23 June 2006

Wimbledon 06: Men's Singles Preview

Men's Singles Draw

Defending champion Roger Federer, chasing the goal of a fourth successive men's singles title at The Championships, was handed a tough route in pursuit of that achievement when the draw was made at the All England Club.

First up for the top seed from Switzerland in Monday's traditional Centre Court opener will be the 20-year-old pride of France, Richard Gasquet, who once rode as high as 12 in the world rankings but has slipped to 66 this year. Though clay is obviously the favourite surface of this son of a tennis club owner in the south of France, Gasquet won the Nottingham grass court title a year ago before moving on to Wimbledon and reaching the fourth round in only his second appearance at The Championships.

Federer, who will set a new record of 42 consecutive grass court victories if he wins Monday's match, beating Bjorn Borg's mark of 41, has not lost at Wimbledon since a first round exit in 2002 to Mario Ancic and should overcome Gasquet without excessive alarm. However, his next prospective opponent, Tim Henman, could be altogether more demanding if the former British number one defeats Sweden's Robin Soderling in the first round.

Henman is unseeded for the first time in a decade at a tournament where he has four times reached the semi-finals and been a quarter-finalist on another four occasions. Federer admitted before the draw was made that an unseeded Henman was one of the opponents he least favoured.

An expected win over Henman would by no means mark the end of Federer's concerns about retaining the championship he values above all others. Also lurking in his half of the draw are two danger men who have given him problems in the past - his 2002 conqueror Ancic and the Argentinian David Nalbandian.

The 7th-seeded Ancic, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2004, could be Federer's quarter-final opponent. Ancic certainly has an easy-looking early draw until the third round, when he could run up against his compatriot, the 6ft 10in Ivo Karlovic.

With just four losses this year (all of them to Rafael Nadal) in 63 matches, Federer is clearly confident and, by his own estimate, at the peak of his form after a hard but successful work-out in the grass court tournament at Halle, Germany last week.

The top-ranked American, James Blake, seeded seventh and runner-up at last week's Stella Artois championships at Queen's Club, could emerge from the lower half of Federer's section of the draw to challenge the holder despite a poor record at Wimbledon, where he has not gone beyond the second round in three previous attempts.

Federer's luck with the draw is not all bad, though. The two opponents he acknowledges could provide his most serious threat, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick, are safely tucked away in the other side of the draw and would not need to be faced until the final. Roddick, who lost to Federer in the 2004 and 2005 finals, has lost a little of his cutting edge this year, and exited in the Queen's semi-finals to Blake while in pursuit of four straight titles there.

Hewitt, the Stella champion for the fourth time in seven years, is clearly in better grass court form, indeed all-round form, than Roddick, though both men have been suffering from ankle injuries during the clay court season. The sixth-seeded Hewitt, after an easy-looking couple of rounds, could run up against an old adversary, Marat Safin, who has fallen to 87 in the rankings, or possibly the big-hitting Chilean, Fernando Gonzalez.

Safin, a former winner of the Australian and US Opens, drew a first round plum opponent in Greg Rusedski, currently the top-ranked Briton, while the new hope of the British game, Andy Murray, must face the 31st seed, Nicolas Massu of Chile.

Fresh from his repeat triumph at the French Open, second seed Rafael Nadal starts against the fourth-ranked British player, the wild card Alex Bogdanovic, and could come up against the 1992 champion Andre Agassi in the third round, with Ivan Ljubicic, the man he beat in the French semi-finals, a possible quarter-final challenge.

Written by Ronald Atkin

Source: Wimbledon Official Site

Wimbledon 06: Ladies' Singles Preview

Ladies' Singles Draw

Venus Williams, defending her Wimbledon crown for the third time, can expect to face top seed Amelie Mauresmo of France in the quarter-final round of the 2006 Championships.

