This is my tennis blog, Lefty Advantage. Tennis is my biggest passion in life and I started this site to discuss the great game. I mainly follow the career of Roger Federer, but I truly love watching all tennis, whether it be the final of a Grand Slam
or a junior tournament on the other side of the world.

I have played tennis for 13 years. If you ever met me, I could talk your head off about all things tennis for hours on end if you would let me. Welcome, and enjoy the writing!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Federer Into Dubai Quarters

Roger Federer made comfortable work of Feliciano Lopez in the 2nd round of the Dubai Duty Free Championships, defeating the 15th ranked Spaniard 75 63.  Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Janko Tipsarevic, and Mikhail Youzhny, in an upset over Mardy Fish, all advanced to the quarterfinals.

Federer played a very solid match overall.  It was even throughout the first 11 games but then Fed captured the deciding break in the 12th game of the opening set, at 6-5, to take the first 7-5.  The second set was much of the same, and Roger got the break in the 8th game and went on to win the second set 6-3.  Overall, Roger was very solid.  His serve numbers were incredible; 70% of first serves, zero break points faced, a whopping 34/37 of first serve points won, and he hit 12 aces, 9 in the first set alone.  The returning numbers were not as stellar, but Lopez is a fantastic server and a tough guy for anyone to break.  As we saw in the early rounds in Rotterdam, Roger played his best tennis when he needed to, at the end of each set.  That was more than enough to get the job done, especially when he is serving so masterfully.

Federer now plays Mikhail Youzhny in the quarterfinals, who as previously mentioned upset #6 seed Mardy Fish 62 76(0).  Fish has had a disappointing season thus far compared to his great 2011 campaign.  He lost in the 2nd round of the Australian Open and then lost in the Marseille quarters last week against an opponent ranked #388 in the world, Albano Olivetti.  Now he has suffered yet another tough, disappointing loss against Youzhny.  At least that loss isn't as embarrassing as losing to Olivetti or Alejandro Falla, the man who took him out in the first major of the year.  I do not quite know what it is this year, but Mardy must be struggling with something to be having such poor results.  The only positive on his record this year has been his effort in the Davis Cup against the strong Swiss team.  Anyways, Fed plays Youzhny, against whom he has an 11-0 record against and in fact, Youzhny has only taken 3 sets off Roger in those 11 meetings.  You may remember that Mikhail withdrew in Rotterdam in the 2nd round so I guess it was fated that they would meet here in Dubai.  As for the match, Youzhny is much different than Lopez and Llodra, as he does the bulk of his work from the back of the court.  Having said that, Roger is playing so well right now that there is no way I can see the Youz giving Fed any sort of problems.

Andy Murray had a solid win against 3rd ranked Swiss Marco Chiudinelli.  This win was important for Andy you would have to think after he barely escaped his first round match.  Novak Djokovic, on the other hand, had a tougher match against Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky.  He won 76(5) 63.  Stakhovsky was up 4-3 in the tiebreak but Novak eventually prevailed, and the #1 player in the world was down 3-1 in the second before reeling off five straight games to advance.  There, he will meet fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic, who lost the first set against Flavio Cipolla in a tiebreak, but then breezed through the final two sets 6-1 and 6-1.  Del Potro, Berdych, and Tsonga beat Andrey Golubev, Lukas Lacko, and Lukas Rosol respectively in straight sets straight-forward matches.

Quarterfinal Thursday features three very compelling matches, and then Federer vs Youzhny.  #3 seed Murray will play #5 seed Tomas Berdych, in what should be a very entertaining and competitive encounter.  After that Fed will play Youzhny, and as I have said he should get by that easily.  Then Djokovic plays Tipsarevic, which should be a close one.  Djokovic has looked vulnerable this week and Tipsarevic could just be the player to make Novak pay for those slight drops in his game.  In the final match of the quarters, del Potro will play Tsonga, a battle of two tennis heavyweights going two or three rounds in the squared circle (metaphorically, of course).  Take your pick with that one as both have been playing very well so far this season, and del Potro is confident coming off capturing his 10th career title in Marseille.

