Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tennis is around the corner!

Christmas is over and for tennis fans we know what that means - the tennis players are leaving the wintery weather and heading for the sun drenched land down under!  And even though New Years Day is still close to a week away, top names will be dusting off their racquets and getting in their groove to prepare for the important first major of the year, beginning in a little over two weeks time.

Many have been much anticipating Rafael Nadal's return to the court after a six month hiatus.  His plan was to play at the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament to try to shake off the rust and get himself slowly back into form in what is a prestigious event, yet doesn't count for any points on the tour.  However, he was ordered by his doctor to withdraw after catching some form of stomach virus.  He is still scheduled, at this point, to take part in next week's 250 level tournament in Doha.  Still participating in the exhibition, which begins the 27th of December, will be top players Djokovic, Murray, Ferrer, Berdych, Tipsarevic and now Almagro in Nadal's place.  Noticeably absent from the event this year is Roger Federer, who reportedly was not asked to participate as he "hasn't won the event before."

Speaking of Federer, he is choosing not to play a warm-up event to the Australian Open this year, preferring to spend the lead-up in a large block of practice time instead, which will hopefully pay off for him, as he said he didn't have enough time to practice in the busy 2012 season.  Given that he also played six matches this month in his South America tour, hopefully this has also kept him somewhat in form.

There are several tournaments leading up to the AO, one of them the Hopman Cup, which is a fun no-points event played between countries, one man and one woman playing for their country, also with a mixed doubles match thrown in.  Some notable participants are Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic playing for Serbia, while Venus Williams pairs with John Isner for the U.S.  There are also several small tournaments for both men and women individually in such places as Brisbane, Chennai and Sydney to name a few.

With a longer off-season this year, it actually felt pretty short to me given that there were the fun events from Federer's South American exhibition tour.  That really helped to get through what would have been a very long stretch with no tennis.  My intention to watch several of the past Federer grand slam wins didn't end up happening as much as I anticipated, so at this point I am itching for some competitive tennis once again.  I can't wait to see all the scenarios begin to play out for the 2013 season ahead.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Roger Federer - Great video + Sportsman of the year!

Here is a fun video of Roger right before he left Brazil.  I love the scream when he's in the boat!

Also, Roger once again had the honor, after a five year hiatus, of winning Switzerland's sportsman of the year award.  This is the fifth time he has won it, but not since 2007.  This time he was able to take a flight straight from his exhibition in Columbia to be there in person to receive the award in Zurich.  Here's a great picture of him there:

Now it's time for him to get back with the family, enjoy the Christmas holidays, and begin his training for Australia.  I still have to catch up on a few of the exhibition matches I missed while I was away and then it will be surviving on old matches for the next four weeks until the glorious days of the Australian Open!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Roger Federer helps Brazil kids get tennis court

This video is such a cool representation of what a wonderful guy tennis hero Roger Federer is.  Watch this and see how much it means to him to be able to help these kids in Brazil get their own tennis court to play on.  It's an honor to be a fan of such a caring person who genuinely loves to help others in so many ways.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Surviving the tennis off season

I don't know how most are handling the off season, but for me I feel a mixture of missing tennis, but at the same time, with the busyness of the holiday season, knowing it would be stressful to try to keep up with a tournament.  So what is a person to do?  How about some snippets of the best of the best to bring some moments of tennis joy.  If you haven't seen them, here are the best Roger Federer shots of 2012, in two parts:

Also, here is a great interview that Roger just did where he talks about his early tennis life and his family.  For some reason I can't seem to embed this one, so here is the link to it:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why Murray, Serena and Maria can never be Roger

It's that time of year where there's not a whole lot of tennis news going on.  I get a little bored with the summaries of the tennis year (though I did enjoy going back and reading a few of my blog posts from July during and after Wimbledon recently and reliving all those emotions!).  

What's fun to me is finding some random videos of humorous incidents with the players.  I thought this one was great!  (Pardon the language)...

Once again it is obvious why no one can ever be Roger Federer!  :)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stepanek clutch for 100th DC win

Wow, what an impressive performance from Radek Stepanek to win the 100th Davis Cup final in the fifth rubber, with all the pressure from his home crowd firmly on his shoulders.  There was a lot of talk about his advanced age of almost 34, but once again the 30-somethings are proving themselves, and Stepanek showed himself to have the mental toughness and the physical stamina to go four hard sets and take the victory from younger player Nicholas Almagro.  And the way he was throwing himself around the court sacrificing his body was really rather inspirational!

I have to say that while I have gotten to be quite a David Ferrer fan over the last couple years for so many reasons, and while I most definitely will probably never be a Tomas Berdych fan, I still was pulling for the Czech team.  Spain has gotten to win this thing quite a lot of time in the last few years and it just felt like it would have been rather anticlimactic for them to win it again.  It was more of a feel good kind of story to have the Czech Republic win it in the same year that the women won the Fed Cup, having only won one previously title, and that 32 years ago.  I have also gotten so that I really rather enjoy Radek Stepanek.  It took me a while to get used to his rather bizarre looks, but now that I have it's fun to watch his old school style of play.  And to be honest I think I got a bit attached to him when he did the worm on the court when he won his last title.  But all that aside, I couldn't help but be happy for him that he was able to stay strong and serve out that final game, knowing how much it would mean to everyone involved.  I can imagine the immense relief to get that last point and know he had carried his country to victory!

