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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Future Tennis Superstar: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

Throughout this second week I have been witness to a few talented players who I feel will make a dent in future Grand Slams.  Tonight, I watched Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova play against defending champion, Francesca Schiavone - and she almost won! The scoreline was 61 41 and Anastasia was very close to getting into her first Grand Slam semifinal.  However, Francesca came alive and fought her way back!  One good thing though is that Anastasia fought back in the third set, even if she was down at 1-5.  She eventually made it 5-5 before nerves crept back again, which allowed Francesca to win her way.

Even then, this performance shows that Anastasia has what it takes to win a Grand Slam.  She's only 19 anyway and will get to learn how to handle those tense moments, especially when she feels she's winning too easily against a vaunted champion.

Fabio Fognini: Surprise Quarterfinalist in French Open 2011

No one really expected 49th ranked Fabio Fognini of Italy to reach the quarterfinals here in Roland Garros.  During this year's clay court season, he was only ranked 63rd among all the players based on the points he won - so he wasn't really on anyone's list. 

However, with the help of Frenchman Stephane Robert who booted out Tomas Berdych, in their side of the draw, and Albert Montanes who booted out Mikhail Youzhny, both seeds on their side of the draw have been booted out.  That's when Fognini stepped out of the plate and won his fourth round match against Spaniard Albert Montanes.  However, his victory was met by controversy as he asked for a medical timeout at a very crucial moment of their game with Montanes.  People have remarked that by doing so, he got an unfair advantage over Montanes, which helped him win in the end. 

Interestingly, he backed out of his quarterfinal match with Novak Djokovic, citing injury.  I guess the French crowd would've booed him out of the stadium if he did play.
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Sunday, May 29, 2011

We'll Miss You Patty Schnyder

I think the most memorable match I've seen of Patty Schnyder was her semifinal match against Kim Clijsters in the 2004 Australian Open.  She lost in that match but I remember she really played her best there!  I've always loved watching her play since her game bore no resemblance to the power game of the Williams sisters and Davenport, who were ruling the game at that time - so it was really nice to see someone do something a bit different.

We'll miss you Patty and thank you for all the wonderful memories!

Ruggedly Handsome Tennis Players

I know most of the guys in the Top 100 of the ATP Tour but I haven't really seen them play since we only get Grand Slams here in the Philippines.  So tonight, I was lucky to see Pablo Andujar and Simone Bolelli play, and both of them are ruggedly handsome!  I just couldn't keep my eyes of them!  I think they are both very hot!!  The guy on top is Pablo while the guy below is Simone.  Now drool!!

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Leonardo Mayer: Player Ranked Outside the Top 200 But Reached the Third Round of the French Opn 2011

Leonardo Mayer of Argentina, currently ranked #217, reached the third round of this year's French Open.  He defeated German Dustin Brown in the first round 36 76(5) 62 62 and upset Marcos Baghdatis 75 64 76(5) in the second round.  He lost to the past two year's finalist, Robin Soderling 61 64 63 in the third round today.  Mayer should climb within striking distance of the Top 100 after his superb performance in this year's French Open.

Antonio Veic: Player Ranked Outside the Top 200 But Reached the Third Round of the French Open

Antonio Veic of Croatia, currently ranked #227, is one of the only two players ranked outside the Top 200, to have reached the third round of the French Open.  The other one is Leonard Mayer of Argentina, ranked #217.  Veic upset Russian veteran, Nikolay Davydenko in the second round 36 62 75 36 61 and won over Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay who abandoned the game in the first round.  However today, he was bamboozled out of court by world #1 Rafael Nadal, 61 63 60.  Even then, this should be a great learning experience for Veic whose ranking should zoom up after this French Open.

French Open 2011 Breakout Player: Alejandro Falla

Alejandro Falla of Colombia is this year's French Open 2011 Breakout Player.  Although already a veteran player, Falla's current ranking of #120 makes him the lowest ranked player this year to get to the fourth round.  His dream run here could easily propel him back to the Top 100 when rankings are released a week from now.  Today, Falla defeated Lukasz Kubot of Poland, the guy who took out Nicolas Almagro in the first round.  He will next meet Juan Ignacio Chela, and both will slug it out to find out who among them will reach the quarterfinals for the first time in their careers.

French Open 2011: Elite Men's Team Country Award

France wins this year's French Open Elite Men's Team Country Award by a hairline against archrival, Spain.  Three Frenchmen and three Spanish men have made it through the fourth round, so I had to use their current rankings to determine the winning country.  Spain's fourth round entrants were Rafael Nadal (#1), David Ferrer (#7) and Albert Montanes (#38) so their country had a total 46 points. 

