Sock Has A Bright Future

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It was the past against the future. American tennis’s past darling in Andy Roddick against future star Jack Sock.

And when it was the master took on the apprentice today, Roddick showed experience wins out in a straight set win over his fellow Nebraskan, 6-3 6-3 6-4.

“I didn’t think I’d ever play another guy from Nebraska in my career,” Roddick said.  “You know, it was just cool.  I could draw so many parallels to what he was going through.  You know, but also I could draw on my experience a little bit.”

Sock’s inexperience showed when he missed a few break points in the first, which could have changed the complexion of the match. It is something that will come in time for the 18 year-old, because this was such a learning experience for him.

“After watching him I knew that he kind of plays a lot from the baseline, maybe a little bit behind the baseline, makes a lot of balls, is steady,” he said.  “I felt like I could go out there and try to dictate points and try to hit a lot of forehands, try to move the ball around as much as possible, and then attack when I could.

“I felt like I did a decent job of that.  I mean, like I said, it comes down to him getting back in the court and retrieve and be able to hit passing shots how he wants, like standing still or not on the run. I felt overall like I played a pretty good match.”

But it still wasn’t enough for Roddick who came in knowing his opponent would be a little nervous playing in the big bowl for the first time in his career. According to the 21st seeded player he has participated in 27 night matches at Ashes, so tonight was just old hat.

Yet, Roddick knows this won’t be the last he sees of Sock. In fact the 2003 champ feels Sock will be one of the “legit prospects” along with fellow American Ryan Harrison. And after the match Roddick invited him to his compound in Texas to practice with him, the same way Andre Agassi did back in the early 2000s with the current American star.

“I certainly feel the need to pay it forward,” Roddick said. “This game has been great to me.  It’s pretty much an impossibility for me to do it. But as far as leaving it better than when you came, when I came it was the best generation that has ever existed in a country.

“But I enjoy having the young guys at home.  I think I can help them.  It’s inspiring for me.  You can kind of feed off of their hunger a little bit.”

And that’s how American tennis will come back. It will be a cumulative effort. Although Roddick shown Same Querrey and Harrison the same hospitality, Sock, coming from the same background in Nebraska, may have some real success working with Roddick.

Plus he has the skills. With a 135 m.p.h serve, the talent is there, so all he now has to do is hone it in and learn about the intricacies of the game that only come with experience. When that happens, Sock will move up the ranks and become a star in this game, muck like Roddick did about 10 years ago.

So this is only the beginning and soon you may see the student teaching his teacher a thing or two.

All-Star Matchup In The Semis As Federer Takes On Djokovic

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In a match where timely shotmaking turned the tide time after time, Roger Federer fittingly rocked the court-side clock with one final authoritative ace to cap a 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 sweep of Robin Soderling and fly into the US Open final four for the seventh straight year. Continuing his quest to regain the US Open title he lost to Juan Martin del Potro last September, Federer will square off against Novak Djokovic in Saturday’s semifinals in their fourth consecutive Flushing Meadows clash.

It was a superlative serving performance from Federer, who ripped 18 aces and saved five of six break points in subduing Soderling. The fifth-seeded Swede had four break point chances at the outset of the match but could not convert and Federer picked up his serve considerably from that point forward.

“I think the serve was today the biggest key, because obviously he’s very famous for serving extremely accurate, extremely hard, over a long period of time,” Federer said. “That’s what makes him so hard to beat really. That wasn’t the case today.  He struggled to get the pace, the accuracy going, until midway through the third set when I think he started to hit it a bit better.  Then it was almost too late, really.”

The third-seeded Djokovic came to court with a dragon on his back, fire in his eyes and after an early mis-step found the swagger in his step in scorching a flat and floundering Gael Monfils, 7-6(2), 6-1, 6-2, to storm into the semifinals.

Hard court is Djokovic’s best surface. He can use his expansive reach to rip returns down the lines off both sides, he covers the court quickly and the speed of the Deco Turf adds some sting to his serve. Federer has won eight of his 12 meetings on hard court with Djokovic, but believes Djokovic is at his best on hard court.

