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Federer? Nadal? 10 Men Who Can Win the Australian Open, Part 2 2

Posted on January 12, 2011 by JA Allen

No. 5: Robin Soderling

Swede Robin Soderling is "red hot" coming into the 2011 Australian Open.

The Swede made a name for himself by pulling off the biggest upset in the history of men’s tennis, in many people’s estimation.

This occurred when Soderling dismissed Rafael Nadal in the fourth round of the French Open in 2009.

It stunned Nadal and his fans when this upstart from Sweden stopped Nadal from winning his fifth consecutive French Open title.

Based on his play at the French and subsequent tournaments, Soderling rose into the men’s top ten at the end of 2009 and has remained there since that time.

Currently ranked world No. 4, Soderling will be seeded No. 4 as the 2011 Australian Open gets underway on January 17th. The odds on his winning have risen to 20-1.

But the Swede has never done well at the Australian Open.  In fact, he has never progressed beyond the second round.

Much of this has to do with the number of serious injuries Soderling has endured over the years since he broke into the men’s tour.

Even when he played, however, Soderling was plagued with nagging shoulder and knee problems.  This kept the Swede from playing his best. The lack of complete health lasted through 2008.

In 2009, Soderling began to find success and score victories on tour.

Even though he lost early to an unseeded Marcos Baghdatis at the 2009 Australian Open, Soderling made it to the finals of the French Open where he lost to Roger Federer.

Read the rest of this entry →

Ranking Tennis in 2010: The Top 10 Performances, Part 1 0

Posted on December 21, 2010 by JA Allen

Rafael Nadal's victory over Roger Federer in Madrid clinched his clay court supremacy in 2010.

2010 proved to be an exceptional year in tennis, as the No. 1 mantle changed owners in the men’s and the women’s game.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams who both entered 2010 ranked No. 1 dropped out of the top spot.

Roger will end the year with the No. 2 ATP ranking while Serena will end her year as No. 4 in the WTA.

But many significant performances––some for a match and some for a season––shaped a very controversial, entertaining year on the tennis courts of the world.

The ranking of these respective performances is subject to interpretation. Perhaps even attempting to put them in any particular order is a waste of time.

Regardless, all 10 are significant in assigning superlatives to the 2010 season.

Preamble: A Toast To the 2010 Tennis Match That Refused To Die

John Isner defeats Nicholas Mahut, first round, 2010 Wimbledon

2010 gave us the longest match in the history of the game of tennis.

Normally a first round match is nothing more than a formality for seeded players during a grand slam––but not always.

A case in point––American John Isner seeded No. 23 had little expectation concerning the full-scope of this match as he met his opponent Frenchman Nicholas Mahut on Court 18 to contest this opening round match.

The match, however, extended over three days lasting 11 hours, five minutes, and ended at 70-68 in the fifth and final set.

Wimbledon, you see, does not allow for a tiebreak to determine a winner if the match extends to five sets.

After this epic, there was a concern expressed regarding this tradition because these two players suffered physically for a long while after the match concluded.

The world became mesmerized by this drama unfolding daily on an obscure outside court at the All-England Club.

In fact, the match drew vast numbers to watch––people who otherwise would not have spent a moment of their busy lives watching tennis.

Therefore, the networks, and in this case ESPN, loved it.

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Final 2010 ATP Power Ranking: Roger Federer Rules 1

Posted on December 09, 2010 by Marianne Bevis

Roger Federer captures WTF in London against Rafael Nadal.

The World Tour Finals in London brought the climax to the tennis season that most fans dreamed of.

And as a result, there will be only one story in the tennis headlines for the rest of 2010.

With apologies to the Serbian and French men now summoning up their final reserves of energy for the Davis Cup final, it looks set to be the Roger-and-Rafa show from now until the next Grand Slam in Australia.

One or other of them has topped the tennis rankings for the last seven years and, despite the occasional flurry of excitement as Novak Djokovic overtook a Federer finding his way back from illness in early summer and the musical chairs between Djokovic, Andy Murray and Robin Soderling in the closing months of the year, Roger and Rafa have opened clear water of more than 3,000 points between themselves and the following three.

Nadal—riding high on his best ever season—can now begin to see the super-Swiss in his rear-view mirror, despite remaining over 3,000 clear. Only right, then, that they should fight it out at the bitter end in a bitter London.

But below them, only 455 points separate Nos. 3, 4 and 5, and barely a 1,000 separates the rest of the top 10. These bare statistics, though, cannot disguise the drama that has surrounded the top two protagonists in the last 12 months.

Just a year ago, Nadal had the worst possible end to 2009 with three Round Robin losses at the World Tour Finals. Last week in London, he won all three, then a pulsating semi against Murray and went the distance in a show-stopping final against Federer.

In the interim, Nadal had won the “Clay Slam,” three out of four Grand Slams, claimed a “career Slam” and opened up a mammoth lead of 4,500 points in the rankings.

Meanwhile, Federer’s year slid from the heights of Grand Slam victory in Melbourne, via a lung infection in the spring, to early exits in three Masters on the bounce to players who had never beaten him before—squandering match points along the way.

He then brought an abrupt end to his record of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semis at Roland Garros. And his fall in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon was the first time he failed to reach the final since 2002.

In July, Federer dropped to No. 3 for the first time since November 2003. Within a month, though, he was back to No. 2 and on the up escalator, finishing the year with a glut of titles and points.