On the other hand, France's fourth round entrants are Gael Monfils (#8), Richard Gasquet (#16) and Gilles Simon (#19), for a total of 43 points, 3 points lower than Spain.  So France gets the award this year, and most fittingly, in the French Open grand slam!

French Open 2011Breakout Player: Yung-Jan Chan

I normally give this award to the lowest-ranked player in the draw that reaches at least the fourth round and the player must currently rank outside the Top 100.  In this year's French Open, four women currently ranked outside the Top 100 have reached the third round and the lowest ranked is Yung-Jan Chan of Chinese-Taipei, now currently ranked at #129.  Today, she lost to Maria Sharapova 62 63.  Yung-Jan Chan becomes the Breakout Player for this year's French Open!

French Open 2011: Elite Women's Team Country Award

Russia continues to dominate the elite women's Team Country Award in the Grand Slams.  In this year's French Open, six Russian women are in the fourth round!  An impressive feat showing how deep the Russian bench is.  Even with the retirement of Elena Dementieva, other younger Russian women have taken her place.  The team this time is being led by #3 seed, Vera Zvonareva.  The five other Russian women in the fourth round are Maria Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Maria Kirilenko and Ekaterina Makarova.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Irina-Camelia Begu: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 But Reaches the Round of 64 of the French Open 2011

Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania, currently ranked #102, is one of Romania's new tennis hopes.  This is her first appearance in a grand slam and has already notched one victory.  She made a fantastic run at Marbella, where she played runner up to Victoria Azarenka.  She was ranked #138 then.

Here in Roland Garros, her first round victory was over Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai who's a Top 20 player.  Her second round match-up though was even tougher - against two-time French Open champion, Svetlana Kuznetsova.  She lost.  However, her experiences here against the top tier players should be a great learning experience for her.

Aleksandra Wozniacki: Player Currently Ranked Outside the Top 100 But Reaches the Round of 64 of the French Open 2011

Aleksandra Wozniak Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada plays a backhand during the women's singles third round match between Elena Dementieva of Russia and Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada on day six of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 28, 2010 in Paris, France.

Aleksandra Wozniak, currently ranked #188 in the world, reaches the round of 64 in this year's French Open.  She's also one of the two Canadians to have made the second round of the French Open, a first for the country since 1991.  Her best performance here though was a fourth round appearance in 2009.  This year, she lost to world #1 Caroline Wozniacki.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Two Brits and Two Canadians in Second Round French Open

It's the usual Russians, Spanish and French players during the yearly French Open, so it's interesting to see that two Brits and two Canadians have made it to the second round.  Elena Baltacha (#83) and Heather Watson (#119) are the Brits while the Canadians are Rebecca Marino (#62) and Aleksandra Wozniak (#162).  Let's see if anyone of them survives and moves on to the 3rd round.

Appetizing Third Round Match: Novak Djokovic vs. Juan del Potro

Novak Djokovic meets a dangerous opponent in Juan Del Potro in the third round!  He has been playing really well in the first two rounds so I'm curious as to how he disposes of the talented Del Potro.  I think Djokovic will win though, still in 3 sets, but I'm sure it's going to be a very close scoreline.

Nuria Llagostera Vives: Qualifier Into the Third Round

A veteran clay courter, I am not actually surprised that Nuria Llagostera Vives has reached the third round of the French Open.  However, she had to qualify to get into the main draw since she's ranked #111 in the world right now.  She has now defeated Alize Cornet (second round) and Anastasia Pivovarova (first round).  She faces a tough third round opponent in Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is one of the top clay courters this season.

Caroline Garcia: The Lowest Ranked Player to Reach the 2nd Rd of the French Open 2011

Caroline Garcia of France becomes the lowest ranked player to reach the second round in this year's French Open.  She's ranked #188.  She won over Zuzana Ondraskova of the Czech Republic in the first round.  She did not pass through qualifications but was handed a wild card to the main draw.  Her next opponent is Maria Sharapova, one of the favorites in this year's French Open.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

French Open 2011: Six Interesting Match-Ups for Day 1

1.  David Ferrer (ESP) vs. Jarkko Nieminen (FIN)

I haven't seen Jarkko Nieminen play for a long time now so his match with David Ferrer would be nice to watch to find out if he still has that competitiveness he once had.  It would be difficult though since David is having a fantastic season on clay.  Ferrer in 3 sets.

2.  Shahar Peer (ISR) vs. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez (ESP)

Well, Martinez Sanchez is a competent clay player and Shahar Peer is no pushover either.  So for a first round match, this is definitely going to be a slugfest.  Martinez Sanchez in 3 sets.

