Berdych Upset with D.C. Officials After Loss

August 7, 2010

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 06: Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic serves against Xavier Malisse of Belgium during their quarterfinal match on day 5 of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center on August 6, 2010 in Washington, DC. Malisse won the match 6-4,3-6,6-2. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Top seed Tomas Berdych was visibly upset after losing in quarterfinals of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic to Xavier Malisse of Belgium on Friday.

After his loss to Malisse, the Associated Press reported that Berdych told the assembled media that he may not return to the event next year.

“I was feeling like I was still sleeping,” said Berdych, who was forced to play the day’s first match.

“Maybe I’m not going to come next year,” said the Czech. “If you like the tournament, if you like the place, then you always want to come back. But if you get an experience like that, we will see.”

Berdych, who recently reached the Wimbledon final, will now travel to Toronto to take part in the Rogers Cup. The powerful Czech will be the No. 7 seed in Toronto.

Rogers Cup: Draw Preview and Analysis

August 7, 2010

July 16, 2010 - Bastad, Sk  ne, Sweden - epa02250428 Sweden's Robin Soderling reacts after defeating Italy's Andreas Seppi in 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 in the quarter finals of the Swedish Open tennis tournament in Bastad, Sweden, on 16 July 2010.

The race for the No. 1 ranking on the ATP World Tour will once again heat up at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. The assembled media, and the world for that matter, tuned in earlier on Friday to witness the official draw ceremony from the CN Tower. Rafael Nadal was on hand to aid with the placement of each competitor in the draw, and ironically the Spaniard provided the tournament the opportunity for a potential showdown with his arch-rival Roger Federer.

Although Federer is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, the Swiss star has enjoyed great success in Canada, which has been highlighted by winning two titles and one finals appearance. The 16-time Major winner has always excelled on the hard-courts of North America, and he will once again be adamant on pulling in a strong performance to begin his US Open Series campaign.

World No. 2 Novak Djokovic and defending champ Andy Murray will lead the way in the bottom half of the draw. Djokovic, who arrived in Toronto on Wednesday, has kept his on-court practice sessions intense, while using the on-site fitness facilities to the fullest. The Serb has a quiet aura of confidence around him at the moment, and although his season hasn’t been up to his standard thus far, he may just be in line for another Masters 1000 title by week’s end.

Andy Roddick encountered another setback last week in Washington, but the 2003 champ will always be considered a dangerous contender on hard-courts. Roddick has alluded to feeling under the weather for several weeks now, and that will be a story to follow throughout the event. Roddick does have the luxury of playing some of the best tennis of his career at Indian Wells and Miami during the spring, and if he’s able to replicate that type of form in Toronto, he’ll certainly have a great shot at reaching the weekend.

There will be four local favorites to root for in Toronto this year, led by Canada’s top-ranked player Peter Polansky. Polansky made the second-round in Montreal last year, and held a set point against Djokovic before bowing out in straight sets. Polansky has already put in a tremendous amount of practice this week at the Rexall Center—training with Arnaud Clement on Thursday, and sparring with Federer on Center Court earlier on Friday. Polansky will face No. 13 seed Jurgen Melzer in the first-round.

Canada’s second-ranked player, Frank Dancevic could set up an intriguing second-round match with Nadal, but he will first have to fend off talented Swiss player Stanislas Wawrinka in his opening hurdle. Dancevic returned to action earlier this year after suffering a back injury, but recently ran into a scoreboard while playing in Atlanta.

Milos Raonic and Pierre-Ludovic Duclos will round out the Canadian representation in the field.

With a brief overview of the 56-man draw complete, let’s now take a look at the top four seeds, and their respective roads to the semifinals.

Nadal Quarter:

After fulfilling his draw ceremony commitments at the CN Tower, and later being flown back to the Rexall Center by a private helicopter for a 6 p.m. practice session, Nadal took to the courts for a late night hit with German Michael Berrer. On a first glace, I noticed a much calmer Nadal than I had seen on the same court in 2008. Although his forehand cross-court caught the top of the tape on one too many occasions, his overall court presence showcased a player who was comfortable with his surroundings. Even his camp, led by intern coach Francisco Roig, were seen joking and enjoying the crisp Canadian air. Except for a few grimaces of disbelief by Berrer after being bludgeoned by Nadal’s backhand at the net, an eventful day for the world’s top player went over just as planned.

