Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Federer twins in Melbourne

With not much tennis going on this week it's a great time to get a glimpse of Roger Federer's twins, who were seen with their mom Mirka and some helpers in Melbourne.  They are such adorable little girls, a real combination of Roger and Mirka.  It's so impressive the way they are able to travel the globe with them.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

And our champions are...

The first major of the year is over.  I find I am feeling a mixture of sadness and relief - sadness because I look so much forward to the Happy Slam every year, relief because I can finally get some sleep again!

The men's final turned out as so many predicted it would - with Novak Djokovic holding his third consecutive Australian Open trophy, fourth overall, and sixth major title.  It was certainly a tight match for the first 2 1/2 hours with, amazingly, no breaks of serve.  Murray had his chances to really get his teeth into it, after winning the first set in a tiebreak, when he had three break point opportunities.  He was not able to capitalize on those, however, and Djokovic ended up winning that set in a tiebreak.  By the third set Murray was being hampered by a foot injury and it certainly started to take its toll in his movement.  Once Novak was able to get the first break of serve in the match there was no turning back.  Andy definitely hung in there but it was inevitable which way things were going to turn out.

I can't help but wonder if things would have turned out differently if Murray wouldn't have played a five set four hour match in his semifinal compared to an incredibly easy hour-and-a-half semi by Djokovic with an extra day of rest.  But each player must deal with what is given them in the draw - it's all just part of the game of tennis.  

As for the women, Victoria Azarenka had to overcome an unsupportive crowd in her victory against Li Na.  It was obvious that the tennis fans in Rod Laver arena hadn't forgiven her for her injury timeout against Sloane Stevens and were in full support of her opponent.  The match was full of drama, with Li Na taking the first set but then having two falls, one twisting her ankle and the other hitting her head on the court.  She really didn't seem too affected by these injuries, however, and it was really Azarenka settling into the match and taking control that won her her second consecutive AO title.  Her reaction at the end of the match was very telling as to the emotions she had been holding back over these difficult days leading up to the final.  Rather than walking back onto the court to receive her congratulatory applause, she instead sat in her chair and began to sob.  Hopefully this will be a real learning experience for her to keep her making these kind of costly mistakes again which tend to turn people against her.

Though there are no more majors for four months now, there is much tennis action coming up with many smaller tournaments.  Roger Federer will be making his next appearance the second week in February in a 500 level tournament in Rotterdam and again in Dubai.  The one I am waiting for is Indian Wells in March, the first Masters tournament of the year, which I will be present at for the third year in a row.  Still so much to look forward to!


Friday, January 25, 2013

And the finals are set

For Federer fans it wasn't the result we were hoping for.  It appeared to be a 50-50 match going into it, with reasons to believe either one could pull it off.  It was obvious from the beginning, however, that Murray was very much on his game, pushing Federer in each of his service games, not aided whatsoever by Federer's serve numbers being very low.  It seemed pretty much at all times during the match that Roger was playing from behind and really only for brief moments was he really able to play his game, coming up with flashes of brilliance when he really needed it.  I have to give all credit to Murray.  He, like Djokovic, has an amazing combination of offense and incredible defense, getting back shots that seem impossible.  

I had already resigned myself to a Federer loss when he was broken back in the 4th set and then broken again, so when he surprisingly pulled off a great comeback to win the set in a tiebreak I still wasn't real surprised when he quickly fell behind once again in the 5th set.  It reminded me of the 2010 U.S. Open semi when he had been pushed hard by Djokovic, with Nadal already waiting in the final.  As that match went on in the 5th set I was getting nervous wondering how much energy he would have left for a final.  That was very much in my mind watching this today.  He had never before played two five set matches in a row.  How could he possibly have anything left, at 31 years of age, to challenge a well rested Novak, who only had to play 89 minutes in his ridiculous win over Ferrer?  So when Roger quickly got in a hole in the 5th set I wasn't extremely disappointed.  He showed great heart and resolve to push a very on form Andy Murray to a 5th set.  And to be honest, his win at Wimbledon, claiming another major after a two year drought, did much to calm me down in these situations (well, as long as he keeps his quarter final record going that is!).

