Djokovic Continues Amazing Run:
Novak Djokovic continued his unbeaten start to the year to pick up the Miami Open title, coming back from a set down against Rafael Nadal to secure his 24th straight win. The Serbian won 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) on a tie-breaker, with the first five points of the decider all going against serve. “It was such a close match,” said Djokovic. “To win against the number one player of the world in a tie-break in the third set, it’s just incredible. This is one of the best matches I’ve played in a while. I was able to find my rhythm at the end of the first set, and then throughout the whole second and third set I played quite well, especially on my service games.” He has now had the best start to a season since Ivan Lendl picked up 25 straight wins back in 1986 and Nadal fears his world number one ranking is under serious threat. The Spaniard said: “He has won two tournaments in a row right now, very big tournaments and one Grand Slam. The normal thing is he will be number one in the next month, month and a half, two months. I don’t know. It depends on my results on clay.”
Azarenka Wins Second Miami Title:
Belarusian Victoria Azarenka outplayed Maria Sharapova to lift her second Sony Ericsson Open in Miami on Saturday. The 21-year-old triumphed 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and 46 minutes to lift her sixth WTA title and fight back against some of the critics who had begun to write her off for failing to challenge at the business end of tennis’ premier tournaments. It was Sharapova’s third straight-set defeat in the final at Miami having lost out to Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2006 and Kim Clijsters in 2005. “I played really well in the first set but Maria is a great fighter and I had to really hang in there at the end,” said Azarenka following the match. “I think I had the right tactics. She likes to swing big, and when she has time it’s really heavy. I tried to take time away.” She continued by speaking about her recent form: “I changed my mentality a little bit,” she said. “I am enjoying myself so much on the court. Maraia Sharapova was obviously downbeat following the match: “It’s obviously very disappointing given the other finals here as well but she was definitely the better player today and she has had a great tournament,” said the former world number one. “It’s a little bit too late to pick up the pace when you’re down a set and 4-0. I wish I picked it up earlier, obviously. She did many things better than I did today. [Being in a final] means that I’m winning matches, and winning more of them,” she said of her run. “It has been a long road to get here. It’s not over yet.”
Clijsters Takes a Month’s Break:
Kim Clijsters will be out for a month due to shoulder and wrist injuries which will leave her with only a fortnight to prepare for the French Open. She aims to return at the Italian Open in May to prevent her injuries becoming “chronic.” She pulled out of her fourth-round match at Indian Wells with the injuries in March and is now set to miss Belgium’s Fed Cup semi-final with the Czech Republic. “I really want to be there at this year’s Roland Garros,” Clijsters said on her official website. “Now there is no other option than to rest and I certainly can’t use a tennis racket for the first few weeks. We will continue with lots of physiotherapy and exercises to strengthen the surrounding muscles.”
Nadal “Can’t Repeat” 2010:
Rafa Nadal claims that he cannot repeat his phenomenal clay season of 2010 because it was a “once in a lifetime” achievement. Last spring Nadal triumphed at all three of the ATP Masters 1000 clay tournaments before then winning at Roland Garros. “That’s a once in a lifetime [achievement] to win every tournament on clay. Nobody else has done it in history, only myself last year. So it’s difficult to imagine two years in a row [I] can repeat that,” said the Spaniard. He will again start his clay-court season at the Monte Carlo Country Club next week. Since losing in the third-round of his debut there in 2003 Nadal has gone unbeaten and after six-titles he holds a staggering 34-1 record. “Hopefully I [am] going to be playing well this tournament. This is important confidence for me. Let’s try my best in Monte Carlo. First tournament of clay is always important. But it’s not going to be perfect. I’m not going to win ten times in a row Monte Carlo. That’s sure. I won six in a row. I am going to try my best for the seventh, but I know how difficult is every tournament.”
Verdasco Upset with Barcelona Organisers:
Defending Champion Fernando Verdasco has voiced his anger against the Barcelona organisers for not holding a wildcard for him. He will instead play the Estoril tournament in Portugal. “The reason I’m not going Barcelona—ask the tournament officials who decide who they want to play,” Verdasco told the Spanish press. “Nadal is coming back and there’s a person whom I’m not going to say who it is, but who has had no interest in me playing. I hate going places, especially in Spain, where they are not interested who plays. In Estoril, they are.” However the organisers have hit back at the new world No.8, saying that he had plenty of time to register for the tournament’s main draw. Verdasco also voiced his disapproval that the wildcards had been handed out to non-Spaniards: “I am not vindictive or anything, but sad and disappointed with certain people who are responsible and Albert [Costa] because he has given priority to foreign players like Tsonga, Soderling instead of Spanish [players] and I think that is a mistake.” Costa has said that despite the criticisms Verdasco is always welcome back in the future.
Murray Adds to Strong Queens Field:
British number one Andy Murray has added his name to an already strong field at this year’s AEGON Championships at the Queens Club, London. The 23-year-old Scot joins world number one Rafa Nadal, two-time Aussie Open winner Novak Djokovic, 2009 US Open Champion Juan Martin del Potro and four-time Queens victor Andy Roddick at the pre-Wimbledon event. “Winning my first grass-court title here in 2009 was an amazing feeling,” said Murray. “It means a lot to me to have my name on the trophy next to great champions such as John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal who have won it in the past. The Queen’s Club has some of the best grass courts in the world, there are packed crowds every year and there is always a great atmosphere. Usually players that have done well at Queen’s have gone on to do well at Wimbledon. I can’t wait to get playing.”