Sixth seeded Williams, whose experience at Wimbledon includes winning finals in 2000, 2001 and 2005, as well as twice being a runner-up to sister Serena in 2002 and 2003, may need to call on all her history of success on the All England Club courts to take on Mauresmo, the reigning Australian Open champion, who so far has been no further than three semi-finals at Wimbledon.

Mauresmo starts Wimbledon as favourite for the first time against qualifier Ivana Abramovic of Croatia, and could be playing fellow French player Tatiana Golovin in the third round, followed by the 14th seeded Dinara Safina of Russia in the last sixteen.

Williams begins against fellow American Bethanie Mattek and is due to take on Anastasia Myskina of Russia in the fourth round. Myskina, a quarter-finalist for the first time last year, has been no further than the last sixteen in both the Australian and French championships this year.

Of the three women who have won Grand Slam titles since Wimbledon last year, second seed Kim Clijsters of Belgium has by far the hardest start against Vera Zvonareva of Russia, ranked 47th, who underlined her form on grass by coming through the field at Birmingham last week to lift the title over Jamea Jackson in the final.

Providing Clijsters can pass that first test she should be heading for a quarter-final against another Russian, seventh seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova who was runner-up in the French Open final to Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Third seed Henin-Hardenne, also runner-up in the Australian Open this year where she was forced to retire in the final, opens against 99th ranked Meng Yuan of China and should then head to the quarter-finals against eighth seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland.

But Schnyder faces a fourth round match against her fellow Swiss player Martina Hingis, the youngest champion of Wimbledon in 1997, who is back in the Championships for the first time since 2001. Hingis, seeded twelfth, begins against Olga Savchuk of the Ukraine.

Maria Sharapova, the third former champion in the draw, begins against Anna Smashnova of Israel who suffered first round defeats in the Australian and French Opens this year. Sharapova, a semi-finalist in the Australian and a fourth round loser in the French, should face seventh seed Elena Dementieva of Russia in the quarter-finals.

Wimbledon's semi-final line-up is seeded to be Mauresmo against Sharapova and Henin-Hardenne against Clijsters. Whether that happens in reality depends on who can set the pace and find form in the early rounds. Hingis lurks as an intriguing opponent for Henin-Hardenne while Clijsters, the US Open champion, will have to carve out her career-best Wimbledon to reach the final.

Britain has five players in the ladies' singles. Anne Keothavong, the highest ranked at 143rd in the world, begins against Karolina Sprem of Croatia. Katie O'Brien faces Tathiana Garbin of Italy. Naomi Cavaday plays 18th seed Ai Sugiyama of Japan, Sarah Borwell is matched against Marta Domachowska of Poland, and Melanie South takes on the 11th seed Francesca Schiavone of Italy.

Written by Barry Newcombe

Source: Wimbledon Offical WebSite

12 June 2006

Nadal 'King of Clay' Wins at RG

Rafael Nadal won the men's French Open crown with a 1-6 6-1 6-4 7-6 win over world number one Roger Federer in the final on Sunday.

The Spaniard extended his winning streak at Roland Garros to 14-0 by becoming the first man since Brazil's Gustavo Kuerten in 2001 to win back-to-back titles at the claycourt grand slam. Nadal also extended his Open Era-record of consecutive wins on clay to 60 and improved to 6-1 lifetime against the Swiss superstar.

Women's Doubles Final - Lisa Raymond of the United States completed a career Grand Slam in women's doubles, teaming with Samantha Stosur of Australia to beat Daniela Hantuchova and Ai Sugiyama 6-3, 6-2 Sunday for the French Open title. The 32-year-old Raymond won the Australian Open in 2000, Wimbledon in 2001, and the U.S.

10 June 2006

Roland Garros - Men's Final

Rafael Nadal
Roger Federer

- H2H -
Nadal leads 5-1

Livescores - Roland Garros

Henin Retains French Open Title

Justine Henin-Hardenne kept up her remarkable record of not dropping a set as she retained her French Open crown today on the red clay of Roland Garros.