The Spaniard’s quarter of the draw does hold a few troublesome opponents before the semifinals. As mentioned, Wawrinka could be up in the second-round, with recent Los Angeles champ Sam Querrey a potential round of 16 opponent. Querrey has shown guts and glory at the ATP 250 point level, but has yet to show what he’s made of at the bigger events. Needless to say, a win over Nadal in the third-round would be quite the achievement. Roddick and Marin Cilic remain the highest seeds in the quarter after Nadal, but have both shown frailty in recent months. Cilic hasn’t reached the finals of an event since May, and Roddick recently admitted that he’s “losing a degree of motivation to compete.”

I’d say that Cilic could give Nadal his hardest match in this quarter, considering the beating that he put on the Spaniard in China last fall. That was a different Nadal, though, and Cilic is nowhere near as confident at the moment.

Nadal has already exceeded his own expectations by capturing two Grand Slam titles this year. But, if we know anything about Nadal, it’s that he plays well when he’s under pressure, and even better when he’s in his comfort zone.

I saw that comfort zone against Berrer on center court, and it’s going to be hard for anyone to stop that this week.

Pick: Nadal

Djokovic Quarter:

The recent world No. 2 returns to Toronto in search of his hard-court arsenal. Djokovic appears injury-free at the moment, but a tricky draw will provide more than a few obstacles before the semifinals.

Beginning his campaign against either Julien Benneteau or a qualifier, Djokovic could meet No. 13 seed Melzer in the third-round. Melzer, who reached the semifinals at Roland Garros earlier this year, has proven that his penetrating backhand remains a formidable weapon on the asphalt.

No. 6 seed Nikolay Davydenko also lurks in this section, but the Russian hasn’t been himself since encountering a wrist injury in March. Having lost before the third-round of every event that he’s played since, Davydenko—surprisingly—comes into Toronto as a wildcard pick. Davydenko can still rip the ball with the best of them, but he’s lost that “video game” level that he held at the beginning of the year.

Two other standout names in this section are No. 9 seed Fernando Verdasco, and Cypriot Marcos Baghdaits. Both players hold the right tools to excel on a quick hard-court, with Baghdaits possessing a much flatter game. Baghdatis defeated Verdasco in Washington last week, and the pair could face off in the third-round again.

Baghdatis has shown me enough this year to pencil him in as one of the surprise semifinalists in the event. He will have to prove, though, that his fitness can survive two grueling events in a row.

Although Djokovic will team up with Nadal in the doubles draw, I’m just not convinced that his serve will hold up through five singles matches.

Pick: Baghdatis

Federer Quarter:

Does it really matter at this point what Federer is seeded at an event? Capturing a boat worth of titles throughout his career, while raking in millions of dollars in prize money, Federer rides into Toronto on a lull in form. Losing in both the quarterfinals of Roland Garros and Wimbledon, Federer was granted a relatively easy quarter in his quest for a third title.

Beginning his road to the semifinals against either Alejandro Falla or Juan Ignacio Chela, Federer could face in-form Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in the round of 16.

Almagro began his post-Wimbledon campaign by winning clay titles in Bastad and Gstaad. Possessing a devastating one-handed backhand, Almagro has the necessary skill set to add his name to the unlikely list of players to defeat Federer this season.

Apart from a potential scare against Almagro, Federer will have an opportunity to gain some revenge over Tomas Berdych.

Berdych, who defeated Federer at Wimbledon and Miami this year, has enjoyed a banner season which has included reaching the finals of his maiden Slam in London, and advancing to the semifinals of the French Open. The tall Czech has a tremendous game for hard-courts, and continues to bring forth the confidence that he belongs at the top of the sport.

It would really be a tremendous feat for Berdych if he could defeat Federer on three straight occasions—regardless of Federer’s recent form—while continuing his march up the rankings. Federer has certainly been a fraction of the player that he was at the start of the season, and a win in Toronto would help to restore order.

