TENNIS FANTASY OPPORTUNITIES WITH EDBERG, COURIER, SAFIN AND CHANG IN GRAND CAYMAN

NEW YORK, October 6, 2010 – Ever wanted to play doubles with Stefan Edberg?

Or wonder what feels like to be in the firing line of a Jim Courier forehand?

Ever wanted to have a beer with Marat Safin or see if Michael Chang could run down your drop shot?

Tennis fans can find out first hand at The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships to be held November 5-7 in Grand Cayman, where, for the first time, an exclusive and intense pro-am tournament has been added to the event, providing some of these once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.

Edberg, Courier, Safin and Chang will be joined in Grand Cayman by former top 10-ranked Americans Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias for the six-player Champions Series event and the pro-am activities.

In addition to the competing for a first-prize paycheck of $45,000 and Champions Series ranking points, the players will participate in the pro-am that will see the legends playing matches and enjoying meals and social time with participating amateurs over multiple days. Tennis fans interested in participating in the pro-am with the legends can find ticket, travel and tournament information by visiting www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

“This is an ultimate, once-in-a-lifetime tennis fantasy opportunity to have the chance to play with and against some of the biggest legends in the game – and have quality social time in an amazingly beautiful luxury resort,” said Jon Venison, co-founding partner of InsideOut Sports & Entertainment, the owners and operators of the Champions Series tennis circuit. “In addition to playing and socializing with these greats of the game, fans will also have up-close and personal access as they compete for prize money and ranking points in the official Champions Series event held in Grand Cayman for the third year at The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman.”

Edberg, Courier, Safin and Chang have combined to win 13 major singles titles, with Edberg, Courier and Safin having achieved the world’s No. 1 ranking and Chang reaching a career-high ranking of No. 2. The event will be played on red clay courts in a single-knockout format event with each player vying for a first-prize paycheck of $45,000 and ranking points that determine the year-end No. 1 ranked player on the Champions Series circuit.

To be eligible to compete on the Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. Courier finished the 2009 season as the top-ranked player on the Champions Series, followed by Pete Sampras and Todd Martin. Courier won the 2009 edition of The Residences At the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships beating Arias 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

Earlier this year on the Champions Series circuit, former U.S. and Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis defeated John McEnroe in May to win the Staples Champions Cup in Boston and take over the No. 1 Champions Series ranking. Former French Open semifinalist Fernando Meligeni of Brazil was the surprise winner of the opening event on the 2010 Champions Series, winning the title in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil by defeating Philippoussis in the final in March.

CHAMPIONS SERIES VIDEO FOOTAGE

The Champions Series video page features exclusive behind the scenes footage of events and candid player chats. Videos can be seen at http://m1e.net/c?117624092-e0OZwEToXP4k.%405777254-IJHpH7rq444KI

BECOME A FAN OF THE CHAMPIONS SERIES ON FACEBOOK & FOLLOW US ON TWITTER facebook.com/championsseriestennis | twitter.com/cs_tennis

CHAMPIONS SERIES WEBSITE:

http://m1e.net/c?117624092-CLggdvDBanAlw%405777255-1WPdmKceiZLIw

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series tennis circuit, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2009, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Edberg, Courier, Safin, and Chang Headline Field at Grand Cayman

NEW YORK, September 13, 2010 – InsideOut Sports & Entertainment today announced that Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, Marat Safin and Michael Chang will headline the field at the 2010 The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships to be held November 5-7 in Grand Cayman. Former U.S. Davis Cup standouts Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias will round out the six-player field at the fourth event on the 2010 Champions Series, the U.S.-based global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over.

This year’s tournament will also feature for the first time a multi-day pro-am experience that will be combined with the world class tennis competition to create an exclusive tennis destination happening. All six competing pros will participate in the pro-am tournament that will see the legends playing matches and enjoying meals and social time with participating amateurs over multiple days. Tennis fans interested in participating in the pro-am with the legends can find ticket, travel and tournament information by visiting www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Edberg, Courier, Safin and Chang have combined to win 13 major singles titles, with Edberg, Courier and Safin having achieved the world’s No. 1 ranking and Chang reaching a career-high ranking of No. 2. The event will be played on red clay courts in a single-knockout format event with each player vying for a first-prize paycheck of $45,000 and ranking points that determine the year-end No. 1 ranked player on the Champions Series circuit.

