There were no real surprises in the Davis Cup result this weekend. It was all about getting the job done and winning and that’s what the boys did. Captain Leon Smith knew before the match that he would definitely win the 2 matches against the Tunisian number 2 and the doubles as well, which would give Team Great Britain the 3 rubbers for victory.
Tunisia got off to a perfect start with the Tunisian number 1, Malek Jaziri beating the British number 2 Jamie Baker in 4 sets. Both men were nervous as you would expect in an opening rubber. Both men also struggled with cramp which is unusual for an indoor match. Cramping can happen from being dehydrated, lack of fitness or nerves. I believe it had to be the latter. Then British number 1, James Ward demolished the Tunisian number 2 in 3 easy sets to level the tie at 1 rubber a piece.
I always enjoy the Australian Open because the matches never fail to be interesting and we never quite know the form of the players due to the few preparation tournaments. Going into the event there was a big question mark over how Rafael Nadal was feeling after having a virus in the first week of the year in Doha. Could he make history and hold all four slams at the same time? The only men to do so in the history of tennis are Don Budge and Rod Laver.
The best five men going into the tournament were all playing really well. Roger Federer was going in to the tournament having won Doha. New world number 4, Robin Soderling won Brisbane, while Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray both went undefeated at the Hopman Cup.
The Davis Cup finals between Serbia and France were always going to be a tight affair. A lot of tennis pundits and players thought it was going to go down to the final rubber. Day one was very predictable with Gael Monfils beating Janko Tipsarevic in 3 straight sets. The only surprise was how poorly Tipsarevic played and would his performance cost him his place in the singles on the final day?
In the 2nd rubber Novak Djokovic disposed of Gilles Simon in straight sets. Simon was an interesting choice from the French captain Guy Forget and he made no impact in the match. Would he play in the final match come Sunday?
The Paris Masters Series is the last event of the season to qualify for the ATP Tour Finals at the O2 Arena. I have very fond memories of this event because I won the event in 1998. Unfortunately, this year’s event didn’t get off to a good start with the withdrawal of World Number 1, Rafael Nadal. After that we saw some great tennis this week because of the speed of the court. The court was low bouncing and quick which is unusual on tour. This allowed us to see more serve and volley tennis, which I love to watch. The French player, Michael Llodra, is one of the few pure serve and volley players left in the game and caused the first major upset by beating Novak Djokovic in the third round. He then went on to beat Davydenko before losing to Robin Soderling in the semi-finals, despite having had a few match points. The match against Soderling was superb and could have gone either way. It was wonderful to see a baseliner versus a serve and volleyer. The shot making was majestic.
The last four spots up for grabs at the O2 were clinched by Soderling, Tomas Berdych, David Ferrer and Andy Roddick. After Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray had already qualified. Fernando Verdasco could have got in but the man of the event, Gael Monfils, ended his run in the third round after saving match points against him. Monfils was inspired all week; after beating Verdasco he went on to beat Murray in the quarter-finals and then beat Federer for the first time in the semi-finals. The result against Federer was a massive surprise because Federer was up 4-2 in the third set and had looked like the favorite to win the title all week. Federer was trying to become the first player to be in the Finals of all nine Masters Series events.
Italy was victorious in the Fed Cup final versus the USA this past weekend. It was not a surprise at all because the American side was missing Serena and Venus Williams. Had the Williams sisters been healthy it most likely would have been an American victory.
The Italian side is a very strong team with French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and world class player Flavia Pennetta playing at number 1 and 2 respectively. Day one was very routine for the Italians; Schiavone won easily against 18-year-old Coco Vandeweghe and Pennetta beat Mattek-Sands convincingly as well. Day two was much more interesting because Melanie Oudin of USA came in for the injured Mattek-Sands.
The WTA Tour end of season championships in Doha did not start very well. The crowds for the event’s first few matches were poor. Considering that the top eight players are playing, in a round robin format, all tickets for each session should have been sold out. However Serena and Venus Williams not being able to play due to injury was a major blow for the event. Despite a quiet start, there were a lot of stories to follow. Would Caroline Wozniacki become the 10th woman to end the year world Number 1? She would need to reach the semi-finals to do so. How would US Open champion Kim Clijsters perform after not playing since her grand slam triumph?
