Forever Young

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – It’s been so long that the tennis world waited for the arrival of Donald Young, that it seems like he’s been at it for almost 15 years.

“15 years?” he laughed. “That would mean I would be like a lot older than I am now.”

Yes that would mean the American would have turned pro when he was seven years-old. So maybe not 15 years, but it still seems like forever.

But today Flushing Meadows got a taste of what they wanted to see all the way back to 2007 when Young was a junior champion. He won a five set classic against the 14th seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, 7-6 3-6 2-6 6-3 7-6, that lasted four hours and 20 minutes on Court 17 in one of the best matches of this US Open.

“It’s great for me, you know, to play 4 hours and 20 minutes,” he said.  “I saw the clock at the end.  Throughout the whole match I was looking at the clock, and like, Oh man, am I going to make it the whole time?

“But that’s what you put the work and the practice for.  To actually have it come through, yeah, it’s just great to win.”

And great for American tennis to see Young develop. This match showed why he was so hyped over the past few years. He battled his more experienced opponent even when he was down two sets to one and came back.

On fire in the fourth, he rattled off two breaks to beat the Swiss national and forced a fifth set.

It shows the fitness level of Chicago native, who in the past was criticized for not committing to the game. So, he recommitted himself and came to play in shape.

“Yeah, like I say, you know, to do things you’ve never done before you have to do things you’ve never done before,” he said.  “In the off‑season I did something different, and that was great. Definitely to see it like come and know I could play that long in a match definitely makes you feel great.”

Yes winning is much better than losing, something Young can really attest to. So far he has just five challenger wins for his career and two challenger doubles titles. His knock was that he was never committed entirely to the game, instead treating it more like a job than a calling.

“I don’t think I was getting any motivation when I was losing all the time,” he said.  “You know, you have people around you that you feel and trust in what they say and they tell you you can do it.  You go out there and keep practicing.  This is my job at the end of the day.  Most people don’t just quit a job unless they have something else to do.

“I could obviously go to school, which would be great.  Not to knock that.  But this is something I chose to do.  They always told me it would be a waste to waste the talent you have and not do anything with it.”

Even with his journeyman status Young was always a threat. The word potential has always been used when describing this hard hitting volleyer, but with every negative comes a lesson, and he has been schooled over the years.

“You know, don’t take things for granted,” he said.  “I feel like when I was 18 and I got to 73 in the world, the youngest in the top 100, I was top 75, it all seemed kind of easy, not realizing how much work I put into it to get to where I actually was.

“Life lessons?  Just keep working hard.  Don’t give up if it’s something you really want to do.  Listen to the people you trust and you can always learn.”

Yet that can wait as Young is now the talk of the tournament and the tennis world will continue to marvel at his arrival when he takes on No. 24 seed Juan Ignacio Chela in the third round.

ATP Top 20 Rankings

1 Rafael Nadal (Spa) 11225.00pts

2 Novak Djokovic (Ser) 7145.00

3 Roger Federer (Swi) 6735.00

4 Andy Murray (Gbr) 5035.00

5 Robin Soderling (Swe) 4910.00

6 Nikolay Davydenko (Rus) 4150.00

7 Tomas Berdych (Cze) 3780.00

8 Fernando Verdasco (Spa) 3330.00

9 Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) 3295.00

10 David Ferrer (Spa) 3200.00

11 Andy Roddick (USA) 3180.00

12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) 2905.00

13 Jurgen Melzer (Aut) 2605.00

14 Marin Cilic (Cro) 2540.00

15 Gael Monfils (Fra) 2250.00

16 Nicolas Almagro (Spa) 2150.00

17 Ivan Ljubicic (Cro) 2120.00

18 Marcos Baghdatis (Cyp) 2030.00

19 Mardy Fish (USA) 1931.00

20 Stanislas Wawrinka (Swi) 1860.00

Youzhny Moves To Semis After Five Set Classic

The American flag flapped frantically behind a biting wind at the top of Arthur Ashe Stadium while Mikhail Youzhny and Stanislas Wawrinka fought furiously on the court below.

On a day when a wickedly wild wind swirling at high speed made tennis balls bounce as bizarrely around the court as ping pong balls careening crazily inside the glass of lottery hopper, Youzhny effectively exploited the elements and mastered massive fifth-set pressure to advance to his second US Open semifinal with a hard-fought 3-6, 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Wawrinka that spanned exactly four hours.

