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Sports Then and Now



Rafael Nadal Tops the Men’s Tennis Power Rankings 9

Posted on June 08, 2011 by JA Allen

Rafael Nada wins French Open championship number six.

The 2011 French Open is history, one for the books. It proved to be an exciting two weeks of action with plenty of surprises as the world tuned in to watch players battle it out on the courts of Stade Roland Garros.

It is rare that the ATP top-ranked players are also the top four in our power rankings. Understandably, that does not happen often. But this was a year for the unusual. A case in point––in 2011 the men’s top four seeds reached the French Open semifinals.

It was the first time since since the 2006 French Open that the top four men’s seeds reached the semifinals at any Grand Slam tournament. At that tournament those final four were Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal,  David Nalbandian and Ivan Ljubicic.

The men’s tour has already moved onto grass with the crisp white tradition of historical Wimbledon––the most prestigious of all the grand slam tournaments. While French crowds booed and hissed at players, the exact opposite will unfold under the pristine umbrella of proper British behavior.

So as we shake the red dust off our tennies and cross the channel to London, a new brand of tennis awaits. The question is––who will win the next grand slam tournament held at the All-England Club.

Grass changes the complexity of the game. The slow grind of clay speeds up on the grass courts and low bounces at your ankles becomes the norm.

Change is good and Wimbledon promises another great tournament.

The men’s current power rankings are based on a player’s results in his last four tournaments. In this entry, ranking points come primarily from the ATP points awarded at the French Open.

For the list on the women’s side, please check out the complementary article authored by Feng Rong (Ronger Fengerer). This season-long series contains contributions from JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong.

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Novak Djokovic Triumphs on Clay to Capture The Top Spot in the Men’s Power Ranking 4

Posted on May 27, 2011 by Ronger Fengerer

Serb Novak Djokovic

Ever since early April, the clay war has been raging on in the world of tennis.

From Casablanca to Belgrade, from Monte-Carlo to Rome, tennis warriors have been fighting it out on the red dirt for glory and pride.

As for the past few years, it was predicted that the “king of clay,” Rafael Nadal, would once again rule the kingdom of clay.

Only this year, no one saw it coming. A “perfect storm”—named Novak Djokovic.

Besides the French Open—the ultimate prize of the clay season—there are four other significant tournaments in the calendar: the three Masters events in Monte-Carlo, Madrid, Rome, and the only 500 event in Barcelona. Nadal made it to the final in all four events, winning two titles against David Ferrer—but finishing runner-up to Djokovic in the others.

So this year, Djokovic has beaten Nadal four times, all in the finals of Masters events: two on hard-court and two on clay. Will the trend continue if they both make it to the final at Roland Garros?

And what is in store at Roland Garros for Roger Federer, who is yet to overcome Na-No this year? Will Robin Soderling finally be able to come out on top after finishing second-best in the past two French Open finals? Will the Fedal duopoly finally be broken by the Djoker?

Before we take a look at who is hot and who is not heading to Paris, here are a few players who made our top ten list last time but were dropped this time.

Dropping Out

Mardy Fish (Last Power Ranking: 4; ATP Ranking: 10)

Mardy Fish was in great form at Miami, advancing all the way to the semifinals before losing to the unbeatable Djokovic. Not long after that, he was able to crack the ATP top ten for the first time in his career. Unfortunately for Fish, actually for all American players, the clay season started right after Miami. Not surprisingly, he enjoyed little success on the red dirt. Though without many points to defend, he was able to retain his No. 10 ranking heading to the French capital.

Juan Martin Del Potro (Last Power Ranking: 5; ATP Ranking: 27)

Del Potro had an impressive season so far, especially considering that he was out of action for much of last season. The tall Argentine has already won two titles this year, including one clay title in Estoril. Unfortunately, he suffered a hip injury before his much anticipated clash with Nadal in Madrid and he subsequently pulled out of Rome as well. His performance at Roland Garros will largely depend on his health and fitness.

Gilles Simon (Last Power Ranking: 8; ATP Ranking: 19)

Gilles Simon had some success on hard-courts this season, winning the Sydney title and making to the quarterfinals at Miami. But he has been struggling on clay so far, winning six matches from five tournaments. This could be partly due to the fact that he missed the entire clay swing last season due to injuries. It is hard to see him have much success at the French Open this year.

Our power rankings try to measure the form of top players based on their recent results. This season-long series contains contribution from JA Allen, Marianne Bevis and Feng Rong (Ronger Fengerer).

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Murray and Del Potro’s Struggles Continue 1

Posted on May 07, 2011 by Thomas Rooney

Andy Murray lost in straight sets at the Madrid Open.

British number one Andy Murray’s search for form continues after crashing out of the Madrid Open in the third round.

The Scot lost in straight sets to Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci, who ranks at number 36 in the world.

Bellucci took just 91 minutes to dismiss the challenge of Murray, winning 6-4 6-2.

