Friday, January 31, 2014

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Roger Federer joins Stan Wawrinka at Davis Cup

Pics from @rogerfederer and @stanwawrinka twitter

Roger Federer will join Stanislas Wawrinka on Switzerland’s Davis Cup team for this weekend’s first-round tie against host Serbia. Federer was not on the original list of nominations, but the news was confirmed by the official Davis Cup Twitter account:

Federer has not played a first-round Davis Cup tie since 2005 and he skipped the tournament in 2013. It’s no secret that the competition has never been a top priority for him. Since his first nomination, in 1999, Federer has played 22 ties for Switzerland, holding a 43-15 record overall and 32-7 in singles.

The tie will be played on an indoor hard court in Novi Sad, Federer’s most successful surface. Novak Djokovic has no plans to play. If he sticks to that decision, we won’t get to see him face Federer in front of his home crowd. That’s a shame — it would have been fun to watch him play Federer in a venue that would be definitively against the Swiss great.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Are Grand Slams more open then ever?

In the late 1990s Swiss sensation Martina Hingis burst onto the grand slam scene at the tender age of 16.

Despite her age, she notched up nine grand slams in a period of ruthless dominance. When Hingis lay down the racket in 2002, it wasn’t long before Roger Federer replaced her in the affections of Swiss tennis fans.

At the start of 2014, it seems Switzerland’s run of tennis success stories may not be over.

On Sunday Stanislas Wawrinka stepped out from Federer's shadow to become a grand slam winner.

Wawrinka’s first major win lifts him to world number three and above Federer in the rankings. But his triumph over Rafael Nadal is remarkable for many other reasons.

Firstly, few saw it coming. In grand slam tennis, only the brave and foolish back a player outside the big four.

This is for very good reason. For the last ten years, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have dominated the four slams. Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro was the last player outside the big four to win a grand slam at the 2009 U.S. Open.

There have been 16 grand slams, and over four years, between Del Potro and Wawrinka's victories.

Another reason the win will be remembered is the way Wawrinka blasted Nadal off the court during the first set. It was an achievement few players have managed and showed he had the best backhand in the game.

Unfortunately for Wawrinka, his feat comes with the side story of Nadal's injury in the second set.

Nadal said in his post-match press conference 'It is Stan's day' - but winning against an under-par opponent is rarely ignored in sport.

"It would be sad if there is an asterisk put against Wawrinka's name as Australian Open champion because of Rafael Nadal's injury," tennis commentator and sports writer Richard Evans told Al Jazeera.

"The Swiss who is obviously benefiting from the shrewd advice of coach Magnus Norman played brilliantly in the first set and, as things turned out, that was enough to win him the match.

"Wawrinka's mind was scrambled because it is very difficult to play an injured opponent in any match, let alone your first grand slam final. He got his head together again in the fourth set and thoroughly deserved his victory after putting out defending champion Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals."

Grinding it out on the ATP circuit for over 10 years, Wawrinka has left it late, at 28, to deliver his best.

The turning point came with the arrival of former world number two Magnus Norman to his team last year. Wawrinka went on to impress at the U.S. Open reaching the semi-finals and in under a year with his new coach has beaten Djokovic, Nadal and claimed his first grand slam. Wawrinka always had the ability but it seems Norman has given him the belief.

Open Opens

Wawrinka's victory should also give belief to players outside the big four.

Early signs suggest they could all struggle this season. Roger Federer is not the spritely youth he once was, Andy Murray is returning from back surgery, Nadal is fighting a body prone to breakdown and Djokovic is getting to grips with new coach Boris Becker.

"Hiring Becker has surprised many, and raised a few eyebrows, especially as Djokovic was on an unbeaten streak from last year. It was his worse Australian Open performance in four years, his forehand looked erratic and he was getting riled - just like Becker did in his pomp," BBC sport reporter Simon Mundie comments.

"It seems strange for Djokovic to change a winning formula. And with Murray and Federer out of the top four - they are now going to bump into difficult players in the quarter-finals. It will not be easy for them to get back up the rankings."

These are all good signs for veterans Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych who are still without major wins, and youngsters Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic who are rising through the rankings.

Unpredictable times lie ahead for the men's game. And if Serena Williams doesn't return to her scintillating 2013 form, the same can be said for the WTA. Both male and women grand slams appear more open than ever.

Other than Williams, a consistent feature of the women's game has been the insignificance of age. Last season Serena became the oldest player to reach world number one at 31, and on Saturday 30-year old Li Na claimed her second grand slam victory.

"Li Na is one of the more remarkable stories in women's tennis. Having almost quit last summer the work she has done with Carlos Rodriguez since has contributed hugely to a second grand slam success", according to tennis broadcaster and former professional Nick Lester.

Defeating 24-year old Dominika Cibulkova convincingly in the final, China's popular star is now eyeing up more grand slam victories and her coach Rodriguez believes Li Na will go far at Wimbledon. With her victory speech revealing a fun and amiable personality, more grand slams for Li Na could be great for the women's game.

The speech, which resembled a comedy stand-up at times, quickly went viral as she thanked her agent for 'making her rich' and her husband who she said 'is a very nice guy' and 'lucky to have found her.'

With two popular outsiders lifting the trophies in Melbourne - the first grand slam of the season has not disappointed.

Next up, the French Open - where Rafael Nadal is unbeatable. Or is he?

A nice little sum-up of the first Grand Slam of the year, some very good questions too.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A few thoughts on this year's mens Australian Open final

I don't usually comment on the final once my favourite Swiss is out of a tournament, but I feel compelled to say a few things this time around.  The final result was what I wanted, but certainly not what I or anyone else expected.

Stan Wawrinka came out firing on all cylinders in the first set giving Nadal very little room to breathe, much less come up with a solution for the onslaught of amazing backhands.

Then of course mid-second set Nadal started experiencing lower back issues, forcing him to take a medical time-out hindering his movement thereafter.

He came back out on court having lost the first set and being down a break to a chorus of boos from the Aussie Open crowd.

