Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Rusedski’s picks for Wimbledon

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With Wimbledon starting on Monday, all eyes turned to the event in Eastbourne. It became very interesting because of Serena and Venus Williams participation. Serena has not played since winning Wimbledon last year because of a freak accident in Munich, were she stepped on broken glass while walking to her hotel room after a night out. She was walking bare foot and cut ligaments in her feet as well as cutting her feet up badly. It took her nearly a full year to recover.

On the other hand her sister Venus hasn’t played much due to a hip injury this year. I believe this is only her third event of the year. Serena played really well considering her lay off and beat Pirokova in the first round in 3 sets after starting very poorly. Pirokova was a tough match because she has made the semi-finals at Wimbledon and plays well on grass. Due to the long layoff Serena was not seeded at Eastbourne, because she has lost all her ranking points from last year. The ranking works on a 52 week calendar and if you don’t defend your points, your ranking disappears.

In the next round Serena lost to the top seed and world number 3 Vera Zvonerava. Serena actually served for the match in the 2nd set, but unfortunately did not come through. She is not that far off in her game considering she has been away for so long. Expect a good Wimbledon run from Serena and if the All England Club seeds her, she could be very dangerous. Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam that is allowed to seed players however they like because they say grass is a specialist surface. It is also based on your last 3 years’ performances at Wimbledon. I totally disagree with this and believe the seeds should be based on official rankings. Grass courts are not a specialist surface anymore because they have slowed down the courts by getting rid of the thistle in the grass, and changing it to rye grass a few years ago. They have also slowed down the balls through ball pressure and the cover on the ball. Grass plays more like a medium hard court and is slower than the French Open.

Venus looks very good at the moment even though she lost in the quarter-finals at Eastbourne. She will be a threat at Wimbledon. A lot of people’s favorite is Sharapova after her great run to the semi-finals at the French Open and also because she has won Wimbledon before. It is wide open on the women’s side again with other threats; Li Na, who became the first Chinese player to win a singles grand slam at the French Open two weeks ago, Petra Kvitova, the talented left handed Czech player, Victoria Azarenka from Belarus, and last year’s finalist Vera Zvonerava all contenders.

“Bring on Wimbledon!” – Rusedski

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The grass court season is finally underway. I love this time of year. We finally get to see some attacking tennis, but still not as much as during my era because the courts and balls are a lot slower.

The Queen’s Club Championships started with one of its best fields in the tournaments history with 15 of the top 20 in the world entered. The only big withdrawal was that of Novak Djokovic, sighting a knee problem, but I am sure he will be fine for Wimbledon. Nadal, the six time French open champion, arrived Monday evening after all his sponsor commitments at Disneyland Paris. He is such a professional; he had a 1 hour 45min intense practice session and entered the doubles event as well to get match practice before his first round match in singles on Wednesday.

“This year’s French Open the best in years” – Rusedski

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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.

Nadal can beat Federer’s grand slam mark

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If there was any doubt before, there is now no question that Rafa Nadal can and most probably will better Roger Federer’s record of 16 grand slam titles following the Spaniard’s French Open success over the Swiss.

Sunday’s 7-5 7-6 5-7 6-1 victory for his record-equalling sixth Roland Garros crown and his 10th grand slam title overall underlined why Nadal just will not lie down even when the crowd and his own initial form are against him.

Is Federer on a downward spiral? Not a chance

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TENNIS-MEN/MONTECARLORoger Federer lost 6-4 6-4 to Juergen Melzer in the Monte Carlo Masters quarter-finals on Friday prompting renewed speculation the Swiss master is well past his best. He is down to world number three now having won only one tournament so far this year.

But hang on a minute, this is the probable GOAT we are talking about, you don’t ignore 16 grand slam titles so easily. Here are 10 reasons why Federer might still be able to bounce back from his shaky form.

Tales from tennis’ fifth major

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Greg Rusedski writes exclusively for Reuters thanks to Thomson Reuters’ sponsorship of the Lawn Tennis Association.

The Sony Ericsson Open tournament is considered the fifth major by most of the tennis fraternity. It became a week with many story lines:

Djokovic becomes a Serb-Inator to really fear

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RTR2KS4Y1NOVAKNovak Djokovic’s 26-match hot streak dating back to the end of last year when he helped Serbia win the Davis Cup shows no sign of cooling and even Europe’s slow red dirt will hold no fears for the 23-year-old Serb this year.

Djokovic is certainly no rookie on clay, as his 2008 Rome title underlined, but whereas Rafael Nadal usually chomps his way past rival after rival, Djokovic finds the surface takes a little of the sting out of his game.

So many story lines at Indian Wells

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The first Masters Series event of the year in Indian Wells, California was absolutely brilliant: so many story lines. How would Rafael Nadal play in his first ATP event after his injury in the Australian Open? Could Novak Djokovic continue his unbeatable form this year having won in Australia and Dubai? How would Andy Murray play after his 1st round loss in Rotterdam? Could Juan Martin Del Potro get back to his best form again after winning Delray Beach earlier this year? Would Roger Federer win Indian Wells for a record 4th time?

Andy Murray of Britain reacts to losing a point against Donald Young of the U.S. during their match at the Indian Wells ATP tennis tournament in Indian Wells, California, March 12, 2011.  REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Murray played poorly and lost his first match to American qualifier and world number 143, Donald Young. He didn’t seem into the match and played very passively to lose in straight sets. This sort of performance asks more questions about his mental state after losing again in the finals of the Australian Open in January. He needs to get back on track in Miami because he is in danger of losing his world number 4 ranking. This means he could face Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic in the quarter-finals of events instead of the semi-finals. Let’s hope for a good run in Miami because this could set the tone for the rest of the year for Murray. He needs to play more proactively. Also a change of direction with either a new coach who has worked with the very best or a mentor who has won majors. He needs some freshness brought to his tennis. It has to be fun again.

Getting the job done at the Davis Cup

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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.

Rusedski reflects on Federer’s form and the Australian Open

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The crowd at the Hisense Arena is reflected on the sunglasses of a spectator during the match between Maria Sharapova of Russia and Julia Goerges of Germany at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 21, 2011.           REUTERS/Petar Kujundzic

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.

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