Tennis Updates

Tennis Updates
From Melbourne to Paris to London to New York and somewhere in between.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Marion Bartoli retires... of tennis

There's a collective sighs from tennis world earlier today, reacting to shocking news from current Ladies' Singles Champion of Wimbledon, Marion Bartoli. The French player with unique demeanor on court just announced that she retires from tennis, just two months after she achieved her biggest long dream, winning the trophy in London.

"My body was really starting to fall apart and I was able to keep it together, go through the pain -- with a lot of pain -- throughout this Wimbledon and make it happen. That was probably the last little bit of something that was left inside me. I've been playing for a long, long, long time, and it's time for me now. It is," she told the reporters in Cincinnati after a tough loss to Simona Halep in the second round of the Premiere 5 event in Ohio.

She also admitted to have pain everywhere after 45 minutes or an hour of play against the Romanian, and can't do it anymore. And apparently she meant it for good.

Bartoli always showed her best tennis in Wimbledon grass. She reached the final after a dramatic and unexpected comeback against the then number one player, Justine Henin, in the semi of 2007, to come short against Venus Williams in the final. She did it again this year, and came one match better by winning the title, defeated Sabine Lisicki in the final. She reached career high rankings at no. 7.

See you around, Marion. With those killing shoes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rome last 4 preview: 4 matches away of another Federer - Nadal and Serena - Azarenka finals

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are each one match away of their 20th tour final, their 30th meeting overall.
It's all down to the last four in each draw in Rome. It's Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep, and Victoria Azarenka vs. Sara Errani in WTA. Then Rafael Nadal vs. Tomas Berdych, and Roger Federer vs. Benoit Paire in ATP. Both draw give us unexpected, and unfamiliar names to be in this stage of such a big event. Both also bring us not much surprise, with some names are regularly there.

1. Serena Williams vs. Simona Halep

They only played once before, in the 2nd round of 2011 Wimbledon. It was a whole different circumstance. It's just Serena's 2nd tournament after being sidelined for almost a year. She was struggling with her fitness, her movement, and her breath. Serena had to work hard to win in 3 sets. Today Serena is the world No. 1 again, on hot winning streak, and getting better and better after each round. Dropping only 7 games on her way to the final 4, Serena seems more determined to keep adapting and playing the best tennis she normally produces on other faster surfaces. She's on a mission to beat her demons on the red dirt. A surface which keep denies her dominance, even when she seems on her prime.

On the other hand, Halep has been showing some impressive and huge wins over big names like Hantuchova, Kutznetsova, Radwanska, Vinci, and Jankovic. Those names are serious contenders when it comes to this surface. It's telling a lot about Halep's run. Something that Serena may want to take note, other than the tendency of any player to bring out their bests when playing her. Serena needs to keep up the pressures from the 1st strike, both from serves and returns, as she's been displaying all week. Her movements have been getting better, and more like what she needs to fight on the dirt. Halep's determination and resilience on rallies will be the key for her to keep her hopes alive. No secret that patience is one of the main keys to be a clay master, and that's sometimes not Serena's best asset. But should she delivers the superb serves and lethal returns like the previous rounds, she will give not enough room for Halep to stay in the rallies. 

Serena should prevail in straight sets.

2. Victoria Azarenka vs. Sara Errani

Azarenka and Errani have played each other six times before, with Vika leads the record 5-1. Despite Errani's reputation as a clay specialist, her only victory came on indoor hard court, in 2008 Moscow. Their two meetings on clay (both in 2011) in fact won by Azarenka, in quite convincing displays, all in straight sets.

Two years later, both are totally different players now. Errani has been improving tremendously, winning title and title on clays, reached the final in Roland Garros last year, and will be at career highest ranking (at 5) next Monday. Bad news for her, Azarenka has been improving also, even much better. Not only she's a mentally much tougher competitor now, she's also improving a lot physically. Her fluid movement also one of her biggest strengths to generate one of the best returns in women's tour. She's won two Australian Open titles since then, in the final of US Open, and ended the year as world No. 1. Showed some of her old mental meltdown demeanor in Madrid last week, Azarenka should be much more motivated this time, and smart enough not to be too emotional.

Errani normally relies on her heavy top spin strokes, with high bounces, which work perfectly on this surface. But just like what she gets against Sharapova or Serena, she can assure that won't hurt Azarenka enough. Azarenka's speed, anticipation, and high reach will give her enough time to punish whatever Errani throws at her. The Italian No. 1 needs to come up with new plan other than that, then she may have a chance to win 1 set. 

In the end, Azarenka should survive in 3.

3. Rafael Nadal vs. Tomas Berdych

Berdych 'humbly' admits his horrible head to head record, and wrote this before his quarter finals match against Novak Djokovic:

And turns out he's the one who rallies form 2-6 2-5 down to finally send the world No. 1 home in 3 sets. That's something Djokovic normally does to other players. Showing some calm, composed, and determined mentality, the Czech focuses on his strong solid serves, to give some doubts on the Serbian's head. Playing his routine strong tennis, with some breathtaking defenses, Djokovic cruises for 6-2 5-2 lead, before he starts playing tentatively, and allows Berdych to get back into the match. Playing someone like Djokovic, somebody only gets 1 chance sometimes. Berdych knows that exactly. Seems like he senses what's going on inside Djokovic's head. He looks no back, and demonstrates some strong service games to keep in control. He eventually takes the match 2-6 7-5 6-4. 