Stan became quite agitated with the chair empire demanding to know why Nadal needed such a long break, but kept his cool played aggressively and won the set anyway.

In the third set the pain killers started to work for Nadal, Stan got understandably nervous and felt the pressure of the moment thus losing the 3rd to Nadal.

The injury time-out as always caused a bit of an uproar, many fans often accuse Nadal of faking an injury when things aren't going his way, (and I'm sure as a Federer fan I've accused the man of the same a time or two).

But that clearly was not the case here (the evidence was clear in the drop of mph's on his serve).  Nadal was  not looking like himself.

I rarely give Nadal enough credit but I must commend him for continuing to fight instead of retiring (obviously it would have looked bad this being a final and all) but it's not like it hasn't happened before (Mauresmo vs Henin 2006 Aussie final springs to mind).

So I thought it was really classy of Nadal to fight through the pain and still provide Stan with an opponent on the other end.

As a tennis fan I also really appreciate the huge respect these 2 and the rest of the top guys have for one another.

Something that was clearly evident in their acceptance speeches.  Both just made me love the current generation of open era players that much more.

I did feel a bit sorry for Stan who had some of his thunder stolen due to this incident (resulting in a subdued victory celebration) but despite all that Stan kept his nerve and persevered to win the title.

After the heart breaking loss last year in the semis to Djokovic, he finally showed (and perhaps even believed) he too could be a part of the world elite.

Although no player ever wants to win at the hindrance of another (something he himself mentioned in the post-match interview) ;  full credit must be given to Stan who could have crumbled under pressure and imploded several times after that 3rd set.

With emotions running high and this being his first Grand Slam final it still could have gone either way (as history of the sport has shown us many times before).

And the fact that Rafa is known to fight and did fight until the very last point.

Yes Nadal may have been injured, but I still applaud  Mr. Wawrinka for finally breaking through to the top.

I have been sporadically following Stan's career over the years, but I think this tournament has turned me into a full fledged fan.

Congratulations Stan the man you've achieved the impossible and ventured out of the (Federer) shadow into the warm glow of your own patch of sun.

Emphatically earning the right for people to think of you as someone other then 'the other Swiss'.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Roger Federer falls to Nadal in straights at Australian Open semis

World No 1 Rafael Nadal proves too strong for his great rival Roger Federer, finishing a comfortable 7-6 (7/4), 6-3, 6-3 winner

Midway through this semi-final, Roger Federer went on the offensive – but only when he was sitting down. While waiting for Rafael Nadal to have his blisters taped, Federer complained to the umpire about the volume of Nadal’s grunts. “It hasn’t been something new,” came the sensible reply.

Federer sounded a little like Mr Pipe-and-Slippers, objecting ineffectually to the raging house party next door. But then, nobody makes him feel his age like Nadal. Yesterday’s 7-6, 6-3, 6-3 defeat brought the guillotine down on Federer’s early-season revival, and reminded us that he is still a 32-year-old facing a hungry posse of twentysomethings.

“I don’t know how to explain to you guys,” said Federer afterwards, as he found himself besieged by journalists who wanted to know where his form had evaporated to. “It’s totally different playing Rafa over anybody else. Playing [Andy] Murray or Rafa is day and night. It’s not because of the level necessarily, but it’s just every point is played in a completely different fashion and I have to totally change my game.”

In other words, Federer tried to be Federer, but Nadal would not let him. When Federer stepped up to hit his backhand, Nadal’s throat-seeking top-spin forced a flurry of miscues. When Federer rushed the net, Nadal’s passing shots were so deadly that they could have been lined up with telescopic sights. Federer’s miraculous new racket had reverberated like a bass drum all fortnight, but against Nadal, it reverted to a tinny snare.

Not that this is anything new. We saw the same script played out in most of their previous 32 meetings. The tallest edifice in modern tennis is now tilting even more precipitously in Nadal’s favour, with 23 wins to just 10 losses. In grand slams, the bias is 9-2 in Spain’s favour.

While yesterday’s match offered little in terms of drama, the quality of play was high.

Murray’s former coach, Brad Gilbert, put it well when he tweeted: “Rafa in beast mode and that cannot be stopped.” Indeeed Nadal was almost unrecognisable from the erratic, anxious character who had struggled to subdue Grigor Dimitrov – the man known as “Baby Fed” – in four sets on Wednesday. Few athletes in history can match Nadal’s ability to summon his A-game when it is most urgently required.

The bad news for Stan Wawrinka – the next Swiss to face the Spanish threshing machine – is that the blister on the palm of Nadal’s left hand is clearing up, and his serve was back to its full speed yesterday. This left no apparent weakness in his thunderous, bull-fighter’s game. Federer had to wait until the third set before he earned so much as a break point.

“I think I am quick today,” said Nadal afterwards, which is about as close as this humble man ever comes to bigging himself up. “I produce great shots from very difficult positions. The movements are ready and I feel the power in the legs.”

There had been a rare sense of anticipation around Rod Laver Arena yesterday evening. The fans were desperate for Federer to maintain the sharpness that had sunk Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Murray.

Such has been the rejuvenation of Federer over the past fortnight that his whole tournament has felt like a bonus for Melbourne’s tennis community: an unexpected chance to see the greatest artist of his generation playing somewhere near his peak.

But the excitement began to drain after a tight first set, in which Federer just about managed to hang onto his serve, only to be outmuscled in the tie-break.

This was the moment when the trainer came on to fix Nadal’s increasingly minimalist blister tape (which gave Nadal more control of his racket than he had when fully strapped on Wednesday, but also left him worrying that the covering might just slip off). It was also the moment when Federer got stuck into umpire Jake Garner about the grunting.

Asked later if the noise had distracted him, Federer replied: “Not when he does it every point. But it goes in phases. One point he does and he doesn’t. That’s just what I was complaining about.”

Federer was also being forced to wait far longer than the allotted 20 seconds between points when Nadal was serving, which also came up at the post-match press conference. “Rafa is doing a much better job today than he used to,” Federer said. “But he’s gotten two point penalties over the course of our rivalry. I just think that’s not quite happening.