“It was so close,” Youzhny said. “Right now I’m happy because I just finished the match and I win this match. So (it is a) good result, but already you are in semifinal and you still play.  Of course you want more. Anyway, I don’t think now is good result, so I want more.”

The 12th-seeded Russian will face either World No. 1 Rafael Nadal or eighth-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in Saturday’s semifinal. The winner of that match will face five-time US Open champion Roger Federer or third-seeded Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final.

“He’s No. 1; he won two Grand Slams; he play really, really well; it will be very tough for me,” Youzhny said of Nadal , adding “Of course it’s better to play (Nadal) here (than) on clay.”

New York City has often brought the best out in Youzhny.

Four years ago, Youzhny reached the Flushing Meadows final four, falling to Andy Roddick, 7-6(5), 0-6, 6-7(3), 3-6..

“It was also close, tough match.  I won first set; I easily lost second.  It was tiebreak in third set.  Nobody know what happens if I won this tiebreak,” Youzhny said. “But, you know, it was four years ago.  Now I think it’s another time, and I’m like another player.  I cannot say I am better player now, but it’s another time and other opponent, so everything can happen.”

While the 28-year-old Russian could face an immense challenge against either Nadal or Verdasco, Youzhny is the only man left in the draw who has a win over Nadal at the US Open.

He beat Nadal in four sets in the 2006 US Open quarterfinal. Though Nadal has won seven of 11 meetings with Youzhny, the Russian with the brilliant one-handed backhand has a 4-3 record vs. Nadal on hard courts.

The victory vaults Youzhny back into the world’s top 10 for the first time since February of 2008 when he reached a career-high rank of No. 8.

Playing determined defense in the opening game of the fifth set, Youzhny centered the ball in a long backhand-to-backhand exchange. Finally, Wawrinka made a move to net, Youzhny bending his legs to get low lasered a backhand blast crosscourt to pass the Swiss and break for a 1-0 fifth-set lead. Youzhny worked his way through a deuce game to consolidate for 2-0.

Youzhny fought off a break point in the fourth game when Wawrinka steered a forehand pass up the line wide. But on the second break point, Wawrinka lured Youzhny forward and the Russian lifted a backhand approach beyond the baseline as a fired-up Wawrinka broke back for 2-2.

It proved to be a short-lived as Wawrinka set a backhand wide and Youzhny broke back for 3-2. Working his way out of a 30-all game, Youzhny held for 4-2.

Seeing the match slip away a frustrated Wawrinka smashed his racquet to the court after burying a backhand into the net as Youzhny held at love for 5-3.

A weary Wawrinka was playing with protective adhesive taping on both quads and took an injury time-out to get re-taped midway through the fourth set. Walking slowly behind the baseline between points, Wawrinka looked lethargic as if worn down by the draining duel he had with Sam Querrey in the fourth round. Wawrinka emerged with a 7-6(9), 6-7(5), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win in that match and it took a toll today.

“I think I gave everything today and I try for sure,” Wawrinka said. “I made some big mistake, but after four hours, you’re really tired. I was tired. So it’s not always easy to think and to play the right drop shots or to play the good point and not to break the racquet.”

Youzhny gained the early break and made it stand up as Wawrinka tried to shorten up the points. After Youzhny blocked a backhand volley winner into the open court  to hold for 5-2, Wawrinka left the court, returned minutes later and relied on some strong serving to hold for 3-5.

Wawrinka pulled a new Head racquet out of his bag, but lost his grip in the ninth game. After slicing a backhand into the net, the Swiss wound up and slammed the racquet to the court. Two points later, Youzhny served out the fourth set to level the match.

Wawrinka burst out to a fast start in the third set, breaking in the second game and holding for a 3-0 lead. Sprinting with his back to the net, Youzhny hit a between the legs shot that seemed to surprise Wawrinka who pushed an easy forehand volley wide as Youzhny got on the board at 1-3.

Maintaining his break lead throughout the set, Wawrinka, who bungled several volleys, was stuck at net. Youzhny had a clean look at a pass, but opted to lob and the wind tossed the backhand lob long giving Wawrinka  second set point. Rearing back, the Swiss slammed a 135 mph ace to take a two set to one lead two hours, 28 minutes into the match.

Serving at 5-6 in the second set, Wawrinka was at 30-all when a Youzhny drive was called deep. He challenged and replay showed the ball clipped the back of the line. It ws an unfortunate call for the Russian as Youzhny had the offensive at that point in the rally. He buried a backhand into net and two points later Wawrinka held to force the tie breaker.

