Saturday, 5 September 2009

Melanie Oudin stuns Maria Sharapova

Melanie Oudin did it again. This 17 years old and ranked pity 70 in world ranking defeated Maria Sharapova in a marathin match at Flushing Meadows among roaring fans.

Oudin was simply impressive, coming out from first set defeat she finally managed to take control of the match and out performed Sharapova.

2009 US Open has been producing a lot of surprises, it would be interesting to see what lies ahead this year.

For full report visit Melanie Oudin Defeates Maria Sharapova

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Murray & Nadal to Square off at Indian Wells

Sunday’s BNP Paribas Open Men’s Tennis Final will feature two swash-buckling, flamboyant players. Scotsman Andy Murray faces the unflappable 22 year old Spaniard and world’s number one big-match talent, Rafael Nadal, in what promises to be a hard-hitting test of wills. The match pits the game’s two greatest heavy weights against each other in a battle for the $605,500 first prize.

In his semifinal win, the 21 year old Murray became the first British player to reach the finals at Indian Wells since 2004 when Tim Henman was at the peak of his game. With a 20-1 2009 record, Murray is the hottest player on the tour. The rising red-headed star disposed of second-seeded 27 year old Swiss counterpart, Roger Federer, in three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. The win was Murray’s fourth consecutive over Federer and extended his lifetime record against the former number one to 6-2.

In preparation for BNP Paribas Open event, Federer had rested his troubled back for three weeks. The rust showed as the three-time Indian Wells Champion committed an uncharacteristic 32 unforced errors. Fourteen of those errors took place in the tell-tale first set.

Murray’s aggressive and confident play kept Federer on the defensive and out-of-position most of the day. Federer gambled more than usual while often playing around his backhand. His forehand attempts left the Swiss star scrambling for court coverage and his fans wondering what was next in store for the road-weary and battle-tested former tennis monarch.

Murray made the most of his opportunities converting 4 of 5 service break point opportunities while committing just 19 unforced errors. On the other hand, Roger was only able to convert 2 of 10 break point chances.

In the final set, the Scotsman was meticulous. He broke in the fourth and sixth games to build an insurmountable lead and seal the match. Federer’s boisterous fans fell eerily silent.

After losing serve in the fifth game of set one, crowd favorite Federer, stormed back breaking Murray’s first service game in set two. The pair traded breaks once again in the second set but Federer had momentum and seemed on a wave heading into the final set. Murray came out strong and never let up on the pressure in closing out the match. Play was marked by exhausting baseline rallies that broke down when Federer was out of rhythm.

Murray is playing as if he has something to prove. He heads into the finals seeking his 11th overall title and 21st victory this year. But Nadal, the left-handed Spanish number one does not shy away from competition. In fact, no current player relishes the moment more than the irrepressible Nadal whose timely shots overcame the much-improved and fleet-afoot American star Andy Roddick, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). The 22 year old Spanish star defied the well turned out Indian Wells crowd who was desperate to see Roddick pull the upset.

After another decisive quarter-final win over defending champion and third-seeded Novak Djokovic, Roddick was poised to challenge the world’s top player. Roddick’s power serve is now complimented by a new conditioning program that has increased his court speed and Djokovic fell in a strikingly easy 68 minute match 6-3, 6-2.

Nadal methodically set about ending the American’s 11 game winning steak. His relentless style and singular ball control abilities rise to the fore in big matches. Saturday’s semifinal was no different.

The game’s premier retriever, Nadal and Roddick held nothing back in the day’s second hard-hitting semifinal. After a tense first set that featured just one service break, the second set was loaded with momentum swings as Roddick, spurred on by the noisy crowd, tried to battle back.

The pair traded breaks in games three and four. Nadal led 30-0 at 5-4 in set two before Roddick rallied to break back again. When Roddick held serve to go ahead 6-5, the crowd responded in kind. As usual, the heady Nadal seized the moment and overcame the swirling winds and crowd distractions to stem the tide and force the tiebreaker, which was never in doubt.

The 22 year old Nadal should be concerned with Murray, who is 3-0 against top ten competitors in 2009. Murray has a two match win streak against the Spaniard and most recently defeated him in Rotterdam. Nadal is an 11 time Masters Series Champion and seeks his second trophy at Indian Wells.