In the opening quarterfinal match at 7 pm on November 5, Chang will play Krickstein, followed by Courier taking on Arias. On Saturday, November 6, starting at 2 pm, the winner of the Chang-Krickstein match will play Safin while the winner of the Courier-Arias match will play Edberg. The schedule of play on Sunday, November 7 will feature the third-place match between the two losing semifinalists starting at 1 pm followed by the championship match.

“It’s hard to think of any place more relaxing and beautiful to see and compete with some of the greatest legends in tennis than this event at The Residences at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman,” said Jon Venison, co-founding partner of InsideOut Sports & Entertainment and the Champions Series tennis circuit. “We have assembled the best field ever in Grand Cayman with three former No. 1 players and a former world No. 2 who have combined to win two Wimbledon titles, three US Open titles, three French Open titles and five Australian Open titles. We are also especially excited about our expanded pro-am and hospitality offerings where fans can have the ultimate tennis fantasy experience that they will remember and talk about the rest of their lives.”

To be eligible to compete on the Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. Courier finished the 2009 season as the top-ranked player on the Champions Series, followed by Pete Sampras and Todd Martin. Courier won the 2009 edition of The Residences At the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman Legends Championships beating Arias 6-4, 6-2 in the final.

Earlier this year on the Champions Series circuit, former U.S. and Wimbledon finalist Mark Philippoussis defeated John McEnroe in May to win the Staples Champions Cup in Boston and take over the No. 1 Champions Series ranking. Former French Open semifinalist Fernando Meligeni of Brazil was the surprise winner of the opening event on the 2010 Champions Series, winning the title in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil by defeating Philippoussis in the final in March.

CHAMPIONS SERIES VIDEO FOOTAGE

The Champions Series video page features exclusive behind the scenes footage of events and candid player chats. Videos can be seen at http://m1e.net/c?117624092-/xeeD7URGaYks%405702273-YNkZFDwhedoxU

BECOME A FAN OF THE CHAMPIONS SERIES ON FACEBOOK & FOLLOW US ON TWITTER facebook.com/championsseriestennis | twitter.com/cs_tennis

CHAMPIONS SERIES WEBSITE:

http://m1e.net/c?117624092-zitkzgEjC1OXA%405702274-/13Lkiz69.twM

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Champions Series tennis circuit, a collection of tournaments featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2009, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Safina Ousted Early In China

Dinara Safina’s struggles continued. A week following an early exit at The Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, the No.1 ranked Russian fell this time in the second round at The China Open to hometown wildcard Zhang Shuai 7-5, 7-6.

Last week, she fell in the second round after a bye in three tight sets to 132 ranked Kai-Chen Chang. At least the enigmatic younger sister of Marat Safin could take solace knowing Pan Pacific was marred by many upsets including Venus Williams, Elena Dementieva and Caroline Wozniacki, who got sick.

This time, Safina lost to No.226 in the world by committing 20 unforced errors and a dozen double faults which were her undoing. It probably spells the end of her reign as No.1 with second ranked American Serena Williams needing only a Round Two win over Ekaterina Makarova to take over the top spot. Perhaps the recent disappointments that also included a third round Open exit to Czech Petra Kvitova have finally taken their toll on the emotional Russian who was reduced to tears and cancelled her post match press conference.

“I’m just having some bad losses right now,” she said in a statement.

“So many matches that are very close, ones that I should win, having set points or match points every time. It’s very disappointing. I would like to take a break now, and I’m very upset with myself.”

Who could blame her? It’s been an emotional roller coaster that included her rise to No.1 getting to two grand slam finals before wilting, plus a Wimbledon semifinal appearance. Perhaps that’s what she needs.

