Tag Archives: top 10

The Top 10: Wimbledon (Part 2)

28 Jun

This is a continuation of The Top 10: Wimbledon (Part 1) which you can find here if you have yet to read it.

Comebacks

At number five is the stellar comeback of the Williams’ sisters. While their fourth round losses were seen as somewhat of a surprise, both ladies came into the tournament greatly lacking in match fitness. Their respective performances – particularly Serena’s – have been far better than the tennis world would expect from any other player attempting a comeback. Serena’s teary return to Centre Court has also captured the imaginations of the British press which have granted her comeback from a life threatening illness considerable attention. Unfortunately for the hard-hitting pair their losses have provided some credit to the capabilities and rankings of the other WTA players, and while the sisters certainly don’t value this, it is a much needed boost for the much maligned WTA.

Level surface

Ranking at number four is the Wimbledon grass. Particularly on the women’s side of the draw several players have reached the quarter-finals largely by virtue of their ability on the specific surface. Marion Bartoli, Sabine Lisicki and Tsvetana Pironkova have all been in great form over the grass court season and deservedly progressed further in the tournament than their rankings would perhaps indicate them of being capable. In the men’s draw, Feliciano Lopez and to a lesser degree Mardy Fish have both progressed to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, while they are unlikely to go so deep into a grand slam tournament on any other surface.

The grass has however been the subject of some criticism this year, with among others, Ivan Ljubicic commenting on the speed of the grass, which is thought to have slowed down considerably in the last decade. Statements indicating the Roland Garros’ clay to be faster this year than Wimbledon’s grass have also been made. I view this as being quite unfortunate and think there is great value in having the surfaces differ to a greater degree. Certainly Bjorn Borg’s French Open and Wimbledon double’s must qualify as being a greater feat than any achieved in recent years in which the courts have played in a more similar manner to each other.

Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray

At number three is the dominance of the top four men’s players. While all four have dropped sets in the tournament thus far, not a single one has ever looked like they might lose. According to several reports this has made the tennis somewhat boring over the first week and a half. While this might be true, the entertainment factor of the men’s matches should in all likelihood take a steep rise should all four of them reach the semis as they are touted to. With a Wimbledon title on the line, and Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all being capable of getting a win over any of the other three, the matches contested between the big four are sure to be excellent high quality encounters.

No Monday blues

Ranking at number two on the list of the Wimbledon Top 10 is what has been dubbed as Manic Monday. The second Monday of the Championships is traditionally reserved for the fourth round of play, with eight matches between some of the top players in the world being contested in both the men’s and women’s draws. While the results in the men’s draw went largely according to seedings with Mardy Fish providing the lone upset with a win over former finalist Tomas Berdych, audiences were provided with a few sets of tennis of a brilliant level. None more so than those played between Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal. Both played some of their best tennis of the Championships despite battling injuries. (Nadal with his foot and Del Potro struggling with a hip injury.) Mikhail Youzhny played some tremendous tennis against Roger Federer in the first few sets of their match, while the Lukas Kubot and Feliciano Lopez match in which Lopez came back to win after being down two-sets-to-love was a great battle.

The matches on the women’s side were a cut above the men’s in the drama and excellence stakes with Caroline Wozniacki and Venus and Serena Williams upset by opponents playing inspired tennis. Dominika Cibulkova came back to beat the world number one after she lost the first set 6-1. Serena went out to a great display by the temperamental Marion Bartoli, while sister Venus lost for the second consecutive year to the Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova.

Seeded players making good

 At number one on this list is the performance of the three players seeded to reach the quarter-finals who have done so successfully in the women’s draw. Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova have all made steady progress through their respective draws gaining the WTA rankings some much needed credibility.  Kvitova who has received very little recognition for her run at the Championships, playing on outside courts for the most part, has been in particularly devastating form with her losing no more than six games in any of her matches thus far. Azarenka seems to be living up to her talent, with the single set she lost coming during a topsy-turvy match against the always dangerous Daniela Hantuchova in the third round. Sharapova has also kept up the great form which she showcased on the clay of Roland Garros. It seems likely that the winner of the Championships will come from this trio. For the sake of women’s tennis – I sincerely hope so.

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Top 10: The French Open So Far

26 May

So the French Open has been ongoing for a few days now and by now we know who is in form, who isn’t and who’s feeling the pressure (Wozniacki much?); it’s nearing that moment where the nervous energy of the first few days of a grand slam ceases to exist, and the favourites start to play at their fluent best. Several notable happenings have been observed at the French Open thus far. Not quite making the top 10, but worthy of at least a mention is Vera Zvonareva’s almost loss to Sabine Lisicki, and Lisicki’s subsequent meltdown, which included her being carried off court on a stretcher presumably due to cramping. The losses suffered by sixth seed Tomas Berdych, and Ana Ivanovic, the 20th seed and  former winner, definitely warrant a mention. Both lost to players not expected to proceed beyond the first round, in the shape of world number 140, Robert Stephane and virtual unknown Johanna Larsson, respectively. And then the last French Open factoid to make it into this article before we start with the official list, is that tennis, oops make that #tennis is huge on twitter. Not only are plenty of big players using the platform to communicate directly with their fans, the fans are also using it to make their voices heard loud and clear; #frenchopen and #rolandgarros have been trending topics in various countries over the past few days.

At number ten we have the success being experienced by the players favouring the clay surface. David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco, Jurgen Melzer and even Albert Montanes, along with their female counterparts in the form of Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur and Svetlana Kuznetsova have made it through the draw with relative ease thus far. Watch out for a few of these players to put in a semi final run. Defending finalists, Stosur and Schiavone, should rightfully of course, be considered title contenders.