In post match interviews, Nadal credited Murray with his decisive shot making and deft drop shot. Citing his offensive capabilities and his ability to turn defensive plays into winners, Nadal showed uncommon respect for the Scotsman’s game.

Sunday’s final looks to have pivotal implications for both players. Bookmakers like Murray and have since the beginning of the year. While both players are supremely confident, they are certainly not crowd favorites. The surface and playing conditions would seem to favor Murray. That is precisely when Nadal is at his best. Sunday should be a thriller at Indian Wells.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Nadal, Verdasco To Meet in Semis

Two left-handed Spaniards decimated two highly regarded right-handed Frenchmen in the upper bracket’s quarterfinal pairings. Top-seeded, Rafael Nadal continued his impressive 2009 Australian Open dominance with another straight set win over France’s 6th seeded Gilles Simon. Nadal arrived at Melbourne fit and in good form. The hard hitting lefty has proven able to play through the heat and tough opponents with relative ease.

His 6-2, 7-5, 7-5 win over Simon left little doubt about the merits of his world or tournament ranking. Nadal’s driving forehand pressured the Frenchman throughout the match. Simon uncharacteristically committed 41 unforced errors. This was a match where Simon needed to be consistent and cash in on every opportunity. Nadal refuses to melt.

Instead, the Spaniard reversed the roles and played near flawless tennis. He forced Simon well behind the service line and never stopped pressing. In the last two sets, Nadal seized the break opportunities when presented and ran out the string. The Spaniard won 105 points to Simon’s 83. Nadal only double faulted twice in the match. He remains the only player in the draw to have not lost a set.

Each bracket has a would-be challenger in each semi-final pairing. In the lower bracket, Roger Federer will have to get past American Andy Roddick, who beat Federer the last time the two played. Roddick may well be playing the most consistent tennis of his career. Federer has been almost as sharp as Nadal in turning back challenger after challenger.

Nadal will face the tournament’s most improved and surprising player in country-mate Fernando Verdasco. The Melbourne crowds have been awed by Verdasco’s stellar play. His sleek, athletic build is well suited for the Australian summer. He has worked hard on adding velocity to an already extremely consistent serve.

These attributes were on display in his quarterfinal pairing with 2008 Runner-up Jo Willfried Tsonga of France. Tsonga had his big serve working, but Fernando Verdasco had the answers. Playing with focus and purpose, Fernando bullied his way to a 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over the heavily favored Tsonga.

After defeating tournament favorite and fourth seeded Andy Murray in the round of sixteen, Verdasco kept the momentum in knocking out the fifth seeded Frenchman. In the quarters, Verdasco started the match fast and finished without a hitch in rolling over another big seed.

The first set was the type set Verdasco would not have won a year ago. As solid as Verdasco’s play was, Tsonga relied on his big serve to stay with the Spaniard. During the tiebreaker, Verdasco rose to another level and showed why experts believe he is ready for a rapid ascent into the top ten.

Using a 135 mph, wide serve to the deuce court, Verdasco was able to ace Tsonga on many key points. When Tsonga pressed, the lefty cut him off with sharply angled backhand drives that took Tsonga’s net game away. When serving to the add court, Verdasco crowded Tsonga and would not allow him to hit fully extended strokes. The strategy was brilliant and the Melbourne crowds now have two decided underdogs in the 14th seeded Verdasco and the 7th seeded Roddick to cheer on in the semis. The 2008 Champion, Novak Djokovic and Runner-up Tsonga are both gone. Two contenders are in the middle of the long-awaited Nadal-Federer finals. Watch for the upsets!

Elena and Serena Poised for Battle

The long-awaited and highly anticipated showdown between pretty Russian and number four seed Elena Dementieva and the undeniable number two seed Serena Williams will take place in the semi-finals at the 2009 Australian Open. Elena emerged from her quarterfinal match unscathed, while Serena stared adversity in the eye one more time before rallying for her victory.

Serena joins three Russian players in the semis. The American was hard-pressed by another of the seemingly endless Russian talents. Eighth seeded Svetiana Kuznetsova gave the younger Williams sister everything she had. In battling the blonde bomber and the intense Australian heat, Serena again appeared destined to succumb on both fronts. But, the tennis gods kicked in and as temperatures elevated, a twenty-five minute delay was enforced so that the roof of the Rod Laver Arena could be closed.