Well, that truly means that competitive tennis is done for 2012.  We will continue to see some fun exhibitions over the next month-and-a-half I'm sure, but that's not the same.  I will watch some old matches from this year and also some DVDs of Federer grand slam wins while I wait.  But I already know how excited I will be as January rolls around and the Australian Open looms close.  I have actually been close to tears on the first day of the AO, hearing the introductory music - that's how much tennis has come to mean to me.  So until then we will find other things to occupy our time, but for the hard core tennis fans we are always on the look-out for a good tennis story or tennis star sighting as we wait for one of our true joys of life to begin again.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dancing Fed

Ever wanted to see Roger dancing?  Well, here you go.  Even though I can't understand the language there are some fun scenes in here in preparation for his upcoming Brazil Gillette tour.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Final thoughts on WTF

First of all, congratulations to Novak Djokovic who, through gritty determination was able to win the World Tour Finals, coming from behind in both sets to defeat Roger Federer.  It was a high intensity match with twists and turns in the plot from start to finish.  Though it seemed certain to go three sets when Roger was up 40-15 at 5-4, all of a sudden it seemed to be championship point at 5-6.

For Federer fans it was a disappointing end to be sure.  It took me a while to come to terms with it.  However, to be honest, I hadn't really expected him to win this tournament from the start.  The fact that he was able to pull out a win in the semifinal against Murray and get to the final was incredibly exciting.  This match against Djokovic was played at the highest level.  Sure there were some errors that gave points away, but there were an awful lot of jaw dropping points also and not a boring moment of the match.  Novak did what he does so often - hang in there when he's not playing as well and then through sheer determination snatch the match back.  But the fact that he had to fight so hard, bloodying up his elbow in the process, against a guy six years his senior, shows the level that Roger Federer is still at, and anyone who is still asking if he is going to retire soon should be ashamed of themselves!

While maybe at this point I should be showing interviews and media blitzes from Novak, this is primarily a Fedfan blog, so while I definitely give much credit to those who do well, my heart is always with Roger.  So those who are in the same boat should take much comfort and enjoyment in the fact that he had more wins this year than he has had in quite a few years, he won six titles this year (including 1 GS and 3 Masters 1000s), got #1 back for a record 302 weeks, and overall simply was amazing, making his fans proud.  He is very deserving of some beach time, which he loves, with his three girls and hopefully feeling rejuvenated and ready for a new season to set more amazing records.

Here is a video of some behind the scenes stuff after his match.  Love his laugh!  I think he is doing just fine after his loss:

Though the 2012 season is mostly over there is still Davis Cup this weekend, plus quite a few exhibitions that maybe we will get to see some of.  I will still continue to give updates whenever I find some fun or interesting tennis tidbits.  Tennis is never truly over!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Comeback City

What an amazing comeback from the GOAT Roger Federer in his semifinal against Andy Murray.  He started the match by immediately getting broken and just had the kind of flat, tired look to him that he had in the Gold Medal match and the Shanghai semi that he played against Murray.  I admit that I didn't really like his chances.  To me it just kind of felt like he was tired from a long season and didn't have enough left, and Murray seemed inspired, ready to make his first final in London.  How wrong I was!  Unlike yesterday, he converted on his first break point to get it back on serve again, and unlike yesterday, though he got down a minibreak in the tiebreak he come back from that and played some great points to take the first set.

Losing the first set seemed to really discourage Murray, not to mention the great crowd support Federer was getting, and it all went downhill for him from there.  And Roger was on fire with the momentum of that first set.  It was a very happy day for Federer and his fans and he now has the opportunity to win his seventh World Tour Finals, his third in a row.

Novak Djokovic had a comeback of his own after losing the 1st set to Del Potro.  Who will triumph in this final pitting #1 against #2?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Semis Showdown Set

Well, needless to say a second loss in a row to Juan Martin Del Potro wasn't the result Roger Federer was hoping for in his last Round Robin match.  Though it has to play tricks with your mind just a bit knowing you didn't "have to" win the match to move on, it was still obvious that Roger really wanted to end this portion of the tournament with another win to give him momentum heading into the semis.  And I'm sure he really would have liked to get it done in 2 sets rather than 3, knowing he has the disadvantage of not getting a day to rest.  However, failure to convert break points in the first set, as well as playing a terrible tiebreak didn't work in his favor, so instead he not only had to play three sets, but also got his first loss in the World Tour Finals since 2009.

Hopefully, rather than giving him less confidence moving forward, it will instead motivate him out of his frustration in losing this match.  He was definitely showing more emotion than normal, shouting out in frustration at some of his more annoying misses.  

With Ferrer's win over Tipsarevic, that means that Federer will play Murray in the evening match (Djokovic vs. Del Potro in the afternoon).  I really don' know how to predict the outcome of this match.  On the one hand Roger could have a letdown after having just played three sets and being tired from a long season.  On the other hand, he has lost to Murray the last two times they played, both at the Olympics and in Shanghai.  He's certainly not going to want to end the season with two losses in a row to both him and Del Potro.  I think both Federer and Murray are going to have a lot of determination in this match.  Murray, of course, has the advantage of having a day of rest.  Will this be enough to see him through?

So our possibilities for the final are Djokovic-Federer, Djokovic-Murray, Del Potro-Federer or Del Potro-Murray.  After some matches during the Round Robin stage that were certainly less than tantalizing tennis, the next two days should be a treat, no matter what the outcome.  While I certainly would love to see my guy Roger prevail once again, even if he loses in the semis he has had an amazing season and accomplished so much, so I will try to take that attitude into the semis showdown.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

No stress for Fed fans

Sure feels good, for those of us Fed fans, to have him through to the semis without major stress!  In his match today against David Ferrer, Roger Federer certainly wasn't playing his A game.  It's always a big plus, when looking at the stats, to find the winners higher than the errors, and today that certainly wasn't the case.  However, it also has to be taken into consideration when playing an opponent the quality of David Ferrer, who is one of the best returners in the game, that hitting winners is much more challenging when the shots just keep coming back.  Even with first serve percentages, it can affect a person when they know their serve is going to be returned unless it is something special, as Roger himself noted after the match.  But no one said a win has to be pretty - a win is a win - and in this case, because it was in straight sets, it ensures a semifinal berth.

