Saturday, 30 April 2011

Madrid Predictions

The ATP 250 tournaments are not over yet, with 3 finals still to come (and the last semifinal is about to start as I'm writing this), but the Madrid Masters 1000 draw is already out, and has a lot of potential for some very interesting matches. I filled in the ATP challenge draw today, and I'm already certain that about half of my predictions will turn out wrong.

So, what do we have?

1st quarter
Rafael Nadal is the first seed, of course, and his first interesting match will probably come in the 3rd round, against Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro has to get there first, and for that he'll have to get throught Mikhail Youzhny, and either Marin Cilic or Potito Starace. Considering the fact that he's one of the finalists this week, he's probably the favorite against any of them, but won't he be too exhausted, going straight from Estoril to Madrid?

In the same quarter, Jurgen Melzer will have a chance to meet one or two Frenchmen (Gasquet, Llodra), one of two US players (Roddick or Querrey), or maybe one or two qualifiers.

Prediction for the QF: Nadal def. Melzer

2nd quarter
A very interesting first match here features another of this week's finalists - Feliciano Lopez, against the currently-potential-finalist, Milos Raonic --
And just as I was writing it, Raonic withdrew from his semifinals against Verdasco, so I guess we won't have that match, since Raonic would probably skip Madrid now... Pity :(
But the winner of Lopez-whoever will play against Federer. Roger will have a chance to meet another current finalist, Verdasco, in his 3rd round.

We also have Almagro-Tsonga in the first round here, and we might get a re-match of the Australian Open R16 between Dolgopolov and Soderling (Dolgo will have to beat Santiago Giraldo for this).

Prediction for the QF: Federer def. Soderling

3rd quarter
This, in my opinion, is the most open part of the draw - we have Davydenko-Granollers (winner against Berdych), Karlovic-Monfils, Troicki-Mayer, Simon-Ljubicic (winner against Murray), and some more. Davydenko and Mayer will play tomorrow in the final in Munich, Troicki was a bit injured in Belgrade today, and Murray had that injury in Monte Carlo during his match with Rafa, so it's anyone's guess who'll actually come out of this quarter.

Prediction for the QF: Murray def. Davydenko

4th quarter
Here we have an all-American first round between Mardy Fish and John Isner, but whoever the winner is, he probably won't go far - David Ferrer awaits in the 3rd round, and if he's over his injury from last week, I can't see anyone beating him in that section.
In the second half of the quarter, Novak Djokovic (the last of this week's finalists) will meet either Ernests Gulbis or Kevin Anderson. Provided he'll get to the 3rd round, he might play against Juan Carlos Ferrero, who got back to the tour with some nice results in Barcelona last week, or maybe Stanislas Wawrinka, who lost his first match in Munich.

Prediction for the QF: Djokovic def. Ferrer

SF Predictions:
Nadal def. Federer
Djokovic def. Murray

So yes, I think we'll get a third Masters final between Rafa and Novak. And I think it'll end with the same result as the last two. A girl can dream, right? ;)

Belgrade, Munich, Estoril Quarterfinal results

I started a quick summary of the QF results in this post, but it quickly became too long, so it merits its own post, I think. So, what did we have today? Lots of rain, some surprises, and great successes for players in their home tournaments.

Philipp Petzschner was the first one to go through to the semifinals in Munich, defeating Potito Starace 7-6(3) 7-6(6). Germany will definitely have its own player in the Munich finals, as Florian Mayer was the second player to win QF there - 7-6(4) 3-6 6-4 against Dimitrov, and he'll play against Petzschner in the semis. However, Philipp Kohlschreiber managed to lose 6-4 6-0 (!!!) to Radek Stepanek, so we won't see an all-German final match. In any case, the second semifinal looks promising, Stepanek will play against Davydenko (who beat Marin Cilic) tomorrow.

