Gisela Dulko

The Isles collectively winced today, when their great hope, Andy Murray (above), rolled his right ankle in his 3rd round matchup at Roland Garros versus German Michael Berrer.  Murray, with a seemingly plum draw into the semis where he’d possibly meet the anointed, Novak Djokovic, played very well after the injury, though gingerly.  Does a bad ankle necessarily spell doom for Murray?  We’ll say that physically at least, Murray is a lot tougher than he looks.  There isn’t anyone alive right now who’d want to face Djokovic at less than full speed, but Murray did not play compromised tennis today.  As he said to the press, he’s never had much problem with his right ankle before, but he’d wear a brace and go out and hit tennis balls tomorrow, in preparation for tricky Victor Troicki on Monday.

He also said he might not be able to go on, but you shouldn’t worry about that.  Murray likes drama.  We remember back to 2007 when Murray had a bad wrist injury.  He suffered it in Hamburg, right before the French Open, and then struggled to get back on track for the US Open.  He won his match back at the Rogers Cup against Robby Ginepri, then got dusted by Fabio Fognini, 6-2, 6-2.  He was then on to Cincinnati where Marcos Baghdatis gave the lame Murray one of the worst beatings in his life, 6-1, 6-2.

A guy like Nadal, let’s face it, they may talk about what a lion he is and all that, but he wouldn’t even try to play in Murray’s position with the wrist.  As it was, it seemed like ESPN wanted to give Nadal an on the spot ESPY for not retiring against David Ferrer down under, as he did the year before when facing Murray in the semis.  So that summer of 2007, Murray makes his way to Flushing and he won easy in round 1, and then truly gutted out a win over Jonas Bjorkman, 6-1 in the 5th.  You could see it on his face right there.  He was done.  But he came out the next round, against H.T. Lee, and I remember it well as a spectator, because it was a unique moment.  Before the warmup, he and Lee exchanged words, and Muurray told Lee that his wrist was shot and that he was very limited, but that he was going to try to gut it out.  Then he goes down 2 sets, and I’m thinking, “throw in the towel, kid.”  Instead, he takes the next set, before Lee finally beat him in 4.

You all know I don’t like Andy Murray.  No secrets there.  Like and dislike is really all relative though to what is best for the continuation of risk and reward tennis, shot making, variety, and sheer brilliance with racquet and not the feet, on the court.  Andy Murray is good for the game right now.  He has a chance to beat Djokovic, and to win a major, which we all know is historic.  I mean, a Brit hasn’t won any type of clay court tournament since the 70’s.  It’s a shame that Murray caught this break, but we think that Murray is here to play, no matter what.  We also think he’s got the clay court thing figured out better than he ever has in the past. 

A turned ankle is not the worst thing ever.  John McEnroe talked about playing with one, and he used to actually move forward into the court, and he still thought Murray was in good shape, and that it could even prompt him to do what he must to win, addressing the age old knock on Murray, which is to be more aggressive.  Kobe Bryant routinely plays on full blown sprained ankles.  When he injured his ankle badly recently in the playoffs, and was asked if he would still play, he commented that playing hurt was “basically old hat” for him.

So we aren’t going to shed any tears for the UK just yet.  As for the odds for tomorrow, not a lot of respect being shown to past champs on the women’s side:

Hantuchova:  Even

Kuznetsova:  – 130


Jankovic:  – 145

Schiavone:  + 115

We’d be the first to tell you if we thought Kuznetsova was grossly out of shape, as she appeared at Indian Wells.  She’s actually in fine form.  We like that matchup for her, and think she is in the mix for the title.  Sure, we were trashing her as recently as 2 weeks ago, but apparently, she went to Spain and got into great shape, for her, and found her clay court game.  She did look a little tired in the 2nd set of her 3rd round match, but she’s had 2 days to rest.  We’ll take her.  And we love betting against Jankovic, and rooting against her, as her awful mechanics and fundamentals are very bad for the game and for brilliant tennis.  Don’t you hate that accent too?  So annoying.  We’re hoping that Schiavone, the little one hander that could, defends her title ably tomorrow.

