the legend

joyful rogger fedder

Monday, June 29, 2009

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Quotes of the day - Saturday 27 June 2009

Photo Titled Ana Ivanovic
Ana Ivanovic
“It looks so easy when he steps on the court. It looks so easy, doesn't it? And I think he's such a great champion. I mean, I was so thrilled for him when he won French Open. I actually had little tears in my eyes when he was doing the speech.”

Ana Ivanovic, just another victim of the Roger Federer effect. Tissues at the ready if the Swiss man triumphs at Wimbledon again to break Pete Sampras’ Grand Slam record.

“That's a good idea. You know, I was thinking maybe I could, like, totally get a permanent one. So maybe you'll see me with one that's just not tape, that's neoprene and Velcro and all that good stuff. So you never know.”

Venus Williams getting a little too attached to that mysterious leg strapping of hers.

“Usually they don't pronounce it correctly. It's taken them so long to get it right. I don't even try to tell them any more.”

Melanie Oudin forced to live with the perils of being an American national with a French surname.

“If you're not hundred percent fit, then he's gonna make you run like a horse.”

In that case Radek Stepanek will surely be doing all he can and more to make a full recovery for his fourth round match against Lleyton ‘The jockey’ Hewitt after having to apply heavy strapping to his ankle during his victory over David Ferrer.

“Yeah, it's a good ticket, I guess. If you're a tennis fan, that's one ‑‑ even if you don't get on Centre, your grounds pass will do just fine on that day.”

Andy Roddick becomes an honorary member of the Wimbledon marketing team after talking up the second Monday of the Championships.

“Well, it's definitely still a great day.”

Svetlana Kuznetsova content with the consolation of her birthday celebrations after crashing out to Sabine Lisicki.

Federer drops set on way to victory

Photo Titled federer selects
Roger Federer chooses two Slazenger balls to take to the baseline to serve with.
Opting to disregard one of the golden rules of sport kept Roger Federer on Centre Court for rather longer than he would have liked today.

At two sets and a break up on Philipp Kohlschreiber, the Swiss slipped into experimental mood rather than applying the killer touch and paid for it when he dropped his first set of the tournament before bouncing back to win 6-3, 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1. The fact that he laboured for two hours and 31 minutes before sealing a place in the fourth round when he could have been off court in half that time will not be lost on Wimbledon's five-time champion.

There was, it should be stressed, never the slightest danger of Federer going down to a shock defeat but this was not the first time in the opening week that, faced with lesser opposition, he has experimented with tactics in the knowledge that he would not suffer unduly.

The fact that Kohlschreiber, a German Davis Cup player, opts, like Federer, to live in Switzerland might have had something to do with it, but to permit a player with a ranking of 32 back into a match was rather unwise. The German seized his chance with a vigour that turned Federer's serene afternoon into a grumpy one and he suffered the indignity of losing a tiebreak - the first set he has lost to this opponent in three meetings - before he regrouped and belatedly applied the killer thrust.

Kohlschreiber was clinging on like someone stranded in a typhoon

At the start, under skies that were grey but dry and a roof that remained fully open, Federer had imprinted his brilliance on the occasion, breaking twice to go 4-0 ahead in a quarter of an hour. Even at that early stage, the ease of his task persuaded him to sheath the dagger and he was punished as Kohlschreiber, hurtling around energetically, won the next two games.

Thus alerted, Federer closed out an opening set, containing six aces, in 37 minutes and, after breaking at the start of the second set, accelerated away in that familiar fashion. Kohlschreiber was clinging on like someone stranded in a typhoon, salvaging two set points on his own serve before Federer imperiously went two sets in front with successive aces.

What followed would not have been part of the game plan of former greats such as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Having broken once again at the start of the third set, Federer started to experiment, perhaps in anticipation of what he might face deeper into the tournament. There was even one weird effort, delivered from a squatting position, that just failed to clear the tape.

Kohlschreiber, who had already shown he was capable of striking some whizzbang winners, took encouragement as he hauled himself back into the match. First he subjected Federer to a six-deuce game to hold serve and then embarked on an inspired run of three straight games to lead 5-4 in the set.

Federer immediately upped his input but, distracted by what he clearly thought was poor line-calling, he went on to lose the tiebreak and promptly left court for a toilet break to regroup.

This move, allied to a change of shirt, helped to do the trick and he hurtled through the fourth set in 29 minutes. Clearly, the lesson had been learned.

Centre Court - Gentlemen's Singles - 3rd Round
Philipp Kohlschreiber GER (27)32771
Roger Federer SUI (2)Winner66656

Federer makes fear factor count

Photo Titled Federer and Kohlschreiber sit it out
Third round opponents Philipp Kohlschreiber and Roger Federer in between games on Centre Court.

The anticipation of the Grand Slam draw must be immense, particularly for the lower seeds who do not always enjoy the privilege of protection at the Masters 1000 tournaments. What does my path to the second week look like? Can I avoid a dangerous floater who is coming back from injury or good on this particular surface? And of course, how far can I theoretically get before Roger/Rafa comes along and spoils my party?

For 28th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, that fateful day came in the third round here at Wimbledon. “When the draw came it I thought it was probably the worst one I could have got,” he said with a philosophical shrug after his 6-3, 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 defeat to the de facto top seed in the absence of Rafael Nadal. “You look to see when you’ve got Federer and then think ‘well that’s the end of the line’.”

Federer, like Nadal, is famously magnanimous about his opponents, toeing the “the match starts at 0-0, you have to respect everyone, anyone can beat you on their day” line as often as not and using those very words in reference to Robin Soderling, against whom he will take a 10-0 head-to-head record into their fourth round meeting next week.