Should be a fun day of tennis ahead!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Federer Wins Dubai Opener

Roger Federer got off to a solid start in the Dubai Duty Free Championships, defeating Frenchman Michael Llodra 6-0 7-6(6) in 67 minutes.  It was Federer's first match since he won his 71st career title in Rotterdam a week and a half ago.  Overall, he played as well as you would expect him to in an early round, and he was facing a tough opponent in Llodra, who won the Rotterdam doubles title with Nenad Zimonjic, as well as making the final of the tournament in Marseille last week.

Roger won the first set very fast - almost too fast - in 17 minutes.  He was very sharp from the baseline and Llodra - utilizing the rarely-used serve and volley tactic, was getting beaten consistently on perfect passing shots from both forehand and backhand wings.  Roger looked as if the tennis ball were the size of a basketball and Llodra looked completely lost and rushed - a typical feeling when playing Federer at his supreme best.  The second set was much closer.  Llodra woke up from his first set snooze and started playing much better.  In my estimation, Roger already had gotten what he wanted out of the match and seemed to be coasting to a tiebreak.  Llodra was serving very well and he was even holding his own from the back of the court, but Roger's intensity was down and he was not exerting much energy.  The 2nd did go to a tiebreak in which Llodra had a set point but in the end, Roger won it 8-6.

It was a solid win for Federer, and it was a very fun match to watch.  The courts are very fast in Dubai and that suits Fed's game perfectly, and Llodra also likes quick courts that adapt well to his unpredictable, serve and volley playing style.  Both men produced some incredible shots throughout the match that had the crowd jumping out of their seats in amazement.  Perhaps the courts looked quicker than they actually were because both Roger and Michael were taking the ball early and hitting with little spin and plenty of pace.  Roger always makes the game look effortless but I thought he was very fluid with his movement (continuing from last week) and was sharp from the ground.  He only served at 46% for the match but it was not a worry as his second serve was very unpredictable.  In review, I can say that the match was a fun, clean-hitting affair that we need to see more of in tennis these days.  The match featured variety and both men (Llodra especially) really seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I think the match was more about the journey than it was the destination.  Llodra knew he had little chance of winning so he gave his best effort and in turn, he produced his best tennis in the second set, which was a joy for all.  It's a shame that Fed and Llodra have only met once before this, because they are a great match-up for each other.

Fed now plays Feliciano Lopez in the 2nd round.  Lopez beat Nicolas Mahut 64 64.  Roger should not have any trouble with the Spaniard on these fast courts.  Lopez plays a more modern style of game than Llodra does but like Llodra, he looks to attack the net a lot and can be dangerous.  Expect another Federer straight sets win, though Federer said he won't be taking Lopez lightly.  A man as professional as Roger would never take anyone lightly.

In the rest of the day's action, #3 seed Andy Murray had a tough 3-setter against Michael Berrer but prevailed in the end 6-4 in the 3rd.  Del Potro took down Dolgopolov in two tight sets, Tsonga overcame Baghdatis, Youzhny advanced over Gasquet when the Frenchman retired, and in a positive sign for the Swiss, Marco Chiudinelli, the #3 Swiss player, defeated Nikolay Davydenko 64 57 64.  Berdych, Tipsarevic, Sergiy Stakhovsky, and Flavio Cipolla also advanced.

Until tomorrow,


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dubai 2012 Preview

The men's Dubai Duty Free Championships get underway on Monday, and the the tournament, a favourite for many of the players on tour, features 8 of the top 10 ranked players.  They are Novak Djokovic (1), Roger Federer (3), Andy Murray (4), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (6), Tomas Berdych (7), Mardy Fish (8), Janko Tipsarevic (9), and Juan Martin del Potro (10).  The seven seeded players behind Novak Djokovic will all be attempting to dethrone the Serb, who has won the title in the past three years.

The draw is as follows:  The four qualifiers are Swiss Marco Chiudinelli, Andrey Golubev, Luka Lacko, and Michael Berrer.

