Friday, September 30, 2011

Agnieszka Radwanska aims for two in '11


The finals are set at the Toray Pan Pacific Open, with Agnieszka Radwanska beating Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva getting by Petra Kvitova.

It's going to be the second time these two have played in a final this year, with Radwanska beating Zvonareva in Carlsbad, Calif., over the summer. That was Radwanska's first title in what must've seemed like a decade, but in actuality was since 2008.

Ahhh, 2008: Radwanska won three titles that year and made her top 10 debut. It seemed like she was destined for Grand Slam greatness at some point over the next couple of years, but it didn't happen as some of those players in the top 5 were just too tough for her--and a lot of other women--and injuries got in the way, too.

However, that win over Azarenka and the results she's put up this year shows she's close to hitting her peak and a win in Tokyo could do a lot to get her there.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is it Janko Tipsarevic's time?


A solid top-20 ranking, first Grand Slam quarterfinal, a couple of runner-up appearances at Tour events: This has been quite the season for Janko Tipsarevic.

Now the question is can he grab that elusive first career title?

Tipsarevic is the number-three seed at this week's Malaysian Open, held in Kuala Lumpur. The top seed is Nicolas Almagro and number two is Tipsarevic's countryman Viktor Troicki, who has already been in the winner's circle once in his career.

Tipsarevic and Troicki, for all their success, are still looking up to Serbian superstar Novak Djokovic. Tipsarevic has been open about how much of an influence Djokovic has had in his desire to get better and reach a spot in the rankings that is reflective of his talent.

He's always had the talent as a smooth shotmaker that can succeed on any surface, and before he hit the spot in the rankings he rests at now, he was one of the guys in the draw that no one wanted to face early on. Tipsarevic finds himself one of the hunted now, but there's a bit of irony there as he's still searching for that first-place trophy to solidify that he's on the right track. The Malaysian Open is the latest place for that opportunity to come about. The good thing is that he's worked himself into a better spot to make that dream a reality.

(Photo: AP)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Germany and the U.S.: a tale of two nations


After noticing on Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Baseline Twitter page the other day that U.S. Open semifinalist Angelique Kerber had to play the qualies at this week's Toray Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo due to the ranking cut-off rules, I was going to write something about the success German players are having on the WTA Tour. Aside from Kerber, three others are ranked in the top 50: Andrea Petkovic, Sabine Lisicki and Julia Goerges.

That's not bad by any stretch of the imagination, considering the drought the nation had experienced the past few years when it came to producing top-flight talent.

So as I sat down to get ready to write, I took a glimpse at the U.S.' ranking sitch, only to find Serena Williams all by herself in the top 50.

That's bad by any stretch of the imagination, considering the wealth the nation has experienced over the game's history when it came to producing top-flight talent.

I guess the thing to look at is that the U.S. has very young players, such as Christine McHale, Sloane Stephens and Irina Falconi, who are climbing up and should join Serena soon. However, you can't really think of--or expect--any of them to be "the next Serena," which is a lot of pressure in itself.

That's something that Petkovic, Kerber and the other top Germans have had to endure as their country sought "the next Steffi Graf." The young Americans would do well to follow the paths of their German counterparts in making their country a national powerhouse, too.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

King, Dushevina, Goerges: Who has the Seoul power?


To say it's not one of the biggest events on the WTA tour, the Hansol Korea Open didn't do a bad job with the level of players it attracted: Two top 10 players among the 32 isn't bad.

Too bad those two, Francesca Schiavone and Marion Bartoli didn't make it to the quarters!

But good for the two that pulled off the upsets, Vera Dushevina and Vania King, respectively. They're both pretty young, but it's hard to think of them as up-and-comers because they've been out there forever now it seems. They just haven't made that huge, huge breakthrough in singles yet. Maybe this is the start of that.

That'll be tough task, pulling something off here, though. You still have players like Dominika Cibulkova and Julia Goerges in the draw, both who have made it to the quarters without dropping a set.

Whoever fights through and wins at the end of the week will have pulled off a pretty impressive feat.

I never expected so many possibilities out of a $220,000 event!

(Photo: AP)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How far can Alexandr Dolgopolov go?


In case you didn't know—which would be hard with me mentioning it hundreds of times!—I got to cover the U.S. Open for Tennis View Magazine. It was as amazing an experience as you could imagine. I got to see a LOT of tennis and develop an even greater appreciation for some of them, like Sam Stosur, for instance.

One other player I really enjoyed watching was the "Dog," Alexandr Dolgopolov. I caught some of each of his matches, from the first round to that fourth-round battle with Novak Djokovic. Those two played an amazing first-set tiebreak with Djokovic coming through at the end of it. From then on, Djoko steamrolled through the next two sets.

Dolgopolov did leave the crowd wondering, "How does he do that?" and also thinking, "That guy's a pusher—with a 130 mph serve!" He can lull you to sleep with crosscourt slice backhands, then pound a winner when you least expect it off either side. He's got good hands at the net and knows the court like the back of his hand.

So with all that court sense and savvy, how high can he get in the rankings? Djokovic noted in his press conference that "Dog" needs to be a little more consistent. I guess in regard to that it'll be interesting to see if in the next couple of years he's willing to tone down his game.

He's the third seed at the ATP stop in Metz this week and plays his first match against another top shotmaker, Marcos Baghdatis, which should come down to who's the steadier player. Dolgopolov would do well to hit the heights that Baghdatis has: a top 10 ranking and a Slam final. Can he do it?

