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No repeat chance for Kuznetsova at US Open

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Not only has Svetlana Kuznetsova lost her chance to salvage a somewhat tough year for her, she is also out of the running to be #1 in the world in the near future.

Former champion Svetlana Kuznetsova became the latest upset victim at the U.S. Open, beaten by 28th-seeded Katarina Srebotnik of Slovenia 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-3 in the third round Friday.

A day after No. 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia lost to 188th-ranked Julie Coin of France, the third-seeded Kuznetsova was eliminated. The Russian won the tournament in 2004 and finished second last year. Seattle Times

Now it is being reported that Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva are the only women who still currently have a shot at the top spot.

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US Open Interview: Ana Ivanovic, after 2nd round loss

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Q. Julie said that she felt out there today that she felt you almost seemed nervous. Some errors on the forehand, the double faults. She doesn’t know what’s in your head, but she said from her perspective it seemed that you were nervous. Maybe playing with the No. 1 ranking might have been a lot of pressure for you. Is that a fair assessment of the way you felt today?

ANA IVANOVIC: Maybe a little bit. I was nervous going onto the court because I never saw her play before so I didn’t know what to expect. I thought I can slowly, get into the match, and she played completely different than I expected. She was serving extremely well and hitting very powerful shots.

So I really struggled and made too many unforced errors and my serve was not working really well. Obviously, it’s very frustrating, because I know I can play so much better. This was very, very disappointing loss for me, but it’s something that I have to accept, you know, especially with everything that has happened in the past probably month or two months. I couldn’t expect myself to, you know, to maybe even play better.

Q. Since winning Roland Garros you had a tough Wimbledon and a tough tournament here, both at No. 1. I just wonder, do you feel the pressure of No. 1, or does that make you play a little different?

ANA IVANOVIC: No. I see that as reward because, you know, I think I deserve that position. You know, I won a Grand Slam and I was playing really well.

Obviously if you would ask me at the moment if I’m playing like No. 1 probably not, but I can’t judge too much on that because I really haven’t had chance to practice. This kind of loss I had today is just incentive to work harder, to go back on the court and to keep working hard and practicing and improving.

Because I think I have possibility to maintain No. 1 for a long time and to win a Grand Slam. So I just had a little, you know, unfortunate with injury, and I just have to go back on the court and keep working hard.

Q. You mentioned the thumb. How badly did the thumb bother you today?

ANA IVANOVIC: Today I didn’t feel it, and also last match was good. So, you know, I’m just happy to be back on track without pain. Now all I have to do is put some hard yards on the court and go back out there and work hard.

Because also today I had lots of misshits on my forehand. I think it’s also, you know, shows a little bit lack of practice and lack of maybe confidence in that area.

Q. I think you said the other day you went from Beijing to Australia for physio.


Q. And then obviously playing in the States prior. I mean, that’s a lot of travel. How much do you think that that factored in, having all that travel?

ANA IVANOVIC: Like I said, I had very tough last couple of months. It’s now behind me and, you know, I have to look at the positives. We struggled a lot to find what was wrong with my hand. I couldn’t actually practice, so that was obviously frustrating.

Obviously now we found solution for it and I feel better. For me, that’s really, really good, and that’s incentive to now go back on the court and keep working hard, and hopefully with a little bit less traveling.

Q. What about Julie’s game surprised you the most? Like you said earlier, you didn’t know what to expect.

ANA IVANOVIC: Her serve was very consistent and very, very strong. She’s not such a tall girl, and she was serving really strong and powerful serves. Yeah, had a lot of first serves in as well.

It was very hard to get rhythm because I tried couple times, you know, to make longer rally, to slowly get into the match, but she didn’t give me options. She was going for her shots and she was playing really well today.

And still, I think in the third set I created a lot of opportunities for myself. Just, yeah, didn’t quite use them. That was very, very frustrating.

Q. How hard was that for you? Because, I mean, obviously you’re used to being able to execute shots. You’re out there, No. 1 player in the world, and you can’t do what you want to do.

ANA IVANOVIC: It was very, very hard, probably the hardest thing about today’s match. Okay, if I didn’t create those opportunities she was just better. But I think I had lot of chances, and just not being able to use them was very frustrating. Maybe I was a little bit also too hard on myself at some moments.

