November 29, 2009
Although 2009 has not been the best season for world #2 Rafael Nadal, he is looking to salvage his year with a Davis Cup victory next week in Spain against the Czech Republic. Spain captured the title last year but Rafa was forced to watch from the sidelines due to an injury. Here is some video of him warming up with teammate David Ferrer. Check out the cool, custom Nike Ballistec 1.3 in the Spanish colors of yellow and red. I want some.
November 29, 2009
Russian workhorse Nikolay Davydenko put forth a flawless performance on Sunday at the O2 Arena in London, defeating US Open champ and world No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro, 6-3, 6-4.
The final Tour-level match of 2009, which took one hour and 24 minutes to complete, was dominated by the precision and early ball-striking of the Russian.
Losing a mere five points on his first serve in the first set, Davydenko converted on his only required break of serve at 4-3.
Racing through the first set without any indication of nerves, Davydenko appeared fixated on the overall task of winning the biggest title of his successful career.
Placing three aces and winning 63 percent of his second serve points, Davydenko remained in cruise control over his lanky adversary.
Del Potro, who displayed a jaded demeanor throughout the straight set defeat, couldn’t combat the angles and efficient play of his diminutive opponent.
Even though Davydenko gave up over seven inches in height, 30 pounds in weight, and seven years of wear-and-tear on the circuit, his indefatigable ability to stay hungry and focused regardless of how much tennis was in his body encompassed the story of the match.
Del Potro, who squandered two break point chances in the second set, was broken at love in the ninth game in routine fashion.
Losing only eight service points in the second set, Davydenko released a scream of joy when del Potro missed his final forehand of the day.
In a year which began with a variety of foot injuries to start the season, Davydenko’s rise in the second half of ‘09 is worth noting.
Winning in Hamburg and Umag after The Wimbledon Championships, Davydenko followed up his clay results with rock-solid performances in Kuala Lumpur and Shanghai.
Improving to 5-0 in Tour finals this season, Davydenko also increased his head-to-head winning margin over del Potro to 3-1 with Sunday’s win.
Davydenko expressed the virtues of his tremendous achievement during the post match trophy ceremony.
“For me it was amazing,” Davydenko said. “Coming here as No. 7 and winning the tournament, it was surprising for myself.”
Taking home $1,500,010 for his fine week of tennis, the conservative Russian raced to his player’s box to share kiss with his supportive wife.
Del Potro, who will end the year ranked No. 5 in the world, summed up Davydenko’s consistent play throughout the week in his second placed speech.
“He beat everybody, so he’s a worthy champion,” Del Potro said.
Davydenko’s next challenge will be to translate his surge in second half of the season to the Grand Slam events of 2010.
Defeating all four Major winners this week, Davydenko certainly has the game and fitness to rule a two-week Grand Slam tournament.
Both finalists will now enjoy a much needed off season, and begin preparations for their trip to Australia in January.
Davydenko is scheduled to compete in the Doha, Qatar event the first week of the year, while del Potro is slated to take part in the Kooyong Classic the week before the start of year’s first Major.
Well folks, that wraps up a long but enjoyable year of tennis from the ATP World Tour. I hope you’ve enjoyed my coverage from the start of the season, and if you still fancy some tennis in your life, no need to worry, Davis Cup action is just around the corner with finals action taking place next week in Barcelona, between Spain and the Czech Republic.
Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco are set to take on Radek Stepanek and Tomas Berdych.
Talk soon, tennis fans.
Day Seven Review: Del Potro and Davydenko to Battle for ATP World Tour Title
Barclays ATP World Tour Final—London
Defending finalist Nikolay Davydenko captured his first win in 13 attempts against Roger Federer on Saturday, defeating the year-end No. 1, 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
Davydenko, who began his quest to derail the fierce competition of his Swiss opponent by converting on three of four break point opportunities in the first set to lead one set to love.
Federer, who had lost the first set in his three previous matches throughout the week, picked up his errant play from the opening set, breaking Davydenko in the ninth game of the second set after the Russian sailed a forehand error long.
Federer’s loud chant of encouragement after capturing the second set was equaled by the supportive roar of the English crowd. The sold out 02 Arena began to sense a tight knit third set on the horizon.
Moving along in due course in the third set, Davydenko stung Federer for a break of serve in the 11th game via a backhand return winner.
Requiring four crucial points to capture the biggest win of his career, Davydenko saved a late break charge by Federer at 30-40 on the strength of an off-the-rise forehand winner.
With the match on his racket, Davydenko celebrated his first win over Federer with a reserved stoic gesture, remaining internally ecstatic when the Swiss netted a crosscourt forehand.
The loss against Davydenko ended what had been an astounding year for the top ranked Swiss. Winning two of the four Grand Slams events, Federer was reserved and complimentary towards his opponent during the post match presser.
“Sure, it’s disappointing,” lamented Federer.