At this point Federer is the only one in either group with a definite place in the semis.  Even Djokovic, though he has won both his previous two matches, did so with the loss of a set; therefore there is room, if he were to lose in straight sets tomorrow, to still not make it in, though a pretty unlikely scenario.  Murray and Berdych are in similar situations as each other, with each having won and lost the same amount of matches and sets, though Berdych will have a little bigger challenge on his hands trying to beat the #1 player in the world.  It all gets quite complicated and I'm not going to try to give all the particulars which I don't understand myself.  But I think the only one who doesn't have any chance to qualify for the semis would be Tipsarevic, who lost both his matches so far in straight sets.

Lots more good tennis to still come in the next four days, watching only the best of the best.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Roger's awards (video)

For those who didn't get to see the ceremony of Roger's ATP awards, here it is:

Here is one also of Justin Gimblestob practicing with Roger.  Always fun to hear Justin's glowing praise:

More thoughts on how the World Tour Finals are going after tomorrows matches.

Monday, November 5, 2012

ATP Player awards

Federer fans will be pleased to hear this morning, as we begin the exciting week of the World Tour Finals, that Roger continues another amazing streak of winning the Fan Favorites award for a 10th straight year(with 57% of the vote), and also winning the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship award for an 8th out of 9 years.  To me this latter one is the most impressive award he could win because it is voted by his peers.  As fans we may feel like we "know" him pretty well by all that we are allowed to see and observe of his life on and off the courts, but his fellow players truly do know him and see how he acts in all aspects of life.  To continue receiving this award year after year (with only one break, going to Nadal a few years ago) just shows what great character he has and why we as fans love him so much!

Other notable recipients were, of course, Djokovic and the Bryan Brothers ending the year as #1, most improved Marinko Matosevic, newcomer of the year Martin Klizan (maybe Janowicz would have gotten it if the Paris tournaments would have been a couple weeks ago, as he has now moved up to 26 in the world!), comeback player of the year Tommy Haas (yay!), Arthur Ashe Humanitarian award to Djokovic for his work with various charities including his own foundation, and doubles fan favorite was the Bryan Brothers for a record 8th year.

We have a great group of tennis players that we are privileged to follow. And unlike being a fan/follower of an actor or actress where we mostly see them playing roles, we get to follow the real person and often hear from them what they are thinking and feeling about different aspects of life.  I particularly feel so fortunate to be able to participate in this period of time where the great Roger Federer is playing, and to have been able to watch him in person on a couple of occasions.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

David and Goliath

I was hard pressed to know who to cheer for in this final.  In spite of none of the top 4 even making it to the quarterfinals, it turned out to be a fascinating tournament, thanks to newcomer and heart winner Jerzy Janowicz.  He was unable to believe it himself the incredible run he had this week, going from a qualifer to a now seeded player for the Australian open, and more than doubling his career earnings to date.  He won many fans this week, and hopefully many more sponsors, seeing his grit and determination to hold strong in the tough moments, yet to also show how much it all meant to him with his tears and other great displays of emotion.

In the end, though, I think he simply ran out of steam to face someone with the never-give-up attitude of David Ferrer.  Who could not be happy for this guy who gives his all every moment of every match, who has won more matches than anyone this year along with more titles, and who had the most wins in Masters tournaments without holding a title.  You could tell by his response just how much it meant to him to finally have one of these titles to his name (in spite of it being a very strange looking trophy!).  He said afterward:  "I was very nervous because it was my chance to win a first Masters title, but somehow I knew it was my turn," ... "To me this is a dream to win here. If I won, it's because I have a great team."

And being that he had to miss out on all the pre-tournament hype in London leading up to the World Tour Finals, at least he knows it was all worth it.

Much more to come soon as we anticipate a great week of tennis ahead!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Who is Jerzy Janowicz?

Who in the world is this guy Jerzy Janowicz?  A few days ago most people who consider themselves knowledgeable in tennis didn't have a clue who he was.  What a statement he has made this week!  With a strange BNP Paribas Masters tournament in Paris this week already with Federer pulling out at the last minute, Nadal still injured, and Djokovic losing in his first round match, a young Polish qualifier has taken full advantage.  He started by beating 19th ranked Philip Kohlschreiber, went on to beat 14th ranked Marin Cilic, then taking out 4th ranked Andy Murray, and if that wasn't enough decided to give it another go with 9th ranked Janko Tipsarevic.  There are a lot of players who have been around the tour for years who haven't had such a good tournament as that, beating four top 20 players back to back.  

He started out his quarterfinal looking rather tired and lethargic after already expending so much energy this week, losing the first set.  He then seemed to get his bearings, though, and soon was hitting winners one after the other with incredible power and accuracy.  He also has amazing finesse, however, using a delicate drop shot many times over, to the frustration of his opponents.  Add a great serve to that and he has the potential to be the next big thing.

Granted, this was a strange week, with the top 8 guys definitely in another place mentally, thinking ahead to next week's London World Tour Finals and obviously not full giving themselves to winning in Paris.  I'm sure when Andy Murray ended up surprisingly losing that second set, for example, suddenly the thought of putting a bunch of effort into not only coming back to win that match, but also giving more energy to going further in the tournament suddenly didn't sound so appealing or even wise.  However, a lesser opponent wouldn't have had the mental strength to keep fighting through to the end.

