Archives for March 2015

The Picks: Another Classic between Maria and Vika, plus Murray vs Kohlschreiber

Stadium 1, March 16, BNP Paribas Open, Indian Wells

Azarenka IW 13 TR MALT6285

Eugenie Bouchard vs CoCo Vandeweghe

“Genie” hasn’t played very well since last July, but she was OK in the Australian and with her new coach, Sam Sumyk, she will compete every single ball. Vandeweghe has improved quite a bit since last year and has a gigantic first serve, but Bouchard will rank her around and win in three sets.

Andy Murray vs Philipp Kohlschreiber

The Britain really needs to win another Masters Series 1000 soon. He is over due. Yes, the German has a beautiful one-hander and he is cagey, but Murray knows exactly what types of shot. Murray will win in straight sets.

Madison Keys vs Jelena Jankovic

The young American can crack her first, can slug it from both wings and is pretty fair at the net. The former No. 1 “JJ” could play super steady and kissing at the lines with her backhand but she has slowed down. Keys will win quickly in two sets.

Maria Sharapova vs Victoria Azarenka

Sharapova has been much better over the past year and half, but Azarenka is coming back and trying very again. While Azarenka is not perfect yet, she is looking very aggressive and extremely good at the net. However, Sharapova doesn’t not like losing against her foe, especially because they cannot hang around together. Azarenka can pull Sharapova into the corners and keep her guessing, but the Belarussian isn’t blasting her serves in 2012-2013 and she can be attacked. Sharapova will nail her second serves and win in three sets.

Stadium 2

Fernando Verdasco vs Kei Nishikori

Six years ago, Verdasco was really slugging his lefty serve, but these days he hasn’t progressed. Nishikori can wipe out his foe on his backhand and is substantially quicker. Kei will win is straight sets.

John Isner vs Kevin Anderson

Isner has not had a good year at all and Anderson has been fairly solid. Both men are very tall, which means they can slam in aces after aces. Neither returns particularly well. Essentially, they will have three tiebreaks, and whom ever grabs two sets will win. Take Isner, only because he is way over due and he has played very well at Indian Wells. He just likes that sunshine.


2015 Indian Wells Photos by Mal Taam/MALTPhoto

Ivanovic Fan Bois IW 15 TR MALT2771 Ivanovic IW 15 TR MALT2696 Nishikori IW 15 TR MALT3006 Harrison IW 15 TR MALT2964 Nishikori IW 15 TR MALT2903 Keys Davenport IW 15 TR MALT3246 Keys IW 15 TR MALT3308 Diyas IW 15 TR MALT1079 Makarova IW 15 TR MALT0788 Makarova IW 15 TR MALT0738 Sloane IW 15 TR MALT1564 Sloane IW 15 TR MALT1737 Townsend Stephens IW 15 TR MALT2180 Nadal IW 15 TR MALT1889 Serena IW 15 MALT2340 Serena IW 15 MALT2431 Serena IW 15 MALT2398 Serena IW 15 MALT2376 Halep IW 15 MALT1284

Halep IW 15 MALT1272 Ferrer IW 15 MALT1366 Fish IW 15 MALT1354

Serena Williams returns at Indian Williams: Yes, she won


Serena 2012 Aussie

INDIAN WELLS BNP Paribas Open, March 12: Serena Williams talked quite a bit on Thursday when she discussed why she has decided to come back to Indian Wells again. It has been a long, long time for Ms. Williams, almost 14 years ago, when she last play at 2001 Indian Wells and she won the tournament, beating Kim Clijsters in three sets.

In 2001, it was a tough week over the last four days and she was so upset that some of the crowds screamed at Serena, her sister Venus, and her father, Richard. Tennis-wise, during the hot sun, it was very unusual.

But ever though Serena wanted to get out of there, she still kept banging away. Clijsters wasn’t thrilled when some of the fans were yelling so loudly. Kim melted, Serena grabbed the trophy, and even though she was extremely upset, she smiled for a second. Winning matters a great deal, even though there weren’t enough fans cheering for her.

“I don’t remember,” Williams said. “I don’t really watch that match actually. Not a fun match to watch. But I don’t remember being ‑‑ having any emotions besides happiness. I remember sitting down and praying. I think I was losing actually in the first set and I said, ‘I don’t want to win this match. I just want to get through this moment.’ I don’t know what happened. I just won after that. It was really just a moment of just praying and just trying to get through the match. Not win the match, get through the match and got off the court pretty much.”

