trophy watch: he who stands taller


Two straight for Fishy: Mardy Fish denied John Isner from pulling a Mardy Fish yesterday in Atlanta. Last year, Fish had won Newport and Atlanta to kick off a hot summer, and with Isner taking the North American grass court tourney this year, he was trying to pull a Fish and double dip to start his own US Open campaign. But Fish, the no. 9-ranked player in the world, fended off Isner in Atlanta at the Atlanta Tennis Championships, beating his countryman 3-6 7-6 (6) 6-2. John doesn’t look too happy now, does he? The reason? It was the second straight year Fish had beaten Isner in the final here, saving match points this time around to take a cup over a platter (better to drink out of!). There’s still a few weeks before the big show in NYC! Cheer up, Johnny boy!

Vera, unplugged. It was the turnaround that Vera Zvonareva was in desperate need of. The Russian had struggled through Europe, whimpering out of Wimbledon where she so forcefully made the final last year, losing out to Tsvetana Pironkova in the third round, 6-3 6-2. But Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Vera’s countrywoman, made the biggest Baku headlines for the week for her 25-double fault match that she WON. More importantly? Vera was the week’s winner. Zvonareva took down the tough Anna Tatishvili, 7-5 6-7 (4) 6-2.

Gilles, too. Meanwhile, on clay, Gilles Simon took Nicolas Almagro to task, winning in Hamburg, 6-4 4-6 6-4.

(Isner and Fish via Getty; Vera via the Baku Cup/WTA; Simon via the AP)

trophy watch: before paris




And two weeks from now? Caroline Wozniacki
 would like to be holding a smaller — but more significantly weighted — trophy on the grounds of Roland Garros. But for now the world no. 1 will have to take solace in this oversized cup she received for winning in Brussels, beating Peng Shuai 2-6 6-3 6-3. It would be an outside shot for Andrea Petkovic to go from Strasbourg winner to the champ in Paris, but she did beat Marion Bartoli (6-4 1-0 Ret.), a former Major finalist herself and was a quarterfinalist at this year’s Aussie. For the boys, Nicolas Almagro downed Victor Hanescu 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-3. The Spaniard also has an outside chance at capturing a win at the year’s second major. | More: Read about all three of their wins

Where are they now? In Paris, duh! Almagro, the 11th seed, gets Lukasz Kubot in the first round tomorrow. Top seed Wozniacki swept through Kimiko Date Krumm in her opening match today, winning 0 and 2. Petkovic gets dangerous Serb Bojana Jovanovski tomorrow in her opener. | Look: RG photo stream


(Wozniacki image by Getty via the WTA; Petko by Chrystene Caillud via the WTA and Almago by Yohan Brandt via the ATP)

roland garros bracketology: the fellas



By Christopher Phillips

[Ed note: Chris Phillips, part of TSF West, files his thoughts on who's hot, who's not and who might just make a run at this year's Roland Garros. -NEM]

With the men’s and women’s most significant clay court tournaments just completed and a handful of players getting their last bit of match time in this week, let’s take a look at some of the contenders for the 2011 French Open.  I’ve listed my top 10 favorites below in my own rank order as well as some other players to watch who’ve had notable achievements this year or in the past.

Rafael Nadal | While the tennis talk of the town has definitely been focused on Djokovic the past five months, I still believe this title is Nadal’s to lose. Djokovic has beaten Nadal four times this year with his last two on clay, but beating Rafa three out of five sets is much tougher of a challenge than beating him two out of three.  If anyone can do it though, Nole’s your man. Result: Champ (d. Djokovic in five-set final)

Novak Djokovic | I think at some point “streak pressure” has got to get to him.  Once people start asking how long can you keep it going is usually about when it stops, especially when it becomes the only question (in 20 different forms) in the media room. I detected a bit of panic on his face when he was two points away from losing to Andy Murray in the Rome SFs.  If you’re looking for more reasons he won’t beat Rafa, Nole lost to Jurgen Melzer last year in the QFs after holding a two-set lead.  Additionally — and one of the reasons why I think Murray was as successful against Novak as he was in Rome — is that nobody on the tour expects to beat this guy right now, giving them an increased ability to feel like they can swing away at their shots.  That being said, anything less than a trip to the final for Djoko would have to qualify as the biggest upset (for whoever snacks on him) of the year so far. Result: Runner-up

Roger Federer | As the oldest of the top three, the great one is past his prime … but this doesn’t mean another major (or two or three) are beyond him. But I just don’t see it happening here, nor do I see him as the victim of an upset.  He’s played eight tournaments this year winning one (Doha) and losing five to either Nadal or Djokovic.  What should be most troubling for Roger however is his straight-set loss to Melzer in the Monte Carlo QFs and losing two tiebreaks to Richard “Baby Federer” Gasquet in the third round at Rome. Result: Quarterfinals

