Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nadal scampers past opening rival

Updated May 30, 2012 06:51:53

Rafael Nadal, bidding for a record seventh Roland Garros crown, sped into the second round at the French Open with a straight sets win over Italian Simone Bolelli - but stressed it was too early to think about surpassing Swedish legend Bjorn Borg.

Nadal and Borg have both lifted six titles in Paris but aged just 25, clay king Nadal, one of just seven men to lift all four majors, is odds on to shatter the record and take sole ownership of the mark.

He survived a momentary second set blip to sweep past his 111th-ranked rival 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in just under three hours and set up a meeting with Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan, who whipped Russian Igor Kunitsyn 6-2, 6-1, 6-2.

Despite the wide margin of his win Nadal, whose record in Paris is now 46-1, insisted he had had to battle some early butterflies.

"All matches are always difficult - the more so here, as you are a bit more nervous. It's not easy to get your bearings right off as the court is big and it's difficult out there," said the Mallorcan, who is looking to join Borg and Rod Laver on 11 grand slam singles titles.

"But I'm always happy to play here - it's an incredible feeling."

Also moving through among the men was British fourth seed Andy Murray, who crushed Japan's Tatsuma Ito 6-1, 7-5, 6-0.

Likewise was Murray's potential quarter-final opponent, Spanish sixth seed David Ferrer, who dismissed Slovakia's Lukas Lacko 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.

The biggest casualty of the day was 16th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov who went down to fellow Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 3-6, 6-3 in a match resuming from the second day.

Locals Richard Gasquet and Julien Benneteau both advanced, as did Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic, who ousted big-serving American Sam Querrey 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

Other seeds Nicolas Almagro (12), Juan Monaco (13), Mikhail Youzhny (27) and Florian Mayer (32) also all progressed.


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First posted May 30, 2012 06:35:23

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Djokovic untroubled as Federer levels record

Updated May 29, 2012 06:29:37

Novak Djokovic's bid for an historic grand slam enjoyed the perfect French Open start as Roger Federer celebrated his 50th straight major with a record-equalling 233rd major win.

Djokovic, bidding to become only the third man to hold all four majors at the same time, and the first in 43 years, eased past Italian claycourt specialist Potito Starace 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, 6-1.

The world number one already has the Wimbledon, US Open and Australian Open crowns under wraps and a first French Open triumph in two weeks' time would make him the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to complete the sweep.

Instead of trying to deflect all the pressure and attention that has been building up towards his title bid, Djokovic chose to embrace a sentiment voiced by tennis great Billie Jean King.

"Pressure is always present, and the way I look at it, it is a privilege and it's a challenge," said Djokovic, who next faces Slovenia's Blaz Kavcic, who defeated Lleyton Hewitt.

"So you need to try to understand and learn how to deal with it, and if you feel pressure, that means that you're doing something that is right.

"So I'm happy -- I'm happy to be where I am at this moment."

Djokovic has yet to reach a Paris final, having fallen three times at the semi-final stage.

This year, he is scheduled to meet Federer in the last four but is taking a down-to-earth approach to his quest.

"It doesn't give me an extra negative pressure. I really think it's a challenge and something to embrace and to enjoy," he said.

"I'll try to go step by step."

Federer, the 2009 champion and four times runner-up to Rafael Nadal, endured few problems getting past Germany's Tomas Kamke, the world number 78, winning 6-2, 7-5, 6-3.

The win, achieved on a sixth match point, took him level with Jimmy Connors' 30-year-old record of 233 grand slam match wins.

The victory was also Federer's 50th at Roland Garros having made his debut as a wildcard in 1999 where he went down to Pat Rafter in the first round.

Since that time, he has missed just one grand slam - the 1999 US Open where he failed to qualify.

"It's a big record. Jimmy is obviously one of the greats of all time, and was around for 20 years," said the 16-time major title winner ahead of his next match against Romanina Adrian Ungur, who stunned David Nalbandian 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5.

"I have been so successful for such a long time and to already tie that record which is 30 years old is pretty incredible," Federer added.

Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych reached the second round with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 win over Israel's Dudi Sela.

Berdych will next meet France's Michael Llodra, who eliminated Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

The only other seed to exit was Spain's Feliciano Lopez, who retired at 5-0 down to France's Florent Serra.

Big serving seeds John Isner (10) and Milos Raonic (19) both progressed in straight sets along with Andreas Seppi (22), who took out Russian Nikolay Davydenko.

Serbian 28th seed defeated Brazilian Tomaz Belluci 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 to make the second round.


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First posted May 29, 2012 06:26:02

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Stosur first on in French Open

Updated May 27, 2012 12:54:32

Sam Stosur will get the French Open underway at 7pm AEST when she takes on Britain's Elena Baltacha.

All eyes will be on the 2010 finalist when she kicks off the action at Court Philippe Chatrier against Baltacha, who is ranked 68th in the world, before the men's competition's dark horse, Juan Martin del Potro, takes on Albert Montanes.

Later on the same court, home hope Jo-Wilfred Tsonga gets his campaign underway against former Wimbledon junior champion Andrey Kuznetsov and Venus Williams will give fans an indication on whether she is in shape to win a third French crown when she takes on Paula Ormaechea.

Another interesting day one clash sees Nicolas Mahut take on the out-of-form American Andy Roddick on Suzanne Lenglen.

Last year's Wimbledon junior champion, Ashleigh Barty, faces off against the women's SW19 champion Petra Kvitova.

Barty, who at 16 is the youngest player in the 128-strong women's main draw at Roland Garros, considers her match-up with Kvitova as an opportunity rather than a daunting draw.

"It certainly isn't an easy debut, but I think I am going to gain some very valuable experience," Barty said.

"Obviously all the pressure is on her, which allows me to go out there and have a real swing.

"I'm really excited to play and we will just have to wait and see what happens. I just want to go out there and have some fun.

"No doubt I will be a little nervous before the match, but I just want to try and play my best tennis and whatever will be, will be."

Fellow Australian teenager Bernard Tomic is also experiencing an exciting first in Paris.

The 19-year-old is seeded - at number 25 - for the first time in his grand-slam career.

"It feels good," Tomic said ahead of his first-round encounter with Austrian qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer.

"I'm playing good. I've had a great claycourt season so far so hopefully I can play well here in Paris."

Should he win, Tomic would play the victor of the all-Colombian match-up between Alejandro Falla and Santiago Giraldo for a likely third-round showdown with fourth seed Andy Murray.

But having lost both his previous first-round matches in Paris, Tomic was reluctant to look ahead to Murray.

"Hopefully I can win my first round and then think about getting to the third round if I do," he said.

Veteran Lleyton Hewitt had a similar mindset going into his opening match on Monday against Slovenian qualifier Blaz Kavcic.

The 31-year-old was more concerned about his body coping with its first competitive outing since undergoing foot surgery in February than a possible second-round clash with world number one Novak Djokovic.

The women's third seed, Poland's Agnieszka Radwanska, comes into the tournament in fine fettle having won her 10th career title on Saturday by defeating Romania's Simona Halep 7-5, 6-0 in the Brussels final.

She faces Bojana Jovanovski in the first round.

The women's 14th seed Francesca Schiavone also got a pre-Roland Garros fillip by winning the Strasbourg claycourt tournament with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Alize Cornet.

Schiavone takes on Japanese veteran Kimiko Date Krumm in the first round.

Spain's Nicolas Almagro also comes into the tournament on the back of a victory after taking the Nice Open title for the second straight year following a 6-3, 6-2 win over American qualifier Brian Baker.

The Spaniard is seeded 12th for Roland Garros and opens up against Italy's Paolo Lorenzi.


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First posted May 27, 2012 10:23:42

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Sharapova breezes into second round

Updated May 30, 2012 06:36:32

Maria Sharapova took just 48 minutes to race into the French Open second round on Tuesday with a 6-0, 6-0 humiliation of hapless Romanian Alexandra Cadantu.

