Hall Of Famer, Tennis Legend Bjorn Borg Returns To New York To Replace Injured Jimmy Connors, Takes On John McEnroe In July 14 World TeamTennis Match At Sportime Randall’s Island

NEW YORK (July 7, 2011) – Tennis Hall of Famer Bjorn Borg will step in to replace fellow tennis legend Jimmy Connors to face long-time rival John McEnroe in a World TeamTennis match on July 14 at Sportime Randall’s Island.  Borg and McEnroe will compete against each other that night when the defending Eastern Conference Champion New York Sportimes face the Philadelphia Freedoms.  Connors is not be able to participate due to a knee injury.

The evening will be a special benefit for The Johnny Mac Tennis Project, with tickets sold by the Project to raise funds to provide scholarships, coaching, transportation and other financial assistance to qualified young tennis players in the greater New York area. Recipients will attend the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, which is completing its first year at Sportime Randall’s Island. Ticket prices for the match will be $250, $150 and $60; special VIP tickets are also available; please consult your tax advisor concerning the tax deductibility of ticket purchases. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 1-888-988-6921 or visit www.nysportimes.com.

This will be first WTT match in 17 years for Borg, who will be joining the Philadelphia Freedoms roster for the evening.  Borg last played WTT for the Atlanta Thunder in 1994.  Borg also played for the Cleveland Nets in 1977 and the Los Angeles Strings in 1993.

The centerpiece of the brief but enthralling rivalry between McEnroe and Borg was the epic 1980 Wimbledon final, which included an 18-16 tiebreaker in the fourth set. McEnroe won the tiebreaker but it was Borg who captured the fifth set and his fifth straight Wimbledon.

Borg won 63 singles titles, including 11 Grand Slam Championships, and also added four pro career doubles titles. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

“We are elated that Bjorn answered John’s call to step in for Jimmy on what will be a fun and important night for tennis in New York,” said Claude Okin, Sportimes CEO. “The relationship that Bjorn and John haves very special.  Theirs is truly one of the great rivalries in sports history, and seeing them both on court, in New York, next week will be a great treat for everyone there. And the funds we raise that night will be critical in helping us to assist talented young people in learning the great game of tennis in New York City.”

The July 14 WTT matchup will feature Borg and McEnroe competing against each other in men’s singles in the five set WTT coed team format.  Former World No. 1 Martina Hingis will also play for the New York Sportimes that evening as McEnroe’s fellow team member.

In other 2011 WTT matches, the Sportimes will host the Boston Lobsters on July 6 with Martina Hingis leading the Sportimes squad; the Sportimes will take on the St. Louis Aces on July 11; the Springfield Lasers come to NYC on July 15, with John McEnroe and Martina Hingis playing for New York; Serena Williams of the Washington Kastles will battle Martina Hingis when the Sportimes host their Eastern Conference rivals on July 20.  In addition to the home matches at the state-of-the art, 2,000 seat facility at SPORTIME Randall’s Island, the Sportimes will play two home matches in Albany, N.Y., at the SEFCU Arena: July 18 versus Kansas City starring the World No. 1 Bryan Brothers, and July 19 when the Sportimes take on the Washington Kastles featuring Serena Williams.

For more information on the facility, the John McEnroe Tennis Academy or the NY Sportimes, visit www.SportimeNY.com/Manhattan or www.JohnMcEnroeTennisAcademy.com.

Contact: Joe Favorito, 917-566-8345, fatherknickerbocker1@yahoo.com

; Jerry Milani, 917-797-5663, Jerry.Milani@yahoo.com

Fish Finishes Off Columbia As The United States Advances

Mardy Fish lost 30 pounds over the last year.We all know that by now.What we don’t fully realize is that Fish may be the best player in the United States right now.Certainly the Colombian Davis Cup team would not disagree with that as Fish became the first American in 15 years to win three David Cup matches in one tie.

Fish defeated Santiago Giraldo of Colombia,3-6,6-3,7-5,4-6,8-6 in Bogota today on red clay to clinch the victory.There is no fifth set tiebreaker in Davis Cup tennis.

With the win,the United States advanced to the World Group.Only once in history has the United States not advanced to the World Group.Columbia has never advanced to the World Group.

Isner won his opening match in 5 sets against Alejandro Falla and teamed with John Isner to win the doubles.Isner dropped his opening singles contest to Giraldo.

It has been quite a year for Fish.He won at Newport and Atlanta and lost in the finals at Cincinnat to Roger Federer after beating Andy Murray.

Fish had two wrist surgeries in 2005 and fell to #341 in the world.That is long forgotten.

The win allowed Patrick McEnroe to keep advancing as United States Davis Cup Captain.He had announced at the US Open that he would step down as davis Cup Captain after this Davis Cup year is over.

When the Rain Stops, The Matches Are Great

Will the rain ever stop? They’re praying it will so that the women can actually get their semis in sometime tonight.