“I wasn’t thinking about the result, I was just thinking about learning as much as I could from her,” a more pleased 20 year-old Zhang said. “She was not on her best form, she was impatient and made lots of mistakes.”

Staying with the upset theme, Venus was eliminated by Russian teen Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-4. Ironically, it was the second consecutive week Pavlyuchenkova sent the seven-time slam winner out of a tournament.

The prior week, the No.3 ranked player fell in two tightly played straights. However, this time she came out firing capturing the opening set.

“She started way aggressive today. She wanted to kill me, I guess,” Pavlyuchenkova said. “I had nothing to lose. I just tried to move her around as much as I could, just hit as hard as I could in the court and just enjoy the match.”

It was the younger Russian who controlled the final two sets by playing cleaner tennis while Venus went off. In particular, her serve unraveled with the 29 year-old American finishing with an uncharacteristic 14 doubles.

“She played really well, unfortunately sometimes I made errors too soon in the play,” Williams lamented.

For Pavlyuchenkova who’s highly thought of, it was another step in the right direction as she prepares for a big 2010.

“I want to win a Grand Slam really so much,” she expressed after advancing to a third round encounter against Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak, who bested Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 7-5, 6-4. “[Maria] Sharapova won it when she was 17, really quite young also. And others before. So, why not? I can do this.”

Another first round upset victim was Wozniacki, who fell in three sets to Spaniard Maria Jose Sanchez Martinez, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-0. Perhaps the U.S. Open runner-up wasn’t fully recovered from her sickness that forced her to retire last week in a loss to Wozniak. Open semifinalist Yanina Wickmayer fared no better dropping a three set decision to Russian Alisa Kleybanova 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.

Daniela Hantuchova advanced to a second round meeting against Nadia Petrova by posting a straight sets win over Carla Suarez Navarro. Meanwhile, advancing to the third round were two-time slam champ Svetlana Kuznetsova and China’s Li Na as did Alona Bondarenko.

One player not participating is Ana Ivanovic, who’s had a forgetful season. She pulled out with an upper respiratory problem. It’s just as well.

Dinara Just Like Marat

There’s no denying Dinara Safina’s talent. At 23, the younger sister of former Grand Slam champion Marat Safin has accomplished plenty, joining older brother as the only siblings to ever reach No.1 in the world.

Despite holding the top spot after finishing runner-up at the first two grand slams (Australian, French), the enigmatic Safina has fizzled lately with a poor second half this season that’s included a blowout Wimbledon semifinal defeat in which she got only a game off Venus Williams and a third round U.S. Open exit at the hands of unheralded Czech Petra Kvitova to conclude a disappointing stay in New York.

Though it’s been a breakthrough year in terms of rankings and reaching her first ever major finals, something seems to be missing. After another disappointment at the upset marred Pan Pacific Open, falling to unknown qualifier Chang Kai-Chen in three sets, Safina continues to receive heavy criticism for something she can’t control. When she became the 19th women’s top ranked player on April 20, it was due to hard work.

Not long ago, the second ever female Russian to hit No.1 (joined Maria Sharapova) was ranked just outside the Top 15 when she upset seven-time slam winner Justine Henin in a French tuneup, sending the Belgian to retirement. Two and a half years later, the 27 year-old saw that it was possible to return thanks to countrywoman Kim Clijsters’ impressive run claiming her second Open earlier this month with triumphs over both Williams sisters, completing it with a straight set victory over current No.5 riser Caroline Wozniacki.

So, Safina’s path to winning that elusive major just got tougher. She certainly hits one of the biggest balls on the WTA Tour. But thus far, her struggle to gain worldwide respect reminds us too much of Marat, who’s hanging it up later this year. Sadly, one of the game’s most gifted players on the ATP is burnt out at 29. While that’s an age when many in tennis call it quits, one ponders how many more majors he could’ve won if he’d put his mind to it.