Russian second seed Sharapova, who needs a Roland Garros title to complete a career Grand Slam, hardly broke sweat against her 22-year-old opponent who was so penniless in 2008 that she had to stop playing.

On Tuesday's evidence, it was easy to see why.

Sharapova, twice a semi-finalist in Paris, allowed the 78th-ranked Romanian just nine points in the opening set which was wrapped up in 23 minutes on Suzanne Lenglen court.

It was a similar tale in the second, with Sharapova again surrendering just nine points before wrapping up victory when Cadantu hit long with a forehand.

Sharapova unleashed 19 winners in her victory while the Romanian hit none at all.

"Of course I'm really happy with the way my preparation has been coming into this tournament," beamed Sharapova, claycourt winner at Stuttgart and Rome this season as well as twice a semi-finalist here.

"I feel like with every year I have improved and I enjoy it much more," added the 25-year-old, beaten in the last four by Li Na on her last Roland Garros appearance.

The second seed will face Japan's Ayumi Morita for a place in the last 32.


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First posted May 29, 2012 21:42:33

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Injured Zvonareva pulls out of French Open

Updated May 28, 2012 20:32:30

Eleventh-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva pulled out of the French Open with a right shoulder injury before her first-round match on Monday.

"Unfortunately my shoulder injury has not healed so I have to withdraw. It's not good enough to compete. I had to make this choice," she told reporters.

Russian number two Zvonareva, however, could not yet assess her chances of playing in the Olympic Games.

"I have a doctor's appointement later today. I can't comment at the moment (on the Olympics) as I have not yet seen a specialist," she said.

Zvonareva, who has been struggling with shoulder problems for the past year, also had to withdraw from the Rome tournament earlier this month.


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First posted May 28, 2012 20:32:30

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Tomic knocked out of French Open

Updated May 31, 2012 22:03:17

Bernard Tomic bowed out of the French Open, going down in straight sets to Colombian Santiago Giraldo in the second round at Roland Garros.

Tomic was soundly beaten in straight sets, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.

The world number 29 was the last remaining Australian in the men's draw.

Giraldo's victory sets up a third-round clash with British fourth seed Andy Murray, who overcame crippling back pain to battle his way past Jarkko Nieminen.

Murray defeated the Finn 1-6, 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 but he had looked down and out in the first few games of the match as the lower back strain that he has been struggling with all year struck again.

Grimacing in pain, Murray needed medical treatment three times in quick succession as grim-faced coach Ivan Lendl looked on.

But at a set and 4-2 down, Murray suddenly found a new lease of life and a run of seven games in a row in his favour gave him command.

In what was the first match up on the Philippe Chatrier centre court, Murray looked stiff and concerned from the start as the unseeded Nieminen jumped out into a 3-0 lead.

The Scot then looked in distinct pain in his next service game, barely getting his serve over the net and staying rooted to the spot in the brief exchanges.

He called for medical help to ease the discomfort in his lower back at the turnover and resumed play.

Against the odds he managed to get one of the breaks back but following further treatment he again served at half pace to fall 5-1 down.

Nieminen wrapped up the set 6-1 after which the doctor came on once again to administer stretching exercises to a prone Murray.

It looked a matter of time before Murray called it a day, but instead he battled on and gradually, as the pain eased, he started to find his movement and with that his firepower.

From 2-4 down he won four games in a row, breaking to love at 5-4 to draw level on sets.

The Murray serve was still well short of full power, but he opened the third set with another love game as Nieminen struggled to blunt his opponent's stunning revival.

Murray moved 3-0 up before Nieminen stopped the rot, but the die was cast and the fourth seed accelerated away to keep alive his hopes of reaching the semi-finals of a major for the sixth straight time.

In other men's results, French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga reached the third round when he defeated Germany's Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.

Meanwhile, Czech fourth seed Petra Kvitova enjoyed a second comfortable outing, reaching the third round with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Poland's Urszula Radwanska.

Wimbledon champion Kvitova, who only dropped three games in her opening win over Australian teenager Ashleigh Barty, needed 70 minutes to set up a clash with either Russia's Nina Bratchikova or Claire Feuerstein of France for a place in the last 16.