But this time, it’s 2015. In 2001, Serena had only won a single Slam then. Now she has grabbed 18 majors and when she actually retired she could be called the greatest ever. She has been spectacular. On Friday night, the new fans will stand up and cheer. Give her a bow.


So many coaches have moved on to new places. In Britain, Andy Murray will now work with Jonas Bjorkman, the former No. 4 who retired in 2008. The former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo is the main coach for Murray. While many of the top players now work with two coaches, but having two of the former top players at the same time? Extremely rare.

“[He’s] an exceptional tennis player who made the most out of his game who is an very nice person,” Murray said. “I know him very well from when he played. When I came on the tour when I was young, he was very good to me. He’s got a good resume as a player and a lot of the Swedes turn out to be pretty good coaches. I think they have a good mindset, a lot of them are very calm individuals but extremely hard workers – which I know he was as a player.”

But who is going to make the call, Bjorkman or Mauresmo? Are they the same person? Would they sit back, or move forward? Should he mix it up or just crush it down the line? Should he be allowed to become angry, or should he calm down?

No one knows the answer – yet.


The top seed would love to win Roland Garros some day. Novak Djokovic has tried winning it all on a number of occasions, but failed, against Rafael Nadal (six losses in Paris!). He has won the Australian Open five times, two Wimbledon and one US Open. But he was never been able to raise the trophy.

Djokovic is thinking more of winning the Indian Wells title again, but Paris is ringing in his ear.

“Generally, I know the highest priority is the French Open,” Djokovic said. ”It’s still too early to talk about it. The difference to those goals and approach is I won’t put too much pressure on myself. I don’t want to take away too much energy thinking about if I will make it or not.  The French Open of course is the Grand Slam I’ve never won, but I’ve had a lot of good tournaments there. I played a couple times the finals there, got a step closer, and I use the losses as a way to grow mentally, physically and emotionally as a player in general so I can understand what I need to do better.”

Here were the most surprising wins on Thursday:

Christina McHale d Petra Cetkovska 6-4 7-5 as the American has been hurt and really needed a win.  Lucie Hradecka d Jana Cepelova 6-3 6-1, as the Czech is serving huge this year. Polona Hercog, who was the top seed at the qualies, blasted Vera Zvonareva 6-1 6-1. Where is the former No.2 going?

The Canadian Vasek Pospisil d Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4 4-2 while Kukushkin retired. Not surprised that he was exhausted about playing in the Davis Cup last weekend. Perhaps the same here? Albert Ramos d Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-4 6-4. Juan Monaco is finally playing well again, beats Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-2 3-6 6-3. The best match was Ryan Harrison over Mardy Fish 6-4 4-6 7-6 (3). Good for both of them. But more tomorrow…


2001 Indian Wells: Serena Soars Amidst Scandal

Editor’s Note: For most observers in the world of tennis, the story of Serena Williams’ emotional rejection of the Indian Wells tournament is a faint and distant memory. However, our coverage of the last 14 years of pro tennis is unrivaled in the world of online news.

Matt Cronin of was there.

With the return of Serena Williams to Indian Wells, we are re-running Matt’s story written from the tournament that appeared on this site. Matt’s coverage of the event originally appeared in Inside Tennis. 

020415-TENNIS-Serena-Williams-Kim-Clijsters-SS-PI.vadapt.620.high_.0INDIAN WELLS — Meet cheerful and cheeky Serena Williams, four days into the Tennis Master Series Wells after a casual second-round victory where she wowed fans with blazing groundstrokes and her new hot pink dress. “Hot pink for a hot girl,” said Williams of her color of choice. “Attractive, a very attractive girl.”

Revisit Serena, 10 minutes after her sister, Venus, had caused the biggest hullabaloo the desert had seen since the discovery of the hot springs by pulling out of the sisters’ highly anticipated semi with a sore knee.

When informed that few people believed that Venus was too injured to play and that Elena Dementieva had stated the day before that it would be Richard’s decision as to who would win the sisters’ match, Serena wowed no one with her casual indignation and less than emphatic denials.

“People have freedom of speech,” she said. “They can say whatever they want. It’s going to happen. Obviously we’re sisters, we’re very close. People often speculate things like that. People are always just going to speculate things.”