“It’s important to enforce the rules on all the players the same way. Don’t give me or [Novak] Djokovic a free pass just because of who we are. A guy on Court 16, because the guy had a brutal rally, you give him a time violation just because you can. On centre court, the umpires are always going to be afraid to take those decisions. I just like to challenge them a little bit.”

If it sounds as if Federer was sniping, that would be misleading. He was giving sensible answers to the questions that were put to him. For the most part, he was upbeat about his month in Australia, which delivered a runner-up finish in Brisbane followed by his first grand slam semi-final for a year.

“I’m not too disappointed tonight because I feel it’s been a good start,” he said. “I needed a good moment again because I’ve been going through a tougher time. I still feel my best tennis is only ahead of me right now. So I’m looking forward to the next couple of months, and hopefully, by April, I feel like I’m going to be at 100 per cent again.”

Am I surprised by this result?, am I shocked by it?. Absolutely not. Am I sad and disappointed?. As always the answer to that is yes.

When the tournament started I didn't expect Roger to get past the quarters (having one of the toughest draws). And I kept telling myself every win would be gravy.

And yet the closer he got to the end the more greedy I got, I wanted him to just make it past that one more hurdle (in the form of Nadal).

Fully knowing that it would be a big ask, and the chances would be slim.

But when it comes to this man it's hard not to hope and to want him to succeed regardless (given his already impressive record). I was hoping for a bit more of a fight though, at least a 4th setter.

Sadly once again it was not to be. I knew once he lost the first set it would be an uphill battle, I stopped watching the match at that point because I just had a feeling it wouldn't swing back Federer's way ; well that and it was 5am.

There's no denying that Nadal was the superior player again, he turned it up another gear and there was very little Roger could do.

So now I am left rooting for the other Swiss, the man who for year's has been living in Federer's shadow Mr. Stan Wawrinka.

The man who has been the giant killer when it comes to seeded players in this tournament.

I hope he goes for it, this man deserves to finally win a Grand Slam and step out of that ever present shadow.

This Aussie Open has been all about the changing of the guard (on the women's side especially). With Williams, Sharapova & Azaranka out before the semis. I'm hoping the same will be true on the men's side.

Go Stan the man!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Roger Federer back in the semis faces Nadal next at Australian Open

This is how much winning still means to this man retire my ass

Roger Federer overcame a gutsy Andy Murray on Wednesday night in Melbourne to reach the Australian Open semi-finals with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 victory. The Swiss prevailed in the dramatic contest to reach the last four at Melbourne Park for the 11th year in a row and set a blockbuster clash with Rafael Nadal.

"It's really a big pleasure for me being back in the semi-finals," said Federer. "This one feels different because of the tougher times I've had in slams, Wimbledon, at the US Open. It's nice to be back in the semis and defend my points from last year.

"I definitely sensed that today, I am back physically," said Federer. "I'm explosive out there. I can get to balls. I'm not afraid to go for balls. It was a great game on many levels today, not just physically. Also just mentally it was tough. Then I really played some good tennis. I was very happy."

Federer has lost his past four meetings against Nadal and trails their FedEx ATP Head2Head 10-22, but the Swiss is hopeful that new coach Stefan Edberg can give him the edge in their 33rd meeting.

"I'm happy I get a chance to play him in a slam again," said Federer. "I'm looking forward to speaking to Stefan, because when we spoke together when he came to Dubai and we spoke about the game, we clearly spoke about playing Rafa, as well.

"He thought he had some good ideas, so I'm looking forward to what he has to say. Clearly with Severin, he knows him inside out. I'm looking forward to hearing what the boys have to say. We'll prepare. I hope I can get a win."

The 32-year-old Federer is bidding to win his 18th Grand Slam championship and fifth title at Melbourne Park, having lifted the trophy in 2004, 2006-07 and 2010, when he beat Murray in the final. His last major triumph came 18 months ago at Wimbledon, where he also prevailed over Murray.

The Basel native improved to a 10-11 standing against Murray as he broke down the Briton in three hours and 20 minutes on Rod Laver Arena. Murray saved two match points on the brink of defeat in the third set, but a lack of match fitness and sharpness, having only just returned from back surgery, proved decisive for Murray as Federer closed out the win.

Looking to avenge the five-set defeat he suffered to Murray in last year’s Australian Open semi-finals, Federer made a fast start, breaking the Scot in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead. Showcasing a greater tendency to attack the net, Federer dominated on serve, surrendering just five of 25 points as he wrapped up the opener in 31 minutes.

Federer was relentless in the second set. He broke Murray again in the fifth game as he powered into a two-set lead. Murray was unable to engineer a break point as Federer came to the net 13 times and closed out the set in 48 minutes.

Federer looked set for a straight-sets win as he broke Murray for a 5-4 lead in the third set. However, serving for the match, the Swiss went down 15/40, offering Murray his first two break points of the match. Murray converted his second, attacking with a backhand down the line to force the error from Federer.

In the ensuing tie-break, Federer opened up a 6-4 lead. He was again thwarted, though. First a forehand error and then a backhand mistake saw his match points vanish and Murray pounced. The Scot painted the line with a forehand winner to earn a set point and converted to force a fourth set.

Federer was always in control in the fourth set. The Swiss was denied on six break points in an 18-minute second game, but always had Murray under pressure and the ailing Scot succumbed in the eighth game. Federer broke for a 5-3 lead before serving out victory at the second time of asking.

The 26-year-old Murray is a three-time runner-up at the Australian Open and was looking to reach the semi-finals Down Under for the fifth year in a row. The Dunblane native underwent back surgery in September, three months after winning his second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon (d. Djokovic). He returned to the courts at the start of 2014 in Doha.

"I gave him the break at the end of the match. That was disappointing," reflected Murray. "In the first two sets I thought he played great tennis. When he was serving for the match I felt like I raised my level because I had to basically, and obviously prolonged the match a bit further. I just wasn't able to get ahead in the fourth set.

