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2010 French Open Final: Can Soderling Beat Nadal Again? 2

Posted on June 05, 2010 by Rob York

Rafael Nadal and Robin Soderling will be meeting in the French Open for the second straight year.

In the absence of yet another clash between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the best Roland Garros final we could probably have asked for was this one, as Nadal seeks to overcome the only man to have ever beaten him on French clay.

That man, Robin Soderling, has added to his number of high-profile wins, but on Sunday seeks to become more than just an answer to a trivia question.

Robin Soderling

Last year the big Swede Soderling played the role of Ivan Drago or, for the more realistic, George Foreman, the heavyweight whose sheer puissance overwhelmed all obstacles, including his own lack of variety.

Sure, Nadal wasn’t at the top of his game, but a lot of that had to do with Soderling not allowing him to play his best. The Swedish clubber crushed so many forehands, drove so many two-handed backhands up the line and serve so huge that all the best clay court defender of our day could do was try to hang on. Read the rest of this entry →

Why Rafael Nadal May Be Watching the Weather 1

Posted on May 31, 2010 by Rob York

Rain could play a role in the outcome of the French Open.

At the U.S. and Australian Opens, rain prompts an immediate stop in play–followed by the employment of the roof Down Under. Any tennis player dumb enough to play on wet asphalt is asking for a turned ankle, or maybe worse.

The grass of Wimbledon isn’t quite as risky in the rain, but you still won’t see players stay on it should the drops start falling; concrete or not, no one enjoys falling on their hind ends, especially when hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent cultivating an image of them as great athletes.

The clay of Roland Garros is different. Sure, if the rain starts falling in buckets, the players will ask off of it, because no serious competitor likes playing in mud. If the downpour is light, though, play can continue with relatively low risk of the players hurting themselves.

A little rain, though, can make plenty of difference in what kind of conditions the players find on court.

Just ask Andy Murray. The Scotsman is no one’s clay court specialist, but he remains the game’s premier counterpuncher, utilizing speed, touch, and court sense to keep harder hitters off balance. That’s what he did to Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic in Australia. That’s what he would have liked to have done to Tomas Berdych in their fourth round encounter on Sunday. Read the rest of this entry →

Top 9 Female French Open Finalists: Chris Evert Best of the Best 5

Posted on April 21, 2010 by JA Allen
Chris Evert is No. 1 for the Ladies Tour at the French Open

Chris Evert is No. 1 for the Ladies Tour at the French Open

How do you measure the greatness of an athlete within their respective sport? What factors determine the degree of greatness over a period of time––years or decades?

Further, how do you determine who is No. 1 in any given list or ranking? First you must find a pattern and then you must determine the significant components of the ranking––does each factor merit being used as part of the overall equation?

Sometimes it does, without question––like the score in a game. The highest or lowest score wins as in football or golf.

It is not always a simple task to determine who is the greatest because such discussions invariably have subjective components.

For this ranking, first consider the number of times a woman made it to the French Open finals since 1968 (Open Era) as the initial demarcation of greatness. To be considered she must have made it to the finals of the French Open at least 3 times.

Within the number of appearances, measure the wins against the losses in a given number of tries.

No. 1 Chris Evert ––Nine French Open Finals

Chris Evert winning seven of nine final appearances remains the undisputed leader on the clay at the French Open in Paris surpassing even her male counterparts in some estimations.

Evert won 7 French Open titles in 9 final appearances.

Evert won 7 French Open titles in 9 final appearances.

Clay brought out the strengths of Evert’s game––her patience, determination and her ability to construct points. She was tireless and unflappable on the red clay at Stade Roland Garros––hence her nickname, the Iron Princess.

The fact that she owns the clay court record with an 125-match win streak from 1973-1979 illustrates her prowess on the surface. During that run she lost only seven sets.

It was the one surface on which Evert generally prevailed over her arch-rival Martina Navratilova whose one weakness might have been the slow clay. They met in four finals on the red dirt with Evert coming out on top in three––all Evert’s wins over the Czech were three-set finals.

In all Evert appeared in nine finals at the French Open in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, winning them all except in 1973 and 1984.

Evert’s winning percentage stands at 92.4% [73-6].

Read the rest of this entry →

Top Ten French Open Legends from Agassi to Borg 2

Posted on April 17, 2010 by JA Allen
Top two active French Open finalists, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Top two active French Open finalists, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

What is it about the red clay at Stade Roland Garros that lifts some players to great heights while stopping others dead in their tracks? Is it a lack of patience or mental acumen that causes some great players to shut down on the red dirt?

