news and views on men's tennis


Girl(s) posing with biker for photographers and visitors during annual Harley Davidson Meeting in Pullmann City, Eging am See, Passau, Bavaria, Germany. 10/07/2010. -- Harley Davidson Bikers meeting at the Harley Stampede in Pullmann City, Eging am See, Bavaria, Germany.10/07/2010


It’s been a fun ride. But all good things must come to an end. It’s time to say adios, arriverderci, auf wiedersehen, au revoir, good bye and sayonara to Boomertime. Don’t fret though tennis fans and followers. There’s a better ride down the road. It’s new and improved, and ready to roll. Check it out:


Zeballos & Rafa

News flash: Horacio the Giant Killer knocks off Rafa the Clay Master in sparkling duel. Argentine Horacio Zeballos, ranked No. 73 in the world, shocked Rafael Nadal 6-7 (2), 7-6 (6), 6-4 in the final of the VTR Open in the Chilean coastal town of Vina del Mar Sunday evening. Nadal, a prohibitive favorite, was going for his 37th singles title on clay, but Zeballos looked every bit the equal of the seven-time French Open champion. It was only the fifth singles final that Nadal, returning to the tour after being sidelined for seven months with a left knee injury, has lost on clay. “This is the game of my life,” Zeballos said. “Playing against the best player of all-time, or one of the best in the history of tennis. It’s a dream, unforgettable. I will never forget this moment.” In winning his first tour title on any surface, Zeballos matched Nadal shot for shot with no service breaks until the third set. Nadal broke at love to start the deciding stanza, but quickly dropped service, allowing Zeballos to get back on serve. The Argentine ramped up his return game as the set progressed, and at 5-4 jumped out to a love-40 lead. Zeballos converted his first match point to seal the stunning upset in two hours and 46 minutes. The 27-year-old Argentine bagged his first Top 10 win in three tries and became the first left-hander to defeat Nadal on red clay. “I’ve worked really hard because I really wanted to be at this level,” Zeballos said. “For some months, I’ve been playing at a high level and I think I’m at the best moment of my career. I’m very strong physically and psychologically.” Nadal had not lost a set all week until today. But he has acknowledged his comeback might be a slow one, needing time to regain his speed and match fitness. The knee continues to bother him, and he has said it might be several months before it’s clear if the non-surgical treatment has been effective. “It has been one of the most beautiful weeks lately for me after being unable to experience something like this for long time,” Nadal said. “The fact I am here has been a triumph.”


Nole & Andy 2013

Novak Djokovic won his fourth Australian Open championship and third in a row Sunday night, defeating Andy Murray 6-7 (2), 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-2 in a grueling final lasting three hours and 40 minutes. Still it was two hours and 13 minutes shorter than Nole’s marathon win over Rafael Nadal in last year’s championship match. Djokovic has now won six Grand Slams, including his first Aussie crown in 2008, and the Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles in 2011. “Winning it three (times) in a row, it’s incredible,” Djokovic said. “It’s very thrilling. I’m full of joy right now. It’s going to give me lots of confidence for the rest of the season, that’s for sure.” In a match which was expected to be about enduring pain and suffering according to Murray, the Scot got the worst of it. Djokovic entered the fresher of the two, having defeated David Ferrer in just 89 minutes in his semifinal Thursday night, while Murray needed four hours to oust Roger Federer in the second semi a night later. Murray, run ragged by Federer, picked up some pesky blisters on his right foot in the match. And they only got worse in the final, requiring treatment after the second set. While there were no breaks of serve in the first two sets, it was Djokovic who was struggling the most with his game at the outset. Nole committed 25 unforced errors to just 12 for Murray in the opening stanza. Djokovic did have five break point chances in the set, but failed to convert any of them. The Scot had the swagger and won the breaker 7-2. Djokovic saved three break points in the second game of the second set, and steadied to force another tiebreaker. “There were a few turning points in the match,” Djokovic said. “Maybe one of them was the second game in the second set when I was 0/40 against the breeze. He missed a few shots. I managed to have that crucial hold. After that I felt just mentally a little bit lighter and more confident on the court than I had done in the first hour or so.” Another occurred when Murray was serving at 2-2, second serve, in the second set tiebreaker. Rocking back about to toss the ball, he stopped, paused and then walked onto the court to snatch a small white feather that caught his eye. Back to the service line, he bounced the ball another eight times and served long. Double fault. He ended up losing the breaker 7-3. “It was strange,” Djokovic said, adding that it swung the momentum his way. “It obviously did. … He made a crucial double-fault.” Murray was not the same after the feather caper and the trainer visit between sets. Djokovic got the first break of the match in the eighth game of the third set, winning the first point of the game following a spirit-sapping 36-stroke rally. The Serb earned two more service breaks in the fourth set to seal the win. “Novak, his record here is incredible,” Murray said. “Very few people have been able to do what he’s done here and he’s a well-deserved champion.” Djokovic improved to 6-4 in Grand Slam finals and 11-7 against Murray.



