Thursday, February 28, 2013

Impressive quarterfinals in Dubai

I think all the top seeds were anxious to get off court quickly in their quarterfinal matches to be ready for what will, I'm sure, be much more challenging semis.  The most games lost by any of them was 6.  I wasn't able to watch much of Del Potro or Berdych, but Djokovic looked as impressive as he has all week.  And Federer has significantly raised his game, looking the best he has since probably the Tomic match at the Australian Open.  He was always firmly in control of the match; Davydenko simply had nothing to offer whatsoever with all that was being thrown at him.  Roger's ball striking was superb and his movement around court very impressive.  It would be hard to see anyone beating him in this form.

The semis should be quite interesting between Del Potro-Djokovic and Berdych-Federer.  Though I would expect a Federer-Djokovic final, nothing is sure with these top players.  If they are all playing as well as they did in the quarters we could be set for some really great matches!

If you haven't seen the CNN interview of Roger Federer talking about topics like his recent South Africa trip and his tennis goals it is definitely worth a watch!

And finally, If you don't have Twitter or don't follow little Michaela Bryan you have really missed out on "her" ingenious tweets that always cheer up my day.  Along the same lines, USA Today has come up with a great "interview" of the little 1-year-old celeb.  You will definitely be missing out on a good laugh if you don't take the time to read this one:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On to the quarters

I was very happy with Roger's Federer's 2nd round win in Dubai against Granollers.  He looked much more settled in every aspect of his game than he did in the first round.  His serve was quite effective and he had some really beautiful winning shots.  He was able to get the break points that he needed and was clutch in saving the few break points against him.  And serving out both sets was very quick and easy.

I think there is actually quite a lot of pressure on him for this tournament.  He wasn't able to defend his title in Rotterdam, instead getting only to the quarterfinals, so losing quite a few points from that.  As he won the title in Dubai and also in the next two Masters 1000s that he plays last year, that is an awful lot of points to defend.  It would do his confidence a world of good to be able to win again this week before heading to Indian Wells (where I am very much looking forward to watching him play live!).

Of course, he will need to continue to play well against Davydenko, who he has a great record against, but then will likely face Berdych in the semis, who has been an Achilles heel for him, and if he can get past him then likely a very on-form Novak Djokovic in the final.  This is a stacked players field at the top and he certainly has his work cut out for him.

I only today realized that this tournament is a day ahead of most, with the final being played on Saturday instead of Sunday, maybe to give the players a little more time to head to the States for the upcoming big event.  I hope to be watching a great final come Saturday.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Catching up on the tennis world

I'm afraid I have been slacking a bit on blog posts lately.  I still follow all the tennis going on as closely as I can, but with all the little tournaments it's just a bit harder to find the excitement level to write about it.  It doesn't help when much of it isn't televised live, and watching it live on the computer at uncomfortable hours often isn't an option (unless it's a certain guy by the name of Roger Federer).  Unfortunately I wasn't able to watch any of the Tsonga-Berdych match, though that would have been a good one and I was happy to see that Tsonga had won, saving two match points in the process.  I was disappointed to miss all but the last few games of the Ferrer-Wawrinka match due to a prior commitment.  I was glad Stan was able to take a set, but in the end Ferrer was just too strong on clay.

I did follow pretty closely the women's tournament in Dubai, however, and enjoyed seeing some good tennis.  I was glad to see Caroline Wozniacki playing well again, though she just didn't have enough against Petra Kvitova, who was really on her game.  The final against Kvitova and Erani was one of those really strange matches where one set looked completely different from the next, with the scoreline being 6-2 1-6 6-1.  Kvitova is just one of those players where, when things are working for her, she is almost impossible to beat.  Some of the winners she hits are just bullets through the court with not the slightest chance of being returned.  But when things go off, they really go off.  It was good to see her winning another title after some struggles for a while to find her real game.

I also was able to watch the semis and final of the ATP Memphis tournament.  Kei Nishikori played some brilliant tennis against Feli Lopez, seeming to get back almost everything Lopez threw at him and hitting just punishing shots to win his 3rd career title.  It was the semifinal Lopez played against Istomin, however, that was more intriguing to me, particularly the end.  It was match point for Lopez and he hit what both he and his opponent thought was an ace.  They both came to the net and had shaken hands when the chair umpire finally got their attention to tell them the serve was a let.  It has been 40-15 and Lopez went on to lose the next three points.  I was getting pretty nervous for him that he was going to get broken and potentially go on to lose the match after already having celebrated his victory.  However, he held his nerve and managed to come back to win the game and the match.  Though I'm sure he is disappointed to lose in the final, that is still so much better than losing in the semi when he thought he had it won.  I had never seen that situation happen before.

 And now on to the really important stuff - Roger Federer is in Dubai getting prepared to try to defend his title from last year, not to mention that he has won here five times already.  Hopefully being back in the warm climate again after the cold in Rotterdam, and being back with his family again will up his game and produce his first title of 2013.  Of course, Novak Djokovic, will have something to say about this.  It will be Novak's first tournament back in action since Australia and he will be anxious to re-solidify his #1 ranking.