Back in 2000, anything seemed possible with the then 20 year-old destroying Pete Sampras in straights at the Open. Something unheard of. With a great serve and blistering ground strokes that included a deadly backhand, the big man’s future looked very promising. Instead of continuing to win majors, he enjoyed his success a little too much. Perhaps the new lifestyle contributed to him not fulfilling potential.

Though the root of the problem couldn’t really be blamed on partying but rather Safin losing concentration during matches. He was always a tough out making three Australian Open finals. After dropping the first two due to an admitted bout with confidence, he won his second slam in grand fashion by upsetting Roger Federer in a memorable five set semifinal that saw him fight off match point. Fresh off ending the Swiss Maestro’s 26-match win streak over Top 10 foes, he completed it by besting Aussie hometown favorite Lleyton Hewitt in four sets.

Following the impressive run, many including us expected him to get back in contention. However, that never came to fruition with Safin teasing many with his immense skills. Amazingly, he had his best run at Wimbledon in 2008 going all the way to the semis before Federer drove him nuts in three tight sets. That it came with him ranked No.75 was no shock. You never could tell what you were getting from the only Russian man who ever made the Final Four at the All England Club.

Maybe that helps better explain Safina who’s still young enough to have a great career. She can take solace knowing that Marat has a Hall of Fame resume featuring the two slams, two Aussie runner-ups, No.1 ranking and helping their home country Russia win its first ever Davis Cup in 2002 on a stacked team that included former No.1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Mikhail Youzhny and Andrei Stoliarov. They also won in 2006 with Safin an integral part winning doubles with Dmitry Tursunov and a singles win over Argentina’s Jose Acasuso.

For the younger Safina, she’s already won 12 titles, reached two slam finals, hit No.1 and won Olympic silver in singles when she fell to countrywoman Elena Dementieva in three tight sets at Beijing. So, her career has hardly been disappointing. If only she could get over the hump and win a slam, it would silence many critics. But hey. We could easily say the same thing for the talented Dementieva and former outspoken No.1 Jelena Jankovic, who’s dipped to No.8.

For the ladies, it’s not easy to win majors when you’re competing with Venus and Serena Williams. If Sharapova returns to form next year, watch out. With Clijsters and Henin back along with Wozniacki looking to take the next step, the women’s game has become much better. Another proven Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova also won her second slam routing Safina at Roland Garros earlier this year. American Melanie Oudin made a name for herself at Flushing Meadows as did German Sabine Lisicki at Wimbledon.

There’s plenty of talent which also includes Russian enigmas Vera Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova, who have big enough games to compete but lack the mental capacity. This is a similar issue Safina’s dealing with as is former 2008 French Open winner Ana Ivanovic, who continued to struggle in a first round loss to Czech Lucie Safarova in which she had 11 double faults. Italian Flavia Pennetta, who reached the Open quarters before falling to Serena also is a good player. So too is 20 year-old Serbian Victoria Azarenka who after a strong start has experienced growing pains which have included temper tantrums.

So much of the battle is the head. Something Safina’s older brother referred to when he conquered Federer down under, terming the big upset a “head battle.” Very little separates the top players on each side. However, sometimes it’s what’s going on upstairs which can determine the outcome. This is also true of sports in general where even the biggest stars such as Alex Rodriguez can struggle under the spotlight. Whether that continues for the Yankee star third baseman on a superb team this October, we’ll know soon enough.

Aside from dealing with confidence issues, there’s also strategy which comes into play in an ultra competitive sport like tennis. Players who can adjust during matches usually have success. That can sometimes require alternating game plans. Something we haven’t seen a whole lot of on the women’s side where a plethora of top ranked players go bigger and bigger 24/7. Even with her injuries, Sharapova’s been a disappointment who should have more than two slams (2004 Wimbledon, 2007 U.S. Open). Power can only take you so far.