But, you know, I just have to look positive, that I’m pain‑free and able to play, and to now go back on court and work hard.

Q. Which one has been your biggest opportunity you think you missed in the match?

ANA IVANOVIC: In the third set I had couple. At 2‑All, 40‑Love, three breakpoints. And also first game of the third set, I think I had breakpoint in that game, too. I had opportunity to step up and put pressure on her straight from the beginning in the third set but couldn’t quite use it.

Q. I know it’s not quite easy to ask because it’s just after the game, but do you have any specific plans to go back home and regroup and maybe get back to regain the No. 1 position, because you may lose it?

ANA IVANOVIC: Well, I have to speak with my team and make a plan. We didn’t have a chance to do that yet. Obviously, I’m very, very motivated to go straight back on the court. Honestly, I don’t need any time off, because I had plenty of it without tennis.

I’m ready to get back on the court and keep practicing. I don’t know, maybe even leave tomorrow already and get straight back into it.

Q. Who do you think will win this tournament, and why?

ANA IVANOVIC: It’s very hard. I think Williams sisters, I think they have a pretty good chance. Yeah, I think the top half of the draw, it’s quite strong.

Q. Julie said that happened when she was out there she didn’t feel nervous. It was just another game until it got to the match points. Were you surprised with the poise that she showed out there?

ANA IVANOVIC: Well, I think what I experienced so far is girls, when they play against higher‑ranked players, they have nothing to lose so they go for their shots. Many times they play matches of their life. Not only in women’s tennis, also in men’s.

When I watch Rafa or Roger or Nole, the players that come up with shots against them is just amazing. They feel no pressure and they’re so relaxed to play these kind of shots.

She managed, like she said, to stay calm and to play the same until the end.

Q. How do you see the chances for Caroline Wozniacki to win this tournament, or at least get into the final?

ANA IVANOVIC: I know she’s very good player and she’s very talented girl. But to tell you the truth, I don’t know much about the draw or any opponents or who she’s playing.

Yeah, she’s very young, and I’m sure she has good possibility.

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Video: Mad Dog Minute Prediction - Nadal won’t win US Open

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Predicting that Nadal won’t win the US Open is the total safe bet. Heck, I don’t think he’ll win it - but our usual winner, Federer, has really blown it this year in smaller competitions and been unable to pull through a final in major competitions. I see an opportunity here as Nadal may burn out (note that he proved otherwise several times this year) and Federer may not have gotten his game together yet, even for an incredibly easy draw to the semis.

I also don’t think Nadal needs to win the US Open this year to be able to build on his success, and certainly wouldn’t view it as a setback.

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Indian tennis tournament cancelled for 2008

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
Next month’s new ATP event in the southern Indian city of Bangalore has been cancelled due to security concerns after a spate of deadly bombings in the troubled area.

The ATP confirmed that local organizers raised the alarm for the safety of the tournament that had been shifted to the country’s high- tech centre after being played for two years in Mumbai.

“The ATP board can confirm that it has regrettably accepted a petition from the Bangalore Open to suspend the 2008 event due to the local promoter’s security concerns,” an ATP statement read.

The 400,000 dollars in prize money will be paid into the player pension fund instead.

Bangalore was rattled by a political bombing in late July, with another bomb exploding a day later in the western city of Ahmedabad, claiming up to 50 victims.

By contrast, a regular ATP event in Bangkok was played without problems two years ago after a peaceful coup in the country which left tanks and soldiers on the streets of the capital.

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Sharapova visits US Open, talks about torn rotator cuff recovery

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008
Now Sharapova is rehabilitating in Arizona, returning to her three-to-four hour daily grind on Tuesday in hopes of pulling up fit for the 2009 WTA season.

“I played with pain a majority of the time,” the current Australian Open champion said. “Even sleeping and in everyday things, I still feel it.”

Sharapova said the problem she first felt in March got worse last month in a match in Canada. “I knew it was more than just inflammation. Doctors then found two minor tears.”

The three-time Grand Slam champion called the whole farcical situation “frustrating.”

“If this had been properly diagnosed it would have been treatment months ago and maybe I wouldn’t have missed the Olympics and the US Open. I can get by without surgery, but it’s a long process.”

If she’s still feeling pain, sounds like she needs some more time off!

