How the US Open has flown in – its semi finals day already for the ladies and all too quick the last Slam of the Season is almost done.
Looking ahead to tonights matches, we have Number one Seed Caroline Wozniacki against WImbledon Finalist Vera Zvonareva. Both players will be keen to make another Slam Final and get the chance to take home a title.
Afterwards on Arthur Ashe, we have somewhat of a veterans clash between two times US Open winners Venus Williams and Kim Clijsters.
Ironically, both semi matches are even in the head to head stakes, the younger pair tied at 2 all and the more experienced set at 6 all.
It really is toe to toe out there tonight…with one precious Slam title up for grabs, USA is THE land of opportunity for a certain female tennis pro. Will we have a repeat of last years final (Wozniacki v Clijsters) or a new combination? Only New York time will tell…
Pardon the MJ picture, this is not going to be a review of the film or the cd despite my adulation towards both. This my friends is the final curtain call for tennis fans worldwide, on the eve of the biggest and best event of the year, the Wimbledon Championships in London England. The history, prestige and pomp and ceremony that goes with Wimbledon, tennis fans, this is our time!
For the next two weeks, the World Cup can take a back seat as Murray, Federer, Nadal and Roddick battle to claim the holy grail, the Wimbledon Mens Singles Championships. The coverage of BBC tv is excellent, the website is top notch and BBC 5 Live will be there on every day of the championships, quite simply a tennisistas dream! Can Rafael Nadal reclaim his crown or will Federer wrestle it from his grasp? Can Murray come of age, and be the first home grown player to lift the tournament since Fred Perry in 1936?
In the Ladies draw, the William’s sisters will no doubt fight it out for another title. But Justine Henin who cited the lack of a Wimbledon title as her major ambition of her second career will no doubt have something to say about that. Sharapova has also come into form and then we have Zvonareva, Schiavone, Azarenka, Wozniacki Stosur and Jankvoic.
Over the next 13 days of play, the 2010 Championships will be played out before our very eyes, dont you dare miss any of it!
Day 3 of the French Open and all of the first round matches have been completed in both the mens and womens draws. First round shocks saw clay court favourites Tommy Boredo, Juan Monaco, Feliciano Lopez and hotshot from the European clay season Ernests Gulbis all defeated. Murray showed some enormous character, desire and hunger to come through against hugely talented and in form Richard Gasquet.
In the ladies draw, 10th seed Victoria Azarenka was the first major casualty, some had tipped her to go deep into the draw but she was demolished by mens favourite Gisela Dulko. Safina went out with a wimper against (80 year old) Kimiko Date Kim, not quite as old as that but clearly had enough court craft to keep Dinara at bay. Spains Martinez Sanchez also slumped out against yet another Eastern European with a rather unpronouncable name. The womens is shaping up to be one of the most open events in years, nobody is putting their claim in for the title at this stage, it could be one of ten that could lift the trophy come Saturday week.
Round 2 sees quite a few big names face off. Alicia Kleybanova meets former winner Ana Ivanovic. Sharapova who was ever so impressive against Pervak faces up and coming Kirstin Flipkins, sure to be a good match. Maria is on a bit of a roll having won in a lower tier clay event last week. On the mens side, all the top guys have winnable matches, most of all Rafael Nadal who faces clay courter Horacio Zeballos. Andy Murray having beaten Juan Ignacio Chela in Madrid 2 weeks ago, again faces the Argetinian for a place in round 3. Check out the BBC website or eurosport for live coverage!
The debate surrounding the length of the tennis season is one that never seems to go away and crops up now and again. Its commonplace on tour that top players pull out of the little events or non ranking events such as Davis Cup and Fed Cup. Like a dormant Icelandic volcano, it only takes one eruption before everybody is talking about it once again.
Last Sunday we were treated to an exhibition of clay court wizardry from the master himself Rafael Nadal when he destroyed form player Fernando Verdasco in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters. This was Nadal back to his absolute best, Roland Garros 2010 would be a cake walk if he could continue this form, on average he won every match 6-1 6-2 . No sooner had Rafael lifted the trophy that he announced he had to pull out of his home club event in the City of Barcelona, a lower level ATP event but nonetheless still close to Rafas heart. Rafa cited that his body and more especially his knees needed a break, comeback on hold for now. No doubt he will be back in Rome this week and continue on where he left off in Monte Carlo.
A few days later, we heard that Andy Roddick was to pull out of the mandatory Rome Masters which begins this week ( w/c 26th April) citing personal reasons but expected to be back for the 5th Grandslam in Magic Box in Madrid! In the Fed Cup, Venus Williams followed her sister Serena by declaring she would prefer to rehabilitate her knee than risk further injury heading into the European Clay season. And little Justine isnt immune either as she broke her little pinky during Fed Cup practice and joins Kim Clijsters, Maria Sharapova and Carolina Wozniacki on the sidelines. These are just the top players, goodness knows how many lesser players are carrying injuries into matches, attempting to maintain their world ranking.
There is clearly a huge tug of war between the players and the ATP/ WTA. The governing bodies are constantly trying to promote the sport, create bigger events that attract all the top players and increase the profile of our sport. The players on the other hand have been saying for years that the season is too long, there is no legitimate off season and their physical wellbeing is being affected, causing more injuries and pullouts. The ATP insist that top players play all the Masters events, allowing each player one exemption per year but surely a sport that runs 11 months of the year could do with a break, an annual cooling off period where players can recuperate and rehabilitate. The arguements for starting the Aussie Open later on in the year have been around for years now. Players would avoid the searing heat of the Melbourne summer sun and would provide players with a 5-8 week Christmas break, giving injuries time to heal and preventing burnout from one season to the next.
The flip side is that we allow greater time between the big events. The French Open and Wimbledon are too close together, of that there is no question. Perhaps if we did allow an extra week between these events we would get more of the clay courters playing and competing well at Wimbledon. In August we have a glut of big events, beginning with Cinncinn, then Montreal followed by Flushing; players need preparation for the slams but 2 masters events back to back? surely not. All the top players have their schedules planned well in advance, many of the Top 10 dont trouble themselves with the smaller 250 point events and soley focus on the Slams and the Masters. ATP and WTA try to ensure at least one big name enters each event, which can guarantee extra sponsorship and television money.
In the end it comes down to money, television controls all the slams and masters events and provides a large slice of the prize money. Who can say for sure that players are getting more injuries that in the past, and in saying that who can attribute it to the hectic schedule that we have, surely it would be wrong to blame just one factor when we have all these hard courts, tougher strings, harder balls and better conditioned athletes. Similar to Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, this one could rumble on for ages.