Novak Djokovic’s quest for a three-peat is still alive. But just barely. The two-time defending Australian Open champion rallied from 6-1, 5-2 down to defeat Stanislas Wawrinka 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 12-10 in a scintillating fourth-round match Sunday night at Rod Laver Arena. When Djokovic hit a sharply angled backhand past Wawrinka at the net on his third match point, it was 1:41 a.m. Monday. The match stretched over five hours and two minutes and was remarkably reminiscent of Djokovic’s final win last year against Rafael Nadal. That marathon lasted 51 minutes longer. Wawrinka, the No. 15 seed, came out with guns blazing, pounding his serve and blasting howitzer-like groundstrokes to stun the top-seeded Djokovic at the outset. Nole scarcely knew what hit him. On the cusp of serving for a two-set lead, the Swiss’ level dropped slightly and Djokovic struck, reeling off five straight games to take the set. With the match level, an epic battle ensued over the next three sets. “It’s hard to find the words,” Djokovic said. “He deserved, equally, to be a winner of this match. I give him a lot of credit and respect. He was the aggressive player on the court, I was just trying to hang in there. It’s midway through the tournament but it feels like a final to me. This means a lot to me, and to him. Incredible that so many people stayed until nearly two in the morning. It brings back the memories of 12 months ago with Rafa.” Djokovic broke in the first and ninth games of the third set, after dropping serve in the second, to take a two-sets to one lead. The fourth set proceeded on serve to force a tiebreaker. Wawrinka got the only mini-break of the tiebreak to take a 2-0 advantage, and won it 7-5 to even the match. The Swiss broke in the opening game of the fifth set, but Nole broke right back. Djokovic saved two break points in the next game and four more in the ninth. All together, Djokovic cancelled seven of eight break points in the final set. Wawrinka saved two match points in the final game in spectacular fashion — a service winner on the first and a down-the-line backhand pass on the second — but succumbed on the third. “It’s by far my best match I ever play, especially in five sets against the No. 1 player,” Wawrinka said. Djokovic will face No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals.