The 22-year-old has twice reached the fourth round in Paris, including last year when she was defeated by champion Li Na.


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First posted May 31, 2012 21:19:01

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Azarenka relying on French connection

Updated May 27, 2012 11:22:11

World number one Victoria Azarenka hopes the addition of Amelie Mauresmo to her support team helps her find form at Roland Garros and land back-to-back grand slam titles.

Azarenka's 11 wins in six visits to Paris is her worst return at the four annual majors, but the Australian Open champion believes she's developed her game to the point where she's ready to conquer clay.

"Really, I actually really like clay," Azarenka said ahead of her first-round French Open clash on Monday with Italian Alberta Brianti.

"I mean, it's different game, it's different a little bit in style, but I still have the same intentions as when I play on the hard court.

"Before it was because it was too slippery. Now I feel really good on the normal clay.

"I'm still playing my game that I do on hard court with a few adjustments.

"Of course the points are a little bit longer here and you have to be kind of a little bit more patient, but I think the courts are becoming faster.

"The game is becoming faster, even on clay.

"So I just always try to stick to my natural game."

The Belarusian has enjoyed a fruitful two-year union with French coach Sam Sumyk and physio Jean Piere Bruyere and, last month, added a more famous French ally to her team in former world number one Amelie Mauresmo.

"I'm glad to have her on board," Azarenka said.

"She has a lot of experience to share not only on court, but off court how to manage a little bit and how to pace yourself and stuff.

"Plus she can give me advice how to handle yourself during matches because she's been on the big stages, as I have been already, too.

"But it's good to see somebody else's opinion sometimes. She likes to talk and I like to listen."

Azarenka, who started the year with 26 consecutive wins and four titles, had to withdraw from her third-round match last week in Rome with a sore shoulder, no doubt the painful legacy of her early-season successes and workload.

But the top seed is feeling good to go again.

"I came here early. I have been working really hard to feel healthy. I feel much better," she said.

"I'm excited to start the tournament."

With a dominant 6-0 head-to-head record against Samantha Stosur, Azarenka looms as a major quarter-final obstacle for Australia's sixth seed in a relatively soft side of the draw.

The bottom section features joint title favourites Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, defending champion Li Na and Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova.

Aside from Azarenka, other leading contenders in Stosur's half in action on Monday include Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska against Serb Bojana Jovanovski and French eighth seed Marion Bartoli against Czech qualifier Karolina Pliskova.

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First posted May 27, 2012 11:22:11

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Aussie Rodionova booed out of French Open

Updated May 28, 2012 10:01:45

Feisty Australian Anastasia Rodionova has been booed and hissed out of the French Open's so-called court one "Bull Ring".

While fellow Australian Samantha Stosur proved a popular winner in the first match of the championships on Court Philippe Chatrier, Rodionova, it seems, will not be missed after losing to Frenchwoman Mathilde Johansson.

The fiercely-competitive Rodionova refused to shake hands with Italian umpire Nicholas Stellabotte after her well-received 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 first-round defeat.

Another Australian Casey Dellacqua was also eliminated after a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 loss to 21st seed Sara Errani.

Rodionova upset the locals throughout the three-hour encounter with her constant questioning of line calls - which she almost always got wrong.

The Russian-born Melbourne-based player initially put fans offside in the ninth game of the match when she incorrectly called one of Johansson's balls out.

When Johansson played on, hit a winner and was awarded the point, Rodionova demanded the umpire check the mark.

Two points later, Stellabotte had to leave his chair again to confirm to Rodionova that another of Johansson's shots had landed in.

Rodionova, who was once defaulted from a match in Cincinnati for unsportsmanlike conduct, then received the hand-clap treatment from the crowd after continuing her running battle with Stellabotte at the net.

There were more protests in the third set, after Rodionova had twice failed to serve out the match in the second, but - like on the scoreboard - she lost those battles too.

Dellacqua threatened to post the first upset of the tournament before joining Rodionova as a first-round casualty.