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US Open Interview: Rafael Nadal, after first round win

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Federer says he has the advantage over everyone else, specifically Nadal, in knowing how to win the US Open, but if he does it this year I think he has an easy draw to thank. Nadal won his first round match over Bjorn Phau of Germany, 7-6, 6-3, 7-6.

Q. I guess there was a little bit of a scare out there today in round 1. I guess all the talk about facing Federer, you have to worry about the Mardy Fishes and the Robby Ginepris of the world before you worry about a championship?

RAFAEL NADAL: I never talk about playing against Federer, no. You talk a lot. I know how tough it is every round. I try to go round to round. I’m not thinking far away than second round right now.

Q. Do you think he played much better than his normal level today against you?

RAFAEL NADAL: I think I help a little bit him, to play to this level. Sure, he’s good player. He played well today. But I didn’t play with normal intensity. I play a little bit less intensity than last few months for sure. Important thing, final, is win. I know I am playing well, because I did very well the last few months.

Probably I’m a little bit tired more than I usually. And the thing is try to be good, no? Mentally and physically, because I think I am playing good tennis, no?

Q. How difficult is it to make the change from Beijing and going through that tournament, doing all this flying, and starting with a few days’ rest? Is that difficult?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t ‑‑ well, I don’t think so, no? It’s important, jet lag. But for the rest is fine. The problem is play Toronto, Cincinnati, Beijing, come back here.

So in two weeks, two times, 12 hours’ jet lag. Before, after Wimbledon I only have 6, 7 days for recover. Before Wimbledon I play Queen’s, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Hamburg, Roland Garros, and Wimbledon, too. The system is very tough, no?

But the same time, I have to be very happy. I must be very happy how I did this year, anyway, if I lose, for example, tomorrow, hopefully not. But anyway, I am happy about how I played this year. And just try to continue playing like this in this tournament.

Q. Do you think you’re more worn out physically, emotionally, or mentally?


Q. Yes.

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. Yeah, I think it is a little bit of everything, no? Probably the toughest thing is mentally, no? Because I for the last month or last ‑‑ yeah, last weeks, I was very concentrate all the days with how, have break, you know, maybe sometimes the more difficult part is be all the day focus on one thing, no?

So I did that for a lot of months, so right now I think I don’t want to say another time I’m tired. I am a little bit tired, yes, but it is US Open so I have to try my best here, and I’m going to try my best for sure.

Q. Elena Dementieva said earlier today that she was having a bit of hard time shifting focus from gold medal victory in Beijing and now to come here. She said it’s just been a difficult shift of focus.

RAFAEL NADAL: No, for me, not. For me that’s sure not the problem. I win, from here win a lot of things from here. The problem was while I was very exciting one week ago I win the gold medal but at the same time play here, I have to play here in one week. For me, that’s not the problem, I win Roland Garros and in one week I have to be 100% ready for Wimbledon. I think I’m ready for these things. The thing is be ready for rest of things, because I played a lot. First round always is difficult, and hopefully next round I play much better, no? That’s what I think.

Q. Are you concerned a little bit about how long it took to play this match as far as continuing on, especially because, as you say, there is a little bit of being tired involved because of the travel?

RAFAEL NADAL: I won in three sets. The result is good for me, the result is always good. Win in three sets is always good result. I had some difficult moments, so that’s going to help me for a little bit, be prepared for the pressure moments. So I play well when I have the pressure moments, only if I fall with the break, no? I play bad. But for the rest, I think I was serving fine, what is important thing.

Q. Why do you think you haven’t had great success here? Is it the court? Is it the atmosphere? Why haven’t you had a good…

RAFAEL NADAL: Probably tough part of the season. It’s the last ‑‑ I played a lot, straight, and probably when I arrive here, always is tougher part of the year, no? Because after here, you have normally some weeks off after prepare the last part of the season, the indoors. But when you arrive here, you play Wimbledon, we don’t have lot of time here for prepare hardcourt season, and we play Toronto, Cincinnati, and here.

But I don’t know. You know, the thing, I didn’t play very well here in the last years, no? In 2006, I was playing fine, no? I had tough match against Youzhny. He played very well, but I had big chances beat him and be in semifinals. Right now hopefully just play better.

Q. Are you feeling more comfortable on the hardcourts?

RAFAEL NADAL: I did very well this year, yeah.