Bartoli:  – 190

Dulko:  + 150


Zvonareva:  – 220

Pavlyuchenkova:  + 170


We love Zvonareva in general, and hate Bartoli, in general, but who knows how these matches will go?  If we had to speculate, we’d say Vera and Dulko, who can hopefully retain the magic for one more match.

As for the men, there are some huge favorites:

Federer:  – 1100

Wawrinka:  + 650


Djokovic:  – 2000

Gasquet:  + 1000


Ferrer:  – 400

Monfils:  + 300


Fabio Fognini:  + 160

Albert Montanes:  – 200

Federer and Djokovic are heavies for a reason, but who wants to lay out a thousand or a couple thousand to get back a hundred?  Roger did put on a clinic against Stan in Melbourne, and has appeared in fine form, but is Federer now the kind of guy who can come out flat in a major against a guy he should beat, like he did against Falla at Wimbledon?  We think he’s better here in this spot with Annacone.  But keep in mind, Stan’s only win versus Roger came on clay, that it’s a repeat of last year’s round of 16, and that Stan is coming off a tough 5 setter.

At these rates, we love Monfils as well.  And we’ll take the one hander, Montanes, over Fognini, who is just happy to have made the round of 16, in all likelihood.  Though we like Gasquet’s game, would we dare go against the mighty Djokovic?  Probably not, but keep in mind he is playing a match on a third consecutive day, and a win would give him one more than McEnroe’s perfect 42-0 start to 1984.

Crack (,

Victorious Victoria Azarenka hugs coach Sam Sumyk (above).

World # 18, Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, who lost her only 2 finals this year, found the third time to be a charm this afternoon, as she defeated world # 15 Maria Sharapova, flashing the fine hardcourt form that won her 3 titles in 2009, when she burst onto the scene and into the top 10.

Azarenka came in as the slight underdog today, as Sharapova has played great all week, dispatching the always tough Elena Dementieva Friday night in 3 sets, and then taking three sets to defeat Agnieszka Radwanska last night, coming from behind after being blitzed by Radwanska in the first set.  Sharapova, who won a Wimbledon and French Open warmup event, and who lost narrowly to the eventual champion, Serena Williams, at Wimbledon, has had a lot of buzz lately surrounding her game because her errors–including her double faults–are way down, and her big first and second serve appear to be back.

It was great to see Sharapova serving with her old, elongated service motion.  She won many easy points this week on her serve, and notably got much mustard on her second serve in Friday’s match versus countrywoman Dementieva, playing in her first tournament since injuring her calf at Roland Garros.  Several times in that close match Sharapova boomed deep, hard second serves that helped her get out of trouble.  A great sign, especially against Dementieva, whose return game is the hallmark of her tennis.  Sharapova served well all week until today, when she faced 11 break points and gave up 5 breaks.

Perhaps the long matches this weekend, and the quick turnaround between a tough 3 setter last night and today’s noontime start in California, was too much for Maria.  That, and Azarenka,of course, who just seemed to have more jump in her legs and way more pop off the ground in today’s final.  Azarenka outhit a seemingly healthy Sharapova today.  Quite an accomplishment for the 2010 Bank of the West Champion, who whipped American Melanie Oudin earlier in the week, and who handled top seeded Sam Stosur easily in straights yesterday afternoon.  Azarenka also defeated last year’s champion, Marion Bartoli during her run this week. 

Azarenka has had a difficult year compared to last, when she won Brisbane, Memphis, and Key Biscayne–her biggest victory to date.  In addition to not winning any titles before today, Azarenka had a miserable clay court season, capped by her upset loss to Gisela Dulko at Roland Garros.

