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Roland Garros 2011: A Review Of The Remaining Matches In The Men’s Draw

1 Jun

Roger Federer. Often argued to be the greatest tennis player of all time. 16-time grand slam winner. Former world number one. Former winner at Roland Garros. Only man yet to drop a set at the French Open 2011. And yet he is still only the third favourite to win according to the bookies. In contrast to basically the entire rest of his career, Federer is not really under pressure to achieve great things here at the French in 2011, it is rather the two 24-year olds, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who have to play with the weight of big expectations.

Rematch

Nadal, being defending champion and the clay court player that he is, was the favourite prior to the tournament despite losing to Djokovic on clay twice this year already. Since the tournament started he has dropped down from that position in the estimation or rather guestimation of most tennis fans and bookies, largely due to his lack of form, or even the motivation for which he is normally continuously lauded. In addition Nadal has to face the man who ousted him from Roland Garros in 2009 in their quarter-final on Wednesday, while Federer, by virtue of an up-and-down win over Gael Monfils, and Djokovic, courtesy of a walkover, are already preparing for their much-anticipated semi-final clash. Nadal has admitted that he cannot win the tournament playing at the level he has thus far. Suddenly there is chatter that he might not even progress past the encounter against the Swede, Robin Soderling. Soderling managed to beat Nadal in 4-sets in 2009, but suffered a straights sets rout at the hands of the Spaniard in last year’s final. The result of tomorrow’s match will depend largely on which Nadal comes to play; if it is the somewhat despondent man we have seen thus far at the French, reminiscent of him during his failed 2009 campaign, it is likely that Soderling will have an excellent opportunity to achieve a newsworthy scalp at Roland Garros. With his immense power, and clear motivation to win attitude illustrated by his prolonged fist pumping celebration upon winning his 4th round match yesterday, it seems the big, tall man has a chance and could perhaps oust the defending champion for the 3rd straight year. For Nadal to win, he will have to hit some form during this quarter-final match. Should that happen, the top seed will in all likelihood retain that form, and go on to retain the title. Nadal in form, is truly unbeatable over 5 sets on the clay of Roland Garros.

The Hard Court Aficionado

Of course Andy Murray and Juan Ignacio Chela are still alive in this half of the draw. Murray, being the far superior tennis player, ought to win this match with some ease over the man still most well-known for his bouts of bad sportsmanship. Murray’s ankle injury however could prevent this result from being a given. Either way, it is unlikely that this match will affect who is the eventual champion at Roland Garros. Both Soderling and Nadal, the two possible semi-final opponents for Murray – should he win – ought to be the victor over the not-so-happy-on-clay Scot, who has a definite – not just according to the British press – chance to win one of the other two remaining grand slams of the year.

The Aging King and The Young Prince or at this point… David and Goliath

On the other side of the draw, we only have 2 men left standing; if Soderling is the winner over Nadal tomorrow as many expect him to be, the stakes surrounding the Federer-Djokovic semi-final will drastically increase. The odds appear to be stacked as follows at this point: If Nadal wins tomorrow, he will almost certainly go on to win the tournament. If he loses, the winner of this semi between the legend and pretender to the throne, will very likely determine who wins the Coupe de Mousquetaire come Sunday.

Federer might be playing fairly well here, but Djokovic is like I’ve said before, in the form of his life. His confidence is through the roof – almost everything he tries, he manages to pull off. Despite being past his prime, Federer is still the most technically gifted player to ever hold a tennis racquet. He is probably better suited to the playing conditions and the clay courts of Roland Garros too. All-in-all this match ought to still be won by the form man, Djokovic. It can be taken for granted that he will be playing at an incredibly high level throughout. The outcome of this match rests on Federer’s somewhat rusty racquet. It’ll be great to see what he brings to the court, and how much he troubles the currently staggeringly beautiful play of the Australian Open Champion.

The Odds

According to the bookies a Djokovic vs Nadal final is most likely. A match between these two players at this stage of their careers is likely to be epic, and an incredibly tightly contested affair. Like previously mentioned the Spaniard will be in form if he makes it this far in the tournament. This would be a great match which ought to bring to an end Djokovic’s unbeaten run. There’s no beating an in form Nadal on clay over 5 sets.

The Dream

 Having been a fan of the Nadal-Federer rivalry for all of it’s existence, I would love to see these two men in the final again. Just imagine the quality of the semi-final match between Djokovic and Federer, if the Swiss player played at a level able to end the incredible run of the younger man. Imagine if her were to bring that level of play into a final against Nadal, how amazing that match would be… This is very likely wishful thinking, but there are a lot of winners in this dream. Not least of all the viewers.

Who Do You Think Will Win?