Tennis can use players who think outside the box like former No.1 Martina Hingis. Precisely what they’re getting with Clijsters and Henin who can hit with the best of them but also possess great speed and balance which helps create angles. They also aren’t afraid to come to the net to finish points. Something we saw the 19 year-old Dane Wozniacki do in her loss to Clijsters. Another player who closes well is Venus by using her size and athleticism effectively. Younger sis Serena is capable but usually prefers outslugging opponents while playing great D.

To truly be great, a player must always be willing to adjust on the fly. If something’s not working, change it up. How many times do you hear the frustration in Brad Gilbert or Martina Navratilova’s voice? They beat it over and over again and probably shake their heads in disgust at such gifted players not getting the most out of their God given ability.

For Safina, who can implode on the court similarly to emotional brother Marat, she must address this. It will be crucial to her future. She’s plenty good enough to win majors. But it’s taking that next step which will help determine how successful she is.

She seems like a wonderful person with her entertaining brother’s winning personality. So, she knows what’s wrong. It’s how she goes about fixing it that could wind up in even better results.

US Open Preview

The time has finally come. Yes. Happy Birthday Andy Roddick! Hopefully for you, this year’s U.S. Open will be extra special. Especially after that memorable five-set Wimbledon classic with Roger Federer.

Can the just turned 27 year-old American overcome heartache to win his second Open and first major since 2003 when he was No.1 in the world? Under Larry Stefanki, he’s playing the best tennis of his career due to better fitness which has allowed him to stay in points and show off an improved backhand along with a better net game.

Can he, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic or the sizzling Juan Martin Del Potro put an end to Federer’s reign in Flushing? Is Rafael Nadal healthy enough to make a run and complete the career grand slam? How will Marat Safin’s final slam of a topsy turvy career go?

All this along with whether Serena Williams can continue her renewed dominance with a third major and fourth in five will get kick started later today at Arthur Ashe Stadium.  Who will come out on top? Let’s take a look at the candidates from each field:
Will Serena repeat or can Elena Dementieva finally win a slam?

Will Serena repeat or can Elena Dementieva finally win a slam?
Women

(2) S. Williams-In fine form this year, the younger Williams is aiming for a repeat and all systems look go with a routine draw that has no serious threats until the quarters where she’ll likely see either Vera Zvonareva (7) or 10th seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta. Samantha Stosur and Daniela Hantuchova might be fourth round opponents and vet Sybille Bammer a third round probable. She upset Serena a couple of weeks ago in a tuneup but this is a slam. So, expect her to be fired up with a shot to reclaim No.1.

(4) Elena Dementieva-The 27 year-old Russian is the best WTA player to never win a slam. She’s a former runner-up who’s one of the most consistent performers. Lena’s reached the semis in four of her last five majors including last year in Queens before falling to finalist Jelena Jankovic. Her draw won’t be easy with former champion Maria Sharapova in Round 3. The winner likely will see either Nadia Petrova (13) or Jie Zheng (21) in the Round of 16. Figure another former winner Svetlana Kuznetsova (6) to be standing in the way in the quarters unless 19 year-old New Haven champ Caroline Wozniacki (9) can ride her solid form under the limelight.

(5) Jelena Jankovic-The Serb is in the same section as No.1 ranked Dinara Safina. Thing is we like Jankovic’s chances a little better because she’s finally playing better. Indeed, the former top rated woman has had a rough year at slams making the fourth round twice and bowing out in the first week at Wimbledon. But she finally seems over her slump in time for her favorite slam where she’s made deep runs three straight years. Outside of German phenom Sabine Lisicki (23) or struggling Ana Ivanovic (11), she should have a clear path to the final eight where Safina should be waiting. If Safina can’t get through Alisa Kleybanova early, shame shame.