Kohlschreiber, however, was forced to approach the match from the opposite perspective. “When you come out on Centre Court against one of the top guys, you know that 99% of the crowd are for the star. If you play give it your all, you might get some of them on your side, and I think that the applause that I got at the end of the match proved that. I feel they enjoyed the match so I’m very satisfied.”

The match turned at the start of the fourth set. The German had just played some sparkling tennis to come back from a break down to edge a tiebreak and halve the deficit. What happened next was experienced in two entirely different ways by the protagonists.

As far as Federer was concerned, it was an everyday occurrence: “I’ve lost a lot of sets in my career and the main thing is not to lose the match. You just start again and try to get off to a good start.”

Again, Kohlschreiber saw it through different eyes. “I won a set, but that doesn’t pay the rent! And then he did what he always does. He's coming out from the changeover or the toilet and starts with a really good service game. His serving then was unbelievably good.

“It's tough. He always starts everything looking so easy and smooth, but for the opponent, for example me today, I always felt the pressure so much that he's starting the matches very aggressive and puts a lot of pressure [on you]. It's always nice to play against him. It’s just unfortunate that most of the time, you’re going to lose.”

For the lower seeds, it really is a case of the luck of the draw.

Day 7 Preview

Photo Titled Federer breather

so, here we are in the second week of the 2009 Championships and still the biggest deadlock of all has not been broken. The black clouds gathered, the lightning crackled and still it did not rain on Andy Murray's Centre Court parade on Saturday evening. The roof remained stubbornly open although it was a close-run thing.

So then, onward and upward to today's fourth round of the men's and women's singles. This is traditionally the highlight of the tournament's fortnight for those without tickets to the two main courts, since big names are on show all around the ample acreage of Wimbledon.

No chance, alas, for those without Centre Court access to get any closer to Murray's action than the giant screen on Henman Hill once again. Andy is back inside the cathedral of tennis, no doubt fired up to see if he can put Stanislas Wawrinka to the sword as effectively as he speared Viktor Troicki on Saturday. Their rivalry has so far been another close-run thing, with Andy 4-3 ahead, though significantly he has won four of their past five meetings.

A Davis Cup stalwart for Switzerland, Wawrinka's career has begun to flourish despite the considerable shadow cast by his nation's number one, Roger Federer. Every year the ranking has moved up, every year he has become more of a threat to the top men. At Monte Carlo in April he even beat Federer, for heaven's sake. So again we will be hearing the words "tough" and "respect" from Andy about this next opponent, despite the fact that he is producing the sort of wizardry that could land him a starring role in any future Harry Potter movie.

In Murray's section of the draw, the top half still contains some pretty useful gunslingers, none more experienced than Lleyton Hewitt, the 2002 champion, and none more dangerous than a resurgent Andy Roddick, the runner-up here in 2004 and again in 2005. France's Gilles Simon, the eighth seed, had advanced so quietly he might have donned carpet slippers to get this far, and at a cost of only one set.

Croatian Alp Ivo Karlovic produces aces the way ice cream vans dispense cornets

Hewitt, battling and bellowing loud enough to set his cricket colleagues an example for the forthcoming Ashes series, has been a revelation so far. Three matches played, nine sets won. It's the Lleyton of old and it is difficult to see the Czech, Radek Stepanek, the 23rd seed, resisting this Aussie flood tide, especially since he was frequently taking treatment as he laboured through five sets against David Ferrer on Saturday.

What a smart move it was of the All England Club to offer Juan Carlos Ferrero a wild card this year. An acknowledged great, his Grand Slam was nevertheless achieved on the clay of Roland Garros, but the 29-year-old Spaniard could yet match - or even exceed - his quarter-final place in 2007. At this rate Rafael Nadal won't be missed too much, and those Spanish tennis journalists who opted out because of Rafa's withdrawal may yet be left looking a little foolish.

Having blunted Fernando Gonzalez and his boom-boom forehand in the semi-darkness of No.1 Court on Saturday, Juan Carlos (named by his parents after the nation's king) next takes on the softly , softly man, Simon.

On the face of it Roddick, seeded sixth, should have no trouble marching on past today's opponent, the 20th-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych, except that Berdych, rather like Simon, has been gliding through the field so far and has not conceded a set in three rounds. Can the American's master blaster style disrupt this? All tennis fans in the United States will hope so, for he is their last man.

Roger Federer, aiming for that record 15th Grand Slam, will not be unduly worried about his upcoming contest with Robin Soderling. After all, his win over the Swede in the Roland Garros final earlier this month was his 10th in succession. But he may be more concerned about the possibility of running into the Croatian Alp, Ivo Karlovic, who produces aces the way ice cream vans dispense cornets. And still in there in the lower section of the draw is Novak Djokovic, still busy becoming friends with his new racket but making a better job of it all the time.

If the USA is coming up short in the men's event, things are inevitably looking better in the women's singles because of the Williams sisters. But the fact that the USA has three in the last 16 is an eye-opener, thanks to the 17-year-old qualifier from Marietta, Georgia, Melanie Oudin, who ousted an ailing Jelena Jankovic on Saturday. Now Melanie can contemplate even more spectacular inroads, since she next meets Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, who is seeded 11th. It should be easy enough when you realise that Jankovic was the sixth seed.

But in the world of reality, it is that incredible sister pair, Venus and Serena, who continue to dominate even though the opposition is getting more demanding. Serena takes on the unseeded Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia, who can point to one victory in their previous seven matches, while Venus has been only marginally less successful against her fourth round opponent, Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, the 2008 French Open champion, having won five out of six.