God bless America, let the speculation ring.

Over the next few days, newspapers, wire services, TV, radio and the Internet were filled with more tennis-related stories than the sport has seen in a non-Grand Slam week during the Open era. Unfortunately, the stories were of the “Are the Williamses rigging matches?” veriety.

That Serena was able to fight off the most hostile crowd in California history and subdue hard-hitting Belgian Kim Clijsters 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 for the title is a minor miracle, if you consider that the debate that raged for four days over the Williams’ family affairs had ruinous implications for the sport. Serena and Venus rarely read the press and appear sheltered enough that they don’t yet comprehend what even the suspicion of matches being fixed can do to a sport — like the Black Sox scandal did to baseball.

If the Williamses did get this, then they might not have kept shrugging off questions for the two days leading up to the final and would have emphatically denied the accusations when they occurred. Instead, tennis was bloodied from the moment Dementieva let loose on Wednesday evening and didn’t come off the mat until Sunday morning, when the last newspaper hit the sidewalk with Serena’s denials. Without question, the Williamses are partly to blame for the scandal.

Who else is to blame? The players who speculated that the sisters’ matches have been fixed with no evidence save for how badly they usually play against each other. Senior Sanex WTA Tour officials, who ignored the significance of Dementieva’s comments until it was too late; and who have little or no personal connection to the Williams’ family despite the fact that the family has been on the tour for five years now. As a result, the situation got so out of control that the tour gave itself a gigantic black eye, one that may take years to repair. Why didn’t they act more quickly? Some claim that officials feel that any press is good press and that the players should be viewed more as entertainers than athletes — the integrity of the sport be dammed.
So why the meltdown here and why the first two weeks of March, rather than in some other month at some other tournament? Could it be because it was the emotionally volatile Richard who accompanied the girls to the desert, rather than their more mellow mother, Oracene, who is now separated from Richard?

Williams observers say that Venus and Serena are much more skittish when Pop is around and, given the numerous problems that have occurred between Richard and Oracene over the past six months, it’s no wonder that both Venus and Serena have played sparingly since last October. At Indian Wells, both the Williamses played reasonably well, but off court, they were as cagey and as defensive as they’ve been at any time during their careers.

Coming into Indian Wells, Serena had played in only three tournaments since being bounced out of the 2000 UAP C01 RICHARD 26 S TEN USA CA.S. Open quarters by Lindsay Davenport. She won Tokyo at the end of September, but took time off to go to school and suffered a stress fracture in her foot. She didn’t reappear on tour until early January in Sydney, where she lost to Martina Hingis in straight sets. At the Australian Open, Hingis took her down again, this time in three marathon sets.
Serena, who ended last year ranked No. 6 but failed to win a Slam title, wouldn’t let on to what her goals are this year.

“My dad and I already went over my goals and that’s where I’m really going to work harder,” said Serena, who crushed defending champion Davenport in the quarters. “My goal this year is to reach my goals…. But I like to keep them to myself so I don’t put too much pressure on myself or other people.”

Venus, who dominated the tour for five months last year, has yet to win an event this year and is playing nowhere near up to her capabilities. Yet in the quarters she slugged tough-talking Dementieva into the pavement in a 6-0, 6-3 victory.

That’s when the trouble began — KGB style.

When asked what the outcome of the semi between Venus and Serena would be, Dementieva said, “I don’t know what Richard thinks about it,” Dementieva said. “He’ll decide who’s going to win tomorrow.” Dementieva said she suspected foul play when she watched the sisters’ ‘99 Lipton final, which Venus won 6-1, 4-6, 6-4. “I remember when they played,” said Dementieva. “If you saw the match, it was so funny.”

The sisters have played five times, with Venus owning a 4-1 edge. Serena’s won once — in a fairly inconsequential ’99 Grand Slam Cup final.
This wasn’t the first time that players have questioned whether the outcome of the Williams matches are decided by Richard. Hingis has repeatedly said that the outcome of their matches is a “family affair.”

At 2000 Wimbledon, Serena came into their semi red hot, losing only 13 games in five matches and was favored by many to win it. But Serena fell apart and Venus won 6-2, 7-6(3). “I thought Venus was going to win,” Davenport said in the desert. “I just thought that Serena had won a Grand Slam title, whether it was on purpose or subconsciously or whatever, Venus was going to win the match. That was my opinion.”