Kim Clijsters-Perhaps the most intriguing story is the return of the former 2005 winner. And the Belgian is in the toughest draw which features No.3 Venus Williams along with several other hardcourt threats including Victoria Azarenka (8), Marion Bartoli (14), Li Na (18) and Australia comeback story Jelena Dokic. Indeed, it’s a top heavy draw with potential upsets. On paper, Venus is favorite with no serious threat until the second week. But who will she face in the Round of 16? Clijsters will have to deal with Bartoli in the second round with the winner possibly facing Dokic depending if she’s recovered from an injury. Knowing how supportive New Yorkers are, expect Clijsters to get tons of love pushing her through to a dream match-up against Venus. Most expect the elder Williams to meet Serena in the semis but we like what we’ve seen from Clijsters. Figure either to face Azarenka, who really has no one standing in the way unless feisty Agnieszka Radwanska (12) surprises her.

Semis:

(5) Jankovic vs (4) Dementieva- A rematch of last year which Jankovic won in straights. She also edged Elena recently in a tight three sets. Still, this could be Lena’s time to shine and make another final. We’ll take her.

Clijsters vs (2) S. Williams-If it comes off, it would show off Serena’s power versus Kim’s grit. But Serena should be much fresher allowing her to advance.

2009 U.S. Open Champion (2) Serena Williams, USA-She’s just too tough on the big points. As much as we’d love to see Dementieva get her first slam following up a recent win, it’s hard to bet against the clutch Serena. It will be tight but in straights as the younger Williams rises to the top of the WTA once again.

Player To Watch: Melanie Oudin, USA-The 17 year-old from Atlanta is a future star who made a nice run to Round 4 at Wimbledon ousting Jankovic. She has a good ground game already. Look for her to test Dementieva in Round 2.
Are either Andy Murray or Juan Martin Del Potro ready for primetime at the Open?

Are either Andy Murray or Juan Martin Del Potro ready for primetime at the Open?
Men

(1) Roger Federer-It starts with the new record holder following the amazing final at the All England Club in which he outlasted Roddick despite not being able to break him until the 30th game of the longest final set in championship history. Amazing to think the 28 year-old new father of twins didn’t play his best but showed the mental fortitude he lacked against Rafael Nadal to surpass Pete Sampras. So, can the amazing Swiss Maestro who has it all make it a ridiculous six in a row in NYC? Why not? His section while tricky with potential encounters with Lleyton Hewitt (31) and fading James Blake (21) isn’t bad. The real test shouldn’t come till the quarters where either Robin Soderling (12) or emerging American Sam Querrey (22) should be waiting. Yes. We’re discounting Nikolai Davydenko (8) whose game has slipped. Either way, we don’t see Feds being seriously threatened.

(5) Andy Roddick-Is this the year the new Andy wins a second Open in front of his biggest fans? He’s clearly improved and most notably, his head seems clearer since marrying SI swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. Perhaps settling down was the right move for tennis’ A-Rod. Could anyone do better than her? Next. The real question is is he ready to deliver? A lot of positives came out of his crushing defeat including a ton of support. He really won a lot of people over. His play has been solid since even though he lost to Del Potro twice. Roddick will be tested in a tricky section that includes nemesis Djokovic in another potential quarter showdown preempted by either Fernando Verdasco (10) or German vet Tommy Haas (20). Even Dmitry Tursunov could prove tough in Round 2. So, they didn’t do him any favors. Assuming Djokovic gets through Ivan Ljubicic, Russian Igor Andreev (29) poses the only challenge in Rd.3. It would be an upset if Roddick-Djokovic II didn’t happen. All eyes will be watching.

(3) Rafael Nadal-It’s true Nadal isn’t 100 percent but did look decent in a couple of warmups. Even though he fell to both Del Potro and Djokovic, Rafa needed the matches to prepare for the Open. People forget that he made it all the way to the semis last year before Murray eliminated him. Assuming he gets through dangerous opening round foe Richard Gasquet who’s fresh off suspension for alleged cocaine use, figure Nadal to be a tough out. Especially in a reasonable draw which shouldn’t get hard until he sees either Gael Monfils (13) or David Ferrer (18) in the Round of 16. Indeed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s (7) half is more challenging with Jarkko Nieminen in Round 2 and either Fernando Gonzalez (11) or Tomas Berdych (17) in Rd.4. Tsonga has a big game but we’re unsure if he’s ready to go far here. Figure Nadal to face Gonzalez or Berdych for a spot in the Final Four.

