Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tournament Preview: KDB Korea Open, Seoul – Wozniacki Seeks to Rescue a Disappointing Season

Barely a week after the US Open climaxed in a thrilling final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, the WTA juggernaut moves onto the first phase of its Asian swing. This week, there are International-level tournaments taking place in Guangzhou, China and Seoul, South Korea. Both events offer an opportunity for lower-ranked players to accumulate some points and prize money, as well as for some more high-profile stars to regain some of their lost form.
 One of those stars is Caroline Wozniacki, who enters Seoul as the top seed. Wozniacki was criticised throughout 2011 for playing too many “lesser” events such as this, accused of trying to rack up ranking points in smaller tournaments to make up for underwhelming performances in the grand slams. In 2012, however, Wozniacki has participated in only one International event, and that was in her home town of Copenhagen, the de facto “Wozniacki Open”. She has had a very difficult season, spinning from the top of the rankings to 11th, with many disappointing losses along the way.
Ironically, as the 2012 season enters the home straight, Wozniacki might be advised to play in as many tournaments as she can. For the first time since 2008, it is highly possible that the Dane will not make it to the end-of-year championships. This would be a further blow to her confidence, which has been plummeting throughout the year. She still has a chance to make it to the elite eight-player event in Istanbul, but she needs to start winning, starting in Seoul.
 For a supposedly smaller event, the draw features a lot of very accomplished players, and the top eight seeds are all in the top 30. Wozniacki will begin her campaign against the young Dutch player, Arantxa Rus. She will be the heavy favourite in that match, and would also be tipped to ease through a second round clash against either a qualifier or Alexandra Cadentu of Romania. In the quarter-finals, the competition will become noticeably stiffer, with 28th-ranked Klara Zakopalova her likely opponent. The Czech is nearing the end of her career, but is still capable of causing huge problems for the top players, as seen in her three-set battle at the French Open against Maria Sharapova.
 Should Wozniacki make it to the last four, and should results follow the seedings, she would encounter Russian veteran Nadia Petrova, another player who pushed Sharapova to the limit in the US Open. Wozniacki has won their last four meetings, but it has been a long time since their rankings were a mere seven spaces apart.
The lower half of the draw is also full of talented and formidable players, including rising American Varvara Lepchenko and second-seeded Maria Kirilenko. Somewhat ominously from Wozniacki’s point of view, her potential opponents in the final could be any one of three players who have handed her tough losses this year: Julia Georges, Kaia Kanepi and Tamira Paszek.
 So, for Wozniacki, victory in the Korea Open is far from a foregone conclusion. But if she can summon her best tennis, the event could well serve as a late turning-point for the Dane as she bids to finish her season on a high. Winning the title in Seoul would not only do wonders for her confidence, rake in useful ranking points and improve her chances of making it to the marquee Istanbul championships; it would also guarantee her a back-up place in the Tournament of Champions in Sofia. There is a lot to play for.

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ATP Metz Draw Preview and Analysis