Caroline Wozniacki takes on Yanina Wickmayer in the first match moved to Louis Armstrong. And the second semi pits reigning champ Serena Williams against comeback queen Kim Clijsters who has proven that she still has quite a bit of game even though she took two years off to get married and now has 18-month old daughter Jade following her.

Can the former 2005 Open winner rundown enough balls and hit with enough variety versus the powerful Serena, who is looking to make it three slams this year and four of the last five? Yet that’s not good enough to be ranked No.1. Everyone already has Williams taking the trophy but figure her to get a fight from the feisty 26 year-old from Belgium.

Though Serena has gone out of her way to praise Kim saying how she admires her, you know once they get out on Ashe, it’s on. And she’ll also be aiming for a measure of revenge for older sis Venus, who Clijsters ousted two previous rounds receiving plenty of love. So, the 11-time grand slam winner has plenty of incentive.

We’re just glad the men were finally able to complete the quarter that got suspended by a heavy downpour Thursday night. Even if poor Fernando Gonzalez offered token resistance, allowing Rafael Nadal to win the final four points of a crucial second set tiebreaker before getting bageled.

So, here’s Rafa again showing the tremendous heart in spite of the abdominal strain which was ailing him the other night. That the 23 year-old kid from Mallorca can give you this much effort when the odds are stacked against him tells us all we need to know about him. He’s two matches from making history by completing a career grand slam.

Don’t forget he beat Federer in five down under this year before Robin Soderling got him at Roland Garros and then Nadal couldn’t even defend his Wimbledon crown due to balky knees. Now, he will face tough sixth seeded Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in one semi tomorrow. So, it won’t be easy against a player who has proven to be an excellent hard courter posting a 16-1 mark since Wimbledon. The last time they met, Del Potro won in straights at Montreal before losing to Andy Murray in the final.

The other semifinal hasn’t gotten much talk even though it’s Federer trying to keep his bid to match Bill Tilden’s six straight Opens alive against fourth seeded Serb Novak Djokovic. Here’s the kicker. They’re only meeting a third consecutive year with Feds prevailing in the 2007 final and last year’s semi in four sets going onto a fifth championship in a row over Murray.

So, even without Murray or Andy Roddick, there’s plenty of star power/storylines which will make the men’s Final Four compelling.

Let’s just hope the ladies can get their matches in tonight which is asking a lot with the weather not cooperating. Wozniacki is coming off her impressive 6-2, 6-2 quarterfinal win over new 17 year-old American sweetheart Melanie Oudin, whose run captivated everyone.

What the 19 year-old blonde bombshell from Denmark did was come in with a great strategy using her speed to play excellent defense while mixing in a consistent topspin forehand that forced Oudin to go for more resulting in unforced errors.

The ninth seed is a good player and this has been expected. She had never before made it past the fourth round until this tournament. But after disappointing results at the first three slams, Wozy has stepped up following her win in New Haven. Her game is a breath of fresh air in that she doesn’t just rely on power but on precision along with solid D to stay in points. Something which frustrated former Open champ Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Dane’s come from behind three set Round of 16 win.

Aside tom the consistency is the wonderful smile which can win crowds over as can her positive attitude, even admitting that when it got interesting early in the second set versus fan favorite Oudin, she didn’t show any frustration because the wise teen had used any negativity in her upsets over the big Russians to her edge.

Now, there will be even more pressure with Wozniacki facing another 19 year-old in Wickmayer. A player she knows well from juniors. Thus far, the Belgian has had a breakthrough of her own to reach this point. That included a first round straight set upset of No.16 seed Virginie Razzano and a come from behind three set Round Two triumph over Shuai Peng.

Wickmayer also had to show mettle rallying from a set down to defeat Dinara Safina conqueror Petra Kvitova in the fourth round. Even her quarter win over Kateryna Bondarenko got dicey when after sneaking out the first set late, she fell behind 1-4 having to save break points before righting herself to reel off the last five games for the big win.

Not bad for a player who’d never surpassed the second round of a major. Wickmayer hits a bigger ball than Wozniacki. So, she’ll likely be going for more while the counterpunching Wozniacki will try to use a similar gameplan that worked so well against Oudin. The contrast in style should make for an intriguing match.

Now if only the rain would go away.

Nadal/Gonzalez Suspended Along with Fans

A really good men’s quarter between Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez was suspended due to incoming rain. The entertaining match to take on previous winner Juan Martin Del Potro in the semis had already been stopped twice and apparently, reports of more rain made it impossible to complete before disappointed Ashe spectators who patiently waited it out.

What they did at least get were two high quality sets in which neither player broke with Nadal leading 7-6 (4), 3-2 in a second set tiebreaker. Despite a visit from the trainer along with a three-minute injury timeout to treat his strained abdominal muscle, the gritty No.3 seeded Spaniard was in front thanks to fighting off two set points in the 12th game of the opening set- getting a little help from Gonzalez who had a soft 92 mph second serve but misfired a return forehand.