The fact remains that in order to get to the very top of the men’s game, you must find an answer to the clay courts at the French Open.

For this ranking first consider the number of times a man made it to the finals of the French Open as the demarcation of greatness. Next consider the wins against the losses within a given number of tries.

No. 1 Bjorn Borg––6 French Open Finals

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times in six tries.

Bjorn Borg won the French Open six times in six tries.

Bjorn Borg still reigns supreme in the record books at Stade Roland Garros, even after he retired from the game at age 26 almost 30 years ago. The red dust became the soul of his game. No one before him or since has ruled the red clay in Paris more definitively than the man from Sweden.

Borg won 41 consecutive sets and holds the record at the French Open.

He won the French Open six times starting in 1974––followed by victories in 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980, and 1981. He never lost in a French Open final.

If you think about how many more French Open titles Borg might have won had he continued, the mind boggles because no one was close to defeating him. But then, we will never know––nor should such thoughts linger when estimating his place in tennis history.

Borg’s winning percentage at the French Open was 96% (49-2).

Read the rest of this entry →

Tennis, Sun, and the Mediterranean: It Must Be The Clay Season 6

Posted on April 12, 2010 by Marianne Bevis

IMG_7777_2There’s something about the burnished, shimmering heat rising from the deep rust of a clay court that warms the spirit.

Sure, the tennis Tour started more than three months ago in the heat and humidity of the Asian Pacific swing. January hurtled through five hard-court events in the space of a fortnight on its way to the youthful camaraderie of the Australian Open. The players must feel they are on board a runaway bus, so fast and furious is January.

February, by comparison, offers an assortment of vehicles to destinations in every corner of the world.

Fancy some respite from the punishing hard courts of January? Then head for the grandeur of Latin America and take in some of the most exotic cities in the tennis calendar: Santiago, Costa do Sauipe near Salvador, Buenos Aires, Acapulco.

These courts are the closest the modern game has to traditional clay: deepest orange; little fear of rain; warm scented surroundings.

The fans who support the “Golden Swing” are enthusiastic, informed, and passionate supporters of the many South American and Spanish stars who choose to play. This is, after all, the single oasis of live ATP tennis that the continent has in the year.

Many players prefer to keep their feet on the hard, synthetic surfaces in order to maximise their preparation for the first spike in the Masters calendar: Indian Wells and Miami.

For those, there is the beating sun of South Africa, Dubai, and Florida, or the indoor protection provided by Zagreb, Rotterdam, and Memphis.

But get those March Masters out of the way, and a new atmosphere creeps over the calendar. Because April and May provide the longest, unbroken phase of the year. It’s clay or nothing right up to arguably the classiest of the Grand Slams, the French Open. Read the rest of this entry →

A Reversal in Tennis Fortunes in 2009 as Federer Vs. Nadal on Clay 2

Posted on April 12, 2010 by JA Allen
Roger Federer wins the 2009 final at the ATP Madrid Open against Rafael Nadal.

Roger Federer wins the 2009 final at the ATP Madrid Open against Rafael Nadal.

2009 did not begin well for the man from Switzerland, Roger Federer. He made headlines after the Australian Open––not because he won––but because he cried a river after his loss. As did his fans.

He did everything better than Rafael Nadal except win the big points when it mattered, losing 5-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 2-6. His tears were out of frustration and anger at himself when he felt the match should have been his.

Understandably Federer started the year under pressure––recovering from a back injury suffered in the waning months of 2008. In the early moments of 2009, the World No. 2 lost in the semifinals at Abu Dhabi to Andy Murray. Then he lost again to Murray in the semifinals at Doha. Finally he captured a win in the finals over Stanislav Wawrinka at the exhibition in Kooyong just prior to the Australian Open.

During the lead-up matches to the finals at the 2009 Australian Open, Federer played well enough. He defeated his early opponents in straight sets. In the 4th round he came back from two sets down to defeat Tomas Berdych in five sets. Then he took out both Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Roddick, respectively in the quarterfinals and semifinals to reach the championship match where Nadal awaited.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer pose at the beginning of the 2009 Australian Open final.

Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer pose at the beginning of the 2009 Australian Open final.

After he lost the Australian Open final, Federer blamed his erratic first serve for his loss; but up until the final, the Swiss maestro appeared to be hitting the ball well.

Regardless, he left Australia distraught over this lost opportunity. A win would have pulled him equal to Sampras’ record of 14 grand slam titles.

Feeling he needed additional time to heal from his back injury and as a further precaution, Federer decided to withdraw from Dubai and a much-anticipated Davis Cup tie with the United States.

Read the rest of this entry →

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