Monday, 19 March 2012

A Winner in Isner?

After dealing with a disappointing loss to Kevin Anderson in the semi final of Del Ray Beach, John Isner stormed back in Indian Wells. 
He came to full attention in the semi final against the world number one, Novak Djokovic.  Isner came through in a thrilling encounter that went to three sets and lasted two hours and 45 minutes, where Isner was able to take his chances to win 7-6(7), 3-6, 7-6(5).  Isner used his height to his advantage firing down 20 aces.  His forehand backed his phenomenal serve up and he was able to finish the points quickly against the relentless Djokovic.  This win takes Isner up to a career high of number 10 in the rankings. 

American John Isner
Isner then faced Roger Federer in the finals of the Masters 1000 event which would see him become the American number one, going into eighth place above Mardy Fish if he was to win.  This was not to be as the master that is Federer beat him 7-6(7), 3-6.  The American fought gallantly earning a set point and saving a few of Federer’s own opportunities. 
Isner had beaten Federer in the Davis Cup a few weeks ago, but Federer made sure that he would take revenge.   The Swiss world number three exploited his movement, although much improved was not going to get him to some of the brilliant drop shots that Federer was displaying.  Federer also showed off his own serving skills serving down the tee on the deuce side making Isner feel uncomfortable when trying to run round it to play a forehand. 
Clearly there are things that Isner needs to work on to stay in the top 10 and beat the top players more consistently, but at 26 he has the desire to improve and become a more complete player and challenge the top four guys regularly on the tour. 

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Murray out of Indian Wells

Andy Murray had such a promising start to the season with a run to the finals in Dubai, after losing in an epic semi final match to the world number one Novak Djokovic, that it did not seem at all likely that Murray would stumble out of the draw in his first match at Indian Wells for a second year in a row. 
Murray looked to have overcome his demons after another heartbreaking loss at the first grand slam of the year when he beat Djokovic in Dubai.  But today he was upset by Spaniard Guilermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 6-2. 
The Spaniard is currently ranked 92nd but managed to break the Scott twice in the second set to seal the match in one hour and 40 minutes.  Garcia-Lopez stuck the ball sweetly moving Murray around the court soaking up Murray’s errors on both wings.  He will now play Ryan Harrison in the next round.  Murray on the other hand will travel to Miami hoping to bring his game together for the next event.    
Djokovic eased through to the third round with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Andreev Golubev and will now play Kevin Anderson who has just won his second career title at Delray Beach.  Tomas Berdych also advanced but had it tougher, having to close the match in three sets against Sergiy Stakhovsky.  Rafael Nadal returns to the game after having a month out to play Leonardo Mayer.   
Indian Wells, California
 On the women’s side of the draw Caroline Wozniacki demolished Ekaterina Makarova 6-2, 6-0 although still insisted on her father coming onto court after winning the first set.  She has done enough at this event to secure her top five ranking for another week.  Maria Sharapova made light work of Gisela Dulko with the same score line and will now take on Simona Halep.  The new world number one Victoria Azarenka had a tougher route through against promising player Mona Barthel winning 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-6(6).     