Djokovic 2013 Aussie

It’s already mid-summer Down Under and two weeks into the new year. For anyone who follows tennis, that means the Australian Open is about to begin. The Aussie kicks off its two-week run tomorrow at Melbourne Park, where the fans are often raucous and a party atmosphere generally prevails. This year’s men’s tournament features lots of intrigue, with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer battling for the No. 1 ranking and Andy Murray looking to capture his second straight Grand Slam. Anyone outside of these three is unquestionably a longshot to take the title. Rafael Nadal would of course be in the mix, but the Spaniard is still on the shelf after his comeback from injury was delayed by illness. The following is a preview of what to expect. Two-time defending champion and No.1 seed Djokovic, at the top in the First Quarter of the draw, is the favorite. Nole could see a challenge from Sam Querrey in the fourth round, that is if the No. 20-seeded American advances past No. 15 seed Stanislas Wawrinka. Querrey knocked out Djokovic at the Paris Masters in the fall, but I don’t see that happening again. Djokovic should meet No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals. The Serb defeats the Czech in that matchup. With Nadal out, the Second Quarter appears to be the most wide open. No. 4 seed David Ferrer is slotted to meet Janko Tipsarevic, the No. 8 seed, in the quarterfinals. Ferrer should make it there, unless he succumbs to big-serving Ivo Karlovic in a likely second-round meeting. Doctor Ivo has been known to surprise upon occasion. Tipsarevic has a tough first-round battle against former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. Hewitt defeated Berdych, Juan Martin del Potro and Milos Raonic at the Kooyong exhibition this week, and is in fighting form. Also looming in Tipsarevic’s section of the quarter is No. 24 seed Jerzy Janowicz. The 6-foot-8 Pole defeated Murray two months ago at the Paris Masters and is downright dangerous. Ferrer battles past Janowicz to take this quarter. The bottom half of the draw is loaded. No. 3 seed Murray heads the Third Quarter, with Del Potro, the No. 6 seed, projected to meet the Scot in the quarterfinals. Murray should breeze, while Del Potro may be tested by No. 12 seed Marin Cilic in the fourth round. Murray wins the quarterfinal, surviving a tough battle with the towering Argentine. Quarter Four is the toughest quarter in the draw. Federer, the No. 2 seed, faces some speed bumps before a potential meeting with No. 7 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals. Standing in his way could be a revived Nikolay Davydenko in the second round, red-hot Bernard Tomic in the third and big-serving No. 13 seed Raonic in the fourth. A tough path to the quarterfinals indeed. Tsonga doesn’t have it easy either, as he faces a potential matchup with fellow Frenchman No. 9 seed Richard Gasquet in the fourth round. I see Federer defeating Gasquet in a sparkling quarterfinal. So it’s Djokovic versus Ferrer in one semifinal and Federer against Murray in the other. Nole and Andy advance to the final and the Serb wins his third Australian Open in a row.




Nole Melbourne

Time to flip the last page on the calendar tomorrow. So some thoughts on the three best matches of 2012 as the year is about to expire. The choices weren’t easy since there were clearly more than three that merited top accolades. In reality I had to halve six, which was reduced from at least 10, to come up with three. No. 1 on the list was Novak Djokovic’s marathon win over Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final. It was a battle between “two guys who absolutely refuse to surrender,” said ESPN commentator Chris Fowler afterward. Indeed it was. Djokovic won his third Australian Open championship, defeating Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in an epic lasting an exhausting five hours and 53 minutes. “It was obvious on the court for everybody who has watched the match that both of us, physically, we took the last drop of energy that we had from our bodies,” Djokovic said. “We made history tonight, and unfortunately there couldn’t be two winners.” It was Djokovic’s fifth Grand Slam title and third in a row, a streak that would end at the French Open when Nadal got his revenge in the final. Second best on the ledger was Roger Federer’s solid 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final. Federer, a month shy of 31 at the time, proved once again there was plenty of life left in the old boy as he won his record 17th Grand Slam, tied the record for most Wimbledon titles with seven, and reclaimed the No. 1 ranking. The title was Federer’s first major since winning the Australian Open in 2010. The Swiss Maestro, playing with machine-like efficiency and unbridled aggression, was just too good for Murray that day. “This year, I guess, I decided in the bigger matches, to take it more to my opponent instead of waiting a bit more for the mistakes,” Federer said. “This is, I guess, how you want to win Wimbledon, by going after your shots, believing you can do it, and that’s what I was able to do today. It’s special.” Rounding out the list at No. 3 was another marathon, Federer’s 3-6, 7-6 (5), 19-17 triumph over Juan Martin del Potro in the Olympics semifinals. The match lasted four hours and 26 minutes and was the longest three-set men’s singles match of the Open era. “I definitely got a sense that it was something special,” Federer said. “The deeper we went into the match, the more I thought, `Wow, this is so cool to be part of a match like this.'” The Swiss converted only two of 13 break-point chances, the second coming in the next-to-last game. Serving the final game, Federer held his nerve to take the match on his second match point. Twelve times in the final set, Federer held to stay in the match. Both players were spent from the riveting encounter which featured superb serving and dazzling shot making. Coming in Nos. 4-6, in no particular order, were Lukas Rosol’s second-round upset of Nadal at Wimbledon, Murray’s victory against Djokovic in the U.S. Open final and Nadal’s triumph over Djokovic in the French Open final.


