Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

from Photographers' Blog:

My first Australian Open

Photographer Yuriko Nakao stands on centre court at the Australian open in Melbourne.

When I was first told that I would be covering the Australian Open tennis tournament, I was very excited as it is a major global sporting event and I would get to fly out from Japan where it was cold, to a hot and sunny down under.

At the same time, frankly speaking, I had a feeling of fear and worry, since I had heard scary tales about shooting the event from a photographer who had covered it multiple times. Dreadful stories of heat, the scorching sun, cameras getting too hot to function and sometimes so hot that I wouldn’t even be able to touch it. I was told that one photographer’s computer had broken because of the extreme heat, and that sometimes the photographers’ chairs at the courtside got so hot that it was unbearable.

Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a return to Marin Cilic of Croatia during their match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 24, 2011.            REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

Another worrisome issue was the physical intensity of the coverage, especially the first few days, as I was told I’d be busy as there are nearly 130 preliminary matches in total. It would be so demanding with no time to rest and eat. When I heard about this, I wasn’t sure whether I could survive what sounded like a major ordeal. So the advice was to never wear short sleeves but instead, wear a white long-sleeved shirt, a hat, put on sun block, drink water constantly, cover up the gear with towels to block the heat and don’t over pace. Everything is a build up to the Men’s final, the finale of the two-week-long tournament.

After arriving in Melbourne’s Rod Laver arena I met my team which consisted of an editor, a processor and six photographers, including myself. Working as part of a team was an extremely valuable chance to learn from them and get feedback and tips from the more experienced tennis shooters. At the beginning, I tended to think the key picture was the classic shot of the player with the tennis ball smacked right on the racket. Soon, I learned that tennis pictures are not just about the player in action, but the reaction and the moments between the action, capturing the beauty of the body motion, the scenery in which the match was fought out in, the reactions of the coach, team members and the fans. Every one of these pictures is as important as each other, creating depth to the story.

Schiavone shows final set tiebreaks are for wimps

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TENNIS-OPEN/Francesca Schiavone and Svetlana Kuznetsova rescued the
women’s singles at the Australian Open from anonymity on Sunday
when they contested a four hour 44 minute epic that contrasted sharply with some of the dross served up by their rivals.

The third set alone lasted three hours as Italian Schiavone, a breath of fresh air for women’s tennis at the ripe old age of 30, edged a fourth round thriller 4-6 6-1 16-14.

Nadal hopes his numbers add up as he chases Rafa Slam

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TENNIS-OPEN/Fourteen days, seven matches, 21 winning sets and at least 126 winning games – that is all that is separating Rafael Nadal from pulling off the “Rafa Slam”.

It all looks simple enough in numbers but reality is that, and as many calculator-bashing accountants will acknowledge, it takes a lot of work to make sure all the numbers add up correctly.

from India Insight:

The Indian Express chugs in again

It was a victory long overdue and the reunion was perhaps destined to happen in no other tournament but the Chennai Open.

As India's star tennis pair -- Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes -- clinched their fifth Chennai Open doubles crown in 2011, there was more than one reason to celebrate.

Will anyone gatecrash the Roger-Rafa party in 2011?

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SPAIN/Will 2011 be the year when Rafael Nadal’s stock rises even further? Or will it be the year when Roger Federer will leave Australia with a lighter suitcase? Or will it be the year when someone finally gatecrashes the Roger-Rafa party?

There will be 126 players looking to stop the all-or-nothing battle royale between Nadal and Federer when the Australian Open kicks off in 18 days.

Analyzing Serbia’s first Davis Cup win

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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?

Gael Monfils of France hits a return against Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia during their Davis Cup World group final tennis match in Belgrade December 3, 2010.   REUTERS/Ivan Milutinovic

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?

Serbian players, fans set new Davis Cup celebration standards

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TENNIS-DAVIS/Passers-by in downtown Belgrade unfamiliar with Serbia’s appetite for sports success would have been forgiven for thinking that the Balkan country won the soccer World Cup on Sunday evening and not the Davis Cup, an annual tennis competition featuring 16 teams in its top tier.

Several thousand jubilant fans, sporting national flags and team shirts, brought traffic to a halt in the city centre moments after Serbia beat France 3-2 in a pulsating three-day final to win the event in front of 17,000 supporters in the Belgrade Arena.

Post-mortem on the Paris Masters

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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.

Michael Llodra of France returns the ball to Robin Soderling of Sweden during their Paris Masters tennis tournament semi-final match, November 13, 2010. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

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.

Why Italy won the Fed Cup

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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.

Rusedski on Doha and Dementieva

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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?

Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark returns the ball to Kim Clijsters of Belgium during their WTA Championships final tennis match in Doha October 31, 2010.   REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad

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.

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