Wawrinka withstood two set points and on Youzhny’s third set point he sliced a backhand that flirted with the top of the tape before settling on his side of the net.

Shrugging that near-miss off, Youzhny curled a crosscourt running forehand pass that eluded Wawrinka’s outstretched racquet for a fourth set point.

That shot prompted Youzhny’s typically non-expressive coach, Boris Sobkin, who can be as stoic as Stonehenge, to leap out of his seat and pump his fist toward Youzhny. Empowered by that shot, Youzhny cornered Wawrinka on the backhand side and beat him with an inside-out forehand winner, leaping in the air in celebration after seizing the one hour, 10-minute second set.

Wawrinka sprinted out to a fast start in the third set, breaking in the second game and holding for a 3-0 lead. Sprinting with his back to the net, Youzhny hit a between the legs shot that seemed to surprised Wawrinka who pushed an easy forehand volley wide as Youzhny got on the board at 1-3.

Richard Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Venus Worth The Wait Against Schiavove

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Venus Williams is a grizzled veteran. It doesn’t matter if the match before hers whisks along in an hour or plods along for 4 hours and 28 minutes, like Stanislas Wawrinka’s marathon win over Sam Querrey today. Venus is prepared.

“I’m a pro at waiting for my match,” she said. “Singles, doubles, you name it, I’ve waited.  I’ve waited for rain delays.  That’s a part of tennis.  You know, there is no certain time that the match before you will end, especially like a match like that.

“So you have to expect that maybe it will go long.  I’m a pretty laid‑back person, so I don’t get too tight waiting.”

It showed today, as the No. 3 seed moved onto the Semifinals with a 7-6 6-4 win over No. 6 seed and French Open Champion Francesca Schiavone.

Actually, waiting was just part of the story, when the match started, both players had to deal with the strong swirling winds that have been affecting play during this open. Williams thought it affected her serve a little, but at the same time, it also affected Schiavone.

“I thought, Oh, my god, what are we in for today?” Williams said.  “I’m a strong player and I hit hard, but I felt like I had nothing.  I felt like I was just hitting against…

“So it was challenging.  I don’t think either of us were able to play our exact normal game because it was just hard to make a choice in the wind.  I think you end up playing a little safer, more toward the center of the court.

“But I feel like when the stakes were higher I was able to raise my game.  She did, too.  She played some great points.  She’s just so feisty that you have to kind of keep her at bay.”

Despite a now an 0-8 record against Williams, Schiavone said she liked playing Venus, because “I play different ball,” she said. “I push her in defense; I don’t give her the chance to play how she want, so every time I think we have a big fight.”

After getting the first set to a tiebreak, Schiavone was also able to fight back reeling off four straight points after being down 0-4. Ultimately, though Williams prevailed in the set and then was able to easily win the second for the match.

“I think I just started finding a little bit better rhythm in the second set,” Williams said.  “It’s not easy to find a rhythm in that kind of weather, but I was trying.  Just trying to get on top of it.

“And, you know, at the end it still was a break to win the match.  But, you know, sometimes she was like shanking, too, and it would just go in.  It was like, Will one of these please go out?

“It just shows the quality.  Like she could still not hit in the middle of the racquet and still make a play.  So it was good.”

And also worth the wait.

Wawrinka Wins A War Over Querrey

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Dancing behind the baseline like a man ready to burst out of the blocks, Stanislas Wawrinka could see the finish line as clearly as the service line in front of him. Wawrinka and Sam Querrey engaged in a four hour, 28-minute duel on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court this afternoon. In the end, Wawrinka withstood Querrey’s mammoth forehand and the pressure of the moment with some sustained forward thinking and fast feet.

Chipping and charging on his second match point, Wawrinka knifed a sharp backhand volley winner to complete a 7-6(9), 6-7(5), 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 victory over the 20th-seeded Querrey and advance to his first career major quarterfinal in a win that eradicates American hopes and ensures there will be a European US Open men’s champion.

There is now no US in the US Open men’s singles as Wawrinka took down the last American man standing. It marks the second straight year there will be no American man in the quarterfinals. It happened for the first time in Open Era history last year.

Switzerland, a nation about the size of Massachusetts and New Jersey combined, has two men in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in Open Era history. Wawrinka joins five-time US Open champion Roger Federer in giving Switzerland two of the last eight men in the field.

While Querrey gave a valiant effort in a magnificent marathon match, Wawrinka pounced when Querrey blinked.