I think most who follow tennis are wondering who is going to be the next one to step it up and make a name for themselves, winning some of the bigger events.  Guys like Raonic, Tomic, Dmitrov, and other young guys who seem to have potential are names that are tossed around, but so far no one has made it big.  I'm not saying that Jancowicz is the man, but I think he has not only the weapons in his game, but also seemingly the mental toughness to not be afraid of the bigger opponents.  Of course, one tournament doesn't prove anything - it needs to be followed up over and over, so we will see what next year brings for this young guy, about to turn 22.  But regardless, the name Jerzy Janowicz has made itself known in the tennis world this week by making it to at least the semifinals of a Masters 1000 event, taking out four top 20 opponents in the process.

P.S.  Just a post-script after watching the semis.  Wow, wow, wow!  This guy has truly been amazing.  I thought maybe he would be too tired to pull off another one today.  But he held strong and got another top 20 scalp under his belt.  I'm truly amazed at what he has been able to do.  No matter what happens tomorrow, he has made a name for himself and it will be fun to watch what he is able to do in 2013.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Paris a washout?

I think most were quite shocked to see the outcome of Novak Djokovic's first match at the Paris Masters tournament today.  He looked like he was playing amazing tennis in the first set, embarrassing Sam Querry with a bagel set.  I thought he was going to roll through an easy second set and I almost wasn't paying attention anymore when Sam got broken in the first game.  Novak looked to be taking the #1 mantle before it was fully given back to him by his dominant form.  However, Querry had other plans.  Relieved to win his first game at 2-1, this seemed to give him confidence and he was able to break back, ultimately taking it in a tiebreak.  I have often thought of Sam as being somewhat weak mentally though, so even when he broke in the 3rd set I still didn't think he would close it out.  However, his serve seemed to really help him, and frankly so did Djokovic, who was making a lot more than normal errors.

I know that Nole has been dealing with personal issues in his life, one of which is his father's hospitalization with a respiratory condition.  How much had to do with that, how much had to do with the fact that he already knows he got #1 back and would really like some rest before going into the World Tour Finals, and how much was simply just that he lost?

I don't know the answers to those questions.  I do know, though, that with Roger Federer not playing this week, with Djokovic out in his first round match, and with some of the others probably wanting to conserve some energy for next week, it just doesn't seem like a normal Masters 1000 tournament.  It reminds me of Montreal this year when several of the top guys didn't play.  It just didn't seem to have the same level of importance.  

It will be really interesting to see if Andy Murray gives his all to the tournament since he hasn't won one of these all year, or if he is trying to save a bit of strength too.  Maybe one of the other guys who usually doesn't have an opportunity to win such a prestigious event will be able to step it up.  I remember when Robin Soderling won it a few years ago (believe it or not I actually miss him!).  

I really wish they had found another way to give a longer off season than to put three weeks of tournaments back to back, including the all important World Tour Finals at the end of a long season.  Maybe then Federer would have chosen to play Paris, not losing 1,000 ranking points for not being able to play this week.  I'm sure I will still watch the Paris tournament this week to see what happens, but it's really next week that will be capturing my attention. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Basel, Istanbul and Paris

For Federer fans it wasn't the result we were hoping for.  After losing the first set, Roger Federer rallied and took the second set in a tiebreak.  Though he had his chances at a break in the third, he wasn't able to capitalize and it went to another tiebreak.  Roger played some loose points and really lost it in a couple unforced errors.  However, Juan Martin Del Potro was really very impressive today.  There were multiple points where it seemed like Roger had him, but he managed to stay in the point with some great defense and ultimately win the point.  He was also really using his power in his serves and his ground strokes, and even had some impressive net play.  As to Fed's play, I was concerned earlier in the week because it just seemed he couldn't find his form.  And while he still made some errors today at inopportune times, he also had some of the Fed magic going and overall I thought he played pretty well.  

To Delpo's credit, in spite of losing the second set he didn't let his level drop as has sometimes happened in his losses to Roger.  I'm sure after losing some very disappointing matches to him this year, he just wasn't willing to let it go this time, definitely putting in the extra effort to get to balls he maybe normally wouldn't have tried so hard for.  So even though I would have loved to see Roger come through with another win in his special hometown tournament, at the same time I am happy that JMDP was able to play well and really start looking like he could be the player he was in 2009 again.

There was a very tricky point that could have ended up with Roger on the ground, almost getting hit in a very tender spot.  Thankfully I think it just missed and hit him in the leg instead and he was saved that embarrassment in front of his hometown fans!

Roger announced after his match that he will not be playing Paris next week.  I was kind of figuring that was coming after a difficult three-setter.  He said it is just too much for him.  Sounds like he needs to deal with some niggling injuries and just be rested and prepared for the World Tour Finals in London the following week.  Unfortunately by doing this he will be handing Novak Djokovic the #1 ranking back again, but this was expected anyway.  He will for sure reach 302 weeks at #1, which is just beyond impressive!

In other news, Serena continued to impress today with a 6-4 6-3 win over Maria Sharapova in the final of the WTA Championships.  What a last few months Serena has had, winning Wimbledon, Olympic gold in singles and doubles, the U.S. Open and now this.  I have been so amazed by what Roger Federer has been able to do at 31 years old, but Serena has had even more incredible results than he has (which is difficult for me to say, as a hard core Fed fan!).  Though not always a huge Serena fan, you can't argue with what she has been able to accomplish.

Another 30-something who has had great results this year is David Ferrer, who just won a 6th title for the year.  

