Federer Stunned By Berdych

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – To paraphrase the late Howard Cosell: “Down goes Federer! Down Goes Federer!”

A shocker in the Men’s Quarterfinal saw Czech Tomas Berdych beat No. 1 seed Roger Federer in four sets  7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

For the first time since 2003, the Maestro will not be in the US Open Semifinal and went home pretty unhappy to say the least.

“I’m sure it was a combination of many things,” Federer said.  “I mean, obviously I rarely go through matches where I have no chances, you know.

“So obviously I missed some tonight again, but that’s normal.  When you end up losing at the end, you know, you always hope that you made every chance you had.  It’s just not possible.

“He probably created more than I did, and that’s why he ended up winning tonight.”

It could have been the extra rest Federer received when Mardy Fish pulled out of the Open on Monday that ruined his sharpness. Like a pitcher, most tennis players tend to like the regular rhythm of a tournament, but the Swiss Master was forced to sit out Monday’s match when he received a walkover.

Federer though didn’t use that as an excuse.

“I have been there before,” he said.  “Once I had six‑and‑a‑half days off and I ended up winning Wimbledon.  I don’t think this was the issue tonight.”

Federer looked off from the outset, after electing to receive in the coin toss, was put on his heels by Berdych, who blew the Maestro away in the tiebreaker 6-1 and broke Federer early in the second set.

Only late in the second did Federer look like the Maestro, but down two breaks was just too much for the Swiss Master and Berdych eventually was able to come through.

But then the third set came and Federer was able to break Berdych and take the set rather easily.

“I still was down two sets to one, so I wasn’t celebrating too much,” he said. “It was good.  The momentum switch no doubt gave me a chance, put the score back to zero, put him further away from winning, and made the match go longer, make it more physical, more mental.

“Yeah, so obviously I was excited winning the third, but the problem was the first couple of sets ‑ particularly the first one.”

At that point it looked like Federer was going to paint another masterpiece, but Berdych was able to break him in the middle of the fourth to end it quickly for the Master.

“The fourth set all of a sudden ended quickly,” Federer said.  “He played good the last couple of points on my serve I think at 30‑All.  But that’s always a danger with Tomas if you’re down in the score and he can take some chances.  He’s obviously a shot‑maker, so, yeah, it’s dangerous.

“I should never lose the first set.  But anyway, it happens.  Move on.”

It will be a very different Open now that both the biggest story in Andy Roddick and its biggest draw in Roger Federer are no longer playing.

It also gives Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray excellent chances to win the whole thing.

 

Hold The Retirement For Another Day

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – And he lives on. Andy Roddick delayed his retirement by at least another two days by beating Fabio Fognini of Italy in a hard fought 7-5, 7-6, 4-6 and 6-4 match before a very highly partisan Roddick crowd.

The match featured many entertaining rallies and a between the legs shot by Fognini which almost passed Roddick at net.

There is no doubt that Roddick is suffering from a hurt right shoulder, but he is deriving energy from the crowd. He noted that, “it was loud out there, about as loud as I remember.”

Roddick will have a much harder time Tuesday night as a decided underdog against Juan Martin Del Potro, like Roddick also a US Open winner and the only player besides Federer, Djokovic and Nadal to win a major in the last 30.

Roddick is 1-3 all-time against Del Potro, winning their last contest in Memphis in 2011. All of Roddick’s losses have been close.

Fognini called Del Potro a slight favorite but would not be surprised with a win by Roddick.

Roddick feels that he has an edge in serve but that Del Potro has an edge in his return game.

Federer is Proving He’s Still the Best

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Fernando Verdasco is no slouch. He is ranked no. 25 at the Open. That is the good news. The bad news is that he had to play a very hot Roger Federer today.

Game over quickly.

Federer won 6-3,6-4,6-4.

And the match had am amazing statistic. Federer was 26 of 27 in net points won. And it could have been worse if he had come in more. It was a bit too windy for that.

In the post-match press conference he seemed stunned by the stat.

He also would not admit that playing doubles in the Olympics helped his net play.

This came a day after his double partner, Stan Wawrinka said that Federer would be the best doubles player in the world if he played more doubles.

No one is better than Federer, but when in an age that he is trying to close out points earlier, some more serve and volley in his game would help appreciably.

There is no doubt that coach Paul Annacone is trying to incorporate that aspect more into his game.

Federer was effective coming in against Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final. Admittedly, the rough was closed and it was easier to do.