The Belgian fifth seed overcame the challenge of her Russian opponant Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4 6-4 to claim her third French Open title in four years. Henin-Hardenne raced to a 4-1 lead in the 1st set before Kuznetsova hit back but the Belgian kept her nerve and comfortably saw out the second set to win.

Justine Henin-Hardenne, who also won the title in 2003 and 2005, was ecstastic after claiming victory today in convincing style. Henin-Hardenne said: "I'm delighted to get my third win here, it has been a fantastic tournament and it is a fantastic feeling to win again."

Also today the men's doubles final was won by second seeds Jonas Bjorkman and Max Mirnyi 6-7(5) 6-4 7-5. This is their second Grand Slam trophy after successfully defending their Roland Garros crown.

Another final result came in the mixed doubles event which was won by the eighth seeds, Katarina Srebotnik and Nenad Zimonjic 6-3 6-4 in 72 minutes. It is Srebotnik's third Grand Slam mixed doubles title.

09 June 2006

Roland Garros - Women's Final

Svetlana Kuznetsova
Justine Henin-Hardenne

- H2H -
Henin-Hardenne leads 10-1

Livescores - Roland Garros

Prix Orange - Prix Citron

This year's Prix Orange - Prix Citron awards for this year's tournament have been given out at Roland Garros yesterday.

The Prix Orange-Prix Citron is officially appointed by the Tournament Committee, which is a testimony for the greatest Tennis Players, Institutions, International Tennis Organisations and the Specialized Media of its legitimacy.

The Prix Orange -
For the Player “ we love to love ”. It goes to the player (man or woman), who has shone in the tennis world, The international essence of fairness, kindness; availability and friendliness.

Prix Orange of the 25th Anniversary, designated by the Press: Guy FORGET

The 2006 Prix Orange of the Public: Roger FEDERER

The Prix Citron -
For the player “we hate to love” . The International Player with the strongest and sturdiest character…basically the one with a personality enriched with vitamins!

Prix Citron of the 25th Anniversary, designated by the Press: Marcelo RIOS

The 2006 Prix Citron of the Public: Tatiana GOLOVIN

The Prix Bourgeon -
The Expert's vote for the player “we will love to love” . Quintessence of Tradition , this price is exclusively awarded by the Specialized Press. It rewards this year's Revelation, and acknowledges today's International Player, the one from whom life and vigour spring out.

The 2005 Prix Bourgeon of the Press: Gael MONTFILS


04 June 2006

Roland Garros Reports - Part 2

Sunday Tournament Day 1 -
I arrived at the ground today at 10:30am to avoid the vast majority of the crowds on the metro, I went straight to my seat on Court 1 for the first match of the day - Eleni Daniilidou v Ai Sugiyama - The first set was pretty equal, Ai playing a very solid game and Daniilidou showing the pure beauty of her one handed backhand, Sugiyama took the early lead but Eleni managed to take the first set 7/6 after some hard fought points. Sugiyama took total control of the second set, racing through points and not really giving Eleni any chance to get into the set - Daniilidou seemed to be in quite a lot of pain with an abdominal strain injury, so perhaps this was distracting her slightly - Ai then went on to take the second set 6-0! The third set was much more level, both players did a few doubles faults, Eleni did far too many unforced errors - and you could tell from her body language that she had lost some confidence and Sugiyama went on to win the match 6/7 6/0 6/3 Next match up was Tim Henman v Kennith Carlson, there was huge British support for Tim on this first day of the tournament and in his usual style left all the fans on the edge of their seats in a match of inconsistency and nerves. Tim finally pulled off the win 6/3 6/4 4/6 6/4 to going to the second round.