Lukas Rosol

Upsets in men’s tennis, especially early round shockers in Grand Slams or Masters events, are what make the men’s game so compelling. Anything can happen. Nothing is for sure. Even among the top players, nerves often contribute to opening round jitters and tentative play. Advancing to the second round invariably brings about a deep sigh of relief. But that accomplishment is no guarantee to smooth sailing in the rounds ahead. There are always gifted floaters, talented journeyman and dangerous up-and-comers lurking in the draw. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga found that out big-time this year. Nadal’s unceremonious dismissal by unknown Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round at Wimbledon is my pick as the top upset of the year. The No. 100-ranked Rosol prevailed 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in a match that showed what a journeyman with game can do when he’s on and remains that way for five sets. Rosol played fearless tennis, went for broke on almost every shot and held nothing back. Ranked No. 2 at the time, Nadal had reached the finals in his last five appearances at SW19. Rosol’s win was said to be one of the biggest upsets in the 135-year history of Wimbledon. Next on the upset list is Pole Jerzy Janowicz’s 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-2 third-round triumph over world No. 3 Murray at the Paris Masters. Coming into the tournament ranked No. 69, the 6-foot-8 Polish qualifier showed steely resolve, firing cannonball serves, blasting ridiculous winners from way out of position, and executing deft drop shots to surprise and fluster the Scotsman. “This was the most unbelievable day in my life,” Janowicz, then 21, said afterward. “I beat the Olympic champion, U.S. Open champion. I beat Andy Murray. I could never have expected something like this. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say after the match, this is amazing.” Janowicz ended up beating five Top 20 players in a row before losing to David Ferrer in the final. Slovakian Martin Klizan, ranked No. 52, narrowly took third place on the upset ledger with his 6-4, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3 second-round ouster of Tsonga at the U.S. Open. The 23-year-old Klizan had never made it past the second round in three Grand Slam appearances. In fact, he had never defeated a player ranked higher than No. 49. Tsonga was ranked No. 6. Klizan showed more firepower throughout the match than the big-hitting Frenchman. Proving the win wasn’t a fluke, Klizan won his first ATP Tour title three weeks later at Saint Petersburg. Other notable upsets, but not as huge in my opinion, were Tommy Haas over Roger Federer in the Halle final, Michael Llodra surprising Juan Martin del Potro in the third round at the Paris Masters and Ernests Gulbis shocking Tomas Berdych is the first round at Wimbledon.


Big-serving Sam Groth’s very good week came to an end yesterday when American grinder Michael Russell defeated the strapping Aussie with arm tatoos 7-6 (3), 7-6 (1) in the semifinals of the Knoxville Challenger. Groth, holder of the record for fastest serve in the game, couldn’t quite put away the scrappy Russell who forced the 25-year-old career journeyman to work harder than he had all tournament. Groth became a bit of a sensation in May when he blasted a 163-mph (263 kph) ace in a Challenger match at Busan, South Korea. The feat shattered the previous mark of 156 mph by Ivo Karlovic. Ranked No. 245 in the world, Groth buzzed through his first three matches in Knoxville with relative ease, hitting 60 aces and winning 86 percent of the points on his first serve. Things were different against the 34-year-old Russell, who is still in super shape and can run his opponents ragged. Groth did hit 12 aces, but for a server of his prowess won only a pedestrian 70 percent of his first service points. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Aussie — the ATP Tour website conservatively lists him at 6-4, 205 lbs. — was broken three times, twice in the first set, and failed to win a point on his serve in the second set tiebreaker. Russell, ranked No. 103, also was broken three times but had Groth gassed at the end. “He’s got a cannon,” Russell said. “It’s so tough to play Sam. He serves so big, and from the ground, he’ll spin, spin, and all of a sudden he’ll crush a backhand. There’s not a lot of rhythm, so you feel so much pressure on your own serve. I’m really pleased to get through that.” Russell plays Bobby Reynolds in today’s final. With the 29 points he picked up for reaching the semifinals, Groth will achieve a career high tomorrow when the ATP computer updates its rankings. That fact was not lost on the big Aussie when he Tweeted yesterday: “Went down 6 and 6 to Russell today, disappointed but a good week to finish the year that will result in a career high next week.” Groth got to No. 220 on Nov. 16, 2009.