The new brigade, led by Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, may still have a while to go before they can realistically expect to usurp the Williams dominance, not that they will admit such a thing since they are very much alive and kicking in the fourth round

So, too, is the world number one and top seed, Dinara Safina, three times a Grand Slam finalists and never yet a winner. She must now face someone who has won two majors, Amelie Mauresmo, the 2006 champion here, who may be pleasantly surprised at her progress this year following some thin times - and hard times - of late. Allez Amelie!

Preview: V. Williams v Ivanovic

Photo Titled Ana Ivanovic
Ana Ivanovic
Photo Titled Venus cools down
Venus remains cool during her straight sets victory over Carla Suarez Navarro.
Ana Ivanovic has got her head up just at the moment, and she’s feeling increasingly confident, despite making heavy going of her first match against Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic. She reckons she has got a fair chance in her fourth round match against defending champion and third seed, Venus Williams.

And if appearances were to be believed, 13th seed Ana could be forgiven. Venus has had her left leg taped up for most of the week. But she has been teasing the press about it, batting away any thought of injury, insisting that it’s just comfortable and supportive.

She joked: “I was thinking maybe I could get a permanent one. So maybe you'll see me with one that's neoprene and Velcro and all that good stuff. You never know.”

Maybe it is a new fashion item, because it certainly has not hampered her performance as she has swept cleanly through her first three rounds without dropping a set.

Their head-to-head record is 5-1 in 29-year-old Venus’s favour, but their only meeting on grass was here at Wimbledon in the 2007 semi-finals, which Venus won in straight sets, before going on to win The Championships. What Venus remembers of her encounter with the Serb is that “we had a lot of great exchanges. I just remember playing aggressively”.

She said: “Obviously she's talented. I think this is a good surface for her; as far as her game [goes], she does everything well.”

And Ana has been watching Roger Federer to pick up tips playing on grass, and feels it suits her game. The 21- year-old has already said she is playing better tennis than ever before, even compared to when she was ranked number one in the world, 12 months ago.

She’s now playing ranked at No. 12, and is relishing the encounter with Venus. That last time, Ana said, “was the only time we played on the grass, and it's so different. She likes to go for her first shot. She likes to dominate the points. I just think I have to try to make a lot of returns. And ,obviously, it's going to be important for me to serve well in that match because she has great first serves. So if I can hold on to my serve and then put pressure on her, that would be a key.”

Ana continued: “She's very dangerous opponent, but I think I have a great chance, and I feel very comfortable going in that match. I'm so excited to have opportunity for that challenge."

It would be good for Venus to have some stiff opposition, so let’s hope Ana is playing as her recently mature and newly-focused self.

Preview: Federer v Soderling

Photo Titled Federer on the slide

Last year’s Wimbledon rematch of the French Open Final took place on the final day of The Championships. It was a match that upset the tennis world order and things haven’t been the same since. Rafael Nadal’s victory ended Roger Federer’s five-year domination at the All England Club, and it set in train a series of events that led to Nadal usurping Federer as the world No.1 and much more.

Monday’s French Open final rematch between Federer and Robin Soderling could upset the tennis world order even more...but only if Soderling wins. Since winning at Roland Garros and given his serene progress through the draw so far, Federer is being inked in by many as the 2009 champion.

Federer has never lost to the Swede in 10 encounters but, then again, Soderling knows something about springing a surprise. To reach the French Open final, he became the only man ever to beat Nadal at Roland Garros.

“If you asked me before Paris, I would say he's definitely more dangerous on grass than on clay, but then you saw all those great matches he played in Paris and you're worried, too,” Federer said.

”So he's definitely proven his point that he's a good all‑around player. I haven't actually thought about the match at all yet. But I think it's going to be interesting to see how he's going to enter that match after coping with such a long tournament in Paris and see how fresh he still is. But I've played him here in the past, and I've played him on grass a few times now.

“I've had success against him, but I know the danger because he hits extremely hard.”

This is uncharted territory at Wimbledon for Soderling, who will take heart from having beaten Nadal at the French Open.

He said: “Maybe it's the same challenge. It's very tough to beat Rafa on clay, and it's as tough to beat Roger on grass. But I made it once. We'll see. It's going to be a tough match, for sure.”

Soderling has never made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon before, but until Paris three weeks ago, he had never been in the final of an outdoor tournament. If the roof is closed over Centre Court and Soderling is technically indoors, could he upset the tennis world order again?

Murray happy to let others get excited

Photo Titled Murray roar
Andy Murray thrills fans during his third round win over Serbia's Viktor Troicki

In case you haven’t noticed, Andy Murray is through to the fourth round of Wimbledon. That means he has won three games of the seven he needs to become Wimbledon champion. That means he is into the second week of The Championships. That means, if you are British, especially a member of the British media, you can get as excited as you want.

Just don’t expect the level-headed Murray to join in that excitement with so much of the job still to be done. As he explained at the press conference following his romp to victory over Viktor Troicki: “The expectation for me is I'm going to try my best to win the tournament. But it's the people that are in the media, in the press, and the people that read it who are the ones that see the expectation getting bigger or greater.

“It's just one of those things you have to get used to dealing with. It hasn't troubled me this week. I'd be very surprised if it did next week."

Murray’s opponent on Monday is Stanislas Wawrinka, the 19th seed. Murray leads 4-3 in head-to-head encounters, but since 2008 that record is a more lop-sided 4-1 in Murray’s favour. The pair have never met on grass.

Wawrinka is also a regular practice partner of Murray’s. However, the Scot said that will not change his approach to the match.

“I think when you go on the court you're there to compete, regardless of whether you're friends or not. It doesn't change the way you go into the match,” Murray said.