“For sure it is an amazing match to finish here against Querrey, who is a great player,” Wawrinka said. “It’s crazy. I was just trying to fight for every point. I’m very very happy to be in the quarterfinals.”

Querrey, who has never come back from a two set to one deficit to win a Grand Slam match, played with patience and power in converting his seventh set point to level the match at two sets apiece.

Blasting a bullet serve into the body that Wawrinka could only fend off with his frame, Querrey collected his seventh set point then smacked his 17th ace wide to level the match after three hours, 36 minutes of play.

Wawrinka has the weathered, leathery face of a fighter and the burly upper body and strong shoulders of a bouncer, enabling him to turn his torso into his one-handed backhand that is one of the most brilliant shots in the sport. For all his physical gifts, the knock on Wawrinka in the past was his tendency to go soft at crunch time.

Working with new coach Peter Lundgren, who guided Roger Federer and Marat Safin to Grand Slam titles and was trading confident fist-bumps with his friend in the player box at match point moment today, Wawrinka has become a much more confident and aggressive player seeking to step into his shots and impose pressure on opponents by getting to the front court.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Youzhny Into The Quarters

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Transforming his Head into a helmet, Mikhail Youzhny looks a little like a military man in issuing his trademark four-corner salute after each US Open victory. On this day the Russian played the role of traffic cop in giving Tommy Robredo the runaround before bringing the Spaniard’s roll to a halt.

The 12th-seeded Russian with the buzz cut trimmed Robredo 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, to advance to the US Open quarterfinals for the first time since 2006 when he beat Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals before bowing to Andy Roddick in the semifinals.

The 28-year-old Youzhny will face either 20th-seeded Sam Querrey or 25th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. Youzhny gained internet notoriety when he slammed his racquet repeatedly against his forehead in frustration during a masochist match moment in Miami.

He actually drew blood in bashing himself in the head, but these days a more stable Youzhny slices opponents apart then transforms his Head racquet into a helmet saluting fans at the end of  a match.

“(It is) just salute for thanks for crowd, you know,” Youzhny said. “A lot of guys are kiss their hands and say thanks, put racquet up and say thanks.  I do like this one.”

Youzhny takes the ball earlier than Robredo, hits flatter and was extremely effective creating court openings he exploited driving his one-handed backhand down the line. It’s a play particularly effective against Robredo, who gives up court space to run around his backhand and fire his favor forehand.

“I like how I played today. Of course, I have some mistakes,” Youzhny said. “I was a little bit lucky in fourth set.  Maybe not a little bit when I have first net ball and breakpoint; but I have some chances in third set. I think first set was Tommy played better than me, but third set maybe I play better than Tommy.  So that’s why second set just Tommy make a lot of mistakes.  That’s it was so easy and so fast.”

Four years ago, Youzhny reduced Nadal into the role of retriever, sending the World No. 2 scurrying from one side-to-side  like a lost tourist trying to avoid traffic while crossing the Grand Central Parkway.

He will likely be doing a lot more running himself against either Querrey or Wawrinka, but has the ability to play with either man. Youzhny is 1-0 vs. Querrey and 2-2 lifetime vs. Wawrinka.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Murray Gets Ousted By Wawrinka

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Andy Murray threw the most revealing punch, but Stanislas Wawrinka delivered the resounding knockout. Whipping his one-handed backhand with authority, playing with aggression and pumping his first with a fury, the 25th-seed Swiss sent Murray out of the US Open with a 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-3 third-round knockout.

“I think all my game was pretty good. One of my best matches, for sure,” Wawrinka said. “I was very aggressive. I was doing everything really good so I’m very happy.”

The fourth-seeded Scot is the highest-seeded man to fall from the draw, exiting a day after the fourth-ranked woman, Jelena Jankovic, lost to Kaia Kanepi on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court.

“I’m very disappointed, obviously,” Murray said. “But I think I’ve been more disappointed in other Grand Slams when you get closer to winning the tournament, I think it becomes a lot harder to take. I’m very disappointed, that’s it.”

It marked the second straight early exit from the Open for Murray, who fell to Roger Federer in the 2008 US Open final, but suffered a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 upset loss to Marin Cilic in the round of 16 last year. Murray took treatment for tightness in his quad and elbow pain, but said injuries did not play a part in his demise.

“He played better than me. There’s not a whole lot more to it,” Murray said. “He had a chance to win the first set; didn’t take it. I had a chance to win the second set; didn’t take it. I just struggled from then on.”

