Monday, 5 April 2010

Miami Vice?

Andy Roddick tasted masters success for the first time in 4 years after victory in the final of the Sony Ericcson Open yesterday.

The American powerhouse defeated a rejuvenated Tomas Berdych 7-5 6-4 sends a message to the top 4 that, on a hard court at least, he will be a real threat this year.

Yet the timing of the American hard court masters in the calender for me has always seemed slightly strange.

After his most significant tournament victory in 4 years there is no ultimate prize for Roddick to push on to. Instead we move straight on the the clay in Europe.

The back to back masters at Indian Wells and Miami are almost positioned where a grand slam should be placed.

If you think about the role of the other masters tournaments in the calender then their location becomes all the more puzzling.

We have Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid in the build up to the French Open, Toronto and Cincinnati ahead of the US Open and then Shanghai and Paris in the race to the O2 tour finals.

What do Indian Wells and Miami lead to?

The ATP could argue that the 1000 series represent strong independent tournaments in their own right and that they should not be viewed as warm up events.

However it would be foolhardy to suggest that they can compare to the four grand slam tournaments.

Also given the naturally climatic nature of tennis, which itself builds to a crescendo at the end of every set and match it would make sense that the calender should do the same.

With the 4 grand slams then ATP tour has four obvious peaks in interest during the year that should be exploited to the maximum.

Why not move the Australian Open to later in the year and have the American hard court swing through January and February?

Others would argue that the lack of a grass court masters event is also an aberration given the stature of Wimbledon.

However given that the majority of tennis players across the globe play on a clay or hard court it is inevitable that the grass court season be short sharp and exciting.

Still for me at least the timing of Indian Wells and Miami has always been rather puzzling.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A new low?

After a fifth defeat on the bounce Britain's Davis Cup team now face the uninspiring task of a relegation playoff against Turkey in September.

If John Lloyd's team lose that tie then it's relegation to the bottom league of tennis into the catchy named Europe/African Zone group III.

In Britain's long history of competing in the Davis Cup it's team has never sunk so low. There is little doubt that interest in the competition has fallen away since Henman's retirement in 2007.

That match which was notably Team GB's last victory was held in front of a capacity crowd on Court One at Wimbledon.

Attending the match their was a sense that following Henman and Rusedski's retirement that the team may struggle to maintain it's position. So it came as no surprise that despite Andy Murray's valiant efforts that the team dropped out of the elite group the next year.

However it is unlikely that many of the crowd that stood to applaud Henman off court that day believed that they were witnessing the teams final victory of the decade.

So where does the British team go from here? Firstly they must overcome Turkey at all costs - a further drop down the tiers of the the Davis Cup would not only inflict further damage on a team low on confidence it would also make the journey back to the world group a mammoth task. As it stands the earliest we can get back to the world group would is 2013 if they lose to Turkey then that becomes 2014.

Questions must also be asked of cup captain John Lloyd. No captain has ever presided over such an unbroken run of failure. Many will sympathise with Lloyd, arguing that he has had precious talent at his disposal. Yet the presence of Andy Murray should have made life much easier but alas to no avail.

Now it's unlikely that the British no.1 will make himself available for the next few ties-and who can blame him? He can have little appetite taking time out of his tour schedule while on the hunt for a maiden grand slam to play ties against teams that fail to boast any players ranked inside the top 100.

Still the position of John Lloyd and Roger Draper will be under scrutiny over the coming weeks and it is unlikley that both will still be in their jobs come September.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sharapova wins in Memphis

Maria Sharapova bagged her first title of the year in Memphis last night with victory over Sofia Arvidsson 6-2 6-1.

The former world no.1 has been in top form all week did not drop a set on the way to winning her 21st career title.

Top seed Sharapova who had struggled for form this year going out in the first round of the Australian Open to fellow Russian Maria Kirilenko and was clearly hungry to make amends this week.

"I served and returned well, two things that are very important indoors. I did the right things against Sofia today. I worked hard after the Australian Open and little by little things are coming along." said Sharapova.

There was also a strong British contingent in action with Elena Baltacha, Anne Keothavong and Katie O'brien all in the main draw.

Baltacha came into the event on the back of winning a 100k title in Michigan and extended her winning streak to eight matches before falling to Sharapova in the Quarter finals.

However it was Keothovong continuing her return from injury who went furthest with impressive wins over sixth seed Kristina Barrios and Karolina Sprem to reach the semi finals.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Roddick blasts his way to the Quarters

Big serving American Andy Roddick has clinched his place in the Quarter finals of the Australian Open following an epic 5 set battle against Fernando Gonzalez.