Will Federer be able to dig deep and jump back into the spotlight that Nadal and Djokovic have occupied at the moment? Is that really his concern at this point in his career, considering his mantle of glistening hardware? Whatever the case, Federer continues to play this game because he believes that he can win; a trait that does not vanish because of a few losses.

However, the locker room buzz around the former No. 1 has began to hit a lower pitch of fear. Berdych knows what it takes to defeat Federer on the grandest stage the sport has to offer, and the likelihood of it happening can’t be taken for granted.

Pick: Berdych

Murray Quarter:

The defending champ was dealt perhaps the toughest draw of the top four seeds. Entering Toronto without a title in 2010, Murray could face either Xavier Malisse, Fernando Gonzalez, Feliciano Lopez, or Gael Monfils before the quarterfinals.

While Malisse has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts, Gonzalez, Lopez and Monfils have played some of their best tennis on hard-courts this season. Gonzalez will be making his return to action after suffering a knee injury at the French Open, while Monfils will return to the circuit after sustaining an ankle injury in Stuttgart. The explosive strokes of Gonzalez and Monfils will adapt nicely to the slick courts in Toronto, and both players will take confidence in recording previous Tour wins over Murray.

The path to the final four could continue to grow in difficulty for Murray, who could face either No. 5 seed Robin Soderling, No. 10 seed David Ferrer, David Nalbandian, or Ernests Gulbis in the quarterfinals.

Soderling has been MIA since Wimbledon, but the heavy-hitting Swede can never be taken lightly. Soderling possesses the thunderous weapons to blow anyone off court, but the fast paced surface of the summer season could expose his elaborate backswings. Soderling will remain a huge threat throughout the remainder of this season, but his march through Toronto could end due to late timing.

Nalbandian and Ferrer will lock horns in the most anticipated first-round match of the event, but watch for Nalbandian to come in fatigued after his successful week in Washington.

Although Murray will be on a mission to defend his Canadian crown, one has to think that his year of disappoint won’t turn around that easy.

Soderling, though, has taken a year filled with expectation, and turned it into ongoing success. The Swede isn’t interested in winning any popularity contests, but he wouldn’t mind claiming a Masters 1000 title to go along with his two Grand Slam finishes.

Pick: Soderling

Semifinals: Nadal vs. Soderling; Berdych vs. Baghdatis

Finals: Nadal vs. Berdych

Champion: Nadal

Berdych Upset in Washington; Cilic Reaches Semifinals

August 7, 2010

Legg Mason Tennis Classic—Washington, D.C.

Quarterfinal results:

Xavier Malisse d. No. 1 seed Tomas Berdych 6-4, 3-6, 6-2; No. 8 seed Marcos Baghdatis d. No. 3 seed Fernando Verdasco 7-6(3), 6-4; No. 4 seed Marin Cilic d. Janko Tipsarevic 7-6(4), 6-4, and David Nalbandian d. No. 13 Gilles Simon 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Roddick Falls in Washington; Berdych Advances to Quarterfinals

August 6, 2010

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 03: Andy Roddick of the USA dries off against Grega Zemlja of Slovenia during day 2 of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center on August 3, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Legg Mason Tennis Classic—Washington, D.C.

No. 2 seed Andy Roddick suffered another shocking loss on Thursday at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington, D.C.

Losing 6-3, 6-3 to Frenchman Gilles Simon, Roddick failed to reach the quarterfinals in Washington for only the second time in nine appearances.

Simon, who won 91 percent of his first serve points, claimed the biggest win of his season, while reaching his second quarterfinal of 2010.

Roddick’s loss will cause him to fall out of the top 10 for the first time since August of 2008. The American hasn’t reached a final since winning the Miami event in March. Roddick will now travel to Toronto to take part in the Rogers Cup.

Elsewhere, No. 1 seed Tomas Berdych defeated recent Hamburg champ Andrey Golubev 6-3, 5-7, 7-5; No. 3 seed Fernando Verdasco dismissed Ryan Sweeting 6-4, 7-5; Xavier Malisse upset John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5); Marcos Baghdatis moved past Illya Marchenko 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3, and David Nalbandian blasted through Marco Chiudinelli 6-1, 6-0.