A former women's doubles winner at Roland Garros and the reigning mixed doubles champion, Dellacqua led Errani by a set and a break but dropped 11 of the next 13 games.

Errani came into the tournament boasting a tour-best three titles on clay this season.

Three Australian men open their campaigns on Monday.

Bernard Tomic, the 25th seed, plays Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer, Lleyton Hewitt takes on Slovenian Blaz Kavcic and Matthew Ebden faces German 24th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER).


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First posted May 28, 2012 09:42:20

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Stosur cruises into third round

Updated May 31, 2012 08:09:59

Samantha Stosur and Victoria Azarenka moved closer to a potential quarter-final showdown at the French Open with both coasting to straight-sets wins in the second round.

Former champions Ana Ivanovic (2008) and Svetlana Kuznetsova (2009) also made it through to the third round, but Venus Williams failed in her bid to keep the family flag flying following sister Serena's shock first-round defeat.

Top-seeded Azarenka from Belarus defeated German qualifier Dinah Pfizenmaier 6-1, 6-1, while Australian sixth seed Stosur saw off Irina Falconi of the United States 6-1, 6-4.

Stosur needed a mere 63 minutes to put Falconi to the sword at the Roland Garros "Bull Ring", powering into the last 32 for the fourth successive year.

Australia's 2010 runner-up has dropped just nine games in four sets this campaign, but is sure to face a much sterner test of her title credentials on Friday against Russian rival Nadia Petrova.

Petrova, the 27th seed who defeated South African Chanelle Scheepers 6-3, 6-3 , boasts a 5-2 lead over Stosur in their career series.

Their past two clashes have been epics, both going the distance with Stosur triumphing in a midnight thriller at last year's US Open and Petrova gaining revenge at Indian Wells two months ago.

"It's still only the third round and there is a long way to go yet before you are holding the trophy," Stosur said.

"I think it's just one of those things - you have to knuckle down.

"I know that I've had good runs here in the past.

"Now I'm up to the third step of that."

Up against a player who was making her grand slam debut at Roland Garros, world number one Azarenka needed just 55 minutes to move through, allowing her opponent to dig her own grave with 29 unforced errors.

Azarenka won the Australian Open in January and is seeking to become the first woman since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to win the first two grand slam tournaments of the year.

"It was a different game for sure today," she said, after battling back from a set and 4-0 down in the first round against Italy's Alberta Brianti.

"I didn't really know my opponent and it took a few games to understand what she does.

"But after a few games I found my rhythm and definitely played much better today."

Also looking to put together another strong run at Roland Garros is 2008 winner Ivanovic, who stormed past Shahar Peer of Israel 6-2, 6-2.

The former world number one has failed to reach the quarter-finals in Paris in the last three years and has yet to reach a tournament final this year.

But the 13th seed's form against Peer looked good and she has a decent looking draw through to the last eight, where third seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland could be waiting.

"I've been playing more consistently, improving with each week," Ivanovic said.

"I am starting to play a lot freer and building points. I am actually starting to enjoy the process again."

Kuznetsova, who succeeded Ivanovic as champion in Paris, ousted Taiwan's Chan Yung-Jan 6-4, 7-6 (7-4).

Williams, playing in her 15th Roland Garros, was no match for third seeded Radwanska, falling 6-2, 6-3 to complete a miserable 24 hours for the Williams family.

Sister Serena late Tuesday crashed out after being a set up and 5-1 in the second set tie-break to France's Virginie Razzano.

Among the other qualifiers for the third round were rising US player Sloane Stephens, who defeated compatriot Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-1, 6-1, and 15th seed Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia, who beat Vania King of the United States 6-0, 6-2.

China's 31st seed Zheng Jie went down 6-2, 6-4 to Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada, who goes on to play top seed Azarenka in the third round.

French hopes, high after Razzano's thrilling win, were given a further boost with Mathilde Johansson defeating 24th seeded Czech Petra Cetkovska 7-6 (7-1), 6-2.