The match at the Rod Laver arena finished 6-3 3-6 4-6 7-5 6-2 and saw some top quality play from both men.

Speaking after the victory Roddick said "I was lucky to get out of that, sometimes if you fight and stick around you give yourself a shot."

"When Fernando gets hot you know a lot of the match is out of your control... if i didn't have my first serve and winning points on that i'd be booking plane tickets home."

After dropping the opening set Gonzalez started playing some fantastic cavalier tennis to take a two sets to one lead, but it was the fourth set that decided the match.

With opportunities to break early on not taken momentum began to swing away from the Chilean.

Utilising his powerful serve and aggressive forehand return Roddick generated six break points during the set before finally clinching it 7-5 after a successful Hawk eye challenge.
Gonzalez chance had passed and his frustration started to show after getting a warning from the umpire for raquet abuse.
Roddick was now fully in control and quickly went 3-0 up and although Gonzalez continue to hit some excellent shots it was the American who sealed it 6-2.
So far it has been a cracking start to the year for the American who has won all nine of his matches on tour winning the title at Brisbane.

Roddick faces Marin Cilic who also took five sets to upset world no.4 Juan Martin Del Potro in the next round.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Federer Announces Haiti Fundraiser

Top players from the men's and women's tour will be hosting a special fundraising exhibition tomorrow to raise money for victims of the Haiti earthquake.

Announcing the plans on his facebook page Federer said: "Tomorrow at 2pm, with other top players, we are going to have a fun exo at Melbourne Park to help raise monies for relief efforts in Haiti from the devastating Earthquake."

"Entry fee is a minimum donation of $10. Should be fun and its for a great cause. Hope to see some of you there!" Federer added.

Federer will be joined by Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters in the 'Hit for Haiti' exhibition with other top names expected to be added to the line up.

The earthquake, which measured at 7.2 on the Richter scale, devastated large parts of Haiti last Tuesday and is believed to have caused up 200,000 casualties.

The town of Port-au-Prince situated 25km from the epicentre of the quake sustained heavy damage with the Cathedral, Presidential palace and National Assembly building all being severely damaged or destroyed.

To donate to the Red Cross Haiti appeal please click here.

Murray gets Tough draw

Andy Murray will have to overcome stiff opposition if he is to claim his maiden grand slam title in Melbourne next week.

The world no.5 has been placed in the same side of the draw as defending champion Rafeal Nadal and US Open winner Juan Martin Del Potro.

Murray who will begin his campaign against qualifier Kevin Anderson could also face American Andy Roddick or Frenchman Gail Monfils before the final.

On the women's side British no.1 Elena Baltacha has a very winnable opener against world no.104 Pauline Parmentier with a possible match up against world no.2 Dinara Safina waiting in round 3.

Meanwhile fellow Brit Katie O'brien will also has cause to optimistic as she faces Austrian Patricia Mayr with Jelena Jankovic a possible 2nd round opponent.
To view the draws in full you can visit the Australian Open website with first round matches scheduled to start this coming Monday.
Murray's prospective draw by ranking:
Rnd 1: Kevin Anderson
Rnd 2: Marc Gicquel
Rnd 3: Jurgen Melzer (28)
Rnd 4: Gael Monfils (12)
QF: Rafeal Nadal (2)
SF: Juan Martin Del Potro (4)
F: Roger Federer (1)

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Brits on Tour Week 2

Women's No.1 Elena Baltacha has qualified for her second tour event in a row this week at the Hobart international in Australia.

The world no.85 will face Jelena Dokic in the first round having lost against her opponent in there only previous meeting at Wimbledon back in 2003.

Baltacha will be delighted with her victory over Anna Chakvetadze a player who won the Hobart cup only 2 years ago.

On the men's side Dan Evans is one match away from Qualifying for the Heineken Open in Auckland and faces Tsung-Hua Yang for a place in the main draw.

The 18 year old player from Chinese Tapai is currently ranked at 341 although could prove a tough test for Evans after an impresssive victory over world no.244 Jan Minar.

Meanwhile following a successful run at the Hopman Cup world no.4 Andy Murray is resting ahead of an assault on the Australian Open title, while many other Brits are gearing up for the Qualifiers which start mid week.


Update 11/10/2010:

Evans beats Yang in 3 sets to reach the main draw at Auckland. The 19 year old will face fellow qualifier and world no.209 Michael Lammer in the first round.