 

(Then it would be great if you could share this entry via Facebook, StumbleUpon or Twitter. The buttons are available at the bottom of this specific entry’s page. Comments would be appreciated. Would love to hear how everyone else thinks the draw will pan out… And then finally, I am writing blog entries for www.tennisgrandstand.com. New entry The Top 5 Of The Last 5 Days Of Tennis At Roland Garros, would love it if you could check it out. S)

Analysis Of Women’s Draw At Roland Garros 2.0

27 May

This seems to be the grand slam of upsets, particularly on the women’s side the so-called title contenders been losing early at an alarming rate. As most tennis fans will know, today took this trend to new heights; top seed, Caroline Wozniacki and defending finalist, Sam Stosur are out of the Paris tournament after losing to non top 10 players, Daniela Hantuchova and Gisela Dulko respectively. These losses and the several other seeds that have already lost has led to this genuinely being the most open grand slam I have ever followed. Since the draw has opened up in a manner which I (and most others I’m sure) failed to predict, I figured a re-analysis of the women’s draw is in order.

Quarter Final 1: Sam Stosur vs Caro Wozniacki

This quarter will go according to the seedings. While Svetlana Kuznetsova is the most likely player to prevent this quarter final from happening, I reckon the odds are in favour of Wozniacki reaching the semi’s by virtue of beating Stosur in the quarter’s.

Clearly my earlier prediction for the first quarter will not be realized. Switching on the TV to find Caroline Wozniacki a set down initially surprised me quite a bit; once I thought about it for 30 seconds I realized that the signs that Wozniacki was cracking under the extreme pressure she is under had already begun to show the previous round, by her resorting to minor gamesmanship to throw her opponent off. In addition Daniela Hantuchova is consistently a tough competitor and has plenty of experience whereas Wozniacki is trying to prove to everyone that she is capable of a grand slam win. As soon as the match started she was behind score wise; she came across as unsure, and utterly incapable of turning the match around. Knowing that she would have to face a barrage of question about the validity of her number 1 ranking the minute she came off court, couldn’t have helped either.

Stosur lost today due to a slightly lacklustre performance, contrasted by an exceptionally high energy display by her opponent, Gisela Dulko. Dulko held up a banner after the match dedicating her win to her twin nephews/nieces; (genders?) clearly she was out here to win today. Stosur just wasn’t. While I didn’t make mention of her in my previous article, I expected Julia Georges to do better than she has, particularly considering her form in the clay swing in the lead up to the French. Svetlana Kuznetsova is now a good bet to reach the semi-final, she ought to beat both Daniela Hantuchova and Marion Bartoli, who I think will progress over Gisela Dulko in the fourth round.

Quarter Final 1: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Marion Bartoli

Quarter Final 2: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic

In this quarter, an interesting 3rd round encounter between Zvonareva and Nadia Petrova looms. A few years ago, Petrova was my favourite to win the French Open. While she doesn’t have the form or consistency, her clay court pedigree is still notable. I don’t think either of them will make the quarter final though. Pavlyuchenkova is capable of beating both, and overdue on a good run at a major. I don’t think anyone in Jankovic’s 1/8 will bother her too much.

In this bracket of the draw my quarter final prediction still has a hope of surviving. Both Pavlyuchenkova and Jankovic have made quiet but convincing progress through the draw, in order to make it to the quarters they will have to go through a very capable clay court players in Francesca Schiavone and Vera Zvonareva. I stick with my assessment that Pavlyuchenkova (copy-and-paste) is overdue on a good run at a major, and expect her to overcome number three seed  Zvonareva. Schiavone versus Jankovic is bound to be a slugfest of note between two players brilliantly suited to clay. Do note that I was completely off about Petrova putting in a successful run – she bowed out in the first round to Anastasia Rodionova.

Quarter Final 2: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic

Quarter Final 3: Petra Kwitova vs Ana Ivanovic

Kwitova has quite a difficult section of the draw to get through. The little Chinese Zheng Jie in the 2nd, Dominika Cibulkova in the 3rd and either Na Li or Sorana Cirstea in the 4th, it won’t be easy. I think she has the self belief to do it however. In the other section, the smart money would be on Victoria Azarenka getting through. Maybe I am just too much of an Ana Ivanovic fan, or maybe I’m right when I say Ivanovic will beat Azarenka, via her superior experience and Azarenka’s inconsistency, but my money is on Ivanovic making it through this part of the draw.

This 3rd round matches on this side of the draw (Quarter Final 3 and 4) have not yet been played, and considering the upsets of today’s 3rd round matches I think I am taking quite a risk by attempting to predict how it will play out but nevertheless… A major error in judgement was made by me, assuming that Ivanovic would come even close to reliving her French Open glory of the past. I still think Kwitova will make it through to the quarters, but I think Azarenka, who has been in spectacular form will progress to the semis from this part of the bracket. I am particularly curious about this section of the draw, I think it might just contain the eventual winner.