“I think this kind of favors his play the most, kind of a faster hard court, because he can pick up some incredible balls, you know, half volley them, redirect them,” Federer said. “It helps maybe serve a bit more, and on the return he can, you know, zone in a bit, and all of a sudden he’s really tough to pass, you know, when he’s returning. That’s what makes him one of the best players in the game right now, and especially on this surface he’s obviously in the top 3 or 4.  That’s why he’s been able to play consistent here at the Open.  He’s obviously waiting for a breakthrough where he can win this title.”

Djokovic fell to Federer in the 2007 final and was victimized by Federer’s stupefying between-the-legs passing shot in last September’s semifinal. Djokovic said stylistically, the rivalry has not changed; he’s just hoping to reverse the result on Saturday.

“We do have more or less same game, you know.  Just maybe experience wise in my case I feel better now,” Djokovic said. “Physically I feel better than I did last year.  I feel stronger, faster on the court.  The conditions are quite different, so let’s see, you know.  Let’s see how this Saturday is gonna come out, you know, if we gonna have normal conditions or not.”

The second-seeded Swiss is 10-5 lifetime vs. Djokovic, including a 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 win in Toronto last month.

“Here we go again,” Federer said in anticipation of the latest installment of his rivalry with Djokovic. “He’s a great player. I got really lucky to get through there in Toronto and he’s obviously looking for the big break through here at the Open, so it’s gonna be a tough one.”

Though Federer has won nine of the 10 sets he’s played vs. Djokovic at the Open, the matches have typically been tightly-contested affairs, including the Swiss stylist’s 7-6(2), 7-6(4), 6-4 triumph in the 2007 final in which Federer fended off five set points in the first set and two set points in the second set, relying on his edge in experience, expertise in playing the the right shots on pivotal points, exceptional anticipation and a first serve that was sharpest in crucial stages to subdue the first Serbian man to contest major final.

Since his five-set win over Serbian Davis Cup teammate Viktor Troicki in the first round, the Djoker has won 12 consecutive sets and will enter the semifinals playing his best tennis of the tournament.

Opening the season by capturing his 16th career major championship in Melbourne in Australia, Federer suffered successive Grand Slam quarterfinal setbacks at Roland Garros and Wimbledon ending his reign in Paris and London and increasing speculation that Federer was more vulnerable in majors than ever.

On a drizzly day in June,  Soderling reigned a series of resounding winners across the red clay in overwhelming Federer, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the French Open quarterfinals to snap the World No. 1’s record streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals. It was Federer’s first loss before a Grand Slam semifinal in seven years, ending one of the most hallowed record streaks in tennis history.

Soderling could not reproduced that form tonight, in part because the wind wreaked havoc with his high ball toss and because he has little margin for error on his flat strokes.

“I didn’t put so many first serves in as I needed to because of the wind,” Soderling said. “It was tough for me. So I could have needed some more first serves. Maybe I would have played better then.”

The lanky Swede did not hit an ace until the third set. To his credit, Soderling did not give up the fight as Monfils did in today’s first quarterfinal against Djokovic. He began to center his shots more and when Federer missed the mark on an inside-out forehand, Soderling broke for 5-3 in the third set.

The two-time French Open finalist could not capitalize on the break, putting a forehand into net as Federer broke back for 4-5.

Down 15-30 Federer benefited from a Soderling error to draw even then lured the big man forward with a drop shot followed by a forehand volley that rattled Soderling’s Head racquet. For all his prodigious power from the backcourt, Soderling is almost clueless at times at net and he screamed in frustration at himself as Federer eventually worked out a hold for 5-all.