If Federer incorporated some more doubles into his regimen at places like Miami, Montreal and Cincinnati he could even be more effective when he plays the likes of Nadal and Djokovic.

And he could also preserve some wear and tear on his 31 year old body.

Still Fishing For Respect

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Poor Mardy Fish.

Even though he is playing the best tennis of his life and comes in to the US Open as the highest ranked American, some just don’t take him as a serious threat in this tournament.

Just take this question for example after the No. 8 seed cruised today against Malek Jazuri, 6-2 6-2 6-4. Fish answered the question about being thankful about his draw.

To that one reporter responded: But you have to put yourself in that mindset, too.  Sounds like you’re a new player in several respects.  You have to come in thinking, I’m going to beat whoever’s out there.

Fish then gave this answer: “Look, we don’t make the draw.  You can’t know who you’re going to come up with.  I got lucky in the first two rounds.  No doubt about it.

“Isner played Baghdatis in the first round.  That guy’s really good.  So his draw was tougher than mine, for sure.  There’s no doubt about it.  That’s the luck of the draw in that aspect.

“But, you know, you position yourself to get to a top 8 seed and you don’t have to play one of those guys until the quarters.  That’s where the hard work pays off, I guess.”

Fish just needs to keep winning and the naysayers will eventually subside. Just last year, the 30 year-old was an annual second round loss at all grand slam events. But then he went to the fourth round of the Open and the new Mardy Fish was introduced to the world.

The hard work to move from journeyman to contender wasn’t easy and frankly a long time coming.

Fish’s knock was that he didn’t take care of himself and wasn’t in the type of shape to be a world class player. But then he did a workout regimen that excelled him to the higher echelons of the tennis world.

And it’s the type of advice he wants to give younger players like Jack Sock if he comes to him for advice.

“Take care of my body better,” he said.  “I took that for granted, I think.  Just health.  It’s hard. I mean, look, you know, he’s a very talented player, a good player now.  You know, you just hope they realize that they’re still a long ways away from where he wants to be.  I’m sure of that.

“He’s a confident kid, for sure.  You have to be.  I certainly was at that age.  But, you know, you got to channel that the right way, as well. You know, you got to have some fire, like he does, for sure, but you got to channel it the right way, too.

“I think the most important thing is to keep working hard and to keep ‑ it sounds stupid ‑ but to try to stay on the court as much as you can because you can’t take health for granted, because I certainly did.”

And now he moves on the early rounds of the Open with ease. Fish has a good chance to go to the Quarterfinals but then he will have to face the Dark Knight himself, Roger Federer.

“Obviously Novak has done what he’s done,” he said.  “He’s head and shoulders the guy you really don’t want in your draw right now. I mean, those guys, they present so many problems, so many different problems, all four of them.  And so, yes, you have to get through one of them.  Maybe you don’t.  It’s very lucky if you get to the semis. Obviously to win a tournament, you have to play two of those guys absolutely.  You’re not going to win a tournament without playing two of those guys.”

But that will have to wait, as Fish will take on 34 ranked South African Kevin Anderson, who beat 29th seed Michael Llondra in straight sets today.

 

Djokovic Determined After First Round Win

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In his postgame interview after his first round drubbing of Conor Niland, 6-0 5-1 (Withdrew), Novak Djokovic was posed this question:

Speaking of entertainment, for years you were trying to pass Roger and Rafa.  In terms of entertainment, Rafa is almost like a rock star.  He’s so appealing.  And Roger is beautiful and perfect and graceful.  How do you think you’re taken and received here in North America?

To that the No. 1 seed responded: “What about me?”

Well some people call him the space cowboy and some the gangster of love.

To the rest of us he’s The Djoker and he very well can be on his first US Open title.

Actually, Djokovic is having a very good year, winning both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, while getting to the Semifinals of the French Open. If he continues on his torrid pace and takes the crown in Flushing Meadows, it may go down as the best year for a player in history.

 

Sounds big,” he laughed when asked the question. “No, this year has been tremendous, best so far in my career, and there has been a lot of talks about history making and this incredible run.

“No doubt I’m extremely honored and privileged to be part of the elite of the players that have made, you know, the history of the sport in some ways.

“But my main focus is really on the court.  I need to take one match at a time.  That’s the only way I can really perform well.”

For any athlete, especially one like Djokovic, staying healthy is the most important aspect to winning. After Wimbledon, the 24 year had shoulder problems, which caused him to sit out the rest of the summer after the Cincinnati Open.