"I was proud of the way I fought. That's the highest level I've played at in a long time. I hung in well. I pushed through it. Almost got myself back in the match."

Can I just say how happy it makes me to see Federer back in the second week and in the semis of a major as a fan I could not be happier with the way he has been playing this tournament (that 3rd set not withstanding). 

The first 2 sets were pure master class.  I honestly can't remember Federer ever coming to the net as much as he has this tournament (34/45 net point won!).
This is the best I've seen him play since at least a few years and leaps and bounds over last year. 

That raquet change was a wise choice (not to mention the new coach). With all that said of course I don't expect him to beat Nadal.  

Every win he's had thus far has been icing on an already amazing cake, but I certainly hope he fights like hell and gives it his best shot whatever the result. 

Serious nail biting time coming up Friday. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Roger Federer gets past Tsonga in straights to reach Australian Open quarter finals

Roger Federer has set a quarter-final showdown with Andy Murray at the Australian Open after a straight-sets win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Melbourne Park.
Generating additional power with his larger racquet, Federer's aggressive game plan took him to a 6-3, 7-5 6-4 win. In a vintage performance the 17-time Grand Slam champion clipped 21 winners in the second set alone, closing it out with an ace. Federer, who improved to 10-4 in career FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings with Tsonga, faced (and saved) just one break point in the match.

"I thought I played really well tonight," Federer said in his on-court interview. "Against Jo-Willie you've gotta bring your best game because he dictates play a lot. I thought I did a good job myself dictating a lot of the play tonight. It helped that I played well in the first three matches to come in and play a solid match tonight."
Federer, who won 34 of 41 net approaches, said that his game plan was to be aggressive and come in. "Jo makes you play an aggressive game yourself because if you don't he will come in and it's tough to pass time and time again. I thought the tactics worked well tonight."
In a very clean performance, Federer hit 43 winners to 21 unforced errors.
Tsonga said simply that he was beaten by a better player on the day. "He was playing unbelievable. I was not good enough to destabilise him,"

 the 2008 Australian Open finalist said. "I played good tennis, but maybe I didn't serve well enough. Everything in my game was there. I was pretty strong on the baseline.  But he took the ball very early today, and he was always taking [time away from me]."

Monday's win provides Federer with a massive confidence boost as he looks to rebuild from a lean 2013 season - when he won just one title (Halle) – and as he debuts a larger 98” racquet. The five-time year-end World No. 1 had won just three of his past 13 matches against Top 10 opponents before toppling Tsonga.
Federer is now one win away from his 11th consecutive Australian Open semi-final, but standing in his way is fourth seed Murray, against whom the Swiss trails 9-11 in FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. It will be their first meeting since Murray triumphed in a five-set semi-final at Melbourne Park last year.
Four-time Melbourne champion Federer, who has not dropped a set through his first four matches, has now reached 41 major quarter-finals, tying the all-time record with Jimmy Connors.
Federer is playing in a record 57th consecutive Grand Slam tournament and 59th overall. Federer this month added two-time former Australian Open champion Stefan Edberg to his coaching staff.

And to think that I was worried. Murray will be even tougher, although definitely not impossible especially if Mr. Federer keeps up this level of play. 
I have yet to watch this match, hoping my tennis channel doesn't disappoint.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Roger Federer is into the second week at Australian Open

Roger Federer has reached the fourth round of the Australian Open for the 13th straight year with a performance that suggested the sixth seed is far from a spent force.

Federer beat Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia 6-2 6-3 6-3, setting up a round-of-16 clash with either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Gilles Simon.

The one-time king of the game who held the top spot in world rankings for longer than any other player, Federer has won a record 17 grand slam finals.

But he hasn't claimed a major in his past five attempts and is keener than ever to collect one more.

"It's been a while, but I'm happy with how I'm playing, how I'm feeling," Federer said.

His defeat of Gabashvili was Federer's 71st at the Australian Open, just one of the dozens of records established by the Swiss champion.

Federer came to this year's Open after a season hampered by a back injury and with a new racquet.

After his third-round win, he declared the back to be healed and the racquet behaving.

"I'm just happy to be waking up in the morning and not feeling like an old man," he said.

"I have confidence in my movement and confidence in my body."

I liked the way he played in his last match more, but every match is different and you can't be as aggressive in every one. In this one Roger was forced to be more on the defensive, but handled  it really well. 

Again I think that new racquet is really working out.  Roger Federer is in the second week of a major all is right in my (tennis) world. 

The level of difficulty will go up about 50 percent in round 4 but if Roger plays the way he has been I believe he will make it into the quarters (how's that for a bold prediction?). 

Whoever it ends up being (probably Tsonga)  will be the first tough test for Rog.  Nail biting time!.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Roger Federer storms into 3rd round at Australian Open

Still not sure about these shorts (weird choice Nike)

Roger Federer found Hisense Arena to his liking as he eased to a second-round victory over Blaz Kavcic at the Australian Open.

It was 10 years ago that Federer, who is competing in a record 57th straight grand slam, last played a match away from Melbourne Park's main court, Rod Laver Arena.

The scheduling reflected Federer's current status among the also-rans of the top 10, but if he can maintain the form he showed in his 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4) victory over the next 10 days then he may yet have a say at the business end of the tournament.

The roof was closed, meaning the pair were spared the worst of the searing heat that had seen play on uncovered courts suspended, but Federer seemed keen to race through the match as quickly as possible nonetheless.

He broke serve in the opening game of the match on his way to taking the first set and then raced into a 3-0 lead in the second.

Slovenian Kavcic, ranked 99th in the world, had the satisfaction of breaking the Federer serve but he swiftly found himself two sets down.

Kavcic fared much better in the third set and will be kicking himself that he did not take it after leading 3-0 in the tie-break.

But Federer reeled off five points in a row and then took his first match point when, having made one diving volley, Kavcic could not manage a second.

For once the articles don't do the match justice. In the first 2 sets Federer was virtuosic . Every shot he made went in, all the aggressive net points went his way ; it was poetry in motion.