By the way, I have to brag - I can now spell Petzschner without the need to look up the surname on the ATP site. Can you? :P


In Estoril, Juan Martin Del Potro added another win over Robin Soderling to his resume. After winning the first set 6-4, he was down 1-4 in the second when a long rain delay interrupted the match. Returning to the court after a couple of hours, he embarked on a spectacular comeback, broke Soderling's serve two times in a row and won the match 6-4 7-5. In the semis he'll meet Pablo Cuevas who won against Thomaz Bellucci, 6-4 6-2.

The other two QFs in Estoril started late because of the rain delay, were suspended due to darkness, and will be played tomorrow. Kevin Anderson won the first set 7-6(2) over Fernando Verdasco, while Gilles Simon is leading 6-5 (on serve) against Milos Raonic. Will we see a Verdasco-Raonic semifinal, and find out what "real tennis" looks like? ;)

Feliciano Lopez was the first to become a semifinalist in Belgrade today. He had a great run thus far this week, defeating Juan Monaco 6-4 7-5, Fernando Gonzalez 6-4 7-6(5), and today - Albert Montanes, 6-4 6-4. Considering the fact that he's not exactly a clay court specialist (while all of them... are), it's even more impressive. Next he'll be playing against Filippo Volandri, who won his match with Marcel Granollers 6-2 6-4.

Finally, in the last pair of QF in Belgrade, both Serbian players got through to schedule a meeting tomorrow - and so we'll have the pleasure to see Janko Tipsarevic against Novak Djokovic ;)

Janko won his match against Somdev Devvarman 6-3 3-6 6-4 today. He was serving for the match at 5-3, saved 3 breakpoints being 0-40 down, but was broken anyway for 5-4. However, in the next game Devvarman completely choked, more or less, missing some easy shots, and Janko won the game to love, breaking back and winning the match.
Novak scored his 28th straight win today over Blaz Kavcic (6-3 6-2), so he's now 26-0 from the beginning of the season. He either broke Lendl's record, or didn't, depending on when exactly you ask the ATP officials...

Oh, and in case you missed it, there was some wedding today that everybody talked about... Congratulations to William and Kate, I guess :)

(Munich photos from the BMW Open official site, JMDP photo by FRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images, Belgrade photos from the Serbia Open facebook page)

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Belgrade, Munich, Estoril ramblings

I'm going to use this post to collect random thoughts that don't deserve their own post, and will update it through the week.

  1. Dudi Sela lost (4)6-7, 6-3, 3-6 to Mischa Zverev in Belgrade. I haven't seen the whole match, but from what I saw - Sela had patches of good play, and then started spraying error after error each time... It's too bad, as he really had this match in his hands - after being 0-3 down in the 3rd set, he came back to 3-3, and then to 40-0 on Zverev's serve, but missed all 3 break points and lost the rest of the games. Disappointing... (Apr. 25)
  2. This has nothing to do with any of the tournaments above, but I can't read any more articles about Donald Young and the USTA... (Apr. 25)
  3. The facebook page of the Belgrade tournament is great. Though I might be a bit biased, and only saying it because they have lots of Novak pictures ;) (Apr. 25)
  4. Ivan Dodig, who was a semifinalist in Barcelona last week, just lost to Philipp Petzschner 1-6 4-6 in the 1st round in Munich.  Fatigue? After playing against Rafa, you can't blame him... (Apr. 26)
  5. More from the 1st round in Munich: Stan Wawrinka lost to Dustin Brown :O I had him winning the tournament in my predictions... (Apr. 26)
  6. The Germans are really doing well in their home tournaments, aren't they? Last week we saw Petkovic, Barrois, Lisicki and Goerges do well in Stuttgart, and this week in Munich we have Brown defeating the 2nd seed, Petzschner defeating the 1st seed (Youzhny), and a total of 6 Germans still in the draw (though tomorrow, Thursday, two of them play each other). (Apr. 27)
  7. Surprise in Belgrade: Novak Djokovic gets broken twice in a match!! *gasp*
    Just kidding, while he was indeed broken twice, he still defeated Adrian Ungur 6-2 6-3 in his first clay-court match of the season. This brings his streak up to 25-0 since the beginning of the season, and 27-0 since December 2010 (Davis Cup finals). So he's now tied in second place with Lendl in the "Best start of a season" category. (Apr. 27)
  8. Andy Ram and Yoni Erlich won their match today, and are through to the doubles semifinals in Belgrade! (Apr. 28)
  9. Quarterfinals results moved to a separate post which can be found here. (Apr. 29)
  10. Belgrade semis: Janko gave Novak a walkover, and Feli Lopez defeated Volandri, without losing a set all week. In the on court interview he said that he only got broken 3 times this week, and if you add that to the fact that he's one of only 5 players to take a set from Novak this year, I think we might have a very interesting final tomorrow... (Apr. 30)
  11. Munich semis: Tomorrow it'll be Davydenko vs. Mayer. It's Davydenko's best result in a while, good for him. (Apr. 30)
  12. Estoril semis: Del Potro beat Cuevas in a very nice match, the second set was tight. And Raonic... retired against Verdasco :( The final should be good! Too bad that it's the same time as Belgrade, and that I'll be in class when they start :-| 
  13. Finals "summary" here.
And that is all!