The set went to a tiebreak where Nadal proved to be more consistent playing superb defense while Gonzalez self-destructed contributing a few of his 18 unforced errors including a wild forehand to give the six-time grand slam winner the set.

That’s when an ailing Rafa was visited by the trainer before action continued. Neither player changed their strategy much in a gunslinger second set where Gonzalez continued to pound away against the counter punching Nadal whose defense made it increasingly tough for the 11th seeded Chilean to find any momentum.

The first rain delay came at two all lasting exactly an hour. When they returned, it looked like they might get the rest of the set in which included three huge saves by Gonzalez to get out of trouble in the 10th game. He fought off three set points delivering with a pair of service winners and a monstrous forehand into an open court. Two more big forehands down the line allowed him to hold for five all.

Each then held to force another breaker. Unlike the first one which Gonzalez fell behind in 1-4, he and Nadal exchanged mini-breaks thanks to great defense forcing errors to make it 2-3. But with Gonzalez ready to serve, a few drops came making wild conditions which already included swirling winds impossible to continue.

The players first sat in their chairs hopeful it would pass but eventually went back to the locker room thanks to another rain delay.

As the clock struck midnight, returning fans clapped expecting the players to return to a dried court ready to do battle. Unfortunately, veteran chair umpire Pascal Maria delivered the bad news to some jeers and “Ohhhh’s and Awwww’s.”

Who could blame them? If only the USTA had enough common sense to plan ahead. Would it have really hurt to move the two doubles matches to Louis Armstrong?

What they could’ve done was keep the mixed doubles championship on Ashe while asking the Williams sisters to play on Armstrong due to the weather forecast. While that might not have been too popular a decision, at least it would’ve made sense with the popular Serena and Venus Williams playing a women’s doubles semifinal they prevailed in the old stadium so the men could at least get the final quarterfinal in.

Now, the winner will have to play consecutive days and potentially three which could really be a disadvantage the rest of the weekend. Had they been more prepared, it also wouldn’t have been such an inconvenience for fans who paid hard earned money to see a high quality match.

What happens now? They’re screwed because as Maria sadly announced, Session 22 was considered complete. On the official U.S. Open site, the following message reads:

We are currently planning to play the Friday day session # 23 as scheduled. Due to weather, we recommend you continue to check USOpen.org for weather and scheduling updates.

The big question is what does this do to the two women’s semis scheduled for later today with Caroline Wozniacki taking on Yanina Wickmayer while Serena battles Kim Clijsters. Originally, the first match between the ninth seeded Wozniacki and unseeded Wickmayer is supposed to go off at 12:30 today with the battle of champions to follow.

Why not move the ladies back allowing Gonzalez and Nadal to complete their match on Ashe? It all depends on the weather which while not expected to be as bad, could be sketchy with possible rain.

Complicating matters is that the men’s doubles final between fourth seeded Lukas Dlouhy/Leander Paes and third seeds Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles was supposed to be played on Ashe at approximately 3:30 PM.

If you go by the emergency schedule, they list Nadal-Gonzalez not before 2 PM with a possible relocation to Armstrong. Apparently, that option is also available for Wozniacki-Wickmayer and the doubles championship.

It wouldn’t be fair to move the ladies to Armstrong as each has earned their place on center stage at Ashe. Something they’d never consider for Williams-Clijsters.

Shouldn’t the guys get theirs in as early as possible due to having to go on Super Saturday against a more rested Del Potro? One would think so. But that’s the dilemma facing the USTA due to CBS. With three networks covering the final grand slam, this shouldn’t be such an issue. But thanks to CBS who has exclusive rights the rest of the event including the women’s semis and men’s doubles final slotted between 12:30-6 PM, it’s a dicey situation for viewers.

Unless you have high speed internet access, you’re likely to get the shaft in terms of missing either the Nadal-Gonzalez conclusion or Wozniacki-Wickmayer which definitely isn’t fair.

Oh. CBS will do the best job possible moving between venues to update. But it kinda sucks if you’re a hardcore tennis fan.

These two weeks have been kind to New York with last night the first rain interrupted session. You almost never can make it through one slam without at least one of these situations arising.

We just wish the USTA had done a better job planning with the biggest weekend ahead.

Match Notes:

Gonzalez drops first set in tiebreak to Nadal 7-6 (4).

-Gonzalez hit big striking more than double winners (16-7) while also serving 5 aces to keep serve during tight set.

-But Nadal saved 2 set points with one huge Gonzalez forehand return netted on a 92 MPH 2nd serve.

-In tiebreak, Rafa took a 4-1 lead thanks to more consistency. Gonzalez miscues including a wild forehand handed him the set. Nadal made just four errors while Fernando committed 18.

-At end of set, trainer visited Nadal treating his injured abdominal muscle.

2nd Set

-Nadal and Gonzalez on serve 2 all when rain suspends play for first time all tournament.