Andy Murray | Murray’s year has been up and down, but the most encouraging thing for him going into the next two weeks should be the fact — not that he’s 13-7 on the year — but that he’s 7-3 on clay with two of those three-set losses to Nadal and Djokovic, respectively.  Hopefully these semifinal runs in Monte Carlo and Rome will give him the encouragement he needs to turn his game around for the year. More: Will Andy be OK despite his ‘injury?’ Result: Semifinals

David Ferrer | Ferrer is 15-3 (Update: DF upset by Alexandr Dolgopolov in Nice) on clay this year with his losses coming solely to … Nadal and Djokovic.  He’s had wins on the dirt over Melzer (twice), Nicolas Almagro (twice), Serb Victor Troicki, Jaun Monaco and Feliciano Lopez.  It’s going to take one of the big four to take him down. Result: Semifinals

Robin Soderling | Soderling’s made the past two finals at Roland Garros, but given his play this year, it’s difficult to see him going for a three-peat. He’s won three hard court titles (Brisbane, Rotterdam and Marseille) but has gone 5-4 on clay with his deepest run to quarterfinals in Rome, Madrid and Estoril.  Three of those losses were to Djokovic (losing most recently 3 & 0), Federer and Del Potro … but the other was to Ivan Dodig.  He also struggled against Almagro, Fernando Verdasco and Jeremy Chardy.  If any of the top eight are ripe for an early upset, it’s the Swede. Result: Quarterfinals

Scalp man: Soderling has had big wins the last two years. Don’t expect him to make it three in a row.

Tomas Berdych | Berdych made it to the SFs here last year, but hasn’t won a title in over two years. His record on the dirt this year is 5-3 with his most significant wins over Monaco (twice), falling at or before the QFs in all three events. His record going into Roland Garros last year wasn’t entirely dissimilar, but it’s hard to see him reaching the SFs again. Result: Quarterfinals

Nicolas Almagro | Many have considered Almagro to be the Spanish clay court successor to Nadal, but he’s yet to live up to any of that hype.  He’s 20-4 on clay this year with two South American titles (Buenos Aires and Costa Do Sauipe) with wins over Sam Querrey, Juan-Ignacio Chela (twice), Tommy Robredo, Nikolay Davydenko, Ferrero and Jose Acasuso. His clay success has helped him crack the top ten for the first time in his career. In seven trips to Paris, he’s lost to top 10 players on five of those occasions and twice been a quarterfinalist. The real question seems to be: Can Almagro finally break through to his predicted potential? Result: Quarterfinals

Richard Gasquet | While he’s 4-7 lifetime at Roland Garros (yep! You read that right.), four of those losses have been to top ten players (Murray last year after leading two-sets-to-none, Nadal and David Nalbandian (twice) and a fifth to eventual champ Albert Costa in 2002 (Right, we forgot about Albie, too).  So far this year on the dirt, Richard is 8-4 with three losses to top 10 players (Nadal twice and countryman Gael Monfils).  His play in Rome (with victories over Federer and Berdych) was inspiring and should serve him well in Paris. But will the home crowd be too much once again? Result: Third round

Stanislas Wawrinka | He’s 10-6 at Roland Garros, but — similar to Gasquet — three of those losses were to top ten players (Federer, Ivan Ljubicic and Nalbandian) and the other three losses were to future top ten players (Davydenko and Fernando Gonzalez) and eventual 2002 finalist (the now-forgotten Mariano Puerta).  Even though his 7-5 clay court record this year leaves plenty to be desired, needless to say it takes a considerable player to take out the second-highest Swiss player in Paris. Result: Third round

For a list of other players to watch, click to keep reading. [Read more...]

almagro climbs his way into the top 10



Nicolas Almagro came up short in the all-Spanish semifinal at the 2011 Barcelona Open, losing to David Ferrer 3-6, 4-6. It puts an end to another great run for Nico and puts Ferrer in his second final against Rafa Nadal in as many weeks. (They two duked it out for the Monte Carlo title, with Nadal prevailing.) But Almagro shouldn’t feel too bad: he’ll enter the ATP top 10 for the first time in his career when the rankings are released on Monday.

Stepping it up: Reebok‘s playing with prints again after keeping with solid polos to start out Nico’s year. Now there are white and teal colorways of the current crew done up with pseudo-trapezoidy/staircase-esque patterns. Not available stateside, but definitely available in brick-and-mortar stores en España. More info here: Reebok Competition Tech Top.

Draw: Read up on all the happenings of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell at the tourney’s here.

(image via Getty Images)

trophy watch: hold up that boo-boo, boo



We know, we’ve been a little Andy-crazy the last 24 hours, but really y’all, the dude is holding this boring trophy, looking so dang proud of himself and flashing a battle wound. That. Is. So. Cool. Seriousssssssssly. (AP photo)

Oh right, the ladies were playing in Memphis, too. At left, winner Magdalena Rybarikova beat Canadian Rebecca Marino. (Getty Images)

Is it just us, or is Nicolas Almagro getting cuter? The Spaniard won in Brazil for his second-straight ATP title in two weeks.  (AP photo) More trophies (and their holders) after the cut.

[Read more...]