Berdych Previals in Washington; Querrey Ousted

August 5, 2010

Legg Mason Tennis Classic—Washington, D.C.

Second-Round results:

No. 1 seed Tomas Berdych d. Dmitry Tursunov 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-1; Janko Tipsarevic d. No. 6 seed Sam Querrey 7-6(3), 6-3; David Nalbandian d. No. 7 seed Stanislas Wawrinka 6-1, 6-3; No. 8 seed Marcos Baghdatis d. Horacio Zeballos 7-6(3), 7-6(5); Illya Marchenko d. No. 9 seed Ernests Gulbis 6-1, 1-0 ret. (heat);  Marco Chiudinelli d. No. 10 seed Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-3; Alejandro Falla d. No 11 seed Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 3-2 ret. (right calf), and No. 16 Andrey Golubev d. Kristof Vliegen 6-2, 7-6(7).

Legg Mason Tennis Classic Draw Preview and Analysis

July 30, 2010

Andy Roddick of the United States serves to compatriot Mardy Fish during the semi-finals of the Atlanta Tennis Championships in Johns Creek, Georgia July 24, 2010. Fish defeated Roddick to advance to the finals. REUTERS/Tami Chappell (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

The third week of the Olympus US Open Series will bring the ATP World Tour to the Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington D.C.

Beginning six weeks of intense hard-court action, the Washington event will set the platform for the upcoming Masters 1000 events in Toronto and Cincinnati. The hot and humid conditions in D.C. have never been easy for the ATP players to deal with (especially during the day), but there is no doubt that the fitness and mental fortitude of every main draw player will be pushed to the limit.

Two-time defending champion Juan Martin del Potro remains sidelined with a wrist injury and will not be able to compete for a third straight title. The Tandil native has set a comeback date for the end of September, and will be sadly missed during the current and forthcoming marquee events on the circuit.

With three of the top 10 players in the world present in Washington this year, let’s now take a look at the top and bottom halves of the draw, and who the potential winners and surprises could be.

Top Half:

Wimbledon finalist, Tomas Berdych will lead the way in Washington this year. Fresh off of his first Grand Slam final in London, which was followed by a semifinal performance at the French Open, Berdych will occupy the unlikely role of the being the favorite this week. Receiving a bye in the first-round, Berdych will face either Dmitry Tursunov or Teymuraz Gabasvili in second-round action.

Looking ahead at other potential winners in the top half of the draw, No. 3 seed Fernando Verdasco, No. 5 seed John Isner, and No. 9 seed Ernests Gulbis can’t be overlooked.

Verdasco, who spent last week training in Las Vegas in order to better prepare for his hard-court march, took a late wildcard into the event. Originally slated to make his first hard-court appearance in Toronto, Verdasco will make his debut in Washington this year. Losing four of his last five matches on Tour, Verdasco will be adamant on changing his fortunes on the hard-courts of North America.

Marathon man Isner will be looking to add to his recent finals appearance in Atlanta. Reaching four finals this season, Isner continues to prove that his will and serving prowess are more than adequate weapons to sustain a top 20 position. One wonders if fatigue and injury will catch up with the 6′9″ American, considering that most of his matches this year have gone to the limit—see his Wimbledon first-round against Nicolas Mahut, and more recently the finals of Atlanta against Mardy Fish.

Nevertheless, Isner is currently surrounded by an aura of confidence and hype, and those variables are often more valuable than a put-away forehand.

The dangerous groundstrokes of Latvian Gulbis will be interesting to monitor in Washington. Returning from injury last week in Los Angeles, the 21-year-old was bounced from the event in the second-round, but not before receiving multiple code violations and saving four match points. Gulbis has exhibited the type of form that has challenged and defeated the top players in the world, but remains an enigma considering the frequent early round losses that he’s encountered in the past.

Gulbis does though, remain one of the purest ball strikers on the circuit, and could become a nightmare for anyone to face if his timing and confidence returns.

Other dangerous floaters that lurk in this half include: Richard Gasquet, James Blake, and Marcos Baghdatis.

Although Berdych provides the most bang for the buck in this half, something tells me that Verdasco’s week of heavy duty training in Las Vegas will aid him towards a first time final.