I was encouraged by a couple of the things Roger had to say to the media in the last week, one of them being:  "I strongly believe I have more Slams in me."  That is something every Fed fan likes to hear because no matter how much we believe in him, he also needs to have the belief himself that he can still win out in a major over his younger competitors.  He also said this about whether he could return to #1 again:  ''Absolutely realistic, if you play great."  Here's hoping that he can start that playing great pattern this week in Dubai and show that he is still fully in there.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Roger visits South Africa

Though I know most Federer fans will have seen this video by now, I have to post it anyway.  I am so impressed that someone of his caliber, the greatest of all time tennis player, still pursuing tennis at the highest level, traveling with his wife and two kids all around the world, busy with so many commitments between sponsors, media and fans, is taking the time on his week off between tournaments to travel to the poorest part of South Africa to visit kids who are benefiting from the Roger Federer foundation.  It is very endearing to watch him here with these young kids, playing with them, reading them a story, even wiping one of their noses with a tissue.  You can tell he's not just doing it because he is supposed to but because he truly cares about helping others less fortunate.  He is a truly great ambassador for the sport of tennis and I am proud to be his fan.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

A busy tennis weekend!

It was a busy tennis week this last week I realized as I was trying to find time to watch four different finals on Sunday.  As I digested my disappointment that I wouldn't be watching Roger Federer in either the semifinal or final of Rotterdam I had to remind myself that I am a tennis fan, not just a Fedfan, and that I could still enjoy watching some good tennis even though I wasn't watching my favorite.  So putting my disappointment aside I was able to appreciate the good matches that were still on the docket for the weekend.

In spite of this, though, I admit that none of the matches turned out the way I had hoped.  Though I for the most part like Juan Martin Del Potro and would usually want him to win when he's not playing Roger, I couldn't help but feel the pain for Julien Benneteau for his previous losses in finals and really wanted to see him break through this time.  Almost the whole match though it felt like he was just trying to keep up with the great play of Delpo and in the end there really was nothing he could do against someone playing this well.  JMDP deserved this win, after a poor showing in last year's final, and poor Benneteau once again had to face another disappointment.  Though not one of my favorites, and certainly a threat always now to Federer, I really hope he gets his breakthrough title at some point before he retires.  

In the women's final, though I'm not always one to cheer for Serena, in this case after the emotion shown after regaining #1 I was really hoping she would be holding the trophy at the end to supplement her great accomplishment.  She just didn't seem herself in this match, though, never seeming fully comfortable, and Victoria Azarenka wasn't about to be intimidated.  I'm sure it felt so good to her to prove that she had been the valid #1 by beating her replacement.  It will be interesting to see upcoming matches between the two.

I didn't see the full final between Nadal and Nalbandian, really only some of the second set, but my impression of what I saw was that Rafa still wasn't playing like his normal self, making quite a few errors, but when Nalbandian was in a great position with two breaks in the 2nd set he just folded and gave it away.  I think it will be a test for Nadal in his next tournament where Ferrer will also be playing, so we'll see what his form is by the end of February for his next tournament.  I'm sure he felt very happy to be holding another trophy, though, whether he played his best or not.

In the final match of the day I was really hoping to see Tommy Haas pull it off.  I have liked Tommy for a long time, and I think it's a real inspiration to see him playing great tennis at the age of 34 after a long injury timeout.  He really didn't even have a chance, however, with the way Milos Raonic was playing.  I don't know what it is about the conditions in San Jose, but he wasn't giving an inch on his service games, and the return winners that he was hitting on Tommy's service games were incredible.  I'm sure he wishes he could buy the tournament himself to keep it in San Jose where he has had so much success, winning it three times in a row.  To be honest, though, what I was thinking at the end of the match was that I really hope he's not in Federer's draw for Indian Wells!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Two different experiences for the 31-year-olds

I guess I will cover the happier news first.  It was an emotional day for Serena Williams as she regained the #1 ranking.  Her match against Petra Kvitova was a topsy turvy sort with Petra looking the most on-form I have seen her in a long time.  Serena seemed at a loss to know what to do at times, making more errors than we normally see from her.  After losing the first set Williams came back to win the 2nd but was immediately broken again in the third.  It was hard to figure out whether she was simply not feeling well from an obvious cold or if her emotions were just getting the best of her as at times she seemed close to tears after missing routine shots.  Though she had said after her last match basically that regaining the number 1 ranking wasn't too important to her, it became obvious toward the end of the match that it truly was, and when she managed to fight her way back from the brink of loss to take the match 7-5 in the third, her emotions betrayed the fact that it actually meant the world to her.  As she said, she has been through so much and to get back as the oldest ever female #1 at 31 years old is an incredible gift.  It was even hard to hold back the emotion as an observer.

Another 31-year-old had a very different experience on the same day.  