In the 3rd set his opponent lifted his game because I guess he figured he had nothing to lose, thus the tie-break.

But unlike has been Federer's pattern (in 2013) he did not concede the set, just became even more aggressive.

It was beautiful to watch. I'm thinking this partnership with Edberg is working out (whatever advice he's giving him is working) long may it continue.

If he plays like this for the rest of the week he's definitely making it into the second (and dare I say perhaps even the semis or quarters).

Also if this match is any indication I think he needs to play with the roof closed for the rest of the tournament.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Li Na says Belinda Bencic plays exactly like Martina Hingis

MELBOURNE: Chinese world number four Li Na Wednesday said she sees a lot of Martina Hingis in exciting 'new Swiss Miss' Belinda Bencic, and tipped her for a big future.

Li had to draw on all her experience to get past the 16-year-old qualifier in the Australian Open second round, with Bencic overcoming nerves to pose problems in a hard-fought second set.

Two-time finalist Li prevailed 6-0, 7-6 (7/5) and was full of praise for a player who won the Wimbledon and French Open junior titles last year and was named the ITF Junior World Champion.

"She played exactly like Martina Hingis, I feel," said Li.

This comes as no surprise with Bencic joining the tennis school of Hingis's mother Melanie Molitor, who still occasionally coaches the teen, at age four.

Bencic has also been getting tips from Hingis herself, with the original 'Swiss Miss' back in Melbourne this year as the coach of Sabine Lisicki.

Ahead of the tournament, Hingis played Bencic at an exhibition in Hobart dubbed "Master versus the Apprentice".

Hingis, who was 16 when she won her first Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 1997, prevailed in three sets.

"She won the juniors, so she has experience, she's used to playing on the big courts," said Li. "If she plays more tournaments on the tour, for sure she will be very good.

"I didn't like the way she was hitting the ball today because she was using a lot of my power to move me and running a lot on the court."

Bencic, who said she hears the Hingis comparisons "a lot", promised to learn from the Melbourne experience.

"It's great that I had this experience at 16, so maybe later or the next match I can show what I learned from this experience so I will not be so nervous and I will not miss chances," she said.

"I was always watching her (Li) on TV, and now to play against her it's an awesome feeling."

Bencic is among a crop of new young players emerging on the women's tour who appear to have the game to make it on the gruelling WTA tour.

Li beat another 16-year-old junior champion, Croat Ana Konjuh, in the first round and said her game was different to Bencic.

"Totally different. The first one (Konjuh) was hitting more aggressive. Today's was more control," she said, refusing to reveal who was better.

"Don't try to ask that, okay? Both players are pretty good."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Roger Federer easily wins first match at Australian Open

After Novak Djokovic and Boris Becker had combined to create "Beckovic", "Fedberg" took their turn on Rod Laver Arena today and made a strikingly cool combination.

As Melbourne's temperatures climbed to a roasting 43 degrees, Roger Federer remained an almost sweat-free zone as he disposed of Australian wild card James Duckworth 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

Meanwhile, Federer's new coach, Stefan Edberg, made his debut by the side of the court, and kept an impeccable poker-face throughout, barely raising a laconic eyebrow as his new client pulled off familiar feats of tennis wizardry.

"I realise after a set I didn't look up once yet," said Federer after the match. "I thought 'I better check if he's actually sitting there.' Then I did see him. He was wearing sunglasses. I thought 'Okay, he is there.'"

Regular Federer watchers might wonder why he has not yet been signed up as a brand ambassador for Superdry, so rarely does he overheat.

Yet there were moments last season - his least successful for a decade - when the thermostat did go into overdrive.

In particular, we can point to his fourth-round defeat to Tommy Robredo at the US Open. Even though it was a night match, the humidity levels were off the scale, and a misfiring Federer was soon dripping with unaccustomed perspiration.

Here in Melbourne, walking outside feels like entering a sauna - and yet this is at least dry heat, which makes it less likely that tournament organisers will stop play on the outside courts.

"It's just a mental thing," said Federer, of the high temperatures. "If you've trained hard enough your entire life, and you believe you can come through it, there's no reason [to quit]. If you can't deal with it, you throw in the towel."

Duckworth put on a decent show for a supportive home crowd, who had come equipped with duck whistles and rehearsed chants such as "Who let the duck out? Quack, quack, quack, quack, quack."

He is not far from being an Australian Dan Evans - a talented shotmaker who likes to rush the net, but coughs up a few too many errors on regulation groundstrokes.

Duckworth's gameplan was simple enough: to hammer the Federer backhand and make him play passes off that wing as often as possible. Yet the four-time Australian Open champion refused to be bullied by a man ranked 133.

Federer has admitted that he became too impatient in 2013, too eager to finish points quickly, as a result of the back trouble that dogged him through the first half of the season.

Today his shot selection could not be faulted, as he worked his openings so clinically that he was often able to guide the simplest of winners into the open court.

Clearly there will be far tougher opposition to come, although Blaz Kavcic - the Slovakian world No 99 - would seem to be a reasonably inviting second-round opponent for Federer on Thursday.

Before then, there will be more time to bond with Edberg, who only arrived in Melbourne on Monday morning.

"We will probably go to dinner tonight and just see who else joins in," Federer said. "And then we will just watch some matches live, as well. Because he's seen a lot on TV, but live is a different animal.

"It's nice to have him in my corner and be able to just speak to him and be inspired by what he says about the game today, and about how it used to be for him, telling me stories. Just to spend time together for me is a big deal."

So will there be any change in Federer's stated policy of not looking up at his coaching team during matches? Apparently not. On-court coaching is one of his bugbears, and he once complained about Toni Nadal helping his nephew out during a final in Rome.

"I stopped doing that [looking up at his player's box] way back when," said Federer. "Because just I said you just can't be dependent on these looks all the time. Being coached from the sidelines, that's not how I grew up.

"I feel like it's like in school. You do your work at home, you get ready for the test, and then during the test, you don't cheat and you try to do your best score.