But there was heartbreak for last year's beaten semi-finalist Marion Bartoli.

The French number one and eighth seed lost 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 to Petra Martic of Croatia


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First posted May 30, 2012 20:27:46

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Hewitt out early, Tomic through

Updated May 29, 2012 10:40:46

Iron-willed Lleyton Hewitt was unable to drag his bionic big toe into the second round of the French Open overnight, but fellow Australian Bernard Tomic progressed safely.

Hewitt succumbed 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, 6-7 (7-4), 6-3 to Slovenian qualifier Blaz Kavcic in his first competitive outing since undergoing foot surgery in February.

Matthew Ebden was also eliminated, losing 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) to German 24th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Tomic, though, later saved the day for Australia by marking his maiden grand slam seeding with a first-ever victory at Roland Garros.

The 25th seed eased past Austrian qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-3 and next plays Colombian Santiago Giraldo on Wednesday for a likely third-round clash with Andy Murray.

Tomic beat Giraldo in three sets on clay earlier this month in Rome and will fancy his chances of reaching at least the last 32 in Paris.

As ever, Hewitt's mind was willing and his body reasonably able - considering his near-four-month absence from the tour after having a metal plate and screws inserted in his troublesome left big toe.

Alas, the 31-year-old's game was not quite ready for the grand slam rigours of best-of-five-sets on clay.

But while an appetising second-round showdown with Novak Djokovic went begging, there were enough encouraging signs from Hewitt to suggest he could make a decent grasscourt run at Wimbledon next month.

"I had to start somewhere," Hewitt said.

"I'm sure tomorrow I'll pull up pretty sore, but it was good for a lot reasons to go out there and play - lasted nearly four hours and physically felt fine.

"There are positives to take out of it."

Rusty by nickname and rusty by nature as Hewitt committed an uncharacteristic 56 unforced errors - and 28 alone in the marathon 69-minute first set.

The former world number one had led 4-1 after breaking Kavcic twice, but frustrating mistakes flowed off his strings and steadily eroded his early advantage.

After losing the first-set tiebreaker and then falling two sets behind, Hewitt looked down and out.

But he bravely fought off a mini match point in the 11th game of the third set to snatch it and raise hopes of a vintage comeback win.

There was no way back, though, after being broken two games in a row midway through the fourth set and the 99th-ranked Kavcic held firm to eventually close out the absorbing contest after three hours and 50 minutes.

Hewitt will relish a return to his preferred grass courts, firstly at Queen's where he has accepted a wildcard entry as a four-times former champion.

Then, as a dangerous unseeded floater, the 31-year-old will be hoping for some luck at the Wimbledon draw - a decade after he hoisted the greatest prize in tennis at the All England Club.

Teenage wildcard Ashleigh Barty will make her eagerly-awaited French Open debut tonight in the first match on Court Suzanne Lenglen against Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.


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First posted May 29, 2012 05:51:54

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Aussie teen Barty falls to Kvitova

Updated May 30, 2012 06:22:36

She has been likened to a young Martina Hingis, but Ashleigh Barty will not make the French Open final as a 16-year-old like the Swiss Miss did.

The Australian wildcard's maiden campaign in Paris ended in a 6-1, 6-2 first-round defeat on Tuesday at the hands of Czech fourth seed Petra Kvitova.

Meanwhile, Jarmila Gajdosova joined Samantha Stosur in the second round after her Slovakian opponent Magdalena Rybarikova retired at 6-3, 4-1 down.

Gajdosova takes on former world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the next round.

For Barty, playing the reigning Wimbledon champion on Court Suzanne Lenglen was always going to be a tall order for the youngest player in either of the singles draws for the clay court grand slam.

And it was all over in 54 minutes as Kvitova capitalised on Barty's obvious butterflies.

The just-turned-16-year-old's nerves were evident in the warm-up when she failed to land 13 straight practise serves.

Not surprisingly, the Queensland youngster then double-faulted on the very first point of the match.

Barty's performance was far from all doom and gloom, though.

