Federer Will not Concede French Open Title:
Everyone is talking about Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic right now, but anybody would be a fool to forget about the other large threat at Roland Garros this month – 16-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer. “It’s definitely an interesting time right now that Novak hasn’t lost all season long. It makes it a new, different situation, but for me it doesn’t change a whole lot,” said the Swiss ace. “Right now [Djokovic and Nadal] are playing better than me and better than other players. I feel like everybody can play on all the surfaces these days and that makes it extremely hard to win all these big tournaments.” At 29, Federer has a lot on his plate with a family to look after but he is by no means faded as far as top-class tennis is concerned.
The Dominant Force Dislodges the Immovable Object:
Novak Djokovic continued his unbeaten start to 2011, ending Rafa Nadal’s two-year winning streak on clay in the final of the Mutua Madrid Masters. The Serbian won 7-5, 6-4 at the Caja Magica, racing in to a 4-0 lead in the first set. The Spaniard levelled proceedings but ‘Nole’ showed his new resilient side by again fighting back to take the set. The second started with the Spaniard lobbing his opponent expertly through his legs while running to the back of the court but the magic was not to last as Djokovic closed out the match to seriously put his case forward about taking the No.1 ranking off of Nadal. “I came up against a great player obviously – he’s having a monster year,” said Nadal afterwards. “He was better, you have to accept that.” Djokovic showcased his new found self-belief when he said: “I stepped onto the court today believing I could win. I needed to be aggressive and it was a great match.” If Djokovic wins this week’s Rome Masters and Nadal fails to reach the semi-finals then we will have a new No.1 to cast our eyes over next week. It was Djokovic’s first win over Nadal on clay in ten meetings between the pair on the surface.
Kvitova Shocks Azarenka in Madrid:
Petra Kvitova lifted her third title of the year by shocking Victoria Azarenka 7-6(3), 6-4 in the Madrid Open final. It adds to the titles she took in Brisbane and Paris earlier in the year. The 18th-ranked Czech star dominated the first tiebreak after both players had broken the others’ serve in the first set. Four breaks were seen in the second and with the 21-year-old leading 5-3, she needed two match points to see off the Belarusian’s challenge. “We know each other so it was going to be tough to find the key, but I think it was who will play faster, who will be the more aggressive – and I was the first!” she said afterwards. “It’s nice to win the tournament and to be in the top 10 at the same time, but it’s just a number. I want to improve my game and we’ll see – I don’t want to be only number 10!” Azarenka was quick to praise her opponent’s play: “Petra had such a great week and totally deserved to win today,” she said. “She showed some impressive tennis.”
Injuries Still Rife Among Stars:
Venus Williams has put her French Open participation in doubt after pulling out of next week’s Brussels Open. The 30-year-old has still not been seen since retiring from her third-round match against Andrea Petkovic at January’s Australian Open and her eyes may now be on Wimbledon having signed up for the pre-Slam event at Eastbourne. Meanwhile, David Nalbandian is one definite casualty on the men’s draw saying he is “not right physically” to play. The 2004 and 06 semi-finalist has lost 6kg since getting injured in March and fighting a fever over recent weeks. He hopes to return at Queen’s to prepare for Wimbledon. 2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro may also miss out on Roland Garros after revealing he has torn a hip muscle. “The results of my tests showed a tear in the hip,” the Argentine wrote on his Twitter page. “I have already started rehabilitation and I will do all I can to be in Paris.” Ernests Gulbis is still suffering from a respiratory problem that has kept him out of Madrid and Rome. He hopes to have the problem resolved by the Roland Garros kick-off. “Every time a small wind blows it affect me,” Gulbis told The Times of London. “My immune system was not good and this time I had to drink antibiotics for three days and didn’t practice at all. I hope to get a wild card into Nice.” India’s Sania Mirza was continuing her comeback in the Prague Challenger, hoping to maybe make a late push for Paris, but she was forced to withdraw from her first-round match with Aleksandra Krunic after suffering back spasms. “Tried to play today, back was no good, it’s gotta be one of the worse feelings ever to pull out mid-match,” she said on Twitter.