Azarenka seemed to find her form on the grass, losing in the Eastbourne final to Ekaterina Makerova, before a very disappointing 3rd round Wimbledon loss to Petra Kvitova, in which Azarenka seemed to quit in the second set, losing 7-5, 6-0.

But the hardcourts suit Azarenka best, as she displayed today, winning 20 more points than Sharapova in blowout fashion, on her way to a 6-4, 6-1 win in 1 hour and 27 minutes.  Azarenka, who turned 21 yesterday, picked up a check for her win worth nearly $220,000.

Great week for “Vica”, as Sharapova referred to the champ in very familar terms during the trophy presentation ceremony.  Today’s title make 4 in Azarenka’s career, all on hards.

–Crack (

Serena and Vera Zvonareva shake hands at the conclusion of the match (above).

Serena Williams took the court for her 6th Wimbledon finals appearance with a vengeance.  The top seeded American defeated the 21st seeded Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 7 minutes to claim her 4th Wimbledon title in singles and her 13th major singles championship.

The American stuck to what worked for her throughout the fortknight–her booming serve.  Serena dominated on serve, winning 31/33 points on her first serve, pounding another 9 aces to make her total for the tournament a leading 89, and allowed Zvonareva zero break chances while converting on 3 out of 7 of her own break opportunities.  Zvonareva, able to control the net so well in her last match, simply could not stand the heat at net today.  She got to net only 12 times and won only 6 of those points, a stark contrast to her 29/35 in the semi-finals.

Here are the match stats:

   Williams (USA) Zvonareva (RUS)
  1st Serve % 33 of 50 = 66 % 41 of 55 = 75 %
  Aces 9 4
  Double Faults 3 2
  Unforced Errors 15 11
  Winning % on 1st Serve 31 of 33 = 94 % 26 of 41 = 63 %
  Winning % on 2nd Serve 7 of 17 = 41 % 5 of 14 = 36 %
  Winners 29 9
  Receiving Points Won 24 of 55 = 44 % 12 of 50 = 24 %
  Break Point Conversions 3 of 7 = 43 % 0 of 0 = 0 %
  Net Approaches 14 of 14 = 100 % 6 of 12 = 50 %
  Total Points Won 62 43
   Fastest Serve Speed 122 MPH 107 MPH
   Average 1st Serve Speed 105 MPH 100 MPH
   Average 2nd Serve Speed 85 MPH 86 MPH

Serena grabbed the title in a route, by a 19 point margin–large especially in light of the match’s duration.  Adding another record to her list of accomplishments, Serena did not drop a set in the tournament.

Despite the loss in singles, Zvonareva still has a chance to earn a major trophy today.  If she is successful, it will be her 2nd (she won the US Open in doubles in 2009).  In a few minutes she will take the court with Elena Vesnina against American Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova looking for the ladies doubles crown.

Vesnina and Zvonareva upset the defending champion Williams sisters in the quarter-finals, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, and then took out fourth seeds Dulko and Pennetta in the semi-finals.  For the Williams sisters, the loss snapped a 26 match win streak for the American team in major competition.

–Crack (

Fabio Fognini (above), who took out Gael Monfils in Paris in the match famously marred by darkness, led a day of upsets for seeded players on both sides at Wimbledon.

Fognini, never past the 2nd round at SW-19, took out 8th seeded Fernando Verdasco, 7-6 (9), 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-4 and will now draw Michael Russell of the United States, in what is sure to be a very boring grass court contest, as neither player is suited to the grass.

Another Italian, pop gun player Andreas Seppi, somehow took out another seeded Spaniard, defeating 19th seeded Nicolas Almagro in straights, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7), 6-2.  It’s getting to the point where Almagro is going to have to come up with better play at the majors, as we can hardly recall Almagro winning a big match on a decent stage.

Bad day for Spaniards, as one more seeded Spaniard fell–former French champ Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 14th seed, lost to Xavier Malisse in 5 sets, 6-2, 6-7 (6), 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1.