(All photos taken from the Serbia Open facebook page or the Munich Open official site)

Sunday, 24 April 2011

One thing I really like about tennis

Is this:




Of course, not every match is played between two close friends, but today we had two such semifinals - one in Stuttgart (Caro vs. Aga) and one in Barcelona (Daveed vs. Nico).

I think that tennis is quite unique in the respect players show each other. For kids playing tennis, walking up to shake your opponent's hand, no matter whether you won or lost, is surely an important experience, which helps them deal better with successes or failures later in life. The pros, however, do it on quite a different level, in my opinion. So watching them fight out the match, and still be able to show that appreciation is really endearing.

(Top two photos by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images. Sorry for the slightly crappy quality of the last one, it's a printscreen from the TennisTV stream)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

My blog wouldn't be complete without this

I need to make one last (I hope) trip back in time. So, let's go back to the end of Australian Open. Nole won it, and nobody knew yet just how spectacular his season would turn out to be.

But in the meantime, HEAD Tennis posted this on their facebook page:

And so, taking a couple of minutes to think about it, I posted a comment - one of those 110. It said: "This will be your year - finish it with all the Slams in your hands!"

Well, since I'm taking the time to write about this, I think you can guess what happened next - a couple of weeks later, it turned out that mine was one of the wishes that was written on the towel! I spent the rest of that day squeeing and grinning histerically.

 Mine is right there in the upper right corner.

So there is a small part of me that's hoping that Nole actually has a chance to see my name from time to time :) Naah, who am I kidding, it probably lies folded neatly somewhere in Monaco or Belgrade. But I'm still completely overjoyed about all this. Even now, two months later, it makes me smile :D

All the pictures are taken from the HEAD tennis facebook page, and can be found here.

Gotta love Serbian humor

Late edit: The video embedded below was removed, here's a link to a working video of Tipsarevic imitating Djokovic.

Janko Tipsarevic impersonating Novak Djokovic during the Monte Carlo player party. The video's description: "I had to do it...even thou he is not like this...I had to do it"

The funny thing is, after watching Novak's interviews and videos and seeing some pictures, I could really feel that I know the gestures he's making fun of. Being a fan is so much better with internet all around :D

Favorite quote: "Barack who?!"

Monday, 18 April 2011

Going back in time, part IV (and last): Davis Cup, March 2011

Just a month after hosting the Fed Cup, Israel got to host the Davis Cup once again, in the largest tennis compound in Ramat HaSharon. This tie was against Poland, and it was actually the 2nd round of the Europe/Africa Zone Group I, with the winner advancing to the World Group play-off.

With Poland's top doubles player, Lukasz Kubot, not participating, and their best singles player, Michal Przysiezny, getting out with an injury just before the tie - Israel's chances were looking really well. But Israel also showed up with what seemed to be a less strong team than before, as Harel Levi (and Noam Okun) officially retired from tennis about a month before the tie.