Monday Tournament Day 2 -
My day started with everyone else on the packed metro to Porte d'Auteuil, even if you don't know your way to Roland Garros, all you have to do is follow the massive crowd of people walking from the metro to the grounds. Today the weather was cold and very changeable - the first match I watched was Francesca Schaivone v Aylona Bondarenko on a busy court 8 (I think) Schiavone played with all the style and confidence that we are so used to seeing from her these days, she took control of the match right from the start and the crowd were really appreciating her tennis with crys of 'Allez Schiavone' ringing around the stands - Bondarenko really had no weapons to threaten the Schiavone game, and Francesca went on to win in just over an hour 6/3 6/3 As usual, at the end of the match all the children ran to the front with pens, paper and extra large tennis balls for Schiavone to sign, I also went to the front and spoke to Francesca, congratulated her on a great match, she was lovely as ever and thanked me, then signed my ticket. I then left the court and walked to the far end of the grounds to see who else was on court - I bumped into a few friends of mine and spent the next hour or so chatting, gossiping and laughing about our experiences in Paris this week. Then after I made my way to court 16 for the match between Katarina Srebotnik v Anna Smashnova - the weather conditions changed constantly during this match, one minute hot sun, the next cloud and huge sploges of rain!! The first set was very even, with some beautiful backhands from Smashnova and gentle next exchanges from Srebotnik, the first set went to Srebotnik after breaking Smashnova's serve to take the first set. The next set began with more nerves from Kata and slight inconsistanices from Anna, really the second set could have gone either way, but Smashnova held her nerve to take the second 6/4 - third set was a bit all over the place again, with more UE's from Anna, Kata eventually won 6/4 4/6 6/2

After this match, I went back to the other side of Stade Suzanne Lenglen to court 10 to see American Ashley Harkleroad v Croatian Jelena Kostanic - Harkelroad seemed quite impatient and wanted the match to be over as soon as possible - she was also getting a bit irritated by some of the line calls - Harkleroad to the early lead, but after some hard fought points Kostanic made a very late charge to come back into the game again - I then left the match as the game was put on hold while Kostanic waited for the trainer. I walked around the grounds for a while, looking at all the racket strands in the main avenue outside Court Philip Chatrier, by this time the weather was much better, still cold but at least it was sunny - I watched some of the Nadal match on the big screen in the Place des Mousquetaires Then I went to court 3 to see Feliciano Lopez v Tomas Berdych - Lopez is so talented, and a beautifully stylish player - but he also comes across as such a prima donna, I think he is even more concerned about his apperence than Anna Kournikova!!! hahhahahhahahaha
I was very lucky in the place I was standing as from this point I could continue to watch court 3 but also watch court 2 for the Svetlana Kuznetsova v Laura Granville match. After that match I then went on the long walk back to the metro station in Porte d'Auteuil in the evening sun of Paris - I had a great time at this wonderful tournement and can't wait until I go back again next year!!!

But before that.....next stop Wimbledon!!

01 June 2006

Roland Garros Reports - Part 1

Thursday Qualifying -
My trip to Roland Garros started on the 06:35am flight from London to Paris CDG airport. After landing and making a quick stop at my hotel, I made my way on the annual pilgrimage to the clay courts of Roland Garros for the thursday session of qualifying.

As I leave the Porte d'Auteuil Metro station on the the walk to the club grounds I always feel so excited to be back in Paris again - the 16th Arrondissement of Paris, for me is France at it's best! Entering the gates for the first time and seeing the perfect terracotta coloured courts in front of me, always fills me with a mixture of excitement, emotion and pure passion for the beautiful game that is tennis!

The thing that is always so special about qualifying, besides the tennis, is the opportunity to see the players on the practise courts interacting with eachother and the different training methods they use. On the practise courts today were Safina, Likhovtseva, Ondraskova, Flipkens - all of the top players were training in closed sessions on Court Philip Chartier. After meeting with some of my usual Roland Garros friends I then got the chance to meet Richard Williams who spent quite a long time meeting fans - though he has ignored me in the past, this time he was charming, shook my hand and spoke to us as if we were old friends of his! He told us that him and Venus had only just arrived the day before. He was in a great mood and seemed to be really enjoying the atmosphere of the day.