“You kind of know each other's games a little bit better than you might know some of the others that you don't hit with and you don't see around that much. But won't make a difference on Monday, I don't think.

“He's a very solid all court player. He's got a solid serve. He moves well, is good off the baseline. He doesn't come to the net too much. But when he does, I mean, he won the Olympic gold doubles, so he can obviously volley reasonably well.

“He does everything good. He doesn't have one shot in particular that's a huge weakness. I'm going to have to play a tough match to beat him.”

When asked to rate his performance over the first week, Murray said his performances were “pretty solid” and he was “very happy” that he had won his three matches. He added he was “slightly more comfortable this year than last year”. His philosophy is a simple one, but if it pays off it will bring huge rewards.

“It's just about winning the matches. I don't feel any different to how I did at this stage last year. You just try and win a match every couple of days, and that's really the goal. I don't think anything different.”

'I'm playing my best tennis ever,' says Ana

Photo Titled Ana cool under pressure
Ana Ivanovic glides into the second week with a straight sets victory over Samantha Stosur.

Having summarily dismissed her third round opponent, Samantha Stosur, 7-5, 6-2, the 13th seed Ana Ivanovic is oozing confidence, calm and poise and believes she is playing better now than when she was ranked world number one.

“I think my game is probably even better than it was," she said. "I feel also much more experienced and much more mature in some way. I went through a lot over the past year, being number one, having some disappointing losses and some tough times. That made me stronger and made me appreciate some things, not to take every match you win for granted, but just to appreciate the hard work that was put in.”

Talking of her victory over Stosur, she said: “I think my tactics and my game plan prevailed over my emotions. That's something I'm really happy about. I stuck with my plan and kept playing the best I can every point.”

Grass is also providing new-found pleasure for Ivanovic. She is enjoying playing on it, and says she’s been making changes in the way she approaches this very specific surface. “I worked a little bit on consistency in my game and just being more patient. That's what I try to apply in my matches this week. It's been working well. So I just want to stick with that and try to realise I have to hit few more shots in a rally, but I'm fine with it.”

Having taken a few tips from watching a certain Roger Federer, Ivanovic feels she’s beginning to get to grips with what is needed to do well. She said: “I think my game suits grass very well. This is the first year that I feel I'm starting to use grass for my advantage, and trying to work it”, adding: “Federer does that so good. So it was great to see, and it gave me encouragement.”

Ivanovic will now play defending champion and number three seed Venus Williams in the next round, having met her here previously in the semis two years ago. "I'm very excited” to play Venus, she said. “She plays really well here and the last two years here she's the champion.” She added: “I’ve felt like every match I was playing better and better, and that's what you want to feel going into the second week of a Grand Slam.”

Ivanovic will undoubtedly need to draw on that newly-found maturity if she wants to get past Venus, although she is optimistic. “She's a very dangerous opponent, but I think I have a great chance and I feel very comfortable going into that match.”

Quick-witted Roddick raises a smile

Photo Titled Roddick drive
American No. 1 Andy Roddick keeps his eye on the ball to drive a forehand past his third round opponent Jurgen Melzer.

Andy Roddick has two habits when he enters a post-match press conference. The first is to walk in quickly, clutching a match statistics sheet. The second is to fire off quick-witted answers at the press pack.

Catch him on a bad day and you know about it – his witty tongue turns sharp and acidic. Catch him on a good day and he will split your sides, which is exactly what happened this afternoon as he addressed the media following his four-set defeat of Jurgen Melzer.

Sure enough A-Rod walked in holding the familiar piece of paper and sure enough he got asked questions about it. The newly-wed revealed he closely studies his first-serve percentage and points won receiving second serves. “The other one is just feeding my curiosity,” he said.

When asked whether he thought there were any stats in tennis that weren’t so useful, he answered no. That was until another reporter piped up, “Federer is one of the worst challengers. Does that surprise you?” to which Roddick quipped: “I just found an irrelevant stat.” The newsroom was in stitches.

On the subject of whether the American liked or disliked the press, the 26-year-old shot back “Depends on the person.” The journalist in question quickly retorted that a press conference is made up of several people. A-Rod quipped: “Thank you for clarifying,” prompting much amusement.

But for a moment, the American turned serious and admitted that he has a “pretty good time” with the media. “I appreciate the banter,” he said. “I hate to give all of you big heads, but I appreciate your place. I think we’re all under the same roof on trying – no pun intended – of trying to get the game out there. I definitely understand the give-and-take between the two.”

And he couldn’t help but smile when one journalist pointed out his great tiebreak record this year and asked whether Roddick felt a little mojo when he gets to that stage in a match. “I don’t know if I agree with your word usage, but that was cute,” he laughed.

To which end, he hurried out of the interview room still analysing that piece of paper.

Oudin keeps dream alive

Photo Titled Oudin on form
Battling Melanie Oudin upsets the 6th seed Jelena Jankovic in the 3rd round.

After seeing Venus and Serena Williams playing at Wimbledon as a girl, Melanie Oudin said to her mum: “I really want to play there one day.”

Not only has the 17-year-old’s dream come true – this is the American’s maiden main draw appearance ¬ she is on course for a potential meeting with Venus Williams after claiming the scalp of sixth seed Jelena Jankovic 6-7, 7-5, 6-2.

It has been an incredible run for the 17-year-old, who 12 months ago bowed out to eventual winner Laura Robson in the junior event. Only last week she was competing in the qualifying event. Now she finds herself in the second week of Wimbledon.

So how did she handle the pressure of playing on Court 3 against a former world No. 1? “Really well,” she insists. “I was just thinking that she was any other player and this was any other match and I was at any other tournament, not on the biggest stage at Wimbledon playing my first top 10 player.