Aided by the air-conditioning, courtside temperatures dropped from 125 to 85. Williams immediately picked up her play. Her serve became authoritative, her ground strokes deepened and her will to win returned. Serena has stared defeat head on in this Grand Slam, but players seem unable to put her away.

Kuznetsova will be haunted by this match. Aided by 5 aces in the first two sets, she had several opportunities to end Serena’s run. Midway through the first set, Svetiana took charge as Williams uncharacteristically struggled with her conditioning. The two seed continually faulted, hit tired ground strokes and missed easy volleys. Her revered first serve was totally ineffective as Kuznetsova stole the first set 7-5.

The Arena roof was closed between sets one and two and Williams began to show a higher energy level. Trailing 5-4 in the second set and facing Kuznetsova’s serve, Serena took charge with thunderous returns. The Australian crowd sensed a surge and braced for a stormy third set.

Disheartened by her missed chances, Svetiana watched Serena blast returns and aces as she cruised through the third set 6-1. Serena triumphed but she may well have the movable roof to thank for her good fortune.

In a match filled with irony, Kuznetsova actually hit ten more outright winners than Serena, 32-22. However her unforced errors skyrocketed in the third set leaving her with 15 more than Serena, 42-27. Kuznetsova had some success getting to the net in the first two sets but was kept at bay in the third.

Williams will face the colorful 4th seed, Elena Dementieva, in the lower bracket’s semi-final. Since opening the tournament on shaky footing, Dementieva has been unstoppable in advancing to the semis. Her quarter final match was fairly quick and easy as she overwhelmed unseeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain 6-2, 6-2.

This early match was played under the open roof and the heat poured in. Courtside temperatures exceeded 125 degrees Fahrenheit. The only cause for concern may have been Elena’s ten double faults but the match was never close.

Elena jumped to a quick 4-0 start and only lost two points in those first four games. In her previous matches, Suarez Navarro found ways to gain control of the tempo, but the savvy Dementieva would have none of it. She arrived with intensity and looks ready for Serena in the semis.

Ever since her first round match, Elena has continued to improve. Her heavy footwork has been replaced by brilliant movements. She always seems positioned for each powerful salvo. And, Elena’s arsenal of shots is well stocked. She has not been challenged since the opening round.

The pretty 5’11” resident of Monaco appears anxious to take over the world’s top ranking. With two more wins, she will accomplish that feat and will capture her first Grand Slam event along the way. A two time U.S. Open runner-up with over $10 million in career earnings, Elena is no stranger to success.

Experts have noticed a new approach and commitment to the blue-eyed blonde’s strategy. Her footwork may well be the key to her success against the slower Williams. Elena looks poised for a break through and Melbourne just may be her platform. Elena acknowledges that getting past Williams is no easy feat. This match up has the feel of a battle of heavyweight contenders.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Australian Open 2009 - Tsonga Leads French Assault

2008 Runnerup and 2009 number 5 seed, Jo Wilfried Tsonga leads a strong corps of Frenchmen at the top of the Men’s Draw into the third round. Tsonga was pushed to the limit on a muggy and windy Day Three in Melbourne. Surprising Croation Ivan Ljubicic gave the fans their money’s worth pressing Tsonga all the way in a tough four set loss. Tsonga’s tournament preparation paid off as he sealed a hard-earned 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-2 marathon-like match. Tsonga will next play 30th seed Israeli Dudi Sela, a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 winner over Victor Hanescu.

Tsonga and his cast of four French teammates charged into the third round at the Australian Open and established the French team as the top entry in the year’s first Grand Slam. 24th seed Richard Gasquet defeated Denis Istomin 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, 12th seeded Gael Monfils, a 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 winner over Stefan Koubek and 6th seeded Gilles Simon, a 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 winner over Australian Chris Guccione joined Tsonga at the top of the draw in round three. The quartet will join lower bracket countryman Fabrice Santoro, who plays Andy Roddick on Day Five, in a making a huge statement about the quality of French tennis.

In the third round, Gasquet will play Fernando Gonzalez, Monfils will take on 17th seed Spaniard Nicolas Almagro and Simon will play five set winner Mario Ancic. All five French second round winners are capable of victory. If the fabulous five move onto the round of 16, it would put a stamp on the resurgence of French tennis.