Quarter Final 3: Petra Kwitova vs Victoria Azarenka

Quarter Final 4: Maria Sharapova vs Kim Clijsters

Simply no one in this quarter can challenge these two veterans for skill or experience.

So apparently they can be challenged, Sharapova despite her upset scare in the previous round ought to progress to the quarter finals. With Clijsters out Sharapova’s opponent is likely to be the creator of the Petkorazzi dance, Andrea Petkovic. Before the quarter final I look forward to the likely clash between Agnieszka Radwanska and Maria Sharapova in the 4th round. In the same round it seems likely that Petkovic will come up against the well liked Maria Kirilenko. Both these matches ought to be won by the players I indicated, but not before their lower ranked opponents provide them with a substantial and likely good to watch challenge.

Quarter Final 4: Maria Sharapova vs Andrea Petkovic

So to recap my new-and-improved quarter final predictions are – Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Marion Bartoli, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova vs Jelena Jankovic, Petra Kwitova vs Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova vs Andrea Petkovic.

Semi Final 1: Svetlana Kuznetsova vs Jelena Jankovic

Predicting this half has been incredibly difficult. I think the players are on a very even keel, and although this makes it difficult to predict, it does mean that the matches will be tightly competed which is likely to lead to a few excellent matches. As already mentioned I think Kuznetsova should proceed to the semi over the less experienced Bartoli. She has won her matches in the tournament thus far quite convincingly, in she were to continue in that vein, she has the opportunity to progress easily through the much weakened draw. Jankovic too has been in good form and can capitalise on being in an easy section. On their form during the clay court season, I would have to pick Jankovic as the finalist from this half of the draw.

Semi Final 2: Victoria Azarenka vs Maria Sharapova

Azarenka has been the only top ranked player to be in even semi decent form thus far at Roland Garros. In the previous round, she annihilated her French opponent, Pauline Parmentier. As such, she ought to come through an encounter with yet another young gun, Petra Kwitova. In the semi final she she should come up against by now tour veteran, Sharapova. With her experience and absolute steely mentality she should make the semi finals. It would take one heck of a performance by Azarenka to beat Sharapova in the semi final,  this has all the potential to be the best match of the women’s draw in 2011. Women’s tennis desperately needs Azarenka to win the tournament, to prevent the WTA rankings from losing the last bit of credibility which remains after Wozniacki’s loss today. However the experience and motivation of Sharapova will in all likelihood be the winner.

Final: Jelena Jankovic vs Maria Sharapova

Sharapova’s superior shot making ability and yet again her experience and self belief ought to give her the edge over Jankovic. Watch for the “cow on ice” to complete her career grand slam at the end of the fortnight.

Again, please comment with your own picks, and share on twitter, facebook or stumbleupon if you like the blog entry. Vote for your winner in the poll below. Note that I’ve only included the top 5 ranked players remaining in the draw.

Top 10: Why I Love Being A Student

18 May
Simply put, this is a compilation of why being a fulltime student is awesome.
 
  • You are surrounded by young, like-minded individuals capable of engaging, intelligent conversation and discussion. That is not to say the people in this bracket aren’t fun to go out (partying) with too.
  • Midnight snack runs. BP and McDonald’s make a killing between 00:00 and 04:00 in this town. There’s nothing quite like a late night ice cream after hours of slogging through psychology, or a cheeseburger for breakfast before you go to class, without having gone to bed.
  • Organised social events, such as koshuis (residence) dances, a derby knockoff and numerous music festivals. I could really go on with the list of events we have on campus for a while… You get to dress up, and have fun with a horde of students as keen to be there as you are. 
  • Having a random morning/afternoon off from class. Wine tour! Or you can hit the beach, or do pizza and beer at one of the local hangouts… Or just sleep.
  • Having the energy to go out all night and still make all your classes the next day. Because those spontaneous evening that should never have happened are the best.
  • Having the option to attend chemistry lab classes, or basically any lab classes. Who doesn’t want to have fun with ridiculously expense equipment, or make your own crystals made out of who-knows-what.
  • Everything is a group outing. Voting. Eating. Class. There’s always someone around who’s on their way to go do the same thing you are.
  • Half of the businesses in town cater almost exclusively for the students. As a result, every possible service, shop or preferred pub atmosphere can be found within walking distance.
  • I’m a bit of a nerd. There’s a library.
  • (Depending on whether you got your degree in a useful major,) you are set for life. Fairly good job, and salary on average 80% higher than a high school graduate. See: http://money.cnn.com/2006/10/25/pf/college/census_degree/index.htm

What’s not to like…

Far too accurate.

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