“I just went out there today and I did my best. It ended up being good enough today, so I’m thrilled.

“My goal has always been, since I was little, to become No. 1 in the world one day. But I know that it’s going to take a lot more work and I’m going to have to get better and better. But I’m willing to work on it.”

Ouden admits she is a big admirer of Justine Henin, the former world No. 1. At 5ft 6in the American is just one inch taller than Henin and it is for this reason that she looks up, or might that be down, to the Belgian. “She’s proven that you don’t have to be six feet tall to be No. 1 in the world and win so many Grand Slams. Her footwork is amazing. Just everything about her.”

Fortunately, Oudin has youth on her side. She has now won six singles matches on the trot, and every main draw match has been a three-setter so the teenager will no doubt relish the middle Sunday rest day. She is remaining upbeat, claiming that every match has fuelled her confidence.

It’s the right attitude to have. Her next opponent is 11th seed Agnieszka Radwanska and if victorious, Ouden could set up a potential all-American quarter-final with Venus Williams if the defending champion wins through.

In fact, Williams was very complimentary about her compatriot. “[She’s] super nice. Just so enthusiastic about tennis and about life, enjoying herself. Very well adjusted. Obviously I saw her Fed Cup win earlier this year. It was really exciting. It was huge in helping us get to the finals. So she’s done some great things.”

The five-time Wimbledon title holder also had some useful words of advice for the potential teenage star. “Just enjoy yourself and keep working hard and doing the things that got you to where you were.”

Hewitt looks ahead to Stepanek

Photo Titled Hewitt on a high
Hewitt on a high

Lleyton Hewitt has been in the round of 16 at Wimbledon before. He has been here every year since 2002, with the exception of 2003 when he lost in the first round. He will play Radek Stepanek, who he beat at the Australian and US Open in 2003.

"He mixes in the serve volley, chip charge. He comes in. He's a good all court player," Hewitt said. "He's dangerous from the back of the court as well. Sort of flashy from the back of the court, similar to Petzschner a little bit: an all court player, moves extremely well. He's very comfortable on this surface, as well."

Stepanek twisted his knee in his third round match against David Ferrer, although he as fit enough to sustain five sets and he hopes to be fit enough for his second appearance in the fourth round.

"If you're not 100% fit, then he's gonna make you run like a horse. So I rather try to do everything possible to be 100% ready for the match," the Czech says.

"I think Lleyton is playing great tennis right now, especially here in Wimbledon. He won it here, so definitely he's got his best experiences. It's gonna be a tough match. He's a great returner. He's passing great. So it will be an exciting match."

Hewitt knows a thing or two about playing with pain. A hip injury forced him to undergo surgery last year and a painful period of rehabilitation that cost him his place among the game's elite.

“I guess when you're at the top of your game and you're number one in the world, you kind of take it for granted, Round of 16s of Slams. 2002, I only lost two sets for the entire tournament, and they were both to Schalken in the quarter-finals. Apart from that, I didn't drop a set, so obviously I played pretty clean tennis that year.

“It's important to play clean tennis to obviously save energy. At the end of the day, you've got to just find a way to get through the first week, as well. You can't win these tournaments in the first week, but you can obviously be knocked out."

Hewitt reached the fourth round with a convincing win over Philipp Petzschner. He has not dropped a set but this time he is the world No.56 and is less than a year back from hip surgery.

“When you're unseeded, it's not always that easy to get the easy draw to come through the Round of 16 and make the second week of these kind of majors. That's what's pleasing this week, is to come through and do it against worthy opponents.

“When I look at the guys in the top five, top 10 in the world, I still feel like I'm good enough to be up there. I think that's probably the motivation.”

“Growing up, these are the places you want to play at. I've been fortunate enough to play well at a lot of these big tournaments. The passion and hunger's still there obviously. The day that that's not there, it is time to hang up the rackets.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

One to watch: Ivo Karlovic

Photo Titled Ivo Karlovic
Ivo Karlovic

Ivo Karlovic knows what people say about him. They say he has just one shot – his serve. Statistics bear this out. This tournament, the Croat has served 102 aces. Andy Roddick, another player with a big serve, has hit 72. At the French Open this year, Karlovic set the record for most aces in a match – 55 against Lleyton Hewitt – in a game he lost.

It is a simple case of physics really. Karlovic at 6’10”, is the tallest player in professional tennis, and his fastest serve has been recorded at 153mph. When a tennis ball is coming at you that fast from that height, it doesn’t matter if your name is Roger Federer, you are going to have trouble getting it back.

That is the whole point of watching Karlovic. In the modern era when people complain that no one plays serve and volley tennis, he plays serve and volley tennis. It’s just that most times he does not have to volley because his serve does enough to win the point.

Nobody has broken Karlovic’s serve at Wimbledon this year. In fact, of his three opponents, only one has created a break point opportunity – Lukas Lacko, who won none of the four he won.

On grass, he can be impossible to play. In 2003, Karlovic, then was ranked 203 in the world, became the first player since 1965 to beat the defending Wimbledon champion on the opening day when he beat Lleyton Hewitt. Alternatively, he is very beatable. Between 2005 and 2008, he did not win a match at the All England Club.

In an era when people complain that everyone plays from the baseline, Karlovic offers something different. No one is saying that it is the prettiest style of tennis, but it is different. Ask Karlovic how he feels to be called a one-shot wonder and he replies: “I like it, because if I can win with only one shot, I'm, I don't know, a genius, so I like it.”

Day 6: Review of the Day

Photo Titled Venus Williams keeps on winning
Venus Williams will be coming back next week after her straight sets victory over Carla Suarez Navarro.