3.  Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) vs. Arantxa Parra Santonja ESP)

Parra Santonja is another competent clay player.  Mattek-Sands has had a good clay season this year.  So it would be interesting to see how Mattek-Sands deals with a clay courter.  She's also one of the more flamboyant players in the WTA Tour so she's fun to watch.  Mattek-Sands in 3 sets.

4.  Lleyton Hewitt (AUS) vs. Albert Montanes (ESP)

Clay may not be Lleyton's favorite surface but it would be interesting to watch how a former Grand Slam champion deals with a clay courter like Albert Montanes.  Montanes in five sets.

5.  Jelena Jankovic (SRB) vs. Alona Bondarenko (UKR)

I haven't heard any recent play from Alona Bondarenko but I know she's one of the better players in the WTA Tour.  So it's interesting to see how she deals with Jankovic, who's a very good clay courter.  Jankovic in two sets though because she's having a good clay season.

6.  Kei Nishikori (JPN) vs. Yen Hsun-Lu (TPE)

It's rare that we see two Asians in a match-up in a Grand Slam, especially in the French Open.  So I think this is a very interesting match-up of two of best players from Asia.  I am rooting for Kei though.  Nishikori in four sets.

Novak Djokovic: My Bet to Win the 2011 French Open

This French Open will truly be the test whether Novak Djokovic has the makings of a real champion.  Yes, he does have two Grand Slam titles already but he hasn't had shown the consistency which Federer and Nadal has done during their incredible runs.  So it's crucial for him to win this French Open to show everyone that he too, can handle the pressure of continuing a winning form.

His achievements this past month has shown that he can win over Nadal on clay twice in a row, so he is really the overwhelming favorite to win this title.

It's not going to be an easy task though as he may face Del Potro in the third round, then Gasquet in the fourth round, Berdych in the quarters and Ferrer or Federer in the semi's.  So definitely not an easy draw for him.

Nadal has a relatively easier draw to the final.  His possible opponents include Davydenko, Ljubicic, Soderling and Murray.

Federer, on the other hand, may have to face Dodig, Tsonga and Ferrer, before facing Djokovic in the semi's.

Well, the French Open starts in less than 3 hours so let the fun begin!

Top 10 Male Players Expected to Do Well in the French Open 2011

These are the Top 10 male players expected to do well in this year's French Open, based on their performance this clay season.  Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic should make it to the finals, while Ferrer and Murray should be their semifinal opponents.  As for Roger Federer, he should reach the quarterfinals.  Below is the list -

1.  Rafael Nadal (ESP) 1312 points
2.  Novak Djokovic (SRB) 1120
3.  David Ferrer (ESP) 460
4.  Andy Murray (GBR) 260
5.  Roger Federer (SUI) 224
6.  Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 193
7.  Richard Gasquet (FRA) 185
8.  Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 178
9.  Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) 168
10. Tomas Berdych (CZE) 162

Nicolas Almagro: Nice Open Champion

Nicolas Almagro (ESP) (#12) gets his third ATP title this year by beating Victor Hanescu in the finals.  Nicolas has had a solid clay season and finishes the season at #6, making him one of the top favorites to win the French Open. This was his path to the finals -

F - Victor Hanescu (ROU) (#69) 67(5) 63 63
SF - Tomas Berdych (CZE) (#6) 64 64
QF - Pablo Andujar (ESP) (#49) 61 64
2R - Carlos Berlocq (ARG) (#68) 67(5) 64 63
1R - Bye

Victor Hanescu: Surprise Finalist Nice Open

Victor Hanescu (ROU) (#69) is a surprise finalist in Nice.  He lost to eventual champion Nicolas Almagro.  In this clay season, Hanescu finishes at #24.  This was his path to the finals -

F - lost to Nicolas Almagro (ESP) (#12) 76(5) 36 36
SF - Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) (#23) 63 63
QF - Robin Haase (NED) (#59) 62 20 Retd
2R - Michael Russell (USA) (#91) 75 62
1R - Benoit Paire (FRA) (#106) 60 61

Tomas Berdych: Semifinalist Nice Open

It's the day before the French Open and we see Tomas Berdych reach the semifinals of Nice.  He lost to eventual champion Nicolas Almagro.  However, this clay season, Tomas ranks #10 overall.  This was his path to the semifinals -

SF - lost to Nicolas Almagro (ESP) (#12) 46 46
QF - Ernests Gulbis (LAT) (#85) 61 64
2R - Adrian Mannarino (FRA) (#53) 61 64
1R - Bye