I know one thing, he'll keep the fans entertained as he figures it out!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rest now, Novak Djokovic: You deserve it


Just like that, in one fell swoop, my two favorite things about pro tennis are all wrapped up in the confines of one week: the U.S. Open and the Davis Cup. And just like he has all season, Novak Djokovic in some ways had and is having a tremendous impact on both.

First, let's take a look back at his amazing U.S. Open run. What else can you say about what he's done this year? Kudos to him on a third Major championship in '11.If he's on the court, he's winning.

Speaking of him, though, being on the court...

His lack of being on it this weekend has his country in a deep hole in the Davis Cup semifinals this weekend. If anyone out there, though, deserves to take some time off it's Djokovic. His teammates should've been at least able to earn a split in the opening singles. But I guess that's why pro tennis is so unpredictable: You don't know what's going to happen when it's time to serve them up.

That is, unless you're Novak Djokovic, who on or off the court has a lot of control over how things are going to go down.

(Photo: AP)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Congratulations Sam Stosur!


I've been out covering the U.S. Open for Tennis View magazine, and this has been my first time experiencing that much of live tennis. One thing that has really stood out is that I found myself catching a few players quite regularly as they went through the tournament.

Somebody who I did get to see quite a few times was Samantha Stosur. From early on, I couldn't help but notice how physically impressive she seemed in person. That got me developing a deep appreciation for the work she puts into being the best that she can be. One evening when I came home, I was talking about her with my wife and showed her pictures of how fit Stosur is. Also, I mentioned to her that it was kind of shocking that as great of shape as she was in, she could still get blown off the court by Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams. I wondered what could Sam do to ever break through when it looked like she was at the peak of her abilities and fitness?

What she could do was fight, and fight some more. And she could also keep calm and focused in the biggest match of her life. That's what she did throughout the U.S. Open, and there you have it: Sam Stosur, Grand Slam champion.

If she wasn't on your radar, she needs to be there. It's a great sight to see someone work that hard and have it all pay off at the end.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is this Roger Federer's Sampras-in-'02 moment?


As Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer get ready to take the court today (or take it, then come off, then go back again--it looks like it's going to be one of those days), I was thinking something about Federer there:

Mainly, it's been a long time since he's won any tournament, much less a Grand Slam singles title.

Of course, it really hasn't been that long: He did win a regular title in the first half of the year and he did capture the Australian Open last year for a Major win. But you can equate that amount of time for Federer to dog years. Who would've ever thought he'd enter any kind of title-winning drought?

That being said, I wonder if this year's U.S. Open will be his time to show that he's still a Slam winner, much like Pete Sampras did at the Open in '02. Federer's been playing particularly well the whole tournament and we all know what happened at this year's French Open when he faced the then-unbeatable Novak Djokovic in the semifinals.

By no means do I think he's going to retire if he wins; he still has years left in him at the top. I just wonder if this is his time to come in and win a Major when everyone's counting him out, which was the case with Pete in 2002. I guess we'll find out soon enough!

(Photo: Getty Images)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal complete the fantastic 4


I alluded to this on Twitter earlier, but I think any talk of Andy Murray not being part of the "Big 4" any more should stop immediately. I mean, what else does the guy have to do?

(I guess win a Slam!)

That aside, he showed just like the other guys ahead of him in the rankings, he's capable of dealing with whatever a player below him in the standings throws at him. John Isner was game and made a fight out of it, but at the end, Murray was just too good. Isner might have thought he had good preparation to combat Murray by going against Gilles Simon the round before, but Simon is "Murray-Lite."

Much like David Ferrer is "Nadal-Lite." Andy Roddick from the first ball on was on his heels. Come into the net? Get passed. Hang at the baseline? Watch groundstroke winners fly by. It was just too much for him today.

Now you have your dream semifinal lineup at the U.S. Open: Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic and Rafa vs. Murray. TTA? is picking a Djoko-Murray final, but anyone of them deserves to be there, just like Murray deserves his spot in the "Big 4."

(Photo: Getty Images)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Andy Roddick--who woulda thunk it?


Going four against Michael Russell must seem like a lifetime ago!

Court-gate, bubble-gate, Armstrong-gate--whatever you want to call it--aside, Andy Roddick played a very solid match against David Ferrer today, and on Court 13 no less! This might be some of the best he's played all year, and now he has to try to pull another trick out of his hat tomorrow against another Spaniard, or rather THE Spaniard, Rafael Nadal.

Call me crazy, but I think he has a shot against Rafa. I've been saying this for a minute now that if he played like he did in their matchup in Miami last year on a semi-regular basis, his ranking might be in better shape. That style of rushing and crushing might be what serves him best here. Nadal, however, is no dummy and will be on the lookout for it.

Maybe Roddick will get all fired up about some issue with Ashe and ask to go back to the friendly confines of 13 again!

(Photo: Getty)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

If only every day was a rainy day at the U.S. Open


I'm totally kidding!

Seriously, though, in looking for some silver lining about the washout, the lineup for Wednesday is pretty amazing. Everyone's going to be out there (fingers crossed!) and probably the best thing is that players who hadn't been off Arthur Ashe stadium since 1847 (Andy Roddick) and stars of the '11 edition of the Open (Donald Young) are playing on smaller courts. It should be quite the day.

So enjoy, and in case you forgot, I'm at the tournament for Tennis View Magazine. You can catch me Tweeting there, too, at twitter.com/tennisviewmag.

(Photo: Getty Images)