After a week of relative calm at Wimbledon, the storm clouds gathered ominously above the courts of the All England Club on middle Saturday. Despite rumblings of thunder in the distance there were no shocks today on Centre Court with Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and Venus Williams all progressing comfortably to the fourth round.

Murray in particular was in fine form beating Viktor Troicki in straight sets and a little over 90 minutes. Venus Williams too looked strong, avenging a defeat by Carla Suarez Navarro at the Australian Open earlier in the year with a comfortable 6-0, 6-4 victory. Roddick was made to work harder for his win over Jurgen Meltzer but eventually came through in four sets.

The same could not be said elsewhere though, with seeds five and six in the ladies’ singles both crashing out today to unfancied teenage opponents. Sixth seed Jelena Jankovic went out to 17-year-old qualifier Melanie Oudin on Court 3 and French Open winner and fifth seed Svetlana Kuznetsova crashing out to 19-year-old Sabine Lisicki on No.1 Court.

Jankovic received lengthy on-court treatment after feeling dizzy. "I thought I was gonna end up in hospital," she said after her 6-7, 7-5. 6-2 defeat. “I started to shake, I was losing consciousness. I was like a ghost, white in the face, I didn't know where I was. It was a really strange feeling and I started to cry."

Kuznetsova’s 6-2, 7-5 defeat came on the day of her 24th birthday. "I wasn't feeling my comfort at all. I was not moving much and I was not doing my thing," admitted Kuznetsova. "You have got to be quick and at maximum level all the time and I haven't done so today. That's why I lost."

In the men’s draw, seeds 10, 11 and 12 all fell but their defeats were less surprising, with 11th seed Marin Cilic losing his continued match from Friday to Tommy Haas and Nikolay Davydenko beaten by Tomas Berdych seeded only eight places below him at 20.

In the day's last encounter on No.1 Court, tenth seeded Fernando Gonzalez was defeated by wild card Juan Carlos Ferrero in a five-setter that for a while looked like it could be the first match of the tournament to be played under the Centre Court retractable roof. Wimbledon officials announced that the match could be completed under a roof-covered Centre Court, should the weather intervene. However, the move was not required as rain and bad light stayed away, with Ferrero breaking Gonzalez at 5-4 in the deciding set to secure his place in the final 16.

Elsewhere, there were straight sets wins for eighth seed Gilles Simon and Lleyton Hewitt who continued his good run at this year’s Championships. In the ladies’ event, current No.1 Dinara Safina defeated Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, while former world No.1’s Amelie Mauresmo and Ana Ivanovic also got through to Monday’s fourth round.

Jankovic crashes out to young qualifier

Photo Titled Melanie Oudin
Melanie Oudin

A 17-year-old American qualifier ranked 124 dumped the former world number one Jelena Jankovic out of Wimbledon this afternoon. Jankovic, who received prolonged treatment for heat exhaustion and problems with both feet, edged a close first set but then sensationally lost her third round match against the unheralded Melanie Oudin, who won 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 6-2.

There was little doubt that, on paper, this was a match that should have been an absolute breeze for Jankovic, despite the rather extraordinary fact that Oudin had won 19 of her previous 21 matches. By making the third round here, the former world junior number two is already certain to debut in the top 100 when the new rankings are released after Wimbledon. But, nonetheless, this is her first appearance in SW19, and she was facing a huge step-up in class by playing six seed Jankovic.

On the other hand, Oudin had absolutely nothing to lose and, after early nerves allowed Jankovic to break her in the first game, she played as if unburdened by expectation. She was aided by two double faults from the 24-year-old Serb in her own opening service game, which helped Oudin gain a confidence-boosting break back.

The American began showing off her assured groundstrokes and, if either player seemed edgy, it was Jankovic, dumping a smash into the net and complaining to the umpire about spectator noise. At 3-3 Oudin had a poor game. Successive double faults and a weak second serve permitted the break, and at 5-3 Jankovic saw a set point go by. She was making so many unforced errors that she let Oudin back in for 5-5, which prompted more complaints from Jankovic to the umpire, this time about the ballboys and girls.

Jankovic was holding ice to the back of her neck and appeared to be in tears

Meanwhile, Oudin was pounding away most effectively with groundstrokes, pumping her fist and loudly urging herself on with every point won. She even had a set point at 6-5 but it passed, even as Jankovic berated herself about the weakness of her first serve.

Oudin was constructing points well, just occasionally failing with the killer blow. Frankly, Jankovic was lucky to reach the tiebreak, and when she did it was Oudin’s rawness rather than her own experience that saw her home. The American had three set points before she ran out of steam and lost a set in which she produced three times as many winners as her opponent.

Then, quite unexpectedly, at the changeover, the trainer was called and a doctor too. Jankovic was holding ice to the back of her neck and appeared to be in tears. The trainer laid her on a towel and elevated her feet on a chair, taking her pulse and blood pressure. It appeared that Jankovic was feeling the heat and play was halted for more than 10 minutes.

At the resumption, neither player could hold serve until Oudin made it 4-3. At 5-5, despite doughty defence from Jankovic, the American broke through and she made it stick to level the match.

Jankovic called the trainer again and this time received treatment to the toes on both her feet. A marathon opening game of the third set saw Oudin pull off a wonderful drop shot for break point and then force the error from Jankovic for the break. This time she didn’t give it back. Jankovic seemed to be hating every point, and Oudin even broke again for 5-2, screeching her loudest yet: “Come on!” There was no coming back for Jankovic.