Argentine Juan Martin del Potro finally got off the schneid against No. 1-ranked Roger Federer this afternoon, defeating the hometown favorite 6-4, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (3) in the finals of the Swiss Indoors Basel. Del Potro had lost seven straight matches to Federer, including six this year. The big Argentine improved to 3-13 lifetime against the top-seeded Swiss, while winning his second consecutive title and fourth of the year. Del Potro, No. 8 in the world, won last week in Vienna, and at Estoril and Marseille earlier this season. Federer, appearing in his ninth Basel final, has won the tournament five times. “It was an unbelievable final, the match was really close,” Del Potro said. “After six losses, it was a big win for me. I was fighting all the time. I got lucky in the end, but I felt that I played a really good match.” The second-seeded Del Potro played rock solid in the opening set, winning 20 of his 25 service points and not facing a break point. He broke Federer in the fifth game, when the Swiss netted a routine backhand, and maintained his advantage to win the set in just 35 minutes. Federer tightened up his game in the second set, as both players held serve with relative ease — each facing but one break point — to force a tiebreaker. The Swiss Maestro got the only mini-break in the tiebreaker at 1-1 and finished out the set on serve to even things up at a set apiece. Del Potro saved three break points in the third game of the final set, before clinching the game with an ace. He saved another break point in the seventh game, closing it out again with an ace. Down 5-6 and 15-30, Federer served three straight aces to force another tiebreaker. Del Potro got his second mini-break of the decider to seal his 13th career title in two hours and 44 minutes. “Overall, I played pretty well,” Federer said. “He got off to a better start and made the best of it. He was better than me in the first set. It was close in the second and he didn’t play a very good tiebreak. I had my chances in the third and couldn’t take them. I tried to take it to him but it wasn’t enough today.” Federer served 18 aces to 10 for Del Potro. The Argentine was 1-2 on break points, though, while Federer was 0-5.


Top-seeded Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina defeated Slovenian qualifier Grega Zemlja 7-5, 6-3 in the final of the Erste Bank Open in Vienna this afternoon. Zemlja, an unlikely finalist, ranked No. 70 in the world, had knocked off No. 3 seed Tommy Haas in the quarterfinals and No. 2 seed Janko Tipsarevic in the semifinals en route to the championship match. Del Potro was almost eliminated in his opening match on Wednesday, surviving 32 aces from German qualifier Daniel Brands to prevail in a gripping three-set marathon. The title was Del Potro’s third of the year and 12th of his career, and provided valuable points in his bid to qualify for the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals. Coming into the tournament, Del Potro stood at No. 7 in the eight-man race to London. Zemlja was appearing in his first tour-level final and performed well. Both players struggled to hold serve for much of the opening set. Del Potro faced a break point in the first game, but erased it to hold. In the fifth game, Zemlja broke Delpo to become the first player to win a game on the Argentine’s serve in the tournament. Zemlja extended his lead to 4-2, but was broken in the eighth game to knot the match at 4-4. Del Potro saved three break points in the ninth game and broke again in the 12th game to clinch the first set in 64 minutes. The second set was pretty much of a cakewalk for the 6-foot-6 Argentine. Delpo opened with a routine service hold and then broke immediately for a 2-0 lead. Service prevailed the rest of the way, with the Argentine closing it out in one hour and 41 minutes. “I didn’t have a very good start to the match. I made a lot of errors and I was nervous because it was a final,” Del Potro said. “I tried to find a way to play aggressive. In the second set, I broke early and that gave me confidence to play the final like I was expected. I was a little lucky to survive from 2-4 down in the first set.” Del Potro served 10 aces and won 82 percent of the points on his first serve. “I am satisfied with the way I played. I did my best,” Zemlja said. “I felt I played really well the first seven games. Maybe I wasn’t serving my best, but I was fighting till the end. I think Juan played really well from 4-4 (in the first set), to 3-0 (in the second set). He was serving really good.”