“But not to lose against him; just to lose in the semis. Coming so far in a tough group, in a tough tournament, I had hopes to get through to the final and maybe win again.
“As the match wore on, I actually started to feel better and better. In the end, indoors, you never know what can happen. It could swing either way. I was a couple of points away, but just couldn’t get it done. He did well. I thought he played strong throughout, even though I don’t think it was our best match we ever played against each other. He finally beat me today. I wish him all the best for the final.”
Federer will now begin his much needed offseason, and will return to action on Dec. 31st in Abu Dhabi, taking on world No. 2 Rafael Nadal in a winner-take-all exhibition worth $250,000.
Davydenko, who will attempt to go one better than his finals loss a year ago to Novak Djokovic in Shanghai. He described his outlook on defeating a player who had defeated him on numerous occasions.
“I think all my family, everybody who supports me, was waiting for this moment when I can beat Federer, because I have beaten everyone in the Top 10 except Federer,” said Davydenko. “I was thinking it was coming maybe in 2010 or ‘11. But in 2009, at the end of the season, it’s a good feeling.
“I knew I was playing good. I was thinking today I want to show the same confidence as yesterday because I won yesterday and I really felt good. That’s what happened. It really happened. My fourth match, I played very well. [It is a] good feeling, really good feeling. I know now in confidence, if I beat everyone, then I can play very well.”
Davydenko will now aim for his fifth title of the year on Sunday, when he battles reigning US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro. Del Potro came through a classic encounter with Robin Soderling, defeating the Swede, 6-7 (1), 6-3, 7-6 (3).
With the powerhouse pair splitting their two previous meetings, the much anticipated match was on deck.
After blasting their way through six respective holds of serve, a deciding tiebreak—which was owned by Soderling—saw the Swede win all but one point along his path to holding a one set lead.
Not to be outdone, del Potro stormed back in the second set, using his new found touch and emotional outbursts to convert on his second break point in the eighth game of the set.
After engaging in an anxious set point at 5-3, a mistimed forehand by Soderling evened the encounter at one-set-all.
Pumping his fist in a whirlwind state of excitement, del Potro was all but ready to fly into his first year-end final.
Captivating the crowd with one-handed backhand passes, and sonic-level serves, both combatants managed to break serve on one occasion. The exciting game culminated a match-ending tiebreak to produce the ultimate victor.
Del Potro, who is slowly gaining the reputation of holding the most lethal forehand and backhand combination on Tour, began the tiebreak with a clean inside-out backhand winner.
Holding three match points at 6-3, del Potro produced his 13th ace of the contest, advancing to Sunday’s championship match in two hours and 11 minutes.
With the win, del Potro will now head to Sunday’s clash with Davydenko in search of his fourth title of the season.
Soderling, who will end year ranked No. 8 in the world, was pleased with his progress throughout the week, which included wins over Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
“I think it’s pretty obvious losing 7-6 in the third [set] in the semi-finals here, it’s pretty disappointing,” said Soderling. “It was a very tough match. Maybe I could have played a little bit better in the important moments and taken advantage of my chances. But overall, not much I could do. I don’t think I did anything wrong at the end of the match; he just played a little bit better than me.”
Del Potro, who is rapidly turning into tennis’ next great champion, spoke of his desire to close out his Swedish opponent.
“It was a very, very tough match,” said del Potro. ”It was so close. We played unbelievable points. We served well. The difference was just a couple of points in the tie-break in the third set.”
Del Potro and Davydenko have met on three occasions on the ATP World Tour, with the Russian leading 2-1 in the pair’s career head-to-head meetings.
The lanky Argentine previewed tomorrow’s final showdown, expressing concern towards the challenge that lies ahead.
“I will want to close a good year. I will play against Nikolay. It will be tough. But if I play like today, maybe I will have chance to win. He’s very fast and he plays well on this kind of surface. But if I play good, I think I will have chance to win. He’s playing good tennis. He has confidence to play the final. But I think it will be a good final to watch,” said del Potro.
With the final regular season match waiting in the bounds, please check back on Sunday for a complete recap from the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London.
Day Six Review: Djokovic Defeats Nadal in London, Davydenko and Soderling Square Off in Night Session
Barclays ATP World Tour Final—London
No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic handed No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal his third straight loss of the Tour finale on Friday, defeating the Spaniard 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Djokovic, who desperately needed a win over Nadal to keep his hopes alive of advancing to the weekend’s semifinals, prevailed in a back-and-forth opening first set which featured two breaks of serve by both players.
Djokovic began the contest with an early break of serve to lead 3-1. Using his flexible serve and inside-out forehand, the Serb appeared in control of the marquee match up.
Nadal, who had been struggling with his depth of shot throughout the week, gained a measure of control over the match by breaking back to level the set at 4-4.
With both combatants holding serve in routine fashion to force a first set tiebreak, it was Djokovic who jumped to a mini-break lead to capture a 6-2 advantage.