Sam Stosur easily wins her 2nd round match.
The dresses and other fashion statements of the French Open rank at number nine. Bethanie Mattek-Sands has been playing with black stripes underneath her eyes, not unlike the ones that might be seen on the snarling faces of NFL players. As always her press conferences have centred on her attire and appearance more than anything else, she has even been attributed the moniker Lady Gaga of tennis. To her credit, she draws a lot of attention which the game would not generally get and she is also now the top ranked US women’s players. In addition to Mattek-Sands’ eccentricities, the fashion contest which emerges at every grand slam, has for my money been won by Sharapova. Her Eiffel Tower inspired dress, in an understated canary yellow shade is rounded off by a set of Tiffany earrings with which no other player can compete. Honorable mentions do however go to Wozniacki for her ruffled dress and Ivanovic for her hot pink number.

Mattek-Sands and her black stripes.

Enough of the fluff which surrounds tennis, at number eight we have the comebacks happening at Roland Garros. While we missed out on Amelie Mauresmo pairing with Michael Llodra in the mixed due to her not being part of the anti-doping programs in tennis for the past few years, and as a result not being allowed to enter, we still got to see Kim Clijsters (sometimes horrendous) but ultimately satisfying return to the game after months out due to a wedding reception injury. In addition, 2004 winner, Anastasia Myskina, has made a return to the game, in the form of coach to the lately struggling Kuznetsova.

Ranking number seven on my list of moments to remember is the 2nd round match between Wozniacki and Aleksandra Wozniak. Not only did the world number one struggle quite a bit in the second set, but she also proceeded to make a 3 minute fuss about a line call she disagreed with. Maybe a little bit of gamesmanship? The crowd did not appreciate her insistence, and there were some jeers to be heard when she left the court after winning the match five points later. To further add fuel to the fire, her father and coach, stormed out of the stadium and mentioned to journalists the fact that Wozniacki did not stick to the tactics set out for the match. He seemed quite unhappy with his 20-year old daughter. All-in-all this match seemed to indicate that Wozniacki is feeling the pressure of being number one in the world (and no grand slam title as of yet.) This match by Wozniacki and Clijsters’ erratic play (As I write this, the Rus-Clijsters match has gone into a third set) seems to make Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka the favourites for the title at this point.

Caro Wozniacki unhappy about a line call.

Several players that qualify the French Open as their home tournament, have made it past the first few round of tennis; the French supporters have come out  in hordes, and with soccer chants to boot. In addition, the organisers have scheduled the matches in such a fashion that the matches of the top French players have often been the most high-profile of their time slots, thereby ensuring the French players receive TV coverage all over the world. Looking after their own is an attribute the French certainly deserve, and as a result the French rank sixth on this list.

The Babolat tennis balls being used for the first time at Roland Garros make the list. They are apparently faster, harder and clearly advantage the hard-hitting players in the game. Criticism of the decision to change the balls have been widely received from players. Roger Federer has made it clear that it is not so much these balls specifically, but rather the fact that all the tournaments in the lead-up to the French use different one’s – the Dunlop balls previously in use at Roland Garros, meaning a transition is required. This is not ideally suited to the players of course. The attention that the tennis balls, and the knock which Babolat have taken as a result, qualifies for this list in fifth position.

Roger Federer with the new Babolat balls.

The manner in which Federer and Novak Djokovic have won their matches at the French thus far, leads to the pair making the list at number four. Both have been incredibly efficient and have sent a clear message that the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, might be dethroned for the 2nd time in three years at RG. Djokovic with his 40+ match winning streak is of course expected to perform in the manner that he has, it is the play of Federer that has surprised the many who have written of the 16-time grand slam winner.

Making my list at number three is the appearance of Virginie Razzano in the tournament so soon after she suffered such an intense personal loss. I was quite unsure about including this on my list, but eventually decided that the bravery and courage shown by Razzano by playing to honour of her deceased fiance, deserves recognition on every possible platform. As such I make mention of her emotion heavy first round loss to Jarmila Gadjosova.

At number two is the success of the 10 top ranked women in tennis. Not a single upset among the  lot of them yet! It probably shouldn’t rank so highly on the list, but with the inconsistency of the women’s game, any validation of the women’s game and the WTA rankings has to be considered invaluable. (Update: I spoke far too soon; Kim Clijsters has just lost her match to Arantxa Rus, nevertheless 9 out of 10 isn’t too bad.)

At number one we have Oprah, ending her show after 25 years, what a run! Yeah, I’m kidding. The match between Nadal and John Isner is my top moment of the last few days of tennis. The match showed the value of being able to hold serve – Isner being able to take Nadal to 6-6 in two sets, lead to him being able to take those sets in tie breakers. It also showed that Isner should be higher ranked, and should perhaps be working a little harder at winning matches against players ranked lower than him, and not only coming to play in high-profile matches; thereby putting himself in a position where he doesn’t have to play Nadal in the first round at a major. Furthermore, this match indicates that Nadal is not in as good form as he usually is before the French Open. He truly struggled to pass Isner consistently, and definitely did not get as many balls back as he did circa 2008 at RG. If Djokovic manages to beat Juan Martin del Potro in convincing manner, I might even change my pick for the title from Nadal to Djokovic.

World number 1 and defending champion, Rafael Nadal, celebrates upon reaching the 2nd round at Roland Garros.

 

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