The ATP World Tour returns to Europe after the US Open, this time to the French indoor hard courts of Metz. Since Metz returned to the tennis circuit in 2003 winners have included world no. 2 Novak Djokovic and Frenchmen Gael Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga heads the field here as top seed and has a bye to the second round. Edouard Roger-Vasselin takes on a fellow countryman in qualifier Clement Reix. Having disappointed so much at the US Open, Tsonga will be looking to redeem himself here and the fast court should certainly be to his liking. Fresh off winning his countries decisive rubber in Davis Cup action at the weekend, Cedrik Marcel Stebeshould be full of confidence when he takes on Jesse Levine. Levine is an accomplished hard court player at challenger level but has struggled to make the step up to the main tour. His devastating defeat in New York is unlikely to fill him with confidence either. One of two German lucky losers, Michael Berrer will be happy with his draw here. He takes on Jan Hajek whose best performances have been on clay – Hajek is 0-8 at ATP level in the past two years on all types of hard courts.
In what should be a display of massive serving, big men Kenny de Schepper and Ivo Karlovic will duke it out for an opportunity to take on the third seed Marcel Granollers. Expect tie breaks here! Wildcard Paul Henri-Mathieu finally broke back into the top 100 after making the final of Petange challenger. His opponent will be Gilles Muller who, as top seed, was a shock early exit in the same tournament. Mischa Zverev‘s reward for qualifying is a tie with eighth seed/wildcard Nikolay Davydenko. The pair met twice in late 2010 and split matches. While Davydenko hasn’t had a great season on the whole, he did impress on one of his previous indoor tournaments this year. He managed to take a set against Roger Federer at Rotterdam and had numerous break opportunities in the final set that he was unable to convert.
After some disappointing defeats since London, Andreas Seppi will be happy to have got some wins under his belt in Davis Cup action. His hard court form, indoor or outdoor, hasn’t been great though and this could be an opportunity for Ivan Dodig to spring a shock. He will have been disappointed to lose to eventual Petange winner Tobias Kamke last week having had a break lead in the final set but did show some promising play. Another French qualifier in Vincent Millot will be hoping to move through to the next round when he faces Dutchman Igor Sijsling. Sijsling impressed against David Ferrer at the US Open and was unfortunate not to take an epic tiebreaker that eventually won the match for Ferrer. After picking up two Davis Cup victories for Germany, Florian Mayer will be hoping to keep his winning run going but has a potentially dangerous opponent in James Blake. While not as consistent these days, the American’s explosive hitting can still trouble many. It was there for all to see at the US Open when Blake blew Spaniard Marcel Granollers off the court.
After a long layoff from injury Gael Monfils finally returns to the tour but has a tough opening fixture. Despite his small stature, Olivier Rochus has often troubled Monfils – as shown by their 3-3 record. They have not played since 2010 but Monfils was successful on that occasion on the indoor courts of Stockholm.Nicolas Mahut is always a danger on fast surfaces and should be able to defeat lucky loser Daniel Brands. Both players most recently had disappointing results in the US Open, Mahut lost from two sets up against Philipp Petzschner while Daniel Brands almost came back from two sets down to defeat Marin Cilic but couldn’t handle the pressure late on, allowing the Croatian to progress. Finally, Benoit Paire has a chance for revenge against Philipp Kohlschreiber for his US Open defeat. Paire served for the match in the fifth in a rollercoaster match but was unable to convert and lost in the tie break. The unpredictable Frenchman must however first defeat Xavier Malisse.
Finals Prediction – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeats Florian Mayer
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Mankato West tops East/Loyola in inaugural Cup tennis match

MANKATO — Football has the Jug. Soccer has Pack the Stands.

Tennis? Well, it’s time for a new tradition between the Mankato West and Mankato East/Loyola teams.

On Tuesday at the East courts, the West girls became the first winner of the Cup, a trophy that will go to the winner of each match between the Scarlets and Cougars — girls in the fall, boys in the spring.

West won the Big Nine Conference meet 6-1 and earned the No. 1 seed in the Section 2AA, South Subsection tournament, which begins in two weeks.

But the Cup was an extra bonus.

“We had a nice time with it, got a group picture with it,” West coach Adam Doll said.

Doll said the old trophy was found in a box given to him this summer. Doll thought it would make a nice addition to the rivalry, especially among a group of players who spend much of the summer playing USTA tennis together.

The front of the trophy has the inscription “Greater Mankato Tennis.” The other side shows that a player named Bob Bigelow won it in 1968 and 1969.

The Scarlets, who are ranked No. 14 in the coaches association poll, won two three-setters Tuesday.

At the No. 1 singles spot, Andrea Erdman defeated Libby Andrego 7-6, 2-6, 6-3 in a 2-hour, 45-minute match. At No. 1 doubles, Miranda Wynkoop and Justine Scheller defeated Kjersten Lemke and Paige Lingbeck 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“We had to show up to play,” Doll said. “It’s hard coaching against these kids who I’ve spent time with in the summer program. But it’s fun to play each other and see time spent over summer and improvement on both sides of the court.”