Nadal fought back with purpose to save three set points, only to send a weak forehand wide and handing Djokovic a one set lead.
Nadal’s form at the end of the first set was highlighted by seven winners and 20 unforced errors.
Injury woes began to take precedent during the second set for Nadal. Trailing 1-2 on serve, the Spaniard received treatment for a lower back injury.
Adding to the Mallorcan’s recent battle with knee and abdominal ailments, it was evident that the mental strain of a long year was catching up with second seed.
Djokovic immediately took advantage of his opponent’s injury, breaking and holding serve to lead 4-1.
Nadal clawed his way back to post a respectable three games in the second set, which included saving Djokovic’s first match point with a laser-like backhand down-the-line, and the second which featured an off forehand which clipped the right sideline.
The Serb was forced to save a critical break-point with a forehand winner, only convert his third match point when Nadal sprayed a backhand wide.
With the win, Djokovic improved to 7-3 lifetime against Nadal on hard-courts, while decreasing his head-to-head deficit against the Spaniard to 14-7 lifetime.
Nadal grueling season is not over by any means. He will travel back to his native Spain in order to prepare for the Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic.
“I am confident [about the Davis Cup final. I know [it is] going to be a difficult final,” expressed Nadal.
“The change on clay, going to be a big change. But that’s a big motivation for me, [to] finish the year winning. And I have the opportunity there to play well, to play good tennis on clay and to win, to win something important for my country and for my friends.”
Nadal continued to reflect on his week of tennis with optimism during his post match presser.
“[It's not very disappointing. It's disappointing if you arrive here with the feeling that you have a big chance to win. But I didn't arrive here with that feeling. I know before the tournament that [it was] going to be really tough. But I tried. Every day I tried my best. I think I improved a little bit. But that’s tennis. I’m playing against the best players in the world. It wasn’t enough on this surface,” said Nadal.
Nadal, who currently stands at 399-91 in his career win-loss record, will attempt to become the youngest player in tennis history to capture 400 career wins in less than 500 ATP World Tour matches played.
Djokovic, who is still in the hunt to overtake Nadal’s No. 2 ranking this week, will have to wait on the result of tonight’s encounter between Nikolay Davydenko and Robin Soderling.
“I think the season that I had this year has taken its toll on me a little bit in this tournament,” assessed Djokovic.
“I’m not saying that I should have done some things different. You try to win every match you play. Unfortunately for me, the exhaustion came in the tournament where I should have been the freshest: here. But, still, I managed to get two out of three wins. If I finish today the season, I will be very happy to finish in this way, and just hope to rest well for 2010.”
In the event that Davydenko defeats Soderling, the Russian would join the Swede in the semifinal portion of the event.
Soderling currently leads Davydenko 6-3 in career head-to-head meetings, owns a 3-1 record this season.
Soderling, who stands at 2-0 in round robin play, remains the only player left in the field with a chance of capturing the undefeated pot of over $1.5 million, as well as 1500 ATP World Tour ranking points.
Group A action, which wrapped up on Thursday saw, Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro as the two semifinalists.
Federer, who needed to win at least one set against del Potro to advance to the semifinals, achieved his goal on his way to a three set defeat to the Argentine.
Del Potro, who need to defeat Federer in straight sets to assure his semifinal position, barely squeezed into the final four over Andy Murray by winning one more to game over the Scot (45-44).
Del Potro’s win became the second straight over his Swiss opponent, adding to his glorious run of capturing his maiden Grand Slam title in New York.
Please check back on Saturday for an semifinal recap from the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London.
Day Five Review: Murray Defeats Verdasco in Three Set Epic; Federer and del Potro to Battle in Night Session
Barclays ATP World Tour Final—London
Home country hero Andy Murray prevailed in strong fashion during his final round robin match on Thursday, outlasting a determined and hard-hitting effort by Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
Murray, who began in blazing form, broke Verdasco in the ninth game of the opening set on the strength of winning 81 percent of his first serve points.
The break of serve by Murray at the tail end of the first set became crucial in the sense that it would remain the lone break point conversion by either player throughout the match. Murray would end the affair winning one of 13 break point chances.
Verdasco would score his only break opportunity late in the second during the ninth game. Holding a slim 30-40 opportunity, which was also a set point, Verdasco failed to block back a well-struck Murray serve, which ultimately led to a 5-5 scoreline.
Verdasco’s mettle, which had been tested all week, had seen the Spaniard lose all of his round robin matches in three sets.
Maintaining his three-set theme of the event, Verdasco produced a superb tiebreak highlighted by high kicking second serves and devastating forehand winners.
With the match heading to its deciding set, Murray’s anguish of going the distance resonated throughout the supportive crowd.
Such outbursts as punching his strings and yelling after an unforced error became the dialect of the final set.
What was perhaps the oddest moment of the match occurred when Murray called tournament supervisor Gerry Armstrong to the court to ask him the potential scenarios of how the semifinalists would be chosen.
