Archive | 2011 Season RSS feed for this section

Floodgates Busted Wide Open For Janko Tipsarevic

23 Oct

Janko Tipsrevic Lifts Kremlin Cup as Victor Troicki watchesAfter 10 seasons on tour including 4 finals appearances, Janko Tipsarevic had not won an ATP title until a few weeks ago when he posted a solid 64 75 victory over Marcos Baghdatis in Kuala Lumpur. The wait for his 2nd ATP title would be far shorter with his win today over countryman and defending champion Viktor Troicki. In fact, Janko made it look easy with a routine 64 62 win to wrest the Kremlin Cup away from Viktor.

This was the first All-Serbian final ever and who would have thought that this piece of history would not involve Novak Djokovic. While Novak has been front and center for all tennis news involving Serbia (and the world), Janko and Viktor have both firmly entrenched themselves in the Top 20. They are also knocking on the door of the Top 10 as Tipsarevic will move up to #13 in the rankings tomorrow. He does crack the Top 10 in the Champions Race with a chance Janko Winsof making the Barclays World Tour Finals in London although he still trails the Top 8 by more than 500 points.

Considering he has never finished the season higher than #38, a Top 10 finish or anywhere near it will be a major accomplishment for Janko. His past 12 months have included many firsts starting last year with his nation’s first Davis Cup, his first Master Series semi at the Rogers Cup to crack the Top 20 for the first time, his first Slam quarter at the US Open, and that elusive first title in Kuala Lumpur. With so many firsts in 2011, one could say winning his second title in Moscow was his first great ‘second’ of 2011. It was also his first underwear endorsement deal with Extreme Intimo, and perhaps that was just the good luck charm he needed as the photos were released only days before he lifted that first trophy in Kuala Lumpur.

Janko-Tipsarevic-underwear-210x300janko_tipsarevic_extreme_intimo_13-202x300

Tipsarevic and Troicki may have made history with the first All-Serbian final played today, King Novak still found a way to steal the show as his epic mini-tennis battle against Dusan Vemic on YouTube proved to be the more entertaining All-Serb battle today.

.

While this was uploaded today, those shenanigans actually took place the day before Nole’s first US Open title. I guess that turned out to be a good way to stay loose before a Grand Slam final.

dominika cibulkova first titleIn other Kremlin Cup news today, Dominika Cibulkova scored her first title with a 36 76(1) 75 victory over Kaia Kanepi. While the 22 year-old Slovak has been ranked as high as #12 in the world with a Grand Slam semi under her belt, that first title had eluded her until today. Last week she reached her third career final in a loss to Petra Kvitova in Linz, but the fourth time proved to be lucky today for Dominika especially considering the gift Kaia gave her late in the second set. With Cibulkova serving break point down at 5-All, Kanepi missed an open-court overhead that sailed about a centimeter long. While the two both looked tight at the end of the third with 5 consecutive breaks of serve, Cibulkova finally held her serve (and her nerve) to close it out.

dominika cibulkova in moscow red squareLet’s see if this victory busts open the floodgates for the little 5-foot-3 dynamo from Bratislava like it has for Janko. Only a handful of players can end their season with a victory, and Dominika sure finished hers off in style just like she did when she visited the Red Square earlier this week.

Enjoy the off-season, Dominika!

Agnieszka Qualifies!!! AND Keeping Up With The Safinas

21 Oct

Since Marion Bartoli pulled out of her quarterfinal match against Elena Vesnina today, Agnieszka Radwanska does in fact qualify for the Tour Championships in Istanbul. Bartoli had a viral illness and explained “I think my whole body needed a break and I was trying till the end, but yesterday during my match I already didn’t feel very good. But I still had a bit of energy left so it was enough.  This morning I had so much pain in my whole body, in my neck. I couldn’t even warm up today. So I knew it would be very difficult. But it has been a very long season and I really tried to play till the very end but that was it for me.”

Yesterday before she pulled out but perhaps knowing her ultimate fate said, “I am absolutely satisfied with this season which I am almost sure to finish in the top-10. Even getting to Istanbul as a substitute is a big achievement at the moment.” Both Marion Bartoli and Andrea Petkovic will be the two alternates in Istanbul, and in recent years the alternates have actually seen round-robin play so they should be prepared.

Agnieszka was relieved to qualify today and stated, “I’m so happy to finally qualify for the Championships as one of the Top 8 singles players. Just a few weeks ago I didn’t think I had a chance of qualifying and am now so happy to end my season in Istanbul.”

In unrelated news, I thought you might enjoy some recent pictures of what the Safin Siblings have been up to. Dinara has not retired like Marat had announced, but she did enjoy some time at IKEA last week. And as you will also see, Marat just keeps flapping his gums to anyone who will listen.

dinara safina ikea

Marat Safin and Davydenko

Agnieszka Radwanska Loses, Bartoli Still Alive For Istanbul

19 Oct

After Radwanska won Tokyo and Beijing back to back, she seemed a shoo-in to qualify as one of the Elite 8 to play in the Tour Championships in Istanbul. With Petkovic injured, the only one who could even think of catching Aga was Marion Bartoli. The Frenchwoman would not only need to go undefeated over the last two weeks of the season, but Agnieszka also had to go winless. With Radwanska not scheduled to play last week, Marion really turned on the pressure when she won the title in Osaka.

