeded so many expectations and has improved more than any other player. Ever. The scary thing is that he continues to evolve to this very day. Will he ever reach a ceiling? In the US Open final it was the backhand that emerged as the dominant weapon rather than his legendary forehand. With his trademark open stance technique he was unleashing breathtakingly powerful and flat-as-a-pancake backhands that even the defence of Novak Djokovic stood no chance against. Not to mention the fact that he has transformed himself into one of the most complete players in the world, and he is capable of bringing his very best tennis to every single surface. Many think that the knee problems will emerge again and cut short his career, but if he continues to refine this new all-out attacking game of his and lighten the stress on his body, he will prove them wrong. He always does.

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WTA Tokyo Quarterfinals: Young vs. Old / Evil vs. Good

The Tokyo quarterfinal lineup was completed today. In the top half, the biggest surprise was young American Coco Vandeweghe’s 6-3 6-0 demolition of Julia Goerges. She was duly joined by top seeded Caroline Wozniacki (who defeated Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets for the 95th time this year), Victora Azarenka and Aga Radwanska.

The matches in the bottom half were similarly uneventful outside of Kaia Kanepi’s “upset” of Jelena Jankovic in straight sets. But come on, we all know better. Kaia has beaten Jelena in straight sets on hardcourts the last three times they’ve played and has reached more Grand Slam quarterfinals than her this year. Not that Jelena has been particularly good outside of Rome and Indian Wells this year, but since her French Open semifinals loss, her form has truly disappeared off the face of the earth. Jelena needs to watch herself, because if she continues on the road she is going down, it won’t be long before she’ll be saying hi to Ivanovic on her way down the rankings. The other winners in this half were Schiavone, Dementieva and Zvonareva.

With the ages of the players in the top half at 21 (Azarenka), 21 (Radwanska), 20 (Wozniacki), 19 (Vandeweghe) and the bottom half players aged 30 (Schiavone), 28 (Dementieva), 26 (Zvonareva) and 25 (Kanepi), it really is young versus old. Who will prevail?

After all the struggles following her French Open title, it would be awesome to see Francesca send a message out to all by winning this title. Some of the criticism that hat has been thrown at her since Roland Garros is ridiculous. I mean, in an era where so many players have fallen apart, had on-court breakdowns and embarassed themselves in Slam finals, she totally deserves the hate she has garnered for actually, you know, playing the greatest tennis match of her career in the biggest moment of her career. Shame on her.

Posted in Francesca Schiavone, Tokyo | Leave a comment

Papa Gilles Simon

For those of you still doubting that Gilles Simon could ever impregnate a woman, here’s some proof. Cute, no?

Posted in ATP Offcourt, Gilles Simon | Leave a comment

Welcome Back, Mr Del Potro

He may have lost 7-6 (9/7) 6-4 to Olivier Rochus today, but after 8 months out with his wrist injury the result was probably irrelevant to Juan Martin Del Potro. The wrist was the main worry and concern for JMDP and after the match he is assessed it as “perfect”. Game on.

Posted in Bangkok, Juan Martin Del Potro | Leave a comment

“Serena Williams Is Obviously Going To Arrive To 2010 Moscow Kremlin Cup”


But in all seriousness, there is never a dull moment in the WTA and especially when it involves Serena Williams. Just as we had all but resigned to the fact that Serena probably wasn’t going to play for the rest of the year, suddenly we hear that she’s planning on playing in Moscow. But considering she is already scheduled to play in the WTA Championships followed by the Fed Cup final, I’m already reaching for that figurative pinch of salt.

The second picture is from the Kremlin Cup website. Those poor, naive Moscow organisers! It’s only going to end in tears.

Source and picture via @Craigrena

Posted in Injury Watch, Serena Williams | Leave a comment

Don’t Ever Listen To Me

So in the first tournament that Romina Oprandi teams up with Rainer Hoffman, she wins the biggest title of her career at the Saint Malo $100k+H. I know that most of us dislike the guy and everything, but that’s pretty good going, no? Romina has had some great results this year after a load of injury problems. And that can only be a good thing because with all the dropshots, her game can be one of the most hilariously entertaining games to watch when on. A true Dropshot dame.

Interestingly, Hoffman was interviewed at the tournament and he said that Patty will be playing throughout 2011. Not sure what to think of that. On one hand it’s always great to have her around because she plays such attractive and entertaining tennis. But it really hasn’t been very fun watching her going through the motions for most of this year. In fact, it’s almost sad while reflecting on her career and thinking about what she could have become, had she not met the man in the picture (or any other Rainer, for that matter). I always had Patty as the type of player who would find it easy to retire, even enjoying the relief of not having to travel and play anymore. Apparently not.

