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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Novak: Grand Slam title #5

It was truly a battle of the current lords of tennis.  That it took Novak more than five hours to subdue a stubborn Rafa just tells volumes of how close the match was.  It was really a long match!!  I caught the first four games then I had to leave the house to bring the kids to the mall - it was a Sunday afternoon after all in Manila.  Five hours later, we were headed to the car park when I glimpsed part of the fifth set in TGIF Trinoma and when we arrived home, I was lucky enough to catch the heartstopping last three games!  Unbelieveable really! These guys are truly warriors!  It might be tough for Rafa to get over this when he came so close, but knowing the champion that he is, he should be able to get over this in time for the clay season.

As for Novak, he is slowly stacking up his Grand Slam trophies and now he has five.  He better try to win more since as the scorelines suggest, any of the Top 4 are just as close to him and anything can happen on a given day.  But for now, let's give him a big round of applause for winning the longest men's Grand Slam final in history.

Finally, Order Has Been Restored in the Rankings of Women's Tennis

The last four Grand Slams in women's tennis has gone to a new champion!  The French Open 2011 champion was  Li Na, then Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon, then Sam Stosur won the US Open and this week, Victoria Azarenka won the Australian Open!  And Vika also gets to be world #1!  Finally, order has been restored in the rankings of women's tennis.  Caro is still there, but she will reportedly be at #4, a ranking which actually suits her performance better.  Will she win a Grand Slam soon?  Well, as Martina Hingis said, she really has to step it up against the power hitters, otherwise, they will just blow her away from the court.

I am actually looking forward now to the French Open since all these five aforementioned women are capable of winning there!  And of course, there's Francesca Schiavone, who's still in fighting form.  Anyhow, that is still months away and there's more tennis to cover - as the tournaments go around the world!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Gulf Between the Top Four Men and the Rest of the Pack

Novak, Rafa, Roger and Andy - a mixture of past and present champions - the past and the future of men's tennis, have been dominating the recent Grand Slams.  I have been noticing this since the Australian Open last year, that it's been getting harder and harder for the rest of the men in the ATP tour to get to a Grand Slam semifinal since these four guys have kept a lock at the Top 4. It used to be just three, but now that Murray is slowly showing off some of his potential, none of the guys ranked lower than them, have penetrated the Grand Slam semifinal. 

Yes, there have been some instances that some guys were lucky - I remember David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga both did it once last year, but other than that, it has always been these four guys.

And that permutation is repeated again in the first Grand Slam of the year.  In this year's Australian open, it was only Tomas Berdych who took Rafa to four sets.  All the rest (Kei Nishikori, David Ferrer and Juan Martin Del Potro) fell in 3 sets.  That's how tough these four guys were!

Discovering Mona Barthel

As of December last year, I haven't actually heard of Mona Barthel yet but in just a span of a few weeks, she has reached the Top 50, won her first maiden title in Hobart, and reached the third round of the Australian Open, defeating veteran Anne Keothavong and a seeded Czech player, Petra Cetkovska (#32).  However, the luck of the draw did not shine on her as she met Victoria Azarenka on the third round.  Yet even then, she won six games against Victoria and I'm sure she learned a lot from that match.  I won't be surprised if she starts to assault the Top 30 by year end.

Victoria Azarenka Looks for Maiden Grand Slam Title

When I saw Victoria Azarenka play in the earlier rounds of the Australian Open last week, I knew immediately that she would be one of the top players expected to go deeper into the tournament - and that, a week later, she gets into the finals - is no surprise. It's incredible to see her mature emotionally and mentally - and her shots - whew!  They're amazing to say the least!

I am actually picking her to win her first Grand Slam title.  This is her time and she should grab it!  She is in good form and she is mentally strong.  It will be a very close fight though because I'm sure, Sharapova will not just give her chance of a Grand Slam title away.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Maria Sharapova Returns to an Australian Open Final

Maria Sharapova has been playing really well in this year's Australian Open. In the fourth round, she edged out a challenge from German Sabine Lisicki - and today, she once again stuck with her shots as she edged Petra Kvitova in their very close semifinal.  At 4-4 in the third set, the next games could have gone either way - and this time - to avenge her loss in the Wimbledon final last year - it was Maria's time to shine. 

It would be great to see her get her second Australian Open title, but she will have to fight just as hard as she fought today to ward off the challenge from Victoria Azarenka.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ekaterina Makarova - Another Russian Shines

The Russian women's contingent in tennis is undoubtedly very deep so it's not surprising that another Russian is showing signs of finding her form.  Ekaterina Makarova (currently ranked #56) has gone into her very first Grand Slam quarterfinal!