Lauren Makela, Julia Snelson and Maddy Valentine also won singles matches for the Scarlets, and West got a win from the No. 3 doubles team of Meaghan Haley and Melissa Lager.

The Cougars’ lone win came at No. 2 doubles where Justine Pasker and Katelyn Scharmer won in straight sets. That duo also won their flight Saturday at the West Invitational.

“We’re looking to get experience and see more of that kind of play,” East/Loyola coach John Romberg said prior to Tuesday’s meet.

West (11-3) will host Owatonna on Thursday with third place in Big Nine Conference on the line. East/Loyola (4-7) will play Thursday at Faribault.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Spain, Czechs set up Davis Cup final clash in Nov

Photo: APCzech Republic's Tomas Berdych celebrates at the end of a Davis Cup semifinal tennis match against Argentina's Carlos Berlocq in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012. Berdych won 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych duly won their singles with little fuss and lined up Spain and the Czech Republic for the Davis Cup final in November.
The No. 5-ranked Ferrer and No. 7 Berdych ensured their teams secured 3-1 semifinal victories with a match to spare. Spain won a 24th straight home tie since 2000 in beating the United States in Gijon, and the Czechs handed Argentina in Buenos Aires its first home loss on clay since 1998.
The Czechs will host their first cup final since 1980, when they won their only cup as the former Czechoslovakia. It's set for Nov. 16-18. "This is going to be the highlight of my career up until now," Berdych said. "It is going to be very difficult playing against Spain, the champion, but at least we are lucky to be playing at home."
Spain, the team of the century so far, will be bidding for its fourth title in five years, among them a 5-0 sweep of the Czechs in the 2009 final in Barcelona. Ferrer beat John Isner 6-7 (3), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, his speed and defense inducing 70 unforced errors from Isner, who took out his frustration by slamming and kicking his racket. Ferrer has won all 16 of his cup singles on clay.
"(Ferrer's) a guy who never gives up, he's a gladiator and he knows the way he needs to play on clay, the way he needs to move and hit the ball," Spain captain Alex Corretja said. "It's been a wonderful year and now we want to go for more, of course."
Ferrer, in the absence of the unavailable Rafael Nadal, will have a chance to lead Spain to a fourth Davis Cup title in his career. "This is the competition in which I have felt the most emotions in. I'm a team player," he said. "I don't know how much longer my career will last so I want to do my best possible in the Davis Cup. Alex Corretja motivated me to play this season."
In Buenos Aires, Berdych accounted for cup debutant Carlos Berlocq 6-3, 6-3, 6-4. It's the sixth time in the cup that Berdych has played three matches in a tie and the third time he's won all three. He also did it against Serbia in the quarterfinals in April.
"To win three points in three days — especially in this place — I just feel great," Berdych said. Berdych's achievement was made easier when Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro aggravated his left wrist injury in winning his Friday singles and had to withdraw before his scheduled match with Berdych.
Meanwhile, in the playoffs to make next year's World Group, Germany came from 2-1 down to beat Australia 3-2 in Hamburg and keep the Aussies in zonal play for a sixth straight year. Brazil earned promotion after nine years away by beating Russia, which was demoted for the first time in 19 years. Brazil avenged its loss to Russia, the 2002 and 2006 champion, in the same stage a year ago.
Japan's first appearance in the World Group after 26 years was brief after Israel won 3-2 in Tokyo, and the Roger Federer-led Switzerland was the only other team aside from Israel to win away, beating the Netherlands 3-2 in Amsterdam.
Sweden will lose its record of most World Group appearances (31) to the U.S. and Czech Republic after being swept by Belgium, Italy beat Chile 4-1 to stay up, Canada defeated South Africa, and Kazakhstan topped Uzbekistan 3-1.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

US Open 2012 Andy Murray vs. Novak Djokovic


A surprising match-up will feature in the final round of the 2012 US Open men’s singles event. Andy Murray gracefully withstood the offensive pressure brought by semi-final opponent Tomas Berdych 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 7(9)-6(7). World no. 2 Novak Djokovic escalated to the final round once more by routing a hard-working David Ferrer 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.

