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Rafael Nadal Wins US Open 2010

Posted by: David on Tuesday/September 14/2010 - 12:45 AM
Tennis News 
Rafael Nadal is now chasing something else: the chance to become the greatest tennis player in history.

Approaching perfection for stretches—he played more than 40 points in a row without making an unforced error—Nadal beat Novak Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 in a U.S. Open final Monday that was filled with fantastic shotmaking by both men and interrupted by a thunderstorm a day after it was postponed by rain.

“For the first time in my career, I played a very, very good match in this tournament,” said Nadal, who never had been past the semifinals at Flushing Meadows. “That’s my feeling, no? I played my best match in the U.S. Open at the most important moment.”

The Spaniard is already more than halfway to Federer’s career record of 16 Grand Slam titles, and already past Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi or Ivan Lendl.

Nadal said “talk about if I am better or worse than Roger is stupid, because the titles say he’s much better than me.”

Djokovic had no such hesitation.

“He has the capabilities already now to become the best player ever,” said Djokovic, who lost the 2007 U.S. Open final to Federer, but upset him in Saturday’s semifinals. “(Nadal is) playing the best tennis that I’ve ever seen him play on hard courts. He has improved his serve drastically—the speed, the accuracy. And, of course, his baseline (game) is as good as ever.”

Nadal is a year younger than Federer was when he got to No. 9, and about 3 1/2 years younger than Federer was when he completed his career Grand Slam at the 2009 French Open. Nadal is the seventh man in history with at least one title from each of tennis’ four most important tournaments.

Bjorn Borg was the only other man to have nine major championships by 24.

“It’s too far; 16, for me, is too far to think about right now,” Nadal said, with his typical humility. “My goal, all my life, was the same: keep improving.”

His major improvement in this tournament came from his serve, thanks to a change in his grip. The added pace helps him earn some easy points—important given the way he hustles so much and hits so hard. He won 106 of 111 service games in the tournament.

Nadal is first left-hander to win the U.S. Open since John McEnroe in 1984, and the first Spaniard since Manuel Orantes in 1975.

The man from Mallorca burst onto the scene as the so-called King of Clay, compiling a record 81-match winning streak on that surface and starting his French Open career 31-0. His five titles at Roland Garros have earned him accolades as the best clay-court player in history, but now he has become so much more.

He won on the grass at Wimbledon in 2007, edging Federer 9-7 in the fifth set as darkness descended, then again this year. He won on the hard courts at the Australian Open in 2009, again besting Federer in five sets.

All that was left was the U.S. Open. After complaining of fatigue in 2008, coming off his gold medal from the Beijing Olympics, then dealing with bad knees and a torn abdominal muscle in 2009, he set out to make this trip different.

He curtailed his schedule after Wimbledon, getting treatment on his knees and skipping the Davis Cup quarterfinals. It seemed to work.

“Nadal … is just proving each day, each year, that he’s getting better. That’s what’s so frustrating, a little bit. He’s getting better each time you play him,” Djokovic said. “He’s so mentally strong and dedicated to this sport. He has all the capabilities, everything he needs, in order to be the biggest ever.”

Nadal stretched his Grand Slam winning streak to 21 matches by adding the U.S. Open to his titles at the French Open in June, then Wimbledon in July. No man had won those three tournaments in the same year since Rod Laver won a true Grand Slam in 1969. Now Nadal heads to the Australian Open in January with a chance to claim a Rafa Slam of four consecutive major championships—something that also hasn’t been done since Laver.

He had only had one blip all tournament: the second set of the final when he fell behind 3-1 by making four mistakes, including a double-fault, to get broken at love.

When Nadal pushed a backhand long to close a 19-shot point, 2008 Australian Open champion Djokovic screamed, “Come on!” It was part of a run of 11 consecutive points for the Serb, who went ahead 4-1.

As quickly as Nadal lost his way, however, he gathered himself, to break back to 4-4, when there was a two-hour rain delay.

After they resumed, Djokovic ended up taking the set—the only one Nadal lost all tournament. He came that close to being the first man in a half-century to win this tournament without dropping a set.

Nadal was back to his relentless best in the third and fourth, hitting shots so well that Djokovic was moved to applaud on occasion. The Spaniard broke for 2-1 leads in each of those last two sets.

When Djokovic hit a forehand wide to end it second later, Nadal fell backward onto the court with a shout. He rolled onto his front and placed his forehead on his arms, savoring the moment.

Amid the celebration, mentor Toni Nadal was asked where his nephew stands in the tennis pantheon.

“The best of all time: Federer, Borg, Laver. They’re the best. Rafael is very far away from those guys. Rafael is a good player. He’s a very good player,” Uncle Toni said. “But I don’t know if he’s part of that group.”

Could he be, one day?

