Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 20 June 2009

Wimbledon preview

The penultimate Grand Slam of the year is less than 2 days away as we are set for action at the All England Club on Monday morning as Wimbledon 2009 begins!

The biggest news coming into this year's competition is the withdrawal of defending champion and world number 1, Rafael Nadal, after the Spaniard had to withdraw as he struggles with tendinitis in his knee. A great shame, and one that will hurt this year's tournament. But we can still await plenty of shocks and excitement at SW19... and probably some rain! But centre court will be protected from the rain this year, with the all-new retractable roof that will ensure action continues on the main court, and that Cliff Richard will not need to perform ever again.

Roger Federer is the odds-on favourite now, following Nadal's departure, and Federer's history at Wimbeldon, winning 5 straight here before his defeat to Nadal in last year's epic final, not to mention his victory earlier this month at the French Open.

The British public will be cheering on Andy Murray, who is second favourite. He doesn't have a great record here and grass isn't his strongest surface, but after seeing his improvements on clay in Paris, and then win Queen's last week show's he has the credentials to win here. I'm not keen on the 3/1 odds of him going all the way, as much as I'd like to see a new name on the trophy.

Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin Del Potro are amongst the list of favourites because of their world rankings, but I can't see either going much further than Murray, and not past Federer. Andy Roddick is a 2-time runner up here, both to Federer who he'd need to be elimintated if he wants to win here. Robin Soderling is at 66/1 following his remarkable run at Roland Garros which included beating Rafael Nadal en route to the final.

On the Women's side, with the Williams sisters being kept apart in the draw, it's a good shout for another all-Williams final again this year with their dominance at this competition that has seen one of them lift the title 7 times this millennium. Venus Williams has won 5 of them, including the last 2 and bet365 are offering the best odds for her to retain her title this year. Sister Serena is the favourite, with totesport offering the best odds for the younger Williams sister to win. 888sport are offering odds on an all-Williams final.

Other ladies to keep an eye out on this year are Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina, Svetlana Kuznetsova and newly-crowned Eastbourne champion, Caroline Wozniacki.

And if you're looking for beauty on the tennis courts when watching the women's games, then check out my top 10 tennis babes post for who to keep an eye on!

Here's to 2 weeks of enjoyment at SW19, and don't forget you can watch Wimbledon live on your PC this year.

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Posted by Barrie on Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Top 10 Tennis Babes

With Wimbledon being 12 days away, I thought I'd let you know who to look out for in terms of beauty in the women's games. Since Anna Kournikova is long gone from the tennis world, here are 10 more girls to check out at SW19:

10. Ashley Harkleroad

Ashley Harkleroad has never made an impact in the world of tennis for her skills, but certainly has the looks create a crowd of male fans and photographers. She had a big picture of her backside in the British tabloids one year, and in 2008 she appeared in Playboy. Ashley would probably make more money as a full-time model rather than a tennis player, having only made it past the first round on 1 of her 6 attempts. So if you want to see her make sure you have a ticket for one of the first two days!

9. Sania Mirza

Sania Mirza picked up her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open this year as she and her partner, Mahesh Bhupathi picked up the mixed doubles winners trophies. The young Indian girl is a hard hitter on the court, but has considered giving up the sport because of off-court controversies regarding her religion. If she can put these behind her once-and-for-all we hope she can break into the top 30 again. As for Wimbledon, grass isn't her favourite surface and she'll do well to make it past the second round in singles competition.

8. Elena Dementieva

An Olympic silver medalist when she was just 18, and the gold medal winner in the Beijing Olympics, Elena Dementieva has both skills and good looks! Unfortunately she has a boyfriend too. One of the more experienced players on tour too, having turned professional over a decade ago, Elena Dementieva still has her hard work ethics and good looks that that she possessed at the start of her career. A semi finalist at Wimbledon in 2008, she's not amongst the favourites on grass, but will be looking for titles after the grass season, being a runner up at the 2004 US Open.

7. Alona Bondarenko

The older and prettier of the Bondarenko sisters, Alona is 2 years Kateryna's elder, whom she teamed up with to win the Australian Open women's doubles trophies in 2008. Alona Bondarenko broke into the top 20 just over a year ago and could get back there with a career-best performance at Wimbledon. Having never made it past round 3 here, I'm sure the male viewers and paparazzi will also be cheering her on to make it into week 2 this time round.