Top seed Rafael Nadal was again impressive and composed in his straight set 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 win over Roko Karanusic. Nadal will play another hot player in German Tommy Haas. Haas has been impressive through the first two rounds. His second round 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 win put him on the brink of a breakout performance to jump into the upper echelon of the tennis world. 2009 could well be the year for Haas, whose big game potential has never been denied. The Nadal – Haas matchup in round three will be the Spaniard’s first real challenge in Melbourne.

4th seeded Scotsman Andy Murray’s new found maturity is impacting his play and most likely the results of this tournament. Murray cruised past upset-minded Marcel Granollers 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 and will entertain a challenge from Austrian Jurgen Melzer, the 31st seed.

American James Blake, the 9th seed, displayed all aspects of his versatile game in overcoming France’s Sebastian De Chaunac 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Blake will next play Igor Andreev in what should be a hard hitting third round match.

The game is on at Melbourne and Round Three begins on a hot and humid Day Five. There is no doubt that endurance will come more and more into play as the rounds advance. Thus far, the big names have not been severely challenged.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Australian Open 2008 Day 2 - Williams Sisters Advance, Dementieva Survives

On a sweltering day that was filled with cramping and gusty wind conditions, 2nd seed Serena Williams and her sister 6th seeded Venus Williams cruised through their matches and led the lower bracket into the second round at the 2009 Australian Open. On a day where the Women’s Draw was reduced to sixty-four survivors, there were some stellar performances and three major upsets on the back courts in Melbourne.

Perhaps the most notable upset was the fall of heavily favored 9th seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland to up and coming Ukranian, Kateryna Bondarenko. Bondarenko’s surprising 7-6, 4-6, 6-1 victory was filled with tension. By the third set, Radwanska appeared out-of shape and put forth a lackluster effort in falling to the younger Bondarenko, who has never advanced past the second round of a major tournament. Kateryna will next play the tour’s 90th ranked player, Spaniard Lino Dominguez, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Russian youngster Ekaterina Bychkova.

The day’s second surprise came form Spain’s, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez
who overcame 32nd seed Tamarine Tanasugarn Thailand, 6-1, 6-4. Martinez
Sanchez won 56% of her receiving points, but the key to the match was
Tamarine’s inability to hold her second serve as Martinez Sanchez won 71%
of the Thai’s second serves. Martinez Sanchez moves on to the second round
against 6’3” Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan who overcame crowd
favorite, American 17 year old star-to-be Melanie Oudin, 7-5, 6-4.

30th seeded Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak succumbed to the heat and the
aggressive ground strokes of Germany’s Sabine Lisicki, 6-4, 6-3. Wozniak often seemed over-matched in the quick match. Lisicki won an astounding 79% of her first serves.

When the day began, there were six Australian women in the bottom half of
the draw. After the day’s last match, only Samantha Stosur and Jessica
Moore were left standing. Stosur had the Melbourne crowds jumping as she
continued her tough play. In the best shape of her career, Stosur scratched a tense 7-6, 7-6 win over Czech Klara Zakopalova. German Sabine Lisicki is next for Samantha, who appears to be feeding off the gallery’s enthusiasm.

Jessica Moore defeated American 16 year old phenom Christina McHale in three hard-fought sets, 1-6, 6-3, 9-7. It was a bittersweet win for Moore as McHale seemed in control of the match until sidelined by severe leg cramps that caused a trainer’s delay in the second set. McHale showed courage but could not push off on her serve and failed to hold several key games down the wire. Moore will play Italy’s 12th seeded Flavia Pennetta, who struggled against fellow Italian Maria Santangelo 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. Pennetta converted on 74% of her first serves to take control of the match and is heavily favored over Moore in the second round.

Another German, Kristina Barrois, garnered big crowd support in her efforts to derail 4th seeded Elena Dementieva of Russia. After a tense first set 7-6 loss, Kristina exploded to a 6-2 second set win. Dementieva asserted herself early in the final set and the German could not recover losing 6-1. Melbourne was buzzing about the possible upset. Dementieva does not appear to be in her best form as she prepares for Czech winner Iveta Benesova.

All in all, the day belonged to the bracket’s superstars, Serena and Venus Williams. The sisters methodically went about their business and were gracious in victories over matched opponents.