"I see it the same way in tennis. Though, clearly, when I did look up, it's nice seeing him sitting there. Even if he wouldn't be my coach it would be nice. Plus he's in my corner, it's great.

"I hope it's going to be a successful partnership as we move along."

Monday, January 13, 2014

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Kim Clijsters misses Australia

(CNN) -- Kim Clijsters has been lured out of retirement once before and if anything is going to encourage the former world no. 1 out for a third stint on tour it's the thought of playing at the Australian Open.

Speaking with world no. 14 Ana Ivanovic on CNN's Open Court, the 30-year-old Belgian admitted to a few pangs of jealousy as her Serbian friend prepared to jet off to Melbourne for the year's first grand slam.

"Yeah I'm a little bit jealous when you told me that you're leaving tomorrow," said Clijsters, who won the last of her four grand slam titles at Melbourne in 2011.

"A lot of people ask me do you miss being on the road or do you miss playing tennis or the competition? And that's what I kind of miss the most last year was being in Australia at the start of the year."

The Clijsters, who retired for the second time in 2012, won't be the only European pining for a bit of summer sun to soothe the winter blues.

But while most visitors would flock to the beach or lounge around a pool, it's clear that the former world no. 1 still misses the more active outdoor life that Aussie life affords.

"The first morning when you wake up with a huge jet lag, four, five o'clock in the morning and everybody is running or swimming, you can go outside and they are on their bikes and that's what I love," she says.

"I think if I would do that here in Belgium people would think I'm going crazy. Then again, the weather is not suited to living that kind of life style. I miss that."

However, the mother of two -- Clijsters has a five-year-old daughter, Jada and gave birth to a son, Jack last September -- isn't about to make a comeback like she did in 2009.

"I don't miss the competition. I don't miss the heavy work out schedule. It was getting harder with Jada to combine it and now with Jack. I enjoy working out still but I enjoy doing it when I feel like doing it."

Living an active life is a habit Clijsters is keen to pass on to her children, but she's not about to become another one of tennis' pushy parents.

"I'm not the kind of person where I want (Jada) to be like me and want her to have a career like me," Clijsters told CNN in December 2012.

"She plays a bit, she's at the club that I own with a friend every Wednesday, she goes there just for the social side of things ...

"It's just fun to see her have a social life and be among friends while playing sports. Whether it's swimming, track and field or tennis, I'll support her whatever she wants to do.

"But I'm not going to be the mother that's like, 'We're going to play tennis, we're going to practice this and this shot' -- I'm not like that at all."

CNN International

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Martina Hingis coaching Sabine Lisicki at Australian Open

Tennis - Former world no. 1 and five time grand slam singles champion Martina Hingis will be coaching Germany's Sabine Lisicki during the Australian Open, which begins on Monday,

Hingis is already in Melbourne and has been seen hitting the courts with the big-serving German, who stunned Serena Williams to reach the finals at Wimbledon in July last year. There is no word on whether this collaboration will extend beyond the Australian Open.

Lisicki is currently ranked no. 15 in the world and played only one match in Brisbane before retiring from her second round match due to injury.

This is not the first time that Hingis has taken on a coaching role in the game. Last year, she worked for a few months with Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova before the two parted ways.

Hingis is a three-time champion in singles at the Australian Open and also returned to the tour to play doubles during the summer hardcourt season last July. She has not entered any of the Australian events this time in doubles and has not indicated whether she intends to play doubles this year on the tour as well.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Roger Federer feeling positive ahead of Australian Open

Of Roger Federer's many qualities, his optimism is one of the greatest. The former world No 1 has suffered many setbacks in recent times – sliding down the world rankings, seeing his run of 36 successive Grand Slam quarter-final appearances come to an end, losing to some of the sport's journeymen – but always bounces back in confident mood.

Ask him how long he took to recover from his latest devastating defeat and he will usually tell you that it was only a matter of minutes.

As the 32-year-old Swiss prepares to contest his 57th Grand Slam tournament in a row at the Australian Open here next week – a run which will take him past Wayne Ferreira's Open era record – he is once again thinking only of the positives. Federer looks back on last week's Brisbane International, for example, where he lost to Lleyton Hewitt for just the second time in 18 meetings, as a good start to 2014.

He also draws encouragement both from his winter break, which followed his least productive campaign for 12 years, and the fact that he has recovered from the back problems that troubled him in 2013.

"I probably trained harder in the off-season than all the guys ahead of me in the rankings," the world No 6 said here in Melbourne as he looked forward to the new season.

"They went off to play exhibitions, like I did last year, so that [counts in my favour]. I did a full-on month [of training], which I haven't done in a long time. My body held up for that and I've just played singles and doubles in Brisbane.

"I really feel like I'm on the way back. Who knows? Maybe I'll play my best in March or April. That's my feeling, but I still feel there's a lot that's possible right now. Maybe that's why I haven't set particular, special goals. I just want to get back to a good level and then, hopefully, I can start winning tournaments again."

He added: "Of course, I need to have goals, but right now I'm coming off a tough season. The important thing for me is that I find my way back into the whole rhythm, which I think I did, because I played a lot of tennis in Basel, Paris and London at the end of last season."

Never one to rest on his laurels, Federer has been ringing the changes in the hope of extending a career which has already brought him 17 Grand Slam singles titles and $79,265,175 (about £48.2m) in prize-money, both records. Having dispensed with Paul Annacone, he has brought Stefan Edberg into his coaching team. After experiments with new rackets, he has also settled on a new tool of his trade.

The choice of Edberg, who will be with Federer for 10 weeks of the year, is intriguing, particularly as the Swede's appointment comes at a time when two other former greats of the game, Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl, are working with Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray respectively.

You might think that the most accomplished player of all time would not need a coach, but Federer knows that Tony Roche was a major factor in his most successful years, while Annacone helped him to win his seventh Wimbledon crown after more than two and a half years without a Grand Slam title.

"I'm very inspired and motivated right now," Federer said. "Of course, working with Stefan Edberg is a very special situation for me. He was the man who I was watching the most when I was growing up and has influenced me most in terms of inspiring me as a tennis player. So to spend some weeks with him throughout the year is going to be very special for me.