However, Israel went up 3-0 after just 2 days, as both Dudi Sela and Amir Weintraub won their singles matches, and Andy Ram/Yoni Erlich won the doubles against the strong Polish duo, Matkowski/Fyrstenberg. Amir, who played his first ever Davis Cup match, managed to win in a tight 5-setter. This was also his first best-of-5 match ever, and he won it despite twisting his ankle (if I remember correctly) in the 4th set. Most of the crowd left before the match was over, but the level of cheering never dropped :)

The tie ended with a 3-2, as Weintraub retired from his final match (a small exho match was done instead), and Sela lost his.

This is the last "Going back in time" post - from now on, I'll only post about recent events. Specifically, really looking forward to Roland Garros (got tickets for the mens' semifinals!) and the US Open (Booked a mini-plan for the first 5 days), but there are quite a few tournaments before that, as well ;)

Going back in time, part III: Fed Cup, February 2011

To my great delight, the first Europe/Africa Zone Group I matches of 2011 in the Federation Cup were held in the city of Eilat, in Israel. That meant that 15 teams came to compete here, and among them, some of the world's top women tennis players: Wozniacki, Azarenka, A. Radwanska, Peer (of course), and more. The compound in Eilat is quite small, which meant that the viewers were able to be as close to the players as possible.

Unfortunately for me, I could only be there for the first (out of four) days, but that day was very successful. I started with watching Vika Azarenka practice on the centre court.

And yes, she's quite vocal during the practice as well ;) After the practice, I had a chance to go and ask for an autograph. There weren't too many people around, so she looked a bit surprised at the request (then again, it was just after she signed for somebody else, so maybe I misinterpreted her expression...).

Quickly enough, the tie between Belarus and Austria started, and provided some enjoyable games. Belarus won all 3 matches, unsurprisingly.

From the highest corner of the court, I was able to see a bit of Agnieszka Radwanska's practice:

Then, after the morning ties and just before the afternoon ones, there was an opening ceremony with all the teams (apart from two that were still playing at the time).



Switzerland (I managed to get Patty Schnyder's autograph earlier, she was really nice):

 After the ceremony, it was time for the Israel-Luxembourg tie on centre court.  First up was Julia Glushko, against Luxembourg's veteran Anne Kremer. It was Julia's first FC match in front of a home crowd, and she won it in 3 sets, to the crowd's delight. I didn't get her autograph in the end of the match, but during one of the changeovers, I managed to get one from Shahar Peer :)

Then Shahar played (and won) against Mandy Minella:

I couldn't stay for the doubles match, as I had to catch the flight back home, but I'm glad that I got the chance to see so many players at once. Israel didn't manage to advance to World Group II, but there are rumours that the 2012 games might also be in Eilat, and if it will really happen - this time I'll make sure to get there for more than 1 day.

Tennis journalists annoy me

I was originally intending to finish writing all the "Going back in time" posts before I actually start posting about real-time events. But then several things happened, and I feel the urge to rant about them at length.

So, what did we have this weekend? Nadal won his 7th title in Monte-Carlo, but that's routine ;) Although I do have something to say about Rafa, too, but I'll save it for a later post.

But for the ladies, it was Fed Cup time. There were some expected results (Russia beat Italy), some unexpected results (Ukraine beat Australia), and some reactions from journalists, which is what I want to talk about.