No big deal, right? Bartoli would have to win the Kremlin Cup AND Radwanska would have to lose her opening match for Marion to qualify. Not likely. Things got a bit dicier when the draw came out, and Radwanska was not happy to see that she would have to face Lucie Safarova. Not only was Lucie the highest ranked player not seeded, but more importantly she owned a 3-1 record over Aga including their only match this year. The pressure was on.

Radwanska raced to a 3-0 lead, but she clearly looked nervous as the match proceeded. Lucie then began to dominate and won 15 straight points on serve as she came from behind to win the first set. Radwanska’s head was not in Moscow, this match was all about Istanbul. She somehow squeaked out the second despite still looking shaky, but Lucie was able to hang on by a score of 64 46 64.

With Osaka Trophy, Moscow Next?

Marion still needs to handle the pressure of winning the title in Moscow, but what was once a hope and a prayer is now a legitimate chance to make the Elite 8. Both players have never qualified directly for the Tour Championships, and yet both have played and won matches as alternates. Bartoli replaced an injured Serena in 2007 to beat Jelena Jankovic but failed to proceed to the semis due to her 6-0 6-0 loss to Justine who was eager to avenge the Wimbledon loss that year to Marion. Radwanska won both of her round-robin matches with wins over Kuznetzova and Azarenka in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Who knows, maybe both players will get to hit the court in Istanbul after all.

The Steady Rise and Return of Alex Bogomolov Jr.

19 Oct

Alex Bogomolov Jr. Kremlin CupThis time last year, Alex “Bogie” Bogomolov Jr. was ranked outside the Top 200 and playing challenger events in such glamorous places as Charlottesville, Knoxville, and Champaign. You may actually remember that we highlighted Alex among others last year in Jockeying for Position with his title in Champaign at the end of last year. Bogie built on that momentum and steadily climbed the rankings this year to a career-high #37 and finds himself seeded 5th at the Kremlin Cup, an ATP 250 event in Moscow.

Alex has always played for the USA, but rumors are circling that the 28 year-old player born in Moscow is being courted to play Davis Cup for Russia. Although he is now the #4 American, Alex has never played for the USA Davis Cup team since there have always been so many Alex Bogomolov Jr. TattooAmerican players ranker higher. Russia currently has only one player ranked higher than Alex, and quite frankly #34 Mikhail Youzhny has really been dropping like a rock these days. This makes Alex that much more desirable for the Russian Davis Cup team. Not many besides TCW was paying Alex much attention last year, but what a difference a year makes.

And what a difference a few years make as Alex struggled through a doping suspension in 2005, a divorce from WTA pro Ashley Harkleroad in 2006, and career-ending career-changing wrist surgery in 2008. He gave up the pro circuit for a while and became the Director of Tennis at Gotham Tennis Academy on Long Island and in the Bronx. His son Maddox was his motivation to return to the tour, and I highly recommend reading ESPN’s How Love Lifted Bogomolov Jr.’s Game article if you missed it. You can also watch this from his sponsor Athletic DNA to learn more about the rise, fall, and return of Bogie.

.

Alex is taking advantage of his new stature in the game, and his relatively easy draw this week is a good example of  how Bogie is now reaping the rewards from the last couple of years of grinding through challengers and quallies. He is in the quarters already with 3-set wins over lower-ranked Dusan Lajovic and Mikhail Kukushkin. This is quite different from a year ago where he would need to play 2 or 3 rounds of quallies before facing a top seed in the first round. And now he is one of those top seeds.

The draw gets a lot tougher this week in Moscow as he faces #16 Victor Troicki, but Bogie has proved this year that he is capable of beating Top 20 players with wins over Chela, Tsonga, and Murray. We may need to do a new “Jockeying for Position” article as it looks like his 2011 success could earn him a seeding for the Grand Slams in 2012.

3 Titles for Andy Murray for #3

16 Oct

Congrats to your new World #3 who went undefeated on the Asian Swing to pass Roger Federer, who falls out of the Top 3 for the first time since 2003. Where are you going to put all these trophies, Andy?

Andy Murray wins Bangkok

Andy Murray and Surprise Finalist Donald Young in Bangkok

Andy Beats Rafa in Tokyo

Andy Wins Big Over Rafa in Tokyo

Murray Wins The Shanghai Masters Over David Ferrer

And let’s not forget Andy’s doubles title with his brother Jamie in Tokyo.

Andy and Jamie Share Their Tokyo Trophy

David Ferrer and that Crying Baby

16 Oct

Does anybody remember the much ado about nothing involving David Ferrer hitting the ball toward the crying baby earlier this year in Miami? Well, I wonder if the producers of this Shanghai Masters promo do.