The Wimbledon junior champion provided Australian tennis fans with a glimpse of the future as she matched Kvitova's back-court firepower for periods of the match.

Barty also showed grit to hold her opening service game with a big ace down the middle after fighting off two break points.

Alas, eight faults and too many missed dropped shots and netted slice backhands ultimately brought her unstuck.

Kvitova broke Barty three times to take the opening set in 25 minutes.

But Barty was not ready to raise the white flag, breaking Kvitova for the first time to nudge ahead 1-0 in the second set.

The teenager handed the break straight back with another backhand error, but remained with Kvitova until dropping serve for a fifth time in the sixth game to fall behind 4-2.

It was all over for Barty when she flayed a backhand long on Kvitova's first match point.

Later on Tuesday, Russian second seed Maria Sharapova took just 48 minutes to brush aside Romania's Alexandra Cadantu.

Meanwhile 2010 champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy, seeded 14, defeated Japanese veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-3, 6-1.

Kvitova now meets either Urszula Radwanska of Poland or Pauline Parmentier of France while Schiavone, 31 and last year's beaten finalist, advanced to a meeting with either Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium or Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria after ousting Date-Krumm - a decade her elder.

Date-Krumm broke serve in the opening game but thereafter the Japanese was unable to last the pace on a sparsely-populated but sunny Philippe Chatrier show court.

Other seeds to progress were Maria Kirilenko (16), Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (22) and Kaia Kanepi (23).

Guernsey-born Briton Heather Watson, who managed to reach the second round on her debut last year, thereby entering the top 100, got off to a flier against Russian Elena Vesnina.

She romped through her opening set and stayed her ground to win 6-2, 6-4 for a likely match-up against Germany's 25th seed Julia Goerges.


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First posted May 29, 2012 20:33:51

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Top seed Azarenka survives French Open scare

Updated May 29, 2012 06:45:14

Victoria Azarenka battled back from a set and 4-0 down to defeat Italy's Alberta Brianti on Monday and avoid becoming the first top seed in history to be knocked out in the French Open first round.

World number one Azarenka won 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 6-2 and will face German qualifier Dinah Pfizenmaier for a place in the last 32, but she flirted with disaster for much of her two-hour, 16-minute battle on Philippe Chatrier Court.

The 32-year-old Brianti, who had never won a match in four previous main draw appearances at Roland Garros, was left to regret squandering a break point in the fifth game of the second set.

She was on the verge of a 5-0 lead when Azarenka sent down a second serve ace to stay in contention, the point proving to be the significant moment in the match.

Azarenka, who won her first major tournament at the Australian Open this year, came into Roland Garros nursing a shoulder injury which had forced her to pull out of the Italian Open two weeks ago.

And it appeared that she was heading for a shock exit until she reeled of 12 of the last 14 games as Brianti ran out of steam.

The 22-year-old Azarenka, twice a quarter-finalist in Paris, ended the match having committed 60 unforced errors and serving up six double faults.

"I started well but my game just collapsed," admitted 22-year-old Azarenka.

"I tried to stay concentrated but I don't know how I got out of it.

"The important thing in that really miserable moment, I stayed strong and I just went for my shots."

Defending champion Li Na of China advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Romania's Sorana Cirstea, a quarter-finalist in 2009.

"I'll just try my best," Li said, when asked to rate her chances of a successful defence.

"It's tough for me to stay at the same level all the time."

Li will face France's Stephanie Foretz Gacon for a place in the last 32.

Polish third seed Agnieszka Radwanska took just 49 minutes to wrap up a 6-1, 6-0 win over Serbia's Bojana Jovanovksi and will take on Venus Williams for a place in the last 32.

French eighth seed Marion Bartoli also went through, beating Czech qualifier Karolina Plizkova 6-3, 6-3.

Vera Zvonareva, the 11th seeded Russian, withdrew with a right shoulder injury while German 12th seed Sabine Lisicki slumped to a 6-4, 6-3 defeat to America's Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The United States already have 10 women in the second round, their best performance since 2003.

The other big seed to fall was Italy's 17th seed Roberta Vinci who was defeated 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 by Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden.