-1 hour rain delay

-No breaks of serve

-10th game gusts fly up blowing things around and Gonzo stops to watch trying to stay in set. Nadal then plays amazing D getting to possible winners drawing an errant overhead for 0-30. Double hands Nadal 2 set points. 2 service winners save them.

-3rd set point on long backhand in memorable 10th game. On set point after great Gonzo save, tennis ball blows onto court for let. Weird. On let, Gonzo shows heart with forehand winner into open court saving another pumping self up. Gonzalez then wins challenge for forehand winner on line. Another cross court forehand gives him big hold.

-Nadal holds at love for 6-5 putting pressure on Fernando, who holds easily for another breaker.

-Rafa plays great defense forcing long forehand to earn mini-break for 2-1.

-Gonzo comes back drawing Nadal backhand miss to earn mini back for 2-2.

-At 3-2 Nadal, rain drops suspend play again and players go to locker room after waiting to see if it would stop.

-Over an hour delay again as they ready court with tiebreak on serve with Gonzalez to serve 2-3.

-With reports of more rain as the court was dry and ready to go with fans who stayed excited, play is officially suspended ending Session No.22 to the dismay of those who stuck around, throwing a wrinkle into Friday’s Session 23 that includes both women’s semis and the men’s doubles final.

Nole Through to Semis

It was a battle but in the end, Novak Djokovic got through to the semis in four sets by eliminating 10th seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (2), 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 over on Ashe Stadium this afternoon.

Known by the nickname Nole, the No.4 seeded Serb struggled at times with his forehand spraying more than half his 41 unforced errors. But when push came to shove, the 2007 U.S. Open runner-up was up to the challenge against the dangerous lefty Verdasco- advancing to a third consecutive semi in Flushing where he could meet five-time reigning champ Roger Federer.

“Well, it feels great. I mean, I haven’t done that in the past three Grand Slams this year, so mentally was very important for me to overcome today’s challenge and to be able to win quarterfinals and to get to the semifinals first time in the Grand Slams in 2009,” said a very pleased Djokovic.

“So now that I’ve done it I feel kind of a relief, and I hope I just can continue playing well and challenge eventually Federer if he gets to the semifinal.”

At the outset, both players started slowly with each making uncharacteristic miscues in a weary set which kept the crowd fairly quiet. There were no breaks of serve but Djokovic nearly cracked late when he played a loose game giving Verdasco two break chances. However, the 22 year-old former 2008 Australian champion withstood it to hold.

Predictably, it went to a tiebreaker where Djokovic came to life forcing errors from Verdasco to cruise 7-2 for a set lead.

“Yeah, I don’t think we had a great first set. First set quality of the match wasn’t its best. I’ve made a lot of unforced errors, he’s made a lot of unforced errors, and I was lucky to get through in the tiebreak,” the winner admitted.

Before he could get too comfortable, it was his older 25 year-old opponent who quickly turned it around by picking up the pace in an easy second set that started with a break for 2-1 thanks to consecutive winners from the backhand and forehand.

Suddenly, Djokovic’s game went off as his forehand continued to fail while Verdasco was producing great tennis using his big forehand to open up the court and crack many of his 46 winners. Hitting a cleaner ball, he was able to dictate play even taking advantage by finishing a few points at net.

With the 2009 Australian Open semifinalist on his game, Djokovic struggled mightily having his serve broken three times in the uncompetitive 34-minute set which leveled the match.

“He stepped it in. He played very aggressive, and he deserved that second set,” Nole assessed.

With it hanging in the balance, it setup a seesaw third set which had a bit of everything. A now warmed up Verdasco continued to go for more forcing Djokovic into extended rallies that made for some more entertaining tennis. Pushed even more, the higher seed upped the ante going shot for shot from one side of the court to the other as each played great defense.

Due to how competitive the points were, the players each traded service breaks in the middle of the set. With Djokovic pressing for another break, a feisty Verdasco battled back from Love-30 down, reeling off the next four points thanks to his forehand where he ripped a couple of clean winners down the line holding for 4-3. Obviously frustrated, Nole stared at his box during the changeover muttering to himself.

“The dangerous thing about Verdasco is to let him take over the control of the match, because he’s physically very strong and he’s able to do a lot of things, especially from his forehand side, as we could see today. He improved a lot his backhand, so he stays much closer to the line,” explained Djokovic of why it was so tricky.

Instead of letting the moment get to him, he remained focused turning up a serve which allowed the Serb to save 10 of 14 break points including a few in the pivotal third. Djokovic got plenty of first serves in doing well by winning 71 percent of the points (66 of 93), also mixing in a few timely aces which he doubled up Verdasco in 10-5.

Ultimately, Verdasco tightened up with the 11th game proving costly. Close to holding for 6-5, he missed an easy forehand volley pushing it way out. A pair of double faults and another error donated the crucial game to Djokovic, who pumped his fists letting out a yell to his corner.