In other match, Rafael Nadal seems like on his way to another routine triumph over his fellow Spaniard, David Ferrer, after taking the 1st set 6-4. They have met twice this year alone, all on clays, with Nadal as the victor in both. Last week in Madrid Ferrer showed some resilience which rewarded him the 1st set, before Nadal stroke back, and won in 3, with a bagel in the final set. But Madrid is different, Rome fits Nadal's game more. And the fact that he needed to work that hard to win tells more story in Ferrer's side. He seems finally get rid off some dark clouds inside his head when it comes to play Nadal. And maybe it's still a work in progress, but he is getting closer.

Playing Berdych, Nadal needs to be at his best from start to finish. Despite his 13-3 dominance record, Nadal knows exactly he can never know what Berdych will bring on the table. One thing he knows, the Czech just defeated Djokovic, who beat Nadal in Monte Carlo final, and that should give him all the confidence he needs to contest his semi finals match. Add their history of tough matches in the past to the equation, Nadal should be prepared for another tough one. Nadal's been playing long grueling matches in his two previous rounds (vs. Gulbis and Ferrer), and this can be something Berdych to look up. But just like other great champions, Nadal knows how to peak at the right time. His serves will be the key. 

Should he maintains a high percentage of his 1st serves, he may be able to save lots of times, and through in straight sets.

4. Roger Federer vs. Benoit Paire

After taking a two months off, Roger Federer came back on court in Madrid, as a defending champion. But his run to retain the title came short in the hands of Kei Nishikori in the 4th round. We may blame his lack of time in adapting to a high level of competition on that, based on how uncharacteristically erratic he was against the Japanese. Back in Rome, the former world No. 1 has been showing some of his vintage forms. Playing with so much variety against Gilles Simon in the 4th round, Federer's showing that he's still one of the best in this surface. His clinical display also sees him ease through the giant killer Jerzy Janowicz in straight sets.

While Benoit Paire is the Cinderella story of the tournament. Not only he's reaching his 1st ever Masters 1000 event, he's also doing it in style. Scoring some impressive wins over good clay courters like Juan Monaco, Julian Benneteau, and, his strongest win so far in the event, against Juan Martin del Potro, Paire capitalizes all the momentums amazingly. He routes Marcel Granollers in less than an hour, allowing the Spaniard only one game in the quarters.

Both players have played twice before, none on clay. All the matches won by Federer in straight sets, with their latest one in Melbourne earlier this year. This 1st meeting on clay will be a good test for both, but mostly for Paire. Playing someone like Federer in this stage of a big tournament will give him a whole new experience, mentally and physically. With Federer drops no set so far, it will be a huge fight for the French to give himself some chances. Paire needs to bring his best tennis, at least like the one he had against Granollers. But sometimes, one's best may not be good enough to match up another one's. 

Federer should make the final in straight sets.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Serena reaches another career milestone, Sharapova is out of Rome

World No. 1, Serena Williams, reaches another career milestone in age 31 years old! After defeating Carla Suarez Navarro in the quarter finals of Rome, Serena books her 22nd win in a row, a career longest streak. Yesterday she equaled her 2002 and 2003 streak, at 21. Coincidentally, 2002 was the last time Serena won Rome, and also the French Open. In fact, it's also the last year she reached a final on red clay, before snapped that streak by reaching the last round in Madrid last week. After more than a decade later the youngest Williams still has so much to offer, even on the surface where she has the least impressive record. In the semi Serena will play Simona Halep, who rallied from a set down to defeat Charleston finalist, Jelena Jankovic, 4-6 6-0 7-5.

Meanwhile, Serena's long time rival, Maria Sharapova, had to withdraw from her match against Sara Errani due to viral illness. It sends Errani to the semi, which will push her to a career high rankings, at No. 5 next Monday. Sharapova is the defending champion here, just like in Paris. Cited that the illness has been obtained since last week in Madrid, the world No. 2 takes a precaution move to be fully prepared in defending her Roland Garros title, which will be started in 10 days. Sharapova also has been having a good clay season so far. Defended her Stuttgart title, and reached the final in Madrid, lost to Serena.

In men's draw, Benoit Paire continues his hot impressive run in the capital city of Italy by reaching his 1st Masters 1000 even semifinals. After scoring impressive top 10 wins against Del Potro in the previous round, Paire routes Marcel Granollers in less than an hour with a stunning 6-1 6-0 win. Paire also recorded other strong wins against some good clay courters on his way to the last four, by defeating Juan Monaco and Julian Benneteau, both in 3 sets. This absolutely will be a very important career moment for Paire, which will give him enough confidence boost up to play good tennis before his very own crowds in Paris.

After posting on his FB about his poor head to head record against Novak Djokovic, Tomas Berdych makes a stunning come back from 2-6 2-5 down to eventually upset the world No. 1 2-6 7-5 6-4. Berdych uses his solid serves, pushing Djokovic way back behind the baseline. Showing some nervous signs while holding 3 match points, the Czech finally closed it out on his 4th opportunity, and through to the semi final.

Defending champion, Rafael Nadal, has to bring out his best tennis to beat David Ferrer. Despite Nadal's superior head to head record against his fellow Spaniard on the surface, Ferrer shows no sign of inferiority in the tight three sets contest. Rafa takes the 1st set 6-4, and it seems like another routine straight sets victory for him. But Ferrer has no intention to give up that quick, takes the 2nd set with the identical score. The final set sees the Spaniard No. 2 raises his level to where he's normally be, and proven too much for the Spaniard No. 1. Rafa closes out the match 6-4 4-6 6-2.

Roger Federer rounds up the final four of men's draw with a clinical straight 6-4 7-6(2) win over Jerzy Janowicz. And Victoria Azarenka completes the semi line up in women's draw. Prevails in 3 sets 6-4 1-6 6-3 against Samantha Stosur.