Summer started with a struggle for Federer, who followed his French Open demise with a Wimbledon quarterfinal loss to Tomas Berdych. But he’s crafted another late-summer resurgence in picking up his play after Labor Day and working toward a potential blockbuster final against World No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

“I think he’s playing great. Because he lost in the quarters of the French and in Wimbledon, some people think he’s more vulnerable than ever.  But I think he’s actually playing really well,” Djokovic said of Federer. “He played great in Toronto and Cincinnati, and he’s just loves this surface.  He loves this tournament.  He has won so many times. Obviously he’s a favorite.  But, you know, we played so many times, and mostly we played on this surface.  It’s no secret in each other’s game.  Just I will try to hold on, you know.  He always tries to put pressure on his opponent.  He’s very aggressive.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

It’s Czink Against Safarova in the Final

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec – It’s a battle of No. 4 vs No. 5 in the Bell Challenge finals as Lucie Safarova takes on Melinda Czink in the finals.

First up was the Russian. Safarova, who fought off eight break points in her 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 8 seed Julia Goerges.

“I’m really happy because this is my first final this year,” Safarova said. “I feel like I’m playing pretty good and you always feel good when you’re winning.”

“I’m a little tired now, but I will be fine for the final tomorrow. I just hope I’ll be ready to play my best against either one of my potential opponents.”

Then came Czink who beat local favorite and No. 3 seed Aleksandra Wozniak in straight sets 6-3, 6-3. It was the fourth victory in four tries over the Canadian for Czink, two coming in ITF competition and now two on the WTA tour.

Yet, Czink was fresh for her match, since her quarterfinal only went one set as defending champion Nadia Petrova had to retire due to an illness.

The finals for the $225,000 tournament happens tomorrow.

Federer Sharp As Swiss Go Up 2-0

The Swiss Maestro was sharp. In his first Davis Cup singles match against Italy Friday, Roger Federer made quick work of Simone Bolelli, taking it in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.

“We knew these were key matches, and that we were able to get both gives us a great opportunity on the weekend,” a pleased Federer said after improving to 36-11 career in Davis Cup.

Along with Swiss teammate Stanislas Wawrinka- who prevailed in straights over a stomach-ridden Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 in the first match on the red clay at the Valletta Cambiaso club in Italy- Federer helped give Switzerland a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-five competition with the winner remaining in the World Group for next year. If they can finish off their Italian hosts this weekend, it will be the 20th straight appearance.

Following No.22 Wawrinka’s early win, the grand slam record holder fought off a pair of break points before getting it going against Bolelli. He broke him six different times during the hour and 40-minute match.

“With the jet lag and surfaces change and playing here in Italy away, I knew it was always going to be a tough match,” the 28 year-old world No.1 pointed out after serving 10 aces and finishing with 35 winners.

Italy is hoping to improve on a strong 3-1 head-to-head record. But if they’re going to now pull the upset, they’ll have to be perfect this weekend starting with doubles against the 2008 Olympic gold duo of Federer and Wawrinka, who’ll attempt to close it out tomorrow versus Fabio Fognini and Potito Starace.

If the Italian tandem can string the upset, the reverse singles on Sunday would have extra meaning. It should be quite a challenge tomorrow for the hosts who are wearing black armbands in dedication to the loss of six Italian soldiers killed when a bomb exploded in Afghanistan.

Both Seppi and Bolelli paid tribute during their matches to true heroes no longer with us.

Del Potro Ends Cilic’s Run

In his first grand slam quarterfinal, Marin Cilic gave it his best but ultimately it was the higher ranked Juan Martin Del Potro who proved too much. The 20 year-old sixth seeded Argentine continued to ride the wave, rallying from a set and break down to dispatch the No.16 Croat 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 at Ashe Stadium this afternoon in Flushing.

Del Potro advanced to his first ever U.S. Open semifinal improving on last year’s quarter result. Now, he’ll await the winner between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez in tonight’s final quarter.

“It’s so beautiful playing in front of this crowd,” an excited Del Potro said acknowledging the fun atmosphere. “I’m so happy it happened this way.”

In the early going, Cilic dealt better with windy conditions looking intent on pulling another upset. Fresh off his straight set destruction of Andy Murray, he didn’t look out of place. Carrying momentum from that big win, the lanky 20 year-old who will move up in the rankings used the same powerful serve and huge forehand to give the favorite fits.