I'm not looking forward to Paris so much now that Roger won't be playing, but I am very much looking forward to the World Tour Finals, beginning in just a little over a week!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Roger squeaks through

Well hmmm, what do I say about this match?  The 1st set I was thinking, "Yes, he's finally finding his form and looking like the Roger we know and love."  So what happened in the 2nd and 3rd sets?  I'm sure part of it was that Belluci really was playing well.  But what in the world was happening with all those errors?  So many times it seemed like Roger was just hitting it into the middle of the net.  I mean, he came back in the tiebreak and saved a bunch of set points, and then when he finally was going to even things up he made another "easy" error.  I really was starting to think maybe he wasn't even going to make it to the quarters, which would have been, I'm sure, tremendously disappointing for him.  But Belluci kindly choked in his last service game and pretty much gave him the match.

Now I realize I can be, at the same time, Roger's biggest fan and also his biggest critic, so maybe I'm being too hard on him.  I know he struggled against Belluci when they played earlier this year in Indian Wells, so maybe there is just something in his game that bothers him.  But still, his form at the moment is concerning to me, especially with the World Tour Finals coming up  But hey, he's into the next round to face what would seem to be a fairly beatable opponent (Kubot or Paire).  Maybe he will start to get his feel again as he goes along.  We can hope anyway!

I really wish I could understand Swiss German.  The interview they did with him at the end of the match looked fun and I would have loved to know what he was saying - how he described the match, and also what things he was laughing about.  I don't think I will be learning Swiss German anytime soon, though.

I am still watching the last of the ladies matches for today.  The Serena-Li match was an error strewn match, with Serena being broken at love twice when serving for the set!  Wow, that made me feel a little better, since it happened to me again today (getting broken serving for the set - though not at love!).  The Azarenka-Kerber match was an amazing match that I wasn't fully able to concentrate on because it was on at the same time as Fed's match, but what I saw was great tennis!  I feel really bad for Petra Kvitova that she got sick and had to withdraw from the tournament.  What a sad ending for last year's champion.  Hopefully she will recover quickly for Fed Cup next weekend.

Lots of great tennis to keep us busy this week, that's for sure!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gearing up for Basel and Istanbul

It's a busy week coming up on the tennis circuit for men and women.  First a little review on what has just taken place.  After 2 1/2 years without a title, Venus Williams proved that she isn't planning on going away anytime soon by winning in Luxembourg.  Caroline Wozniacki also proved herself at the end of the season by winning another tournament in Moscow, beating top 10 player Sam Stosur.  Other winners this weekend in 250 tournaments for the men were Seppi, Berdych and Del Potro, with the latter two trying to quality for the elite World Tour Finals.

Speaking of World Tour Finals, the women have their year-end championship with the top 8 in Istanbul this coming week.  They were all looking pretty classy for the draw and player party:

Should be a fun week, with Serena and Vika being drawn in the same round robin group.  With Serena having won the last three big titles it will be fascinating to see if she can finish it off in style by claiming this elite title.

I have to say I wish this wasn't happening the same week as Roger Federer's hometown Basel tournament.  Of course anytime Roger is playing, his matches are priority with me.  That won't be the case on Tennis Channel in the U.S., however, who will be favoring the Istanbul matches and showing Basel on a delay, meaning I will need to watch Roger's matches on the computer.  Speaking of Roger he has been busy this week with commitments at Lindt, 

as well as meeting with friends, going to visit kids at a tennis club, and helping out at Jura headquarters:

Roger's initial first round opponent, Jeremy Chardy, withdrew from the tournament, instead giving him Benjamin Becker, which should be a nice warm-up for him.  We'll see if he can win a 6th title at his special tournament.  

I suppose I should also mention that there is another 500 level tournament going on in Valencia with some worthy players, though I doubt it will get much of my attention with the other big ones happening.

Looking forward to a fun upcoming tennis week!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Final thoughts on Shanghai

What an amazing final that was between Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray!  The quality of tennis was incredible.  I can't count the number of points where it should have been over multiple times, yet one or the other of them was able to keep it going and turn things around to win the point.  I'm sure Murray must be bitterly disappointed after having 5 match points, to end up losing in the end.  Novak seems to have an uncanny ability to come back from the brink of defeat to win matches.  

With another 1,000 points added with this win it won't be long at all before Djokovic is able to wrestle #1 away from Roger Federer once again.  I must say, as a Federer fan I was rather discouraged with his lackluster performance against Andy Murray in the semis, strewn with so many errors, knowing this would have so much affect on the end-of-year #1 ranking.  However, I was encouraged to read this comment from him:

"I would love to finish number one as well for the end of the year. For that it's going to take a great stretch again, winning Basel, Paris and London I assume to give myself a chance," said the 17-time Grand Slam champion. "We'll see how it goes.  Look, I'm relaxed about it.  I'll give everything I can.  I want to get through this season well and finish strong.  But it's not the number one goal right now.  Right now it's to manage my schedule, hopefully be in good shape for Basel, then kind of go from there.  Just to repeat, the goal was to become world number one this year, which happened, not the end of the year. But if that happens, that's a bonus."

It's easy to just keep wanting more and more as Federer fans because we've seen him do so many amazing things.  But the fact that he repeated the statement that his goal was to become world #1, not to end the year as #1, just reminded me that it's okay if he goes back to #2.  Novak deserves #1 again at this point, and to have achieved 300 weeks at #1 was just incredible.  We can't expect him to win everything at 31 years old.  

It will be a fascinating next few weeks, particularly, in my opinion, to see who is going to step up at the World Tour Finals.  I would imagine Djokovic has much motivation this year to add that to his resume.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

300 and counting!

