andy murray in form ahead of ATP Tour Finals

Andy Murray’s rise to the top of world tennis was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication but 2014 has arguably been his hardest year of all. Having seemed certain to miss out on this year’s ATP Tour finals in London (so certain, in fact, that he was not included in the giant posters advertising the event) the Brit has gone on one of the most remarkable winning runs in recent times and enters the tournament in some of his best ever form. The 27 year old’s form is reflected in his odds and he is now third favourite for the event with Betfair offering a tempting 7/1 on an outright win.Andy Murray

Fall from Grace

When defeated by Novak Djokovic at the quarter final stage of the US Open back in September Murray dropped down to 12th in the World rankings. This was the first time he had been out of the top 10 since 2008 and, having started 2014 up at 4th in the rankings, was an indication of just how far he had fallen and what a significant impact the back surgery that he had at the end of last year had made on his form. At this stage many players would holed up for winter, got back on the practice courts and attempted to come back stronger than ever in 2015…but not Murray. He decided to embark on a punishing schedule of tournament play in a last ditch attempt to secure enough ranking points to re-enter the top nine (Rafael Nadal has withdrawn due to appendix surgery so his spot will go to the ninth ranked man).

Hectic Schedule

Murray’s decision to enter six tournaments in six weeks ahead of the ATP Tour Finals saw him take on his most hectic schedule since his early days on the tour as an 18 year old but his gamble paid off and his place in London is secured. Unbelievably the Brit won three of the six tournaments- first taking the Shenzhen Open (his first title in 14 months), then the Vienna Open and finally the Valencia Open. In the process of winning the finals in both Valencia and Shenzhen he saw off five match points against the luckless Tommy Robredo of Spain demonstrating that his old steel and determination is well and truly back.

Aiming for Hat-Trick

Before winning the Shenzhen Open title, Murray’s last tournament victory had been at Wimbledon back in 2013. His victory over Novak Djokovic in the final delivered the first British men’s singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936 and came hot on the heels of his impressive win at the 2012 Olympics. Since that famous victory Murray has switched coaches, moving from Ivan Lendl to Amelie Mauresmo in June, and has undergone surgery to resolve a disc problem in his back forcing him to miss last year’s ATP Tour Finals event. For the man from Dunblane, victory in London would complete a memorable hat-trick of home wins and would prove many of his doubters wrong.

Man to Beat

Despite Murray’s impressive form, a win in London is still hard to envisage, with the world’s best players all vying for one of the sport’s biggest prizes. Novak Djokovic, who beat Murray comprehensively in Paris last week, will be desperate to hold on to his title and he looks to be the man to beat. Thankfully Murray has avoided the Serb in the group stages, being drawn alongside Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, but if he is to win his first ever ATP Tour finals title then he looks certain to have to beat the 27 year old at some stage. If he could do that then there would be no doubting whatsoever that he was back to his best.

flashback: robredo and wickmayer in erke at the 2010 us open

Tommy Robredo continued his round-robin of clothing sponsors, this time landing on Erke as played in the 2010 US Open. The Spaniard made it all the way to the Round of 16 (courtesy of retirements by Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra before falling to Mikhail Youzhny.

Robredo wore LoS (Label of Sportswear) for a little while this year, and was in Tacchini before that. Robredo switched to LoS around the time Nole switched to Tacchini from adidas.

And on the women’s side, 15th seed Yanina Wickmayer also made it through to the fourth round before getting upset by Kaia Kanepi. Note the white layered skirt, the keyhole on the back of her pink tank (the same color trim is on her shoes).

More: We took a few more pictures of both players; see ‘em after the cut…

tommy robredo in tacchini’s young line

Tommy Robredo fell to compatriot Rafa Nadal in the third round of the Shanghai ATP Masters in straight sets (6-1, 6-4).

Nadal’s been getting some flack for that green Nike polo he’s been sporting through his run in Asia, but no one can complain about Tommy’s classic look.

The two-time 2009 titleist (Copa Telmex in Argentina, Brasil Open) wearing a the Young line from Sergio Tacchini — the same design that John McEnroe made famous back in the day. And of course he accessorized the outfit with a white-banded TW Steel watch.

Draw: Up next for Rafa is Ivan Ljubicic, who won after Gael Monfils hopped on the Shanghai injury train because of a bad back (Murray, Roddick, del Potro, Haas, Acasuso, and Zverev are already on board). See the draw here.

More: Two more pics after the cut…

tommy robredo keeps it classic

Spaniard Tommy Robredo is through to the third round after straight-set wins over Adrian Mannarino and countryman Daniel Gimeno-Traver. Robredo’s keeping things simple this week, playing in plain Sergio Tacchini polos (accessorized with a TW Steel watch). He next faces Maximo Gonzalez and will likely fall in the fourth round to the winner of Djokovic/JC Ferrero.

Buy: All the latest Sergio Tacchini goods available here.

More: Two more pics of Robredo after the cut…

robredo’s hair: now you see it, now you don’t

Tommy Robredo went through some spring cleaning on Friday morning, making good on a bet back in Argentina to shave his head if he won the Copa Telmex title.

It all started back in Buenos Aires, when Tommy saw his friends Daniel Gimeno-Traver, Marcel Gronellers, and Alberto Montanes — all with buzz cuts. The world No. 15 said he would do the same if he won his finals match against Juan Monaco (and he did.