It is a deeply disappointing loss for Murray, who swept  Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in succession to capture the Rogers Cup in Toronto and went on to win the US Open Series. Murray split with coach Miles MacLagan in July and has been working with coaching consultant Alex Corretja at the Open. Murray said this loss will not expedite his coaching search.

“No, no. You got to be patient. I was getting asked five, six days ago, ‘You’re playing great tennis will you think about going without a coach?’ ” Murray said. “It’s based on one match. I’m not going to panic and hire someone to try to make things better. So no. I’m going to take my time. I’m going to go home, have a rest, cause I need it, and see what I decide to do after that.”

Murray’s loss may well be Sam Querrey’s gain.

The 20th-seeded Querrey crushed Nicolas Almagro, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, and will now play Wawrinka in what will likely be a night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court with a trip to the quarterfinals on the line.

“That will be a tough one. Stan is one of the guys that hits the balls so big from both sides,” Querrey said. “If he gets hot, he can beat anyone.  He can hit the ball so well and so clean.  That would be someone you need to get him out of his comfort zone and mix it up and, you know, serve big and maybe attack his second serve and maybe catch him off guard a little bit.”

In their line prior meeting, Wawrinka edged Querrey, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(8), at Indian Wells last year.

“That was a crazy match again, but he’s a very good player,” Wawrinka said of Querrey. “I think he improved a lot over the last two years. He’s a strong player. Big serve. It is never easy to play him. If I can keep the same level the serve for sure will be important for him and to stay aggressive because he doesn’t like to play on the defense and to be under pressure.”

It’s an interesting match-up in that Querrey is at his best running around his backhand and firing his inside-out forehand, but given the fact Wawrinka’s one-handed backhand is his best shot, Querrey will likely drag his forehand down the line at times. Both men can crack their serves so it could well be a match of first-strike tennis.

The last time Wawrinka met Murray at the Open he played meekly and got mauled, managing just seven games in the 2008 round of 16. Working with coach Peter Lundgren, who coached both Roger Federer and Marat Safin to Grand Slam titles, Wawrinka has tried to take the first strike in rallies more often.

“We start a month ago. We enjoy to work together,” Wawrinka said of Lundgren. “He helped me a little bit to be more aggressive and that helped me a lot today.”

Today’s rematch was played primarily on even terms until the third set when Wawrinka began to turn his shoulders into his shots, step into the court more and drive the ball with crushing conviction.

Wawrinka served bigger and bolder over the course of the final two sets. One of Murray’s primary problems is his first serve percentage often lets him down. Murray served 50 percent for the match, but only 36 percent in the third set and 38 percent in the fourth set. Murray, who favors a slice serve that often flirts with the top of the tape, is either unable or unwilling to try to take a bit off the first serve and increase his percentage.

He gave Wawrinka too many looks at his second serve and paid the price, winning just 15 of 42 points played on his second serve over the course of the final two sets. Murray is a usually an adept problem-solver on court, but by the latter stages of today’s match he wore the vacant expression of a man who had run out of ideas.

“I still feel like I’m super fit. I just didn’t feel great,” Murray said. “There were a lot of things that I was feeling on court. I just haven’t felt that way for a few years now. So I’m going to have to go look at why that was the case and try to get better.”

Neutralizing Murray’s speed by cracking balls down the line, Wawrinka began pounding away at the counter-puncher.

That’s when a singles match grew crowded as Murray began fighting both Wawrinka and himself. At one point, a frustrated Murray punched his racquet face as if trying to slug some sense in his stings.

“I was disappointed that I was struggling physically,” Murray said. “I tried to find a way to come back. Didn’t quite do it. I was disappointed that I’ve not really been in that position for a long tome….In the third and fourth sets, I was struggling physically and I got frustrated with that…Maybe I felt my chance of doing well here was slipping away.”

As Murray tried to explain the loss in his post-match press conference, he glanced up at the flat screen television mounted on the wall to his right and noticed the USTA’s video feed of himself in the press conference.

It was as if Murray was looking over his own shoulder and when he was asked if the defeat plants any seeds of doubt in his mind that he will eventually master a major, Murray spoke like a wounded man wary of looking too far ahead.

“I have no idea of whether I’ll win a Grand Slam or not,” Murray said. “I want to, but I mean if I never win one, then what? If I give a hundred percent, try my best, physically work as hard as I can, practice as much as I can, than that’s all I can do, you know. It’s something I would love to do. It’s a very difficult thing, but I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ll win a Grand Slam or not. But I’ll give it my best shot.”