Another Record for Federer:
Roger Federer drew level with Pete Sampras’ total of career singles victories after his 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Radek Stepanek at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Only six men have won more than the Swiss, with Jimmy Connors leading the way on 1,242. “It’s nice tying Pete, but he could have played for many more years,” said the 16-time Grand Slam winner. “He could still win some matches on tour now if he wanted to. It’s a funny stat, but it shows how long I’ve been around and how much I’ve won around the world.”
Huber and Raymond to Trial Partnership:
American doubles stars Liezel Huber and Lisa Raymond are trialling playing together. Raymond has usually been playing with Julia Georges while Huber has recently been rotating partners since splitting with long-term team-mate Cara Black last spring. “Huber and I are going to start to play some together and give it a shot,” Raymond said in her WTA blog. “Amazing to think that after all of these years we have never played together while having played against each other countless times. The long and short of it is that, like any relationship, things happen. Some partnerships work out, others don’t and you just hope you are better as a result from each experience…None of us have a crystal ball and can see what the future holds. In life, you take chances, leaps of faith and hope for the best. I am excited about this opportunity and time will tell.”
Gonzalez to Return:
Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez is set to end his six-month injury absence and return to action. The world No.395 only managed two matches following Roland Garros last year and underwent hip surgery in October. He announced on his Twitter account on Monday: “Today I finish my 6 months post-op rehab. I was discharged and ready to go back to game.”
Murray Changes Coaching Arrangements Again:
Andy Murray says he will not be rushed in to making a decision over his next full-time coach. The world number five recently parted ways with advisor Alex Corretja after three years following a massive slump in form which has seen him crash out in the opening round of his last four tournaments in straight sets. The 23-year-old has previously worked with Miles Maclagan, Mark Petchey and Brad Gilbert and is hoping his latest search for a coach with experience is solved before his hectic mid-season schedule kicks in. Ivan Lendl is one name linked with taking the role and the eight-time winner knows all about bouncing back having lost his first four Grand Slam finals. “I’ve spoken to a few people and I’ve obviously thought about it quite a lot,” said Murray. “I would like to do it as soon as possible but you need to find the right person. People think it’s an easy thing to do but it’s really not. There’s not that many people with a lot of experience that are willing to give up 30, 35 weeks of the year travelling and come to where you’re training.”
Huber/Venus Travel with Fed Cup Team:
The US have named their Fed Cup team to play Germany in their World Group Playoff in Stuttgart on April 16-17. Liezel Huber will lead Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Melanie Oudin and Christina McHale in a tie where they need victory to ensure they remain in the World Group for 2012. Venus Williams will travel with the squad to offer advice and support but will not play because of her continuing hip injury.
Connors/McEnroe to Renew Rivalry:
Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe will face each other for the first time in ten years when they square off in the World Team Tennis tournament on July 14. Connors is representing the Freedoms against McEnroe’s New York Sportimes to continue the series McEnroe leads 20-14. They last met on the ATP Tour in 1991.
Roddick Changes Career:
Andy Roddick made a surprise appearance at the Augusta National this week and it wasn’t just as a supporter. The American star was donning a white jumpsuit and green cap as he caddied for former Masters winner Zac Johnson. The arrangement was set up by their agents after Roddick recently stated his interest in trying his hand at being a caddy. “He’s a Midwest boy, I’m a Midwest boy, and this is the first time he’s here. And he wanted to caddy,” Johnson told USA Today. “I don’t have much family here this year, which is a rare thing, so I said what the heck. I’ve always wanted to meet him. I’m a sports freak in general and I’m a tennis freak, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to meet him.”
Murray Climbs Despite Shocking Form in Rankings Watch:
Andy Murray has climbed back to No.4 in the world in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings after Robin Soderling failed to defend vital points through injury. Andy Roddick has dropped six places this week meaning Fernando Verdasco (No.8), Jurgen Melzer (No.9), Gael Monfils (No.10) and Mardy Fish (up four to No.11) all climb. Fish is now the top-ranked American for the first time. Sam Querrey re-enters the Top 20 while Spain’s Marcel Granollers is the new world No.50. Olivier Rochus (No.76) and Dmitry Tursunov (No.82) are big climbers while Japan’s Go Soeda (No.91) and Austria’s Andreas Haider-Maurer (No.96) are in to the Top 100. In the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings, Maria Sharapova has climbed back in to the Top 10 for the first time in two years following her Miami finals appearance. Victoria Azarenka’s victory over the Russian sees her equal her career-best No.6 placing. Andrea Petkovic makes her debut in the Top 20 at No.19 while Peng Shuai becomes the third Chinese woman to break the Top 30. Greta Arn broke the Top 50 for the first time and Arantxa Rus makes her debut in to the Top 100.
Rafa Claws Further ground back in GOAT Race:
Rafa Nadal cut the deficit again this week after his finals appearance at Miami again bested Roger Federer’s semifinal berth. Whilst Novak Djokovic repeated the Indian Wells final result it means that Rafa gets an extra 50 points than his great rival this week. Going in to the clay season we could now begin to see a mammoth swing in GOAT Race fortunes.
Roger: 560 Rafa: 350