6. Nicole Vaidisova

Nicole Vaidisova was just 17 when she broke into the top 10 in 2006, and less than a year later had made it to the semi finals of Australia and the quarter finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon, knocking out then-reigning champion Amelie Mauresmo in the latter. She hasn't reformed that form over the past 2 years, although did make it to the quarter finals of Wimbledon against last year. Only 20 years of age , she is still maturing and we'll be more-than-happy to see her play 5 matches again at SW19 this time round...

5. Caroline Wozniacki

Currently a top 10 player at just the age of 18, Caroline Wozniacki has the potential to go far in the tennis world. Caroline won the Wimbledon Junior title back in 2006. A hard working player, she also enjoys swimming and writes a blog on her website. Not only is the young Dane multi-talented, but very handsome too. Expect to see lots of this young girl in the future!

4. Maria Kirilenko

Maria Kirilenko is one of many young tennis stars to come out of Russia, and just like most of the others, is a stunner! She has featured in a Sports Illustration Swimsuit Edition and been the face of Stella McCartney's Adidas tennis range since 2006. A good player too, although hasn't fulfilled her potential yet. Still only 22, there's a long way to go for this girl who currently ranks outside the top 50 having not found form nor fully recovered from her knee injury heading into the French Open. Maria has lost in the first round at Wimbledon on 4/5 occasions. Let's hope this year the beauty can go on a little streak...

3. Daniela Hantuchova

An inconsistent player on the court, Daniela Hantuchova continues to make draws drop off the court. This stunning Slovakian beauty is a former Wimbledon quarter finalist and had experiences in fashion magazines too. Always dresses to impress on the court, and never lets us down! Wimbledon is Daniela's favourite event, and she is one of the fan favourites too. She usually wins a couple of matches here, but hasn't matched her 2002 success where she made it to the quarter finals in the singles competition, and won the mixed doubles with Leos Friedl a year earlier. I'm always excited to see this girl on the court.

2. Ana Ivanovic

A great player at junior level, Ana Ivanovic realised her dreams when she won the French Open in 2008, having lost in the final the previous year and at the Australian Open a few months before. She has really struggled since, picking up just 1 title after a short stint as world number 1. Plenty of fashion shoots followed, adding a distraction to her game, and she has never got back to the top of her game since. Ana dropped outside the top 10 after the French Open, and we'll be cheering her on to have a good run at Wimbledon to get her back there, whilst dreaming of another Australian Open 2008, where she battled with Maria Sharapova in the final.

1. Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova broke onto the tennis scene when she became Wimbledon champion aged just 17. Now just 22, having also won the French and Australian Opens since, Maria Sharapova has hinted she will retire early from the sport, but when exactly remains to be seen. In 2007, Forbes magazine listed her as the highest paid female athlete in the world, with annual earnings over £11,500,000. During this time, and still to this day, does modelling work. Expect to see lots of photos of Maria in action at Wimbledon again this year, regardless how far she goes this year!

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Posted by Barrie on Sunday, 7 June 2009

Roger Federer completes career Grand Slam defeating Soderling at Roland Garros

Roger Federer went into the history books today by winning the French Open for the first time in his career, making him only the sixth male player to win all 4 Grand Slams and tying Pete Sampras' record 14 Grand Slams.

Robin Soderling struggled to get any first serves going in the opening game and was broken straight away following a double fault. Roger Federer was solid on his opening service game. Federer was getting the better of the early rally exchanges, with Soderlin's only 2 points on his following serve coming on returns into the net. A judgement error on Federer's return that Soderling left, dropped in to give the world number 2 a 3-0 lead. Federer held his serve comfortably before Soderling registered on the scoreboard for the first time. The crowd clearly on Federer's side, giving him the louder reception at the beginning of the game and early points, they gave Federer a loud cheer when he won the opening set on Soderling's serve on his second set point. Soderling was broken 3 times and took just 1 point off Federer in the opening set.