Second seed Roger Federer has a tricky first match against Michael Llodra.  Llodra just came off a final effort in Marseille, losing to Juan Martin del Potro, and is looking in very good form.  Expect Federer to get by that match routinely, but it won't be easy.  After that, Fed will play either Feliciano Lopez or Nicolas Mahut in the 2nd round.  Should Roger get by that match, he will most likely meet Mardy Fish in the quarters, although Richard Gasquet and Mikhail Youzhny lurk in there as well as potential upset opponents of Fish.  Del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are his potential semifinal opponents.  Tsonga has a tough opener against Marcos Baghdatis, so he'll have to be sharp to get by as the Cypriot is always dangerous.  It is worthy to note that del Potro's second round opponent could be Djokovic's brother, Marko.  However, he will have a tough first round match of his own against the always unpredictable Alexandr Dolgopolov.  Speaking of Novak Djokovic, he has a good start, playing German Cedrik-Marcel Stebe in the first round.  His second round opponent will either be Sergiy Stakhovsky or wildcard Omar Awadhy (most likely Stakhovsky).  In the quarters his most likely opponent is 7th seed and countryman Janko Tipsarevic, although don't write off veteran Ivan Ljubicic either.  In the semifinals he will  for all intents and purposes play either Andy Murray or Tomas Berdych, who have a great chance of meeting in the quarterfinal.  Before that, Murray may need to get past Nikolay Davydenko, who had a great week in Rotterdam in pushing Federer to the limit in the semis before falling.

Of the two halves, I would say that Federer has the better side than Djokovic.  Llodra should be a tough opening round match but after that, Roger has great comfort playing Lopez, Mahut, Gasquet, Youzhny, Fish, Tsonga, and Delpo.  No matter what happens in the draw, Roger has favourable matchups, and he should be fairly confident after his triumph in Rotterdam.  Djokovic will have a very comfortable path to the quarters but if he meets Tipsarevic there, he could be in for a fight.  Janko beat Novak at the World Tour Finals last year and if Novak is feeling any ill effects from not playing since that epic Australian Open final against Nadal, he could be upset.  I doubt it will happen but it is food for thought.



Novak Djokovic def. Janko Tipsarevic
Andy Murray def. Tomas Berdych
Juan Martin del Potro def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Roger Federer def. Mardy Fish


Andy Murray def. Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer def. Juan Martin del Potro (again)


Roger Federer def. Andy Murray in 3 sets


Speaking as a Federer fan, I would not be disappointed if he does not win this tournament, but I believe it would be a great boost of confidence to lift the trophy at the end of the week.  Heading into Indian Wells and Miami, two 1000 tournaments that he has not made the finals of since 2006, he will need all the momentum he can get.  As I said previously, the draw is good for him, and there is not a single player in his half that he does not have confidence against.  Perhaps his potential result in the final could decide on who meets him there, whether it's Djokovic or Murray or someone else.  I believe he would have a better chance to beat Murray, but if he plays Djokovic, I also believe he can beat him if he brings his A-game, especially if Novak is not at his best after the long layoff.  Anyways, I'm hoping for a fantastic week of tennis ahead.  Dubai is a great tournament and the players love playing there, so let's hope we get a week full of drama and excitement, and a great final in the end.  (Here's looking at you Roger, in that pitiful final last year).  Heh heh, just kidding.

Be back later,


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Federer Wins 71st Career Title in Rotterdam

In the final of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament, the great Roger Federer added to his vast collection of titles by defeating Juan Martin del Potro 61 64 in very convincing fashion. It was the 71st title of Roger's career, and he capped off a great week in Rotterdam by playing his best tennis to win the same title that he won seven years ago, the last time he played the event.

After Federer's incredible comeback win against Nikolay Davydenko in the semifinal, it was without question that he would need to play much better if he wanted to defeat the surging Argentine in the final.  From the very first point, it was evident that Roger was at his elite best.  Unlike the semifinal, where his groundstrokes were shaky, he was hitting his forehand and backhand with equal confidence and spreading the court, continually keeping del Potro off balance.  The Swiss saved a break point in the opening game but past that, he rolled to a 5-0 lead by showcasing his dominant authority from the baseline.  This was mighty impressive against a monster power baseliner like del Potro.  It was vitally important that Roger was sharp from the ground because Delpo saw many 2nd serves as Fed was struggling to put his 1st serves in play.  The Argentine got one game to the pleasure of the Rotterdam crowd, and then The Mighty Fed held to take the set 6-1.

