Sunday, June 28, 2009

Roddick Passes Melzer Test; Hewitt Maintains Smooth Progress

Two-time former finalist Andy Roddick passed a tricky test from Austrian Jurgen Melzer 7-6(2), 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-3 Saturday to progress to the Wimbledon fourth round for the fifth time.

The American, who finished runner-up to Roger Federer in back-to-back Wimbledon finals in 2004-05, has looked fallible on occasions this week and was extended to four sets for the third time this tournament – having also dropped the third set in his opening two wins against Jeremy Chardy and Igor Kunitsyn.

Roddick had only dropped two sets in eight previous wins over Melzer, but Centre Court fans who expected the appetiser to the feast of the day to be a straightforward encounter were left gripped as the Austrian pushed Roddick to the last ball prior to home hope Andy Murray taking centre stage.

After Roddick had clinched the first two sets on consecutive tie-breaks, Melzer broke serve for the first time in the match midway through the third set and gave Roddick more food for thought as he cut the deficit to two-sets-to-one. The American looked to have regained control of the match when he earned a break advantage in the fourth set, but Melzer refused to concede and frustrated Roddick as he broke back in the seventh game. Roddick was quickly reprieved though, immediately regaining his break of serve before serving out victory after two hours and 53 minutes.

Assessing his performance, Roddick said: "Considering the way he served the first two sets, I was glad to get through with a two-set lead. I was having trouble getting a read on it. I played him a lot of times. That's the best he's served against me. Like the other two matches, I wish I could have converted on a chance in the third set. But probably hit the ball my best in the fourth again."

The 26-year-old Roddick is looking to win his second major singles title after claiming the 2003 US Open with victory over Juan Carlos Ferrero. The former World No. 1 added to his illustrious trophy cabinet with a title at Memphis (d. Stepanek) earlier in the season and has a 36-8 match record on the season.

In the fourth round Roddick will meet Czech Tomas Berdych, against whom he has a 2-2 head-to-head record - with Berdych winning their most recent encounter on hard court in Tokyo last year. "Berdych is streaky. It's rarely middle of the road. He's either really good or not so good," said Roddick. "Right now you expect to get the best of him with the way he's been rolling through the tournament so far."

Another former World No. 1, Lleyton Hewitt, continued his impressive run through the draw with a 7-5, 7-6(3), 6-3 victory over German Philipp Petzschner to set up a fourth-round clash with Czech Radek Stepanek. The Australian, who ousted No. 5-ranked Juan Martin del Potro in the previous round, was cheered on by raucous Fanatics on Court 2 as he saved all three break points he faced – while converting three of 12 opportunities on Petzschner’s serve – to wrap up victory in two hours and 27 minutes.

It was Hewitt’s second win over Petzschner, whom he beat on clay in Munich in April to clinch his 500th tour-level singles victory.

The 28-year-old Hewitt, who underwent surgery on his left hip last August, won the second of his two Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon in 2002 – with victory over David Nalbandian in the final. The right-hander, who also has five further grass-court titles to his name, is through to the Wimbledon fourth round for the sixth straight year; he lost to Roger Federer at that stage last year.

“I guess when you're at the top of your game and you're No. 1 in the world, you kind of take it for granted, round of 16s of slams,” said Hewitt. “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. To not drop a set so far is nice, as well.”

Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero will take on eighth-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon for a place in the quarter-finals after both advanced in contrasting circumstances on Saturday.

Ferrero, one of five Grand Slam champions remaining in the singles draw, battled past 10th-seeded Chilean Fernando Gonzalez 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon for the fourth time. The former World No. 1, who was a semi-finalist at the Queen’s Club (l. to Murray) two weeks ago, posted his best result at SW19 in 2007 - when he reached the quarter-finals (l. to Federer).

The 29-year-old Ferrero will take on Simon for the first time after the Frenchman cruised past Romanian No. 31 seed Victor Hanescu 6-2, 7-5, 6-2. The 24-year-old Simon, who fell in his first third-round effort at Wimbledon last year, struck 45 winners to just 15 unforced errors and saved all five break points he faced to seal victory in only 87 minutes.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2009/06/Wimbledon-Saturday-Roddick-Passes-Melzer-Test.aspx)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Vintage Hewitt Rips Past del Potro

Lleyton Hewitt might not be the quickest of servers, but the Australian showcased tremendous variation in speed and placement to out-wit fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina at The Championships on Thursday.

The 2002 champion kept the Australian flag flying in the singles draw, where he is the nation’s sole representative, with a vintage performance for 6-3, 7-5, 7-5 second-round win in two hours and 32 minutes.

“I executed perfectly,” said Hewitt. “[I] hit the ball great. Served unbelievable for most of the match [and I] took it to him right from the start. It was a big win. I wanted to beat a top five guy. These are the places you want to do it, too.”

It was Hewitt’s first win over a Top 15 opponent since May 2007 and also his first Top 10 win at a Grand Slam championship since beating No. 2-ranked Andy Roddick in the 2005 Australian Open semi-finals, breaking a streak of 12 consecutive losses.

Hewitt fought off four break points in a lengthy fifth game, before moving into a 4-2 lead when del Potro hit a backhand and forehand into the net. The former World No. 1 was forced to save another two break points en route to winning the first set, in which he hit six aces and committed just three unforced errors.

The 20-year-old del Potro, who had his right knee taped up before the start of the second set, hit a double fault and a forehand into the net in the 10th game to gift Hewitt a service break that he duly converted for a two sets to love lead.

Cheered on by a large Australian contingent on Centre Court, World No. 56 Hewitt immediately broke del Potro’s serve at the start of the third set. The Tandil resident fired a second-serve return over the baseline on break point in the eighth game, before enjoying the briefest of resurgences to level the scoreline at 5-5. But Hewitt responded with a service break of his own and closed out a famous win minutes later.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for del Potro," Hewitt said. "He’s a great player, and he's only going to get better. He’s a future Grand Slam champion on possibly any surface. I knew it was going to be a tough match today, but I was up for it from the start.”

Del Potro, who has followed Hewitt's career since the age of 11, said, "I played good [from] the baseline, but I did miss with my serve, especially [on] the break points. Two breaks, three breaks, and that's it. The match, it's over."

Hewitt, who has reached the fourth round (or better) for the past five years, will next face Philipp Petzschner - the winner of an all-German clash over Mischa Zverev 4-6, 7-6(13), 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-0.

For the first time in 70 years at The Championships, Australia has one man in the singles draw. It is also the first time in the Open Era, at any of the four Grand Slam championships that only one Australian man is competing in the main draw.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2009/06/Wimbledon-Thursday-Vintage-Hewitt-Rips-Past-del-Potro.aspx)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Qualifying - Vettel storms to Silverstone pole

Sebastian Vettel continued his domination of Silverstone by taking pole position for the British Grand Prix with a lap of 1m 19.509s in his Red Bull. As pre-race favourite Jenson Button failed in his quest and took only sixth place, Rubens Barrichello was Brawn’s lead runner in second with 1m 19.856s. A spoiled first run and traffic at Stowe prevented Mark Webber from joining his Red Bull team mate on the front row, and his 1m 19.868s left him third.

Jarno Trulli continued his unobtrusive form for Toyota with 1m 20.091s for fourth, while Kazuki Nakajima’s last-moment lap of 1m 20.216s in the Williams shoved Button back a place. The championship leader could not better 1m 20.289s.

Nico Rosberg failed to improve on his final try and was seventh in 1m 20.361s in the second Williams, ahead of Timo Glock’s Toyota on 1m 20.490s, Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari on 1m 20.715s and Fernando Alonso’s Renault on 1m 20.741s.

Q2 saw the demise of Felipe Massa, who just didn’t have his Ferrari as well set up as team mate Raikkonen. The Brazilian’s best lap was 1m 18.927s, good enough only for 11th. Neither BMW Sauber made it through, Robert Kubica’s lap of 1m 19.308s leaving him 12th, Nick Heidfeld’s 1m 19.448s seeing him line up 15th. Between them was McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen on 1m 19.353s, and Renault’s Nelson Piquet (who went off at Stowe at one stage) on 1m 19.392s.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, the darling of Silverstone 2008, had a torrid time and was a victim of a big accident which befell Adrian Sutil in the closing moments of Q1, in which Kazuki Nakajima set the pace. The Force India driver lost control on the left-hander at Abbey and crashed heavily into the tyre wall on the outside, necessitating the red flag. He was unharmed. Hamilton was on his flying lap, but with less than a minute of the session left his lap was ruined.

Giancarlo Fisichella was 16th on 1m 19.802s in the sister Force India, ahead of Sebastien Bourdais’s Toro Rosso on 1m 19.898s. Sutil had recorded 1m 19.909s earlier, and Hamilton 1m 19.917s, leaving them 18th and 19th ahead of Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso in 1m 20.236s.

(From Website : http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2009/6/9529.html)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nadal Pulls Out With Knee Injury

Defending champion Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from The Championships at Wimbledon after failing to sufficiently recover from knee tendinitis, which has plagued the Spaniard since his shock fourth-round exit to Robin Soderling at Roland Garros earlier this month.

Nadal made the announcement after he lost to Stanislas Wawrinka 4-6, 7-6(6), 10-3 in a grass-court exhibition tournament at the Hurlingham Club, in west London, on Friday afternoon.

"Unfortunately this year I won't be able to play at Wimbledon," admitted Nadal. “To not play Wimbledon is one of the toughest decisions of my career. I've played with some problems with my knees for some months.

"I don't feel like I'm ready to play in a tournament that is as important as Wimbledon. I tried everything. I tried hard in the last week to get in the best condition and today was my last test.

"I have some time now to recover and will work very hard to return as soon as possible."