With his mind clearly not on the task at hand, Murray became susceptible to further frustration from Verdasco’s game.
Clawing and scraping towards a culminating tiebreak, Murray increased his first serve points won to 81 percent, while using his defensive to remain close.
Verdasco, who hit a 136 MPH ace heading into the tiebreak, appeared anxious to capture his first win of the week.
With the tiebreaker tied at 1-1, Murray produced a marvelous slice forehand passing shot, which Verdasco dumped into the net.
Leading 3-2 in the tiebreak, Verdasco donated a miserable double fault, which all but sealed his fate.
Staring down triple match point at 6-3, Verdasco committed his final unforced error of the match (64 in total), by missing a swinging forehand volley wide.
Falling to his knees in relief, Murray saluted the crowd for their support while embracing the moment of a fine victory.
With the win, Murray improved to 2-1 in Group A action, while Verdasco fell to 0-3 in singles action.
Although Murray’s 39 winners and 28 unforced errors did not showcase his best form to date, the Scot did manage to remain economical during the crucial stages of the affair, allowing for his 65th win of the season to take place.
By contrast, Verdasco’s high risk, high reward game of 56 winners and 64 unforced errors broke down when it needed to be much tighter.
The Spaniard will hope to improve his form heading into next week’s Davis Cup final in Barcelona.
Murray will now await the of winner tonight’s encounter between Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro.
The fate of Murray’s potential semifinal appearance is broken down as the following:
In the event that Federer defeats del Potro in straight sets, Federer and Murray would qualify. In the event that del Potro defeats Federer in straight sets, del Potro and Murray would qualify.
Finally, if del Potro defeats Federer in three sets, Federer and Murray would qualify.
With Federer holding a commanding 6-1 head-to-head lead over del Potro, the year-end No. 1 will be quite confident heading into the night clash.
Another critical component to watch out for between the two Grand Slam winners this evening is the revenge factor.
Although Federer leads del Potro by a substantial win-loss margin, his US Open defeat to the Argentine will fuel the Swiss to come out strong in this contest.
Del Potro claimed that he would have to play even better than he did in New York if he was to defeat Federer in London, ultimately displaying the maturity of understanding that his opponent will not be fooled by the same tactics as their previous match.
All in all, you have to hand it to the season finale for providing its fair amount of drama until the closing stages of the event.
Friday’s action in London will feature:
Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic, and Robin Soderling vs. Nikolay Davydenko.
Please check back on Friday for continuing daily coverage from the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London.
Day Four Review: Soderling Continues Fine Form in London, Ousts Djokovic in Straight Sets; Nadal and Davydenko to Battle in Night Session
Barclays ATP World Tour Final—London
Tour finale wildcard Robin Soderling made the best of his status this week in London, defeating No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic 7-6 (5), 6-1 in the round robin portion of the season ending championships.
Soderling, who had ousted No. 2 ranked Rafael Nadal in straight sets on Monday, needed five set points to capture the opening set.
Serving his first set point of the set on his serve, Soderling blasted a service winner at 6-5 to lead by one set to love.
Although Soderling’s net play was atrocious throughout the two sets, the Swede managed to maintain stellar serving numbers for the match, striking 10 aces, winning 80 percent of his first serve points and 60 percent of his second serve points during the one hour and 34 minute affair.
After bagging a one set lead, Soderling’s confidence hit another gear, while Djokovic’s listless body language all but ended his day.
Losing his serve on three of five occasions in the second set, Djokovic appeared resigned from the mental fatigue of not capturing the opening set.
The Serb’s recent sublime Tour record had included winning back-to-back titles in Basel, Switzerland and Paris, France, as well as well winning a tough opening round robin match against Nikolay Davydenko.
Djokovic, who is the defending champ of the event, will now have to defeat Nadal in Friday’s final round robin contest if he is to advance to the semifinals.
Djokovic is also vying to overtake Nadal’s No. 2 position in the world rankings with a deep performance in London.
With the win, Soderling became the first player in the event to clinch a semifinal berth at this year’s world tour finals. For his efforts thus far, Soderling has pocketed $240,000 in prize money, while moving up a spot in the world rankings to the No. 8 position.
Tuesday’s win improved Soderling’s year-to-date record against top 10 opponent’s to 6-8, while capturing his first career win over Djokovic in six matches.
The Swede will next face Davydenko on Friday, leading the Russian 6-3 in career head-to-head meetings, and 3-1 on the year.
The night session at the O2 Arena will be highlighted by continued struggles of Spaniard Nadal.
The current world No. 2 will battle Davydenko in a must win encounter.
After falling to Soderling on Monday, Nadal needs to defeat Davydenko in order to remain in contention for the weekend’s festivities.
The Mallorcan, who is currently riding a two match losing streak, appears mentally frail for the first time in his career.