What can be said about this amazing athlete Roger Federer that hasn't already been said - other than now he holds a new record for 300 (!!!!) weeks at #1 (guaranteed beginning Monday).  I mean, that is close to 6 years as the #1 player in the world.  Rafael Nadal has been at #1 for a total of 102 weeks and Novak Djokovic for 53.  So not only has Roger been there almost three times as long as Rafa, but he regained the #1 ranking at 30 years old and continues to hold it at the ripe old age of 31.  The accomplishment is incredible!

I have to say I was beginning to wonder if it was going to slip away from him, down a set to his good friend Stanislas Wawrinka.  He got an early break in the second set and I thought it was going to be smooth sailing, but after he lost the break immediately it seemed the momentum had shifted back and might not let go until a straight set victory happened for Wawrinka.  However, Federer being the King of comebacks, among many other things, held on and squeaked out the second set tiebreak.  Stan was a broken man after that and didn't have any fight whatsoever left, not winning a single game in the third set.  You could see it was a very distressing loss for him after playing so well for almost a full two sets.  But some things are just mean to be - like Roger Federer at 300 weeks!

I have yet to see a full video interview with him after this great win, but I loved this quote that I read:

"Sometimes you're just happy playing. Some people, some media unfortunately don't understand that it's okay just to play tennis and enjoy it. They always think you have to win everything, it always needs to be a success story, and if it's not obviously what is the point. Maybe you have to go back and think, Why have I started playing tennis?  Because I just like it.  It's actually sort of a dream hobby that became somewhat of a job.  Some people just don't get that ever."

Well, Roger, we're so happy that you're playing and that you love it.  Of course we love it when you win, but your fans are happy when you're happy.  And we love that you won today and will always be remembered for having at least 300 weeks at #1!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Back in the winner's circle

Great to see my guy Roger back in the winner's circle today with a 6-3 7-5 win over Lu.  I thought overall he played well after having not played a competitive match in almost four weeks, after his Davis Cup victories in mid September.  After the distraction of the death threat and the extra security that has been flanking him this week, he was able to put that behind him and play with his usual style and class.  Though there were maybe a few more unforced errors than we (and he) would have liked, he did what he needed to do and won the match, thrilling the much enlarged crowd with his presence.

Here is his post match interview:

It's too bad how often he ends up in the same portion of the draw as his good buddy Stan-the-Man Wawrinka (or Stanley, as Roger likes to refer to him).  In order to make it to 300 weeks at #1 he needs to win this match.  My fingers are itching to write about the incredible accomplishment that would be, but I will save it until he gets there.

Novak Djokovic was looking very sharp today.  It's obvious he is hoping to regain the #1 ranking before the end of the year.  His chances of doing so are very strong and I'm sure many scenarios will come out on how he can do that depending on what plays out this week.  Lots to still play for in the coming weeks.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Federer Shangai interview

Here's an interview with Roger where he talks about how he's doing, the rest of the season, and some nice things about Andy Murray:


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Shanghai here we come!

How fitting - Roger Federer standing next to a crown!  Great to see him looking happy after having to struggle with a death threat from a stupid person over the last few days.  Word has it the culprit has apologized to the tournament and to Roger and his family.  I guess people don't understand the power of the internet these days!  With that cleared up, hopefully Roger can focus on playing some great tennis this week.

The draw is out and once again Roger is on the same half as Murray.  I at first was frustrated by this, as it seems the harder draw, but since Berdych is on Djokovic's side that is one that also could have been troubling.  After a first round bye his first few rounds should be fairly doable unless he is particularly rusty after not having played for a few weeks.  Of course a win at this tournament would be awesome, but just seeing him play again when we weren't sure it would happen this week will be great.  Hopefully he can at least stay in there long enough to hold onto #1 to make it to 300 weeks!!!

Here is another picture of him at a Rolex exhibit he toured.  Glad he's getting out and about in spite of the heightened security.

On another note, I have been enjoying some of the tennis going on this weekend, particularly in Tokyo.  The match between Murray and Raonic was a great one.  I have never seen Raonic play so well, being aggressive, coming forward.  He came from a break down in the 3rd set, saved a couple match points, and went on to win in the tiebreak.  And Nishikori is playing inspired tennis to give the Japanese their first finalist at this tournament.  Should be an interesting final.  And then there is also Azarenka-Sharapova and Djokovic-Tsonga.  Not too bad of a tennis weekend for lower level tournaments!

Monday, October 1, 2012

He's playing!!

I'm sure all true Federer fans have been holding their breath waiting for his announcement one way or the other regarding the Shanghai tournament that starts next week.  It came today via Facebook:  "Looking forward to going back to China and playing in the Shanghai Rolex Masters. I have always enjoyed China and I can't wait to see my great Chinese fans again. See you soon!"

When he put the following picture on Facebook a few days ago that said "back in the gym" I thought it might mean he was playing, but wanted to hear it for sure.

Though I am always pretty curious when I'm not sure whether he will decide to follow through on a tournament he's scheduled for when he's been extra busy, this one had a lot of significance due to where things stand with the ranking points.  Roger is currently 1,335 points ahead of Novak Djokovic in the 52 week ranking system.  He also, as of today, has a record 298 weeks at #1.  With Novak playing the 500 level tournament this week in Beijing he could cut that down to 885 points if he wins the tournament, which is probably pretty likely with the field he's playing against.  Roger needs to play Shanghai if he wants to be sure to hang onto #1 and make it to at least 300 weeks.  