Pick: Verdasco

Bottom Half:

Is it time for Andy Roddick fans to push the parachute button on their backpacks, or will the three time champ and two time finalist turnaround his slumping form in Washington?

Roddick’s year has been filled with quite a few notable momentum changes. His season began with a flourish by taking home two tournament titles in Brisbane and Miami, while reaching two other finals in San Jose and Indian Wells (all on hard-courts). However, a hiatus from the clay-court season derailed Roddick’s level of play, and saw him encounter earlier-than-expected losses at the French Open and Wimbledon. Observing his matches in Atlanta two weeks ago, Roddick was far from his hard-court best. The American struggled with his returns, and lost a set in each of his first two matches before falling in straight sets to Fish in the semifinals. Roddick’s Washington record does speak for itself, and I think it’s safe to say that if he’s hoping for a successful summer season, than a deep charge in Washington must be achieved.

Roddick was handed a generous draw up until the semifinals, with the exception of giant killer and former top three player David Nalbandian as a potential quarterfinal foe.

Nalbandian pulled off an epic performance in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup against Russia, and his silky smooth backhand has always excelled on hard-courts.

The top quarter of this half contains four players who could all advance to the semifinals. No. 4 seed Marin Cilic, No. 6 seed Sam Querrey, No. 11 seed Lleyton Hewitt, and No. 15 seed Fish have all shown flashes of brilliance on the asphalt this season.

Cilic, who has been in a slump as of late, returns to action after an early exit from Wimbledon. The lanky Croat blazed to the semifinals of the Australian Open earlier this year, but has cooled off considerably after signs of reaching the top 10. Querrey has always thrived during the North American events, but has struggled to sustain respectable results in tournaments of larger stature. He does remain a menacing force on hard-courts, and appears like a good pick to reach the semifinals considering Hewitt’s recent hip injury.

Fish, who remains the man of the moment, will enter Washington on a two tournament winning streak. Making the veteran decision to skip the Los Angeles event last week, Fish’s stock would gain further value if he could bag his third title in a row. Entering the meat of the summer circuit with Toronto and Cincinnati on the horizon, Fish would send a clear message to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer that he’s the player to beat with a victory in D.C.

Although Fish has shown nothing short of the desire to achieve the most out of his game during his final year’s of his career, I still feel that his forehand can be exposed by the right caliber player.

All in all, the bottom half of the draw appears far less predictable than the top half. In saying that, one has to think that Roddick will be licking his chops with del Potro not defending his crown. Five final appearances will definitely spur Roddick’s chances at victory. Although the Toronto and Cincinnati events provide more points and prize money, Roddick’s US Open chances—in my eyes anyway—will rest on how he performs in Washington.

Pick: Roddick

Champion: Roddick

Legg Mason Classic Main Draw

July 30, 2010

The draw for the 2010 Legg Mason Tennis in Washington, D.C. was released on Friday. Beginning six week of exclusive hard-court action, the 48-man draw in the Nation’s capital will consist of three top 10 players.

Tomas Berdych, Andy Roddick, and Fernando Verdasco will be the featured players.

For the complete Legg Mason Classic draw, click the link below.

Legg Mason Classic main draw.

Reviewing Wimbledon: Part 1

July 10, 2010

Taiwan's Lu Yen-hsun reacts in his match against Serbias Novak Djokovic at the 2010 Wimbledon tennis championships in London, June 30, 2010.   REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

It’s too early to make predictions for the US Open; I think they at least have to play the Master’s Series events in Canada and Cincinnati before we do that. That’s especially true now that the defending champion of the event won’t be playing it due to injury, the player who has dominated the event in the past decade is slumping, and the man dominating the tour at the moment hasn’t been past the semis there.

But one thing we can do is look at the players who made a splash at this year’s Wimbledon, where they stand now, and what they need to do between now and then to be ideally prepared for the year’s last major. We start with none other than …

*Rafael Nadal*: After winning his eighth major and solidifying his stature as the game’s No. 1, we’ve seen a few, including (sigh) Chris Chase speculating about whether the Spaniard can match Roger Federer’s 16 Grand Slam wins.