Alexandr Dolgopolov: Semifinalist Nice Open

Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) (#23) gets to the semifinals in the Nice Open.  He lost to Victor Hanescu.  It's a good preparation for the Roland Garros today since his clay season was not so great. He did take out David Ferrer, one of the favorites in Roland Garros, so that should boost his confidence.  This was his path to the semifinals -

SF - lost to Victor Hanescu (ROU) (#69) 63 63
QF - David Ferrer (ESP) (#7) 64 16 75
2R - Pere Riba (ESP) (#65) 62 62
1R - Filippo Volandri(ITA) (#74) 75 63

Maria Sharapova: My Bet to Win This Year's French Open

I already saw the draw for this year's French Open and Maria Sharapova has a very good chance of completing her Grand Slam collection.  Already a winner of the Australian Open (2008), US Open (2006) and Wimbledon (2004), now is a very good time for Maria to win her first French Open.  I am personally very excited since her chances are very good although she has to contend with a tough draw.  Of course, what's a Grand Slam title without a tough draw.

From her side of the draw, Maria may have to deal with Agnieszka Radwanska, then either Andrea Petkovic or Kim Clijsters.  Her toughest opponent may be Victoria Azarenka or Petra Kvitova in the semifinals.  In the finals, she may have to beat the world #1 Caroline Wozniacki, or last year's champion, Francesca Schiavone, or last year's runner up Samantha Stosur.

Even then, with experience on her side, Maria Sharapova should rise to the occasion.

Here is my fearless forecast:

Finals: Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (#1) vs. Maria Sharapova (RUS) (#7)

Semifinals 1: Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (#1) vs. Francesca Schiavone (ITA) (#5)
Semifinals 2: Maria Sharapova (RUS) (#7) vs. Victoria Azarenka (BLR) (#4)

Top 10 Female Players Expected to Do Well in Roland Garros 2011

Well, this is not a definitive list since Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters and Venus Williams did not even compete in any clay tournament this year.  This is just based on the points each player gained after joining any of the clay tournaments.  Based on this criteria, Petra Kvitova is the player most favored to win this year's French Open.  Victoria Azarenka is ranked #2, while Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki should be semifinal material.  To round out the most likely quarterfinalists, they are - Julia Goerges, Li Na, Samantha Stosur and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.  Last year's French Open champion Francesca Schiavone is ranked #9 while the surprise #10 player is Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

Anyway, the fun begins tomorrow so let's see if they all stand up to the test in Roland Garros.

Caroline Wozniacki: Champion Brussels Open

Well, Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (#1) shows her competitors that she has what it takes to win a clay tournament, as she snares the last clay title before competition starts tomorrow in Roland Garros.  She won over Peng Shuai of China.  This should give her a confidence boost which she needs to win her first ever Grand Slam title.  She also defeated Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open champion in the semifinals here.  This was her path to the championship -

F - Peng Shuai (CHN) (#31) 26 63 63
SF - Francesca Schiavone (ITA) (#5) 64 46 63
QF - Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) (#22) 20 Retd
2R - Varvara Lepchenko (USA) (#85) 64 76(5)
1R - Bye

Peng Shuai: Surprise Finalist in Brussels

Peng Shuai (CHN) (#31) may have had a slow start in the clay season but she shows she's in good form just in time for the start of the French Open tomorrow, by reaching the finals of the Brussels Open.  She lost to Caroline Wozniacki but took the first set! This was her path to the finals -

F - lost to Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (#1) 26 63 63
SF - Vera Zvonareva (RUS) (#3) 63 63
QF - Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) (#76) 62 64
2R - Abigail Spears (USA) (#396) 62 60
1R - Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) (#96) 60 16 63

Francesca Schiavone: Semifinalist Brussels Open

2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone chooses Brussels as her last stop this clay season and she reaches the semifinals, only losing to Caroline Wozniacki.  Based on her performance this clay season, Schiavone is ranked the #9 favorite.  This was her path to the semifinals -

SF - lost to Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) (#1) 64 46 63
QF - Ayumi Morita (JPN) (#57) 62 63
2R - Irina Falconi (USA) (#116) 64 64
1R - Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) (#34) 62 75

Vera Zvonareva: Semifinalist Brussels Open

Vera Zvonareva (RUS) (#3) makes her finals preparations for Roland Garros in the Brussels Open this week where she reaches the semifinals.  She lost to Peng Shuai of China.  Before this, it hasn't been a great clay season for Vera and she only ranks #18 among the favorites there based on her clay season.  She is ranked #3 though in the world.  This was her path to the semifinals -