So we will be having another Djokovic Murray final.  I am hoping that Murray's five set match won't play into things, but that this match will be one that really shows who the best is at this moment.  With a much more confident Murray this could be a real interesting one.

On a side note, Federer had a few choice words for Andy at a particularly tense time of the match.  Personally I wish he would try to refrain from lowering himself to that level.  I happen to like the squeaky clean Roger image, which is one of the things that makes me such a fan.

On the women's side of things, the final between Li Na, who played a brilliant match to soundly defeat Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka is being clouded by the great controversy of Vika's actions at 5-4 in the 2nd set semi against Sloane Stephens, choosing to take a 10 minute medical timeout before Sloane had to serve to stay in the match.  Definitely bad taste.  She has tried to smooth things over, but I think for most fans they would much prefer to see a new champion in Li Na this year.  I am real interested to see how this all goes down.  I hope it is a competitive match, as there have been some real duds in the women's major finals, including last year's Australian Open.

After almost two weeks of little sleep, we now know our finalists.  A couple exciting matches to go before the new king and queen are crowned.  Though my favorite will not be holding the trophy, in terms of tennis we still should be in for some great tennis to come.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Squeaking vs. gliding through

The match of the tournament so far definitely has been the 5 hour nail biter between Djokovic and Wawrinka, not just because of its length and scoreline (which ended 12-10 in the 5th) but because of the high intensity in level of play for the full 5 hours.  Stan started out on fire, breaking the #1's serve over and over again to win the first set 6-1 and start the second set also up a break.  It looked like he could end up with a pretty quick two set lead before reality closed in, his level dropped a bit, and Novak upped his game.  Though Djokovic went on to take the second set and then the third, the impressive part was that Stan kept fighting through the entire 5 hours, never giving into discouragement, and he continued to pressure Novak with sizzling winners firing from his racquet.  It really looked like it could go either way through that long 5th set, but as in so many cases champions seem to have that tiny bit extra that pulls them through these pressurized moments.  I was very disappointed for Wawrinka that after such a hard fought battle both physically and mentally, that he wasn't able to come away with what would have been a huge upset win against the three time Aussie champion.  In spite of not earning the win, however, I believe he certainly earned much respect in the locker room for pushing Novak Djokovic to the brink of defeat in the Round of 16.

The only man left in the tournament who still hasn't lost his serve after four rounds is Roger Federer.  It was agreed pretty much across the board that Roger had the most difficult draw of those favored to to be holding the trophy at the end of the fortnight.  He put on another clinical display of great tennis in his fourth round match against Milos Raonic, a dangerous player who has taken a set off him at each of their prior three meetings.  Not even facing a break point the whole match, he served great and and was once again able to keep his unforced error count extremely low.  Interestingly, he has faced very different types of players in each of the rounds so far and has had the answers for every one.  Obviously things can change a lot from one match to the next and he will undoubtedly have his hands full with Jo Wilfred Tsonga.  Fed fans have to be pleased, though, with how sharp he looks so far, including his great movement around the court.  With 35 consecutive quarterfinals in majors now, he continues to add to his impressive record that sets him so far apart from all others.

And finally, I'm glad that Roger is taking care of his back playing in the cool conditions.  I loved his post match interview with Jim Courier where he claimed the undershirt was because he needed to take care of his big muscles underneath.  And his comments about his skinny left arm being such a threat were hilarious.  Great to see him so relaxed and enjoying himself. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Incredible display by the Maestro

What an absolutely incredible display of tennis between Roger Federer and Bernard Tomic.  Wow!  If I was to tell someone to watch one match at the Australian Open so far it would be this one.  I am just so impressed by what each of those guys were able to do.  Even though I haven't liked Tomic's cocky attitude leading up to this, he certainly was able to put on a great display of tennis for his packed home crowd on Rod Laver Arena.  However, he wasn't able to match the brilliance of the Maestro from Switzerland.