Resorting to an exclusive array of defensive shots, Nadal’s court positioning and shot selection seem to have drifted away from his once first strike game plan.
Davydenko by contrast, has been in sharp form as of late, winning two indoor titles during his fall campaign, while defeating Nadal in the pair’s last meeting in Shanghai, China.
Nadal currently leads Davydenko 4-3 in career meetings, but with the way the Spaniard is playing as of late, don’t be surprised if he loses his third Tour-level match against the Russian.
Thursday’s order of play in London will feature:
Andy Murray vs. Fernando Verdasco (Murray leads 7-1 in head-to-head action), while year-end No. 1 Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin del Potro (Federer leads 6-1 in head-to-head action).
With Tuesday’s convincing win over Murray, Federer solidified his No. 1 ranking for the fifth time in his career. The Swiss trails only Pete Sampras, who had finished the year No. 1 six times during his career.
“It means a lot to have returned to No. 1 and to finish the year again at No. 1,” said Federer. “It was an incredible year for me both on the court and off the court and to be able to break the all-time Grand Slam record and finish the year on top is amazing.”
Please check back on Thursday for continuing daily coverage from the Barclays ATP World Tour final in London.
Quotes courtesy of theatpworldtour.com.
Day Three Review: Del Potro Edges Past Verdasco in London, Federer and Murray to Battle in Night Session
Barclays ATP World Tour Final—London
Reigning US Open champ Juan Martin del Potro captured his first round robin win of the Barclays ATP World Tour final on Tuesday, defeating a tentative but persistent Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (1).
Del Potro, who raced to an early lead in the first set, broke Verdasco in the third game to lead 2-1. The Argentine continued his momentum for the remainder of the opening set, saving two break points at 5-4, before capturing the first set after an errant Verdasco backhand.
Verdasco’s fight continued in the second set, breaking del Potro in the eighth game to lead 5-3. The Spaniard’s vicious forehand and well placed serve (which won 87 percent of his second serve points), persevered to level the match at a set a piece after striking an ace on set point.
Tied at one set all, del Potro began his charge early in what appeared to be a routine third set victory. Leading 5-2, 30/40, del Potro’s nerves prevented him from creating the required speed on an approach shot, leaving himself vulnerable to a Verdasco backhand pass.
After holding serve to trail 5-3, Verdasco broke del Potro in the ensuing game to level the set on serve. Verdasco then saved a second match point when serving at 4-5, pounding a deep backhand which del Potro could not combat.
The deciding tiebreak cemented what had been an up-and-down affair. Del Potro’s confidence (which has improved leaps and bounds this season), saw the lanky Argentine gain an immediate mini-break to lead 3-1, only to extend his victorious margin to an insurmountable 6-1 advantage.
Del Potro wouldn’t falter on his third match point, releasing a scream of relief when a final Verdasco forehand sailed long.
Verdasco, who fell to 1-13 against top 10 players this season, also dropped to 0-2 in Group A action. The Spaniard was defeated by Roger Federer in three sets on Sunday.
At this stage, it is all but certain that Verdasco will be eliminated from the semifinals this weekend, leaving his foremost thoughts on next week’s Davis Cup final in Barcelona.
Trying times may be ahead for Verdasco, who seems to have frizzled after his great Australian Open campaign. The Madrid native’s run to the semifinals in Melbourne showcased his lone top 10 win of the season against Andy Murray in the round of sixteen.
Verdasco will next face Murray on Thursday in pair’s final round robin contest.
Del Potro, who improved to 2-2 in the event’s history, now stands with a reasonable chance of qualifying for the weekends final four. The Tandil native will next face Federer on Thursday.
Speaking of Federer and Murray, the heavyweight duo will square off in the marquee match of the day during a sold out night session.
Murray, who leads Federer 6-3 in the pair’s career head-to-head meetings, will attempt to be in top form in front of his home crowd.
With both players standing at 1-0 in the A Group action, a decisive win by either player would allow for a guaranteed spot in the Saturday’s semifinals.
Ironically, the pair have never faced on a surface other than hard courts. Subsequently, only one of nine previous encounters by the two have been contested at a Grand Slam event; Federer winning the 2008 US Open final.
When placed in a best of three set format, Murray is a dominating 6-2 over the Swiss, winning Indian Wells and Doha this season, but falling short to Federer in the pair’s last meeting in the Cincinnati final.
Before the singles festivities get under way this evening, the No. 1 seeded doubles team of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic will battle Frantisek Cermak and Michal Mertinak.
The matchup will be of particular importance to Nestor and Zimonjic, who will clinch the No. 1 ranking for the season if they are victorious.
In his ongoing blog for the week, Nestor was kind enough to forward me exclusive content from his experiences in London.
Wednesday’s order of play from the O2 Arena in London will feature:
Novak Djokovic vs. Robin Soderling and Rafael Nadal vs. Nikolay Davydenko
Please check back throughout the week for daily reviews from the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London.