Match Preview

The postponement of Djokovic’s match to a later time meant that Murray has the advantage of longer rest hours than his Serbian opponent. That does not mean to say that Murray has a stronger chance of winning against Djokovic. The Serbian world no. 2 showed that he could keep his composure against longer-rested opponents when he beat Ferrer, who had a rest time longer by seven hours. Djokovic took advantage of Ferrer’s loss of momentum in beating him within four sets. To counter that, Murray has to keep his form consistency in check while resting.

Murray’s fine movements and techniques in playing hard-court matches showed his advantage over his opponents in the previous rounds. Djokovic is perhaps the only player who can equal him on those terms – his powerful forehand and backhand enable him to fire up his offense. Murray might encounter problems in that aspect, as shown in his quarterfinals against Marin Cilic and semi-finals over Berdych. A stronger repeat of his fourth round step-up against Milos Raonic could empower Murray in playign against tough oponnent Djokovic.

While Murray lost three sets and Djokovic only one in the entire tournament, the impressive form of the Scot this year can earn him his first Grand Slam title in the form of the US Open. This tournament is his third successive final round in a major tournament this year – one in Wimbledon and another in his successful gold-medal run in the London Olympic Games. Murray’s hunger for a Grand Slam title provides a strong motivation to win against Djokovic – arguably his toughest rival in the tournament.

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Murray and Djokovic [Photograph]. (2012). Retrieved 10 September 2012, from <>

Friday, September 7, 2012

US Open 2012 Tomas Berdych vs. Andy Murray


Tomas Berdych successfully upset world no. 1 Roger Federer in a gruelling 7(7)-6(1), 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 match, earning him a slot to compete in this year’s US Open semi-finals. His opponent will be Andy Murray, who trounced Marin Cilic 3-6, 7(7)-6(4), 6-2, 6-0.

Match Preview

2005 Davidoff Swiss Indoors Basel
4-6, 6-2, 4-6
2006 Adelaide
7-6, 4-6, 6-1
2010 French Open
6-4, 7-5, 6-3
2011 Masters Series Paris
4-6, 7-6, 6-4
2012 Dubai Tennis Championships
3-6, 5-7
2012 Masters Series Monte Carlo
6-7, 6-2, 6-3

Murray met Berdych in six previous fixtures, winning twice and losing four times. His best run in the US Open was in 2008, when he reached the final but lost to Roger Federer, while Berdych reached the tournament’s semi-finals for the first time this year. Murray’s persistency can serve as a distraction to Berdych, who appears to become nervous especially when a win becomes more apparent for him.

Berdych successfully went past through Federer’s defensive play through his commanding shots. Murray’s defensive style grows stronger when the shots grow deeper – a problem that the Czech has to face in the semi-finals. Berdych gave Federer a hard time through his serves, but Murray’s tendency to give back accurate returns can stir pressure in the game.

Both Berdych and Murray have the tendency to meet shorter shots with their forehand, but the British can benefit from the Czech’s inflexible movements in returning low shots. Murray executes one of the finest elastic movements in professional tennis – something that can provide difficulties to the tall Berdych.

Murray’s deeper experience in Grand Slam events provides him a great advantage in this tournament. He reached the finals of the Wimbledon this year, Australian Open in 2010 and 2011, US Open in 2008, apart from reaching the French Open semi-finals in 2011. Berdych has not gone further than Murray’s Grand Slam record, his highest record being his 2010 Wimbledon final. That accounts for his inconsistency to maintain great form throughout major tournaments, although part of his qualities is the ability to upset top players in single fixtures.

Murray stands to win this tournament in three sets. His flexibility and resolve determined by defensive tactics can counter Berdych’s aggressive style.

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Photo credits:

Berdych and Murray [Photograph]. (2012). Retrieved 7 September 2012, from <>