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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Jurence Mendoza: Pinoy Junior Netter in Melbourne

It's very difficult to enter the main draw of any of the events in the Australian Open so I am proud to announce to you that we had a local entry in this year's Australian Open.  Jurence Mendoza played in the main draw of the Boys Singles but had the misfortune of drawing the #1 seed from Serbia Nikola Milojevic in the first round, and promptly lost 36 16.  

He's in the quarterfinals though of the boy's doubles as he and his partner from Hong Kong Pak Leong Yeung will compete later for a slot in the semifinals.

His experience here can put him in good stead as he finds ways of improving his game of play - especially at a grand slam level!
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Nicolas Almagro: Almost There But Not Quite

I admit I was one of those who watched the quarterfinal match between Spanish players David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, who couldn't believe how Nicolas Almagro just let his 30-0 lead 5-4 over David Ferrer in a crucial game in the third set slip him by!  Nicolas was only two points away from his very first grand slam semifinal - and he allowed David Ferrer back into the match.  That was the turning point for Ferrer in that match - and he never looked back.

Almagro is one of my favorite players in the tour and I think his quarterfinal appearance here should beef up his points to finally make it into the top 10.  I know it's very tough to beat any of the top four players right now - including Ferrer, who is standing in for his injured compatriot Rafa Nadal, but he had his chance and let it go. I think he has to work on the mental toughness department more and find the drive to get back up after committing a major blunder.


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Jeremy Chardy Plays With Confidence

Jeremy Chardy is now the latest Frenchman to get some spotlight in a grand slam as he reaches his first grand slam quarterfinal for the first time.  His best effort yet was a 4th round appearance in the 2008 French Open.  Currently ranked #36, Jeremy says that it was his newfound confidence that has allowed him to reach as far as he could in this tournament!  He said he has always believed he can defeat anyone, sometimes, it's just hard to do that in three straight sets when all the world is watching.  Well, all the world is watching him now as he plays Andy Murray - one of the formidable four in men's tennis.

Jeremy's scalps in this tournament include Spanish Adrian Menendez-Maceiras (#233) and Marcel Granollers (#32), Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro (#7), and Italian Andreas Seppi (#23).
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Lovin' Sloane Stephens


This is the first time I've ever encountered American teenager Sloane Stephens, and she debuts with a big bang - a semifinal appearance in the Australian Open!  Now that the Williams sisters are in the twilights of their careers, there has been a slew of competent American players like Varvara Lepchenko, Madison Keys, and Jamie Hampton slowly climbing up the ranks.

I guess I didn't notice Sloane very much since in most TV coverages of grand slams, a lesser-known player only gets TV time, if she plays one of the greats - and if she also wins over that great player - her TV mileage increases by leaps and bounds - something that is definitely going to happen to Sloane after her quarterfinal victory today over fellow American Serena Williams.

Sloane really played well today, keeping toe-to-toe with an injured Serena.  She took advantage of that fact but even then, you could see that Serena still had some tricks up her sleeve.  The only difference now is that Serena is playing rallies instead of bamboozling Sloane with her killer serve and return of serves!  Sloane just hang in there and edged her more celebrated opponent in the end!

Sloane is currently ranked #25 in the world today and her scalps in this tournament include Romanian Simona Halep (#45), Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic (#98), British Laura Robson (#53), Serbian Bojana Jovanovski (#56) and Serena Williams (#3).

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Ekaterina Gets Results in Melbourne

Ekaterina Makarova, currently ranked #19, has played well again in Melbourne for the second straight year - another quarterfinal appearance this year!  I have seen her play before and what I can say is that she is really starting to be more consistent with her shots and being very aggressive when she needs to.  However, her game against Maria Sharapova showed what more she still has to do to improve, overall, if she plays consistently, she should reach the top 10 very soon.  She just needs very consistent results.

Her scalps here in Melbourne include Portuguese Michelle Larcher de Brito (#131), Frenchwomen Stephanie Foretz Gacon (#101) and Marion Bartoli (#11) and Angelique Kerber (#5).

 
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Li Na Returns to Familiar Territory

Just like Svetlana Kuznetsova, Li Na's last foray into quarterfinal territory in this Australian Open was in the 2011 French Open where Li Na won her first and only grand slam title - to date.  She looks very strong though this fortnight and from the looks of it, can give Maria Sharapova a run for it in their semifinals match.  It was great to see her trademark forehand shots making accurate landings and her aggressive brand of play was in display in all her matches.

Her scalps in this fortnight include Kazakh Sesil Karatantcheva (#113), Belorussian Olga Govortsova (#58), Romanian Sorana Cirstea (#29), German Julia Goerges (#18) and Agnieszka Radwanska (#4).

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Good To Sveta's Groove Is Back

I haven't seen Svetlana Kuznetsova play well in a very long time, especially in a grand slam setting - so it was particularly great to see flashes of her former brilliance here as she reached the quarterfinals here in the Australian Open for the third time in her career.  It was also her first quarterfinal in a grand slam since the 2011 French Open - so it's really been a while.