Really the only thing Federer wasn't able to do well was to convert break points.  Much of that, however, was due to Tomic's clutch play in those moments, really coming up with the goods at the important times.  The shot making between both of them was downright breathtaking at times.  Definitely Tomic was wanting to make a good impression and prove himself capable of being a top player.  I think, though, that the hype about this match also brought out in Roger a fierce determination to show that he isn't going down yet to the young up and coming guys.  

Federer ended the match with 46 winners and 20 unforced errors.  Now those are the types of numbers his fans love to see!  He truly hasn't lost his greatness in any way, and the way he moved around the court shows he hasn't lost his speed either, with some amazing retrieval ability to stay in points.  Here is just one small example showing the full range of his skills.

I thought Roger did a great job in his press conference delicately dealing with the issue of respect between players, in a gentle way implying that Tomic could have handled that aspect better than he did.  Here is a link to that interview, as he says it much better than I could:


I could go on and on with my appreciation for this match and for Federer in general as he claimed his 250th grand slam win.  I can say it was definitely worth staying up until 2:30 a.m.  Hopefully he can keep up this incredible form through the next challenging matches to come.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

On we roll

You know it's a very hot day when Roger Federer is sweating that much.  Still 104 degrees in the first evening match, they at least didn't have to deal with the intense sunshine that the daytime matches had to contend with.  It was a fairly easy, though definitely not epic win for the world #2 against someone who has beaten him a couple times before.  I'm sure he felt cautious about this one, knowing Davydenko had really stretched him in Oz a couple years ago, plus had recently been a finalist in Doha a couple weeks ago.  However, Davy certainly wasn't up to form, making many, many unforced errors and really making it pretty easy for Roger.

Of course, this sets up what has been getting a lot of attention in the media - Fed vs. Tomic at the AO.  Tomic is taking full advantage of the situation and saying things that frankly I hope get him into some trouble.  Yes he has turned his game around from the depths it had fallen to the second half of last year, and yes he beat Novak Djokovic in an exhibition match, meaning he obviously is playing some good tennis, but it seems he may be setting himself up to be made a bit of a fool of if he isn't able to live up to his own expectations, after making comments implying Federer may not even make it to the 3rd round - even though it hasn't happened in over eight years.  It all remains to be seen how this match will go, but I hope that Roger teaches his young opponent that he is still the master.

I am finding that I had already forgotten, in the 4-5 months since the last major, how much of the action we don't get to see,. especially in the first couple rounds.  There is just so much tennis going on, and I feel like I have seen just a tiny fraction of it, in spite of watching hours and hours a day.  But one thing that does seem evident is that the top players for both the men and women are in tip top form, with some of the women hardly losing any games in their first two rounds.  Things will start heating up more now for some of them and we have some good matches to look forward to, like Maria Sharaova vs Venus in third round action.

And I have to make mention of the sad situation that happened for Sam Stosur the other night.  She has always struggled to play in her home country and once again her nerves got the best of her.  It was heart wrenching to watch.  After dropping the first set and looking like the same old - same old, she managed to get things together, won the second set and was up 5-2 in the third.  Then the demons attacked again.  She got broken serving for it the first time.  Oh well, she has another insurance break, she can do it the next time.  Not so.  Errors, tentative play, and aggression from her opponent caused her to lose her serve again.  Then discouragement took over and her opponent took advantage.  Soon the match was over with her losing the last five games of the match.  I have major sympathy for her.  All the advice in the world doesn't seem to help.  I really hope for her sake she can find a new way to wrestle through this incredibly frustrating malady.

For those who are still alive in the tournament, though, on to the third round.  And many of us are needing to adopt the hash tag the AO twitter page is using - sleepisfortheweak!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Great start for Federer

Some of the nerves that Federer fans were feeling before Roger's first match, after his not having played a competitive tour match in two months, were put to rest today with a straight forward win against Benoit Paire.  The relaxed expression on his face in his on court interview was the feeling of the entire match.  It never felt stressful in any way in his 6-2 6-4 6-1 breeze through to the 2nd round.  While it's true that Paire was definitely helping the cause by making quite a lot of errors, almost to the point of seeming like he wasn't trying sometimes, the winner's coming off the Fed's racquet were beautiful indeed.  