The White group was Vera Zvonareva, Kim Clijsters, Jelena Jankovic and Victoria Azarenka. The Maroon group was Wozniacki, Samantha Stosur, Francesca Schiavone and Elena Dementieva.
The Shanghai Masters Series is the first big event to take place after the US Open. The top four players in the world were all there; Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray. Going into the tournament, Nadal had won in Tokyo and Djokovic won in Beijing the week before. Federer on the other hand chose to practice in Dubai for two weeks with British Junior, Ashley Hewitt, which came about because Roger Federer’s coach, Paul Annacone, used to be in charge of men’s tennis in Britain and previously worked with Ashley. What an amazing experience for him. The work with Paul is starting to pay off for Federer, his forehand is looking better and he is willing to come forward more which is a good sign.
The first major shock of the week was Rafael Nadal losing to Jurgen Melzer in the 3rd round. Melzer played the match of his life and won 6-3 in the third set. This has been a breakthrough year for Melzer, the Austrian Number 1; he reached his first Grand Slam semi-final in Paris, won the Wimbledon men’s doubles title, and is currently number 11 in the race for London. Unfortunately for Melzer he lost in the next round to Juan Monaco. Sometimes after a great win you have a dip in form and lose the next match, and that’s what happened to Melzer in the quarter-finals.
The 2010 US Open was a very challenging tournament for all the players this year because of the weather conditions. Players had to deal with a heat wave for the first three days with temperatures well over 100 degrees. Then the mercury dropped into the mid 80s and during the final week dropped to the mid 70’s. With the weather being so hot for the first three days, the players needed to make sure they took shade, ice towels, electrolyte drinks and consumed bananas on court to get potassium into their body. There was a real threat of players cramping with such temperatures. Hydration and prevention were key.
Extremely hot weather favors the more aggressive players and the ones who are in phenomenal shape. Points are quicker as the ball travels through the air faster due to the extreme temperatures. The more the temperature dropped the more it helped baseline players. But for all the players it becomes less physically demanding. There were also heavy winds in these championships which made it very difficult. The top players hate it because it is more of an equalizer for the lesser player because of the unpredictability of the ball moving through the air.
The 2010 US Open is going to be very interesting and unpredictable! This summer on the hard courts Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Mardy Fish, David Nalbandian and Sam Querrey have all won titles. Rafael Nadal is seeded number 1 at the tournament but has not adjusted well enough to the hard courts and unfortunately I don’t believe he will win the title. My prediction is that he will have a run but will still miss out on the one slam that eludes him. Federer goes in as favorite after his victory in Cincinnati and wants to prove to everyone that he is still a major force and can still win slams. Murray will be second favorite because in Toronto he was superb and if he can play attacking and aggressive tennis throughout the fortnight, he has a real chance to win his first grand slam title.
Fish has had a great summer winning in Newport and Atlanta and reaching the finals of Cincinnati. I see him getting to the quarters if the draw works out well. He just doesn’t have enough against the big guys in a three out of five set match. Nalbandian will be a dark horse and I’m guessing no one will want to play him. He is one of the best strikers of the ball and has a brilliant return of serve; he could cause a major upset at this US Open. Querrey won in LA this year and saved a match point against Murray in the finals. With his serve and aggressive baseline game he has a chance to have his best grand slam finish but in my opinion, he will not win.
The Cincinnati Masters Series was the last big event before the US Open begins. It is closer to conditions in New York than those in Toronto, but slightly hotter than New York. The ball traveled even faster through the air because of the climate.
Andy Roddick was back in action after having complained about being lethargic in Washington. Having withdrawn from the Toronto tournament, Roddick was out of the Top 10. However, if he got to the semi-finals or better he would make his way back in the top 10. It is the first time since the rankings have started that an American has not been in the Top 10. There were quite a few interesting stories this week: Could Roger Federer defend his title? Would Nadal’s form improve from Toronto? Could Murray keep the aggressive play up and continue the role? Would there be any big shocks?