Her win over in-form player Kaia Kanepi (#27) - who just won Brisbane - was indeed no fluke as she followed it up with an upset win over #7 seed Vera Zvonareva in the third round.  Her impressive win over Serena Williams (#12) in the fourth round just shows how confident she is now with her game.  Although she lost to Maria Sharapova (#4) for a place in the semifinals, I am sure that Ekaterina can go further as she gets more experience in this type of event. 

With her quarterfinal showing here, she should get into the Top 50 soon enough.  Hopefully she gets seeded once she gets into the French Open, that way, she won't have to face top tier players and have an easier way into the quarters.

Sara Errani - Another Italian Rises

There are two Cinderellas in this year's Australian Open.  One of them is Sara Errani, who I'm sure, was in no one's list of potential quarterfinalists in this year's Aussie Open.  But just like her fellow Italian, Francesca Schiavone, who came out of nowhere, to win the 2010 French Open, Sara Errani (currently ranked #48), slowly and steadily made her way into the second week of the Aussie Open. 

er important wins include Nadia Petrova (#31) in the second round, Sorana Cirstea (#59) in the third round - Sorana took out Samantha Stosur in the first round, and Zheng Jie (#38) in the fourth round.  However, her quarterfinal opponent was Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova (#2), and although Sara gave it her all, Kvitova's power play was able to thump her.  Nevertheless, she still won 8 games all in all.  Not bad!

Kei Nishikori: Asian Challenge in the Men's Tour

Currently ranked #26 in the world today (a ranking that will most likely go up after a quarterfinal showing here), Kei Nishikori has been the lone Asian challenge in the ATP Tour - and it is just fitting that he reached the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.  His win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga shows that he can defeat a Top 10 player, although his drubbing today from Andy Murray may be more due to fatigue than a real assessment of his abilities.  If he continues to give good performances in the Slams, it wouldn't be farfetched to see him near the Top 10 by year end - but that would involve a lot of work - since even within the Top 25, the competition is so intense!
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Nina Bratchikova: Breakout Player Australian Open 2012

It's not uncommon for a Russian player to win this award, and this year, just like last year, another Russian wins the MyFABETennis BreakOut Player for this year's Australian Open.  Her name is Nina Bratchikova.  She is currently ranked #136 in the world today.  She had wins over Alberta Brianti (#71) and Flavia Pennetta (#20).  This 3rd round performance should send her ranking into the Top 100. She lost to Iveta Benesova (#46) though for a place in the fourth round.
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Australian Open 2012: Elite Women's Team Country Award

The MyFABETennis blog awards the Elite Women's Team Country Award to the country with the most number of players into the fourth round.  If there is a tie, the sum of the seedings of the players of those countries who are tied is taken and the country with the lowest sum, gets the award.  Just in case a tie occurs in the sum, the country with the highest seed gets the award.

Russia has been perennially winning the awards slam after slam after slam for the past decade because of their deep bench.  However, cracks have been showing in the Russian system and for this Australian Open, another country wins the award.  Surprisingly, it's Serbia, when none of its Top 2 players are even in the Top 10.  But since there is a five way country tie in the number of players into the fourth round - that is two - Serbia, China, Germany, Russia and the Czech Republic were all tied.  However, when the sum of the seedings of the two players were added, it was Serbia who had the lowest seedings sum of 35.  I think this is the first time Serbia got this award.

The other countries with entries in the fourth round are -

China - 2
Czech Republic - 2
Germany -2
Russia - 2
Belarus - 1
Belgium - 1
Denmark - 1
Italy - 1
Poland - 1
USA - 1
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Breakout Player Australian Open 2012: Lleyton Hewitt of Australia

The MyFABETennis blog awards the Breakout Player in a Grand Slam to the player ranked out of the Top 100 who reaches the deepest part of the draw, usually in the fourth round, or a round higher or lower. 

For this year's Australian Open, an Aussie wins the award, and although Lleyton Hewitt is not exactly a newbie, he breaks out this year in a big way after slipping a lot last year.  He is currently ranked #181, and beat three players ranked higher than him to set up an enticing fourth round match with current #1 player, Novak Djokovic.  Lleyton is also a former #1 player in the world, so the past meets the present in that match - and Lleyton has the whole Australian crowd behind him. 

Whether he wins or not, Lleyton should surely crack the Top 100 or at least land near it.