The 23 year old joins John Newcombe (1972), Stan Smith (1973) and Goran Ivanisevic (2002) as the only players who were unable to defend their Wimbledon titles in the Open Era.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/News/Tennis/2009/06/Nadal-Pulls-Out-Of-Wimbledon-With-Knee-Injury.aspx)

Fan favorites put on a show during marathon day at Bethpage

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Just when you thought Phil Mickelson had the fairy-tale angle all to himself, the fractured first two days of the U.S. Open served up a couple of other protagonists whose surprise appearances on the leader board added even more emotional resonance to a tournament that has suddenly gone soft.

Mickelson began his Open a day late and opened with a solid 69 in front of adoring fans, then finished up by going even par over 11 holes in a second round that began at 4:30 p.m. and was halted by darkness three and a half hours later. But during an endless Friday at rain-softened Bethpage he had to share top billing with Rocco Mediate and David Duval, a couple of warriors who, respectively, are trying to steal the show for a second straight year and continue a climb out of the abyss.

Mediate was a lovable loser last year in his epic 91-hole tussle with Tiger Woods at Torrey Pines but he suddenly seems determined to be more than a mere sideshow as he produced a series of stellar iron shots en route to a first-round 68 that left him tied for fifth behind Mike Weir's sizzling 64 (a score that somehow included a double bogey). Before the second round was suspended by darkness Mediate played 10 holes in four over, leaving him eight behind Glover, the Southern gentleman who scorched Bethpage for five birdies in 13 holes during the afternoon. Having completed 13 holes in the second round, Glover stood at 6-under, one stroke ahead of 2002 U.S. Amateur champ Ricky Barnes, who was through nine.

Duval has had a perceptible swagger ever since he played his way through Open qualifying, and in his first round at the Black he went 5 under over the final 14 holes to post a 67, tying for third. Duval, whose last few seasons have been a struggle to recapture even a semblance of his old form, hung in there during a scrappy afternoon and was clearly energized by the dawn-to-dusk tour of Bethpage. "I hope I would appreciate it more," the 2001 British Open champ said of being in the mix at another major. "I have a very good idea what great golf is about and what bad golf is about."

The U.S. Open is supposed to be the most heartless of tournaments but all the warm and fuzzy storylines on the leader board only add to the unreality of the first two days at Bethpage. The greens were so soft that players were routinely sucking back approach shots out of the rough. What is supposed to be golf's ultimate examination was turned into a potluck banquet as muddy golf balls were the norm in the fairway, especially when the first round was restarted at 7:30 a.m. Tiger Woods let a good round get away with a sloppy finish that included an errant mudball on the 16th hole. Woods's 74 was over by the brunch hour and he isn't scheduled to appear again until 11:06 a.m. on Saturday when he, like the others in the early Thursday groupings, will embark on their round two.

The foreboding Saturday forecast includes a high probability of thunderstorms. Best case is that the second round is completed by Saturday evening and the Open concludes on Sunday in the dark after a rousing 36-hole finale. Worst case is the cut isn't made until sometime on Sunday evening and the Open finishes on Monday. Or Tuesday. Or, if the long-range forecast is correct, in July.

How sunny a player's attitude is through these upside-down opening rounds largely depends on the numbers on his scorecard. Despite his balky back Mediate was raring to go between rounds. "Even though I'm old I can still get around a little bit," he woofed.

With his iron game dialed in, Weir was among the many afternoon and evening players anxious to squeeze in as many holes as possible on a defanged golf course during a warm, windless Friday. "Our side [of the draw] definitely had a big advantage," said Weir, who has finished in the top-6 at three of the last six Opens. "For us to be able to play in nice conditions all day like this is huge."

Glad Weir enjoyed it. Everyone around beleaguered Bethpage is hoping the rest of this Open is equally pleasant. It's a nice thought, but it might just be another fairy tale.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1905966,00.html)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tursunov Survives Early Scare; Santoro Advances

Russian Dmitry Tursunov, the No. 2 seed, overcame a challenging first-round test against Italian Fabio Fognini 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 on Monday at the AEGON International, a combined ATP World Tour 250 and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour event contested on grass in Eastbourne.

Fognini, looking for his first match win on grass, levelled the score as he capitalised on all three of his break points in the second set, but Tursunov broke to go up 5-4 in the third set and served out the win in just under two hours.

Tursunov is making his fifth event appearance, and reached the semi-finals in 2007 when the tournament was held in Nottingham (l. to eventual champion Karlovic). The 26-year-old is looking to win conseuctive tour-level matches for the first time since winning the Metz title last October (d. Mathieu).

Fourth-seeded Frenchman Fabrice Santoro, who turned pro in 1989, improved to 37-30 lifetime on grass courts after defeating American Robert Kendrick 6-3, 6-2 to set up a second round meeting against Robby Ginepri at the AEGON International. Santoro recorded his first ATP World Tour win since March at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami with victory in 53 minutes. The 36 year old has a 6-8 mark on the year.

Sixth-seeded American Sam Querrey, buoyed by confidence from a third round exit at The Queen’s Club last week to compatriot James Blake, hit 19 aces and beat Paul Capdeville of Chile 6-2, 7-5 in just 52 minutes. Querrey, who improved to 18-14 on the 2009 ATP World Tour season – highlighted by one runner-up finish at Auckland (l. to del Potro), will next face Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, the eighth seed from Spain, was equally as dominant on serve in his first match. The World No. 50 hit 13 aces and broke Evgeny Korolev of Russia six times in a 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-2 victory in just over two hours. Garcia-Lopez, who won 43 of 54 points on first serve, captured his first ATP World Tour title at Kitzbuhel (d. Benneteau) last month.

Three British players, who have received wild cards for The Championships at Wimbledon next week, Alex Bogdanovic (pictured), James Ward and Josh Goodall all won their opening matches at Devonshire Park, the venue of the ATP World Tour 250 tournament.

The 25-year-old Bogdanovic, who won three matches in the qualifying competition, recorded the ninth grass-court victory of his career over Ivo Minar 6-4, 7-6(3) in 75 minutes. It was his first ATP World Tour level win since June 2008 at Nottingham. Minar, currently No. 77 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings – 112 places above Bogdanovic – hit nine aces and saved five of seven break breaks.

Ward, a wild card entry, who lost to Marcos Baghdatis in The Queen’s Club first round last week, recorded his first ATP World Tour win. The World No. 224 struck nine aces and won 72 per cent of service points to beat Romanian Victor Crivoi 6-1, 6-3 in 53 minutes. Ward, 22, trained at Juan Carlos Ferrero’s Academy in Villena, Alicante until recently.

Wild card Goodall, snapped a 10-match losing streak at tour-level to record his first ATP World Tour win with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Japanese qualifier Tatsuma Ito in 62 minutes.

Also on Monday, four of Sussex’s best young tennis players were treated to a rare master class when Ivan Ljubicic and Jelena Jankovic took time out of their schedule to pass on world-class advice. Abbi Melrose, Sam Cissell, Sam Rice and Kyria Dunsford, four of the best 420 players for their age in the UK, are a part of the AEGON FutureStars program.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3995.ASP)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Murray Sets Up Ferrero Clash; Roddick Edges 50-Ace Match, Meets Blake Next

British hope Andy Murray (pictured) was dominant on serve as he booked his spot in the AEGON Championships semi-finals with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Mardy Fish on Friday at the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament, staged at the Queen’s Club in London.

The World No. 3 fired 11 aces as he surrendered just five points on serve – including winning 30 of 31 first-service points – in the 70-minute match. At the close of a tight first set, Murray gained a crucial break of serve in the 11th game and sealed the one-set lead as Fish miscued a smash. Murray then broke through twice in the seventh and ninth games of the second set to wrap up his 38th victory of the season and improve to a 3-1 career lead over Fish.

"I did serve very well today," commented Murray. "I changed direction of my serve on the second serve very well. Even when I did miss my first serve, I didn't feel like I was letting him into a rhythm on the return, and the rest of my game was solid. He's got a big serve. He comes to the net a lot and makes it tough for you and I managed to get the break through right at the end of the first set."

The top-seeded Scot is bidding to become the first British champion at the Queen’s Club since Bunny Austin triumphed in 1938. Tim Henman was the last Briton to reach the final, finishing runner-up in 1999 (l. to Sampras), 2000 (l. to Hewitt) and 2002 (l. to Hewitt).

The 22-year-old Murray, who is through to the Queen’s Club semi-finals for the first time, is bidding to clinch his first grass-court ATP World Tour title. The Dunblane native has won three ATP World Tour titles from four finals this season and is well on course to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, which will be held at the O2 arena in London in November.

It is a month filled with expectation for Murray as this week he fine tunes his grass-court game ahead of The Championships at Wimbledon – where he will carry the hopes of a nation as he bids to end Britain’s 73-year wait for a men’s singles champion. Last year, the Scot made a Grand Slam breakthrough as he reached his first major quarter-final after thrilling the Centre Court crown by recovering from a two-set deficit against Richard Gasquet in the fourth round.

In the semi-finals, Murray will face a first-time meeting with Former World No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero - who reached his first grass-court semi-final with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Belgian Steve Darcis.

Looking ahead to the clash, Murray said: "If I serve well, I've got a chance like anybody does on grass. I need to make sure that the rest of my game is solid tomorrow. There will be a lot more rallies. Ferrero has a very good return. The rest of my game will have to be on, not just the serve and the return."

The 29-year-old Spaniard had previously reached the quarter-finals at three grass-court tournaments at 2007 Wimbledon (l. to Federer), 2006 ‘s-Hertogenbosch (l. to Serra) and 2005 Halle (l. to Haas). He improved his record on grass to 26-14.

"After the first two matches I felt very well on the court, and I believed that I could make good results with the first semi-final (on grass) for me," said Ferrero. "Of course, I don't want to stop right now with good feeling to try to win the tournament."

World No. 73 Darcis, appearing in his first ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season, broke Ferrero's serve in the seventh game of the match before closing out a one-set lead with a love service game – featuring two aces. Ferrero was quick to hit back in the pair’s first meeting, breaking to lead 3-1 in the second set and going on to level the match. The 2003 Roland Garros champion then earned a crucial break in the seventh game of the final set to seal victory after one hour and 47 minutes.