Let me be emphatic: We should not be talking about this yet. It’s been five years since Nadal won his first major and he now has eight; he’s also been through a grocery list of injuries in that time and is having to schedule more and more carefully to avoid hurting himself. For now, let’s focus on a few other goals that more attainable but far from automatic.

First of all there’s the US Open, the one major he hasn’t won. This year is reminiscent of 2008 in more ways than one, now that Nadal has completed the Channel Slam for the second time and has firmly established himself as the best in the world. He fell short that year, losing to Andy Murray in the semis, saying later that the season had finally caught up with him and he had “nothing left.”

The US Open’s position as the last major of the year is always going to be tough for the player who works hardest on the court, and it’s surface is both faster than Nadal’s liking and least forgiving of his brittle joints.

This year is different from 2008 in one key respect: no Summer Olympics, meaning the Spaniard won’t be flying halfway around the world to win one more event before the Open starts, thus tiring himself out even more. That should work in his favor, but if he’s going to win the Open, it’ll probably need to be in the next couple of years, and need to be accomplished by weathering the storm of huge, flat hitter who pushes him to the distance.

Rafa’s goals for the near future are probably to grab that US Open trophy and break Bjorn Borg’s record at Roland Garros. That would give him three more majors, which would also equal Borg’s GS total. If he achieves that in the next couple of years, then we can start talking about the possibility of him equaling Pete Sampras total. Then, and only then, would I start talking about him matching Federer’s total, and that’s assuming the Swiss hasn’t added to it.

*Tomas Berdych*: In between the stretches in which he appeared completely unnerved by the setting of the Wimbledon final, the big Czech looked as though he were capable of really hurting Nadal with his serve. He probably could have made a great match of it had he saved his best performance for final Sunday and raised his game for the big occasion; in other words, if he’d been a bit more like Nadal.

It goes without saying by this point that Nadalian characteristics, especially mental ones, aren’t that common. Berdych’s success on the grass (and his semifinal appearance) on the clay of Paris have contributed to his having a ranking of No. 8, and should make him confident going into the
summer hard court season (where he’s beaten Nadal twice).

New York fast courts should reward his serving and flat hitting, but will be hard on his slim physique. That bad news is that he’s never been past the fourth round there, but the good news is that he’d never been past the fourth of Roland Garros or the quarters of Wimbledon before this year.

*Andy Murray: *Britain’s No. 1 showed up at Wimbledon playing well, wasn’t overwhelmed by the occasion, and showed no fear of Rafael Nadal in the semis. In that sense, the fact that he lost in straight sets is all the more disheartening, as it appears he couldn’t have done much of anything better.

With Darren Cahill now at his side, the Scot has a lot of defense to play in North America, both in the sense that he’s defending points from his victory in Canada last year and must prove that he’s still a threat at the majors. Should he take good care of his body, though, a better result than last year’s fourth round showing at the Open should be a given, and it’s speed will make it more possible for him to take time away from guys with big forehands.

*Novak Djokovic: *After an early struggle with Oliver Rochus, who has a history of causing struggles for the Serb, Djokovic looked awfully good for four rounds, outdueling the hot grasscourt hand Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth and obliterating Andy Roddick’s conqueror Lu Yen-Hsun in the quarters.

Then, against Berdych in the semis, he simply didn’t have the answers. Berdych’s game had a lot to do with that, as he hits winners with ease, punishes weak serving, and offers few opportunities on his own service game.

What was most discouraging about that result, though, was how Djokovic responded to the loss of the second set. His body language suggested defeat was inevitable, and he surrendered his final break of service by double-faulting. True, he has struggled with his serve ever since Todd Martin made the odd choice of trying to tweak it, but the direction of that last double and his reaction to it suggested not so much a technical breakdown as indifference.

And the 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 scoreline was depressingly similar to his loss to Marat Safin at Wimbledon 2008 (6-4, 7-6, 6-2). This, combined with his early (but thankfully not recent) tendency toward withdrawals suggests that, once he falls behind, Djokovic is already thinking about his next match.

That mentality bodes more ill than his serving woes or breathing problems.