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Hawk Eye Timed Out

The use of Hawk Eye in tennis has been very useful in determining the accuracy of a line call.  But there has been some debate on whether players are misusing the technology.  The phrase in the ITF rulebook, ‘a timely manner’1 has come under scrutiny due to a number of players taking a long time pondering whether to question the line call.  The chair umpire can refuse the Electronic Review if the request has not been ‘made in a timely manner1 but the time limit seems to change depending on the umpire. 
‘A request for an Electronic Review of a line call or overrule shall be allowed only on either a point ending shot or when a player stops playing the point during the rally.’1  Some players are very decisive when asking for Hawk Eye, for instance Roger Federer throws his racket up with an abrupt “CHALLENGE” gruffly spoken to the umpire.  Some spectators feel that the usually suave Federer is being unnecessarily rude, but it is well known that Federer is wary of the challenge system and uses it sparingly.  In the 2007 Wimbledon Championships final, Nadal correctly challenged a call, Federer became so agitated by this that he requested, unsuccessfully, that Hawk Eye should be turned off for the remainder of the match. 
However there are other players who do not stop play during the rally; they tend to wait till the point is finished usually because of their own error due to their uncertainty, and then they expect to be able to challenge the call.  Thankfully there is more certainty with this rule as this is very rarely allowed to occur.  But it is still annoying and aggravating for spectators who have to watch players stall and waste time. 
Whereas some players are decisive there are others that are the direct opposite.  Some players go to check if their ball was out by walking up to the net to get a better view of where their ball bounced.  Then they decide if they want to make an official challenge.  But all of this has taken a number of precious seconds, wasting time.  You are only allowed 20 seconds between points.  Players then try to challenge the call.  However this is when the phrase ‘a timely manner’1 is due to interpretation.  Some chair umpires still allow the player to challenge the call but there are others who do not.  There should be a more definite rule that states whether a player can go and look at where the ball bounced before they can challenge.  However I think that some players will take advantage of this and take too long to challenge and consequently players will persistently slow the game down.
Some players are so indecisive that they cannot even make the decision to challenge themselves.  They have to look at their box and their coaches who then tell them to challenge or not.  ‘Coaching is considered to be communication, advice, or instruction of any kind.’1  This is surely classed as coaching.  In a first round match in Dubai this week Julia Goerges was about to challenge a shot of hers that was called out.  She lifted her arm indicating that she wanted to challenge but after looking at her coach who told her not to challenge her arm hastily retreated.  Players should not be able to consult with their coaches to see if a line call should be challenged just as they are not allowed to be coached during a match. 
Sometimes it is the umpires who get it wrong.  At the 2012 Australian Open John Isner and David Nalbandian were locked in an epic battle.  At 8-8 in the fifth set Isner was serving 30-40 down when his serve was called long.  The umpire Kader Nouni overcalled the call and so the serve was in.  Nalbandian appeared confused by this and walked over to the chair to ask what was happening due to the noisy crowed.  Then when the Argentine understood Nouni he immediately raised a finger and challenged the call.  However at a crucial point in the match Nouni did not allow him to challenge saying it was not in ‘a timely manner’1.  This confusing phrase ruined a brilliant match as the controversy was the media’s focus point rather than the brilliant shot making. 
The serve was a fault.  The umpire got it wrong. 
Clearly the phrase ‘a timely manner’1 needs to be defined more clearly as players take advantage of this lack of clarification by walking up to the net to inspect the call and then plead to their coach for a decision.  The chair umpires would also benefit as it would save them having to make their own decision which will always be disputed.  If the rule was made clearer it would save a lot of time and arguments during the match. 
1 ITF Rulebook

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Federer and Azarenka stemrolled through tournament to seize titles

Roger Federer breezed past Juan Martin Del Potro to take the title in Rotterdam in straight sets 6-1, 6-4. 
Federer took his first title of this season in a straightforward encounter easing to a 5-0 lead in the first set.  Del Potro managed to hold one service game but in the end he succumbed to Federer’s master class as the Swiss man took the set in 34 minutes. 
Del Potro did have chances in the match but failed to take any of his seven break points.  Federer on the other hand did not let any of his chances go as he broke the Argentine in the fifth game of the second set and continued in formidable fashion to take the match at the third time of asking in one hour and 26 minutes.  Federer has now managed to win at least one ATP World Tour Title in a season 12 years in a row. 
In the Qatar Total Open Victoria Azarenka faced Sam Stosur for the sixth time in her career and for the sixth time in a row as she beat the Australian without losing a set.  
Azarenka looked invincible even with her ankle injury that she sustained in her semi final match.  The injury focused Azarenka’s mind as she only made eight unforced errors compared to Stosur’s 25.  Azarenka dominated with her forehand taking Stosur’s weapons away from her as she won the match 6-1, 6-2 and looking like a very worthy world number one. 

Friday, 17 February 2012

On court reports, retirements

After finding myself in a final of event without having to play a single match because only one other girl entered along with me, my opponent in the final did not turn up and was therefore disqualified.  I walked away with a trophy in my hand but still feeling slightly annoyed as I would have liked to have won the event properly by stepping onto court.  In the tournament that I was playing in, there was an excessive amount of withdrawals before the tournament begun and during the event a lot of players withdrew due to injury.  This happens at all levels as well as on the ATP and the WTA Tour. 
On the ATP Tour this week there are three tournaments taking place; Rotterdam, an ATP 500 event, San Jose and Sao Paulo, both ATP 250 events.  In Rotterdam, Roger Federer eased through to the quarter finals after receiving a walkover due to the retirement of Mikhail Youzhny as he had a foot injury.  Marcos Baghdatis left the event due to a left calf injury and Sergiy Stakhovsky retired because of a viral illness.  In San Jose the tournament lost its number one seed just before the event, Gael Monfils, due to a knee injury letting Blake Strode, a lucky loser take his place.  In Sao Paulo there have been no retirements.... so far. 