Now his second round match may be a different story if Davydenko lives up to his potential.  However, seeing the form he was in this match still put some fears to rest about how he would come into the tournament.  He seemed very equal to the form of Djokovic and Murray, who both looked very sharp themselves.  Granted, a lot can happen over a two week period and it's pretty hard to predict how things will go from one round to the next, but I am at least feeling quite confident from his first showing.

Of course there are many stories going on already in these two days in both the men's and women's game but I won't go into all that at this point in the tournament.  However, I can sleep well tonight knowing that Roger came out in great form, which makes the happy slam all the happier.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Draws and fun times

Anticipation is high with predictions abounding as we inch ever closer to the first major of the year.  The predictions, however, are almost all the same - Djokovic and Serena holding the trophies in two weeks time.  While I believe this is very likely myself, what's the fun of the build-up to the final if we already know the result?

With the draw being so heavily favored to Djokovic, having pretty much of a cake-walk most of the time, and being the lucky one to get Ferrer in his half (although Ferrer has already won two titles this year, just winning his second this weekend, to beat Djokovic in the semi would be a bit of a miracle), he pretty much has a shoe-in to the final.  Federer by far has the hardest draw, with one of the biggest concerns, in my mind, being his second round most probably against Davydenko.  He really struggled against him here a couple years ago, and anyone who saw Davydenko play against Ferrer knows that he still has the capability to play amazing tennis.  Then, of course, there is Bernard Tomic, the tanker and troublemaker from last season who seems to have gotten his life together with a new focus on tennis.  He just won his first ATP title in Sydney and could face Fed in the third round.  Aussie support will be strongly in Tomic's favor, but Roger is used to those moments.  Roger could also see Raonic in the fourth round, who he has lost a set to every time they have played.  However, I think in a best of five format that he will come through.  My hope is that he won't come out looking rusty from lack of match play but will be mentally prepared for the onslaught and that these challenging matches will toughen him up for later in the tournament.  I definitely think he has a chance to win it this year.

As for the women, Serena most certainly is the very heavy favorite, but there are definitely others who have a shot - Azarenka, Sharapova, and I am even going to throw in Radwanska, who is on a roll, not having lost a set yet this year in two tournaments, and actually posting a double bagel in the final in Sydney, something that hasn't been done in a final since 2006.  I really feel for Caroline Wozniacki, who is drawn to face Sabine Lisicki in her first round match, a very challenging hard hitting player.  I really hope Caro can figure out a way to get through this one or I'm afraid to see what will happen with her year.

And on the fun side of things, the Australian Open Kids Day saw some of the top players having a good time on the court, along with some characters like Sponge Bob.  I had to watch it with no sound but it was enjoyable to see them relaxed before the serious stuff starts.  The part I have most enjoyed, though, is seeing a few pictures of the Federer twins.  Here are a few to show how cute and grown up they are getting:

The next post I write will be about the real action at the Aussie Open.  Let the tournament begin!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

So much tennis action!

It was quite a first week of the season.  During the week or two before majors when there are a lot of smaller tournaments going on for both men and women, sometimes there is so much action happening that it's pretty much impossible, even for the most hard core tennis fan, to keep up with it all.  My tournaments of choice to pay attention to were Brisbane, Doha and the final in Auckland.

Aga Radwanska had the privilege of being the first person of the year to claim a title, doing so by beating Yanina Wickmeyer.  Though she looked a little shaky in her semifinal, she held strong to get through tho the final and claimed the title with a 6-4 6-4 win.