The USA team, missing both Williams sisters and Bethanie Mattek-Sands, lost to Germany in Stuttgart, and for the first time ever (*Gasp*) will not be a part of the World Group in 2012. They will have to contend in the World Group II competitions, along with teams such as France, Slovakia, and Australia. Those are hardly second-rate teams, and yet - look at Peter Bodo's reaction to that loss:
As of this morning, the U.S. moves into the land of relegation, where it will have to battle the likes of Franco-Dutch Antibes, Andorra, Malta, Iceland, Kiribati, Great Britian and other minor tennis powers in order to get back into the big show it once dominated as the most successful tennis power to date.
And some more:
Let's hope we get a good draw for the WG II first-round next year and please, oh please, let us not draw Burkina Faso!
Alright, I get it. It's an attempt at an humorous outlook on what must be a disappointment for US tennis. But to me, it all just sounds extremely condescending. It's not as if the US team was relegated to Zone group II. It's World Group II. And it has some good teams, with great tennis players, and I'm sure that whoever USA will get in the first round draw will give us an interesting tie, with its share of Fed Cup surprises. But right now, without its best rackets, the team is exactly where it should be, and saying "Oh no, we'll have to play against some lowly teams", along with the usual "Fed Cup is boring" nonsense is simply aggravating.

Moving on to what was probably the most interesting tie of the weekend, and certainly the most dramatic one - Slovak republic vs. Serbia. I won't attempt to describe the weekend's events, as it's been done better before, but I do want to talk about the reaction of one, Matt Cronin, to Serbia's (awesome) win. It started with this:


... and after all the fury of tennis fans on twitter was unleashed on him, he proceeded with some more comments about them never being friends, and him knowing this from personal talks with both.
What I wanted to say it this: Without even getting into the personal likes or dislikes of both Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic, Cronin's original comment was simply not true.
First of all, I'm pretty sure that most of Ana's fans wanted Serbia to win, regardless of their feelings for JJ. So no, it wasn't a nightmare for them. I'm not even talking about Serbian tennis fans, who surely were thrilled to see the team winning, no matter which player was their favorite.

Secondly, Cronin makes it sound as though JJ won the tie all by herself. Obviously, she gave it all yesterday, and won the matches that (eventually) mattered. But she didn't do it all by herself. Aleksandra Krunic had a great part in that final rubber, and, regarding Cronin's comment - it was Ana who won the first point for Serbia, giving the team its chances to even get to a deciding rubber. So, to sum it up - it really was a team effort, even if the team members aren't BFFs.

What pisses me off, mostly, is the attempt (intentional or not, I don't know) to take a great win and to turn it into over-dramatized discussion of who's friends with whom. It was unnecessary, and in my opinion - completely missed the point of what Fed Cup is all about.

As this post already became much longer than I intended, I'll add just one more thing that annoyed me:
The same Matt Cronin later delivered the news that Francesca Schiavone has pulled out of the Stuttgart tournament, due to exhaustion. Which turned out to be completely untrue. So I don't know what that was about, but my respect for some tennis journalists probably just hit an all time low...

End of rant.

(Photos: Srdjan Stevanovic, via Fed Cup site)

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Going back in time, part II: ATP World Tour Finals, London 2010

So, following the Davis Cup, I quickly realized that Live Tennis >>>>> tennis on TV (yes, it's probably a no-brainer), and that I wanted to get more of it. After scouting the list of tournaments (this was in the beginning of October), I started having crazy thoughts about going to London to see the World Tour Finals. Top 8 on the ATP tour, can there be anything better than this?

Then the crazy thoughts became a reality. Here I was, on a weekend in London, with a ticket to both sessions of the final day of the Round-Robin matches, namely: Rafael Nadal vs. Tomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic vs. Andy Roddick. I can try words, but the pictures tell it all better:

The main suprise, compared to the Davis Cup, was the crowd. Which makes sense, really, because DC crowd is usually horrible, or at least that's what I thought at the first time I was there. So seeing and hearing thousands of spectators completely silent as the player serves, and faults, and serves again - it was pretty incredible. You see it on TV all the time, of course, but it really is something else when you feel it live. Also, the fact that the crowd cheers for good tennis, and not for the favorite player, is really great. I don't think you ever get this in any other sport.