“I don’t know,” came the reply. “Ask me in five or six years, and maybe I can say.”

By then—if not sooner—maybe the rest of the world can, too.

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Kim Clijsters Beats Vera Zvonareva, Wins US Open 2010

Posted by: David on Saturday/September 11/2010 - 10:07 PM
Tennis News 
Kim Clijsters blitzed Vera Zvonareva in prime time for her third US Open title, continuing her love affair with Flushing Meadows and the city that never sleeps.

Clijsters, the No.2 seed, had squeaked past No.3 seed Williams on Friday night, 46 76(2) 64, and on Saturday was completely in her prime against No.7 seed Zvonareva, avenging defeats in their last two meetings with a 62 61 triumph. She won seven consecutive games from 2-2 in the first set and barely looked back, ending it with her 17th winner - a ferocious crosscourt forehand.

The win was Clijsters' 21st straight at the Open, the second-longest winning streak here in the Open Era, trailing only Chris Evert's 31. There was also another streak she extended: Clijsters has now won nine straight against Top 10 players, her last loss coming to Jelena Jankovic at Toronto last year.

Zvonareva was in her second Grand Slam final, her first coming just two months ago at Wimbledon, where she won five games against Serena Williams.

"It was a great honor to be in the finals of the US Open and play in front of the New York crowd," Zvonareva said. "Kim just played a very good match. She didn't give me chances to get into the match. I tried my best. I gave 100%."

Clijsters consoled a visibly upset Zvonareva after receiving the winner's trophy. "You're a great player," she told the Russian in front of a sold-out crowd. "Keep it going. It'll happen. It took me six of seven finals until I got my first one."

"Kim's a great champion, but also a great person. Because she said that, maybe I'm not so disappointed now," Zvonareva said about Clijsters' comments at her press conference. "Hopefully I'll have another chance. Hopefully I'll go far in another Grand Slam. Hopefully I will be more experienced."

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Rafael Nadal Wins Wimbledon 2010 After Beating Tomas Berdych

Posted by: David on Sunday/July 04/2010 - 03:16 PM
Tennis News 
Rafael Nadal marked his victory with a celebratory somersault. That endless energy, and so many superb strokes, allowed the No. 2-seeded Nadal to outclass No. 12 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 Sunday for his second Wimbledon trophy and eighth Grand Slam title overall.

A year ago, sidelined by painful knees, 2008 Wimbledon champion Nadal was planted on his couch at home in Spain and watched the final on television, only the fifth man in the history of a tournament that dates to 1877 who couldn’t defend his championship because of injury.

“Now last year is past,” Nadal told The Associated Press as he leaned back in the gray leather seat of a courtesy car ferrying him away from the All England Club on Sunday night. “I know what happened one year ago, and how difficult it was for me, how much I had to work to be back at my best level.”

He paused, tapping his chest with his left hand, and added: “That’s something special for me.”

In 2009, his 31-match French Open winning streak ended, he missed Wimbledon, went more than eight months without a title anywhere, lost the No. 1 ranking, and, hardest of all, dealt with his parents’ separation.

This year, he is 47-5 with five titles, both tour highs. He won 24 matches in a row in one stretch, regained his Roland Garros title and the No. 1 ranking last month, and managed the tricky transition from clay to grass by winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year for the second time.

There is no doubt he’s the best player in tennis today.

“He’s showing in the last few months,” Berdych said, “that he’s really the champion.”

Nadal won his 14th match in a row at Wimbledon, essentially, because he saved all four break points he faced and broke the big-serving Berdych four times.

“The biggest difference between us,” Berdych explained, “was that when he (got) a chance, he just took it.”

Give Nadal the tiniest opening, and the left-hander barges through. It’s no accident he has a silhouette of a bull’s horns stamped on the back of his left sneaker’s heel (the right one reads, “Rafa”).

Still, Nadal acknowledged being “a little bit more nervous than usual” before facing Berdych. Asked why, Nadal said simply: “If you are not nervous in the final of Wimbledon, you are not human.”

This was the first men’s final since 2002 at the All England Club that did not involve Roger Federer, the six-time champion upset by Berdych in the quarterfinals. The past three title matches went five sets: Federer beat Nadal in 2007, Nadal edged Federer 9-7 in 2008 in fading light, and Federer got past Andy Roddick 16-14 last year.

Unlike those, Sunday’s contest was hardly a classic. More like a coronation — or, at the very least, confirmation that Nadal is elbowing his way into any conversation about the best players in tennis history. His eight titles at major tournaments pushes him past John McEnroe and ties Nadal with quite a heady group that includes Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl.

“I’m very proud to be alongside those great players,” Nadal said. “My career is much better than I could have imagined when I began playing.”

That wasn’t very long ago: Nadal is only 24.

