Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A heartbreaker or 'take heart' for Ana Ivanovic?

Man, that was some comeback by Kim Clijsters.

Or was it a matter of being let off the hook by Ana Ivanovic?

Regardless, the outcome's still the same: Clijsters won, Ivanovic loss. My only hope is that Ivanovic doesn't lose more than just that match, namely momentum. She's done a lot to put those recent "bad days" behind her and looks to be making her way back to top 10 territory. A loss like this one, though, can be kind of crushing, especially when you start thinking about how the draw had opened up.

I did like what I read in one of the post-match stories, how Ivanovic said she had a little bit of a cry and some racquet-smashing then was OK. I hope that's the case.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Mardy Fish on the verge

How about that Mardy Fish? It looks like he's getting on one of those Mardy-Masters-series runs where next thing you know he's in the finals. Of course, to pull that off here would be a monumental task considering who he even has to face in the next round, David Ferrer. But beating Richard Gasquet and the lava-hot Juan Martin del Potro back-to-back shows Fish is in great form.

Plus, he's on the verge of accomplishing something that I never thought could happen for him. If he beats Ferrer, he becomes the top-ranked American. Sure, that's not the same as pulling that off during the McEnroe-Connors or Sampras-Agassi eras, but it's still an impressive feat, nonetheless.

By now, we all know the story: Fish lost 30 pounds and went on a tear through the rankings, which has left him on the doorstep of a major personal feat. It would be well-deserved if he made it to that top U.S. spot, and great if he can take it even further.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making excuses for Andy Roddick and Andy Murray

I guess if you were a top 10 player competing in Miami and your first name was Andy, it just wasn't meant to be for you with Andy Roddick falling to Pablo Cuevas yesterday. That follows on the heels of Andy Murray losing to Alex Bogomolov Jr. in straights the day before.

Roddick had a legit claim as to what contributed to his downfall, him being sick and all. As for Murray, who knows what's going on? But you know what? I'm actually going to give him a valid excuse for losing to Bogie in Miami and Donald Young last week, aside from just generally being in a slump and coming off an injury.

You see, Bogomolov and Young were the worst-type players for Murray to compete against first up: They're both hungry guys who fought their way through qualifying just to enter the main draw. Then neither one of those guys had particularly easy first-rounders to get through just to face Murray. So by the time Andy stepped on the court, he was facing a couple of guys, who while may not be able to match him talent-wise, were clearly battle-tested. That's the toughest player for anyone to go against, especially if you're already in a slump.

Andys Murray and Roddick are obviously too talented to think this is only the beginning of a downward spiral. But adjustments do need to be made, like Roddick figuring out what's up with his health and Murray perhaps trying to get up for those early-rounders like they're the later stage of a tournament.

Well, I'm sure at least now, Murray will be wary of any qualifiers in his section of a draw!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A kick out of the news

I hardly ever post on what players are doing off the court, but for this I definitely have to make an exception.

I just wanted to say it's great a group of ATP players were able to raise $100,000 for relief in Japan with their exhibition soccer match last night. It's a worthy cause everyone needs to embrace, and hopefully more can be done in the future.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How will Roger Federer fare in Miami?

The unofficial "fifth Slam" has kicked off, the Sony Ericsson Open, or the Miami Masters, or Key Biscayne for you fellow old-timers!

Anyway, the men's game has been essentially taken over right now by Novak Djokovic, whose unbeaten run to start 2011 has just gone through Indian Wells. However, there's another guy I'm wondering about heading to Miami who knows a thing or two or 12 about unbeaten streaks: Roger Federer.

You really can't argue about the start he's had to the year: The only guy that's beaten him is Djokovic. However, he's now fallen to Djoko four times in a row, including twice at Grand Slams. In Miami, they're on opposite sides of the draw for the first time in a while at such a big event and can only meet in the finals.

And, you know, I actually like Federer's chances to get there. Since he brought Paul Annacone on board last year, he seems to have gotten rid of that case of early-round yips he was experiencing this time a year ago. The biggest threat he faces on his side of the draw is Rafael Nadal, and I still will pick him over the world number one on a fast surface 95 percent of the time.