The Williams family chose not to respond to Dementieva’s comments during the day on Thursday and it wasn’t until after Venus’ withdrawal four minutes before her semi against Serena that they discussed it. But now the situation had been compounded, because most observers believed that Venus should have at least tried to play, despite patellar tendonitis in her right knee. WTA Primary Health Care Provider Michelle Gebrian did back up Venus’ claim, saying that Venus was unable to pass basic functional testing.

Pete Sampras rolled his eyes when questioned about Venus’ knee. “I guess it flared up, the tendonitis,” Sampras said, adding that he would have played if he had a similar problem. “Yeah,” he said. “There’s always something you’re feeling. Every morning you wake up, it’s a little stiff here, your arm is sore from serving. I don’t think any player on tour really walks out there feeling great.”

Because the match was canceled until most people had already taken their seats, fans reacted in anger, raining a loud chorus on to the court when it was announced that Venus was pulling out. A handful of fans went to ticket windows and demanded their money back. “I did everything I could do to be able to play tonight,” said Venus.

When asked about her peers’ suspicions, Serena said,
“We always go out to compete and that’s how it’s been,” said Serena. “I think if my dad would decide, then maybe Venus wouldn’t be up 4-1 [in their matches], maybe it would be 3-3 by now. So I don’t think so.”

Venus added, “It’s not a true opinion at all. Everyone makes their own comments. That’s how rumors get started. I guess rumors are more exciting than the truth.”

But neither Williams yelled, “No,” at the top of their lungs, even when they were specifically asked to do so.

The next day, the National Enquirer published a cover story that alleged that Richard had rigged their 2000 Wimbledon match. When approached by IT the day before the final, Richard said, “I don’t want to open my mouth anymore. Every time I do, all that’s printed is lies. I’m scared. I’ll never talk again. It’s all lies. I don’t speak English anymore.”

At the final, Serena faced Kim Clijsters. First the crowd raged at Serena when she walked on court, then booed and hissed at Richard and Venus Williams as they walked down the stair to the Friends Box. The crowd continued to hoot and holler with a vein-popping intensity throughout Serena’s three-set win.

So it wasn’t until after Serena’s ragged victory over Clijsters in the final that the issue was somewhat sorted out. But not before Serena was subjected a two-hour symphony of booing. Serena felt hurt. “I wasn’t happy,” said Serena, who nervously went down 3-0 in the first set. “I won here before. I don’t think I was mentally ready for that. But eventually you get over it and start playing.”

In her acceptance speech, Serena told the crowd, “You guys were a little tough on me today. I want to thank everybody who supported and everyone who didn’t. I love you anyway.”

For the past 18 months, Serena hadn’t shown the mental fortitude that she displayed in winning the ‘99 U.S. Open, frequently skipping tournaments and folding in big matches. But in the desert, she dug within herself and rediscovered the it’s-me-against-the-world mental toughness that made her the Queen of New York.

“I won a big battle today mentally, more than anything,” Serena said.

Serena then (finally) took the Enquirer’s Wimbledon claim head on.

“C’mon, it the National Enquirer,” Serena said. “Next thing you know, I’m going to be pregnant by some Martian. It’s just not true. It’s really kind of hurtful because it’s just lies, just scandalous lies…..Besides, I was really trying to make the singles competition in the Olympics, so I was really disappointed about that. I didn’t make the singles when I lost. That was heartbreaking for me.”

Indian Wells, Drawn and Quartered: The big 4

Djokovic IW 13 TR MALT5801

Novak Djokovic is the defending champion at Indian Wells and he is to be favored, but Roger Federer did upset him at Dubai in the final so perhaps the Swiss will get him again. Last year in 2014, Federer bested the Serbian in Dubai once again and won. However, in 2014, they played each other in California in the final and Djokovic upended Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3). So will they clash again? Perhaps. But first, they have to reach the finals.


Djokovic is certainly favored to reach the semis or beyond: he could face Benneteau in the 3rd round, Isner/Anderson in the 4th round, Cilic/Ferrer in the quarters and Murray/Nishikori in the semis.

Marin Cilic will play either Monaco/Gabashvili in the second round. Cilic hasn’t played since he easily went down at the ATP Final at O2 in November. He has been hurt, very badly. Cilic will be lucky to win a match.

