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It’s only been a week? With the likes of Federer, Serena and Kim out of order, Murray and Coach Lendl making headlines and a battle for No. 1 already shaping up, it’s hard to believe that we’re just entering the second week of the season. I’m trying out a theory that Olympic years bring on more tennis drama than others, as the Games drive high-strung pros crazy both practically (scheduling, fitness, logistics) and mentally (Olympic glory is on the line! Your entire country is watching, waiting and hoping!) Just like the players, we tennis fans need to pace ourselves. Based on this week alone, 2012 is going to be a doozy.
Here’s a review of the past globe-hopping week.
Hopman Cup. Everyone’s favorite mixed exo, right? I love watching stuff like this:
I don’t think it was Caro’s ace that put him in a bad mood – Mardy Fish was in a deep funk at this tournament, and made headlines for his “bad boy” behavior (really, Mardy?). He needed three sets to beat Wozniacki’s partner, the No. 236 ranked Frederik Nielsen, which was the only match he won at the tournament. Those were the only two sets he ended up winning in Perth, and he complained to the press: “I don’t feel like there was an off-season.” His frustrations boiled over during his final day of play, which featured a supposedly “meaningless” meeting between Teams USA and Bulgaria. Yet Fish grew mighty peeved at young Grigor Dmitrov during their singles match – I’m guessing Grigor’s understandable relish in beating his first top 10 player 6-2, 6-1 got on Mardy’s nerves – and the 30 year old American received a code violation for spitting in the direction of the Bulgarian fans. Always a class move, especially in an exhibition. The arguing continued during the mixed doubles, along with some unnecessary (tennis) shots to the body. So much for a hit and giggle. In the end, it was yet another loss for Team USA. Some footage below:
The Hopman Cup final pitted a wacky French team made up of Marion Bartoli and Richard Gasquet vs. the Czech Hammers, Thomas Berdych and Petra Kvitova. The Czech’s won, and are now the top contenders for Mixed Olympic Gold in my opinion. Look out, Serena and Andy!
I was going to post the typical trophy shot, but I think this one is more entertaining.
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All eyes are on Petra as she heads into Sydney for this week’s final warmup. Should she win it, she’ll take the No. 1 ranking from Caroline Wozniacki. Ideally, it will come down to next weekend’s final, as Caro is also playing in the tournament. Petra is fresh off a 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-4 victory over the No. 1 at Hopman Cup.
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But back to this weekend’s winners: Andy Murray won the men’s title in Brisbane, taking out the No 15 ranked Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-3 in the final. Coach Llendl was in the stands, a sight that will grow familiar in the next few weeks.
With at least two of the top three guys looking less than their best so far this season, it appears that Murray’s as poised as he’s ever been to . . .well I really don’t need to finish that sentence, do I?
Murray’s confident that the big boys will be ready to go by Melbourne (via Tennis.com):
“Before the U.S. Open, Rafa was struggling, Roger’s got a bad shoulder, Novak’s not playing well. Every time it’s the same guys in the semifinals and finals of a Slam,” Murray told reporters after winning the title in Brisbane. “Roger will be absolutely fine, just like Novak was at the U.S. Open. A lot of times you can take precautions, two weeks before a Slam, that’s normal. Rafa [who lost to Gael Monfils in the Doha semis] normally doesn’t play his best tennis the first week of the year. They’ll all be playing their best tennis in Australia because that’s where they plan on playing their best tennis. I’m not different from that, either.”
On the women’s side, Kaia Kanepi beat Daniela Hantuchova 6-2, 6-1, in the women’s final in Brisbane. Ranked No. 34, Kanepi’s performance this week makes her a legitimate draw buster in Melbourne. On the way to the final, she bageled opponents Pavlyuchenkova and Schiavone and fed a breadstick to Andrea Petkovic.
In Auckland, Zheng Jie won her first title in five and a half years when opponent Flavia Pennetta retired in the final with a back injury.
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Speaking of back injuries, I’m relieved that Roger’s trophy doesn’t look too heavy. Though he’d pulled out of the tournament due to back spasms before his semifinal match in Doha, Roger was on hand during the Qatar Open final this weekend and was even honored with the tournament’s former champions after the match. Poor Jo just can’t keep Roger out of his trophy ceremonies! I’m sure the semifinal walkover Roger gave him put Jo in a forgiving mood after he took out Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-3 for the title. Monfils scored a convincing semifinal win over Rafael Nadal in his semifinal match.
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It’s always fantastic when one of the sport’s most promising young talents wins a title. It’s even more exciting when it happens just a week before a Major, and against a top 10 player to boot. Canadian rising (super?) star Milos Raonic took out Janko Tipsarevic 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 7-6(4) in a hard fought match that lasted over three hours. This is Milos’s second career title since turning pro in 2008. In an interesting comparison, tour veteran (since 2001) and current World No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic also has two career titles, both won last year. Janko called Milos “a special player” in his post match comments, and I agree. Janko won a great consolation prize: the doubles title with partner Leander Paes.
This week the men are playing ATP tournament in Sydney (Del Potro, John Isner) and Auckland (Ferrer, Verdasco and the one-to-watch-again Donald Young.) There’s also the loosey, goosey Kooyong Classic warm up exhibition in Melbourne, which features this weekend’s winners Berdych, Tomic and Tsonga as well as Roddick, Fish, Melzer, Monfils and Tomic. On the ladies’ side, nine of the top ten head the women’s draw in Sydney and Wickmayer headlines Hobart. The Australian Open draw ceremony is on Friday. Onward!