Last week, in the Serves and Returns feature I write for GoToTennis, I asked "Does Federer need to win Indian Wells?" mainly for his confidence and to keep pace with Nadal and Djokovic. He had a great run there, before running into a player at the height of his powers. I don't feel the same sense of urgency here, partly because of how the draw shook out, along with the fact that he's Roger Federer!

So, how will Federer fare in Miami? I think A-OK.

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Dinara Safina and Donald Young resurgence?

Way back in January 2011 (at least that seems like a long time ago!), there were a couple of scorelines at the Australian Open that brought two words to mind:

Oh boy.

One was Marin Cilic blasting Donald Young off the court, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. I was a little disappointed in that effort because I thought with the way Young had blasted through qualifying, he would've at least been competitive with Cilic. The other was the double bagel heard around the world: Kim Clijsters' demolition of former world number-one Dinara Safina. Now, Safina had been in a looong slump heading into that match, but it was still hard to see that one coming.

The months since hadn't exactly been kind: that is, until they hit Indian Wells this week. Young fought through the qualies, knocked off veteran Potito Starace in the first round before making the biggest noise of the tournament with his win over 5 seed Andy Murray. His run ended against Tommy Robredo yesterday, which shouldn't be knocked: Robredo knows how to win those matches against unheralded players coming off career victories. Hopefully, Young takes this tournament and builds from it.

Safina's run at the BNP Paribas Open hasn't been too shabby, either: She's in the fourth round after beating Daniela Hantuchova and top-tenner Sam Stosur in back-to-back rounds. She faces Maria Sharapova next, and if her head is truly back in the game, she could give her countrywoman a real run for her money. Safina back in the mix would be great for tennis fans and the game as well.

I hope the results for Young and Safina in Indian Wells are more the norm going forward rather than what happened in Australia.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Juan Martin del Potro: The return of the big dog

You know who's won a lot of matches recently? You know who could shake up the ATP pecking order by the time 2011 is all said and done?

I'm gonna stop right there because with the headline and the picture it's pretty obvious who I'm talking about!

Anyway, Juan Martin del Potro's recent tear continued with his easy win over Radek Stepanek in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open. It's great to see him back and showing him some good stuff rather than what I thought was that too-soon-comeback he tried at the end of last year. He faces the defending champ Ivan Ljubicic next, which will be a tough one for both players. You have to like Delpo's chances, especially as how Ljubicic really hadn't been playing like the guy who shook up Indian Wells last year. But you never know: That's why they play the game!

Regardless, del Potro rising up the rankings is exciting, and provided how his body holds up, it'll be interesting to see where he lands.

(Photo: AP)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Five reasons why Davis Cup is awesome

Davis Cup and TTA? are longtime pals, which I'm sure you know by now.

But let me give you a few reasons why I think DC is great, just based on this past weekend alone:

• It rewards the little guys: The World Group kicked off with a lot of countries featuring no top tenners. That can work out OK in Davis Cup: Look at Kazakhstan's win over the Tomas Berdych-led Czech Republic, in Ostrava no less!

• The road can be friendly sometimes: Aside from Andrey Golubev and Kazakhstan's shocking victory, how about the U.S. getting it done in Chile on clay? Granted, this isn't a Chilean team that used to feature two top-10 players, but a win on your least favorite surface away from home is always good.

• What's better viewing than a live fifth rubber?: Probably one of the most tense situations in pro tennis is the live rubber to determine a tie. Philipp Petzschner came through against Ivo Karlovic to seal Germany's win over Croatia—another road win for a team.

• The stars come out: You're not always going to see all of the big guys out there, but Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and Robin Soderling are nothing to sneeze at!

• Smells like team spirit: It's great to see guys that are fighting for the same thing on a week-to-week basis put that aside for national pride and glory.

Davis Cup: There's nothing like it!

(That message was NOT brought to you by Davis Cup: It's a pure Tennis Talk, Anyone? sentiment!)

(Photo: Getty Images)