“He was really strong today,” said Berdych, who never got past the Wimbledon quarterfinals before and played his first Grand Slam final against a man who was in his 10th, winning the last five.

This one lasted barely more than two hours. Imagine how short the proceedings might have been if Nadal had brought his “A” game, because he was not at his very best Sunday. Perhaps affected by the constant breeze or those jitters he mentioned, Nadal finished with more unforced errors than Berdych, 21-17, and only two more winners, 29-27.

“His game was not unbelievable,” said Nadal’s uncle and coach, Toni, “but it was enough.”

This rout came a day after Serena Williams won a straight-set women’s final. Neither title match offered much in the way of intrigue, making this that rare Grand Slam tournament likely to be remembered mainly for its earlier happenings — particularly, of course, the 11-hour, 5-minute match that American John Isner won, 70-68, in the fifth set.

Only a few puffs of clouds dotted an otherwise azure sky Sunday, an appropriate setting given that no singles matches were interrupted by rain throughout the first completely dry fortnight since 1995.

That might have helped keep the footing clean for Nadal, who moves so well and goes from defense to offense faster than his stunned opponents can say, “How’d he get to that?!” After one point, Berdych looked up at his coach with his hands on his hips, then kicked the turf.

Then there’s Nadal’s uppercut of a forehand, announced with an “Uhhh!” from deep in his gut and finished with a flourish, his racket dangling above his head. Nadal’s underrated backhand is pretty good, too, and he can generate power on that side because he hits it with both fists. (He’s naturally a righty, and he used that hand to sign autographs for fans Sunday afternoon, his latest trophy tucked under his bulging left biceps.)

By the third game, Nadal was getting the measure of Berdych’s serve, returning one that clocked 134 mph. By the seventh game, Nadal edged ahead.

Serving at 3-all, Berdych missed first serves on all but one point and sent a forehand wide, then a backhand long to make it love-30. On the next point, as he so often does, Nadal sprinted from an out-of-position place to reach a good approach shot by Berdych and whip a forehand passing winner.

Nadal punched the air. Two points later, he hit a backhand return that Berdych barely touched, making it 4-3. After holding, Nadal broke again to end the set, part of a run of five straight games that shifted the balance irrevocably.

The second set began with a 10-minute game as Berdych essentially made his last stand. The first Czech man in a Wimbledon final since Ivan Lendl in 1987 had three break points, but Nadal saved them all, with a forehand winner, a service winner and a forehand that forced a miscue by Berdych.

The next break point was for Nadal at 6-5, and the second set ended when Berdych missed a forehand. By then, the outcome was a foregone conclusion, because Berdych never figured out how to stem Nadal’s aggression.

“I don’t know if you can say (there are) weaker parts of him. (There’s) not many of them,” said Berdych, who pulled out of the Czech Republic’s Davis Cup quarterfinal at Chile, citing an injured abdominal muscle. He didn’t speak about the problem during Wimbledon, nor did he appear to be troubled while beating Federer and No. 3 Novak Djokovic.

Nadal earlier said he wouldn’t be part of Spain’s Davis Cup team against France, because he needs to get treatment for his right knee, which flared up during consecutive, come-from-behind five-set wins in the second and third rounds.

Nadal earned the nickname “King of Clay” by virtue of a record 81-match winning streak on that surface and five French Open titles. But that’s clearly too narrowly focused: The guy has twice won Wimbledon, along with the 2009 Australian Open on hard courts.

Now, to complete a career Grand Slam, Nadal needs to add the U.S. Open, where he lost in the semifinals each of the last two years.

Asked to look ahead to New York, where play begins in late August, Nadal smiled and said: “Right now, I’m very happy to win Wimbledon. We’re going to think about the U.S. Open in one month.”

First things first.

He’s busy making plans away from the tennis court.

“Enjoy the beach, fishing, golf, friends, party, and Mallorca,” he said.

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Serena Williams Beats Vera Zvonareva, Wins Wimbledon 2010

Posted by: David on Saturday/July 03/2010 - 10:20 AM
Tennis News 
Serena Williams swept Vera Zvonareva in straight sets Saturday to win her fourth Wimbledon title and 13th Grand Slam championship, extending the Williams family dominance at the All England Club.

The top-ranked and defending champion American overwhelmed the 21st-seeded Russian 6-3, 6-2 in a one-sided final that lasted just 67 minutes and showed why Williams is considered one of the greatest players of all time.

Williams served nine aces, broke three times and never faced a break point in nine service games. She finished the tournament without dropping a set.

After converting an overhead smash to finish the match, Williams tossed her racket away, bent backward, looked to the sky, shook her fists and screamed.

Williams, who improved her record to 13-3 in Grand Slam finals, added to the Wimbledon titles she won in 2002, 2003 and 2009. However, this was the first time she defeated someone other than her sister Venus in the final.