If one of the game’s best returners couldn’t get a read on it, Del Potro certainly struggled with Cilic’s serve making for a tough opening set that saw the underdog hitting out taking it to one of the tour’s best hardcourt players. In the fifth game, he ran into trouble when after fighting off two break points, the Argentine couldn’t save a third thanks in large part to some great hustle from his opponent who made a running forehand pass to earn a 3-2 lead.

Continuing to get in a high percentage of first serves, Cilic backed it up with big forehands outplaying Del Potro. Though he put up a fight in the 10th game saving one set point due to a nice lob, the Argentine couldn’t get back on serve with a forced miss allowing a pumped up Croat to close the set.

It continued to look dicey early in the second set when following a quick hold, Cilic broke for 2-0. But Del Potro stayed in it by climbing out of a Love-30 hole in the fifth game. Upping the tempo, he took the next four points holding for 2-3.

Apparently, he was just getting warmed up. Indeed, Del Potro’s memory bank was still fresh with ESPN analyst Darren Cahill noting that in their only head-to-head meeting in a fourth round Australian Open match this year, he rallied from a similar deficit winning in four sets.

More focused, Del Potro started to turn the tables hitting with more pace including a big forehand that supplied several of his 27 winners. Two less than his opponent whose signature shot suddenly went off spraying three wild forehands in the sixth game to square the set at three apiece.

With renewed confidence, Del Potro broke again en route to running off the final five games. But before he leveled the match, Cilic made things interesting saving two set points with big backhands, eventually earning a chance of his own to get back on serve. Facing the pressure, Del Potro calmly served an ace up the tee, then took the next pair of points with a service winner drawing him even at a set apiece.

Could Cilic respond? The definitive answer was no as he was broken a third consecutive time in the opening game of the third set. Following an easy hold, Del Potro had taken seven consecutive games before a Cilic love hold finally ended it.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep it going dropping serve again two games later falling behind 1-4 due to Del Potro taking the last four points including a Cilic netted forehand.

Following a Cilic hold, the rejuvenant Del Potro easily served the set out at love clinching it on a Cilic backhand into the net. By that point, the difference was apparent with the more polished player dealing with over 20 mph winds better by keeping balls in while his opponent cracked committing 37 unforced errors to Del Potro’s 20.

“I was thinking, every point, do the same, try to put the ball in the court,” Del Potro pointed out after improving to 16-1 since a second round Wimbledon exit to Lleyton Hewitt with the only other defeat coming to the departed Murray who got him at Montreal.

“When you fight that way to the final point, you have many chances and that’s what happened today.”

Though five days separate their birthdays later this month, it’s the older Del Potro who showed his mettle, with his consistency proving too much for Cilic to overcome with the Croat finishing with 29 more miscues (53-24).

“He was not missing,” explained Cilic while also noting the difference in conditions as well as why he was more successful the other day.

“Andy [Murray], he doesn’t have as much power as Del Potro has,” Cilic said. “And it was a little bit hotter that day and the ball was going through the court more and jumping much more.”

With a first Open semi in sight, Del Potro used some great defense to save game point, eventually converting another break for 1-0 in set four. It only worsened for Cilic who was broken a sixth time thanks to more brilliant shotmaking from Del Potro, who this time came up with a perfect running backhand topspin lob delighting the crowd and himself.

Suspense all but ended when he broke for 5-0 making it 16 of the last 18 games before Cilic earned one last break so he wouldn’t get bageled. The only problem was it was his first since early in the second when he was still in control. Now, it had come way too late.

Having solved Cilic’s serve by stepping in on seconds, Del Potro fittingly closed it by making it a perfect eight for eight on break opportunities with a wide Cilic forehand insuring his place into the final four. He took 17 of the last 20 games.

Can he take it one step further and make his first ever slam final?

“I cannot start the match like today,” Del Potro accurately stated. “I was thinking about other things, and the weather was bad. But it was bad for both players. I just need to be in focus in the beginning of the match until the last point and play my game.”

We won’t know till Super Saturday.

Cilic stuns Murray

There won’t be a repeat of last year’s men’s final. That’s because Marin Cilic took out Andy Murray in grand style stunning the No.2 seed in straights, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 at Ashe Stadium.