Court 3 - Ladies' Singles - 3rd Round
Melanie Oudin USA Winner6876
Jelena Jankovic SRB (6)71052

Jankovic blames defeat on dizzy spell

Photo Titled Jankovic battle
Jelena Jankovic during her hard fought match with Melanie Oudin.
At the start of the 2009 season, Serbia's Jelena Jankovic stood at the summit of women's tennis. Never mind that Serena Williams, who she had replaced as world number one in October 2008, had pointed out rather tartly that Jankovic had still to win a Grand Slam title.

Since then, the 24-year-old from Belgrade, who makes her home in Bradenton, Florida, has slipped from that summit to sixth in the rankings and at Wimbledon today that slip turned into a tumble when she was knocked out in the third round by a 17-year-old American qualifier, Melanie Oudin.

Today's humiliation is the low point of a depressing season, but Jankovic, who received lengthy on-court treatment after winning the first set on the tiebreak, put it down to what she called "some woman problems", adding: "It's not easy being a woman sometimes."

She explained that after the first set she started to feel dizzy. "I thought I was gonna end up in hospital," she said. “I started to shake, I was losing consciousness. I was like a ghost, white in the face, I didn't know where I was. It was a really strange feeling and I started to cry."

Afterwards, she claimed, she lacked the energy to go after her opponent's shots. "No power. I wasn't the same player."

Three years ago this very weekend at the 2006 Championships marked the turn-around point of Jankovic's career. Having lost 10 successive matches earlier in the year and contemplated giving up tennis, she defeated the reigning champion Venus Williams in the third round. She ended that year 12th best in the women's game and 12 months later was ranked third.

Last August, Jankovic became the 18th player in the history of the women's tour to ascend to number one. She was displaced a week later by her compatriot, Ana Ivanovic, who then ceded the position to Serena Williams until the first week of October, when Jankovic took over for the rest of the year.

Jankovic has not been in that form for much of this year. "My goal was to start 2009 even better than 2008, to be fitter, to be stronger, to bring my tennis game to the next level,” she said. “But I started the year in a very bad way, I felt so slow.

"I added some muscle, maybe seven kilos more than I have now, and it didn't really give me results. I didn't feel comfortable on the court. When you don't move well you don't have the balance to hit the ball, it's difficult to stay in the game, which has become much, much stronger than before
"So then the confidence goes down a little bit as well. I also had some personal problems. When you add all these things together, it doesn't give good results. But I'm just trying to stay positive, trying to get back to the position where I can play good tennis and compete and have fun out there."

Venus steps up pace to reach last 16

Photo Titled Venus stretch
Venus Williams stretches for a shot from her Spanish opponent Carla Suarez Navarro.

As the opening week of the 2009 Championhips drew to a close, Venus Williams visibly upped the pace of her challenge for a sixth women's singles title here. Despite paying the penalty for taking her foot off the accelerator in the second set, the 29-year-old third seed motored past the tiny Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0, 6-4 in one hour 21 minutes and had a cheery, positive wave for her Centre Court admirers afterwards.

When these two met on the only previous occasion, at the Australian Open six months ago, it was the 5ft 4in Suarez Navarro who inflicted a shock defeat on Williams in their second round match by proving the more durable in the rallies, especially when she was able to bring her potent single-handed backhand into play.

Today the roles were emphatically reversed, with Venus assuming the control her reputation at Wimbledon merits, especially in the 33-minute first set. And a strange set it was too, with the Spaniard's failure to win a game by no means a fair reflection of her share of play.

Williams was untouchable on serve, conceding just two points, while each of Suarez Navarro's service games was a long deuce affair, especially the opening game, which went on for five minutes. Clearly, Venus was tiring of all this when, at set point, she settled it with an ace.

The fact that Venus had her left knee heavily bandaged was matched in the injury precaution stakes by the 20-year-old Suarez Navarro, born in the Canary Islands but now living in Barcelona, whose right knee was similarly swathed.

It was the Venus the Bandaged Left Knee who was first to assert control in the second set as she had in the first. Venus opened with a service break (prolonged by the Spaniard once more to deuce) before moving briskly into a 2-0 lead with her second ace.

Perhaps the fact that she had won eight straight games persuaded Venus that the match was as good as over, but errors and a little carelessness crept into her play and Suarez Navarro was not slow to spot the opportunity.

To a huge cheer, she finally held serve with her first, and only, ace and the subsequent cheers were almost matched by gasps as she then broke the Williams serve, courtesy of three errors from Venus. At the conclusion of a bright spell that saw her capture four games out of five, Suarez Navarro led 4-3 and the prospect of a third set loomed.

At this point Venus remembered who she was and where she was. Despite a double fault, she held serve and then capitalised on three woeful Spanish errors as Suarez Navarro faltered at a crucial stage. Required simply to serve out for the match, Venus delivered another double fault, her third, but was ushered home by another flurry of Spanish errors in response to heavy Williams hitting.

Centre Court - Ladies' Singles - 3rd Round
Venus Williams USA (3)Winner66
Carla Suarez Navarro ESP 04

Improving Ivanovic downs Stosur

Photo Titled Ana Ivanovic
Ana Ivanovic celebrates another winner against Samantha Stosur in their third round match.

Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, the 13th seed, finished the first week at Wimbledon far more confidently than she started it. Her 7-5, 6-2 victory over Samantha Stosur of Australia in the mid-day heat on No.2 Court was ample proof that she is ready for the quarter-finals where Venus Williams will be her opponent.

Stosur received the usual Australian support from group of yellow-shirted, noisy fans chanting her names but she did little to justify their backing Ivanovic dominated most of the important points in the sunshine.

For Stosur to try to out rally Ivanovic was a lost cause in the fast conditions and the shorter ball that might have caused the Serbian a few mobility problems was rarely utilised.