The Williams sisters have now won nine of the last 11 Wimbledon titles. Venus beat Serena in 2008 for her fifth title here.

“My dream was able to come true,” Serena said after accepting the Venus Rosewater Dish from the Duke of Kent with a curtsy. “Everyone’s dream can come true if you just stick to it and work hard. This one is very special.”

Serena, who has won five of the last eight Grand Slams, moved ahead of Billie Jean King into sole possession of sixth place on the all-time list of women’s Grand Slam champions with 13, the most of any active woman player. Williams also has five Australian Opens, three U.S. Opens and one French Open.

Williams turned to King, who was sitting in the Royal Box, and said: “Hey, Billie—I got you. This is No. 13 for me now. It’s just amazing to able to be among such great people.”

King grinned and applauded.

“That’s actually my lucky number,” Williams said of No. 13.

Margaret Smith Court leads the Grand Slam list with 24 titles, followed by Steffi Graf with 22, Helen Wills Moody with 19 and Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert with 18.

“At the rate she’s going, she certainly may catch me and Chris and Helen Wills Moody and who knows, maybe even Steffi,” Navratilova said. “She’s just head and shoulders above everybody else, and those are pretty broad shoulders she’s got.”

Williams graciously congratulated Zvonareva, who played in her first Grand Slam final and was the second-lowest ranked women’s finalist ever at Wimbledon.

“Everyone should give her a big round of applause,” Williams said. “She defines what being a champion and never giving up means.”

Zvonareva didn’t look intimidated and kept close early in the match, but the contest swung in Williams favor when she broke for 5-3.

Williams squandered her first break point with a return error, but then hit a perfect backhand lob at deuce to set up another. This time, she ripped a running forehand passing shot down the line, and celebrated by dropping onto her right knee and pumping her left fist.

Williams broke again to open the second set and again to go up 4-1 when Zvonareva double-faulted on the third break point of the game.

“I think I’m a little bit disappointed at the moment,” Zvonareva said. “Maybe I was not able to show my best today, but I think Serena just didn’t allow me to show my best.”

Despite the score, Zvonareva claimed Williams is beatable.

“She’s a human being. She’s not a machine,” the Russian said. “It’s very difficult to beat her. You have to play your best. But if you do, you can do it.”

As has been the case throughout the two weeks, Williams’ big serve was the dominant factor on Saturday.

Williams won 31 of 33 points when her first serve was good. She hit her fastest serve—122 mph—for an ace in the final game. She finished the tournament with a record 89 aces.

“I honestly never served like this,” Williams said. “At Wimbledon whenever I come on this grass and play on this amazing court I start serving well.”

Williams also won all 14 points when she came to the net, and had 29 winners to only nine for Zvonareva.

Posing for photographers, Serena held the trophy on the balcony above the club entrance, then walked through the entrance and twirled and skipped while still holding the trophy as military personnel stationed in the lobby applauded.

The men’s final will be played Sunday, with No. 1-ranked Rafael Nadal going for his second Wimbledon title and eighth Grand Slam overall against 12th-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.

Nadal has won 13 straight matches here and 25 of 27, with the only losses coming against Roger Federer in the 2006 and 2007 finals. Nadal beat Federer in the epic 2008 title match, but was unable to defend his crown last year because of tendinitis in his knees.

Berdych upset six-time champion Federer in the quarterfinals.

It will be Nadal’s 10th Grand Slam final; Berdych’s first.


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Rafael Nadal Wins 2010 French Open, Regains #1 Ranking

Posted by: David on Sunday/June 06/2010 - 04:13 PM
Tennis News 
Rafael Nadal won his fifth Roland Garros title, returned to No. 1 in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings and became the first player to qualify for the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, after defeating Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in the final in Paris.

At the age of 24 years and four days, Nadal became just the second man in history to win five or more Roland Garros titles. Bjorn Borg finished his esteemed career with six titles on the Parisian clay. The Spaniard will subsequently return to the No. 1 spot in the South African Airways ATP Rankings for the first time since 22 June, 2009.

"[It was a] very important victory for me. I think one of the most important victories in my career," said Nadal. "It was a difficult year for me the last year. I worked a lot to be here. I was very nervous during all the tournament, because I know before that I was ready to try to win another time, and I saw the chances there. But the very positive thing is today I was ready to play. I was ready to play with calm and to try my best and to enjoy the match. I did, and it was a very special day.

"For me I was 11 months without winning a title, so a lot of tournaments going back to home without a victory. A lot of difficult moments, because in a few of these tournaments I had to retire for the problems. So is difficult moments to accept. It was personal goal to be back at my best. So I did. And for me, sure, the important thing is Roland Garros. But for me the biggest thing is the personal satisfaction to be here, to be here another time and to be at the top level."

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