Friday Qualifying -
My second day was much more eventful! After arriving at the grounds, I immediately made my way to the practise courts again - first player I saw today Italian Romina Oprandi practising over on court 12. She seemed to be really enjoying her training, with lots of laughs between herself and the other girls on court - I never realised that she actually speaks fluent German! After her practised finished, I spoke to her for a few minutes about her recent wins and about the amount fans she has accumulated in the last couple of weeks. After I watched some of Flipkens practise - then moved over to the far side of Court Suzanne Lenglen to check who else was training today. On court 8 was Daniela Hantuchova practising with Gisela Dulko - as Daniela was leaving the court I got her to sign a photo for a friend of mine. Then after I got some photos of James Blake as he was meeting fans and making his way back the locker rooms. Next to practise was Flavia Pennetta with Maria Antonia Sanchez Lorenzo - while Justine Henin Hardenne practised on court 9. Also on the practise courts today was - Francesca Schaivone, Sunitha Rao, Tsvetana Pironkova, Dinara Safina, Patty Schnyder.

Other players seen around the grounds - Marcus Baghdatis (with his ever visible blonde girlfriend in toe) Greg Rusedski, Gisela Dulko, Anna Smashnova, Nathalie Dechy, Laura Pous Tio with her father, Maria Kirilenko, Zuzanna Ondraskova with her boyfriend and Lleyton Hewitt's wife - Australian actress Rebecca Cartwright with their new baby!!! (Rebecca was a real sweetie, gave me a lovely smile as she left the player's area and it was so lovely to see the baby)

Saturday Journee Benny Berthet Charity Day -
This is the first day that the whole grounds are opened up to the public and is the first day when the tournament atmosphere really starts to build! After getting through the gates I went down to the practise courts again and the first person I saw was the Greek beauty, Eleni Daniilidou practising with Karolina Sprem. Eleni seems to be working again with her former coach, Ute Strakerjahn. After the session I spoke to Eleni and wished her 'Good Luck' for the tournament, she signed a photo for me and then posed for some photos with the fans. Next on that court to practise was Francesca Schiavone with Gisela Dulko - I stayed for a bit then I went to Court Philip Chatrier for the start of the charity exhibition matches.

Today had a really great schedule - first up was crowd favourite, Fabrice Santoro v Russian Mikhail Youznhy - the match was in good spirits with Santoro warming the crowd up on this cold day, the match ended in very close tie break! Next up was Roger Federer v James Blake - this was definately a match up to get any tennis fan drooling!!!! James played with all his usual style, Roger seemed very low key today and didn't show the crowd his full range of spectacular tennis - this match also went to a close tie-break and was eventually won by Federer. After the match, James gave the speech of the day direct from his heart - He said that it was an honour to play on such a great court with this great crowd and to be doing it all to raise money for charity, was what made playing tennis so special and that it doesn't doesn't get any better than this!! He then spent the next 20 minutes signing autographs for everyone who asked him - he really is a genuinely lovely person and an inspiration! Next match up was the king of the clay courts, Rafa Nadal v Juan Monaco. By this time the crowd really were getting involved and gave huge cheers of welcome and excitement for Nadal, who definitely didn't disappoint the crowd! He played this exhibition match as if it was the final of Roland Garros itself, he played with such verve, enthusiasm and showed the crowd the pure emotion of his talent - he was awesome to watch live!!! You could feel that the crowd was really feeding from Rafa's energy, at the change of ends the crowd erupted into cheers and endless rounds of Mexican waves at the pure excitement of the whole day! As you can probably guess, Nadal went on to win the exhibition match 6-4! Last match I saw today was Amelie Mauresmo v Daniela Hantuchova - Amelie is always loved here and the crowd at this stage was totally full!! Though Daniela played well, her game was nothing compared the to variety and style of Amelie Mauresmo who gave everything to please her home crowd. Like Nadal, Amelie also played with the great heart and passion - going on to win the match 6-4. After sitting in Court Philip Chatrier for 4/5 hours I decided to go for a walk around the grounds, meeting friends and talking in the atmosphere.