Ferrero, currently No. 90 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, won his 400th tour-level singles match in his first-round win over Sebastien Grosjean. The right-hander is chasing his second ATP World Tour title of the season, after snapping a title drought of nearly six years in April with victory in Casablanca (d. Serra).

World No. 6 Andy Roddick came through a testing encounter with Ivo Karlovic in a repeat of the Queen's Club 2005 final. The American edged the Croatian 7-6(4), 7-6(5) in a match featuring 50 aces and no service breaks.

In the 82-minute match, Karlovic fired 26 aces to take his total for the week to 106 - breaking the tournament record of 96 aces that he himself had set on his route through to the final in 2005. The 6’10’’ Zagreb native was not broken in 49 service games during the tournament.

"You kind of have to hold your nerve a little bit on your own service games," commented Roddick. "It gets to 30/30 if you miss one ball that could be a set. You're not going to get any looks to get back into it.

"You kind of have to go from not doing a whole lot in the points, kind of just walking back and forth, and then you have to be ready to be sharp when you do get the opportunity or when you do have to play a point. So mentally it's a little tricky."

The 26-year-old Roddick is two wins away from becoming the first player in the Open Era to win five titles at the Queen’s Club. The Austin, Texas resident has a 29-3 match record at the event, clinching three successive titles from 2003-05 before reclaiming the trophy in 2007 (d. Mahut). The two-time Wimbledon finalist is chasing his second ATP World Tour title of the season to join the trophy he won on hard court in Memphis (d. Stepanek) in February.

Roddick next will face countryman James Blake after his Davis Cup teammate ousted Russian Mikhail Youzhny 7-6(5), 6-3 in 76 minutes. The sixth-seeded Blake converted all three of the break points he created and won 73 per cent of points on serve to improve to a 2-1 career lead over Youzhny.

Despite trailing their head-to-head 2-6, Blake has won his past two meetings with Roddick – including in the Queen’s Club semi-finals three years ago.

World No. 16 Blake reached the Queen’s Club final in 2006, when he finished runner-up to Lleyton Hewitt in his second appearance in a grass-court final (also 2002 Newport – l. to Dent). The 29 year old is looking to reach his second final on the ATP World Tour this season after finishing runner-up to Albert Montanes on clay in Estoril – a match in which he held two match points.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3949.ASP)

Djokovic Cruises Through; Kohlschreiber Closes On Second Halle Final

ATP World Tour No. 4 Novak Djokovic booked his place in the semi-finals of the Gerry Weber Open after a much more straightforward victory than his second-round win. The Serbian No. 2 seed, who saved five match points to defeat Florent Serra on Thursday, made light work of No. 7 seed Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 6-4 on Friday at the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in Halle.

Two breaks of serve in the fourth and sixth games sufficed to secure the opening set for Djokovic and he immediately capitalised on his momentum by breaking to lead 3-1 in the second set. The No. 28-ranked Melzer took advantage of a loose service game from Djokovic to break back and lead 4-3, but Djokovic quickly regrouped and hit back to win the final three games of the match and seal victory after 66 minutes.

The 22-year-old Djokovic has bounced back strongly from the surprise third-round defeat he suffered at Roland Garros at the hands of Philipp Kohlschreiber and is through to his ninth ATP World Tour semi-final or better of the season. The right-hander has clinched titles at Dubai (d. Ferrer) and at his inaugural home-town tournament in Belgrade (d. Kubot) and finished runner-up at three successive ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments.

Next up for Djokovic is Belgian qualifier Olivier Rochus, who continued his good run with a battling 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-3 victory over German wild card Benjamin Becker. The diminutive Rochus withstood 17 aces from Becker to convert three of eight break point chances, while facing no break points himself, in the two-hour and four-minute match.

Playing in just his second ATP World Tour event of the season, the No. 136-ranked Rochus is through to his first semi-final at this level since September 2007 – when he reached his sixth ATP World Tour final at Mumbai (l. to Gasquet). The 28 year old passed the Halle quarter-finals for the first time in three attempts, having previously fallen at that stage in 2005 (l. to Safin) and 2006 (l. to Federer in 3rd set tie-break).

German No. 1 Philipp Kohlschreiber (pictured) took one step closer to reaching the final at the Gerry Weber Open for the second straight year after defeating compatriot Andreas Beck 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 Friday to reach the semi-finals at the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament in Halle.

The 25 year old fired 17 aces and converted three of five break point chances, while saving eight of the nine threats on his own serve, to rally from a set down and clinch victory in the pair’s first meeting after one hour and 57 minutes.

"I am very relieved," confessed Kohlschreiber. "It didn’t look as if I was going to win during the first hour. I didn’t really find my rhythm. He just started hitting the balls, served very strongly, played fast balls from the baseline and gave me a hard time. If you are trying to find your way into the match and then start playing better and better, then, of course, the relief is even bigger."

Kohlschreiber, currently a career-high No. 24 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, reached his third ATP World Tour final – and his second on German soil – in Halle last year, finishing runner-up to Roger Federer.

The right-hander is through to his first ATP World Tour semi-final since Vienna (d. Verdasco, l. to Monfils) in October 2008 and is bidding to win his first grass-court title. He is coming off a personal-best fourth-round showing at Roland Garros, where he beat World No. 4 Novak Djokovic before losing to No. 16 seed Tommy Robredo. He improved to a 24-11 mark on the season.

For a place in the final, Kohlschreiber will take on Tommy Haas – who knocked out fellow German wild card Mischa Zverev 7-6(5), 6-2. The 31-year-old Haas hit nine aces and capitalised on three of six break point chances he created to prevail after 75 minutes. Kohlschreiber won their one previous encounter in a third set tie-break in the second round at Halle last year.

Former World No. 2 Haas will contest the Halle semi-finals for the third time (also 2005-06) and will look to reach a final on home soil for the fourth time. His lone title in Germany came at Stuttgart in 2001 (d. Mirnyi).

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3948.ASP)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ask the Expert - Toyota’s Jarno Trulli

What is a paradiddle? Who won the 1997 German Formula Three championship? How many Grands Prix did motorcycle champion Jarno Saarinen win during his career? Why is Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina nicknamed George? And which river runs through the German city of Cologne? These are just some of the questions we thought Toyota’s Jarno Trulli would take in his stride after he agreed to be the latest participant in our personal trivia test, ‘Ask the Expert’...

Q: You own a vineyard, but can you name the grape variety that your land is predominantly planted with?
Jarno Trulli:
Well, our region is very well known for the red Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, the white Trebbiano d'Abruzzo and the Cerasuolo Rose, these are the most important wines that we produce. But believe me, we have many other different grapes in our region like Malvasia or Pecorino - they are small grapes and not very well known but fantastic as well!
Correct

Q: If your team mate Timo Glock hadn't made it in motorsport, what would his likely profession be?
JT:
I have no idea. I don't know him so well but he is a good, clever and smart guy who could do anything.
Incorrect - Glock has said he would probably work for his father's scaffolding company.

Q: You play drums in a Toyota team members' band, but can you explain to us what a paradiddle is?
JT:
Basically we set up this band between Toyota members in order to play some music, stay together and enjoy a bit of free time together. It is a very good way to spend and enjoy time away from racing. But coming back to your question - I have no idea. I have never studied music. I play by instinct.
Incorrect - it’s a four-note pattern in the form of right, left, right, right or left, right, left, left.

Q: You once wore a special pink helmet to commemorate the achievements of cycling friend Danilo di Luca. What year and at which Grand Prix was it? And what race had Di Lilo just won?
JT:
He won the Giro in 2007 and the pink helmet was the Canadian Grand Prix.
Correct - De Lilo had won the 2007 Giro d'Italia cycling race.

Q: You won the German Formula Three championship in 1996. Which of your current Formula One rivals inherited your title in 1997?
JT:
Nick Heidfeld.
Correct

Q: You are a fan of Audemars Piguet watches. When was the company founded?
JT:
Oh! It is difficult to say when the company was founded because Audemars Piguet is a company that is made by two families - by the Audemars family and the Piguet family. They started out not as producers of watches but of mechanisms. At one stage they joined forces to produce a watch. I really cannot remember the year - but it's quite some time ago - something like late 19th century and it's one of the only watch brands that is still owned by the family!
Incorrect - it was actually in 1875, but we think Trulli deserves half a point for his history lesson.

Q: Your parents named you after Grand Prix motorcycle racing champion Jarno Saarinen. How many motorcycle Grand Prix did Saarinen win during his career?
JT:
Ah, sorry I don't know.
Incorrect - it was 15.

Q: Your team mate Timo Glock is an avid fan of which unusual sport? And for a bonus point can you name his favourite team?
JT:
No idea!
Incorrect - Glock’s a big fan of handball and supports HSV Hamburg.

Q: At the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix you scored your first (and to date only) F1 victory. Which of your current F1 rivals are also still awaiting that elusive second win?
JT:
Let me go through the grid. I think Kovalainen is one! Webber never, Piquet never, Williams drivers never, Red Bull - none of them. Give me a clue!
One point from a possible two - McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen (won Hungary, 2008) and BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica (Canada, 2008).

Q: In 2000 you completed the New York Marathon. Can you name any one of the three Italians who have won the race?
JT:
No, sorry.
Incorrect - Orlando Pizzolato in 1984 and 1985; Gianni Poli in 1986; Giacomo Leone in 1996.

Q: Your first child, Enzo, was born in April 2005, but which of your fellow F1 drivers also became a father that same week?
JT:
I should be right: it's Juan Pablo Montoya.
Correct - Montoya's wife Connie gave birth to Sebastian.

Q: Toyota team principal Tadashi Yamashina has the nickname George. Which George is he named after and how did the nickname come about?
JT:
He got his nickname when he was in the USA but I don't remember the story behind it.
Half a point - apparently he is named after President George Bush. Back in 2001 when Yamashina arrived in the United States to take up a new post as president of Toyota's Technical Centre USA, his new colleagues struggled to pronounce his name, so he ended up instead being known as George, after the then US President.