The second set was much closer, understandably.  The first set was almost too easy for Federer.  Del Potro did not play poorly, but Roger was too good, almost too good to be true.  Del Potro started the set well, holding his first two service games to take a 2-1 lead.  He had a break point opportunity to take control of the set in the next game, but Roger denied him.  Then, as often happens when one cannot convert on a break chance, Delpo gave up the break the very next game and Roger took a 3-2 lead.  Assumedly, this was the crucial break that Federer needed to ride out the match, but it would not be that easy.  He saved a break point at 3-2, and then at 4-3 he saved two break points, fighting out of a 15-40 hole, and held to take a 5-3 lead.  Del Potro was fighting very hard and he gave Roger everything he could handle with his massive baseline shots.  Roger was up to the challenge though and was able to weather the storm with some brilliant baseline play of his own.  This was vital as his serve was still not clicking, so when Delpo was pressing he could not get many free points off the serve.  Anyways, Federer took the first match point he had at 5-4 to seal the deal, defeating del Potro 61 64 in one hour and 26 minutes.

It was a near flawless match from Federer, with the only real blemish being that he only got 49% of his first serves in play.  However, in the end it did not matter because Roger was controlling most of the baseline rallies and was razor sharp on both the forehand and backhand wings.  His mental strength was also on display, especially in the second set when he saved many break points when the Argentine was doing all he could to get a break back and keep his hopes alive.  Overall, Fed saved all 7 break points he faced and converted 3 of 5 of his own chances.  Those numbers are a formula for success as evident by the result of this match.

Before the match started, I did not imagine that Roger would play as well as he did, but in hindsight it could have been predicted.  Mr Federer has a habit of winning a tough match and then coming out the match after and tearing the house down with sharp play.  A few examples:  Australian Open in 2009, when after coming through a two-sets-to-love deficit to defeat Tomas Berdych, the next match he dismantled del Potro 63 60 60.  A year later, after a tough 4-setter against Nikolay Davydenko (in which he was down a set and a break), he came out firing on all cylinders the next match to cruise past Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 62 63 62.  In the French Open in 2009 after playing an inspired match against del Potro in the semis, he came out flawless against the Robin Soderling in the final, winning the first set 6-1.  Now here in Rotterdam, Roger overcomes a set and a break deficit to beat Davydenko and then comes out with a near flawless match in the final.  I have no idea what it is, but there is something about coming through in a tough match that really relaxes Roger in the next round.  Perhaps it is the challenge of knowing he will have to be much better than he was the round before, or maybe it is just the added confidence gained by winning a close match with all the adrenaline involved.  (As we know, a confident Roger Federer is unbeatable.)

I could not be happier for Roger and I am so happy that he saved his best tennis for the final match and won his 71st career title!  At this stage in his career, every title he wins is special, and after a seven-year absence from Rotterdam, Roger seemed genuinely happy to win the title.  He noted in a post-match interview that he thought the crowds were fantastic all week long, giving him standing ovations as he arrived on court and left the court after his contests.  Fed also reciprocated the warm reception on his day off (walkover in the 2nd round against Youzhny) by playing two super tiebreaks against Dutch player Igor Sijsling, which gave the fans in attendance who had been there to see the great man the chance to.  Roger understands that he is the most popular player on tour and he completely understands how many people admire and respect him.  That he went out of his way to play any tennis at all on his day off just shows what a great sportsman he is and how lucky we have been to have him as an ambassador of the sport.

Federer's next event is in Dubai, where he is the returning finalist.  Last year he lost to Novak Djokovic in straight sets, and this time around he will want to win the title.  He will certainly have no limits on confidence after a great week in Rotterdam.  It was not an easy week by any stretch of the imagination;  his first round match against Mahut was close.  His quarterfinal clash against Nieminen was tight.  He nearly lost the semifinal against Davydenko and showed tremendous heart to win, and then finally in the final he played his best, and thankfully at the right time.  I think Roger will take many positives from winning this Rotterdam title, not just for his next tournament, but maybe even for the rest of the year.  He proved that he could win without being the better player on the court (vs Davydenko), and he also showed more emotion than usual, letting on many guttural yells at crucial times in his matches.  I can only think that all of those signs are really good heading into the spring towards the next Grand Slam, the French Open.  But as for right now, I'm going to enjoy Roger's fantastic triumph as a fan and kick my feet up for the next week watching highlights over and over again.  Well, I actually do that constantly anyways, but who wouldn't want to watch the Maestro at work?