Novak is feeling pretty motivated to get the year end ranking, which he certainly has a pretty good chance at being he doesn't have many points to defend from last year, whereas Roger won everything he played, including the 1,500 point World tour Finals.  He would have to be playing his absolute best and be incredibly motivated to achieve all that again.  But hey, we're talking about Roger Federer, so it all remains to be seen!

Next week is suddenly looking quite exciting to me!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Roger the soccer guy

Roger Federer is gearing up for the Gillette South America tour, where he will travel with the likes of Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki, Jo Wilfred Tsonga, Bob and Mike Bryan and more to countries in South America to treat the people to his beautiful tennis for the first time.  In an unusual display, however, instead of tennis pictures they are going the soccer (or football in other parts of the world) route.  Take a look at these great samples:

Even though he looks great in the soccer gear, I'm really glad he's a tennis player!  He's been having fun on Facebook asking for suggestions of nicknames he can use.  He decided to go with "Federinho."  Just don't hurt yourself with all these fancy moves, Roger!

He also posted a picture of himself on a treadmill saying he's back in the gym.  Does that mean he's planning to play Shanghai?  I hope so!  I want him to at least make 300 weeks at #1, if not end the year at #1!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Back in the winner's circle

I'm really happy to see Caroline Wozniacki finally holding a trophy again.  It's been a long title drought of more than a year for her.  After holding the #1 ranking for over a year, in the midst of much criticism for not having won a grand slam, she has now slipped down to #11.  She has tried connecting with a couple different coaches to get her game to a level to make that big breakthrough in the majors.  Instead I think it has rather confused her game and taken away what she is best known for - her incredible consistency.  I'm sure it has been very frustrating to hear so many giving her advice on how she can add more offense, hit more winners, and have something to offer against those with the big power who seem to be able to hit through her. 

Unfortunately I wasn't able to watch any of this tournament, as it wasn't televised and I couldn't find it on any computer streams, so I wasn't able to see what caused the huge score discrepancy of 6-1 6-0 in the final.  Regardless, though, she came through with a win, including winning a tight three setter in the semis, which she has at times lately had a hard time having success with.  

There is a stacked field at the tournament in Tokyo this week.  Lets hope this title gives her confidence to make some inroads against some of the top players and get her back on track and back toward the top of the rankings once again.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Speed - Federer vs. Nadal

Awesome video showing the difference in speed between the way that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play.  While Roger plays through a whole game, Rafa still hasn't served his second point yet.  Wow, they just couldn't be more opposite!

Roger just quickly and elegantly goes about his business, while Rafa tears around the court in animal-like fashion, then slowly and methodically gets set up to serve again.  I for one happen to like the quick and elegant!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Roger Federer Davis Cup Highlights + Interview

For those like me who didn't get to see Switzerland Davis Cup matches this weekend, here are some highlights of Roger Federer's singles wins to help get Switzerland back to the World Group next year:

And this one shows the last game, then the on-court interview after the match:

It was great seeing him play again.  However, this quote was a bit concerning to me:  “I need holiday badly,” he said. “I’m wounded, tired, and exhausted and need some time off right now and see where I go from here. Nothing has been decided for the rest of year, even though there is a plan in place, that plan might change. I need to go back to drawing board to see what’s important.”

Regarding the "wounded" comment, did anyone else notice his serve looked a little bit different?  Maybe it was my imagination, but to me when he hit the ball it looked like he was holding his body different, almost trying to protect it.  I noticed that before I read his comment.  In any event, he has played a lot of tennis this year, added tournaments he doesn't usually play plus the Olympics.  I hope he goes and has a couple lovely weeks laying on the beach and doing not much else!  And I would imagine it may be unlikely we would see him in Shanghai, but time will tell.  Go rest, Roger!!!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fun Roger pictures

Here's something kind of fun.  This is a picture of Roger at a Davis Cup practice, and look, he actually has some muscles with those skinny arms of his!!!

I'm always amazed at how he can play such incredible tennis, yet look like he doesn't have any muscles whatsoever when surely he must do quite a few weights.  Well, I guess he's just hiding them under his sleeves.  Maybe he needs to go with the Nadal-wear of old and do tank tops when he plays!

Here's a cute one of him and Stan together.  Hopefully they can have more success in Davis Cup this time around!

Here's a couple sweet ones I never got a chance to share.  So glad he loves his wife and family!


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

U.S. Open over and out

Wow, what a match!  When I saw the wind once again and how that was affecting play in the first few games I really didn't know what to expect.  Novak Djokovic was obviously out of sorts from the start, not able to figure out how to overcome this disruption to his style of play.  It turned out to be a see-saw affair, however, as one would take advantage while the other was down, only to see the other turn it around.  Their rallies they had were incredible, with the longest being a 54-shot rally, and several in the 30s.  Even when they ended with an error, often from the wind, it didn't diminish the, dare I say, ridiculousness of what they were accomplishing!

The first set tiebreak was incredible!  I had stupidly scheduled my own tennis match that day, thinking surely there wouldn't be a Monday final for the fifth year in a row.  I needed to leave during the tiebreak but I thought maybe I could get through it and be a couple minutes late.  When Murray hit a fairly easy ball into the net on set point at 6-7 I knew I wasn't going to be able to finish it and had to wait through my own match (walking past the TV in the club with everyone gathered around without looking).  Talk about having problems concentrating on my match with that going on (though I did manage to win our first long set and leave it on serve in the second).  I digress - that tiebreak was very important for Murray's confidence and belief that he could do it.  I won't go through each set, but when he lost the 4th, with Djokovic rallying and taking control in the 3rd and 4th sets, I was getting pretty nervous for him that he was going to go away in the 5th.  He came out with fierce determination, however.  I can almost see his mind working, that he is NOT going to lose again.  He came out the much stronger player and Novak was obviously losing energy, surprising for someone who has played incredible back-to-back matches of endurance in previous majors.  Murray held strong through the whole set, really not showing any nerves, and closed it out at 6-2.  With a very muted celebration, and some hidden tears, Andy Murray finally stopped the drought of Great Britain grand slam winners and became the fourth different man to win a major in 2012.