Q: Although Toyota's Formula One programme only began in 2002, the Japanese company has enjoyed a long racing presence. In what year did the brand enjoy its first motorsport win?
JT:
I don't know.
Incorrect - It came in 1975 at the 1000 Lakes Rally in Finland, when Hannu Mikkola and his co-driver Atso Aho won in a Toyota Corolla.

Q: In 2008 team manager Richard Cregan left Toyota for a new position. What is Cregan's new job?
JT:
He became manager of the Abu Dhabi race track.
Correct - he is indeed team manager of Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management, spearheading preparations for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November.

Q: Toyota's factory is based in Cologne. Which river runs through the German city?
JT:
I don't know. I'm not really good at geography!
Incorrect - the Rhine.

Q: You won the 2004 Monaco Grand Prix. How many safety car periods did the race feature, and which of your former team mates ended his race upside down on Lap Three?
JT:
Fisichella and I think we had two safety cars.
Correct - Fisichella’s Sauber rolled after he ran into the rear of David Coulthard's McLaren.

Q: In 1996 you participated in the prestigious F3 Marlboro Masters race at Zandvoort. Two other drivers on the grid that day also went on to become major Formula One stars. Can you name them?
JT:
Montoya and Nick Heidfeld
Correct - Heidfeld finished third and Montoya was fourth. Trulli was 19th.

Q: You spent two seasons with the Prost team, scoring eight points in total. How many points did the team score on their F1 debut at the 1997 Australian Grand Prix?
JT:
In ‘97 I was not with Prost so I have no idea.
Incorrect - two, after Olivier Panis finished fifth.

Q: Your first front-row grid slot came at the 2000 Monaco Grand Prix. Who was on pole and who won the race?
JT:
Michael Schumacher was on pole and I was second by one tenth - but neither of us finished, and if I remember rightly, Coulthard won.
Correct - Schumacher retired on lap 56, leaving Coulthard to win for McLaren.

Q: You were born in Pescara, which in 1957 hosted a round of the Formula One world championship. The circuit was the longest ever used in F1. To the nearest minute, what was Stirling Moss's fastest lap time?
JT:
I don't know. But let's see if I can calculate something. Alora, given the length of the track my guess is 15 minutes? What, only 9 minutes 44? Ah, I remember there was an 8-kilometre long straight.
Incorrect - 9 minutes 44.6 seconds. The circuit was 25.579km long.

Final score: 15 points from a possible 26
Ask the Expert rating: 58%

Current leader board:
1. Mark Webber - 84%
2. Sebastien Buemi - 72%
3. Robert Kubica - 70%
4. Jenson Button - 69%
5. Giancarlo Fisichella - 68%
6. Nico Rosberg - 66%
7= Sebastian Vettel - 64%
7= Rubens Barrichello - 64%
9. Jarno Trulli - 58%
10. Nick Heidfeld - 57%

More drivers coming soon.

(From Website : http://www.formula1.com/news/interviews/2009/6/9482.html)

An emotional return to golf for Mickelson

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The idea was for Phil Mickelson to return to a routine as best as possible in his world now shaken with fear.

It has been three turbulent weeks since he announced his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mickelson has always felt like he was in control, even if his golf at times suggested otherwise. Now he feels helpless.

"I've never been this emotional, where if I'm driving alone or what have you, I'll just start crying," he said Wednesday at the St. Jude Classic, his eyes tinged with streaks of pink, his voice no longer steady and sure.

"We're scared, yeah," he said. "I think a lot of it is the unknown."

Tests on his 38-year-old wife have provided enough optimism that surgery has been pushed back to the first week of July, allowing Mickelson to return to competition this week, then go to the U.S. Open in New York, where he is beloved under normal circumstances.

His wife faces treatment for at least a year, so they decided to do what they normally would - play golf tournaments, take their three children to camps and activities. They plan a tropical vacation after the U.S. Open and before Amy's surgery.

Even so, this was not a normal routine for Mickelson in Memphis.

Some 300 fans lined the walkway at the bottom of the stairs leading to the clubhouse where Mickelson had lunch, waiting for autographs or pictures, some wearing pink shirts in support.

Mickelson, however, went around the front of the clubhouse to avoid the crowd, setting up shop at the far end of the range that had been reserved for the amateurs before his pro-am round, far away from his peers. Woody Austin, his partner at the Presidents Cup last time, and defending champion Justin Leonard walked over to welcome him back with a handshake that turned into a hug.

He does not know what to expect from his game. Mickelson said he would hit balls for an hour while his wife was resting, and he feels he is not far off from earlier this year, when he won at Riviera and Doral.

"But certainly, I haven't played in a while," he said. "I had an emotional month, and I don't know where I will be on the golf course as far as being able to focus. I don't know that yet."

If nothing else, Mickelson said he looked forward to being inside the ropes, allowing him to get his mind off cancer.

But there was no escaping it Wednesday.

He started on No. 10, hitting driver down the hill into the water, hitting the next one in a bunker. Then came the par-3 11th over water, and a tournament tradition that hit home like never before.

Patients at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital caddie for the professional on this hole. Mickelson met Michael Anderson, 27, who is coming off his fourth surgery for a brain tumor. A half-dozen children suddenly surrounded him, most of them losing their hair.

Lefty knelt to speak to them, giving each a golf ball and a glove until he had to send his caddie, Jim Mackay, back to the bag for more.

"I can't shake hands," one girl said to Mickelson, steadying herself with a crutch.

"Well, you have a very strong hug," Mickelson said after leaning in to embrace her.

Anderson had enough strength to lug Mickelson's bag to the green - "It's heavier than mine," he said with a smile - but Mickelson wouldn't discharge him of his duties until he read the birdie putt. He just missed.

They talked briefly about his outlook, and Anderson inquired about Amy.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1903823,00.html)

Murray Eases Through; Hewitt Sets Up Roddick Clash

World No. 3 Andy Murray made a confident start to his AEGON Championships campaign with a 6-1, 6-4 dismissal of Italian Andreas Seppi in the second round of the ATP World Tour 250 tennis tournament at the Queen’s Club on Wednesday.

After the No. 48-ranked Seppi had held serve in the first game, Murray reeled off eight straight games to lead 6-1, 2-0. A dip in concentration from the Scot allowed Seppi back into the match as the Italian levelled at 2-2, but Murray was able to get a fifth break of serve in the 10th game to close out victory after 59 minutes.

“I started the match very well. I played maybe one not so great game on my serve, and apart from that, it was very good,” said Murray. “I returned well. My serve could have been a little bit better, but I was happy with the way I moved and didn't make too many errors.”

British No. 1 Murray enters the AEGON Championships after a career-best quarter-final showing at Roland Garros and is bidding to become the first home-grown champion at the Queen’s Club since Bunny Austin triumphed in 1938. The Dunblane native has won three ATP World Tour titles this year at Doha (d. Roddick), Rotterdam (d. Nadal) and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Miami (d. Djokovic) and improves to a 36-6 season match record.

The 22-year-old Murray next will face No. 16 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez after the Spaniard knocked out Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 7-6(3), 6-3 in 87 minutes.

Australian Lleyton Hewitt set up a blockbuster third-round confrontation with No. 2 seed Andy Roddick after rallying to defeat Portugal’s Frederico Gil 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. Hewitt and Roddick, both former ATP World Tour champions, accounted for eight straight Queen’s Club titles before Rafael Nadal broke through to win the title last year. The 49th-ranked Hewitt has a 36-7 record at the Queen’s Club, winning successive titles from 2000-02 and reclaiming the top prize in ‘06.

Hewitt leads the head-to-head series against Roddick 6-4, but has lost his past three matches against the American. He last defeated Roddick four years ago in the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells semi-finals.

“[It’s] a good challenge against one of the best grass court players in the world,” said Hewitt. “He's obviously got a big weapon with his serve. He's got a big forehand. He moves well for his size. Just playing grass court tennis, to come up against a guy like that is going to be a big step up from my first two matches here.”

Another former World No. 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero, also booked his place in the third round by ousting French No. 11 seed Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4, 6-4. He will next play Belgian qualifier Xavier Malisse, a 7-6(6), 7-6(8) winner over South African lucky loser Rik de Voest – a late replacement for No. 7 seed Marat Safin, who withdrew with a back injury.

World No. 146 Nicolas Mahut rediscovered the grass-court form that took him to the final of the AEGON Championships in 2007 to edge out No. 5 seed Marin Cilic 7-6(1), 7-6(4). In a match without any service breaks, the French qualifier withstood 11 aces from Cilic’s racquet – while firing nine of his own – and saved all four break points he faced to defeat the No. 13-ranked Cilic of Croatia in one hour and 48 minutes.

The 27-year-old Mahut enjoyed the best week of his career two years ago at the Queen’s Club when he stunned World No. 2 Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals en route to reaching his maiden ATP World Tour final, which he lost to Roddick in a third set tie-break after holding one match point. He is playing in his first tour-level event since losing in the first round at Lyon in October 2008 and missed the first two months of 2009 with a right shoulder injury.

“Here is my favourite tournament. Even if I lost in final with match points two years ago, it's so many good memories. The crowd was just fantastic with me, and I have fun. I really love play here,” said Mahut. “I played two good matches, and the road is really long, but I know the way to go farther.”

The 20-year-old Cilic, who is at a career-high in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, dropped to a 27-10 mark on the season. The right-hander, who reached the AEGON Championships quarter-finals two years ago, has won two ATP World Tour titles this season at Chennai (d. Devvarman) and Zagreb (d. Ancic).