Enjoy the win Federer fans, and I'll write soon.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Federer fights to Final

In the two semifinals of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam, there were two very different matches that weighed on opposite ends of the competitive spectrum.  In the first semi of the day, Juan Martin del Potro played a near flawless match to dispatch of Tomas Berdych 63 61.  In the following match, Roger Federer overcame a stern test from long time foe Nikolay Davydenko 46 63 64 to reach the final in dramatic fashion.

In the first semi, which was expected to be a close, competitive match between two behemoths of the men's game, the final result was an utter demolition.  Delpo got the break in the first game of the match and broke serve once again to take the first set 6-3.  In the second set, not much changed and the big Argentine raced out to a 4-0 lead and ended up taking the set and match easily.  63 61 in one hour and fifteen minutes, a most impressive victory for the 2009 US Open champion.  Del Potro is now proving himself to be a real force in the men's game once again and I have no doubts that he will be back in the top 5 soon enough.  As for the match at hand, it was a fairly simple strategy for both Berdych and del Potro, but the latter executed his shots better.  Also, while Delpo aimed the majority of his shots to the Czech's backhand wing, Tomas did not do the same in return, and that cost him.  It goes without saying that the Delpo forehand may be the most dangerous shot in the game, and quite frankly, Berdych tried to attack it far too much which cost him many points.  Anyways, I'm happy to see del Potro back in the final and I wish him well.


 The second semifinal of the day between Roger Federer and Nikolay Davydenko was very competitive, and perhaps a little unexpected.  Roger had just beaten Davydenko 62 62 in Doha at the start of January, but I knew that it would be a tougher match than that previous encounter.  Davydenko showed great form to beat Gasquet in the quarters and I knew he would come with the intentions of beating Roger.  And boy, did he ever. 

The first set was even enough, with both Fed and Davy holding relatively comfortably until 4-4.  Despite the score though, Fed looked very shaky from the baseline and relied on his serve to get him through his service games.  He was framing a few backhands and spraying errors left, right, and centre.  Still, it was even through eight games, until Davydenko broke through (pun intended) to take the lead.  He held on, saving a Federer break point to go onto take the first set 6-4.  If Fed was going to win, he would have to tough it out.  And tough it out he did. 

In the second set it was more of the same shaky baseline play from the Swiss Maestro, and he got down a break and trailed 3-1.  At this point I was really having my doubts that Roger would win the match, but fought valiantly and broke the Russian's serve, and was right back in the match.  Then, the first real sign of energy and life from Federer came at 3-3 0-15 on the Swiss serve.  Davydenko ran him into the forehand corner, then to the backhand side, where Roger exhibited his genius by hitting a smooth cross-court backhand that framed off Davydenko's racquet.  Now, you might be wondering why I consider this crowd-pleasing point to be a turning point for Roger and a turning point in the match.  Well, Roger had just shown strong heart to get the break back to 3-3, and at that 0-15 point, had he lost it, he would have been in a hole at 0-30.  That he won the point under the most difficult of circumstances (full-stretch defensive brilliance) gave him some real belief and it also got the crowd to their feet, and after that I think they started to cheer Roger on more, wanting to see more tennis.  This is where all the momentum started to swing Roger's way, and he ended up winning 5 games in a row from 3-1 down to take the 2nd set 6-3.  If you remember, Federer was also down a set and 3-1 down to Davydenko at the 2010 Australian Open and racked off 13 straight games to turn that match around.  This sudden turn of events kind of had the same feel.  Fed battled valiantly to win the set and he did enough to send it to a 3rd set.  In that decider, it looked as if Roger may run away with it, but Davydenko kept his nerve together and held the opening game, saving four break points in the process.  The two men remained equal until 4-3 for the Russian when Davydenko turned his game up another gear and held three break points at 0-40.  Fed saved the first one, then got lucky on the second one when Nikolay had a simple backhand winner and dumped it in the net.  Roger aced the next point, and went onto hold.  5 straight points to save the match for himself in incredible Federer fashion.  I cannot recall how many times Roger has done that over the course of his career.  Anyways, as what usually happens when one squanders important break point chances, Davydenko got broken to love and then Fed held to win the match 46 63 64.