David Ferrer could go down to Bernard Tomic in the third round, but while Tomic was very impressive over the Czech, Ferrer looked terrific to win Acapulco. Ferrer will reach the quarters, but he cannot take down Djokovic. No way, no how.


Andy Murray should be just fine into the quarters except for some heroics from Pospisil and/or Kukushkin, who were quite impressive at the Davis Cup, but they could be tired. Andy also won two matches last weekend, so is he tired? No, he will have a good five days; so he should be fine

Kei Nishikori is vulnerable too as he won two matches against Canada. He also played Memphis and Acapulco so maybe his feet are sore. But he has a fine draw and should be able to reach the quarters—and then he will go down, to Murray.


Rafael Nadal is pretty darn good again: he could play Chardy in the 3rd round, Simon/Gasquet in the 4th, Raonic/Dimitrov in the quarters & maybe Federer in sthe emis.

Rafa didn’t look fantastic on clay in Rio, but then he looked better to win Buenos Aires. So is he ready to rumble? Last year at Indian Wells, he lost to Alexandr Dolgopolov in the second round. He loves the tournament and the area and won IW in 2013, so given that he is looking better and better after being hurt in June 2014 and beyond, then maybe if he catches fire he can win the tournament again.

Really, he should reach the quarters unless Giles Simon plays extremely well, which he did not in winning his matches against Germany last week.

There is only one man who could take down Nadal if he is playing reasonably is Milos Raonic, who did go down to Nishikori in the fifth set last weekend in Canada, but he was aggressive and composed. He is not afraid of Nadal and Raonic should be able out stroke the Spaniard.


Federer was very impressive in Dubai, but he didn’t look great at the Aussie Open when he fell to Andrea Seppi. He will possibly play the Italian in the third round and he will want revenge – big time. Federer could play Roberto Bautista Agut and the Spaniard has improved quite a bit.

But no, you would think that Federer has to meet Wawrinka, who has been practicing a lot over the past few days and he will bully his foes and meet his buddy in the quarters. And then we will see who is playing well and who isn’t. Roger just owns him and will take down Stan in three sets.

Who is up, who is down? Murray & Tomic happy, but not Italy

tomic 12

Bernard Tomic carries Australia over the Czech Republic.




The Scotsman was thrilled to be at home taking down Donald Young and John Isner and led Great Britain over the USA in the Davis Cup. Essentially, he sounds like one of the coaches, and he loves putting together his X’s and O’s. Without question, some day he will retire and he will be the captain. But can the GB actually win the title one day? Hmmm.


The Aussie won two matches over the Czech and they have advanced to meet Kazakhstan. For the past couple of years, Tomic disappeared for months on end. This year, he is really trying every week. If he doesn’t get hurt, he will reach the top 10 after Wimbledon, or darn close.


Yes, the Canadian Pospisil lost to Kei Nishikori on the first day against Japan, but he and Nestor won the doubles in five sets and at 2-2 on Sunday, he came through, winning in three sets to grab the title. He has had a tough year, but now maybe he can turn it around.


Who do you like, the captain Arnaud Clement, or Giles Simons, Gael Monfils, Julian Benneteau or Nicolas Mahut? They all won over Germany and they all looked were strategic and thoughtful. They appear to like each other off the court, as well as Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Richard Gasquet, who are hurt. They are a true team and should be able to win it all this year – if they maintain their focus in each round.


Novak Djokovic says that his team can win the title again and perhaps they will, IF the world No. 1 is healthy this season. He actually won the singles and doubles this week, when they romped over Croatia. If Novak plays the dubs again and is willing to play three matches in three days, he could eventually meet Andy Murray in the Davis Cup. That would be a treat.


Credit must go to Mikhail Kukushkin by winning two matches at home against Italians Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi. And then totally out of nowhere on the decider at 2-2, the No. 130 Aleksandr Nedovyesov over Fabio Fognini 7-5 in the fifth set to grab it 3-2. Few knew who he was, now Nedovyesov  is here to stay.


Yes, the Swiss lost to Belgium 3-2,, with David Goffin winning the deciding match. But the Swiss No. 130 Henri Laaksonen won two singles matches. Had either Stan Wawrinka or Roger Federer played, they likely would have won the Davis Cup. Props must be given to the captain, Severin Luthi.