.

I am not sure why this made me laugh so hard, but I thought I should share in case you have the same warped sense of tennis humor. I also wanted an excuse to shout a “Vamos Ferru” before the big final tomorrow. Bring home your first Master Series shield – do it for all of the hard-working grinders out there.

david ferrer shanghai final

VAMOS FERRU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shanghai Surprises (Plural)

15 Oct

A final between #2 and #3 seeds might indicate a routine week on the ATP Tour, but this Masters 1000 produced a few career-changing performances. While the attention will be on Murray and Ferrer tomorrow, much of the excitement of the week came from Florian Mayer, Matthew Ebden, and Kei Nishikori.

Florian Mayer – The draw was busted wide open in the 3rd Round when the 28 year-old German dismissed Rafael Nadal Florian Beats Rafa76(5) 63. While Florian was certainly mixing it up with his usual slicing and dicing, it was his improved serving that secured him this win as well as his best overall year on tour. Nadal never had a break point with Mayer winning 33 of 37 points when he got his first serve in.

In addition to his improved serve, Florian credits his best year on tour to his improved mental and physical fitness. He young florian mayer with boris beckerfully admits that when he had his first breakthrough of reaching the Wimbledon quarters in 2004, he simply was not ready for that level of success and attention thrust upon him. Many of the German players over the last 15 years have found it hard to handle the pressure of who would become the next Boris Becker.

While still a bit allergic to the spotlight, Florian is enjoying the fruits of his labor and patience now in 2011. Earlier this year he became the top ranked German player for the first time and finally surpassed his previous career-high ranking of 34. This time around he was more prepared to handle his success and the added pressure that comes with it. He carried this momentum even further to crack the Top 20 and win Bucharest for his first ATP title ever. His win over Nadal this week was just icing on his 2011 cake as you can see in his post-match interview.

.

Matthew Ebden – The 23 year-old Australian was ranked a career-high 124 going in to Shanghai this week, so he needed to matt ebden shanghaiplay qualifying rounds like he does virtually every week. He dismissed former Top 40 players Florent Serra and Philipp Petzschner in quallies. After gaining entry to only his second Master Series main draw, he then cruised past #45 Pablo Andujar and #79 Ryan Harrison with ease.

One would think that Ebden would wake from this dream run against the steady #12 Gilles Simon, but this is the match that really made people take notice. As he often does even in his winning matches, Simon lost the first set 62 but it seemed like he regained control when he took the second by the same score. Ebden instead won a dramatic 10-8 tiebreak in the 3rd to set up a quarterfinal against Andy Murray.

While Murray looked strangely panicked in their first 6 games on serve, he then composed himself to win 63 62. Ebden will move inside the Top 100 for the first time to an estimated ranking of #80 tomorrow, and this should set himself up quite nicely for a 2012 full of many more main draw direct entries at the very least. He doesn’t like to be considered a late bloomer and explained, “‘I don’t know if you’d call it late; I mean, I’m 23. In a way, yes, but there’s probably only a handful of guys every year who are making it before the matthew ebdenages of 21, 22. The average age in the top 100 is about 26…I’m really trying to make it happen now. That’s where we’re heading.”

His compatriot Bernard Tomic also had a good week with a 2nd round win over Mardy Fish before losing to Alexandr Dolgopolov. Maybe it will help them both to share the pressure since there has been much scrutiny about the lack of talent after a long run of tennis legends. I would not be surprised if we also saw a few Aussies like Marinko Matosevic and Carsten Ball join the party in 2012. But this week is all Ebden, so take a look at his joy and composure after his big win over Gilles.

.

Kei Nishikori – Project 45 was completed in style earlier this week by the 21 year-old kei nishikori shanghaiJapanese player. For three years now, many tennis fans have known and talked about Project 45 as Kei Nishikori’s has been quite open about his ranking goal of #45 in order to become the highest ranked Japanese player ever on the ATP. Nishikori secured his mission with a 67(1) 64 64 win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the 2nd round. Kei must have felt lucky to even have the opportunity to battle the World #8 in the 2nd round with how he played in the 1st round. He must have had Project 45 on his mind when he got bageled by Robin Haase in the 1st set before fighting back to win the next two hard-fought sets to complete the 06 75 76(5) victory.

Nishikori proceeded to back up his big victory over Tsonga with wins over Santiago Giraldo and Alexandr Dolgopolov to get to his first Master Series semi Actually, he has only once reached the 2nd Round of  a Master Series so this was a week of many firsts for Nishikori. He lost quite meekly to Andy Murray 63 60 in the semis due to an ankle injury, and without his weapon of speed he looked quite lost out there. Time will tell if Kei Nishikori is the next tennis sensation that many have touted. He certainly should leave this week flying high after achieving Project 45, and he already made his next goal known in this new ad from Wilson.

.

I think Project 10 and/or Project Grand Slam will be a big ask, but let’s see if coach Brad Gilbert has the magic touch once again.