Day Two Review: Soderling Upsets Nadal in London, Djokovic and Davydenko to Battle in Night Session
Barclays ATP World Tour Final—London
Robin Soderling caused the first major upset of the Barclays ATP World Tour final on Tuesday, ousting world No. 2 Rafael Nadal, 6-4, 6-4 in round robin play.
Soderling, who defeated Nadal at the French Open earlier this season, appeared motivated from the onset of the match to duplicate his fortunes in Paris.
Not to be outdone, Nadal broke back to level the set at 3-3, only to lose his serve at 4-5.
The Spaniard’s willingness to win was present, but his length of shot combined with low first percentage (59 percent for the match), inevitably began to wear on his demeanor.
The fifth game of the second set, which lasted 12 minutes, featured countless break and game points for both competitors.
Soderling’s backhand crosscourt, which was hit flat and early, was countered by Nadal’s forehand down-the-line.
After holding to lead by the narrow margin of 3-2, Soderling continued his baseline onslaught on Nadal, following up his out wide serving with well placed inside-out forehands.
Nadal’s renowned level of focus, was rivaled by Soderling throughout the one hour and 38 minute contest.
Winning nine more total points than the Spaniard in his straight set victory, Soderling simply played the big points better in each set.
“Especially today, I think I managed to play really well in the important points, which is something I think you have to do,” said Soderling.
Nadal, who remains within mathematical distance of catching Roger Federer for the year end No. 1 spot, will now find his chances of finishing No. 1 nearly unattainable.
The Spaniard will now have to win his final two round robin matches and the title, while hoping that Federer doesn’t win any of his remaining round robin matches and does not reach the finals.
Nadal, who saved his first match with a hard-fought 16-shot rally, lost the ensuing point when Soderling struck a blistering crosscourt backhand.
Soderling wouldn’t falter on his second match point, screaming in victory when Nadal sent a final backhand wide.
Finishing the match with 27 winners and 23 unforced errors, Soderling was simply cleaner off than ground than the Spaniard.
Nadal’s 18 winners and 24 unforced errors, resulted in limited opportunities to sustain momentum.
Aside from Nadal falling to 0-1 in Group B action, the Spaniard failed to gain a measure of revenge after losing to Soderling at the French Open (his lone career loss at Roland Garros).
Nadal was also denied his 400th career victory with his loss, holding a slight 3-2 career head-to-head lead over Soderling.
“He is a big player in this surface, so is difficult if you are not completely calm and playing very well in that moment [you will lose],” said Nadal.
“It’s really difficult to win and today. I didn’t play in this way in that moments,” expanded Nadal.
The Spaniard will now look forward to battling either Novak Djokovic or Nikolay Davydenko in his next match.
Djokovic and Davydenko will see action shortly at the O2 Arena, hosting the night session in front of another sold out crowd.
Tied with two wins a piece, Davydenko won the pair’s last encounter in thrilling fashion during the semifinals of the Shanghai Masters 1000.
Djokovic, who is coming into London in scintillating form, captured back-to-back titles in Basel and Paris—his fourth and fifth titles of the season.
Expect nothing short of anything less than a barn burner between these two, with the slight edge going to Davydenko.
Tuesday’s order of play in London will include:
Fernando Verdasco vs. Juan Martin del Potro and Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray.
Please stay tuned for continuing daily coverage from the Barclays ATP World Tour finals in London.
Quotes courtesy of theatpworldtour.com
Day One Review: Murray Fights Past Del Potro, Wins First Round Robin Match in London
Barclays ATP World Tour Final—London
World No. 4 Andy Murray put forth a sublime effort to his London campaign on Sunday, defeating reigning US Open champ Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in two hours and five minutes.
With a full house partaking in the first round robin match of the event, Murray began on top form in the opening set, breaking del Potro in the third and fifth games, resting on consistent serving and penetrating return of serves.
Del Potro, who appeared fatigued and unmotivated in the first set, increased his level of intensity to begin the set two, duplicating Murray’s feat of breaking serve twice, leveling the match a set a piece.
With Del Potro’s average ground stroke speed almost 10 miles faster than Murray’s (77.4 mph to 67.5 mph), the towering Argentine appeared the front runner heading into the deciding set.
After capturing a routine hold of serve in the opening game of set three, Murray withstood eight of 10 first serves by Del Potro in the second game to lead 2-0.
Murray would stretch his third set lead to 4-2, winning all 10 of his first serve points.
The Scot’s timely trips to the net were also integral part of his winning formula, capturing an impressive 9-12 opportunities when moving forward.
Del Potro, who remained diligent with his potent forehand, struck 31 winners to 38 unforced errors.
Serving at 2-5 down in the final set, Del Potro saved his first match point with a service winner, only to have Murray win the ensuing rally with a backhand winner—his 31st of the match.
With the win, Murray captured a 1-0 win-loss record in Group A action, while Del Potro fell to 0-1.