Even though she did not play any of the top 20 players, Caro really needed a title and she got it, beating Alexandra Dulgheru in Malaysian for the crown. Wozniacki now has 23 WTA titles, which is fine, but she hasn’t won a Premier Event since 2012. Indian Wells is waiting for you.



The American lost both matches against the Great Britain, falling to James Ward and Andy Murray.  After taking the first two sets over Ward, he lost six straight in the two matches. Isner is very upset, saying that he threw it all away. Obviously, he has had a difficult season this year. Can he turn it around soon? Perhaps, but he absolutely has to change his returns.


The Italians looked very good with Simone Bolelli, Fognini and Seppi at the Davis Cup. They all looked very flashy during the first two months entering against Kazakhstan, but on Sunday, Seppi and Fognini imploded and fell 3-2. Back to there drawing board.


Without question, Carolina Garcia is rising and she bouced the defending champion Ana Ivanovic. InMonterrey, Ana was there for the taking. The world No. 6 Ivanovic wants to win a Slam again, but first of all, she has to be much more consistent.


The young Borna Coric played fairly well in losing to Viktor Troicki,, but Djokovic crushed the other two who aren’t ready for prime time. Croatia’s top man, Marin Cilic, has to come back very soon. And why isn’t Ivo Karlovic playing at all? The Davis Cup sure could use them.

Pick me, March 8: On Davis Cup, does Isner a chance vs Murray; will Raonic defeat Nishikori



France and Serbia played excellent ball, already winning the ties 3-0 with the German’s couldn’t handle Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils Julien Benneteau/Nicolas Mahut, and Croatia needs a much stronger team with Novak Djokovic, Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic, which nailing it down on Saturday. The rest of six vs. six teams will go on each other on Sunday at the Davis Cup. Who will win overall? It will be fairly close, but coming back 1-2 if very difficult.


The US’s Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan over came Dominic Inglot/Jamie Murray 6-3 6-2 3-6 6-7(8) 9-7. Now the captain Jim Courier will tell John Isner exactly what he will do against Andy Murray. However, Isner admits that he is shaky this year and Andy will stay way back in the court so he could yank the tall man back and forth until he can’t run the balls down. The GB will win in four sets and move on to face France in the quarters.


The Aussie looked in great shape up 2-0, but then out of nowhere, the Czechs lifted their chins up and upset the foes when Adam Pavlasek/Jiri Vesely beat Samuel Groth/Lleyton Hewitt 1-6 7-6(2) 3-6 7-6(4) 6-2/

Can the Czech Lukas Rosol put down Bernard Tomic on Sunday morning? Perhaps, but Tomic wants to show the world that he is most important these days, not the teenagers-yet. However, if Tomic falls – which is down full– the young Aussie Thanasi might be a little tired, but he will out stroke Jiri Vesely to win it in five sets.


Mikhail Kukushkin played very well at home to beat Simone Bolelli in the first match, but Bolelli and Fabio Fognini won the dubs. Kukushkin will wants to take down Andreas Seppi, but Seppi has been much better this year and he will win it by smoking his forehands by kissing the lines.


Argentina is playing home and is down 2-1? Really? Joao Souza overcame Carlos Berlocq and then the excellent doubles team, Marcelo Melo/Bruno Soares, wasted Berlocq/Diego Sebastian Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 6-4. So let’s assume that Leonardo Mayer, who won on Friday, will beat Souza, but it seems like Argentina is anxious and this time Thomaz Bellucci won’t become extremely nervous (which he has all the time). Brazil will grab the 3-2 when Berlocq loses three matches in a row. Ouch.

CANADA leads JAPAN 2-1

The Canada’s Daniel Nestor/Vasek Pospisil edged Go Soeda/Yasutaka Uchiyama 7-5 2-6 6-3 3-6 6-3 but it is wide open with all the players. Milos Raonic is playing Kei Nishikori a ‘pick-em’ and they know each other very well. Yes, the Japanese Nishikori has been slightly better in the past year, but Vancouver is very fast and Milos is more confident at home. It will go five sets, but Raonic will serve huge when it matters the most and win it 3-1.


Everyone in Belgium was stunned that the Swiss Henri Laaksonen beat Ruben Bemelmans in five sets, but then Steve Darcis was extremely concentrated and Bemelmans/Niels Desein won the doubles pretty convincing. One would think that Darcis will grab the tie 3-1 when he mixes up his pace and beats Laaksonen in three sets.