Mahut goes on to face 2005 Queen’s Club finalist, Ivo Karlovic, for a place in the quarter-finals. The 6’10” Croat fired 33 aces and did not face a single break point on serve as he defeated Frenchman Julien Benneteau 7-6(7), 6-7(4), 6-2 in just over two hours. Like Mahut, Karlovic made his first appearance in an ATP World Tour final at the Queen’s Club – only to be denied by Roddick.

Russian No. 14 seed Mikhail Youzhny booked his place in the third round after rallying from a 2-4 deficit in the second set to beat Cypriot wild card Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 7-6(3). World No. 44 Youzhny posted solid results on clay in the past month, reaching his ninth ATP World Tour final at Munich (l. to Berdych) and making the semi-finals at Kitzbuhel (l. to Garcia-Lopez).

Youzhny takes a 2-0 head-to-head record into his next match against World No. 7 Gilles Simon, including a five-sets win two years ago at Wimbledon. Simon advanced with a 7-6(7), 7-6(5) victory over Bulgarian wild card Grigor Dimitrov.

Belgian Steve Darcis defeated Spaniard Alberto Martin 6-2, 6-4 in his second-round match, and then received a walkover into the quarter-finals when fourth-seeded Frenchman Gael Monfils withdrew with a left wrist injury. Coming into London, Darcis had won just one match (1-9) on the ATP World Tour this season although he was a runner-up at the clay-court Challenger tournament in Prostejov last week.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3936.ASP)

Zverev Saves 2 M.P. To Oust Berdych

ATP World Tour No. 45 Mischa Zverev was one of four Germans to reach the quarter-finals Wednesday at the Gerry Weber Open, holding his nerve to save two match points and oust 2007 champion Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(8) at the ATP World Tour 250 grass-court tennis tournament in Halle.

The German wild card delighted home fans as he saved two match points at 6-7 and 7-8 in the tie-break – having initially held a 6-3 advantage himself – before winning the final three points of the match to prevail after two hours and 32 minutes. Zverev had led 4-2 in the final set, after rallying from a one-set deficit. He converted five of eight break point chances, and saved 10 of the 14 that he faced on serve.

“I felt that he would start to get anxious at some point,” said Zverev, who defeated Berdych last month in Rome. “For instance at 3-3 he missed a forehand and I thought that in Rome he had match points against me and missed with his backhand. Then, he only played cross court like now, five, six, seven times cross then he tried to play longline and missed. I knew my chance would come.”

The 21-year-old Zverev, who won the Halle doubles title in 2008 with Mikhail Youzhny, is through to his fourth ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season and improved to an 11-10 match record. The Hamburg resident is currently a career-high No. 45 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings – one of five Germans ranked inside the Top 50.

The No. 21-ranked Berdych was chasing a third final appearance at Halle. He finished runner-up to Roger Federer on his debut in 2006 and captured the title the following year with victory over Marcos Baghdatis. The 23 year old was also looking for his second title on German soil this season, having won his fifth ATP World Tour title at Munich last month (d. Youzhny).

Zverev next will meet German compatriot and wild card Tommy Haas, who knocked out fourth-seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-6(3). By defeating the World No. 9, Haas snapped a seven-match losing streak against Top 10 players that began in July 2008 at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Toronto (l. to No. 4 Davydenko).

"We both played extremely well, served well," said Haas. "I didn’t look at the statistics but I’m sure there were more winners than unforced errors from both sides. It was a great match. Obviously, I think I played at the level as good as I can play at times, especially when it came to the big points. I think that is the only reason why I won today. So, that was nice."

The 31-year-old German has a 16-9 lifetime record in Halle, reaching the semi-finals in 2005-06 and the quarter-finals in 2004. He advances to his third quarter-final of the 2009 tennis season, having reached this stage previously on hard court at San Jose (l. to Roddick) and on clay at Houston (l. to Phau).

A third German wild card, Benjamin Becker, also upset a seeded opponent – knocking out eighth-seeded compatriot Rainer Schuettler 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. The No. 83-ranked Becker fired 12 aces as both players broke serve six times from 14 opportunities in the two-hour and one-minute match.

Becker, who will celebrate his 28th birthday on Tuesday, is through to his first ATP World Tour quarter-final of the season. The right-hander has posted strong results on the ATP Challenger Tour this season, capturing four titles and reaching a fifth final. He had never advanced past the second round in Halle in three previous appearances.

Philipp Kohlschreiber joined his countrymen in the quarter-finals after defeating No. 6 seed Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 7-6(6) as he fired 10 aces and converted two of his nine break points.

Kohlschreiber, the top German at a career-high No. 24 in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings, has now reached the quarter-finals in four of his five Halle appearances. Last year, he finished runner-up to Roger Federer.

Lucky loser Lukas Lacko, a replacement for scheduled top seed Roger Federer, took full advantage of his opportunity by winning his first ATP World Tour match of the season with a 7-6(6), 6-2 victory over Israeli qualifier Harel Levy.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3935.ASP)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

All it took was a few words from Jack Nicklaus to get Tiger Woods to rediscover his awesome swing

Everything's faster in New York. On Monday morning, on the sports page of the New York tabs, Tiger's win at the Memorial was right there, alongside the Yankees and the Mets. (Woods Hi-Jacks Nicklaus' Tourney, exclaimed the Post.) New Yorkers, though, were on to the next thing: "Yeah, but can he win the Open?" That is, the U.S. Open, to be held next week at Bethpage Black, a vast oasis of fescue rough and magic-carpet fairway surrounded by dense Long Island suburbia. Woods won the 2002 U.S. Open there, in the days when his fist pumps could rattle trees. But this new Tiger, the one who won at Memorial — the one who drives it in play with three-woods and five-woods, who barely celebrates his hole-outs, who wins from the clubhouse, long before 60 Minutes starts ticking — who is this guy, and how did he suddenly get here?

Johnny Miller, the winner of the 1973 U.S. Open and lead analyst at Bethpage for NBC, has long been Tiger's most incisive critic (and, at times among the microphone crowd, his only objective fan). Last week, before the Memorial, Miller said in an interview, "I've had a dream about 20 times where he comes to me and asks me for a lesson." In Miller's dream he instructs Woods to hit shots with a slight pause at the top of his swing, as he did from 1997 through 2000. Miller also asks Woods to soften the squat move he has been making in recent years, where his head and body come too close to the ball on the downswing and he gets in his own way.

Miller, and others steeped in swing mechanics, watched in amazement as Tiger played some of the worst shots of his career this year at the Masters, at the Quail Hollow tournament in Charlotte and at the Players. In those tournaments Woods let loose a year's worth of f bombs. His postround practice sessions, where an elite player can quickly pinpoint problems and turn things around, were often brief, in deference to a left knee still in recovery from ACL surgery following the 2008 U.S. Open. Tiger didn't say much about the state of the swing in his interviews. (He seldom does.) But his coach, Hank Haney, may have revealed more than he intended in an interview last month with SI.

Haney said, "I don't understand why everybody thinks I'm going to get fired. Am I going to get fired when he asks me to come to Isleworth? Is he going to fire me when we go to Bethpage? During the Yankees game we're going to afterward? In August when he releases his new video where I'm his teacher?

"He has a new leg. He has a new swing because his knee isn't flopping around like it once was. The media give him no slack. It wears me out, and it wears him out as well. I told Tiger about all this crap about me being fired, and he smiled and said, 'Welcome to my world.'"

It's easy, and maybe correct, to see Haney's mini-rant as a by-product of Tiger's erratic play. Haney knows that Miller, and prominent teaching pros, have been second-guessing what Tiger was doing, and what Haney was teaching.

But then Tiger went to Ohio, and there everything changed. Jack set him free. Nicklaus, generally straightforward when talking to reporters, said he felt that Tiger, in his return from surgery, was making a swing that protected his left knee. Presented with Nicklaus's observation, Tiger acknowledged for the first time that he was, in fact, doing just that. He went from the press tent to the practice tee at Muirfield Village and started hitting balls, in the rain, and took some of the most beautiful, rhythmic swings he has made in years, with much less dip. It was as if he had absorbed Johnny's dream lesson by osmosis. It was this new-and-improved swing that allowed Tiger to win at Memorial.

But ball striking alone will not win you a U.S. Open. You must putt, too. At the Memorial, Tiger's putting was spotty, but the putting guru Stan Utley, who uses Tiger's stroke as his model, thinks Woods will putt well at Bethpage. He has seen glimpses of Woods's putting this year on TV and in person and has concluded that his stroke is as sound as ever. Mechanics, Utley noted, come back quickly from a layoff. Feel is slower to return.

At Bethpage, Utley said, Woods will have one additional and important thing going for him: The greens there are poa annua, the grass on which Tiger grew up putting, and the type of grass on which he putted so well last year at Torrey Pines. The ball tends to bounce on poa annua, Utley said, and Tiger hits his putts with a slight (and ideal) hooking action that encourages the ball to hug the grass, hold its line and finish at the bottom of the hole.

Reclaiming his feel is a work in progress for Tiger, and that applies not only to the putter, but also to his entire body. Last year Woods won the U.S. Open on a left leg that was falling apart, but at least he knew what it could and couldn't do. One of the difficult things for Woods at this year's Open will be to know exactly what he can and cannot count on his left knee to do, particularly when playing out of deep rough.

The former Ryder Cupper Brad Faxon had ACL surgery on his right knee in 2005 and again in '07. Faxon says that since his surgeries he has not felt like his old self. Tiger, likely, doesn't either.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1903488,00.html)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Federer Clinches Roland Garros Title To Seal Career Slam

ATP World Tour No. 2 Roger Federer became the sixth man in history to win all four Grand Slam singles titles when he produced an exceptional performance to defeat Swede Robin Soderling 6-1, 7-6(1), 6-4 in the Roland Garros final on Sunday.

"This is the most satisfying win of my life, along with my first Wimbledon," Federer said. “I have tried for so many years, so there was much pressure involved... I always believed in it but it becomes harder with time.”