A positive note for the Argentine will remain his second set win over Murray. In the event that two or more players in the Group A end up with the same win-loss total—the tiebreaker would take into account most sets won.
All in all, the win by Murray will be remembered for his second serve points won, which reached an astounding 68 percent.
Murray’s challenge going forward for the remainder of his career will be his ability to translate his return of serve prowess into best of five set matches. Although the task is much more difficult in a Grand Slam event, such statistics will be vital in Murray’s ability to capture his first Major title.
Murray, who is relatively fresh coming into the season ending championships, elaborated on his match form after defeating del Potro.
“Me and Juan haven’t played that much since the US Open. I kind of expected a little bit of a scrappy match maybe,” said Murray. “He didn’t start particularly well, but after 5-0 (in the first set), I thought the standard was very good. Played some great points. Obviously happy to get the win.
“Tactically, I’ve always been quite good. So I found a way through it today. He does have a big forehand. He can hit a lot of winners; he can make mistakes off of it. There was a period [from the] end of the first set till the beginning of the third where he was hitting it big. I managed to keep myself in the point with sort of low slices and backhands, up the line. They helped a lot to kind of keep him out of that backhand court a bit.”
Del Potro, who fell to 1-3 at the event, spoke about his nose bleed in the first set, along with his missed opportunities throughout his defeat.
“I have a big nose, that’s the problem,” the Argentine said. “It’s just bleeding, I don’t know why.”
“Against Andy, always the match is very tough,” explained del Potro. “We play three sets in every tournament, every match. Today was a little strange, but he played great tennis in the third set. He was a little lucky, but you need the luck to win and today it was with him. We had a very good atmosphere, very good crowd. Many Argentinians come to watch this tournament. So I’m very, very happy to be part of the eight players.”
The night session at the O2 Arena will feature world No. 1 Roger Federer against Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
Federer, who leads the pair’s head-to-head 3-0, will be playing with extra incentive this week with his No. 1 ranking on the line.
In the event that Federer wins his three round robin matches, he will clinch the No. 1 ranking for the year.
Verdasco, who is making his debut at the event, will attempt to utilize his forehand and left-handed serve to offset the rhythm of his Swiss opponent.
Another sold out crowd is slated for the evening session.
In doubles action, the team of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic were ousted by the unheralded Polish duo of Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski, 6-4, 6-4.
Nestor, who recently won his ninth different Masters 1000 title in Paris (the only player in singles and doubles to do so on either Tour), was kind enough to provide me with a blog the day before his first round match. Nestor will be blogging throughout the week. Stay tuned.
Tuesday’s action in London will feature the commencement or Group B competition.
No. 2 seed Rafael Nadal will take on Robin Soderling in a French Open rematch, to be followed by No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic vs. Nikolay Davydenko.
Please check back throughout the week for continuing daily coverage from the Tour finale in London.
November 29, 2009
Update: Reports are surfacing that the ATP World Tour will now take ownership of the Indianapolis event, which in turn would allow them to scrap the tournament all together. Considering the history of the event, this is obviously a disappointment but the ATP definitely has some big plans as this is event is held during the US Open series, meaning that an empty week of tennis would not suffice.
On the heels of the Kitzbuhel, Austria event moving to Nice, France next season, it was released today that the long standing tournament in Indianapolis will be relocated to Atlanta, Georgia next year.
The Indianapolis Business Journal stated that due to lack of funding for the event, the 30-year-old tournament will be changing venues. Indianapolis had been without a title sponsor since RCA ended its long-time association with the event in 2006.
The tournament was won by Robby Ginepri for the second time earlier this summer.
November 28, 2009
The ATP has announced that the Kitzbuhel, Austria event will be replaced in 2010 by a new World Tour 250 series event to be held at the clay courts of the Nice Lawn Tennis Club the week prior to Roland Garros.
“We are delighted to announce the new event in Nice,” said Laurent Delanney, ATP Chief Executive Officer – Europe. “Nice staged a popular ATP World Tour event for many years and it is great to be able to return there after a 15 year absence. Tennis has a huge following in France and many French players compete at the highest level on the ATP World Tour.”
The Nice event becomes the fifth ATP World Tour event in France after Marseille, Metz, Lyon and Paris. Nice had held an ATP World Tour event for several years until 1995. It may also mean a little less traveling for those players who want to stay within France before Roland Garros.
November 28, 2009
This week at the World Tour Finals, the ATP has given the players their own private dressing rooms. Mr. R-Fed himself takes us for a quick look around. I guess they ran out of money when it came to the doubles teams as you can read here from Daniel Nestor’s exclusive O2 blog for Tennis Connected.
November 28, 2009
The Aussie Open warm up, the Brisbane International, will take place January 3-10 ‘10 and has quite the star filled line-up for fans to enjoy. Returning champion and “Mr. Ladies Man” Radek Stepanek will try to defend his title but he will have to contend with the likes of fellow Czech Tomas Berdych, Frenchmen Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet. Crowd favourites James Blake and Marcos Baghdatis and recently confirmed Andy Roddick will also be in attendance.