Australian Open 2012: Elite Men's Team Country Award

Every Grand Slam, MyFABETennis gives an award to the country who has the most number of players in the fourth round.  In case there is a tie between countries, the seedings will be added and the country with the lowest sum will win the awards.  In case there is a tie in the sum, the country with the highest seeded player gets the award.

For the Australian Open 2012, Spain reasserts themselves again, after losing this award to the United States in the last Grand Slam, the US Open.  Four Spanish players get into the fourth round of the Australian Open 2012 - Rafael Nadal (#2), David Ferrer (#5), Nicolas Almagro (#10) and Feliciano Lopez (#19).

The other countries who had players into the fourth round are -

Australia - 2
France - 2

Argentina - 1
Czech Republic - 1
Germany - 1
Great Britain - 1
Japan - 1
Kazakhstan - 1
Serbia - 1
Switzerland - 1

Interestingly, the US who won this award in the US Open 2011 have no players in the fourth round! Also, surprisingly, Australia has two - Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic!  Four other countries fielded players in the fourth round, while they were absent in the US Open - Czech Republic, Germany, Japan and Kazakhstan.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Aleksandra Wozniak: Player Outside the Top 100 Into the Second Round of the Australian Open 2012

Canadian player Aleksandra Wozniak is no stranger to the Grand Slams.  Currently ranked #102, she has gone as high as #34 in 2008 and has reached a fourth round of a Grand Slam (French Open, 2009).  However, this is her first time to go into the second round of the Australian Open on her fourth time here.  She defeated Zhang Shuai of China, ranked #127 in the first round. She will meet Russian Maria Kirilenko (#29) in the second round.

Jamie Hampton: Player Outside the Top 100 Into the Second Round of the Australian Open 2012

I think this is the first time I've encountered the name of American Jamie Hampton in the second round of a Grand Slam.  Currently ranked #144, she defeated Mandy Minella of Luxembourg, ranked #110 to book her spot in the second round, where she will meet #4 seed Maria Sharapova.  This should be a good experience for her, to find out what level her skills are against a world-class tennis player like Maria.

Casey Dellacqua: Player Outside the Top 100 Into the Second Round of the Australian Open 2012

Local favorite Casey Dellacqua has had a dream run in the Australian Open years ago when she reached the fourth round.  However, she has been struggling ever since to regain that former glory.  In this year's Australian Open, she drew herself into a difficult part of the draw but even then, she won her first round match yesterday against Serbian Bojana Jovanovski, ranked #90.  Casey right now is ranked #126.  Her second round opponent will be the in-form Victoria Azarenka ranked #3.  Good luck to Casey!

Nina Bratchikova: Player Outside the Top 100 Into the Second Round of the Australian Open 2012

In every Grand Slam, there is at least one or two Russian women who break into the Top 100, as if the Russian presence in women's tennis is not yet that predominant.  In this year's edition of the Australian Open, Nina Bratchikova is one Russian woman who had to defeat a veteran player, #20-ranked Flavia Pennetta, to get herself into the second round!  She is currently ranked #136.  She is into a good part of the draw and may even have a chance to reach the fourth round if she continues to play well.  In the second round, she will meet another Italian player, Alberta Brianti (#71).

Paula Ormaechea: Player Outside the Top 100 Into the Second Round of the Australian Open 2012

This is the first time I have heard of Argentinian player Paula Ormaechea.  Ramked #189 in the world, she is the lowest ranked female player in this year's Australian Open to reach the second round.  She defeated #50-ranked Simona Halep from Romania in the first round.  In the second round, she will meet #8-ranked player Agnieszka Radwanska.
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Olivia Rogowska: Player Outside the Top 100 Into the Second Round of the Australian Open 2012

Australia's #1 player, Samantha Stosur bowed out of the Australian Open today, but three of her compatriots made it into the second round.  Jelena Dokic is one of them, while the other two are ranked outside the Top 100.

First is Olivia Rogowska, currently ranked #168, who defeated the Swede player, Sofia Arvidsson, currently ranked #77 in the world.  She will next meet Li Na (#6) in the second round.  This is Olivia's first foray into the second round of a Grand Slam.

Olga Govortsova: Player Outside the Top 100 Into the Second Round of the Australian Open 2012

Lesia Tsurenko: Player Outside the Top 100 Into the Second Round of the Australian Open 2012

Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine is currently ranked #111 in the world and today, she defeated Dutch player Arantxa Rus (#77) to make her reach the second round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her young career.  She will next face Daniela Hantuchova (#21) in the second round.
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