Federer said that he felt extra pressure after Soderling’s surprise fourth-round win over Rafael Nadal. “You never want anyone to lose, but I was relieved [when Nadal was knocked out] as I knew he would be the hardest win to beat. Bu then the press said if you don’t come through this year you are a bad player. It feels like I have played three or four finals.”

Federer was presented with the Coupe des Mousquetaires by Andre Agassi, who was the last man to complete the career Grand Slam - when he rallied from a two-set deficit against Andrei Medvedev in the 1999 Roland Garros final. The American was, like Federer, playing at Roland Garros for the 11th time and came into the clay-court major with an almost identical record to Federer – having compiled a 31-10 record at Roland Garros, while Federer entered with a 32-10 mark.

Victory for Federer also saw him tie Pete Sampras’ all-time record of 14 major singles titles. The 27 year old was playing in just his 40th Grand Slam tournament, while Sampras achieved the feat at his 52nd major. Sampras has held the record since the 2002 US Open, when he defeated Agassi in an all-American final before immediately retiring from professional tennis, aged 31.

Upon receiving 2000 South African Airways 2009 ATP Ranking points Federer is now virtually assured of his place at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where he is a four-time former champion. World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has already booked his place at the elite eight-man event, to be held for the first time at London’s O2 Arena.

It was Federer’s fourth successive appearance in the Roland Garros final, having finished runner-up to rival Rafael Nadal in the past three championship matches. Coming into the match, only Jimmy Connors, in the Open Era, had won more matches at Roland Garros (40-13 record) without going on to win the title. Federer had compiled a 38-10 record prior to Sunday’s final.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3894.ASP)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Federer Rallies Again To Move One Match Away From Rewriting History Books

Roger Federer finds himself one match away from securing a place in tennis' history books and perhaps being considered the greatest player all-time. The 27-year-old Swiss superstar advanced to his fourth consecutive Roland Garros championship after rallying to defeat World No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro 3-6, 7-6(2), 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, on Friday.

Federer, who has come up short in the past three Roland Garros finals against arguably the greatest clay-courter of all-time, Rafael Nadal, will take on the Spaniard's conqueror, No. 23-seeded Robin Soderling, who will appear Sunday in his first tour-level clay court final. Federer is 9-0 lifetime against the Swede (19-1 in sets), including 2-0 on clay.

Despite his dominance of Soderling and unrivaled experience in Grand Slam finals, Federer rejected suggestions that he is a lock to win the final. "Look, there's no easy Grand Slam finals,” he said. “It's very simple, because the one who is on the other side of the net has also won six matches and is definitely in the shape of his life.

"I cannot obviously underestimate Robin, even though I've beaten him I think in the [nine] matches we've played against each other. But obviously it's nice to see someone else for a change in the French Open finals. I've been there before. I don't know if it's an advantage or not, because I've never been able to win. I'm sure the pressure is big for both players, not only for me, but also for him. It's his first big step in a Grand Slam. I'm sure we're going to play some good tennis, because I thought he played we will really well today against Gonzalez."

Federer is one match away from becoming the sixth man to win all four Grand Slam championships in his career and from tying Pete Sampras' mark of 14 Grand Slam titles. Andre Agassi was the last man to complete a career Grand Slam 10 years ago at Roland Garros. Other players who have accomplished the feat are: Fred Perry in 1935, Don Budge in 1938, Rod Laver (1962 and '69) and Roy Emerson (1964).

Federer is making his 19th trip to a Grand Slam singles final (13-5), including 15 of the past 16 title matches. His 19 finals equal Ivan Lendl's mark (8-11).

This has been Federer's toughest road to a Grand Slam final, losing six sets along the way, including a five-setter against Tommy Haas (from two sets down) in the fourth round and four-set battles in the second and third rounds.

"It feels great coming through tough matches like this," said Federer. "It's more emotional. It's more satisfaction, even though I love matches when I can really dominate an opponent. But this is also a great feeling of coming through this way, not the easy way, showing different qualities. It's not always something I've actually had a chance to show, because matches were over too quickly sometimes. It's good for me, so my career hopefully is going to be longer because of those matches, in the long run."

In the opening set, del Potro broke in the fifth and ninth games to secure his first set won (of 13) in their six meetings. Both players held throughout the second set before Federer took control of the tie-break. He led 5-1 before closing it out 7-2. In the third set, the Argentine broke in the opening game and again in the seventh game to take a 2-1 sets lead.

Federer failed to break del Potro in the first three sets before finally converting in the fourth game. The 20-year-old Argentine double-faulted to lose serve in the sixth game and Federer closed out the set with his fifth ace to even the match.

In the opening game of the fifth set, Federer broke when del Potro hit a forehand long. Federer was broken in the sixth game but broke back in the next game as del Potro double-faulted. Federer failed to convert on his first match point on del Potro's serve in the ninth game but sealed the three hour and 28-minute victory with a forehand winner on match point.

Although del Potro converted five of 13 break points to Federer's four of 12 and led in aces (16 to 5) and winners (55 to 50), the Tandil native struggled on second serve. Federer won 52 per cent of second serve points to del Potro's 43 percent.

Del Potro, who was appearing in his first Grand Slam semi-final, was the first Argentine since David Nalbandian in 2006 to reach the semi-finals at Roland Garros.

"Well, now I feel so sad. It was a long match, very close," said del Potro. "It was my first semi-final and I had the chance. I think I'm playing better than Australia where we played on another surface. I served very good every moment in the match and that was the reason it went to five sets."

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3879.ASP)

Soderling Continues Dream Run Into Final

Robin Soderling became the seventh Swede in Roland Garros history to advance to the final of the clay-court Grand Slam championship on Friday. The No. 23 seed dramatically fought back from a 1-4 deficit in the deciding set to beat No. 12 seed Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 6-3, 7-5, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, in three hours and 28 minutes, for a place in his first clay-court final.

Watched by Bjorn Borg, a winner of six Roland Garros titles, and urged on by his coach Magnus Norman – runner-up in 2000 – Soderling bewitched Gonzalez with a stunning array of groundstroke and service winners to seal a famous victory that keeps alive his bid for a first Grand Slam championship.

“If you'd ask me a couple years ago which Grand Slam I'd play [a] final in 2009, I wouldn't have said Roland Garros,” said Soderling, who in Sunday's championship match will meet three-time runner-up Roger Federer of Switzerland.

Soderling will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Sven Davidson (1957), Borg (1974-75, 1978-81) and Mats Wilander (1982, 1985, 1988), who went on to lift the trophy. Only five men in the Open Era have gone on to win their first clay-court title at Roland Garros. The last to do so was former ATP World Tour Champion Gustavo Kuerten in 1997.

Soderling, who defeated four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the fourth round, competently traded blows with the hard-hitting Gonzalez in the pair’s early exchanges. But it was 27-year-old Gonzalez who sealed the first break of serve with a blistering backhand winner down the line in the third game. Soderling, undeterred, found his rhythm and moved into a 4-2 lead before comfortably wrapping up the opening set in 34 minutes.

Gonzalez, who was appearing in his first Grand Slam championship semi-final since reaching the 2007 Australian Open final, saved three break point opportunities in the ninth game of the second set. In the next game he set up one set point opportunity, but Soderling coolly struck an ace out wide and regained his early impetus much to the frustration of his Chilean opponent. Gonzalez fell to 0-40 at 5-5 and an imperious service game from Soderling helped wrap up the 52-minute second set.

In the third set, Gonzalez wore down Soderling with an array of winning strokes that he had exhibited in beating third seed Andy Murray in the quarter-finals. Nerves began to creep into Soderling’s game midway through the set and in the 12th game Gonzalez was gifted two set point opportunities. Soderling committed two forehand errors and the Philippe Chatrier Court came to life again as Gonzalez won the 40-minute third-set.

Gonzalez, the 1998 Roland Garros junior champion, avoided the worst possible start to the fourth set when he saved three point points in a breathtaking opening game and clinched the game with a forehand winner down the line. At 4-4, the tension increased as Gonzalez questioned a line call he felt the umpire had incorrectly adjudged as out. Gonzalez hit three straight aces to win the game and minutes later, as Soderling’s serve and forehand crumbled, the Chilean levelled the score line at two sets apiece.

Gonzalez fired into a 3-0 lead in the deciding set and a sixth comeback from two sets down appeared on the cards. Incredibly Soderling relaxed to produce a series of superb service and forehand winners that helped him regain control of the baseline.

“I was tired,” said Soderling. “I have to admit I was tired. But I felt like, ‘okay’, this is not how it's going to end. I have to try everything I can. I felt like I can only do my best, but I didn't want to go off this court and feel like I didn't do my best in the fifth set. So I just tried harder, and all of a sudden it all worked again.”

The 24 year old began attacking the net and 1-4 became 4-4. In the ninth game Gonzalez saved two break points with an ace and a Soderling backhand into the net, but on Soderling’s third break point opportunity the Chilean hit a miss-timed forehand out.

Soderling held his nerve to secure a remarkable victory that extended his winning streak to nine matches. It was his first win over Gonzalez since March 2006 at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Indian Wells.

“My first feeling [immediately after the match] was actually relief that the match was over, because it was a really long match, and I was tired at the end,” said Soderling. “And then after a few seconds, I got really, really happy.”

Soderling hit 16 aces and 74 winners, converting five of 18 break point opportunities. Gonzalez, by comparison, hit 22 aces and 59 winners.

“You think you're going to win,” explained Gonzalez, “and nothing is done till the last ball. At 15-30 I really thought I was going to win, but I also feared that what happened would happen when a player starts relaxing and playing his best tennis and goes for his shots. I had doubts with regard to my serve, so I wasn't as strong on my first serve. He had two extraordinary returns, and then it turned out wrong, because I lost.

“I did not succeed in doing what I wanted to do today. I didn't want to use my second serve because of the way he would return the ball, but each time I played as if it was a second serve. I do think I didn't play my best tennis, but that's not an excuse. I always try and do my best, and what you saw on the court is all I have.”