I think this was a HUGE win for Roger to boost his confidence, not only for the final, but perhaps overall in the season.  He showed that supreme fighting quality that he had been criticized by some fans for not showing in the Australian Open against Rafa Nadal.  In this particular match, Roger Federer was not better than Nikolay Davydenko.  He did not win because of his skill, but he won because of his will to win and fighting spirit.  He said after the match that he had a "winner's mindset" and I think that is a very valid assessment of this match.  For the first set and a half, he was really struggling, and then when he needed it the most, he played some stunning defensive points to turn the momentum and in the end that made all the difference.  I am very proud of Roger as a fan that he fought to win this match, and I think he proved to everybody that he will compete to the bitter end to win another Grand Slam.

The final between Federer and del Potro is the best match that the tournament could have asked for.  The Argentine is close to being back at his best again, and he should be a real force to be reckoned with for Roger.  Fed does have the advantage of knowing he beat Delpo just a few short weeks ago, but with the way Delpo has played the past two matches, that may not matter if Roger is not on his game.  Overall, he will need to be much sharper than he was against Niko if he wants to win the title.  A positive for Roger is that he used the backhand slice to great effect against Davydenko and that same play works very well against a tall opponent like del Potro.  Watch for Roger to try to goad Delpo into the net, where he is very uncomfortable.  I hope we see a great match to cap off a great week in Rotterdam!

Be back later, hope Roger wins,


PS:   If Roger beats del Potro to win this Rotterdam title, it will have been the first time that he has won a tournament without wearing a collared shirt since the 2006 US Open.  Break the drought Rog!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Federer into Rotterdam Semis

The semifinals of the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament in Rotterdam were set on Friday, and the two matches to decide the finalists should be very enticing contests.  Top seed Roger Federer will play Nikolay Davydenko in one semifinal and #2 and #3 seeds Tomas Berdych and Juan Martin del Potro will square off in the other semi clash.  Tomas Berdych defeated Andreas Seppi 63 64 while the big Argentine breezed through Viktor Troicki 60 61.  In the evening matches of the day, Roger Federer took out Jarkko Nieminen 75 76(2) and Nikolay Davydenko upset #5 seed Richard Gasquet 75 63 to reach his first semifinal of the young 2012 season. 

Federer played a solid match to overcome Nieminen in one hour and 31 minutes.  It was very even for the first eight games of the match, then at the "business" end of the set, things got more intense.  At 4-5, Fed had a 40-0 lead, but inspired play from Nieminen brought the game to deuce.  Roger held, and then went on to go down 40-0 on Jarkko's next service game.  But like the game before, the returner fought back to deuce, and after squandering two break points, Roger finally got the crucial break with a swift cross-court backhand winner on the 20th shot of the rally.  He held comfortably to take the set 7-5.  The second set was just as even as the first, with both Federer and Nieminen playing solid attacking tennis.  The set eventually went to a tiebreak where Roger had no problems and won it 7-2, and thus the match.  Overall, it was a very fun match to watch, with great serving and returning from both men, and both guys going for their shots and approaching the net regularly (Fed especially).  I knew it would be a close match because Nieminen always gives Roger a good match, even though he always loses in the end.  I also knew that Roger wouldn't go out of his way to lay a beatdown because he does not need to.  He coasts in the early rounds far more than he used to so that he can bring his best tennis in the later rounds when he needs it.  In reviewing Roger's performance, he served very well (did not face a break point) and he made a concerted effort to run around his backhand and smash forehands on the 2nd serve return.  This is no doubt a good thing because the sooner Roger can take the offensive in the rallies the better, and you can't take the offensive in a point sooner than a good, deep return.