So the Roger-and-Rafa drama was destined to go all the way to the 2010 finishing line, as these two charismatic and charming champions first shared the major ATP end-of-year trophies and then fought for the WTF title in their 22nd match, their 18th final, but only their fourth contest in almost two years.

It was the match between the winners of 21 of the last 23 Grand Slams tournaments. And while the head-to-head odds were in the Spaniard’s favour—14-7—the Swiss had won both their previous indoor encounters, both of them at the year-end tournament.

It turned out to be a nail-biter that swung first Federer’s way, then Nadal’s, then back to the Swiss playing some of his finest tennis of the year. The win has determined the final placing of the 2010 Power Rankings and provides the perfect launch pad to the 2011 season for one of the greatest sporting rivalries of our age.

This final appraisal of the year also provides an opportunity for a review of the high-spots of the crème-de-la-crème: the eight World Tour Finalists.

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Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Soderling Tops Them All After Paris… 2

Posted on November 15, 2010 by JA Allen

Robin Soderling of Sweden won this week's Paris Masters.

Robin Soderling, whose total tennis repertoire stole the show at the Masters in Paris, tops our Power Rankings for the very first time.

The Swede’s 2010 indoor season proved to be the best of his career, ending with his first ATP Master’s 1000 win.

Soderling, along with many of the world’s top players, fought hard throughout the Fall in order to qualify for the season-ending championships.

As the culminating event of a very long year in tennis, the eight top-ranked men in 2010 will begin play at the World Tour Finals in London on Sunday, November 21.

The eight who have qualified: (1) Rafael Nadal (2) Roger Federer, (3) Novak Djokovic, (4) Robin Soderling, (5) Andy Murray, (6) Thomas Berdych, (7) David Ferrer, and (8) Andy Roddick are almost all featured in our Power Pankings.

Only Berdych failed to make the list, suffering a bit of a slump at the end of this year.

The next question facing the tennis-loving public is—who will win the World Tour Finals (WTF) in London?

Much will depend, of course, on the draw. But with the top eight doing combat, no opponent will be easy.

Judge for yourself as you consider the following candidates:

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Men’s Tennis Power Rankings: Rafael Nadal Soars Seeking World Tour Crown 2

Posted on September 23, 2010 by Marianne Bevis

Nadal celebrates winning his first U.S. Open and a career grand slam.

It was the day after the Australian Open. Rafael Nadal had slipped, in the space of a fortnight, from No. 2 in the world to No. 4, and was almost 4,000 points off the Federer pace.

But you can’t afford to turn your back for a moment in this fast-changing game of tennis.

Take the last two months. Wimbledon—and the grass season with it—came to an end. The normal hiatus that follows the frenetic action between the clay Masters and London is usually a welcome oasis in the middle of the tennis year. But this year, there has barely been time to draw breath between the clay, the grass, and the hard-court seasons.

First, France celebrated a famous win over champions Spain in the Davis Cup.

No fewer than three top players ditched their coaches: Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Murray, and Stanislas Wawrinka. Another, renowned for ploughing his own furrow, suddenly took on a coach: Roger Federer.

A handful of players had one last fling on clay before the rigors of the North American hard courts took over the tour—and that helped to ensure that the top three places in the Power Rankings would be filled by Spaniards: Rafael Nadal, Nicolas Almagro, and Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Many others turned early to their preparations for the U.S. Open Series on the searing courts of Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Washington.

The big names, though, kept their powder dry until the two Masters that provide the test-bed for the final Major of the year in New York.

They reaped the rewards for that reticence, too. Federer won the Masters in Cincinnati, Andy Murray took the Masters in Toronto, and Nadal shared the honors at the U.S. Open with Novak Djokovic.

So, yes, some things change fast. For every Mikhail Youzhny and Stanislas Wawrinka who has gate-crashed this month’s Power Rankings (PRs), there has been an exit by an early hard-court bloomer such as Tomas Berdych and Sam Querrey.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. The second and third in the world, Djokovic and Federer, who were outside these rankings in August, are back again, ranked—you guessed it, second and third.

And that man who trailed by 4,000 points back in February? He’s now the one with clear water between him and the rest: on top of world. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…

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Picking Up The Pieces After A Disappointing Wimbledon 2

Posted on July 11, 2010 by Rob York

Defending champion Roger Federer lost in the quarterfinals of the 2010 championships.

Last time we looked at those who either met or exceeded their Wimbledon expectations. However, one player’s success at a major comes at another’s expense, and a surprise victory by one guy requires him to disrupt another’s plans. Here are some guys who left SW19 with regrets, and what we can expect from them on firmer footing.

Roger Federer: There certainly have been better times to be The Great Swiss. After a triumphant turn Down Under, Federer has not won a single tournament and has lost at the quarterfinal stage of the last two majors. That said, when one looks at each of the matches he’s lost this year —from Marcos Baghdatis in Indian Wells to Lleyton Hewitt in Halle—one sees that each match was competitive.

Even his four-set loss to Tomas Berdych at the All-England Club went four sets and Federer had break points as the Czech was trying to serve the match out. This indicates that a piece of the puzzle is missing, and if he finds it he’ll be back in the last weekend of majors.

I can’t tell you what that piece is, though; if Federer could tell us we probably wouldn’t be having to ask him about it. Read the rest of this entry →

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