Gonzalez had been attempting to emulate his Chilean compatriot Luis Ayala, who was runner-up at Roland Garros in 1958 and 1960. At 28 years and 313 days, Gonzalez was the oldest semi-finalist at Roland Garros since Tim Henman (29 years, 274 days) in 2004.

Gonzalez, a winner of 11 ATP World Tour titles, dropped to 16-3 on clay courts this year and 22-6 overall. He won his fourth Vina del Mar title in February.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3877.ASP)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Turkish Grand Prix Preview - a three-way fight in Istanbul?

This weekend’s race round Turkey’s Istanbul Park Circuit could show the direction in which the world championship battle will go over the next few Grands Prix. The unusual track, which runs anti-clockwise, places a premium on aerodynamic performance and that is bound to favour the Brawns.

However, it could also finally show us the true potential of Red Bull’s RB5, now boasting its own trick diffuser. And don’t discount Ferrari, the team on the rise and winners here the last three years…

This weekend’s race round Turkey’s Istanbul Park Circuit could show the direction in which the world championship battle will go over the next few Grands Prix. The unusual track, which runs anti-clockwise, places a premium on aerodynamic performance and that is bound to favour the Brawns, which demonstrated convincingly in Barcelona, another aero venue, that they are still highly effective even though everybody else now has similar multi-tier diffusers.

Istanbul Park Circuit undulates over its 5.338 kilometre (3.316 mile) lap length. For 2009 the back of the apex kerbs in Turns Nine and 12 have been graded to prevent a car from launching. Speed bumps, similar to Turn Two in Barcelona, have been installed behind the apex of Turn 10. And additional conveyor belts have been added mid-way through the tyre barriers at Turns One, Seven, Nine and 12.

The track is best known for the challenge presented by Turn Eight, a triple-apex left-hander that seems to go on and on. It is taken around 250 km/h generates arguably the highest G-forces drivers see over the season. Elsewhere, speeds reach 320 km/h and track temperatures of up to 55 degrees Celsius have been seen. It is thus as much a challenge for the drivers and cars as it is the engineers, who have to set them up, and the tyre manufacturer.

Bridgestone have brought their hard and soft compounds here, which are very different, and the harder tyre in particular could have engineers scratching their heads on set-ups.

This could be the first race at which we really see the potential of Red Bull’s RB5. Adrian Newey’s latest weapon has been very close to the Brawns all season even without a trick diffuser, but team boss Christian Horner believes its race performances in both Bahrain and Barcelona were disguised because Sebastian Vettel got trapped behind cars with KERS (Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren and Felipe Massa’s Ferrari respectively). Since Monaco the car has a two-tier diffuser, and this weekend will be the first time that the car will get to stretch its legs in this guise. With some more minor aero tweaks, expect it to fly.

Likewise, the Ferraris will be strong here, and the team are feeling buoyed after their competitive performances in Spain and Monaco. Felipe Massa has been unbeatable here for the last three years, and is raring to make it four in a row.

“We will have another small step in terms of aerodynamic development, which should improve the car still further, and that is down to a big push from the guys in the factory," he reports. "We want to continue to improve as quickly as possible, to try and win some races. If will be fantastic if we find we are in a position to fight for the win in Turkey.

"I just like the track and feel comfortable there, but it's hard to pinpoint why it suits me better than some other circuits. I do prefer fast flowing tracks and have a feel for all the corners here, as it's not good enough to only be fast over one particular section of the track. I think I've also found a good way to set up the car perfectly for this circuit."

BMW Sauber will be running a two-tier diffuser for the first time as part of an aero package that includes modified front wings, side bargeboards, rim shields and engine cover. Both they and Toyota have high hopes for this weekend and are desperate to wipe out memories of their troubled Monaco outings. Hamilton is also hopeful of a better time in the McLaren.

“I love racing in Turkey,” he says. “It’s a real challenge because you need to attack the lap to get a good time, but you also need to be careful with your tyres - if you push too much, particularly through Turn Eight, then your tyres are going to suffer. It’s all about finding the perfect balance in practice and being disciplined in the race so you don’t overdo it.

“I also love the fact that it’s a new circuit that has really captured the flavour of some of the older, classic tracks - it’s got a bit of everything and is fantastic to drive. Also, as it’s anti-clockwise, it gives your neck a bit of a workout, but you just need to make sure you’ve exercised the left side of your neck a little more than usual before getting in the car.”

However, though McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says that the MP4-24 will have some further upgrades, he does not expect Turkey to suit it as well as Monaco did. Championship leader Jenson Button starts favourite, though. He and Brawn team mate Rubens Barrichello will have a new front wing, other minor aero revisions, and modified rear suspension to play with this weekend on their BGP 001s.

"The Turkish Grand Prix is always a race that I look forward to as I really enjoy driving the Istanbul Park circuit and have been quite competitive there in the past,” Button says. “Hermann Tilke did a great job with the layout of the track here and the changes in gradient are great fun and quite challenging. We've seen some excellent racing here, with good overtaking opportunities at Turns One and Three.

“You can also pass down the hill into Turn Nine and at Turns 12 and 13 if you brake late enough and get it just right. Turn Eight is obviously the corner that everyone talks about and it's probably the longest that I've ever driven. It's quite high G-force, up to 5G for seven seconds, which puts a lot of stress on your neck. You have to be as smooth as possible through the triple apex and if you get it right and take it flat, then it is one of those corners where you exit with a huge smile having made up a lot of time."

(From Website : http://www.formula1.com/news/features/2009/6/9427.html)

No Hang-ing Around

Ding Junhui's hopes of retaining his Wuzou International Group Jiangsu Classic title suffered an early blow as he lost 2-1 to Li Hang in his opening match in Wuxi, though he recovered by beating Stephen Hendry.

Wild card Li (pictured), who has shown his promise with some fine results in his debut professional season, took a scrappy opening frame on the pink before Ding levelled with a break of 117. Former UK champion Ding had the first clear scoring chance in the decider but could only make 33, leaving Li to take it with an excellent 65.

Home favourite Ding, who beat Mark Selby in last year's final, hit back with a 2-1 defeat of Hendry. He won the first and third frames on the colours, Hendry taking the second with a run of 60.

Scotland's Hendry also lost 2-0 to Mark Allen and now looks unlikely to finish in the top two in the group and qualify for Saturday's semi-finals.

Ryan Day made an impressive start against Peter Ebdon with a 132, then came from 51-0 down in the second frame, making a break of 60 before winning it on the pink.

Crucible runner-up Shaun Murphy has made a fine start in group two. He enjoyed a 2-0 victory over Jin Long, cleraring the colours to win the first frame on the black then adding the second with a 114. Murphy went on to beat Marco Fu 2-0 without conceding a single point.

Fu had previously beaten Joe Perry 2-0, while Mark Selby beat Ali Carter 2-0 with a best effort of 92.

(From Website : http://www.worldsnooker.com/2009_World_Snooker_Jiangsu_Classic_news-49200.htm?tid=139)

Bryant leads Lakers past Nuggets, back to finals

The AP reports: Kobe Bryant had 35 points and 10 assists to lead the Los Angeles Lakers back to the NBA finals with a 119-92 victory over the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals on Friday night. Bryant got plenty of scoring help from Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom as the Lakers shot 57.3 percent from the field to avoid having to play a Game 7 back at the Staples Center.

InsideHoops.com notes: The Lakers outscored the Nuggets by 5 in the first quarter, 8 in the second, 3 in the third and 11 in the fourth. Los Angeles shot 57.3% for the game, Denver 43.8%. Both teams were hot from three-point range, but the Lakers were awesome, nailing 9-of-16 from outside the arc. Trevor Ariza had three of those 3-pointers.

For the Lakers, Bryant had 35 points, 6 rebounds and 10 assists (just 1 turnover). Pau Gasol (8-of-12) had 20 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. Lamar Odom had 20 points and 8 rebounds. Trevor Ariza (awesome 7-of-9) scored 17. And Luke Walton (5-of-7) scored 10.

The Lakers hit a perfect 24-of-24 free throws, and outrebounded the Nuggets 38-27.

For the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony (6-of-17, 12-of-15 free throws) had 25 points but little else. J.R. Smith (10-of-17, 4-of-9 threes) had 24 and little else. Kenyon Martin had a quiet 13 points and 5 rebounds. Chauncey Billups got shut down, shooting just 2-of-9 for 10 points and 9 assists (but 5 turnovers). Dahntay Jones, Nene and Chris Andersen did little, though the Birdman blocked 3 shots.

(From Website : http://www.insidehoops.com/blog/?p=4383)

Loyalties Tested As Federer Reaches Semi-finals

Parisian loyalties were tested on Wednesday when the sentimental favourite Roger Federer, a three-time runner-up to Rafael Nadal, beat the local favourite Gaël Monfils - France's only hope of snapping a 26-year singles title drought at Roland Garros - in straight sets.

Second-seeded Swiss Federer moved one step closer to a first Roland Garros title that would complete his long-time ambition of securing a career Grand Slam, of the four major championships, after beating 11th seed Monfils 7-6(6), 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 10 minutes.

Federer, who stands two wins away from drawing level with all-time Grand Slam title-leader Pete Sampras on 14 major trophies, booked his place in a 20th consecutive Grand Slam championship semi-final with his fifth straight victory over Monfils – whom Federer also beat in the 2008 semi-finals.

"I was very nervous before this match, yesterday and today," said Federer. "But I have a lot of experience. I know that when I step on the court, I will play well. Or very well."

Having tested the nerve of his heavily-pregnant wife, Mirka, and a legion of fans worldwide with hard-fought victories over Jose Acasuso, Paul-Henri Mathieu and Tommy Haas in previous rounds, Federer produced a service masterclass – winning 69 of 94 points, including eight aces – against Monfils to leave spectators on Philippe Chatrier Court unable to begrudge him an opportunity to create history.