“Well, the shoulder in Cincinnati didn’t feel good obviously, and throughout the whole week I was carrying the, you know, kind of pain and discomfort in my shoulder,” Djokovic said. “But after Cincinnati I took some time off, and I did everything in order to recover the shoulder.  Today I didn’t feel any pain.  I served well and I played well, so I have no concern.”

Yet the rest of the field may have some concerns, especially with this champion stepping up his game. Although an American audience will root for Mardy Fish or Andy Roddick to advance, the tennis watching world probably is pulling for a Djokovic to take on Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.

Yet, that’s still pretty far off in the future, as it’s a long two weeks. The Dark Knight will wait for the Djoker. Up until then Flushing Meadows will enjoy this young attacker, who is enjoying a resurgence after ticking off the crowd with some on the court comments a few years ago, making him an arch villain.

“Well, you know, it’s equally important, of course, to play well on the court and to do your job to win, you know,” he said. “As much as you’re successful and as much as you win, you get more attention from the media and from the people, and you get more respect, obviously, from your colleagues.

“But I think it’s really important as well to carry yourself off the court in a good way.  I have been learning that throughout my whole career, and last couple of years I have experienced some good and bad situations on and off the court.

“But I accepted that all as a big lesson in my life and, you know, something that can serve me well for my future.  You know, I’m aware of the responsibility that I have as a present No. 1 to, you know, represent the sport as well in some ways off the court.

“So I need to do that in a best possible way.  You know, I’m trying.  You tell me, how am I doing?”

Pretty well, Novak. Pretty well.

 

 

 

Henin Retires From Tennis

ending elbow injury that has forced the Belgian to hang up her racquet.  One of the WTA’s greatest players and a seven-time Grand Slam champion, Henin retired from the sport for the first time in March 2008 and became the first woman in the history of professional tennis to retire while ranked World No.1.  She made a successful comeback to tennis at the beginning of the 2010 season, reaching the final of the 2010 Australian Open and capturing two titles (the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart and the UNICEF Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch).  During a fourth-round loss to Kim Clijsters at 2010 Wimbledon, Henin suffered a right elbow injury and did not play for the remainder of the 2010 season.

On her official website, Henin said the following: “I turn, and this time, an incredible page of my life … What a wonderful trip, I have experienced during all these years.  Today I am calmer and I can create positive and rewarding look back on this experience in my life…Finally and most importantly, thanks everyone.  Thanks for standing by my side during all these years. I will never forget your support and your loyalty.”

“Justine Henin will go down as one of the greatest female athletes of her era.  She has been an incredible ambassador for women’s tennis on and off the court, and her fighting spirit, tremendous courage and ultimate success has captured the minds and hearts of millions of fans around the world,” said Stacey Allaster, Chairman and CEO of the WTA.  “We have all been fortunate to once again have had the opportunity to witness the beauty of her game during these many past months, and no doubt we will miss seeing her on court competing like only Justine can.  In her young career Justine has already done so much to inspire and give back to others, and I am sure this will continue to be a big part of the next chapter of her life.”

Henin is a winner of 43 WTA singles titles – including seven Grand Slam championships – and has been ranked World No.1 for a total of 117 weeks (7th all time).  She has amassed more than $20 million in career prize money and is leaving the sport with a win-loss record of 527-116.

But more importantly than any statistic, 5-foot, 5 ¾-inch (1.67 m) Henin was renowned for her spectacular one-handed backhand, incredible athleticism and unrivalled mental fortitude and work ethic.

Among many accomplishments, Henin achieved the following:

  • Finished three seasons as the WTA World No.1 (2003, 2006, 2007)
  • Won seven Grand Slam singles titles (Roland Garros 2003, 2005-07; Australian Open 2004; US Open 2003, 2007)
  • In 2007-08, set personal best 32-match winning streak, longest streak since Venus Williams in 2000 (35); in 2007, posted a 63-4 (0.94) winning record, the best percentage in women’s tennis since 1989 (Graf 86-2, 0.977)
  • In 2006 became the seventh player in the Open Era to reach all four Grand Slam finals in the same calendar year (Margaret Court, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, and Martina Hingis).
  • Won 43 singles titles, including seven Grand Slams, two season-ending WTA Championships (2006, 2007) and an Olympic gold medal in singles in Athens in 2004
  • Helped lead Belgium to its first Fed Cup title in 2001.