Davis Cup Picks: Can Young stun Murray, will Kohlschreiber take Monfils?



World Group First Rounds


Frankfurt, Germay

The new captain Michael Kohlmann chose Jan-Lennard Struff against the French Gilles Simon, Struff is playing better, but the veteran Simon is much more confident and will win in four sets. Philipp Kohlschreiber is a little bit sick, but the German will go out of the gates and knock out the tired Gael Monfils in five long sets.


Glasgow, England

Yes, the two-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray will win at home, but the American Donald Young will play very aggressive and push him deep in four sets. Young won’t win, but he will threaten him big time.

The British James Ward stunned the USA last year when he took out Sam Querrey in California. This time, Ward has to go up against John Isner who has played extremely well at the Davis Cup and will nail his first serves, winning in straight sets.


Ostrava, Czech

Tomas Berdych isn’t playing, but the Czech Lukas Rosol is much more consistent now and is about to reach the top-30. The 18-year-old Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis is talented, but there is tremendous pressure playing on the road and Rosol will kiss the lines to win in three sets.

However, the other Czech, Jiri Vesely, is vulnerable. The Aussie Bernard Tomic wants to be the man this weekend and will mix and match, winning in four sets.


Astana, Kazakhstan

The Italians have had a pretty good season, so the Kazakhstans could be in trouble early. However, Mikhail Kukushkin can find opportunities if he is smoking the ball. He will fire away for two sets, but the Italian Simone Bolelli will out stroke him and win in five sets.

Andrey Golubev must be thinking that Andreas Seppi played the best match of his career when he stunned Roger Federer at the Aussie Open. The Italian Seppi did on that day, but Golubev will play a fantastic match at home and beat Seppi in three sets.


Buenos Aires, Argentina

Everyone here loves clay. It’s really about who is more consistent and who can run forever. Both the Argentines will win when Carlos Berlocq beats the Brazilian Joao Souza in straight sets, and Leonardo Mayer will out punch the other Brazilian, Thomaz Bellucci, in four sets.


Kraljevo, Serbia

Obviously, the No. 1 Novak Djokovic will crush the unknown Mate Delic of Croatia in three sets. But the other Serbian, Viktor Troicki, can become nervous. It will take him a long time, but Troicki will survive against the talented teenager Borna Coric in five grueling sets.


Vancouver, Canada

The Canadian Milos Raonic loves playing at home and will destroy Tatsuma Ito of Japan in three sets. But the same goes for Japan’s Kei Nishikori, who loves to show off at Davis Cup, and he will be super aggressive and run past Vasek Pospisil in four sets.


Liege, Belgium

Look, none of the players are excellent competitors. However, the Belgium players are respectable. Without Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka playing, the Swiss are nowhere. Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans will wipe Henri Laaksonen in three sets and Steve Darcis will waste over the Swiss Michael Lammer in a quick three sets.

A TR Classic: At 2007 Wimbledon Ivanovic overcame Vaidisova and Nadal beat Youzhny, they showed grit

Ivanovic is coming alive.

Ivanovic is coming alive.


2007 WIMBLEDON – Just a month ago in Paris, two dazzling brunettes, Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic, stormed through their first six matches, with the Spaniard winning his third straight crown and the Serbian reaching her first Grand Slam final.

But at the French Open, neither player had their back planted firmly against the wall as they did on Thursday at Wimbledon, when they shoulders were pinned so firmly against the hedge that they had green ivy marks on their shoulders.

Both came through with incredibly impressive victories, with Ivanovic saving three match points and overcoming fellow teenager Nicole Vaidisova 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 to reach her first Wimbledon semifinal, and Nadal zoning to another planet in a 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Russian Mikhail Youzhny to reach the quarterfinals.

This Wimbledon has been all about negotiating the soaking wet conditions and not dying from utter boredom while waiting for your name to called again in the locker room.

It’s been very difficult for players to establish any particular rhythm, other than counting how long it takes to walk down two flights of stairs from the dining room, across the slick walkways, onto a misty court, and back again.

Nadal has been the biggest victim of the flood of 2007, as he went out to warm up for his third round match against Robin Soderling last Saturday and didn’t complete that five-set victory until Wednesday. If the weather holds up, he’ll will have had to play five straight days in order to win the crown, which will be a monumental feat

“You like my schedule,” he asked with a broad smile. “But if you play a tournament like Wimbledon, even if it’s raining one month, I going to be motivated hundred percent, no?”