She's had good scalps here in Melbourne including Spanish Lourdes Dominguez Lino (#46), Su-Wei Hsieh from Chinese-Taipei (#27), Carla Suarez Navarro (#33) and Caroline Wozniacki (#10) - players all ranked way ahead of her current ranking of #75.  Her ranking will definitely go up after this tournament and hopefully we should find her back in the top 50's before the French Open.



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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Lance Armstrong: It Must Suck Big Time To Have Cheered For A Cheater

It must suck to be a cycling fan nowadays.  Now that Lance Armstrong has finally admitted to Oprah about the doping, it should leave many cycling fans in a sort of quandary.  Because Lance won seven Tour de France titles - the question to a non-cycling fan like me - who could've won those titles if the races were run by athletes who did not cheat - because frankly, if I were a true blue cycling fan - I would really feel cheated - since most likely, I would have been one of those fans cheering Lance on when he won those seven titles!  It must suck to know that you cheered for a cheat!
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Australian Open 2013: Elite Women's Team Award

Maria Sharapova led the winning Russian quintet of players who win the 2013 Australian Open Elite Women's Team Award.  The other Russians forming the team are Ekaterina Makarova, Elena Vesnina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Maria Kirilenko.  

The other country finalists for this award were USA, Serbia, Germany, Belarus, Denmark, China, Poland and Belgium.
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Ricardas Berankis: Male Breakout Player for the Australian Open 2013

Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis, currently ranked #110 in the world, was a former top 80 player two years ago.  He won his first round match today against Sergiy Stakhovsky of the Ukraine, ranked #102 in the world, 62 76(4) 75.  

In the second round, he routed seeded German player Florian Mayer, 62 63 61.

He repeats his third round appearance in 2011, this time, he lost to Andy Murray, 36 46 57.

In this year's Australian Open, he wins the Male Breakout Player being the lowest-ranked player who made it through to the third round.




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Australian Open 2013: Elite Men's Team Award

France has won the Elite Men's Team Award for the Australian Open three times before - 1998, 2006 and 2009.  Both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon were part of the winning 2009 team.  Once again, they are part of the French team that wins the 2013 Elite Men's Team Award for the Australian Open.  This time, their winning team includes Jeremy Chardy and Richard Gasquet.

The other country finalists in this category for the 2013 Australian Open are the following -
Serbia, Switzerland, Spain, South Africa, Czech Republic, Japan, Poland, Italy, Great Britain and Canada.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Jana Cepelova: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

Jana Cepelova of Slovakia, ranked #115 in the world, won her first round match against Hungarian veteran Greta Arn, 62 62.  She had a hard fought second round match against Belgian Yanina Wickmayer, currently ranked #24 in the world, 76(8) 75.

Yulia Putintseva: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

Kazakh Yulia Putintseva, currently ranked #122 in the world, won her first round match against American Christina McHale, currently ranked #35 in the world, 61 67(0) 62.  She lost her second round match today against Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain, 61 67(5) 62, currently ranked #33 in the world.

Daria Gavrilova: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

Daria Gavrilova is a Russian teenager, currently ranked #223 in the world, who won her first round match against American Lauren Davis, currently ranked #81 in the world, 63 67(2) 64.  She lost her second round match today though to Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, currently ranked #85, 57 36.

Donna Vekic: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

Donna Vekic of Croatia, currently ranked #111, won her first round match against Czech Andrea Hlavackova, currently ranked #66, 61 62.  She will next meet Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

Future Bright Stars of Tennis: Ashleigh Barty

Last Monday, I was able to see Dominika Cibulkova's game against local girl Ashleigh Barty.  Ashleigh won the first set but wasn't strong enough to hold off Dominika, who went on to win the match.  However, if you watched the game, you could really see that this Ashleigh girl can play with the top girls in the tour!  She has the game and the temperament to compete at the highest levels.  She may need more tour experience now for starters and hopefully, we see a more competitive version of her in next year's Aussie Open.
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Akgul Amanmuradova: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

In 2010, Akgul Amanmuradova, reached a career high of #69 in the world.  Coming into this year's Australian Open, she finds herself at #199.  She won her first round match against Frenchwoman Mathilde Johansson, currently ranked #88, 64 62.  She lost her second round match today to Roberta Vinci, currently ranked #16, 36 26.
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Luksika Kumkhum: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

It's actually very exciting to find a new Thai player doing well in a grand slam!  This is the first time I've encountered Luksika Kumkhum, currently ranked #201 in the world.  She won her first round match against Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden, currently ranked #39 in the world, 76(7) 64.  However, she lost her second round match today to Jamie Hampton 61 62, currently ranked #63 in the world.

We hope to see more of Luksika in the future, at least during the Asian leg of the WTA tour.  I hope her rankings go high enough for her to go into another grand slam event.
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Future Bright Stars of Tennis: Garbine Muguruza Blanco

This is actually the first time I've seen Garbine Muguruza Blanco of Spain play, but I have heard of her as she made a big splash in one of the tournaments last year, I think it was in Miami.  Anyway, being a Spanish player, I would not be surprised if she can play much better in clay than in a hard court.