Suffering the 200th loss of his career, on the day that his opponent ironically earned his 200th win, Roger Federer obviously was having a bad day in the office.  For those who watch him play often it was quickly apparent that his game wasn't working for him against a very inspired player in Julien Benneteau.  I'm sure Benneteau was hoping to exact a bit of revenge after the loss suffered at Wimbledon after being up two sets to none.  He probably figured this was his chance, especially when he saw that Roger wasn't on his game.  I mean, double faulting four times isn't something we normally see.  Every time I would start thinking he was starting to pull things together it would quickly go sideways again.  It was a disappointing loss for those who have been waiting to see him play again, hoping for another tournament win.  Instead we will see him lose quite a few ranking points.  His fans got spoiled between the fall of 2011 and all of 2012, seeing  him win many titles, and it's difficult to get back to the reality that he is 31 and isn't winning everything again now.  

Apparently he is taking a trip to South Africa before the Dubai tournament to support his foundation, hoping to get to meet Nelson Mandela.  Hopefully he will be able to find enough practice time to get his game together in the next week-and-a-half to perform better in Dubai and especially Indian Wells, being that he has 1,500 points to defend between those two tournaments.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Roger's Rotterdam interview

Here's an interview with Roger where he talks about taming his temper, missing out on Miami, his goals, and being a nice guy.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nadal questions continue

Wow, who is this guy Horacio Zeballos?  After all, he's not some hot new kid bursting onto the scene who everyone suddenly is thinking will be the next big thing.  This is a 27-year-old Argentine who has been around the pro tour for quite some time, often losing in the early rounds of tournaments and never having won a title, ranked this week at 73.  Yet here he is as now the only lefty to beat Rafael Nadal on red clay, the only other guy not named Federer or Djokovic to beat him in a clay court final.

The question is, is this someone who played an amazing week of tennis and just happened to catch a still rusty Nadal on his first week back on tour after over seven months away, or is this someone to really keep an eye on?  He may very well be just another Rosol who took advantage of his opportunity and will just fade away again after his moments in the limelight.  But no one can take away from him this amazing moment of winning his very first title on a clay court against the King of Clay.  Yes Nadal may have been rusty, but Zeballos played some amazing tennis, holding his nerve when so many falter and continuing to bring it when things got tight.  

I admit I was stunned when Zeballos broke back after Nadal took an easy break in the third set.  I mean, it's one thing to win a 2nd set tiebreak, but then reality sets in and Nadal becomes Nadal again.  But Zeballos wasn't going to let this opportunity slip away and he continued to dictate points, hitting one winner after another, finally breaking him at love to win the championship, falling to the ground in tears.

I guess the part that was surprising to me was that I was assuming, since Rafa had come through most of his matches fairly easy after a little hiccup at the beginning of his first one, that given the competition the final would be an easy straight setter given his opponent.  In fact, I didn't even record the match when I had my own tennis going on because I figured it really wouldn't be worth watching.  What a surprise when I came in halfway through the second set to watch it all unfold.  So really our questions about Nadal's return aren't answered yet, and probably won't be until the clay court masters tournaments begin in the spring, followed by the all important French Open.  The next couple weeks of his South America swing will be interesting as the competition heats up.  Will this loss today dent his confidence or fuel his fire?  Lots of questions, which is what keeps the tennis circuit continue to hold our attention - that and the fact that Roger Federer will be back on court this week in Rotterdam!!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rafa's back, and thoughts on Roger

The biggest news in tennis these days seems to be Rafael Nadal's return to competition after over 7 months away due to injury.  He was successful in his first appearance in doubles with partner Juan Monaco and now has also played his singles match.  He started out nervously, getting broken immediately and barely winning any points in the first couple games.  He eventually was able to break back after a long game on his opponent's serve, however, and that seemed to give him confidence.  Though he wasn't playing anywhere near his best, by the second set there were some typical Nadal-on-clay type shots that should make him and his team feel encouraged for the future.  It will be interesting in the next few matches when he has at least a bit stiffer competition if the rust will still be evident or if he will start looking quickly like the old Rafa again.  I know every tennis fan is very curious to see what 2013 will hold for Mr. Nadal.

When Roger Federer isn't playing, even if there is other tennis going on, I can't help but start thinking ahead to his next tournament.  Such is the case right now, waiting for three upcoming tournaments he will be playing over the next month.  

As I was thinking about his next three tournaments in Rotterdam, Dubai and Indian Wells, I realized that last year he won all three of these.  Wow, that's impressive! While I doubt that he would be able to repeat this, it certainly would be great if he could win at least one of these.  By doing so he would tie John McEnroe's title count at 77, which I was hoping would happen at the end of last year.  I would love to see him make it to 80 this year, but I am trying to lessen my expectations of what he "should" achieve and just enjoy the moments of getting to see him play his beautiful tennis.  That is hard to fully do, though, and I am hoping for a good result next week in Rotterdam - i.e., holding the trophy at the end.