Federer's first serve continued to help him dominate his service, as he took the opening of set two to 15, with that single Soderling point coming on a second serve. The Swede was able to hold his serve with relative ease following that but once-again couldn't cause Federer any problems on his, who sealed the third game with his fifth ace. A spectator from the crowd entered the stage when he ran on court waving a Spanish flag around before grabbing Federer and then jumping over the net before being nicely taken out and taken away. Some shocking security display though, for a Grand Slam final of all places. Already 15-0 up, Soderling took the next 3 points with ease for his first hold to love. It began drizzling as both players held onto their serves throughout the set to force a tie break. A pivotel point in the match, an opportunity for the underdog to get back into the match, but Roger Federer didn't allow that to happen. He opened with 3 aces on his first 3 serves, and allowed Soderling just 1 point, before finishing it off with an ace and a 7-1 second set tie break victory.

Roger Federer started the third set by breaking Robin Soderling's serve. Federer held onto his following service game, but the Swede wasn't giving up as he held onto his and then received his first break point of the match when Federer missed a straightforward forehand. However the Swede failed to capitalise as Federer took the next three points and take a 3-1 lead. The match went with serve after that, up to game 10, where an unforced error from Federer gave Soderling his second break point of the match, which he saved on a miss-hit from Soderling. A volley later setup his first match point which was all he needed when Soderling returned his serve into the net, winning 6-1 7-6 6-4. Federer fell to his knees, hands in his face, holding back the tears of joy for his great success, with wife Mirka Vavrinec watching and cheering him on as ever in the stand. He thanked Soderling and the crowd afterwards as he arguably became the great player in modern era tennis today.

Roger Federer's serve was too good and Soderling never looked like getting into this match and was fairly inconsistent himself. His powerful serves, and shots to the back of the court that caused Nadal problems a week ago weren't having the same effect on Federer, as it looked inevitable from the beginning that he wasn't going to get in the way of Federer's momentus occasion.

Roger Federer has now joined the elite list of male tennis players to have won the career Grand Slam; all 4 big ones, the list now consists of Fred Perry, Don Budge, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and now the great Swiss himself. Roger Federer still remains 2nd to Rafael Nadal in the world rankings, whilst Robin Soderling moves up to 12th.

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Posted by Barrie on Saturday, 6 June 2009

Svetlana Kuznetsova holds nerves to defeat Safina in Roland Garros final

Svetlana Kuznetsova defeated world number 1 Dinara Safina 6-4 6-2 to claim her 2nd Grand Slam, following her US Open success in 2004.

Dinara Safina looked nervous before she walked out onto court, but made the perfect start in steadying those nerves by breaking her Russian opponent to 15. Svetlana Kuznetsova wasn't affected by this as she took the next 8 points for a 2-1 lead. Both players face tough holds after this which they succeeded as they kept the game close at the start. Kuznetsova, the underdog began her screetches in game 8 when she took at 0-40 lead, and eventually took the third break point for a 5-3 lead and a chance to serve for the set. Nerves kicked in for the older of the 23 year old Russians as she handed the break back to Safina with 4 unforced errors. Svetlana quickly recouped and took the set on Dinara's serve with some excellent shots.

Kuznetsova looked more composed on her serve, and when Safina overhit what should have been a winner in the opening point of game 3, frustration began to kick in. Safina was struggling on her own serve, with a low percentage of first serves hitting the spot, and rarely causing Kuznetsova problems on the return. And the inevitable hapend in game 6 of the second set with some unforced errors from the favourite, Kuznetsova took the first of two break points in the set for a 4-2 lead and was odds-on to win her second Grand Slam from there. She even had time to do a few keepy-uppy's in the next game, and followed that up with the hold for a 5-2 lead.

Dinara Safina finished the game with a double fault to hand the title to Svetlana Kuznetsova, the deserved winner of this match. Her forehand and choice of shots was better, whilst Safina was making more errors and didn't change her game which lost her the first set. Kuznetsova's variety and shotmaking was tremendous, despite errors of her own. Her serve was much the stronger, and more importantly she was winning the close and important points. This title moves her up to number 5 in the world.

The world number 1 produced tears once again as she has now lost all 3 of her Grand Slams without taking a single set.

Steffi Graf presented Kuznetsova with her newly-won French Open title that she lifted above her head to a round-of-applause from the French crowd.

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