The Reuters global sports blog
By Greg Rusedski
The Indian Wells masters series is always a difficult event for the players. They have to get used to playing in the desert air as the ball travels a little quicker and further than you expect. Thus they have to move quicker, tighten their racquet strings, or put more top spin on the ball to bring it into court. That is why the top players like to arrive as early as possible.
Roger Federer came into the event in great form having won Rotterdam and Dubai. Rafael Nadal on the other hand hadn’t played a match in 40 days and it would be interesting to see if he was rusty. Novak Djokovic had been playing well all year, even though he lost in the semi-finals in Dubai to Andy Murray. Djokovic looks very confident, he is not as concerned about winning every event as he was last year. He is comfortable being world number 1 and looks more focused on winning majors. This year expect him to balance out his schedule more and play a little less tennis.
Murray went out again for the third straight year in his first match. He lost to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the world number 23. Garcia-Lopez played great and Murray couldn’t do much about it. Murray thought he did not move as well as he would have liked but that is also in part adjusting to the conditions. I expect Murray to have a good run next week in Miami. Lendl is back in the camp to make sure Murray is going to be back on top form.
Nadal and Federer both looked sublime all week and set up a rematch of the Australian Open semi-finals, which Nadal won. Federer dominated Nadal 6-3 6-4. The conditions in Dubai and Indian Wells are perfect for Federer with the ball flying through the air that much quicker. I still believe that Rafa has the advantage against Federer in five set matches, even with Federer playing so well since that loss at the Australian Open.
By Greg Rusedski
Again, in the men’s draw it turned out to be all about the top four in the world. In the semi-finals it was Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic versus Andy Murray. Could Federer finally beat Nadal in a major again? The last time he beat Nadal at a major was 2007 in the Wimbledon final. Nadal leads Federer in their Grand Slam matches 7 wins to 2 losses.
Federer started like a house on fire to win the first set, but Nadal wasn’t worried. He knew he could not lose to Federer in a major because he knew that physically he would wear him down. When that happens Federer loses his concentration ever so fractionally and that is when Rafa pounces and turns the match in his favor. The strategy against Federer is simple for Nadal. Nadal’s left handed high heavy topspin forehand moves Federer all over the court and breaks down Federer’s backhand side. Physically, Federer cannot keep up with Nadal in a three out of five set match anymore. Federer has to beat Nadal in three sets, which is nearly impossible. Also on his serve Rafa can start the point on his terms because Federer cannot really attack his serve with the one-handed backhand.
By Greg Rusedski
The Davis Cup final between Spain and Argentina was always going to be a great tie. The atmosphere was electric due to the huge Argentinian contingent in Seville who were present to support their team. Both the Spanish and Argentinian fans got into the tie and with 26,000 plus spectators the atmosphere was more like a football match.
The tie all depended on how well Juan Martin Del Potro played on the opening day. The feeling was that he had to win his opening match on day one for Argentina to have a chance to win the tie. No one was going to beat Rafa on clay, and the only player to have done so all year was Djokovic. The other problem for Del Potro was that Nadal and David Ferrer were 25 and 0 on clay in Davis Cup. Yes, Nadal and Ferrer were a little tired after the ATP World Tour Finals but playing on clay at home was a huge advantage. Nadal looked physically strong at the ATP World Tour Finals but was unlucky to have picked up a stomach bug and never recovered properly for the event. This was bad news for the Argentinians because he was going to take out his frustration on the clay courts of Seville.
The U.S. Open final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal was one of the most physical battles ever seen on a tennis court.
The sheer speed of their groundstrokes and length of the rallies were incredible. Djokovic dominated Nadal in the first two sets, to win them 6-2 6-4. He was on top of the baseline forcing Nadal to play well behind the baseline and not allowing him to play inside the court and dictate. Nadal though is tenacious and was down a break three times in the third set and broke Djokovic while serving for the match to end up winning the third set in a tiebreaker. Unfortunately, Nadal had nothing left in the fourth set.
The men’s side of this year’s US Open is going to be very interesting.
Will Novak Djokovic’s shoulder hold up and can he win his third major of the year? Will Roger Federer win another major with one of the toughest sections of the draw? Can Rafael Nadal get his form back to defend the title? Will Andy Murray win his first major? And finally, who are the dark horses?
Djokovic’s first two rounds look comfortable, then his route gets interesting with a possible match up against Nikolay Davydenko in the third, Richard Gasquet in the fourth and Tomas Berdych in the quarters before he most likely meets Federer in the semi-finals, if Federer gets there! Berdych could be the danger man in the section if his shoulder recovers from Cincinnati.
The Cincinnati Masters became a very important event before the US Open because a lot of the big names lost early in Montreal and needed to get match play before the Open started.
How would Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray perform? Could Novak Djokovic continue his amazing run of only one match lost all season, having just won Montreal a week earlier?
This year’s Wimbledon Championships had a lot of interesting stories. On the men’s side it was all about the top 4 players in the world. On the ladies it was about Sharapova, the Williams sisters, and whether or not any of the young pretenders could win the Championships.
All of the top 4 cruised into the men’s quarter-finals. Only Rafael Nadal was a bit of a worry hurting his foot against Juan Del Potro in the first set. After the match he said he would have to take painkillers for the rest of the tournament and possibly miss the next 6 weeks after Wimbledon finished. This brought hope that possibly Andy Murray could beat Nadal if they both reached the semi-finals which they both did easily. Expectations were reaching fever pitch now with a real belief Murray could make the finals.
from Photographers' Blog:
Rafael Nadal is hurt. A physio and a doctor have arrived on court to inspect his left foot. I scramble to position myself directly across the court from his chair to capture what could be a crucial moment in the match. It is towards the end of a tense first set. Temperatures have only cooled slightly from a sweltering 33 degrees C (91F).
In my haste to capture Nadal's injury I had left my original position with just a 300mm lens and Canon Mark 4 body, knowing I had to be agile as I joined a crush of photographers.
This year’s French Open was the best in years. Part of the reason was the new, quicker tennis balls which allowed players to play more aggressively. The women’s event was wide open. There were about 8 possible winners on the women’s side, while on the men’s side it was all about Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. Everybody thought they would be in the finals, but don’t write off Roger Federer just yet.
From a British perspective it was all about Andy Murray and he had a dream draw to the semi-finals. He didn’t make it easy by hurting his ankle in the 3rd round but came through to the semi-finals against Nadal.
It was a battle of the sweat on court during day two – even the fans gave up and went in search of shade.
There was a lot of tired screams and exhausted slumps in chairs as the 95 degree heat hit the courts hard. The baking got so intense at Flushing Meadows the tournament referee had to invoke the Extreme Weather Policy for the women’s matches. Even Jelena Jankovic resorted to an ice pack on top of her head during one break.