While it’s a surprising result, the 20 year-old Cilic was expected to have a breakout year. On one of the biggest stages, the 16th seeded Croat waited before making his arrival with a sound thrashing of last year’s runner-up.

Early on, Murray had his chances blowing a couple of early break points. After saving one on his own serve for 5-4, a shaky Cilic handed him two set points but dug out of it to hold. Then, the crowd favorite played a sluggish 11th game making uncharacteristic misses handing his opponent the first break. Cilic took the kind donation serving out the set to surge ahead.

“You know, he hit the spots on the serve, especially quite a few 30 All points or 15 30 points, and he served well,” lamented Murray after being sent packing without a first major.

That was, for me, the difference. A lot of the times I played him before was he served well and I returned poorly and, you know, I didn’t give myself enough chances.

“It was a relief for me to start getting more into the game,” Cilic said. “I didn’t have to think too much. I played good, played tactically well, and he was missing.”

The same two players met in this round earlier this year at Roland Garros with Murray prevailing in straight sets. But on this occasion, it was the lanky Croat who continued to play more consistently quickly breaking in the opening game of the second set.

Suddenly with confidence, he began serving better mixing in a few of his match best 10 aces. In Murray’s third round win the other night over Taylor Dent, he only missed six returns. But it was a far different story today with Cilic saving all seven break points while winning 79 percent of his first serve (38 of 48) and a respectable 58 percent on seconds (26 of 45).

In the middle set, he never was pressured. One of the reasons was that he was much more aggressive going for his shots forcing bad misses from Murray who committed more than twice the unforced errors to winners (29 to 13). Meanwhile, Cilic was much more consistent using his big forehand to pin the struggling No.2 player behind the baseline. In fact, he finished with 35 winners and 41 errors. A much better ratio.

As the match wore on, the more confident he seemed winning baseline exchanges while also using the net to his advantage where he did well finishing 19 of 30 (63 percent). Conversely, Murray went to the net only eight times converting five speaking to the difference.

Up 3-0, Cilic earned a second break thanks to more Murray miscues with a large forehand drawing a short reply into the net to which the Croat let out an enthusiastic scream. What was so stunning was how little emotion the Scot showed. Usually, he plays with such intensity admitting how much he enjoys playing in front of the big New York crowd. However, for some reason, Great Britain’s only hope to erase Fred Perry’s name from the record book was lifeless.

You know, today I mean, I could have been better in pretty much every part of the game, whether it was mental or serve, forehand, backhand returns. I don’t know,” added Murray.

Whether it had something to do with his left wrist which British TV made reference to didn’t matter. He just didn’t compete disappointing many who came to see a much better match than they got.

“I had a problem with it for a week or so. But regardless, I mean, you know, I just struggled today. I played poorly. You know, I’m obviously very disappointed. I mean, after, you know, the way that the last three Slams went I felt like I had actually played well and lost,” Murray accurately pointed out.

“And today, you know, it didn’t feel like    didn’t feel like I played well. I had my chance in the first set, and then, you know, struggled after that.”

After Cilic made quick work to go up a commanding two sets, he again stunned Murray with an early break in the first game of set three. By now, the Ashe crowd grew concerned trying to urge on the 22 year-old who tried to hang in there holding serve twice to stay close. In the fifth game, he finally got his first break point since the first set but couldn’t cash in with Cilic proving too tough.

Following the missed opportunity, it was Cilic who sensed the moment breaking a struggling Murray for a double break 5-2 lead. With a chance to close it out, he had little trouble converting his second match point when a Murray forehand sailed long allowing a victorious Cilic to pump his fists in celebration.

Cilic will meet No.6 Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro for a spot in the semis after Del Potro used 22 aces and 44 winners to dismiss former 2003 finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero (24) 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 over on Louis Armstrong. Last year, Del Potro lost to Murray in the quarters but there won’t be a rematch with instead a battle between 20 year-olds.

Later tonight, Rafael Nadal will try to avoid a similar upset when he takes on another dangerous player in No.13 Frenchman Gael Monfils. No.7 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga faces No.11 Fernando Gonzalez this afternoon.