Federer will play Nikolay Davydenko, who put together a very convincing win over Gasquet.  The Russian started out slowly, getting down 4-2, and it looked like the match would go the same way as it did when they met a few weeks ago in Montpellier, where Gasquet won 63 64.  However, Davydenko fought back from a 5-3 deficit to take the first set 7-5 in fine comeback fashion.  In the second set, Davydenko broke at 3-3 and emphatically won the next two games to close out the upset.  By the end of the match, Nikolay was fully confident and he was ripping winners from the back of the court at ease.  He played as well as he did in his prime when he was a top 5 player.  Personally, I'm happy that Davydenko has had a good week because I like his game and find him to be unfortunately unappreciated and underrated as the great player that he once was (I have yet to see a player who hits the ball as crisp as Davy does).  I hope that he can get back into the top 30 soon.  As for Gasquet, I noticed that he still stands too far behind the baseline which hurts him on a fast indoor surface.  This is the same kind of problem that Nadal has when playing indoors.

The semifinals will feature two matches with four guys that are four of the purest ball-strikers on the tour.  Federer had an easy win over Davydenko in his first match of the season in Doha, but I expect a tougher match this time around, with Niko having gained confidence this week.  Nevertheless, Roger should win in straight sets.  The Berdych/Delpo match is a toss-up, I'd say.  Both men are playing very well and it should be a very close, hard-hitting affair with the vast majority of the points being absolute slugfests from the baseline (though the rallies shouldn't be too long with the aggression both men have).  I will give the slight edge to Berdych but I would not be surprised to see the big Argentine in the final come Sunday.  No matter what the outcome, I'm positive that Roger can beat either of them.

Hoping for a great day of semifinal tennis,


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Federer Wins Rotterdam Opener

After a tough weekend for Roger Federer in the Davis Cup tie against the United States, he was right back to business in Rotterdam, winning his first round match against Nicolas Mahut of France 64 64.  Mahut is most famous for playing the longest match ever in the first round of Wimbledon in 2010 against John Isner.  It was a comfortable win for Roger, but nothing spectacular.  He played a typical solid early round match and only required one break in each set to get the job done.  His own serve was not broken.

With the win, Federer has now won his last 21 indoor matches, dating back all the way to the start of the World Tour Finals in 2010.  Dating back to the start of the 2010 indoor season, Roger has amassed a record of 37-2 and 6 titles (6 wins in 8 events).  Those figures just go to show how dominant The Fed is on the indoor surfaces, where the courts are fast and Roger can take advantage of his quick-strike attacking all-court tennis.  I would love to see more of those fast courts on the tour, but I'm afraid that is not going to happen.

Under normal circumstances, Roger would play Mikhail Youzhny in the Round of 16, but he withdrew after his win over fellow countryman Igor Kunitsyn in three sets (two bagels!).  With that event, Federer moves on automatically to the quarterfinals where he plays Finnish player Jarkko Nieminen.  The two played a tight three setter in Basel last year which of course Roger won.  The Swiss cannot take Nieminen lightly because he is a very good player and is feeling confident after a title already won this season in Sydney (a tournament in which he won 8 matches).  Having said all that, Fed should have little problem in dealing with Nieminen if he plays a good match.

In other action on the day, 2nd seed Juan Martin del Potro came through in a close three setter against Michael Llodra 64 67(3) 64.  He will play Karol Beck in the Round of 16, who defeated German Philipp Petzschner  3rd seed Tomas Berdych easily dismissed countryman Lukas Rosol.  The big-hitting Czech will next meet former top 10 Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis.

Until Friday when Roger plays his quarterfinal,


Friday, February 10, 2012

Davis Cup WG R1 Day 1

The first round of the 2012 Davis Cup got underway on Friday and the first two singles matches in each tie were played.  In what was the biggest surprise of the day, Team USA took a stunning 2-0 lead over favoured Switzerland as Mardy Fish defeated Stan Wawrinka 9-7 in the 5th set and John Isner upset Roger Federer in 4 sets.  The loss for Federer was his first singles defeat in Davis Cup action since the infamous 5-set loss to Lleyton Hewitt in Australia in 2003 in which he was ahead two sets to none.

Before I recap all the day's action, I'll talk about Fed's match.  It was a tight-serving match throughout, with many short points and big serves as is the case with many Isner matches.  Roger won the first set 6-4, a set in which his serve was untouchable and he only needed the one break to pull it out.  The second set was much of the same, only Isner got a crucial break in the middle of the set after Federer saved 6 break points before finally giving up the break.  The big serving American went onto win the second set 6-4.  The third set was as dead even as it could possibly be, which resulted in a tiebreak.  Isner, being the tiebreak juggernaut that he is, went on to win it 7 points to 4 to take the all-important two sets to one lead.  In the fourth set, the big lanky monster server raised his game even further, and stormed his way to a 6-2 4th set and a remarkable victory over Federer. 