Q. For the last three years you’ve been chasing No. 1, and that’s always been a big motivation in front of you to do well in tournaments. This is your first Grand Slam as the No. 1. Does that change the way you feel playing, the way that you’re motivated towards your setting goals?

RAFAEL NADAL: Doesn’t matter for me, no. Not the truth, believe me. I have the same goal ‑ play now same as I was No. 2. When I was No. 2 I was very happy. I’m very motivate to play tournament, not for play tournament, for be No. 1. You understand me now?

I have the same goal. Right now I try to play very good tournament for win the US Open, no? When I was No. 2, the goal was the same, was win the US Open, but the goal wasn’t win the US Open for be No. 1. The goal is win US Open, no?

Q. Do you feel the balls are playing the same this year as they were last year? I understand they’re playing a little bit heavier.

RAFAEL NADAL: You know, I think yes, no? The feeling always change for us, because it depends. For example, I put example. When you are coming, when you play Cincinnati and when you coming from Montreal, Cincinnati seems slow. And when you are playing Cincinnati and comes from Toronto, Cincinnati is very fast. So it depends on the last, no? The Olympics was the same ball, but seems this here a little bit heavy, no? I think it’s the same like last year.

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Tennis stirs more controversy in Beijing

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Na Li (or Li Na, depending on which naming convention you prefer) appears to be another Olympics casualty - a portion of the fans in China are apparently not only unhappy with her inability to pull in a singles medal, but with her on-court attitude:

When a frustrated Li Na, the Chinese tennis star, shouted “Shut up!” in English at a cheering Chinese audience during a women’s singles semifinal match on Saturday, the country’s cyber-savvy chatterers were quick to denounce her words as a slap in the face to the nation’s collective pride.
The yell came as Li lost a critical set point shortly before losing the match to Russia’s Dinara Safina 6-7 (3), 5-7, ending China’s hope to win a silver or gold medal in singles tennis play. The incident, now dubbed as “Shut-up Gate” in online chat rooms, provoked wide accusations of Li trying to distance herself from her Chinese identity.
“Can’t she just speak Chinese? She thinks she’s so Westernized just because she plays a bourgeois sport,” is typical of the barbs bouncing around cyberspace in the last few days.
Although Li has admitted that the shout came from her frustration over losing control of the game, some angry netizens remained skeptical and skewered her for failing to accept the audience’s good will.
“You can’t expect everyone to understand the rules of watching a tennis game,” one sports blogger wrote. “What we can do as Chinese is to cheer as much as we can whenever we see our players competing. What’s wrong with that?”
But in my opinion, there was nothing wrong on Li’s part either. It’s only too common for players to let out emotions on a tennis court, and “shut up” is as normal as any other expression used on such occasions. nytimes

I’d be pretty edgy too, especially after watching Safina play one of the WTA’s notoriously terrible servers (Elena Dementieva) and completely falling apart to throw in 17 double faults herself in the final. Russia took home all three medals in women’s singles (Dementieva, Safina, Zvonereva). If you missed the gold medal match on tv/online, don’t bother checking it out - better tennis could have been seen nearly anywhere else.

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Blake; Olympics disappoint in more ways than one

Friday, August 15th, 2008

I haven’t been writing anything about the Olympics because the Olympics are one of my least favorite tennis events. The play always seem inconsistent to me, and I never get the feel that it is a 5th Grand Slam because of all the missing players and other oddities. In the “other oddities” category this time around are the spectators - most of whom seem to be experiencing their first tennis matches based on the behavior I’ve seen. I am so in favor of having audience involvement - anyone who has been to tennis with me knows that I push the line on spectator participation as much as possible in between play - but I don’t understand why the Olympic attendees are able to mill about during play or move into walkways to shoot photos. I watched Roger Federer (during his loss to Blake) actually wait for about a minute for a fan to sit back in his seat instead of the aisle, and with little to no help from the ushers. I don’t think we need to be extreme and demand that this tournament be perfect, but I do want to see some really great play, and simple things like that should be taken care of. I’ve also been watching the commentary available on the video feeds, and it becomes obvious right away that some of this stuff is just strange - they’ve pointed out the fans crawling all over, laughing during rallies like it is a comedy show, empty stadiums, and more.