After retiring from tennis in 2008, Henin turned her focus to charitable work, becoming a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and traveling to Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in that role throughout 2009.  She created the “Justine For Kids” association, the purpose of which is to help develop and fund projects to aid sick children and their families.  Henin founded the “Sixth Sense Academy” in 2007 with coach Carlos Rodriguez which has five locations – three in Belgium, one in Florida and the most recent one in China.

Clijsters Pulls Out Of Beijing

Because of a foot injury, Kim Clijsters has bowed out of the WTA tournament in Beijing. She had surgery on her sole of her foot after the Open, but it hasn’t healed quickly enough.

“I am very sorry to have to cancel for Beijing,” Clijsters said on her official site. “After I returned from New York, I had some moles removed. The operation had been planned for quite a while. However, the wound on my foot sole heals really bad. Therefore playing tennis is not possible.”

Clijsters’ next tournament should be the WTA Championships (Masters) in Doha. Physically, she will be ready for it, no doubt about that. It is just a matter of reeling in enough points to make it to the top 8 who are allowed to play there. On December 8 Clijsters also plays the Diamond Games in the Antwerp Sportpaleis.

Oz Just The Beginning For Roger

Last year, some wondered what happened to Roger Federer, especially after he dropped the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal.

This year, though, there’s no doubt the master is on track.

“It’s not something I’ve ever put in my mind that this is something I want to achieve,” Federer said after defeating Andy Murray in straight sets, 6-3 6-4 7-6. “I’ll still go and play the smaller tournaments, you know, the Masters 1000s, the ones we’re supposed to play. I try to give my best everywhere I go to, because I think there are not only the Grand Slams.

“Of course, they are important, but I try to respect every tournament that invites me to go play there. There’s the fans who pay tickets. I want to live up to my expectations, too.”

After a scare in the first round, Federer had a pretty easy time in the Oz Open as he dominated the competition in Melbourne. Although the more exciting matches over the past two weeks were played by others, the Swiss Master just went about his business.

“I always knew I had it in my hand,” he said. “The question is do I have it in my mind and in my legs, you know. That’s something I had to work extremely hard at. Now I feel like obviously I’m being pushed a great deal by the new generation coming up. I always feel sort of tennis changes sort of every five years.

“Because when I came on tour, matches were played very differently. It was more of a bluff game, guys serving well, but there was always a weakness you could go to. Today that doesn’t exist anymore. I think that’s also thanks to guys like Murray. They’ve made me a better player, because I think this has been one of my finest performances, you know, in a long time, or maybe forever.”

Now Federer is on track for that elusive Grand Slam. Even with all the major wins, he never won all four in a year, as the French always gave him problems. But now, after winning in Roland Garros last year, Federer has a real chance to nail down the elusive achievement.

Of course he will play the tournaments as they come, but Federer feels now that he’s in position to dominate everything in 2010.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to win your first Grand Slam,” Federer said. “That’s not mental, you know, trying to screw with his head, you know. It’s just a tough thing, you know.

“The next one is not going to get any easier. But his game is so good that I’m convinced he will win one, you know. And I thought he did really well tonight because conditions were tough. I mean, I think I played a great match. So someone’s got to win, and I’m happy it was me.”

The road ahead won’t be easy. Although Federer has said he’s become a better player, the rest of the field has become tougher as well. Besides the usual suspects, like Nadal, Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Roddick, upstarts like US Open Champion Juan Martin Del Potro have become elite players, who will give Federer fits as he tries to nail down the Slam.

Yet, that’s what keeps the Swiss Master going. With every match he learns something about himself, on his quest for perfection.

“[It’s] a tough generation at the moment,” Federer said. “There’s many guys. You know, I’ve dominated hard court and grass for a long time; Rafa did clay. Rafa also became very strong on the other surfaces and so forth.

“So I think it’s just not an easy thing to do, Grand Slams, and I proved it again tonight.”

One down. Three to go.

Week One US Open Stuff

The first week of the U.S. Open is almost done. Five days are in the books at Flushing Meadows.

We’ve seen our share of upsets on the women’s side while the men have held form setting up some intriguing match-ups this Labor Day weekend.

Here are some observations on what’s been a fun week of tennis in the final grand slam in NYC:

-Kudos to Melanie Oudin for upsetting No.4 seeded Russian Elena Dementieva in a thrilling second round match coming back to win in three sets against one of the WTA’s best. Lena was considered a contender and our pick to reach the final but we knew the 17 year-old Atlanta native would be a tough out. She proved to be too much as the blond haired kid showed mettle beyond her years, proving that her third round Wimbledon conquer of Jelena Jankovic was no fluke.