He then closed it out to pull within a set of a possible semifinal rematch with Federer pending his quarterfinal versus Robin Soderling later tonight which follows the highly anticipated women’s quarter between American teen sensation Melanie Oudin and ninth seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki.

With momentum, Djokovic continued to play steadier and headier tennis letting his wilting opponent self destruct. Nursing an abdominal strain which he was treated for in the fourth set, Verdasco began trying to end points earlier. But with Nole continuing to play solid D and get balls back drawing wild misses from the flustered Spaniard.

In particular, Fernando’s forehand went off which explained 17 more miscues (58) than the more consistent Djokovic. He also struggled with his serve often missing the first while tossing eight doubles which allowed the No.4 player to gain even more confidence.

“He likes when the ball is coming a bit slower to him so he can, you know, do more things with it. That’s why I tried to mix up the pace, you know, play some high balls and then fast balls to his forehand and try to just get him out of that comfort zone that he got in in the second set. I managed to do that,” Djokovic added.

He finally finished off his ailing opponent breaking twice for a 5-1 cushion. Following a Verdasco hold, Djokovic served it out at love finishing him off at the net as the two exhanged hands.

“I managed to come back, and that’s what it matters. You know, I just tried to focus myself in the third set and work on some things. I returned more balls in on his serves, and I think serving well was as well one of the key elements in today’s win.”

Rafa Bulls Past Monfils

Rafael Nadal is from Spain. So, he knows a thing or two about bulls. That was evident in the No.3 seed’s come from behind four set win over frenetic Frenchman Gael Monfils, advancing to a U.S. Open quarterfinal against No.11 Chilean Fernando Gonzalez, who earlier on Day Nine ousted No.7 Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 6-4.

The 13th seed certainly put on a great show using his athleticism to stay in long rallies entertaining a packed Ashe Stadium but ultimately it was Nadal’s bulllike mentality that allowed him to come away with a 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 win in what was a fun match that lasted two hours and  45 minutes.

Early on, Monfils proved why he was so dangerous breaking Nadal early to jump out to a 5-2 lead. However, that didn’t discourage the six-time grand slam winner who after holding broke back and then held suddenly squaring the first set at five all. Fittingly, an ultracompetitive set that saw plenty of action packed rallies with each player pushing the other all over the court needed a tiebreaker.

In it, it was the flying Frenchman who made all the right shots plays pulling out the breaker when he forced an errant Nadal shot, letting out an emphatic scream while pointing to his heart after taking it.

“No, no, I think I came back well in the 5 4 playing very good game to break back. And in the tiebreak he didn’t had any mistake with his serve. He play all first serves, so he beat me the first set, was tough,” Nadal said.

“But I still there, and physically it was tough for both. But I think for him a little bit more.”

Up a set, before Monfils could blink, a determined Nadal broke early in the second set and seemed on his way to leveling things. But just when it looked that way, here came Monfils right back with a magnificent game to break back for 3-4. So pumped was he after winning some wild exchanges with one going 31 strokes, it looked like he had a shot at an upset and his first Open quarterfinal.

As often happens though with Nadal, you just can’t count him out. Fittingly with ESPN’s John McEnroe noting that the 23 year-old from Mallorca would ‘come even harder’, that’s exactly what happened making for one of the most memorable games of the tournament. With Monfils trying to draw even at four, the two played some unbelievable points that seemed to take forever mesmerizing the crowd.

Following two successful exchanges, a pumped up Monfils pointed to his chest. Two points from drawing even, the point of the match came with Monfils and Nadal going toe to toe. About half a dozen times, it looked like the Frenchman had the point won but a desperate Rafa randown a shot just stabbing back a slice backhand to stay in it. Eventually, he drew a miss to get to 30-All, then pumping his fists. Possibly tired, Monfils lost the next two points to drop serve falling behind 3-5.

“I think I get a little fatigue. Also, Rafa playing good. It’s credit to him. He played more deep, more, heavy, more flight on his shot,” Monfils admitted.

Serving to square it wasn’t easy for Nadal who got plenty of resistance from a focused Monfils, who fought off three set points with great backhand winners. Instead of falling apart, the 2009 Australian Open champ got even stingier winning a tough point setting up a fourth set point to which he gave a double pump. After finally closing it out, he pounded his chest as if to say, ‘Bring it on!’

“I think it was a bit tough to keep going like that, to take the ball. I think I stepped back a little bit and just give him I think more time and more time to set up,” assessed Monfils. “And also, I think today he played very good, very good. His defense was very, very strong today. So I mean, this where I think the change for me.”

“Yeah, first two sets was really tough, really hard physically and I think the tennis was very good level,” said Nadal in agreement.

Perhaps the quality of the play took something out of Monfils. Either that or the moment got to him because he put up token resistance in a 28-minute third set that saw Nadal stick to the strategy of working his opponent over to the point of exhaustion. After some rallies, he was bent over trying to catch his breath.

Nadal took full advantage breaking three times in the set with the second for 4-1 resulting in the trainer coming out to retape Monfils’ wrist. With little left in the tank, he lost the next two games firing a wild forehand way long to hand Nadal a two sets to one lead.

