ATP: Fun was had while the Big 4 were away

 

Melzer is peaking past the age of 30/

Jurgen Melzer finally stopped the Milos Raonic express in the final of Memphis. The Canadian had won San Jose last week and then had stormed to the Memphis final before the Austrian played a heady, authoritative contest despite a busted toe. Just imagine if the left-hander had put the same effort into his career when he first came on tour than he has in the past three years

The WTA Wrap: Only Azarenka stands in Radwanska’s way

New No. 5 Aga has done everything but make a Slam semi.

 

By Matt Cronin

After a terrific last seven months that includes four WTA Premier titles, there is not much more to say about Aga Radwanska except that it time for her to display the same form at a Slam that she did at San Diego, Tokyo, Beijing and last week, in Dubai. She’s a delightful player to watch with how quick and creative she can be, but it

Wozniacki revives a little; Radwanska gets her claws out

Julia will go for 3 straight over Caro.

 

On Friday, Caroline Wozniacki will see whether or not she can get revenge from the two beatdowns that Julia Goerges threw at her last season clay when they face off in sparsely attended Dubai. A match up against current No. 1 Victoria Azarenka would have been a bit more spicy, but the Belarusian pulled out with an ankle injury before her second match, so the chips fell where they did with Wozniacki taking out an erratic Ana Ivanovic 6-3 7-5?, and Goerges hitting through Daniela Hantuchova late 4-6 6-3 6-4, Goerges, who was pretty much a disaster on hard courts last year, seems to have found away to get her big forehand working on faster courts. Wozniacki played steady enough to best Ivanovic, who looked so unsettled once again in what was a winnable match. Even with coach Nigel Sears around, she still panics too much. Wozniacki cannot back off against the German and let her get confident. If “Caro” happens to win the tournament it will be her first real burst since New haven late last summer. She badly needs a title run.

The suddenly very outspoken Agnieszka Radwanska clubbed a sick Sabine Lisicki 6-2 6-1? and will face Jelena Jankovic, who ran past Samantha Stosur 6-4 6-2?. After the match, Radwanska criticized Azarenka for over exaggerating her ankle injury when they faced off in the Doha semis last week, which was pretty quick win for the new No. 1. I was a bit taken aback by Radwanska

Azarenka as a dominant No. 1?

 

Vika has been of fire, but she hasn't dominated Gen Caro yet

It appears that Victoria Azarenka will hang on to No. 1 for at least the next five weeks, if not more. She is defending her title in Miami, and quarterfinal finish at Indian Wells, but unless the ill Petra Kvitova gets on a huge roll on U.S. soil at IW and Miami (and she has never played well in America) the chances of the Belarusian losing her grip on the top spot are slim, as No. 2 Maria Sharapova has not shown that her surgically repaired shoulder can totally hold up in back to back hardcore tournaments. So even if Sharapova wins one of the two, taking both and earning 2000 points is improbable.

Azarenka currently holds a 1580-point lead over Sharapova and a 2080-point lead over Kvitova. Last year, Sharapova reached the semis of IW (where she was underwhelming against Caroline Wozniacki) and the final of Miami where Azarenka took it to her. She has 1,150 points to defend through the spring hard-court season, while Azarenka is defending 1,280 at IW and Miami. Really, Sharapova is going to have to go very deep at both locales and hope for an Azarenka collapse.

Azarenka is 17-0 on the season, having won her third title last week in Doha. She is planning on playing Dubai this week and with a bye, her sore ankle should be rested enough. She’s won seven matches against top 10 players this year, which is a super impressive mark. She’s only lost four of 38 sets, and has taken out four Slam winning veterans – Sharapova, Kim Clijsters, Li Na and Samantha Stosur. In the first two and half months of the season she has looked like dominant player, but so did Sharapova when she went 18-0 at the start of 2008 and then wrecked her shoulder at Indian Wells against Alona Bondarenko. If Azarenka wins Dubai she will be sitting at 21-0, which will tie her with Serena Williams, who went 21-0 at the start of 2003, winning the Aussie Open (her fourth straight major over her older sisters, Venus), the Paris Indoors and Miami before losing to Justine Henin in the final of Charleston.

It’s hard to see Azarenka not winning two early round matches at IW in good health. If she can physically hold up – and she never done so through an entire season — she will be favored to win there, as well as in Miami. If she pulls off the double, she’ll be 31-0 and have a chance at Martina Hingis, who posted a 37-0 record at the beginning of 1997 before Iva Majoli stopped her streak in the Roland Garros final. Steffi Graf holds the all-time record for the best start to a year by winning 45 straight matches at the start of 1987 and it’s way to early to talk about Vika going after that mark.

“Definitely, the other players will have more motivation to play against me,” Azarenka said. “And it’s no different for me as I want to beat them too. I am the biggest fan of competition. I am that kind of person who is never satisfied. I want to always try to do better. It’s not only in tennis, but in life as well. I want to be really competitive and I never want to lose.”

Hers what a little crazy too: remember that Kvitova had great shot at No. 1 going into the Aussie Open? Well her pullouts from Paris and Dubai have really slowed her assault on the top spot. She only has 81 points to defend through Miami and then another 1,380 through Roland Garros (recall that she won Madrid), so if she can find away to impose her game on outdoor US hard courts (and she should be able to given that surface wise, IW and Miami are both close to the WTA Championships, which she won outdoors) she could make a significant run at Azarenka, who by the way, lost three times to the Czech in 2011. After Miami, Azarenka has to defend another 1,725 points through RG. Clearly, Kvitova has chances through the spring hard and clay court seasons but if she wants to be No.1, she has to make a move soon, as once the grass court season begins, it will be her points that are hunted.