Only Juan Martin del Potro, his opponent in the semi-finals, and potentially Robin Soderling or Fernando Gonzalez in Sunday’s final, stand in his way from lifting the Coupes des Mousquetaires and becoming the sixth man in tennis history to complete a career Grand Slam. None of the players left in the draw have beaten Federer on a clay court before.

France will have to wait another year for a player to emulate 1983 champion Yannick Noah.

The 22-year-old Monfils came closest to breaking the Federer serve, with two break point opportunities in the first and 10th games of the first set that was decided by a tie-break. Federer opened up a 5-3 lead in the tie-break, but lost three straight points and was forced to save a set point at 5-6 with a smash. His composure restored, the Swiss superstar clinched the 250th tie-break of his career (250-132) with a forehand winner.

"Maybe I took too many risks at the beginning," Federer explained, "but I was worried about his forehand."

Federer then moved into top gear in the second set, courtesy of service breaks in the first and third games, which he won in under 30 minutes.

Monfils required a doctor’s assistance for a stomach ailment in the early stages of the third set, but was able to save one break point in the second game. But the stay of execution for Monfils was short lived. He saved one break point in the ninth game with a backhand volley, but moments later Federer secured the decisive service break when Monfils hit a forehand into the net. Federer went on to close out his 31st win of the year (31-6 record) with a backhand winner.

In the absence of four-time champion Nadal, who lost to Soderling in the fourth round, Federer is the red-hot favourite to lift the Roland Garros title and the 59th title of his career.

Federer is just the fourth man to reach the Roland Garros semi-finals on five or more occasions. René Lacoste reached five semi-finals between 1925-1929, Henri Cochet matched the feat between 1926-1930 and Eric Sturgess advanced to a record six semi-finals between 1947-1952.

Monfils, the 2004 Roland Garros junior champion, dropped to 19-9 on the season. He has also reached the Acapulco final (l. to Almagro) and two semi-finals at Doha (l. to Roddick) and Rotterdam (l. to Nadal) on the ATP World Tour circuit.

"Today," Monfils said, "he didn’t miss a lot. He still has two tough matches if he wants to win, but I think he can do it. He should be very motivated to win, so, yeah, why not?"

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3864.ASP)

Confident del Potro To Meet Federer In SFs

Juan Martín del Potro breezed into his first Grand Slam championship semi-final Wednesday with a performance that was full of confidence and maturity against No. 16 seed Tommy Robredo of Spain at Roland Garros.

The fifth-seeded Argentine avoided a repeat of his 2008 US Open (l. to Murray) and 2009 Australian Open (l. to Federer) quarter-final exits with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win in two hours and seven minutes.

At 20 years of age, the youngest player left in the singles draw must now reverse a five-match losing streak against Roger Federer if he is to continue his dream of emulating Guillermo Vilas and Gaston Gaudio as a Roland Garros champion.

Del Potro hit 36 winners as his extra weight of shot – particularly on his serve and forehand – pinned Robredo behind the baseline for much of the pair’s second meeting. The Argentine faced his first test on serve in an epic fourth game of the second set, when he fought back from 0-40 in a game of seven deuces.

In a nervous final game, del Potro converted his fifth match point with a forehand winner for his 31st win of the year (31-8 record). He fired 14 aces past Robredo and won 46 of 51 points on his first serve, while Robredo failed to convert any of his seven break point opportunities and committed 26 unforced errors.

Del Potro is the first Argentine to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since David Nalbandian at Roland Garros in 2006. He is the eighth Argentine to reach the last four in the Open Era.

Robredo, had previously lost in the Roland Garros quarter-finals in 2003 (l. to Costa), 2005 (l. to Davydenko), and 2007 (l. to Federer). He dropped to a 9-34 lifetime record against Top 5 players.

The 27 year old dropped to 25-7 on clay courts and 32-11 overall this year. He won two ATP World Tour titles at Costa do Sauipe and Buenos Aires in February.

(From Website : http://www.atpworldtour.com/TENNIS/1/EN/NEWS/NEWSARTICLE_3865.ASP)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A focused John Daly returns to the PGA Tour in Memphis

I'm going to be playin' Memphis, been reinstated from the PGA — John Daly, via Twitter, May 26, 5:50 a.m. EDT

As those 11 words, sent from John Daly's computer in the late-morning hours in Kent, England, hurtled through cyberspace last week, Phil Cannon, tournament director of next week's St. Jude Championship in Memphis, was already preparing for the coming storm.

It was Cannon's sponsor's exemption that officially ended Daly's exile from the PGA Tour, a six-month suspension following a spate of incidents in 2008, including a night spent in a North Carolina jail after an evening of drinking. Daly, the prodigal son of professional golf, would soon be walking in Memphis.

Cannon's phones at St. Jude Championship headquarters were beginning to ring off the hook, with folks calling to confirm the reports about Daly's imminent return and, of course, to scoop up tickets for the tournament. "I call them Daly's dailies," Cannon says. "They're the people who buy a daily ticket just to watch him play."

Cannon says he felt no queasiness about giving Daly a precious sponsor's exemption, his off-the-course combustibility notwithstanding. One year during the Memphis tournament, Daly arrived at TPC Southwind with what appeared to be fingernail scratches on both sides of his face. He said Sherrie, his fourth wife, had tried to stab him with a steak knife the night before. Despite that incident and other odd behavior over the years, Cannon prefers to highlight the positive when it comes to Daly and his support of the Memphis Tour stop.

In a year in which the St. Jude Championship lost its title sponsor, Stanford Financial, due to an alleged fraud scandal, Daly provides a crackling story line, whether he wreaks havoc or not. "I don't want to get too hyperbolic," Cannon says, "but there was another Memphian named Elvis Presley whose popularity was also hard to quantify."

Just weighed in at 225, LOST 55 POUNDS!! That's AMAZING! — Daly, via Twitter, May 17, 5:06 a.m. EDT

Like Elvis, Daly has also gone through huge weight swings, starting as the fit and mustachioed ninth alternate who won the 1991 PGA Championship, becoming the pleasantly plump bomber who won the '95 British Open, and ballooning into the obese, sweat-stained golfer who let himself go in the new millennium.

This spring, the pictures beamed across the Atlantic to the U.S. have shown a trimmed-down Daly, thanks to lap-band surgery on his stomach in February. The weight loss (he wants to get to 190 pounds), a new girlfriend (former Hooters promotional director Anna Cladakis), a new swing guru (Phil Mickelson's old coach Rick Smith) and a new habit (Twitter) have given Daly a new sheen.

But what will the Tour be getting when Daly plays in Memphis, attempts to qualify for the U.S. Open and then tees it up on another sponsor's exemption at the Buick Open in late July? Is this a new John Daly?

"I saw him on TV. He has a few more pounds to lose, but don't we all," says Jeff Maggert, who has known Daly since they competed against each other in college (Daly at Arkansas, Maggert at Texas A&M). "From my perspective it's not about him coming back and playing golf. It's about getting his life in order. You don't want to pick up the newspaper and read that something bad has happened. That's the road he's been on."

At the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, won by Steve Stricker, the emotion and focus of the week centered on Amy Mickelson's breast cancer, but Daly's return was also a topic of conversation. If Daly's Tour brethren have grown tired of his stops and starts and endless incarnations, they aren't saying so. Instead, they're softly cheering for a 43-year-old golfer entering perhaps his final act as a professional.

"He's the sweetest guy. He's always so kind to everyone he's around," says Ben Crane. "Well documented are his struggles. We simply want him to go forward."

Says Gary McCord, the Champions tour pro and CBS announcer, "Hopefully he gets a little wiser. He needs to focus and have something to do. If he's tending to his business and doing his job, it helps himself and the Tour. If he's cast adrift, who knows what's going to happen?"

MISS YOU BUB got your message!! Bad luck of the draw in Ireland w/weather but stayin focussed & workin hard practicin' — Daly, via Twitter, replies to Rick Smith, May 16, 10:15 a.m. EDT

Daly has played in seven European tour events since his suspension, interspersing competitive rounds and practice days with a strong embrace of the European life. If he is not the rock star overseas that he is in the U.S., Daly's baseline for popularity is his Open triumph at St. Andrews, the kind of cachet that never expires.

Last month Daly tied for second in the Italian Open while wearing yellow pants, one of many sartorial choices that squares nicely with the splashier golf outfits in Europe. (Daly recently signed an apparel deal with Loudmouth Golf, a California company whose celebrity roster includes former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon and rocker Alice Cooper.) And though he missed the cut at the Irish Open at Baltray, Daly used the occasion to buy an Irish wolfhound at Nutstown Kennels near Dublin. (He named the dog Greg.)

Without status on the PGA Tour and unsure of how many sponsor's exemptions he will receive (the maximum allowed is seven), Daly is instead chasing a spot in the European tour's Race for Dubai, in which the top 60 on the money list compete in the $20 million Dubai World Championship in November. Daly is 100th in earnings. But with Tiger Woods still a question mark and with Mickelson out indefinitely, Daly's wattage would provide an instant boost to the Tour. Says McCord, "[Daly] is still one of the biggest draws out here — him or Freddy [Couples]."

Says Tour veteran Bart Bryant, "It does nothing but help our Tour when John shows up and plays well. The fans know it." Problem is, Daly hasn't shown up or played well for most of the last decade, save for an out-of-nowhere win at Torrey Pines in 2004 and a stirring playoff loss to Woods at the '05 American Express Championship at San Francisco's Harding Park.

If Daly can refrain from becoming an Internet sensation — hitting tee shots off beer cans, playing shirtless and shoeless (as he did in Missouri) while doing a television interview, drinking heavily and ending up with a mug shot in an orange jumpsuit — he might last a little longer in his return from his European adventure.

After missing the cut at last week's European Open, Daly made plans to fly back to the U.S., where the PGA Tour was awaiting him. He was a new man, or at least he looked like one.

We'll have the rest of the year to see if looks can be deceiving.

(From Website : http://www.golf.com/golf/tours_news/article/0,28136,1902175,00.html)