Lukas Lacko took out 24th seeded Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis, a one time semi-finalist at Wimbledon, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.

On the women’s side, French finalist and 6th seed, Sam Stosur was upset by Estonian Kaia Kanepi, 6-4, 6-4.

Anna Chakvetadze, back from the dead, upset German Andrea Petkovic, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Roumanian Monica Niculescu upset Argentine Gisela Dulko, 6-2, 6-3.

Dominika Cibulkova defeated the very hot 25th seed, Lucie Safarova, 7-6 (5), 6-4.

–Crack (

Court Philippe Chatrier


(5) Elena Dementieva vs. Chanelle Scheepers (South Africa)

Scheepers came into Roland Garros ranked # 131 in the world, as a 26 year old journeywoman, who one would think, would not be well suited to clay.  Think again.  She came through the quallies and caught a lucky break of a matchup in round 1, facing French woman Mathilde Johannson, who may not have deserved to make the tournament.  Scheepers won the match 6-2, 6-4.  In the 2nd round, Scheepers came back from a set down against heavy favorite and excellent clay courter, Gisela Dulko, who had taken out Victoria Azarenka in round one.  Scheepers won 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, and had an impressive notch on her belt.  Scheepers lucked out again in the 3rd round, facing literally unheard of Akqul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan, and winning 6-3, 6-3.  But tomorrow, she wades into the deep end of the pool versus 5th seed Elena Dementieva, an excellent clay courter and a hard luck player, who many see as a dark horse and as someone likely to break through and win a major someday, if not next Sunday.  Dementieva often has lapses with her service games, and the knock on her coming up was that she was a head case.  She’s matured a great deal however, and is squarely in her prime.  On a side note, her long time boyfriend is RW Maxim Afinogenov of the Atlanta Thrashers.

(19) Nadia Petrova vs. (2) Venus Williams

We love Venus most of all, and like her in this match.  A lot more than if she had to face Arevane Rezai, who scrambles a lot better than the bigger Petrova, an asset on the dirt.  A Venus/Dementieva quarter-final would be a treat for the audience, but as a Venus fan, I will be pulling for more magic from Scheepers.  That said, I am very worried about the Venus/Dementieva possible matchup, even though Venus owns the head to head (9-3) and is 2-0 versus Dementieva in her career on clay.

(1) Roger Federer vs. (20) Stanislas Wawrinka

Despite a close match between them in Madrid and a win for Stan last year versus Federer on clay, his first ever victory in the head to head, Stan will not be the man tomorrow.  He simply doesn’t have enough weapons to hurt Roger, though Roger’s possible quarter-final opponent, Robin soderling does.  Frankly, Soderling has lost many matches at majors to Roger, and we see a guy in Soderling on the verge of a major breakthrough.  Are we predicting that Soderling ends Roger’s run of 23 consecutive major semi-finals?  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but if they both win tomorrow, we may make that prediction, though a loss before the finals will see Roger lose the # 1 ranking.  Still, it will happen at some point, and Soderling is more than capable of doing it.

(11) Mikhail Youzhny vs. (8) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga


Interesting matchup.  Youzhny is the better clay courter, and I think, the guy with more heart.  They both have tremendous natural ability.  Tsonga, the bigger man, has had knee problems that have limited him in the past from getting a lot of match play in on clay.  the best run he’s had in his career was to the Australian Open final, and that was on a favorable surface to his game and his body, and after a long period of rest.  I could see Youzhny, a gifted shot maker and talented volleyer–and a guy with staying power, whoo came back from a terrible back injury to return to the top of the game–shock Tsonga in what I think will be a long match.  Youzhny is a hardened player tested many times in majors and Davis Cup, and I see him as unflappable.  I will go out on a limb and say it would surprise me if the home town favorite wins the match.