The final in Doha really showed the precarious nature of tennis scoring.  Played between Nikolay Davedenko and Richard Gasquet, Davydenko clearly was control of the match, winning the first set, with a break in the second and break points for a second break.  It looked like it would probably be a 6-3 6-2 scoreline, with Davydenko having played an aggressive match with many high quality shots.  Given that he hadn't been broken for the whole tournament so far it looked like a foregone conclusion.  But then, whether it was nerves on his part or determination on the part of Gasquet, things suddenly turned around once Gasquet managed to hold serve and momentum slowly began to shift.  Davydenko was broken for the first time trying to serve it out and Gasquet won the tiebreak and carried the momentum through the third set to victory.  I have seen it way too often in my own matches - sometimes if you let an opportunity slip through your fingers you're not going to end up with another one.  Credit to Gasquet for the fightback, but Davydenko's got to be kicking himself for letting that one go.  And on a side note, the match he played in the semi against David Ferrer was really jaw dropping tennis.  If you didn't see it and can find a replay on the internet, definitely inspiring tennis to watch.

Serena showed that she is serious this week in Brisbane with her comprehensive win over Pavyluchenkova.  She has implied that she could see herself winning all four majors this year.  After watching her win that title I certainly could agree.

I was impressed with first time finalist Grigor Dimitrov, who played in the hopes of getting his first ATP title against Andy Murray in Brisbane.  In both sets he was up a break and was playing some really impressive tennis.  He really didn't show any nerves at the start - the nerves came when he had to try to close the deal.  He started making more errors and Murray showed himself to be the more mature and higher ranked player in the moments he needed to in order to win the the title in a tight two sets.  Dimitrov showed himself someone to be reckoned with this year if he can keep up that level of play.  I could also see why he is sometimes called Baby Federer because his style of play does have a lot of similarities.

Li Na also won a title in a tournament in her home country, Janko Tipsarevic claimed one in Chennai India (against a finalist I had never even heard of, with all the other seeds falling early), and Spain was able to overcome Serbia in the exhibition Hopman Cup, in spite of the duo of Djokovic-Ivanovic teaming up.

Ok, I may have missed something, but that is a lot of tennis activity.  This week the majority of the top men will be resting and preparing while many of the top women are playing in small preparation tournaments.  In the meantime I am counting the days to Australia!

Friday, January 4, 2013

A visit with Roger

Roger Federer took a little detour to Singapore with Credit Suisse on his way to Australia.  It's great to hear him talking about all kinds of things from his 2012 season, his extended practice time, his foundation, his family and many other topics.  So pour yourself a cup of coffee and enjoy this nice long visit with Roger:


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Waiting for the Australian Open

Tennis action is starting to heat up as we inch toward what we are all waiting for - the first major of 2013!  I started out just half-heartedly watching some of the matches this week according to what is on TV in my area, but as the week has progressed I have begun paying more attention, finding some matches on the computer that weren't on TV, beginning to get into the spirit of the new season.

For example, I was very impressed with a girl I had never heard of before, Monica Puig.  This 19-year-old from Puerto Rico and ranked in the 100s gave #5 ranked Angelique Kerber a real run for her money, taking her to a 3rd set tiebreak.  Those two were going for it with everything they had on every point.  It was very inspirational tennis and I'm sure we will see more of her this year.

It was encouraging seeing Gael Monfils playing in Doha.  After being out of the tennis world for a few months following a knee injury and now ranked at 77, Monfils looked as if he plans on a move back up the ranks, playing some really good tennis to beat Kohlschreiber.  He did, however, have a little run-in with the chair umpire after being warned that he was taking too long between points.  The often ignored rule of 25 seconds between points is actually going to be enforced this year, with loss of serve after the first warning for the server (hmm, maybe that's the real reason Rafa decided not to play this month?), which happened to Feliciano Lopez in his lackluster loss the other day.  I'm really happy that they're finally cracking down on this and hope it continues.

Though I am ready for the next week-and-a-half to go by to get to the tournament we're really waiting for, and in spite of several top seeds going out early in the women's game, I'm glad to at least be watching some great tennis that has actually inspired my own game, which had been suffering the last couple times I played.  Today I was able to apply some of the tactics I had seen in a few of the matches I watched and had some good success. 

I don't know how much the tournaments this week really mean when it comes to predictions at the Australian Open (such as Djokovic's loss to Tomic in the Hopman Cup), but it's fun to see some of the players out on the court again knowing we have some great things to look forward to right around the corner.