Ivanovic has been building her confidence through the first week after being match points down in her opening contest and this match was a further example of her improvement.

She took the Australian’s serve in the first game and served three aces in the second to lead 2-0, although she was pulled back to 4-4 in a loose game. Ivanovic’s next break of serve was more significant . Stosur fell behind 6-5 after being beaten by the best backhand drive of the day and then served two double faults.

After 37 minutes, the match was virtually over because Stosur’s resistance and confidence faltered as she fell behind 4-0 in the second set. Ivanovic missed a match point at 5-1 but seized her the chance to serve out for victory, hitting four winners in a row.

It was a sound and solid display by the Serbian. Nowshe has to go up a gear or two.

Court 2 - Ladies' Singles - 3rd Round
Samantha Stosur AUS (18)52
Ana Ivanovic SRB (13)Winner76

Solid Safina into second week

Photo Titled Safina backhand
Safina backhand

Top seed Dinara Safina overcame spirited early resistance from Belgian outsider Kirsten Flipkens to win 7-5, 6-1 and book her place in the fourth round for the first time at Wimbledon. While her serve was not always reliable, she dug deep to save four break points, and her returning by the end of the match was simply stunning.

Flipkens ousted No.30 seed Agnes Szavay in the first round, and with Nicole Vaidisova also going out in her opener, it meant that world number one and top seed Safina has faced opponents of descending rank as the first week has worn on. The Belgian had only won seven tour-level singles matches in her career – two of them this week – and the match was seen more of a guide to Safina’s mental fortitude as opposed to a real test.

Flipkens elected to serve and held the opener despite facing a raft of break points, and then the focus moved on to the Safina serve. The first double fault came as early as the second point, neither attempt threatening the net cord, let alone the service box, but after that she settled into a better rhythm for the first half of the set.

Her left knee is troubling her and requiring regular doses of pain-killers, and she is unable to push off from it as she would like on service, but this has led to her sacrificing a little raw power – a quality she has in abundance – in favour of more subtlety. That, along with a dose of plain old confidence, is what has prevented her from securing her first major.

The Belgian rode her punchy, serve and occasional volley-style throughout the first set and her deep, powerful returns even saw her carve out a break point in the eighth game, which Safina saved with a kicking second serve into the body, before serving out with an ace.

She had a second bite of the cherry two games later as the Russian’s radar went badly awry on the first service, but again she was unable to capitalise and missed the chance to pocket the set.

A tiebreak looked on the cards until Safina did what a top seed should, upping her game at the right time. Two wonderful backhands – one down the line, one cross-court – sandwiched a double fault and the Muscovite went from 30-40 to a break up at 6-5. The onus was then on her to serve out, and when Flipkens missed a volley with the court at her mercy that would have made it 0-30 in her favour, Dinara could even afford herself a rare wry smile.

Safina was on a roll, and took four games in a row to seal the first set 7-5 and pull away 2-0 in the second, helped in no small part by two double faults from Flipkens. A sea-change was never too far away, however, and she again faced a break point at 2-1. Her first point kicked up chalk-dust but on the wrong line, and after a wait for the Hawkeye challenge, she showed incredible fortitude in then firing an ace at 105 mph straight down the middle.

More deuces ensued. Dinara cursed, while her coach Zelkjo Krajan remained impassive. Flipkens ran around forehands and painted the corners with returns but Safina finally held to lead 3-1 with a volley at the net that seemed long but just clipped the baseline. Half-an-inch the other way and who knows how the set might have panned out, but now Dinara was brimming with confidence. She broke to love, held serve at a canter and then sealed the match with another break to give the score line a flattering look.

She will now face Amelie Mauresmo in the fourth round – a woman who, like Safina, ascended to the top of the rankings before winning a Slam. It will be a battle between the old and the new guard, between Dinara’s booming forehands and Amelie’s sliced backhands. An intriguing tie awaits.

Court 2 - Ladies' Singles - 3rd Round
Dinara Safina RUS (1)Winner76
Kirsten Flipkens BEL 51

Wozniacki whizzes into week two

Photo Titled Caroline Wozniacki
Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki’s wonderful spell on grass continued as she swept aside Anabel Medina Garrigues in scorching conditions to ensure she will be part of the second-week shake-up in the ladies' singles.

The Danish 9th seed, who came into the tournament fresh from winning the pre-Wimbledon tournament at Eastbourne, produced a sizzling display to claim a 6-2, 6-2 victory and earn a fourth round Wimbledon spot for the first time in her career.

At the start of the match she gave herself and the camp a scare by looking decidedly rusty and lost her opening service game. However, it turned out to be a minor hiccup as she found her feet to break straight back.

Much is said of the 18-year-old’s forehand – which is similar to Steffi Graf’s when she strikes the ball - but it was her backhand that did the talking, with Wozniacki whipping up winners all over the court.

The Spaniard, who sported neon pink knee tape on both knees, darted about the turf to little avail. Soon the set belonged to the teenager who broke into the top 10 on May 18, becoming the first Danish woman to reach those heights.

As the temperature began to soar, Medina Garrigues appared to melt and in the blink of an eye Wozniacki was in possession of a 3-0 lead. Out came the umbrellas and ice packs at the change of ends, in a bid to keep the players cool, but it did little to help the world number 20.

The 2006 Wimbledon junior champion was on fire. Her powerful baseline strokes proved to be the undoing of Medina Garrigues, who managed to defend two match points on serve, but was not so fortunate on the third, netting a volley to hand Wozniacki the match.

Court 4 - Ladies' Singles - 3rd Round
Caroline Wozniacki DEN (9)Winner66
Anabel Medina Garrigues ESP (20)22