*Lu Yen-Hsun:* Kudos to the man from Taoyuan for his big fourth round win over Roddick. That said, whenever a little-known player scores a big win over a big name, there’s a simple test for predicting where they go from here: Listen to the commentators, the coaches, or the other players to see if they say this little-known player has the biggest or best (insert shot) or the best or most (insert attribute) on tour.

No one was saying anything like that about Lu, which made his beating at the hands of Djokovic easy to anticipate. His age (26) also suggests that he won’t be back.

I’ll be back later to give similar treatment to players who had a disappointing Wimbledon.

Wimbledon Day 13 Blog: Halfway to History

July 5, 2010

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Wimbledon—London, England

Could it be that at the ripe old age of 24, Rafael Nadal has already began his race against history, and not against defeating his on-court opponents?

Capturing his second Grand Slam title of 2010 on Sunday over Tomas Berdych at Wimbledon, Nadal pocketed his eighth Major championship, while leaving the window wide open for a march towards Roger Federer’s total of 16 titles.

With his dominating straight set win over the Czech, Nadal currently holds two more Majors than Federer did at 24.

Nadal’s ability to fight through the 128-man field, and display the courage and resilience to remain the last man standing at the end of a fortnight will likely continue.

Watching the Spaniard pick apart Berdych’s in form game, I couldn’t help but wonder if and when Nadal could potentially reach Federer’s mark of 16 Majors? I’m in no way stating that I believe that Federer is done winning big titles—because I don’t—but we must also not shy away from the overall mark of 16 titles when predicting what the future may entail, because unknown number aren’t helpful.

It would truly be a monumental feat if Nadal could continue to fight through the grinding Tour calender, and remain competitive until he was well into his 30s. I personally don’t believe that he will be able to play that long—especially with the brand of tennis that he chooses to play—but then again, the future remains an unknown commodity.

However, Nadal likely has at least five good year’s left in his body, which would leave him with 21 more Slams at his disposal, including this year’s US Open.

Hard-courts will always be difficult for Nadal to complete on, simply because of the stiff and pounding nature of the surface. Nadal has poured in more than respectable results on the asphalt, including his 2009 Australian Open victory. But when considering that seven of his eight Majors have come on either clay or grass, there’s no mystery that further hard-court success will be difficult to come by.

Not losing his serve against Berdych throughout his victory, Nadal showcased his continued strength at out-thinking his opponents. Nadal’s serve has never been the overpowering bullet that so many of the top players posses, but what he achieves perhaps better than any other player is the innate knowledge of knowing where the return is headed. Sprinting over to defend the second shot of his service games, Nadal either quickly takes the offense in a point, or better yet neutralizes his opponents by forcing them into drawn out rallies.

Nadal will have to address his point composition (and length of each point he plays) going forward in his career, especially if he intends on sustaining the health of his knees.

Saving all four of his break points against Berdych, Nadal was optimistic on his return games by converting on four of seven break chances. Not losing a set to Berdych since 2006, Nadal has won an incredible 17 straight sets against the Czech. Appearing relaxed throughout his second career Euro Slam march, Nadal provided the on-court crowd with a forward somersault dive and fist pump to commemorate his successful campaign.

Admitting that a US Open triumph remains the top goal for the remainder of his career, Nadal went onto suggest that his immediate future will include some much deserved R&R.

“Right now I’m very happy to win Wimbledon. Yeah (smiling). We gonna think about US Open in one month. Right now we just relax and enjoy for me this amazing season,” said Nadal.

“Was very difficult for me to be back at my best. I did, so is very important and emotional moment for me. I want to enjoy that. For sure, keep working to try to be in the US Open finally ready to try to win. But for sure US Open gonna be one of my goals for rest of my career.

“But right now is enjoy the beach, fishing, golf, friends, party, and Mallorca.”

It remains to be seen if Nadal can cap off his fantastic return to dominance by taking home his first US Open title. However, what does seem apparent from the jaguar-quick Mallorcan is his balanced and professional lifestyle.

His family life seems to be in order after a trying ‘09. His tournament schedule appears ready to morph around his health, and his already invincible game still has room for improvement.

