Djokovic Building Roman Empire:
Novak Djokovic moved to 39-matches unbeaten after battling to a 6-4, 6-4 victory over world No.1 Rafael Nadal in the Rome Masters final. The Serb star at times over-powered Nadal and has now beaten a man twice in a week, who, before last weekend’s final at the Mutua Madrid Masters, had not lost on his favoured clay surface since 2009. Most had written off Djokovic after an enthralling semi-final victory over Andy Murray on Saturday night as the 23-year-old had visibly been struggling with tiredness and injury throughout much of the second and third sets. Yet he dusted himself off and came back determined to win his second title in the Italian capital and stop Nadal taking his sixth. Both players were in good form. The accuracy and power behind each shot was mesmerising and the Italian crowd was thoroughly entertained from start to finish, even though they did not receive the third set they so desperately craved. “I’m amazed with they way I’m playing, especially today given the circumstances and the condition I was in,” Djokovic said afterwards. “I played three hours [on Saturday] against a player [Murray] who was playing great, I was on the verge of losing that match and I came back. Whatever the conditions I needed to step into the court and take chances and be aggressive. That’s really the only way against Nadal on clay.”
Sharapova Back in the Winners’ Circle:
Maria Sharapova lifted her first title in nearly a year by beating Australia’s Sam Stosur 6-2, 6-4 in a Rome final heavily delayed by rain. The damp conditions favoured the Russian who powered in to a 4-0 lead, Stosur taking only three points in the opening four games. The 24-year-old has not lifted a Grand Slam since the 2008 Australian Open and has only shown glimpses of her former dominant self after taking long injury lay offs to recover from shoulder surgery. But recently she has looked in a dominant mood again and after cruising to the first set withheld the more assertive challenge from Stosur in the second. “I’m so happy to be the champion,” said the three-time Slam winner. “It means so much to me to add this title to the ones I already have. Rome is such a special place and I’ve dreamed of holding up this trophy. There are a lot of tournaments coming up, and this is a great start to everything. I can’t wait to be back next year.”
Djokovic set for o2 return:
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic has qualified for the season-ending ATP Finals at London’s
o2 Arena in November after picking up his seventh title of the year in Rome on Sunday. The 24-year-old is closing in on the record of 44 set by Guillermo Villas, depending on which sources you believe, in 1977. He is only the second man, after Nadal in 2009, to qualify for the event before the French Open has even been played. He has already lifted the Australian Open, plus the titles at Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and now Rome in what has been a sensational start to the year. American Hall of Famer John McEnroe believes that Djokovic’s current record surpasses his own unbeaten 42-match streak to kick off the 1984 season due to the increased depth to the modern game. “There is more competition, more athleticism, deeper fields and more depth in the sport,” said the 52-year-old. “So his record is even more impressive than mine. I’m quite excited at the timing of this because he could break my record at the French Open. I’ve followed his progress and to put it mildly it’s been quite amazing to see how much confidence he is playing with. It’s impressive given he came in number three and to dominate [Roger] Federer and [Rafael] Nadal the way he has, to see what he has done, it’s a little surprising.”
Roland Garros to be Williams-less:
Former world No.1 Serena Williams has pulled out of this month’s French Open after failing to recover from the foot injury that has kept her out of action since winning last year’s Wimbledon Championship. “While I am making good progress, unfortunately I won’t be able to compete in Roland Garros as I am continuing to rehab my foot and recover from the pulmonary embolism,” said Williams. “I am grateful for every moment I have and the fact that I have returned to the court. I am hopeful that I will be back competing this summer. Thank you all for your continued prayers.” Serena’s older sister, Venus, is also doubtful for the Open after pulling out of Brussels. The 30-year-old has not competed since retiring from her third-round match against Andrea Petkovic at the Australian Open in January after tearing her groin muscle. Another former No.1, Dinara Safina, and Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky have already withdrawn from the competition. Ana Ivanovic, yet another former incumbent of the top spot, is also a doubt for the Open after pulling out of Strasbourg this week still troubled by a wrist complaint. “I’ve had this pain for a while now, despite physical therapy,” she said on her official website. “My doctor has told me to rest it completely for a few days, and I’m having treatments twice a day. Considering that it is not my racquet hand, I can still practice, but backhands are out of the question for the next few days. I expect to be fit for Roland Garros.” In the men’s draw, Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez has withdrawn after failing to recover from a knee injury. The 2009 semi-finalist has not missed the event since his 2001 debut but the current world No.370 has suffered badly with injuries over the past 12 months. “Unfortunately today I withdrew myself from Roland Garros, it’s a shame, but I’m doing everything possible to comeback and feel better,” he said via his Twitter account. Andy Roddick is also questionable after pulling out of this week’s tournament at Nice with a right shoulder injury. “It’s running a big risk, playing on an unhealthy shoulder with Roland Garros round the corner and Wimbledon shortly afterwards,” the American said. “I’m pulling out of Nice for now. Obviously the situation is not perfect for Roland Garros, but I still have a couple of days to hope for something to get better.” He also said that he would not play Roland Garros unless he was 100% fit.