Venus Williams has her big serve working. She overpowered German Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3. Kerber displayed solid ground strokes and will pose problems when her serve improves. Meanwhile, she is clearly a level below the focused elder Williams. Williams will play Spain’s Suarez Navarro in the second round.

Serena Williams left little doubt as to why she is the second seed. She took the court with much fanfare and quickly disposed of Chinese upset hopeful Meng Yuan, 6-3, 6-2. Serena will next play Argentina’s Gisela Dulko, a three set winner over Anastasiya Yakimova.

The big seeds have held during the first round. The player’s ability to manage the heat, the wind and stay focused is a large part of the Australian Open. Experience looks poised to prevail on the Women’s side of this year’s first Grand Slam.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Australian Open 2009 - Day 3 - Jankovic, Ivanovic Strong, Safina Survive

Top seed Serbian 24 year old, Jelena Jankovic was tested by Belgium’s 5’5” 23 year old Kirsten Flipkens in a tightly played 6-4, 7-5 triumph in Australian Open 2009. Jankovic was pressed by the persistent 110th ranked 5 year tour player. The difference in the match was the effectiveness of Jankovic’s first serve, who put 81% of her serves in play.

Flipkens actually had 30 outright winners compared to Jelena’s 21. The top seed’s experience showed toward the end of each set as Flipkens struggled to keep the form that placed her in position to win the second set. Jankovic will next play Japan’s Ai Sugiyama, a three set winner over France’s Nathalie Dechy.

Another Serbian star 2008 Australian Open runner-up, Ana Ivanovic, moved onto the third round with a relatively easy win over Italy’s 19 year old Alberta Brianti. Ivanovic was never threatened in the 1 hour 36 minute match, but her game is not sharp. The pretty Serb is still struggling with an inexplicable and erratic ball service toss. If Ivanovic cannot serve with conviction, she is ripe for an upset. Ana’s third round opponent will be 29th seed Russian, Alisa Kleybanova, who withstood a strong challenge from France’s Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.

Number three seed, Dinara Safina was pressured early on by Russian country-mate Ekaterina Makarova. The nimble Makarova won the first set 7-6 and provided graceful court coverage that seemed to unnerve the three seed. Midway through the second set, Safina made adjustments and began an assault of overpowering ground strokes that took a toll on her slender 20 year old opponent. Ekaterina could well be a player to watch during the 2009 season. Safina won the final two sets 6-3, 6-0 and will entertain Estonia’s impressive 25th seed Kala Kanepi who scored an easy 6-3, 6-1 win over Austrian Patricia Mayer.

The day’s big upset belonged to Australia’s own Jelena Dokic who took charge in the third set to overcome 17th seeded Anna Chakvetadze of Russia, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3. The Australian crowd was active and exuberant throughout the 2.5 hour match. Statistically, the two players were evenly matched, but Jelena rode the crowd’s momentum to the stirring win. Dokic will play Denmark’s dominating 11th seed, Caroline Wozniacki in the third round. Wozniacki disposed of Virginia Ruano Pascual in short order and looks ready to play forward.

An intriguing third round match-up pits much improved Czech, Lucie Safarova, against France’s Marion Bartoli. Safarova’s return to form gained her a hard-fought 6-1, 3-6, 9-7 win over Marina Erakovic. Bartoli, the 16 seed, won 7-5, 6-2 over Tsvetana Pironkova. Safarova and Bartoli both appear fit and capable of dealing with the imposing Australian summer.

The third French woman to advance in the top of the draw is 15th seed Alize Cornet who disposed of Andrea Petkovic 6-1, 6-0. The French women are ready for Melbourne and Cornet will be favored over her third round opponent, 19th seed Daniela Hantuchova. This pairing will feature two stars on the rise. The winner will most likely challenge Safina for a berth in the quarters.

Another player on her game is Russia’s Nadia Petrova. The 10th seed pushed past Sonia Mirza in straight sets and will face Galina Voskoboeva. Petrova is in a good spot to advance and has her ground assault game finely tuned to challenge for the title. Unfortunately, she will likely meet another hot player, 7th seed Vera Zvonareva a 6-6, 6-0 winner over Sara Errani. Petrova and Zvonareva could well meet in the round of 16. The pressure is mounting early and the stars are moving forward down under.