Unlike Federer's loss at the Australian Open to Nadal just a couple of weeks ago, I think this was a much better loss for Roger.  He did not give the match away to his opponent, his opponent won it with fantastic play and unbreakable serving.  Isner, from the second set onwards, played as well as he could have, and Roger did not have any answers for the big, high-kicking serve of the American.  Now, am I saying that Roger played great?  No.  But he played well enough, but could not find any rhythm on the return and was never really afforded any opportunity after the first set - and if he did have chances, they were wiped aside by Isner's lethal 1-2 punch. 

I must give the big American full credit - he played superbly and deserved to win the match.  After watching the match, I can completely understand why he was able to come so close to beating Rafael Nadal in the 1st round of the French Open last year.  His serves (both first and second) kick up incredibly high on both return wings and that makes it nearly impossible to ever get a decent position on the return.  I know Roger certainly struggled with the effectiveness of the serve, and it only seemed to get better as the match wore on, as John gained more and more confidence.  And no, this was not just a case of Isner exploiting Fed on the backhand return up high.  He was kicking serves up to the forehand and Roger practically had to hit his forehand returns vertical, they were getting up so high over his head.  When John Isner serves like he did in that match, he is nearly unbreakable.

As for Federer's performance, he was rusty, but I didn't think he played a bad match.  His serve was very good and his forehand produced at a fairly high rate.  I felt that he didn't hit as many backhands as he would have liked, but perhaps that was a tactical decision.  He was slicing the ball in many of the rallies, which is always a good play against a tall player like Isner.  The problem is, Roger didn't get to enough rallies to capitalize on his superior ground game.  Having said all this, the great Swiss was definitely uncomfortable returning, which ended up hurting him in the end.  The fact that Roger hadn't played a clay court match since the French Open final last June did not help either.  No matter how much you practice, it's still not the same thing as actually playing a match, and I could see early on that he was rusty.  Playing such a lethal server like Isner did not give him any leeway either to get comfortable moving around the clay court and adjusting to the bounce, since there were few mid-to-long length rallies in which Roger could find his rhythm.  Overall, I am disappointed that Roger lost, but I do understand that he was beaten by the better man on the day.  I have never seen Isner look so poised and confident out there on court, especially with his groundstrokes and return of serve.

So now that the Swiss are down 2-0, they will need to win out if they want to advance.  On Day 2, the team of Federer and Wawrinka takes on the team of Mike Bryan and young up-and-comer Ryan Harrison.  Should they win that, Roger takes on Mardy Fish (a much better matchup for Roger on clay in my opinion), and then it would all come down to Wawrinka vs Isner.  If the Swiss can get back to force a 5th and final match, I would be very pleased.


To recap the other day's action:

- Canada and France split their first two matches.  Jo-Willy Tsonga defeated Canadian #2 Vasek Pospisil in straight sets while Milos Raonic did the same to Julien Benneteau.  Raonic would have played Gael Monfils, but the charismatic Frenchman was forced out due to a knee injury.  The 1-1 tie heading into the second day of action makes the doubles match all important, which features Pospisil and doubles superstar Daniel Nestor taking on Michael Llodra and Benneteau.  Whichever way that match goes, the following singles matches, Raonic vs Tsonga and if necessary, Pospisil vs Benneteau, should be very exciting.

- Spain (vs Kazakhstan), Serbia (vs Sweden), Argentina (vs Germany), Austria (vs Russia), and the Czech Republic (vs Italy) have 2-0 leads and look to close out their ties on Saturday in their doubles matches.

As a Canadian, I will be pulling for Canada the rest of the way through.  I think they have a great chance to pull out this tie, especially if they can win the doubles.  Raonic is fully capable of beating Tsonga and he is one guy that can match Jo power for power.  Likewise, as a Federer fan, and a supporter of Wawrinka, I hope they can make their tie competitive so we can see some good singles play on Sunday (to see Fed play another singles match, being the greedy person I am).

Be back later,