SF - lost to Peng Shuai (CHN) (#31) 63 63
QF - Alexandra Dulgheru (ROU) (#28) 60 61
2R - Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) (#291) 26 64 63
1R - Bye

Andrea Petkovic: Strasbourg Open Champion

Andrea Petkovic (GER) (#15) continues her fine form this year, this time, displaying what she can do in clay.  This is her first WTA title this year.  In the list of players favored to do well in Roland Garros, she only ranks #20, based on her performance this clay season. This was her path to the championsips -

F - Marion Bartoli (FRA) (#11) 64 10 Retd.
SF - Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) (#30) 64 36 64
QF - Maria Kirilenko (RUS) (#26) 64 63
2R - Zhang Shuai (CHN) (#79) 61 63
1R - Anna Lena-Groenefeld (GER) (#212)

Marion Bartoli: Strasbourg Finalist

It has been a quiet clay season for Marion Bartoli (FRA) (#11) till now, where she reaches the finals of Strasbourg.  She lost to Andrea Petkovic.  Marion is one of those players who can do damage to the draw in Roland Garros tomorrow but her performance during the clay season only plays her among the Top 25 favorites.  This was her path to the finals -

F - lost to Andrea Petkovic (GER) (#15) 64 10 Retd
SF - Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) (#44) 61 62
QF - Lucie Hradecka (CZE) (#49) 62 63
2R - Elena Baltacha (GBR) (#83) walkover
1R - Kimiko Date Krumm (JPN) (#60) 62 61

Daniela Hantuchova: Semifinalist Strasbourg Open

Finally, Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) (#30) makes a breakthrough this clay season by reaching the semifinals in Strasbourg.  This should prepare her mentally and physically for Roland Garros tomorrow.  She lost to eventual champion Andrea Petkovic. This was her path to the semifinals -

SF - lost to Andrea Petkovic (GER) (#15) 64 36 64
QF - Nadia Petrova (RUS) (#27) 64 62
2R - Mathilde Johansson (FRA) (#71) 64 62
1R - Johanna Larsson (SWE) (#66) 63 64

Anabel Medina Garrigues: Semifinalist in Strasbourg

Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) (#44) still really has the chops to play on clay.  She reaches the semifinals of the Strasbourg Open, the fourth round of Rome and is the current Estoril champion.  She may make a dent in the French Open draw but maybe up to the third round.  This was her path to the semifinals -

SF - lost to Marion Bartoli (FRA) (#11) 61 62
QF - Mirjana Lucic (CRO) (#106) 64 64
2R - Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) (#51) 62 60
1R - Melanie Oudin (USA) (#89) 63 61

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Top Men Expected to Slug it out for the French Open Crown

The Rome Open has just wrapped up and we have now an updated list of players expected to do well in the coming French Open.  These points are based on their performances in the different tournaments this clay court season.  These are currently the Top 10 players during this year's clay court season -

1. Rafael Nadal (ESP) - 1312 points
2. Novak Djokovic (SRB) - 1120
3. David Ferrer (ESP) - 456
4. Andy Murray (GBR) - 260
5.  Roger Federer (SUI) - 224
6.  Richard Gasquet (FRA) - 185
7.  Jurgen Melzer (AUT) - 178
8.  Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) - 168
9.  Nicolas Almagro (ESP) - 161
10.  Tomas Berdych (CZE) - 154

The Female Players Expected to Do Well in the French Open

Well, the Rome Open has been decided and Maria Sharapova was crowned queen there.  So, now that the clay court season is coming into its climax next week in the French Open, here are the ten female players expected to slug it out for the title - based on their performance this clay court season.  And be sure to add in the mix later, Venus and Serena Williams, who normally don't do the circuit but are still contenders because of their style of play.

1.  Petra Kvitova (CZE) - 1280 points
2.  Victoria Azarenka (BLR) - 758
3.  Maria Sharapova (RUS) - 720
4.  Julia Goerges (GER) - 536
5.  Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) - 528
6.  Li Na (CHN) - 486
7.  Samantha Stosur (AUS) - 460
8.  Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) - 208
9.  Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) - 187
10.  Lucie Safarova (CZE) - 183

Is Novak Djokovic the New King of Clay?

With two back-to-back wins in Madrid last week, and in Rome this week, over Rafael Nadal, and to be still unbeaten this year - has Novak Djokovic already found the formula to beat both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and pave the way for him to be the king of clay this year?  Well, we'll know when the French Open comes around in a week's time.  Novak's renewed self-confidence has certainly brought him to heights he has never been before.  This has been his best season yet - and yes, he has to win the French Open for him to emphatically say, he is the new king of the clay courts!