Wawrinka may well be best known by many fans as the man who partnered Roger Federer to the Olympic doubles gold medal in Beijing two years ago and celebrated with an embrace on the court. Wawrinka and Federer are good friends and for one day Wawrinka stood alone as a bigger story than even the five-time US Open champion.

“I hope I can still be in the tournament after the next match,” Wawrinka said. “I know it’s gonna be a tough match.

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Federer wraps up World Group berth for Swiss

Roger Federer helped his country wrap up a 20th consecutive World Group berth in Davis Cup, ensuring it with a straight set 6-3, 6-0, 6-4 over Italian replacement Potito Storace in reverse men’s singles Sunday in Genoa, Italy.

The 28 year-old grand slam record holder cameback after a day off to put away the Italians, who fell to 3-2 all-time in the head-to-head series.

“It was a tough weekend for us and I’m happy I could help Switzerland win,” a pleased Federer said after being responsible for two of the three victories with the other coming from 2008 Olympic gold medal doubles partner Stanislas Wawrinka. “I was able to play very well.”

The significance of the match became necessary due to Federer’s Swiss teammates Wawrinka and late sub Marco Chiudinelli falling short in four sets to Starace and Simone Bolelli, who the 15-time slam winner beat in singles on Day One.

Even though he prevailed in straights, it was far from normal due to falling rain which delayed the middle of the second set for two hours before Federer returned to complete a bagel to take a two set lead.

“I tried everything, but he was particularly good today,” a disappointed Starace expressed while dropping his first Davis Cup singles match in 11 tries. He fell to 0-5 career versus the Swiss Maestro.

“Today, Roger was particularly inspired. I still managed to put him into difficulties but when he got the break to lead 5-3, he raised his game in an unbelievable manner. I definitely played my best match against him, but there was not much I could do.”

Despite a hectic schedule that saw him fall earlier in the week to Juan Martin Del Potro in his bid to match Bill Tilden’s U.S. Open record six consecutive singles titles, Federer still had enough in the tank to lead his country in Davis Cup, increasing his winning streak to 12 in singles play.

“I’m very happy to have won the point for Switzerland so that we can play in the World Group again. I’ m very happy with the quality of my game today, as I definitely didn’t feel the best and had a problem on my leg, which has troubled me a bit since the final of the US Open.”

Now, he’ll finally get some much needed time off to spend with wife Mirka and their twin girls.

“I have to go on holiday badly. I have a problem with my leg, I have a problem with my arm- everything is hurting,” he noted. “And I’ve got to do some baby-sitting. I’ve been spending a lot of time on the tennis court the last few weeks.”

Federer Rests and Italy Stays Alive

It didn’t matter to host Italy that Roger Federer was out for doubles. With Switzerland opting to rest the men’s grand slam record holder, the Italian team of Simone Bolelli and Potito Storace took advantage posting a straight sets 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over sub Marco Chiudinelli and Stanislas Wawrinka Saturday.

“We all know he’s had a very heavy schedule over the last days and weeks, so we preferred that he rest today and be ready for tomorrow,” explained Swiss captain Severin Luthi of keeping Federer out so he wouldn’t be forced to play three consecutive days following a busy Open that saw him fall just short of matching Bill Tilden.

Instead, the Federer Express will look to clinch his country’s 20th straight place in the World Group when he takes on Andreas Seppi in reverse singles later today. Wawrinka, who beat Seppi in straights will face Bolelli in the other match concluding the best-of-five series in Genoa, Italy.

“The Italians just played better today,” Luthi added. “[Federer] has no problem. You can expect him to play for sure tomorrow.”

For Italy who’s trying to make it 4-1 in five head-to-head Davis Cup ties versus their gifted opponents, they are aware that it will take an awful lot to pull off the upset.

“It will definitely not be easy to beat Federer, he is the best player of all time and these are not words but fact. But we are still alive and will try our best, also with the support of our homecrowd,” Starace quickly noted. “We will try to give him as much trouble as possible,” added Bolelli.

They can take solace knowing the crowd will be with them giving overwhelming support.

“Yesterday, the fans were here but sort of weren’t,” pointed out Starace. “Today, they really were a factor for us and we saw that they can make a difference.”

They’ll need all the help they can get along with inspired tennis to give the fans what they want to see.

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.