(2) Andy Murray-No Brit has won a major since Fred Perry. If you think about it, Murray’s not a true one because he’s Scot. But he represents London’s hope and has a big enough game to win here. He made the final last year before a bad call cost him a realistic chance against Federer. Since a disappointing Wimbledon semi loss to Roddick, Murray hasn’t played a ton. There are two schools of thought. Either he wanted a chance to recup to be fresh or the lack of match play could hurt. We’ll know early on when big serving Latvian Ernests Gulbis tests him in the first round. He might see big server Ivo Karlovic (27) in the third round. Karlovic gets the winner of comebacking Taylor Dent-Feliciano Lopez. Murray should have little trouble until the Round of 16 versus either Croat Marin Cilic (16) or Stan Wawrinka (19). Wawrinka is a steady player but doesn’t pose as much of a threat as the big hitting Cilic many picked for a breakout season. He’s made four fourth round appearances in slams and made Rd.3 in his Open debut last year.

(6) Juan Martin Del Potro-It’d be wrong to just include Murray as the only contender in such a deep part of the draw. So, we broke it up due in large part to Del Potro who’s one of the best hardcourt players on the ATP. He is hot coming in winning in D.C. over Roddick while falling short versus Murray in Montreal. Fittingly, they could be pitted against each other in a great quarterfinal. However, Del Potro could have to deal with former champ Safin, who’s in his final swan song. You just know the 29 year-old two-time slam winner wants to go out with a bang. Don’t underestimate him in Round 2 against Del Potro. Early in these slams, anything can happen which Djokovic knows only too well from his Wimbledon 2008 exit which saw Safin make a run to the semis before Feds ousted him. That’s the beauty of Marat. Assuming Del Potro gets through, big server Mardy Fish could pose a test in Round 3 if healthy. And either Gilles Simon (9) or Juan Carlos Ferrero (24) should be lurking in the Round of 16. Want an early match to catch? Ferrero against Magician Fabrice Santoro should be a treat.

Semis:

(5) Roddick vs (1) Federer-The anticipated rematch comes down after Andy exacts revenge on Djokovic, who hasn’t been as consistent this year. Roddick is focused and more than ever believes he can win. We saw that belief against a player who’s dominated him. Look what it took Federer to beat him on grass. Figure this to be intense with a few breakers. We’ll take Andy to avenge Wimbledon finally overcoming his biggest obstacle.

(3) Nadal vs (2) Murray-Honestly, it was very difficult to pick against Del Potro because of how well he’s playing. But we feel Murray has just enough versatility to pull out a quarter and setup a semi rematch. It’s hard to bet against Rafa against the same opponent but this is clearly Murray’s best surface and by this point, figure Nadal to show some strain. We’ll take Murray to advance to a second consecutive final in four sets.

2009 U.S. Open Champion (5) Andy Roddick, USA-The long drought ends for American men with its best player meeting every challenge. It will be very tough because of who he has to go through. But he says he doesn’t feel as much pressure and we believe him. That Wimbledon loss gave him new perspective and might be the best thing for his career. He really deserved better that day. It showed he could compete with the best. People forget that he also showed a lot in beating Murray too. Only we see this final being even tougher. It just might go the distance.

Player To Watch: Sam Querrey, USA-The 21 year-old from San Fran is playing well adding more to his game than just a serve with improved groundstrokes that got him to the final in New Haven before losing to Verdasco. Was it wise to play this week? We’ll see. All we know is he’s capable of making a run and showing that America does have a bright future. He made the fourth round last year before Nadal ousted him in four. Also keep an eye on Donald Young, who again made the main draw and plays baseliner Tommy Robredo.

Women’s Doubles Pick: Samantha Stosur/Rennae Stubbs AUS (3) over Serena Williams/Venus Williams USA (4)

Men’s Doubles Pick: Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan USA (1) over Mahesh Bhupati IND/Mark Knowles BAH (3)