"Trying out the new racket is something I've always wanted to do. That's something that is going really well and that I'm happy about. Then just having my body being back to a good level is also very motivating and keeps you very eager."

Federer experimented with a new Wilson racket last summer after Wimbledon, where he suffered his most devastating loss of the year, to the world No 116 Sergiy Stakhovsky.

The change did not go well as the Swiss lost to Federico Delbonis (world No 114) in Hamburg and to Daniel Brands (world No 55) in Gstaad, after which he reverted to his former racket. Nevertheless, Federer still lost in the fourth round of the US Open to Tommy Robredo – a player he had beaten in all 10 of their previous meetings – and ended the season with just one title to his name, which was his worst haul since 2001.

Acting on Federer's feedback, Wilson provided him with more rackets for the US Open and again at the end of the season. He played with his latest choice for two and a half weeks while training in Dubai before coming here. "I feel very comfortable with it, more comfortable than I did with the one after Wimbledon," Federer said. "This one feels more of an extension than I had before, but I guess it's in a more futuristic form."

He added: "I had a much longer time to get ready for this swing than I had last time around after Wimbledon before the American summer. I'm not thinking about it when I'm going out there, which is a great thing. I'm hitting the ball really well."

The continuing pulling power of the seven-times Wimbledon champion was evident here on Wednesday night, when a capacity crowd filled Rod Laver Arena to attend "A Night with Roger Federer and Friends", a gala evening to raise funds for his charitable foundation. There were guest appearances by Laver and Pat Rafter, but the centrepiece was essentially a practice match between Federer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. It was even broadcast live on television.

Federer, whose foundation supports underprivileged children in Africa, would like to see the sport do more to support good causes. "I see the power that tennis can have," he said. "We don't play that many pro-ams, like golf does. I think we could exploit more times the way we include charities into tournaments. I think the players are very open to these things."

He added: "Exhibitions and matches like that definitely inspire you to keep on playing. That's not my only goal because I actually want to play tennis and be successful and win as well, because the thrill of holding up a trophy, of being on match point, is actually an amazing one. That's probably deep down why I'm still playing, but of course there are so many other things I can do at the same time.

"The enjoyment factor I get out of playing on tour today is totally different. It's a much deeper love of the game that I have today and a much bigger appreciation and respect. I just remember playing out on Court 25 early in my career. Now that I play on Centre Court most of the time it's an absolute privilege."

Ever mindful of the history of the game, Federer can see how appropriate it would be if he were to add to his Grand Slam collection later this month. "Ten years ago I became world No 1 here and 10 years ago I won my first Australian Open," he said. "I think I can play very well here, though I'm not thinking too far ahead."

Thursday, January 09, 2014

A Night With Roger Federer & Friends at Rod Laver Arena (whole match)

Sadly lot's of issues with the playback (only the first hour is watchable) which is very disappointing. Hopefully someone will fix and re-upload it soon.

More than $1 million was raised as Roger FedererJo-Wilfried Tsonga and a host of Australian tennis stars put on a captivating performance on Wednesday evening in Melbourne in aid of the Roger Federer Foundation.
On a packed Rod Laver Arena, four-time Australian Open champion Federer defeated 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 in an exhibition match lasting just over two hours. The Swiss had started the evening with a hit against Rod Laver, before the Australian took his seat court side.
Last week’s Brisbane International champion, Lleyton Hewitt, Davis Cup captain Patrick Rafter and Federer’s former coach, Tony Roche, all contributed to the evening at Melbourne Park.
“What a pleasure to play any match here, in particular a match for a good cause,” said Federer. “I played some of the biggest matches of my career right here. It’s very special being back. It was a dream come true to play some balls with Rod Laver, spend some time with him, speak with him.
“The most important thing tonight was to enjoy it, have fun with Jo and get into the mood of the Australian Open. It's a pleasure playing the Australian Open. I’ve been coming for nearly 15 years. This was perfect preparation, but so much more tonight.”
“I’m really pleased to be here tonight,” said Tsonga, speaking to Hewitt. “To help Roger is always an honour. I played well. It was a good match tonight. It’s always tough to play against Roger. It’s great to be here tonight for a great cause.”
The Roger Federer Foundation was set up in 2003, fulfilling one of Federer's long-held dreams of becoming social aware. The Foundation has helped over 50,000 children annually living in poverty to access high quality early learning and education. 
“It's something very close to my heart, I’m very emotionally attached,” said Federer. “To reach 10 years is a great deal. I’m happy I started so early. I learnt a lot at the beginning of my career, I met influential people who taught me great things. I really feel we’re still at the beginning. We can achieve great things. We hope to reach one million kids by 2018 and an event like this is going to help in a big way.”
For more information visit To make a donation, visit

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Martina Hingis vs Belinda Bencic 2014 Exhibition match at Hobart International

Thank you Google Alerts :).  Man, I've missed her sense of humor. No one else like her even with all the up and coming youngsters.

Of course the youngster Martina is playing is someone her mother is currently coaching.  Talk about different generations!.

Love her complimenting Martina when she asked where Bencic learned one particular shot from. :D

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Martina Hingis & Navratilova back in Adelaide for World Tennis Challenge

COMING back to Adelaide for Tuesday's World Tennis Challenge was a "no brainer" for tennis royalty Martina Hingis and Martina Navratilova.

They touched down yesterday and will thrill crowds over the next three nights when they join men's legends like Mats Wilander, Pat Cash and Yannick Noah in exhibition matches at Memorial Drive.

The two Martinas, holders of 23 grand slam singles titles between them, both said it was an easy decision to return to SA, after being won over by its knowledgeable tennis crowd and wineries in 2013.

"My first tournament ever in Australia was here in 1974 and it was just so nice to come back to the same place last year,'' Navratilova said. "The crowd was so great, they really appreciated us. They appreciate good tennis and it made it so much fun to play."

Hingis said playing with Navratalova, whom she was named after, was still a thrill.