Youzhny retires from Rotterdam

Doha is celebrating its tenth year on the WTA tour calendar in style with 6 of the top 10 women entering the event.  However Carla Suarez Navarro retired in her match against Ana Ivanovic after losing the first set and down in the second with a right hip injury.  The number 6th seed Vera Zvonareva also retired due to a left hip injury.      
Unfinished matches upset the fans who feel they have not had their money’s worth as they were desperate to see a man like Roger Federer work his magic.  It also upsets the tournament organisers when they lose their top seeds as they are the top attractions and so they will lose money.  But more than anything it can annoy the players who are hungry to step on court and win matches.  There will be some who are happy to pocket the extra money they receive after reaching another round but the real professionals will want to play matches in order to get into a rhythm and to please the fans.  It also begs the question, which is frequently discussed and debated, if the tour is too tough with a longer break needed between seasons.  Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic seem to think so as they will not be playing in February. 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Davis Cup Glory for Team GB

As always in the Davis Cup, the competition throws up all sorts of surprises no less than USA’s whitewash away from home over Switzerland on the Clay.  Mardy Fish came through a thrilling 5 set match against Stanislas Wawrinka.  But it was John Isner who gave the Swiss team the biggest shock stunning Roger Federer from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2 to give the USA a 2-0 lead.  The American team then won the tie on Saturday in the doubles with Mike Bryan pairing Mardy Fish, a smart move from Captain Jim Courier, taking the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. 
Last year’s winners Spain joined the Americans in the quarter finals after winning their tie 3-0 against Kazakhstan.  Argentina and the Czech Republic have moved through to the next round with wins over Germany and Italy respectively. 
Great Britain had a fantastic start against Slovakia with young Dan Evans winning in straight sets against a player ranked in the top 100 Lucas Lacko 6-3, 7-5, 7-5.  James Ward couldn’t carry on the momentum as he lost to Martin Klizan 6-2, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 in a tough encounter which levelled the tie at 1-1. 
Ross Hutchins and Colin Fleming won their doubles clash against Filip Polasek and Michael Mertinak.  The British pairing fought their way into a 2 set lead but lost their form magnificently in the third set as they managed to lose every single game.  However they rediscovered their form to take the match 6-3, 7-6(4), 0-6, 6-3 to give the Brits a 2-1 lead into the deciding day. 
This lead did not last as Lucas Lacko proved he was worth his ranking beating James Ward in a match where Ward had his chances.  But the Slovak eventually came through 7-6(9), 6-1, 6-3.    
All hopes rested on Dan Evans who had never won a Davis Cup match before this weekend.  But he kept his confidence levels up and won a 5 set thriller to give Great Britain the tie 3-2. Evans played an amazing first 2 sets showing a magnificent array of shot making from all areas of the court.  His opponent Klizan showed why he has the higher ranking as he has beaten six top 100 players in the past year as he fought back to 2 sets all.  But Evans came back to take the tie after his opponent gave away a double fault on match point 6-1, 6-1, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3. 
Great Britain will now play Belgium at home in the next round.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

WTA Stars line up in Paris and Pattaya City

The WTA Tour resumes after the Fed Cup with tournaments in two different but very beautiful cities of Paris in France and Pattaya in Thailand. 

Santuary of truth
In Paris there are three Top 10 players that grace the draw; World No.3 Maria Sharapova, World No.7 Marion Bartoli and World No.9 Li Na.  Jelena Jankovic is another seed with Lucie Safarova also in the draw with the latter reaching the final twice previously in 2007 and 2010 – she is the only women in this year’s draw who has reached the final.  Sabine Lisicki was also due to play but has had to pull out due to a viral illness. 
The city of Pattaya welcomes other top players including Vera Zvonareva, twice a champion and leading this year’s field.  Sorana Cristea has already played her first round match here dispatching her opponent, Erika Sema 6-2, 6-2 in 74 minutes.  Cibulkova has also played her first match but lost to Britain’s Anne Keothavong 4-6, 1-6.  Keothavong managed to adjust to the conditions better after having played in the Fed Cup in Israel last week which saw Great Britain win all their ties and will now go to the play offs for World Group II.  The news was not so good for Heather Watson who lost to Vania King 4-6, 2-6.