Maybe it isn’t as bad as I think, but all of this makes the Olympics a lesser event in my mind.

Of course, my mind is badly battered after staying up all night to watch James Blake lose to Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez, so maybe I am being a bit too cranky. I’m a big Blake fan - while I am convinced he generally cannot compete with top players, seeing him beat Federer (finally) was huge. I really thought he could get a handle on Gonzo, but instead, opportunity after opportunity passed him by. Then I became really disappointed when I read this:

“I’ve spoken all week about how much I’ve enjoyed the Olympic experience, how much I love the spirit of it,” Blake said. “That’s a disappointing way to exit the tournament, when you not only lose the match, but you lose a little faith in your fellow competitor.”

The incident that upset Blake occurred with Gonzalez serving at 8-9 in the final set. On the first point, Blake hit a backhand passing shot long but contended the ball ticked Gonzalez’s racket before landing, as TV replays confirmed.

Blake appealed in vain to the chair umpire, and said Gonzalez should have conceded the point. Blake went on to lose the game to make it 9-all.

“Playing in the Olympics, in what’s supposed to be considered a gentleman’s sport, that’s a time to call it on yourself,” Blake said. “Fernando looked me square in the eye and didn’t call it.”

Gonzalez said he was uncertain whether the ball hit his racket.

“I didn’t feel anything,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, it’s just one point. There is an umpire. If I’m 100 percent sure about it, I mean, I will give it. But I’m not sure.”

Blake described Gonzalez as a great player who does everything in his power to win, “usually” within the rules.

“Whatever he wants to say is fine,” Blake said. “Whatever is going to get him to have some sleep tonight, then that’s fine.” NBC Olympics

The facts are that Blake squandered opportunity after opportunity. If he had capitalized on the match points he had, he wouldn’t have to be upset about a single point. My guess is that he is really mad at himself for missing the opportunities, and was uncharacteristically whiny about one incident to vent that anger, but it still sucks to hear this coming from him.

Olympic tennis results always surprise me to some extent, but I don’t think Blake has a great shot at the bronze. He’ll either be play Nadal or Djokovic, and probably has the best chance with Nadal, but it’ll be a tough match no matter what. I’ll admit I’m not a Gonzo fan, so I’ll put him in the silver spot. If I had to pick gold, my guess is going to Djokovic. This is now your cue to put money on Gold - Gonzalez, Silver - Nadal - Bronze - Blake. :)

Oh, and a message to NBC for their tape-delayed Olympics showing on the Pacific Coast: you suck.

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Sharapova out of Olympics after shoulder tear

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

It was rumored to be in the works after yesterday’s near loss by Maria Sharapova, and nwo the rumors are starting that this is true - Maria Sharapova will not play in the Beijing Olympics.

Maria Sharapova pulled out of the Beijing Olympics on Thursday after getting an MRI in Montreal which revealed that she has two small tears in her right shoulder.

Sharapova is said to be relieved that she has finally discovered what was causing her shoulder to ache since re-injuring at Indian Wells in March, but is also extremely disappointed that she’s be unable to compete in the Olympics, which has long been one of her dreams.

Sharapova is headed to New York to visit with the renowned sports physician Dr. David Alchek, who will give her a second opinion as to how much time she should take off. In her 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 win over Poland’s Marta Domachowska on Wednesday night, Sharapova was unable to get her arm back far enough to hit a kick serve and when she came off court, told her coach, Michael Joyce, that the shoulder felt different.

The doctor that Sharapova visited with in Montreal said she needed to take off a substantial amount of time to allow the injury to heal, which puts the 2006 US Open champ’s chances on competing in America’s Grand Slam, which begins on Aug. 25, in serious doubt. Sharapova may decide to let the injury heal entirely before picking up a racket again, as she’s been frustrated at playing than less than 100 percent, which might also put her entire fall season at risk.

So many shoulder problems for a young player - this issue has been coming up for years now, and is now seriously impacting her career.

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Federer loses at Cincy, Nadal has clear shot at #1

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Ivo Karlovic just took out Roger Federer at the Cincy Masters event, opening the door wide for Rafa Nadal to make a play for #1 this week. Final score was 7-6 4-6 7-6, with Karlovic delivering 22 aces in the two-hour, ten-minute match.

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