Posted in ITF, Patty Schnyder | Leave a comment

Maria Sharapova Loses To Kimiko Date-Krumm In Tokyo. What’s Next For Sharapova?

There was a huge shock today as Defending Champion Maria Sharapova was bounced out of Tokyo by Kimiko Date-Krumm on the eve of her 40th birthday. It has to be said that Maria was apparently visibly struggling with a bad cold all through the match. But still, she continued from where she left off in the US Open 4th round, hitting 11 double faults and losing a *3-2 40-0 lead en route to the defeat.

This loss effectively ends Maria’s hopes of reaching Doha and after Beijing, it will be interesting to see where she plays. Following her exit at the US Open she said she had 3 tournaments left to play (Tokyo, Beijing and Moscow), but of course she has also qualified for Bali. Playing Bali would probably be quite a shock to her system and a tough pill to swallow considering all of her old rivals will be participating in the Sony Ericsson Championships Doha. But it may also be the wake-up call she needs to start playing quality tennis again.

Regardless of what happens between now and the end of the year, 2011 is going to be an extremely important year for the three-time slam champion. There is already talk about whether or not she will ever win another slam and the possibility of her becoming a second-tier player for the rest of her career. I completely disagree with that idea, and in general I think that it’s silly to write off someone who has achieved all she has achieved while she is still only 23. However, I do think that 2011 will be a very telling year for Maria Sharapova.

What is frustrating for all is that it’s the same Maria Sharapova there; The same groundstrokes. The same gamestyle. The same service motion. And she has actually improved parts of her game, for example her volleys and finesse shots in general. However, she lacks confidence, her serve often falls apart, her play is far too central - lacking the wicked angles of old, and she is a step slower. If she can work on those areas and improve them, then she can become a force again. The thing is, she doesn’t even need to play anywhere close to the magnificent level she exhibited before the surgery. She just needs to play well.

If I was in the Sharapova camp and had any sort of influence on her tennis, I would take her to the side and communicate three short and simple words to her that would probably make a world of difference to her career; Bring. Back. Yuri.

Posted in Feature Article, Kimiko Date-Krumm, Maria Sharapova, Tokyo | 1 Comment

The Rest Of The Best / The Best Of The Rest

ATP Bangkok (250):

With the likes of Rafa Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, Juan Martin Del Potro and Ernests Gulbis gracing the courts of Bangkok, it’s hard not to be excited about this event. Obviously this tournament marks Del Potro’s return to tennis, and he has been thrown right into the deep end with a possible quarterfinal matchup against Rafa. Assuming both players make it to the quarters, it will be so interesting to see what level Del Potro is really playing at. Gulbis is also lurking in the top half and so there could be some great matches on the cards.

The bottom half isn’t too shabby either, with Verdasco, Melzer and De Bakker all in with a shot of making the finals. Pretty good, huh?

ATP Kuala Lumpur (250):


If you thought that a strong Bangkok would mean a weak Kuala Lumpur, then think again. This draw boasts the likes of Soderling, Davydenko, Berdych, Youzhny, Ferrer, Baghdatis and so on. In fact, it has an even deeper field than Bangkok with a total of 4 top tenners and 6 top 20 players. You could be forgiven for mistaking this for an ATP 500.

Posted in Juan Martin Del Potro, Other ATP Events | Leave a comment

And The Winners Are: Simon Wins In Metz, Kleybanova in Seoul

Metz Final: G. Simon def. M. Zverev 6-3 6-2

After over a year of injury woes, it’s great to see Gilles healthy and back playing well. He has a few points to defend between now and the end of the year, but if he can continue to keep on improving his form and confidence, it will put him in a good position going into 2011.

His girlfriend, Carine was also present and she was crying after he won. Gilles went into the crowd and they hugged it out for about an hour, maybe longer. He spoke in his speech about how tough the last year has been with all the injury problems as well as Carine herself and their new son, Timothy. They seem very happy.

Seoul Final: A. Kleybanova def. K. Zakopalova 6-1 6-3

Big things were expected of Kleybs this year. Though I have been skeptical myself, it is still good to see her playing well again. Also a good tournament for Kookie (Klara’s surname used to be Koukalova). She has had a pretty good year herself; reaching the second week of Wimbledon out of nowhere, and it’s nice to see her rising again.

Tashkent Final: A. Kudryavtseva def. E. Vesnina 6-4 6-4

Princess Alla wins her first title. Elena fails. Sadly, I’m beginning to doubt if Elena will ever get that first title. It’s reminiscent of Elena the greater when she reaches slam finals.

Bucharest Final: J. Chela def. P. Andujar 7-5 6-1


Posted in Aisa Kleybanova, Elena Vesnina, Gilles Simon, Metz, Other ATP Events, Other WTA Events, Seoul | 2 Comments