No doubt Oudin can play and is giving American tennis fans someone new to get excited about aside from the Williams sisters. Can she keep it going tomorrow versus former champ Maria Sharapova who’s only dropped six total games? It will be a tall order but if the three-time slam winner isn’t sharp, things could get interesting. Especially with the New Yorkers pulling for the kid. And we know one thing. They’re great fans who can always give an underdog a lift. Should make for some great watching.

-Loved the Taylor Dent-Ivan Navarro second round epic earlier tonight. This match was easily the best on the men’s side thus far as both players made it a point to get in and finish off points at the net. It made for classic tennis which we know John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors had to appreciate. You just don’t see it enough.

The 28 year-old Dent is an inspirational story having made it back from three back surgeries which at one point had him in a wheelchair wondering if he’d ever get another opportunity to play a game he loves. But the throwback serve-and-volley specialist worked extra hard when told he could comeback getting into great shape. Tonight, the heart and passion was on display as he rallied from a set down to pull out a well earned five set epic taking the final breaker 11-9. That he had to fight off a few match points before chipping a perfect backhand slice pass erupting into celebration at the old Grandstand made it even more special. This was great stuff. Both guys dug deep but a determined Dent won the four-plus hour marathon to the crowd’s delight.

All in all, a pleasure to see with both players combining for 255 times at the net with each winning a high percentage (Navarro-62 percent, Dent-69 percent). Not surprisingly along with 20 aces, Dent finished with 121 total winners compared to his game opponent’s 70. Remarkable numbers. What made it all the more great was how efficient each was. Combine high energy tennis with an electric atmosphere and it was a real treat.

Best part had to be after Dent won. It was his first time back at the Open in four years. Having missed two and a half years, he had to wonder if he’d ever make it back to his favorite grand slam event. At the match’s conclusion, after a handshake, he took the umpire’s microphone and thanked everyone for their support. After a postmatch interview with ESPN’s Pam Schriver, he then pulled a Todd Martin taking two laps around the place slapping everyone five.

Easily one of the coolest things ever. That is what makes this sport so compelling. You could feel the love just coming across the TV.

Can Dent keep it going this weekend? He didn’t exactly get a great reward drawing Andy Murray next. But the No.2 seeded Scot did go four Friday and will certainly need to be better versus a higher quality foe. The game’s best returner pitted against a classic serve and volleyer should make for a nice contrast. Figure it to be a fun watch.

-It’d be easy to get on Jankovic for bowing out early falling in a tight three to Yaroslava Shvedova. Indeed last year’s runner-up has had a rough season at the majors not making one quarterfinal. However, she just lost her grandma and that had to be extremely difficult Thursday. So, let’s cut her a break and send our best wishes.

-Keep an eye on Caroline Wozniacki. The ninth seed from Denmark entered having won in New Haven and has continued to look in top form rolling through the first couple of rounds. She could get a stiff challenge from Romania’s Sorana Cirstea. If the improving 19 year-old looker moves on, Svetlana Kuznetsova might be a fourth round opponent. Interesting considering they recently were hitting partners in Eastbourne earlier this summer as seen here.

-Can’t wait to see that Round of 16 encounter between Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters. Should be a barn burner!

-Can anyone threaten Serena? She’s looking mighty tough. Don’t expect much from Daniela Hantuchova who while a steady hitter just doesn’t have enough in her arsenal.

-Give Nicolas Kiefer plenty of credit for making it a match versus Rafael Nadal tonight. Especially after getting bageled in the first set and down an early break before making things much more interesting taking the second. The third seeded Spaniard looked pretty good running down balls but he can elevate his game a couple of notches and will have to. That anticipated fourth rounder against flying Frenchman Gael Monfils would be fun.

-We like what we’ve seen from Andy Roddick but now it gets more challenging as he’ll see giant American server John Isner later today. If he gets through that, then it’s either Tommy Haas or Fernando Verdasco. So, it sure won’t be easy.

-Some other good matches to check out include emerging Sam Querrey taking on Robin Soderling and James Blake battles Tommy Robredo. There also will be a former final when Roger Federer faces old nemesis Lleyton Hewitt. Can the gritty Aussie vet push the five-time defending champ?

Tomas Berdych also plays Fernando Gonzalez this weekend and Juan Carlos Ferrero takes on Gilles Simon in France versus Spain. It’s interesting to note that for the first time ever in the Open Era, all top 16 men’s seeds remain alive. By weekend’s conclusion with Fall around the corner, some of those will be gone.

One of the best weekends of the year.