Though I'm certainly not a big Murray fan, I really wanted him to win this one and get past this huge hurdle in his career.  So now we will have four long months to wonder who is going to emerge in Australia (assuming they get this pay issue worked out) after each of the big 4 winning one this year.  It will be truly fascinating.  And before that, who will end up as #1 at the end of the year?  Will Roger have the energy to defend all those points from last year and hold on to #1?  Or will this loss kick Novak into gear to try to have a strong finish to the year and gain it back?  It all remains to be seen.

 And I would be remiss not to mention Serena's great win on Saturday.  I was so pleased that this wasn't just another blow-out women's final, which gets so boring!  Victoria Azarenka really fought back and made it a great match.  Surely she must have been disappointed that she wasn't able to close things out when she served for it, but she also knew Serena is a fighter and wouldn't let it go easily.  I think they each did themselves proud and gave the New York crowd a great women's final.  Good to see some Americans come through, along with the Bryan Brothers winning their 12th grand slam trophy and breaking the record for the most major wins.

Time to take a bit of a tennis hiatus with some family stuff going on for the next week.  We'll see if I even get any Davis Cup watched or not.  All in all it was a great U.S. Open in spite of the disappointment of Roger losing in the quarters, and looking forward to next month already!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A strange super Saturday at the Open

Is Andy thanking God for the wind?
It was indeed another strange day at the U.S. Open.  While I have seen many a match played in very windy conditions, I have certainly never seen chairs or bags blow onto the court in the middle of the point!  Is it fair for the players to have to play in these conditions?  Tomas Berdych, and maybe Novak Djokovic, would say no, while obviously Andy Murray and David Ferrer seemed to be handling themselves just fine.  Yes it's unfortunate to not be able to go out there and play "normal" tennis.  But weather is part of professional sports and something that needs to be dealt with, and whichever player handles it better will be the victor.  

The most unfortunate part I felt was for David Ferrer.  He handled himself very well in those first seven games and Djokovic didn't.  But in spite of there being blue skies still  he was not allowed to try to serve out the set.  I understand the need for precaution (though it sounds like the severe storm didn't come), but what a frustrating situation.  I hope for his sake he is able to come back tomorrow and serve out the set on the first try.  Even winning the first set, his chances of pulling off the upset, in my opinion, would probably be 5% or less.  But he would have to feel good to at least take a set off the defending champion.

I have to admit as I was watching the first semifinal that I was wishing these conditions had been in effect Wednesday night as Roger took the court against Berdych.  When he plays in wind it seems to affect him not a bit.  What a different scenario we could be looking at.  But that isn't the case and one must move on (though it certainly ticks me off when I once again see articles coming out that the end is near for Federer just because he lost a match again - don't even get me going on that one!).

Anyway, I regress.  I would predict a four set win for Novak against Ferrer and a straight set win by Serena tomorrow.  As for Monday, though I'm not really a Murray fan, I would like to see him get his first grand slam win.  It's time and I hope he can pull it off.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A sad day in tennis

The look on his face and the tears in his eyes say it all in this picture.  After having to wait overnight to finish his match against Juan Martin Del Potro, Andy came out playing great tennis, winning the 1st set tiebreak handily.  Things were going along great in the 2nd too, but when they got to a tiebreak the general consensus was that whoever took the set would win the match, and that certainly turned out to be true.  You could see the energy begin to drain out of him when he lost that breaker, and with Delpo playing increasingly better he was just outmatched.  I had expected this wouldn't be a match he would win, but there was a little hope with the first set win.  With his final service game I was trying to imprint in my mind his quirky service motion I have gotten so familiar with, the way his body position is when he hits his forehands, and his interesting straight-armed backhands, all of which make him Andy Roddick on the tennis court.  

In the end, though, everyone knew one of he matches this week would be his last.  The emotions on court and in the stands were both heartbreaking and touching at the same time.  The tears came for me watching his wife Brooklyn break down.  I will miss his quick wit and the fun he brings to the tour, but I wish him the best in the life he is now looking forward to starting.

And, of course, it was a sad day for other reasons too.  While I felt nervous about this Berdych match from the start when I saw the draw, I still really expected him to pull it off.  He had been playing so well lately!  And he started off great with a break.  If only he could have held onto that, the whole result could have been very different.  But with his first serve not being very effective and spraying forehands all over the place, things just weren't working in his game, and Berdych was coming on strong.  I did think, when he pulled off the 3rd set, that maybe things were going to turn around with another 2-set-down victory.  It simply wasn't to be, though.  Of course I'm disappointed, but I'm not gutted as I have been in past losses (like a year ago).  Getting the Wimbledon title was huge, as was getting back to #1.  To keep winning every major at the age of 31 would be almost a miracle, so I am going to be happy with what has been accomplished this year, which has been so much, and try not to let it get me down.  I do think he will win at least one more major still (not sure where) and everything he wins now is so exciting!  So hang in there Fed fans through the ups and downs.  Though he sounded pretty disappointed in his press conference, he will rebound as he always does and come back to win more titles to thrill us all!

And in the meantime, I wouldn't mind if someone new were able to step up and win this thing, though obviously Djokovic is the heavy favorite now.