Here’ what really could be a treat in Dubai this week: an Azarenka vs. Wozniacki semifinal. I don’t care what Caro says publicly, there is no way that she is jumping for joy that Azarenka is a No. 1 with a Slam title in her pocket. I asked her about whether she was happy for Azarenka last week, and she said yes, and at some level she might be because the two are close friends, but there was not a lot of enthusiasm in her voice and she quickly steered the discussion back to her own accomplishments.

Wozniacki plays Azarenka very tough, owns a 4-2 record against her and has won their last three matches. Yes, Vika has taken a big step up in the first two-plus months of the season, but that does not mean when she walks on court against Caro that she will be convinced that she can hit through the WTA’s most successful grinder. And we all know that Wozniacki is looking to reestablish herself and if she upends her friend, it would be a feather in her cap and indication that she’s still a force to be reckoned with. Really, for all the accolades thrown Azarenka’s way this season, if she is going to be a dominant No.1m she has to best the other elite players of her generation. She already has gotten over on Aga Radwanska twice this year, but now must take on Kvitova and Wozniacki and show them how much she’s really improved, physically and mentally.

Now on to Serena, who pulled out of Monterey last weekend and now won’t take the court again until Miami. Anyone who thinks that she will play enough this year to take back No. 1 has got to be kidding themselves. She has to play the US Fed Cup tie vs. Ukraine in April and will also likely choose to play Charleston on green clay, but its easy to see her not showing up at Madrid or Rome, and unless she’s doing something that I’m not aware of, it would actually be a surprise at this point in the 30 year old’s career if she won Roland Garros. Wimbledon and the US Open — of course she can win them again and no one would blink an eye if she did, but she only won the French once, in 2002, and hasn’t looked very comfortable on dirt since then.

Some notable results in Dubai were:

Agnieszka Radwanska d. Aleksandra Wozniak 6-1 6-7(6) 7-5 (a good sign that the Canadian is returning to form)

Peng Shuai d. Marion Bartoli 6-4 6-3?(the Frenchwoman is tired after 2 tourneys in a row)

Ana Ivanovic d Francesca Schiavone 6-1 7-5 (the Serbian teases with a good result once again)

Simona Halep d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-4 6-2 (the Romanian is rising while the Russian is seriously slumping)

 

 

Closing gap with Big 4 Raonic repeats in San Jose

Milos found magic again in San Jose.

By Matt Cronin

FROM THE SAP OPEN IN SAN JOSE – Milos Raonic joined some pretty good company on Sunday after scoring a routine 7-6 (4), 6-2 victory over Denis Istomin in the final.

With the win, Raonic defended his title and became the seventh player to do so in the Open Era. Of the six other men when have accomplished the feat

Canadian Missiles are Flying

Milos has been untouchable on serve.

FROM THE SAP OPEN IS SAN JOSE – Ryan Harrison had a couple of very small chances to defeat the service bombing Milos Raonic is his 7-6 (4), 6-2 defeat to the Canadian on Saturday in the semifinals.

The first came in the tiebreak, after he had fought Raonic tooth and nail in the first 12 games and had put up impressive service statistics of his own. But, he missed a forehand to start the breaker, saw Raonic crush a 142-mph ace, a service winner and then curl a forehand down the line pass to go ahead 4-0. The 19-year-old American did manage to fight back to 4-5, but then Raonic placed in another ace down the tee and forced Harrison into a backhand error.

Raonic vs Harrison: “It’s going to be an emotional one”

By Matt Cronin

FROM THE SAP OPEN IN SAN JOSE – Ryan Harrison is the epitome of a well-schooled player: He is a tennis baby, brought up by his former collegiate and teaching pro dad, Pat, and a teenager who has seen and heard volumes on how the game should be played. But he has never been taught to use gamesmanship and the world knows that some other pros do. Do not expect him to take an endless walk to the men’s room if he drops a second set tiebreak to Milos Raonic in the semis on Saturday. He does not need to get into his opponents’ heads by taking them out of their zones with questionable behavior while points are not being played. The temperamental Louisiana native does not have a greatest reputation (he’s known for racket breaking) but papa Pat did not teach his kids to deliver ear-shattering grunts or to kick over their foes

Sometimes you just have to exist out there

By Matt Cronin

FROM THE SAP OPEN IN SAN JOSE – It

US male teens show promise

US Open Jr Final Revival goes to Kudla

Sock and Kudla are both promising 19 year olds. MAL TAAM PHOTO

 

By Matt Cronin

FROM THE SAP OPEN IN SAN JOSE – Jack Sock and Denis Kudla revived their 2012 US Open junior final on Tuesday afternoon on Ladies Day at the tournament, so even though the both of them are only 19 year olds, they were subject to some cat calls by some members of Cougar Town in the audience.

The two know each other well, having played each other two times in Futures since Sock bested Kudla in Flushing, both victories for the taller and thinner native of Nebraska. Then there was Kudal outlasting Sock last December in the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff. Overall, Sock leads their head to head 4-3 going back to their first match in the 16s, a win for Kudla. They have known each other since the 12 and unders, and are friendly off court, but on court seem to be pretty fierce rivals.