Del-Po and Clijsters are Definitely In:
2009 US Open winner Juan Martin del Potro has declared that he is fit and ready to compete in the French Open. The 22-year-old Argentine missed most of 2010 with a wrist injury and his comeback has been blighted by niggles such as a torn hip muscle two weeks ago in Madrid. The former world No.4 has clawed his way back up to No.27 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings since his return thanks largely to his victory at the Estoril Open on May 1, where he beat Fernando Verdasco in the final. “See you in Paris!” he posted on Twitter ahead of the year’s second Grand Slam. Kei Nishikori’s agent says that the Japanese star has also recovered from kidney troubles and will play in Paris. Kim Clijsters also says she will play at the Open after recovering from an ankle injury she suffered last month whilst dancing at a friend’s wedding. “Increasingly I am going for it,” said the reigning US and Australian Open Champion. “I am not totally without pain, but the strong tape round my ankle gives me sufficient security. The advantage is that I still have the spirit of the past Grand Slam tournaments. If I play well, I can win. Attitude is very important, even though the situation is physically very different.” France’s Virginie Razzano has also declared she will play despite her fiancé’s death on Monday. Stephane Vidal, 32, served as her coach until March and was diagnosed with a brain tumour nine years ago. “He was like a big brother,” Razzano said. “We shared very strong moments and, little by little, we fell in love.” It was thought that Vidal had encouraged Razzano to compete before his death.
Rosewall Hospitalised in Rome
Australian tennis Hall of Famer Ken Rosewall was hospitalised in Rome on Saturday morning after a suspected stroke. His wife, Wilma, said that the doctors had told her that he had not suffered any heart or brain damage and would be monitored until deemed fit to fly back to Australia. The eight-time Grand Slam champ was due to receive a golden racquet over the weekend given annually to greats of the game, which his wife accepted on his behalf at a dinner on Saturday night. His condition is said to be good.
Nalbandian Handed Queens Wildcard:
2002 Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian has been handed a wildcard in to the main draw at Queens club to warm up for his return to SW19. The Argentine has suffered badly with injuries over the past 12 months and aims to be fit for the grass-court Slam after failing to regain fitness in time for Roland Garros. He joins the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, British No.1 Andy Murray and Andy Roddick in the draw. “I am looking forward to starting my comeback from injury on grass at the AEGON Championships at The Queen’s Club,” said Nalbandian. Meanwhile, Canadian starlet Milos Raonic has committed to the 2011 Atlanta Tennis Championships, one of the opening events of the US Open Series from July 18-24. Americans John Isner, Mardy Fish and Sam Querrey are already on the bill.
Ginepri Hoping for Summer Return:
Robby Ginepri has said that he is back on the practice courts after breaking his elbow last autumn swerving to avoid a squirrel whilst cycling, and that he hopes to return to competitive action this summer.
This week’s South African Airways ATP World Rankings see Tomas Berdych climb back above David Ferrer to No.6 in the world, while Mardy Fish re-enters the Top 10 at the expense of Nicolas Almagro. Croatian Marin Cilic re-enters the Top 20 while Jarkko Nieminen of Finland is back in to the Top 50. Russia’s Igor Andreev and Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos take big leaps to re-enter the Top 100. In the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings, Maria Sharapova climbed above Sam Stosur to No.7 in the world after defeating the Aussie in the Rome final last weekend. New hotshot Petra Kvitova also claimed a new personal best by climbing above Serbia’s Jelena Jankovic to No.9. Greta Arn’s magnificent run to the quarters in Rome sees her post a career-best No.40, while Anastasia Pivovarova made it 16 Russians in the Top 100 by climbing up to a career-best No.95.
Rafa Still Edging Ahead in GOAT Race:
Last week saw Rafael Nadal reach another ATP Masters Final and extend his lead over Roger Federer in the 2011 Greatest Of All Time Race. Rafa’s second successive final defeat to Novak Djokovic gives him another 100 points to his total, while R-Fed’s failure to reach the quarter-finals means he fails to add any points on to his score.
Roger: 665, Rafa: 990