After each match, it was autograph-hunting time! It wasn't too difficult to get down to where the winners (Rafa and Nole) signed for their fans, but it was difficult to predict on which side of the court you should stand in order to make it. So with Rafa I misjudged, and he ended up signing mostly on the other side of the court. Eventually he was 3-4 people away from where I was standing, and then left, so that's one signature I didn't get...
So then I thought I should go to the other side of the court when Novak finished his match. And of course, he started from the opposite side! But this time, I got lucky, as I managed to sqeeze in to the front with a couple of kids, and I was one of the last people who got his autograph that night!

I left the O2 arena that day feeling completely dazzled. And wanting more.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Going back in time, part I: Davis Cup 2010

My tennis involvement actually began with my brother (currently 11 years old) starting to play tennis competitively. I had to learn the rules if I wanted to cheer for him in his matches, and so it began.
But you can't really become obsessed with a sport if you only watch kids play it once a month*. So, the first pro match I sat down to watch was the Davis Cup tie between Israel and Russia, quarterfinals of the World Group. Winning it was one of the best Israeli achievements in tennis, and I remember telling my family afterwards: "If Germany beats Spain, we'll be hosting the semifinals - and we have to get tickets!" Of course, Germany didn't beat the Armada, and so - we had to wait over a year before there was another tie on our home ground. In the meantime, our team lost to Chile, and what we came to watch in September 2010 was the World Group Playoff between Austria and Israel.

The first match has given us hope, as Dudi Sela (on your left) beat Andreas Haider-Maurer in straight sets without particular problems.

Next, however, was Jurgen Melzer, a Top 15 player at that time. Harel Levi, of course, was no match for Melzer, who sent us back home with 1-1 at the end of the first day.

We came back the next morning, to cheer for Yoni Erlich and Andy Ram, who played against Melzer and Alexander Peya. This was a day with tough scheduling, as it was the eve of Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday on which Israel completely stops for a day and a half. Literally stops - all businesses are closed, no TV broadcasts, no cars on the roads... So, in addition to the tie being played on Thursday, Friday and Sunday instead of the usually Fri-Sun, there was a bit of a pressure on the players to finish the match as quick as they could, I think. Luckily for us, Ram & Erlich beat the Austrian team in three close sets, and all the spectators were able to get home before the holiday arrived.

To make a long story short, both Sela and Levi lost their last day matches, with Israel falling behind to the Group I tier (where, frankly, it probably belongs more than WG).

But even though the results were a bit discouraging, the live tennis experience was definitely the best. Seeing it all happen in front of you, cheering with the crowd, really rooting for the players you're watching - it was simply great.

But maybe the best part of those days was my brother's attempt to get autographs from all involved. We were all very happy when he managed to get not only all the Israelis' signatures, but Melzer's, as well (in red marker, might I add). This started a tradition of a sorts - now, for every tournament I visit, I bring with me the small notebook with the autographs, and try to add some more to the pile. And you know what? It's just fun.

* To this day, watching my brother play gets me much more nervous than watching, say, Djokovic take on Nadal in the Miami finals. And that means something ;)

Sunday, 10 April 2011

First Serve

As my tennis obsession becomes deeper and deeper, I've discovered that I tend to totally forget anything that's older than the last couple of days' matches. For instance, I can't recall anything from the previous Wimbledon, other than that Isner-Mahut quickie (which IS tough to forget, I think). When I tried to check if I ever watched anything else, I found a post I wrote somewhere, in which I'm telling people to tune in to a Federer match. This must have been his 1st round match against Falla, but if I haven't written about it, I probably would've thought I'd never seen any of it.

So, to get to the point - I have to write it all down, if I want to remember a year from now what I thought about 2011's hard court season (it can be summed up as: Djokovic rules), or any other tennis I'm going to watch.

Also, I'm starting to assemble quite a few photos from tournaments I go to, which will include two out of four Grand Slams this year - Roland Garros and the U.S. Open. That will be my first live slam(s) ever, so I'm pretty excited :) Anyway, I'm going to upload some of the photos here (having them on facebook really isn't the same), and hopefully, 10 years from now I can look back at it and reminiscence about the good times I had there :D

So, more will be coming, I hope!