November 26, 2009
Chiudinelli, who is 28-years-old, currently resides in Fuellinsdorf, Switzerland and is ranked No. 54 on the ATP World Tour.
Chiudinelli was kind enough to answer the following questions after returning from his off season trip to the Dominican Republic.
1. Coming into the 2009 season, what were your expectations in terms of ranking position and results?
As I started the year only being ranked No. 603 and just having a few more tournaments left where I was able to use my protected ranking, my goal was to end the season at least around the No. 160th spot, so I could be seeded in the qualifying of the Australian Open ‘10.
I knew this was already going to be quite difficult, but it seemed [like] an OK goal to me for the ‘09 season, and then I was planning to try to make the top 100 in the ‘10 season.
2. What component of the game did you find most difficult to regain when coming back to competition after an injury plagued 2008 season?
I struggled quite a long time with my backhand which was one of my best weapons before my surgery. It took me a long time until I regained full confidence in it again and only tried to keep the ball in play at the start of the ‘09 season.
3. What motivated you to gain your highest career ranking of No. 54 in the world after starting the year ranked No. 603?
Reaching the top 100 was always my goal since I started to play as a pro. In ‘05 I came quite close, reaching a ranking of No. 129 but then was stopped by a major shoulder injury. After a 9 month break due to shoulder surgery, I dropped back to No. 795, and then made it back to No. 130 within 9 months of playing after my comeback.
So it was my second time that I got very close to breaking the top 100 but once again I was forced to stop playing, this time for 18 months due to a knee surgery.
I was never giving up on my dream and worked hard for my comeback as I always had belief that I can achieve my goals. I am very happy and proud that in ‘09, in my 10th year on tour and after all the big setbacks, I finally made my dream come true and now it’s time to set myself a new goal.
4. What players supported you the most when you were sidelined for the majority of the 2008 season?
The player who supported me the most during my injury break was definitively Yves Allegro, who is my best friend at the same time, not only on tour.
5. What would you consider your highlight moment of 2009?
I had quite a few, first winning my first challenger in Tenerife in April, which made me re-enter the top 300. Then one of my best moments ever was definitively winning my first doubles title together with Michael Lammer in Gstaad. The other highlights were getting to the 3rd round of the US Open, entering the top 100 by playing my first ever quarterfinal on tour in Bangkok, and last but not least my first semifinal ever at my home tournament in Basel.
6. It is widely known that Roger Federer is your good friend on Tour. Is this type of friendship common on Tour, or is if more of every man for himself?
I think almost every player has a few very good friends on tour. Mine are Yves Allegro, Roger Federer, Michael Lammer and Ivo Klec.
7. Now that you have reached a high enough ranking to enter a majority of the Tour-level events, what are you goals for the 2010 season?
First of all, I need to put all my efforts into keeping my position inside the top 100. If I can maintain my position for the first few months of the ’10 season, then I can set myself new goals, maybe getting to the top 50 and trying to win a singles title.
8. Finally, if you could disclose one locker room story that the public doesn’t know about, what would it be?
There isn’t any particular story in my mind. Talking of locker rooms, a Challenger in India comes to my mind. As this was the only tournament I have ever played where there wasn’t even a locker room…
Picture courtesy of John Anthony
November 25, 2009
We apologize in advance that we don’t have a larger image for you or more details about Nadal’s new Babolat racket. The new racket, slated to be in Rafa’s hands in the upcoming Australian Open, will feature roughly the same specs as his current racket with the addition of tungsten. We will have more info in the coming weeks so check back for details.
November 24, 2009
On Saturday 21st of November, world No. 109 Santiago Ventura married Angela Frances. The Wedding was held at 18.00 hours in the Catholic Church Iglesia de la Ascension in Almansa, the home town of the bride. Santiago and Angela had been dating for over seven years.
Several top tennis players attended the wedding in Spain. Former world No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Marcel Granollers, Potito Starace, Juan Pablo Guzman, David Marrero, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Daniel Gimeno-Traver.
Santiago and Angela left on Monday to the Seychelles Islands for a two week honeymoon.
November 24, 2009
We reported here in August that Roddick was said to be switching from Lacoste clothing to Babolat apparel in 2010. But it seems that when the clock struck 12, Lacoste came up with a better offer than its rival French brand.
Babolat, whose clothing line is quite popular in Europe and South America, was looking to penetrate into the North American market with the strength of Roddick’s persona.
The new deal announced today has Andy signed with the French brand until the end of the 2013 season, though financial details have not been disclosed as of yet.
Lacoste CEO Christophe Chenut said Roddick brings “his human dimension” to the company.
“Andy will continue to be a major ambassador for the crocodile, thanks to his natural elegance, thanks to his fair play and smile,” Chenut said.