The scoreline of her match today against five time Australian Open Serena Williams was 62 60 but if you watched the match, you could see that Garbine really fought hard in each game, and she was able to be toe-to-toe with Serena in the long rallies - which was very exciting to watch!  It's just that at crucial moments, she would lose the point, or she'd do double faults and her inexperience would show in ill-timed drop shots.  Otherwise, I think she's going to be a star soon!!  She has the game and most importantly, she has the guts to compete with the world's best and not wilt on court like most lower-ranked players would.  She is currently ranked #112 in the world today.  If she could just get her ranking up to the top 100s, she might be able to enter the main draws of the grand slams.

She's definitely an exciting player to watch!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Daniel Brands: Player Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

Daniel Brands of Germany, currently ranked #120 in the world, won his first round match against Martin Klizan of Slovakia, currently ranked #30 in the world, 63 36 64 62.  That's quite a scalp for Brands, defeating a seeded player.  He will next face local favorite Bernard Tomic in the second round.  It's the first time he has reached the second round of the Australian Open.

Amir Weintraub: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

This is the first time I've heard of Amir Weintraub of Israel, currently ranked #196 in the world.  He won his first round match against Guido Pella of Argentina, ranked #97 in the world, 76(2) 75 62.  He will next face Philipp Kohlschreiber in the second round.
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Rajeev Ram: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the Australian Open 2013

Rajeev Ram, currently ranked #130 in the world, won his first round match against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain, currently ranked #85 in the world, 64 64 36 62.  Ram was a former top 80 player in 2009.  He will next face Marin Cilic of Croatia.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Valeria Savinykh: Breakout Player Australian Open 2013

Valeria Savinykh of Russia, currently ranked #159 in the world, is the Breakout Player of the 2013 Australian Open.  I give this award to the lowest-ranked player who gets deepest into the main draw.

She won her first round match today against Mandy Minella, ranked #78 in the world, 76(4) 61.  It's her very first grand slam appearance.  

In the next round, she ousted top 20 player Dominika Cibulkova, 76(6) 64.  In the third round, she lost to Belgian Kirsten Flipkens.
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Vesna Dolonc: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 Australian Open

I have heard of Vesna Dolonc before.  She is currently ranked #120 in the world.  Today, she won her first round match against local girl Olivia Rogowska, currently ranked #117 in the world, 57 75 86.  She will next meet Marion Bartoli in the second round.

Stephanie Foretz Gacon: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 Australian Open

Stephanie Foretz Gacon, currently ranked #101, won over Italian Camila Giorgi, currently ranked #74 in the world, 62 63.  This is the second time she has reached the second round of the Australian Open.  She will next meet Ekaterina Makarova in the second round.

Madison Keys: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Third Round of the 2013 #AustralianOpen

I have noticed that there have been a slew of young Americans ready to pounce the Top 100 this year.  For example, we have Madison Keys, currently ranked #105 in the world, who won her first round match today against local favorite Casey Dellacqua 64 76(0), ranked #102.  She looks like a competent player and if she does tour, she might just be able to break the top 100.  

In the second round, she defeated Austrian Tamira Pazsek, currently ranked #30 in the world, 62 61.    She will next meet Angelique Kerber of Germany in the third round.
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Maria Joao Koehler: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 Australian Open

This is the first time I've encountered Portuguese player Maria Joao Koehler, currently ranked #129 in the world.  Today, she won her first round match against German Karin Knapp, ranked #124 in the world, 36 63 63.  She will next meet Jelena Jankovic in the second round.

Yung Jan-Chan: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 Australian Open

Yung Jan-Chan of Chinese-Taipei, currently ranked #118 in the world, was a former top 70 player in 2007 and 2008.  Today, she won over Daniela Hantuchova, ranked #44 in the world, 61 16 61.  She will meet Ana Ivanovic in the second round.

Kristyna Pliskova: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the 2013 Australian Open

Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, currently ranked #106 in the world, is half of this Czech sister act, the third in this year's Australian Open.  Her twin sister is Karolina who is also in the main draw of the women's singles.  The two other sister acts are of course, the Williams sisters, and the up and coming Radwanska sisters of Poland.

Kristyna won her first round match against local favorite Sacha Jones, currently ranked #183, 63 62.   She will next meet Sorana Cirstea of Romania in the second round.  This is her maiden Australian Open appearance.
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Ricardas Berankis: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Third Round of the Australian Open 2013

Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis, currently ranked #110 in the world, was a former top 80 player two years ago.  He won his first round match today against Sergiy Stakhovsky of the Ukraine, ranked #102 in the world, 62 76(4) 75.  

In the second round, he routed seeded German player Florian Mayer, 62 63 61.

He repeats his third round appearance in 2011.  He lost to Andy Murray in the third round,
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Edouard Roger-Vasselin: Player Ranked Outside the Top 100 Who Reached the Second Round of the Australian Open 2013

Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France, currently ranked #101, defeated Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium, ranked #113 in the first round of the Australian Open, 63 67(5) 26 75 119.  He will next meet compatriot Julien Benneteau in the second round.