Was there anything left for a comeback which an enthusiastic Ashe wanted to see even chanting, “Mon—fils, Mon—fils, Mon—fils” after he dropped serve to fall down an early break.

At first, it worked as he bounced back breaking Nadal while frequently talking to himself as if to say, ‘You can do it.’

But following a feisty Nadal hold for 4-3, Monfils finally cracked getting broken at love donating the eighth game with four errors including a pair of doubles that gave him an eighth service break in 14 attempts. By comparison, his opponent also did good going three for six but was silenced when it really mattered.

“I mean, I had like a lot practice behind me, and just come out with few match and a little bit practice,” pointed out Monfils who missed Wimbledon with an injury and had played only three matches entering the Open.

“So didn’t have that confidence also to keep going, didn’t have the miles in my legs. If I played maybe six tournaments before the US Open even, I think it will be more than an hour, 30 minutes. It can be two hours and maybe push him when I’m back in second set at 4 3.”

A cool Nadal then served out the match drawing one last of Monfils’ 63 unforced errors, advancing to a third Open quarter. Last year, he improved by making the semis before departing at the hands of upset victim Andy Murray, who oddly enough he just passed again to regain the No.2 ranking.

Afterwards, a very pleased Nadal thanked the crowd for their support even getting some unexpected love from a fan who ran onto the court to take a pic before Open Security took the grinning stranger away.

“No, for me it wasn’t the problem. The guy was really nice,” Nadal chuckled, then adding:

Yes. He was a great fan. He said, I love you, and he kiss me.”

Even the unexpected doesn’t faze him. He’ll try to keep it going against Gonzalez, who figures to be a good challenge.

“Right now, the rest of the tournament I know gonna be very difficult. I have to enjoy it. I must enjoy that, and I must to play very aggressive and the best tactically if I gonna have chances to continuing win any match.”

Might another Rafa vs Roger grand slam final finally happen in the city that never sleeps?

It remained possible after tonight.

Kuzy Learns The Value of Sunshine

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Her nickname is “Sunshine” because of her positive disposition and she is one of the more likable up and comers on the tour.

And now, after her three set fourth round win over Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3), Caroline Wozniacki is going to face Melanie Oudin in one of the more anticipated matches in this US Open.

“I think about just as a great run from both me and Melanie,” said Wozniacki, who made the Quarterfinals in a Grand Slam for the first time in her young career. “I think we’ve played some really good tennis, both of us. I think it’s going to be a great match. I don’t really think about who’s the favorite, who is not.

“I just enjoy playing on the big stadiums with such a huge crowd.”

The 19 year-old from Denmark is actually the favorite due to her No. 9 seeding in the tournament. She is the highest ranked player left after she downed the No. 6 ranked Kuznetsova.

“I feel like I’ve done some really good results this year,” said Wozniacki. “I feel like I’ve done well at the Grand Slams as well. I just lost to some players that were playing better than me that certain day.

“This time I just wanted to try to do my best again. I mean, if someone beats me, they have to play better than me, but I’m not gonna stop fighting, that’s for sure.”

And uch like the puncher she will play on Wednesday, this young up and comer had to comeback in her match against a Russian. After dropping the first set, she fought in the second.

Although she had a number of set points, Kuznetsova was able to come back to force a tiebreaker, which she eventually won after a hard back and fourth extra frame.

“I was just trying to fight for every point,” she said. “Maybe I was a little bit lucky, but that’s what tennis is all about. Sometimes you’re playing amazing and you lose a match, and sometimes you’re a little bit lucky. It’s one point that can change the whole match.”

“I think in the second set I should have played better,” Kuznetsova said. “I mean, I was playing unbelievable. I just hit too many unforced errors and I could not control my emotions. And I wanted it so much, so it was pretty hard to control.

“I was giving her some chances. What was the score in the second set? I don’t know.  First games I had chances to break her, and I was going for too much because everything was going so well.  And I give her chance to come back, to believe that she can do that.

And it did as she had the momentum in the third and even was serving for match, up 5-4, but the former Open Champion came back to force another tiebreak. Three match point and Wozniacki was able to finish her opponent with a beautiful backhand down the line, which Kuznetsova returned into the net.

“Overall I think I lost, like – a credit to her.,” Kuznetsova said. “She beat on the court, and she was putting balls back, but I lost to myself because I did so many unforced errors. These unforced errors, you cannot win against nobody. It’s no chance.

“Yeah, was fighting hard because it’s really what I want.  And I feel like I’m in great shape. Everything was not on my side, and I was doing too many unforced errors, not controlling the situation so much. But I think I played the game smart. I was trying to come to the net. I served better except the unforced errors.”

So now it’s enthusiasm vs. Sunshine as Oudin takes on another ranked player. Yet this time she’s not Russian, but another likable player, who has open surprises of her own.