Yes, and it a bit of cruel irony, his great rival, top seed Roger Federer, received a bit of the Spaniard’s bitter medicine, as for the first time in six days, the Swiss took the court and after playing 37 minutes against Juan Carlos Ferrero with the score tied at 5-5, the rain came and his match was eventually suspended. Federer had received a benefit of a walkover from the injured Tommy Haas in the fourth round, but now like Nadal, it looks like have to play every day to retain his crown.

Nadal’s draw has been difficult, but not impossible and with each passing match, he’s showing himself to be a worthy challenger to Federer once again. He withstood a blood spat with Soderling, who mocked his on court habits at the beginning of their fifth set, and then an incredible barrage from Youzhny, who had upset him at last year’s US Open and taken him down two other times on hard courts.

But the 21-year-old is resilient and is a great deal smarter than he was few years ago. He’s no longer stubborn and understands what he has to do when his typical style isn’t making a dent. Youzhny was all over him with flat, hard driving shots and Nadal wasn’t going to win the match retrieving.

So the lefty began to go his groundstrokes and went for more with his serve and return. He became the bully and pushed the Russian flat on his back.

” The last three sets, I never played better,” said Nadal. “I never play like this on grass. “Very aggressive all time, serving well, returning very well, especially the second serve. I was there all time. I just played aggressive, moving faster the legs. Better movements all time. Every ball I always try to do something. Every time when I touch the ball, try to have painful to the other one. Try to put the ball close to the lines every time and, serve hard all time. That’s the decisive moment in the game.”

Nadal is now two more steps from the final, but they are very long ones. He’ll play have to play another man who has given him fits in the past, tall Czech Tomas Berdych, whom he has never beaten off clay and suffered three sizeable losses to on hardcourts.

“If we going to play clay court, I can be ahead 5-1 and still it’s like nothing,” said the seventh seeded Berdych, who thrashed Jonas Bjorkman (Sweden) 6-4 6-0 6-7(6) 6-0. “But if we playing hard or indoor something, then I have chance.”

Nadal knows that his fellow 21-year-old is going to bomb serves at him and try to keep the points as short as possible. No one defends as well as he does, but if the Spaniard doesn’t muscle up on enough balls, his hopes of reaching another final and stopping Federer’s run of four straight finals will go out the window.

“I think for the surface, for everything, he is favorite,” a modest Nadal said. “I’m going to try my best and try to play like today. I know going to be a very, very tough match.”

Ivanovic has a slightly bigger task than Nadal does as she’ll have to go up against the red hot, three-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, who took a quick victory over Svetlana Kuznetsova and is showing all of her championship form again.

But that Ivanovic has even reached the semifinals shows how quickly she’s matured. She’s a grass court novice, but after her disappointing loss to Justine Henin in the Paris final, the 19-year-old was able to put that aside and apply her strengths to the green blades.

She was extremely nervous contesting her first match on Centre Court, but began to trust her shots in the second set, pounding big returns, forehands and closing out at the net. She’s didn’t serve brilliantly, but well enough to keep her ambitious fellow teen from feasting on soft balls.

The 18-year-old Vaidisova was in prime position to reach her third Grad Slam semifinal, but leading 5-3 in the last set, she couldn’t shut the battling Serb down.

She had three match points, but Ivanovic ripped a forehand crosscourt winner, hit a huge serve and forehand down the line and then after Ivanovic finally served up a lollipop of a second serve, Vaidisova buried it into the net.

The Czech then faded and a fist pumping Ivanovic roared, running off four games and winning the contest when Vaidisova double faulted.

“It was an unbelievable match,” said Ivanovic. “I wanted to win so much. In the third set, even when I was a break down, I just knew I could do it. I had the feeling I could win this match. Coming into the tournament I didn’t expect this. But I’ve played some good tennis when it counted the most.”

There is no way that Venus is going to allow the sixth seeded Ivanovic back into the match like Vaidisova did, so like Nadal said about his approach to playing Berdych, she’s going to throw big upper cuts at the American to have a chance. Ivanovic may have frozen up in the Paris final, but now believes in her big match capabilities.

“It’s going to be very tough match. Venus is in a great shape,” she said. But I have experience. I played on Centre Court already. So I just want to try to play the best I can and see who will be better.”