Roddick not Enjoying European Clay Holiday:
Andy Roddick’s miserable start to the 2011 clay season continued with a first-round defeat to Gilles Simon at the Rome Masters. The world No.19 notched a 6-3, 6-3 victory to frustrate the 28-year-old, who a week earlier had suffered a first-round Madrid exit to clay-court debutant Flavio Cipolla. “He moves very well, which you don’t want to see when you are short of matches like I was today, when you are not getting clean hits,” said Roddick. “We soon got into rallies and it became a battle striking the ball in movement, I was coming second sometimes.”
Carlsen calls for Wozniacki to Attack:
After three straight losses to Germans Julia Goerges (twice) and Andrea Petkovic in recent weeks, former Danish star Kenneth Carlsen believes the world No.1 may be playing too defensively against foes who up their game against the top-ranked star. “Caroline has trouble with the likes of Goerges and [Petkovic] when they [are playing their best] and not making so many mistakes,” he said. “When they do, it might look as if Caroline is bombed out. It’s the girls who take the initiative immediately, and you’ll get no peace from Caroline. Most people know that it is the way to beat Caroline, but it is also difficult because she, like Nadal, gets to so many balls and sends them back. We are still talking about small margins, but Caroline might be too defensive and rely too much on her own game, and with good reason, because she beats nine out of 10 opponents that way.”
Li Hoping for Danish Magic:
China’s Na Li has hired Danish Fed Cup captain Michael Mortensen as her new coach after citing that she could not regain her confidence whilst working under husband Jiang Shan, who had coached her to the Aussie Open final. “After the Australian Open I didn’t do well until Madrid,” said Li. “We’re working well together—we have good communication and [Mortensen] is helping me a lot. He’s giving me a lot of confidence and I feel positive on court.”
Kuznetsova Coach Split:
Two-time grand Slam winning-Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova has announced via her official website that her and coach, Spain’s Carlos Cuadrado, have parted ways. She will still work with her other coach, Larissa Savchenko, and her hitting partner Alexander Krasnorutskiy.
Peering in to DC’s Debut:
Washington DC will have its own WTA World Tour event again this summer with the Mid-Atlantic Women’s Tennis Championships taking place from July 25-31. Israel’s most successful player, of both men and women, ever, Shahar Peer, will headline the field in the 32-strong draw which also features Lucie Safarova, Jelena Dokic and rising American stars Melanie Oudin and Sloane Stephens. Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA, said: “We are thrilled to bring women’s tennis back to the incredible sports fans of the Washington DC area. The Mid-Atlantic Women’s Tennis Championships promises to be a fantastic event featuring some of the best female athletes on the planet. I look forward to this being the first edition of a great tradition of WTA tennis in Washington DC.”
France’s Gael Monfils climbs above Nicolas Almagro to No.9 in the world in this week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings after last week’s play in Madrid. The Ukraine’s Alexander Dolgopolov returns to the Top 20. Thomaz Bellucci’s first ATP Masters semi-final sees him climb 14 to No.22 in the world, a career best. Andreas Seppi enters the Top 50 while Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, Illya Marchenko and Rainer Schuettler are in to the Top 100. Victoria Azarenka became the top-ranked Belarusian ever in the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings on the back of her Madrid finals defeat as she became the new world No.4, a career-best. Maria Sharapova is up to No.8, her best ranking since November 2008, while Petra Kvitova is a career-best No.10 after her win over Azarenka. Julia Goerges makes her Top 20 debut while Czech star Lucie Hradecka enters the Top 50 at No.45. Incidentally, this week is the first in rankings history that there has been no Americans in both the Top 10 of the women’s and the men’s game. Yet American star Andy Roddick refused to accept that tennis in his country was on the way down. “There is no bigger crisis in American tennis than there is in Italian. We’re kind of a victim of our own success over the years in the sport,” he said.
Nadal moves Further Ahead in GOAT Race:
Rafael Nadal’s semi-final victory over Roger Federer at last week’s Mutua Madrid masters means he has moved further ahead of the early-season leader in the 2011 GOAT race. Federer’s semi-final berth earns him 50 points, while Nadal’s final defeat to Novak Djokovic earns him 100. They both also gain an extra 10 points for entering the Rome Masters this week.
Roger: 665, Rafa: 890