Robredo traveled to Acapulco this week for the Abierto Mexicano Telcel hoping that his friends would have forgotten about this bet, but of course they didn’t let him off the hook; at the Fairmont Princess Hotel, Montanes’ coach Narcis Pelach styled Robredo’s hair as Santiago Ventura, Granollers, and Ruben Ramirez-Hidalgo looked on.

After the hair cut, the now-aerodynamic Spaniard sailed past American Kevin Kim and said: “I feel much faster on the court without any hair in my head.”

In the quarters, Jose Acasuso snapped Robredo’s 12-match winning streak 7-5, 6-2. This was the fourth time in as many weeks that they’ve played each other (and are tied at 2-2).

More: A few more pics after the cut…

trophy watch: llodra keeps his clothes on, venus makes her case, roddick hits back, etc.

Robredo rolls: Spaniard Tommy Robredo has been slowly compiling a successful 2009 (he’s 15-3 in match wins so far), adding to last week’s Brasil Open title a trophy from the Copa Telmex in Buenos Aires. As a part of a nine-match winning streak, Tommy took out 2007 champ Juan Monaco 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (5).

Roddick’s revenge: Early bird got The Worm this week when Andy exacted revenge on Radek Stepanek‘s title win over the American at last week’s SAP Open. This time around, at the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships, the top seed only needed two sets to take out Stepanek: 7-5, 7-5.

As you may have heard, Roddick is skipping this the ATP Dubai stop in support of Shahar Peer. Good for him.

Teenage triumph: And on the women’s side of this combined tournament, Belarusian Victoria Azarenka upset top seed Caroline Wozniacki in the finals of Memphis 6-1, 6-3. This is Victoria’s second title of the year (and of her career). She was merely playing catch-up to Wozniacki, whose breakout 2008 produced three titles.

Venus and Virginie: Speaking of Dubai, a gracious (and henna-free) Venus Williams addressed Shahar’s situation during her trophy ceremony after beating Virginie Razzano 6-4, 6-2.

“I am not here to rock any boat or upset people, I am just here to do things that are right,” Williams said. “And I think right things are already happening next week and right things will happen next year.”

Props to Virginie and Asics for maxing out her airtime. They had her in another colorway of her separates, this one in black with pink trim.

French fracas: We’re a little sad that the French smorgasbord in Marseille has come to an end (Arnaud Clement, Youzhny, Tursunov, Dimitrov, Vliegen, Seppi, Safin, Chardy, Bolelli), and even sadder that Jo-Wilfried Tsonga denied us a post-win striptease from runner-up Michael Llodra. But thumbs-up to Tsonga for bagging his second title of the year.

Maria’s maiden title: In Bogota, Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez beat Gisela Dulko 6-2 6-3 for her first SEWTA title at the Copa Colsanitas tournament.

(images via Getty Images)

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the aussie open in greyscale

At this year’s Australian Open, players are celebrating the Australian summer with bright kits in shades of blue, green, orange, yellow. But there are some who have chosen a cleaner black-and-white slate, leaving their tennis games to do the talkin’.

tommy-robredo-aussie09

Don’t adjust your screen: Spaniard Tommy Robredo defeated Bobby Reynolds 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 in the first round. Robredo wore a simple Sergio Tacchini polo to complete his look. Compatriot Feli Lopez disappointed us with his anemic Joma kit. The 27th seed lost to Gilles Muller 6-3, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 4-6, 16-14.

Meanwhile, Andy Roddick couldn’t care less if he played in a potato sack (as long as he wins another Grand Slam!), so it’s no surprise to see another ho-hum shirt from Lacoste. His first round scalp was Bjorn Rehnquist, whom he beat by dropping only four games.

And top marks go to the sponsorless Australian Casey Dellacqua, whose wardrobe — with its moving Target bullseye — has shown us that black and white can be used to spice up many a tennis outfit; she’s had a few good ones since the beginning of this year. Who makes her clothes, anyway? Eh, it won’t really matter anymore this week. Dani Hantuchova took her out 7-6 (11), 6-4.

(photos by Getty Images)

trophy watch: roger retreats to routine while rafa rolls on with record

The Queen’s Cup

Rafael Nadal continues to make his case for winning this year’s Wimbledon title with a 7-6 (6), 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic at The Artois Championships in London. Rafa, who took home $133,000, is the first Spaniard to win a grass court title in 35 years (bookending Andres Gimeno‘s 1972 Eastbourne feat).

Does Rafa already have a toothpaste endorsement deal? It could be very lucrative…

Meanwhile, Roger Federer scurried back to the teat of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, where he tried to erase last week’s French Open drubbing with his fifth title at this smaller grass event. He beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4. He didn’t drop a set in five matches, helping extend his record to 25-0 at this event (and to 59 straight wins on grass dating back to 2002).

Looking forward: Roger will seek his sixth straight Wimbledon title this coming week.

Top seed Nikolay Davydenko chips away some more of that (unfounded) match-fixing notoriety with another title, this time at the Orange Prokom Open in Warsaw. He has racked up three titles so far in 2008, tying Nole and trailing only Rafa’s five. Kolya beat second seed Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-3. Great track jacket from Airness!

Kateryna Bondarenko switched to a more even K-Swiss outfit for the DFS Classic final. Kateryna overcame Yanina Wickmayer 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (4).

In this week’s only clay contest, Maria Kirilenko made quick work of Maria Martinez Sanchez (6-0, 6-2) in the Barcelona Open. Maria turned this around with a first-round exit at Eastbourne this week.

(photos by Getty Images)