The 33-year-old tentatively came out of retirement this year to play in a handful of WTA doubles events, but is looking forward to a more relaxed atmosphere here.

A big fan of SA's wineries, Hingis also hopes to sneak up to the Hills to partake in one of her other loves - horse riding.

"It was a great experience here last year, going to the vineyards and playing in front of such a great crowd in Adelaide,'' she said.

"It was great fun playing with Martina and I think we played some good tennis, which is what it's all about."

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Roger Federer fights but loses final at Brisbane

The early clues for Lleyton Hewitt's stunning 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 upset of Swiss great Roger Federer in the Brisbane International decider lay in the opening game on Pat Rafter Arena.

Federer lined up the most regulation of backhand slices, ripped downwards and came up with nothing but air. He studied his racquet for evidence of gaping holes but the answer evaded him, as did his form in a crucial lead-up to the Australian Open.

It took just 27 minutes for the Australian to win the opening set, dropping just one game and the jaws of almost everybody in the sellout crowd. This was a complete humbling nobody had predicted and Hewitt, a bulldog still, went on with the job.

Federer dug in his heels in the second set, wrestling with his own game as much as that of his opponent. But when he fired three aces, then struck a sublime, dipping forehand winner to close it out it seemed as if he had finally flicked the switch.

Hewitt doesn't make a habit of going away. Even though his best days lie in the past, the 32-year-old remains Australia's leading man. He could sniff ATP tour title number 29 and would not be denied in front of home crowd urging on his every move.

Hewitt secured the crucial break in the fifth game of the final set and, with the stifling humidity bearing down, must have felt the longer it went the better his chances of outlasting his old rival, who was coming off a six-week break leading into the tournament.

The telling moment arrived with Hewitt serving at 4-2. Federer had two chances to break back but Hewitt attacked on the serve, surviving a pair of break points before forcing a backhand error.

Federer made Hewitt serve it out and the South Australian obliged, completing a superb week in the Queensland capital and sending his world ranking rocketing from 60 to 43 ahead of the first grand slam of the season.

Federer might have known he was in for a long and strange afternoon when he managed to hit the on-court announcer in the head with a ball during the warm-ups and player introductions.

That was about as accurate as he got at the start of the match. So out of character was his play that pundits were frantically searching for evidence of a secret injury or ailment he may have carried into the contest.

Federer's first set must rank among the worst he has ever played since taking command of his sport. So wonky were his unwieldy groundstrokes there was thought he had concealed an injury or ailment heading into the match.

But focusing on the woes of Federer does a disservice to Hewitt, who many felt had overachieved simply by making the final.

He played aggressive, confident tennis and rattled Federer from the start.

It was 16 years ago that Hewitt tasted his first tournament victory, when he won his home-town event in Adelaide as a teenager. He took his career tally against Federer to nine wins and 18 losses.

Federer had looked assured and happy with his play before the final, not dropping a service game in the earlier rounds.

But defeat at the hands of the evergreen Hewitt must cast his Australian Open aspirations into serious doubt as the big guns start to arrive in Melbourne.

I didn't watch the match, but followed the live scores, it was such a topsy-turvy match my nerves wouldn't have handled it well at 3 am. 

I guess there's one positive Roger can take away from the match, the new racket is working well for him in terms of hitting aces. Onward to the Aussie Open, one week to go!.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Roger Federer battles into the finals at Brisbane

First time I've seen Roger sweat this much in his career

Roger Federer survived a scare to reach the final of the Brisbane International with a 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 6-3 win over Jeremy Chardy.

The top seed was pushed all the way by his French opponent but eventually pulled through to wrap up the win in an hour and 55 minutes.

He will face home favourite Lleyton Hewitt in the final after the Australian veteran defeated No 2 seed Kei Nishikori 5-7 6-4 6-3.

Federer, who at 32 is the same age as Hewitt, is looking forward to the clash against the former US Open and Wimbledon champion.

"We go back 17 years, our coaches back in the day were best friends. It's amazing we have a chance to play in Australia, our first time in a final here I think," Federer said.

"I struggled a lot against him in the early stages of my career."

Against Chardy, Federer had things much his own way in the opening set but his opponent hit back in the second, dominating the tie-break to take the match to a decider.

Chardy finally cracked when he served two double faults and made two forehand errors at 3-4 down in the final set, handing the decisive break of serve to the 17-time grand slam winner.

Earlier, Hewitt showed all his battling qualities as he fought back from a set down to see off his Japanese opponent in temperatures approaching 41 degrees Celsius.

"I don't know, I keep putting myself through it - must like punishment," Hewitt said of the conditions.

"It was tough conditions, really tough to play out there for both of us today. It turned into a mental battle."

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Roger Federer moves into the semis in Brisbane

Once again I am loving the shoes :)

Roger Federer stormed into the semi-finals of the Brisbane International presented by Suncorp on Friday evening as he dismissed Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-1 in just 58 minutes. The Swiss served nine aces and broke serve five times in the pair’s first meeting.
"Tonight I felt very good against Matosevic who can play very dangerous," said Federer. "He's got a good enough serve and return as well. But I was able to control most of the match except the very beginning. For that, I'm very happy."
Federer, who is also through to the doubles semi-finals with Nicolas Mahut, is looking to win 78th tour-level title this week. The Basel native is making his debut in Brisbane and is in with a chance of winning both singles and doubles crowns the same week for the first time since 2005 Halle.
For a place in the final, Federer will challenge Jeremy Chardy, who ended the run of Australian wild card Samuel Groth with a 7-5, 6-4 win in 69 minutes. World No. 34 Chardy will face Federer for the first time as he looks to reach his first ATP World Tour final since 2009 in Stuttgart, where he won his lone title.
"He plays very aggressive on the hard courts," said Federer. "I remember seeing him play really well in Cincinnati, which is similar to here. I remember seeing him play well at the Aussie Open last year when he made the quarters, I think. So he can definitely bring a big game to the court, especially with his serve and forehand. He can really dictate play."

Guess that larger racket is really working out!.