The defeat for Murray may come as something of a shock to those placing regular free bets on tennis after he showed signs of returning to form in April’s Monte Carlo Masters, where he bowed out at the semi-final stage to Rafael Nadal.

Loss in January’s Australian Open final signalled a wretched run of form for Murray, who lost to qualifiers in the first round of his next two tournaments.

Worryingly, early chances to seize control of this game were not taken and with the French Open looming, prospects of significant progress at Roland Garros look bleak given he has never made it past the last eight stage of the major. Read the rest of this entry →

Could Andy Murray’s Next Coach Be Tennis Legend Ivan Lendl? 4

Posted on March 30, 2011 by JA Allen

Andy Murray has not won on court since the 2011 Australian Open.

These days Andy Murray walks onto the tennis court a defeated man, ready to receive the next dose of humiliation.

While this does not appear to be the case on the surface, mentally Murray appears to be in no man’s land—in danger of sinking completely from sight as he begins another journey onto the porous red clay of Europe.

Since he moved into the top five in September of 2008, the Scot has remained on everyone’s radar as they waited for him to make his move to the top of the men’s game. That meant winning a major and improving his ranking.

Many expected Murray to be the next No. 1 after Federer and Nadal, lauding his considerable talent.

Since 2008, Murray has held steadfast in the top four, except for a few intermittent weeks when he dipped into the five spot. Now, however, a steady diet of the No. 5 ranking has occurred since January of 2011, with Robin Soderling seemingly ensconced in the No. 4 spot.

Since making the finals of the 2011 Australian Open and losing to Novak Djokovic in straight sets 4-6, 2-6, 3-6, Murray has not won a match. The Scot was summarily dismissed in his opening round of play against Marcos Baghdatis at Rotterdam,

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High Notes for the Past Ten Champions at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami 3

Posted on March 21, 2011 by JA Allen

The Sony Ericsson Open gets underway this week in Miami.

The blueprint for the Sony Ericsson Open existed long before the tournament materialized as part of the tennis landscape in the United States––more specifically in Miami.

The man who pursued the dream and saw it through to its often-complicated conclusion was Butch Buchholtz, a former tennis pro who toured with such notables as Pancho Gonzalez and Jack Kramer back in the 1960s.

On February 4, 1985 after years of negotiations with the ATP and WTA, the first ball was served in a combined tennis event called the International Players Championships sponsored by Lipton.

Tim Mayotte and Martina Navratilova were its first two winners. In fact the final featured Chris Evert and Navratilova and the stands were jam-packed.

The inaugural tournament was held at Delray Beach.

After relocating a few times, the tournament finally settled in the newly constructed Tennis Center at Crandon Park in Miami-Dade Country in 1989. In 1994 came the addition of a $20 million permanent stadium.

Andre Agassi holds the record for the men having won this title six times in his career.  The next closest male is Pete Sampras who won this title three times.  Ivan Lendl won the title twice.

Current players Andy Roddick and Roger Federer have also won this title twice.

Current top seed and top-ranked Rafael Nadal has never won the title at the Sony Ericsson Open.  Perhaps this year?

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Will Rafael Nadal Still Be Ranked World No. 1 in December? 4

Posted on March 17, 2011 by JA Allen

Roger Federer battles Rafael Nadal for the No. 1 ranking.

Men’s tennis hierarchy is ruled by a complex system of ranking points. This is why players are relentless on court, fighting for the maximum number of points available in each tournament.

Being in the top 10 in men’s tennis brings money, fame and fortune plus an advantageous starting point in each tournament.

Since the inception of the ATP ranking system in 1973, 24 men have held the No. 1 ranking with Pete Sampras holding it the longest and Patrick Rafter holding it the shortest amount of time.

Roger Federer holds the record for the most consecutive weeks at No. 1 at 237 weeks.

Since the time Sampras gave up his hold on the No. 1 ranking in 2000, 6 different men held the No. 1 ranking until Roger Federer succeeded to the top in 2004.

After February of 2004, only two players have held the No. 1 spot, Roger Federer and the current No. 1, Rafael Nadal.

The question is, how long will these top two fight it out and hold onto the top spot? Many feel their period of domination is coming to an end and that there is an opportunity for someone to topple Nadal from the top spot.

Starting with the current tournament at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, what will it take to knock off the current king of the mountain, Rafael Nadal, and who will be able to accomplish it?

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rocky Colavito: Super Slugger
      March 30, 2020 | 7:24 pm
      Rocky Colavito

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was just the fifth player in Major League Baseball history to have 11 straight seasons with 20 or more home runs, yet could not sustain that greatness long enough to earn a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

      In some sense, the legend of Rocco “Rocky” Colavito Jr. began long before he ever started pounding home runs at the major league level.

      Born and raised as a New York Yankees fan in The Bronx, Colavito was playing semipro baseball before he was a teenager and dropped out of high school at 16 after his sophomore year to pursue a professional career. The major league rule at the time said a player could not sign with a pro team until his high school class graduated, but after sitting out for one year, Colavito was allowed to sign at age 17.

      Read more »

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