“[Oudin] is a really good player, Wozniacki said. “She made it this far.  She’s been winning some amazing matches. She’s on a good winning streak. It’s going to be tough, especially also with the whole crowd supporting her. But I’m just going to go out there and enjoy.”

And maybe she can spread a little sunshine a long the way.

Upsets Continue On Saturday Night

The upsets continued Saturday at this year’s U.S. Open. Both Andy Roddick and Dinara Safina exited stage left ending disappointing brief stays in NYC.

Off his impressive Wimbledon showing pushing Roger Federer the limit, the No.5 seeded Roddick was expected to carry that momentum into the final grand slam and make a run at a second Open. But six years after winning his only major in Flushing, the 27 year-old fizzled out in an epic third round falling to rising American John Isner 7-6 (3), 6-3, 3-6, 5-7, 7-6 (5).

It wasn’t that he played poorly as evidenced by the steady 51 winners to just 20 unforced errors. But the 24 year-old lanky 6-9 Isner was just better using a lethal serve to crack 38 aces while also going bigger on his shots, finishing with 90 winners. That also meant 32 more errors but the strategy to shorten points paid off allowing him to build a two-set lead.
<blockquote>“<em>It’s obviously, hands down, the biggest win of my career. Nothing even compares. To do it at the stage I did it on is pretty spectacular,</em>” a thrilled Isner expressed after beating Roddick for the first time in three tries. “<em>But I  know I can really do some damage here. So I’m not satisfied just yet.</em>”</blockquote>
Neither player budged in the first set forcing a tiebreaker. But Isner took command early. Hitting with more belief while an unaggressive Roddick missed shots, he cruised 7-3 to capture the opening frame.

With the momentum, Isner continued to be the aggressor getting the better of the rallies. Backed by that huge serve Roddick failed to make a dent in, he went after one of the best servers finally earning the match’s first break early in the second when he drew Andy into the net before rifling a backhand pass down the line to a huge fist pump.

Isner backed up the break holding to capture the second set suddenly putting Roddick’s stay in serious jeopardy. With the fans sensing the upset, the atmosphere intensified. It seemed to help the fifth seed who began to return and hit better. Finally putting some sting on his shots, Roddick finally broke midway through the third when during an extended rally, he hit a running backhand winner up the line, pumping his fist to a delighted crowd.

He served it out forcing more tennis. Though he was dictating more points, Roddick still served second in the fourth and nearly slipped up. Trying to stay in the match, his only double fault setup match point but quickly erased it with clutch serving to get out of trouble. Earlier, he also dug out of Love-40.

Playing more heady, Roddick broke a weary Isner who began spraying shots. He earned the one break needed to level the match when a nice running backhand setup a forehand into an open court. With the big guy cramping, Andy had little trouble serving it out, polishing it with an ace.

With the crowd starting to sound like they had for Melanie Oudin’s huge upset of Maria Sharapova, the two American men headed for a deciding set. The question was would Roddick’s experience pay off against a tiring younger foe? After Isner badly dropped the first two points on his serve, it looked like he might pack it in. But drawing energy from rocket serves and a whipping forehand winner, he took the next four points and pumped himself up.

After holding for 3-2, Isner finally got some treatment for the cramps on a changeover. He also had a special water energy drink that aided him. With Roddick continuing to hold, it became a game of cat and mouse. Who would bend first? Neither cracked with the elder statesman using some more clutch serving to get out of a 15-30 game two points from defeat.

When they reached the breaker, the packed house gave them a standing ovation. It didn’t take a genius to guess that whoever lost their serve first would probably go home. Leading 3-2, Isner got the minibreak he needed when he nailed a backhand pass, pumping his fists at his corner.

Roddick didn’t go away saving two more match points to make it 5-6 forcing Isner to close it out. He didn’t end it with an ace. Instead, Roddick got back a wide serve but the short reply allowed the imposing Isner to approach the net where he’d hurt Andy all day going 42 of 67. A forehand volley sunk low enough that Roddick netted a forehand giving the big man the biggest win of his career.

“Never panicked. If I lose that match, I have nothing to hang my head about. Played well. Maybe a little bit more the pressure’s on him. He’s expected to do so well here,” Isner said after making the Round of 16 for the first time in a slam. Two years ago, in the third round, he got the first set against Federer before losing in four. “Nobody expected me to win.”
<blockquote>“<em>I mean, there’s a lot that’s out of your hands with the way he plays. I said it before: You can’t really teach 6-9, especially coming down on a serve,</em>” a dissappointed Roddick  said while also giving plenty of credit to the victor. “<em>You try to fight it off as much as you can. Sometimes you can, and  sometimes it’s completely out of your hands.</em>”</blockquote>
His last two slam defeats have seen Roddick drop serve twice. Once in an epic final versus arguably the game’s greatest and once yesterday against an up and comer in a much lower round. Sometimes, it’s the luck of the draw.