Court Suzanne Lenglen


(17) Francesca Schiavone vs. (30) Maria Kirilenko

Schiavone has a place in our hearts as the poor woman’s Justine Henin.  After Henin, she is the best female of note to hit the one hand backhand, and it’s a thing of beauty.  She’s an excellent clay courter, as well, growing up on Italian clay.  Kirilenko is the more powerful player, and the younger buck, but I like Schiavone.  She has way more variety and is very sharp about angles, and those attributes bode well on clay.  That said, I would not be surprised in the least if Kirilenko wins.

(14) Flavia Penetta vs. (3) Caroline Wozniacki

Penetta is also an Italian, but she’s a run of the mill 2 handed hack as far as I’m concerned.  There are a million girls who play like her, and Wozniacki is one of them, only she does so better, with more consistency, better conditioning, and better mental toughness.  Wozniacki may win a major some time soon.  Penetta probably never will.  I love CW here.

(10) Marin Cilic vs. (5) Robin Soderling

Cilic is on the rise and already has many notches on his belt, as he destroyed Andy Murray at the US Open.  He could win.  But I like Soderling.  He’s such a big hitter, and a slightly better mover, which is a big factor on clay.  Cilic could be # 1 someday, but I see Soderling as perhaps the next non Federer/Nadal/Djokovic/Roddick/Del Potro to win a major.

(4) Andy Murray vs. (15) Tomas Berdych

Murray has shown some resolve this week.  I haven’t always loved his clay court compete level.  He’s not a natural there, and David Ferrer exposed him badly at Madrid.  But Ferrer is a mover, and Berdych, the 6’6 Czech giant, doesn’t move as well, but is very comfortable on clay.  Murray showed me a lot by beating Gasquet back from down 2 sets to love, and I will give him the slight edge here.

To be completed


(22) Henin vs. (12) Sharapova, tied at 6-3, 2-6

It would be a huge victory for Masha, who dropped the first 3 games and then played very well until the darkness came.  I’m pulling for Sharapova here, big time.  The match’s conclusion will be squeezed in on Chatrier.

Enjoy your tennis (even though it’s clay),

Crack (

And I ask, could there fairer champions be?

On Court Philippe Chatrier……..

Aranxta Parra Santonja vs. Venus

Alejandro Falla vs. Roger

Fabio Fognini (met him at the USO–very nice guy) vs. Gael Monfils

Anabel Medina Garrigues vs. Elena Dementieva


Court Suzanne Lenglen……

America’s own Taylor Dent vs. Robin Soderling (Dent will catch the smackdown!)

Interesting one handed Frenchman Josselin Ouanna vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (we like the under dog)

Aravane Rezai vs. Angelique Kerber

Tathiana Garbin vs. Caroline Wozniacki


Other notable matches……

Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. Andrea Petkovic

Murray vs. Chela

Agnes Szavay vs. Nadia Petrova

Cilic vs. Gimeno-Traver

Cibulkova vs. Varvara Lepchenko (USA)

Isner (USA) vs. Chudinelli

Hutchins/Kerr vs. Nestor/Zimonjic

Dlouhy/Paes vs. Brunstrom/Rojer

Rosolska/Shvedova vs. Raymond/Stubbs

Fish/Knowles vs. Ball/Guccione

Bhupathi/Mirnyi vs. Melzer/Petzschner

Stanislas Wawrinka vs. the wicked German Andreas Beck

Dulko vs. Scheepers


–Crack (

In addition to those pictured above, major champions such as Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt, and Juan Carlos Ferrero will play their first round matches.

Check out the full schedule here:

For Henin, it will be the first match she has played at Roland Garros since the 2007 finall versus Ivanovic.  She hasn’t lost at RG since 2003.  For Nadal, who has 1 career loss at Roland Garros, he’ll be looking to show why he’s the overwhelming favorite.  For the Williams sisters, winning this tournament would give them 4 consecutive doubles majors.

The action starts at 5 AM EST.  Take advantage of the mix channels.


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