If anything, Nadal’s continued drive towards history, much like his willingness to wake up everyday and be a better player, will result in his prolonged stay at the reigns of the sport.

It’s goes without saying that it’s nearly impossible to determine what the future will hold for a player’s career when it’s all said and done. But taking into consideration what we already know about Nadal, and his desire to win the grandest titles the sport has to offer, I’d say it’s a safe bet to at least claim that we haven’t seen the last of the trophy biting Spaniard.

Standing halfway to history didn’t appear like a possibility at the beginning of the season, but now with eight Slam titles in the bag, Rafael Nadal has clearly cemented himself as menacing force towards the current record books.

Wimbledon 2010 Issue 14: July 5—Men’s Final Wrap Up

July 5, 2010

July 04, 2010 - 06129626 date 04 07 2010 Copyright imago Color Sports Tennis The Wimbledon Championships Mens Final Tomas Berdych CZE vs Rafael Nadal ESP Rafael Nadal ESP with Trophy AT The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxPOLxUSAxONLY Tennis men All England Championships ATP Tour London Wimbledon Final Award Ceremony Single Vdig 2010 vertical Highlight premiumd.

by: Tom Cochrane

The writing was on the wall after Robin Soderling snapped Roger Federer’s streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semi-finals in Paris, a feat juxtaposed with Rafael Nadal’s complete and utter French Open dominance. But, after the conclusion yesterday of the year’s third major, there is no longer any doubt. By capturing his second consecutive Grand Slam and the eighth of his illustrious career, Rafael Nadal confirmed in emphatic fashion that he is the best tennis player in the world right now.

Day 13 Recap

Playing in his first ever Grand Slam final, Tomas Berdych made a start that was eerily similar to the start made by Vera Zvonareva in the women’s final 24 hours earlier. Berdych held his opening few service games confidently and appeared as if he was ready to seriously challenge Nadal’s 13 match winning streak at the All England Club. But a sloppy Berdych service game at 3-all gave Nadal the first break of the match and, with Nadal conceding just 4 points on serve for the entire first set, it was duly and ruthlessly converted. A second break gave Nadal the opening set, 6-3, as part of a 5 game streak that included the successful defense of 3 break points by the Spaniard in the first game of the second set.

Urged on by his entourage, Berdych held serve comfortably throughout the second set and a tiebreaker appeared on the cards. But down 5-6, Berdych then delivered the most disastrous of service games, with an errant forehand giving Nadal the game to love and a 2 sets to love lead. A glimmer of hope, in the form of a break point, was presented to the Czech early on in the third set, but he was unable to capitalize. After that, the door was firmly shut for Berdych in the Nadal service games and, in a near-replica of the second set, Berdych came out at 4-5 attempting to stay in the set, the match and the tournament.

Once again, Nadal played tough, making lots of returns and not providing Berdych with cheap points. And once more, Berdych faltered under the constant pressure piled on by Nadal. After a little over 2 hours on-court, Rafael Nadal was the Wimbledon champion once again, 6-3 7-5 6-4.

For Berdych, who spoke and handled himself exceptionally well after the match, it was a case of missed opportunities. The Czech’s inability to convert any of the 4 break points he earned during the match was the most glaring of his faults, but Berdych also didn’t serve as well as he had done in previous matches, particularly in the first set and a half of the final. Nonetheless, the fortnight has to go down as the best of Berdych’s career, and as I mentioned the other day, I think he will be one of the leading contenders in future Grand Slams, especially the two which are played on hard-courts.

For Nadal, it was a solid rather than spectacular win, the Spaniard perhaps at his most dynamic in performing a forward somersault immediately following his victory. But just like Serena Williams on Saturday, Nadal did enough to win and claim Grand Slam number 8. That tally moves him past John McEnroe and puts him equal with legends Lendl, Connors and Agassi. Still just 24 years old, it will be fascinating to see how Nadal’s body holds up as he chases the record of 16 (and counting) held by his great rival, Roger Federer.

That’s it for Wimbledon 2010. The ATP and WTA Tours now move to the hard-courts of North America, as the players gear up for the year’s final major, the US Open in New York. Rest assured I’ll be back for the start of all the action from Flushing Meadows in late August.

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