Credit a valiant Isner for continuing to fight despite cramps. He believed he could win and got A-Rod in the tiebreak twice. Ultimately, that along with his more aggressive nature was the difference.

“It’s tough. I mean, I don’t know if I’ve come to a tournament with as much confidence—into a Slam—as I did with this tournament,” assessed Roddick. “Leaving earlier than I want to.”

It’s different. I wasn’t anywhere close to winning this tournament yet. “There’s not another chance a month and a half away.”

Isner next faces No.10 seeded Fernando Verdasco for a spot in the quarters. Verdasco rallied from a break down to comeback and oust German vet Tommy Haas 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (8), 1-6, 6-4.

Novak Djokovic is also still around in that section after eliminating American qualifier Jesse Witten 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-4. The No.4 Serb will next face No.15 Czech Radek Stepanek, who defeated German Philipp Kohlschreiber in four sets.

The bittersweet day for Americans continued with James Blake (21) falling in straights to Tommy Robredo (14) 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4. Blake blew a chance to serve for the first set and missed a few chances to break back late in the second. Instead, some money serving allowed Robredo to escape. The vet Spaniard finished Blake’s Open with a 10th ace, concluding a disappointing season for the inconsistent Yonkers native.

Our quarter pick Sam Querrey (22) also lost to French Open finalist Robin Soderling (12) 6-2, 7-5, 6-7 (6), 6-1. Soderling next plays Russian Nikolay Davydenko (8), who prevailed in straight sets over Marco Chiudinelli.

Federer also moved on needing to comeback from a set before disposing former champ Lleyton Hewitt 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. He gets Robredo next with either Soderling/Davydenko waiting in the quarters.

As for Safina, her luck finally ran out against 20 year-old Czech Petra Kvitova. Playing to win, the blonde southpaw pulled out a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5) upset of the enigmatic top seeded Russian who despite losing will remain No.1. Remarkable.

A much more aggressive Kvitova jumped out to a set lead by cashing in on Safina’s passive play. She also led 2-0 before coming undone in the second.  However, the No.1 ranked younger sister of Marat Safin couldn’t maintain the momentum dropping serve to fall behind 0-2 in the deciding set.

But Kvitova struggled with nerves allowing Safina to get the match back on serve. Despite only 12 winners along with 39 unforced errors and nine doubles, the Russian amazingly still had a chance to advance for a third straight match from a set down.

But the high wire act wasn’t to be. Even if Kvitova blew a chance to serve for it up 5-4 before having to fight off three match points just to reach a tiebreaker. Two big first serves along with a money forehand winner allowed her to stay alive.

In the breaker, it was Kvitova who jumped out 4-2. She was rewarded for her desire to win while Safina- who actually complained about being moved to smaller Louis Armstrong due to the length of the Roddick-Isner match- got what she deserved for playing so conservatively. This time, an opponent didn’t hand it over. And when the Czech outhit her in a rally punctuating the match with a forehand winner, victory was hers.

She finished with 35 more winners (47-12) to make the fourth round of a slam for the second time this year, also advancing that far at Roland Garros. Kvitova should have a good chance to make her first quarter if she can get by another 19 year-old in Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, who bested Italian Sara Errani, 6-3, 6-4.

Amazingly, all that’s left of the upper half of the ladies draw are unknowns like Kvitova, Wickmayer along with Ukraine’s Kateryna Bondarenko, who earned a spot in the Round of 16 with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over Anastasia Rodionova. Bondarenko next faces Argentine Gisela Dulko, who ended Yaroslava Shvedova’s run 6-3, 6-4.

One of those four will make their first semifinal in a slam. The name on the other side could be more familiar if Svetlana Kuznetsova (6) continues to play well under the radar. The 24 year-old Russian who has won here and earned her second major over Safina earlier this year, beat Israeli Shahar Peer 7-5, 6-1. She next plays hitting partner Caroline Wozniacki (9), who posted a 6-3, 6-2 win over Romanian Sorana Cirstea.

The Wozniacki-Kuznetsova winner plays either Oudin or Russian Nadia Petrova (13).

On tap for today’s Round of 16 are defending champ Serena Williams (2) taking on Slovak Daniela Hantuchova (22). The winner gets either seventh seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva or No.10 Italian Flavia Pennetta.

Francesca Schiavone (26) battles Li Na (18) with the winner drawing whoever comes through between Venus Williams (3) and 2005 champ Kim Clijsters. Clijsters has done well so far in her comeback. But can she eliminate a Williams in NYC? It should be a high quality match.

Meanwhile, the men will complete Round Three. Highlights include Rafael Nadal (3) taking on fellow countryman Nicolas Almagro (32), seventh seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga facing Julien Benneteau in a French battle and Tomas Berdych (17) facing Fernando Gonzalez (11).

The highlight though could be American comeback story Taylor Dent testing No.2 seeded Andy Murray in the night session. Can the energetic 28 year-old serve-and-volleyer continue his run against one of the game’s best returners? The atmosphere should be electric.