German Mona Barthel (30) and Romanian Monica Niculescu (32) also lost in the first round but Dominika Cibulkova (15), Flavia Pennetta (18) and Jelena Jankovic (19) all advanced.


Tags: tennis, sport, france

First posted May 28, 2012 22:06:38

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hewitt welcomes Djokovic challenge

Updated May 26, 2012 11:42:48

Lleyton Hewitt would relish a dream French Open showdown with history-chasing Novak Djokovic should his battered body survive its first competitive workout in four months.

Hewitt will take on Slovenian qualifier Blaz Kavcic in his long-awaited comeback from foot surgery and is acutely aware that victory would set up a second-round tussle with Serbia's all-conquering world number one.

"It would be a good challenge that's for sure," Hewitt said after a typically gruelling practice session on Friday under the discerning eye of super coach Tony Roche.

Even Hewitt would admit to being a raging underdog to shatter Djokovic's dreams of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam trophies.

But that's just how he likes it.

"He's going to be competitive no matter what happens," Roche said.

Djokovic needs no reminding how dangerous the lion-hearted baseline slugger can be after overcoming some nervous moments in a high-quality fourth-round encounter at this year's Australian Open.

"Lleyton is a legend of our sport," Djokovic said after Friday's draw.

"He has had so much success on the tour. He's still a great competitor and he has shown that in the Australian Open.

"We played four sets, a tough match. I haven't seen him playing lately and clay is not his favourite surface, but he's always out there. You can always expect him to go and fight until the last ball."

Clay may indeed not be his favourite surface, but Hewitt is certainly no mug either on the red dirt of Roland Garros.

The 31-year-old former world number one is proud to be the only player in the 128-man draw, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer included, to have reached the last 32 in 10 straight appearances in Paris.

"I've played really well here," Hewitt said.

"I've gotten better as the years have gone on and nearly everyone I've lost to here has been a bloody good player really, one of the top guys who has obviously gone on to close to winning the tournament."

In fact, the dogged South Australian has lost to six-times champion Nadal in three of his past four French campaigns.

In other years, it's taken eventual winner Gaston Gaudio and fellow Roland Garros champions Albert Costa and Juan Carlos Ferrero to stop Hewitt.

The dual major winner will almost certainly go down swinging once more against the tournament's top seed.

But he views any court time against a quality opponent a bonus before heading to London for Wimbledon and the ensuing Olympics at his beloved All England Club.

"It's motivation enough just to get here," Hewitt said.

"I'm going to pull up a bit sore, I'm sure, after my first match for a long time, so for me physically it's more about it's about trying to get all that out of the way before the grasscourt season really.

"I'm not coming here with the highest expectations."


Tags: sport, tennis, france, australia, serbia

First posted May 26, 2012 09:40:20

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Serena ready to conquer Paris

Updated May 26, 2012 13:23:38

Serena Williams insists she is as committed to tennis now as she has ever been, with her sister Venus' battle with illness serving as an inspiration to her.

The 30-year-old American has won just one singles title at Roland Garros, lifting the French Open crown in 2002 when she defeated her older sister in the final.

Since then she has mainly flopped on the red clay courts here while chalking up regular wins at Wimbledon, and the US and Australian Opens.

This year though, she appears to be set on victory once again in Paris and chalked up a 17-0 winning run on clay in the last few weeks with tournament triumphs in Charleston and Madrid.

"I think in general I have much better commitment in tennis. I just am really 100%," the 13-time Grand Slam champion said.

"I love being on the court now. I love every moment. This is what I live for. After going through everything that I went through, I really kind of appreciate every moment more, especially being out on the court."

Williams was referring to the bad luck that beset her following her Wimbledon triumph of 2010.

She firstly cut her foot on a piece of glass and eventually needed two surgeries. She then spent 20 weeks in a cast and walking boot.

Then in February 2011, she was diagnosed with blood clots in her lung, and didn't start practicing again until April of that year.

Since then it has been sister Venus who has been in the wars being diagnosed with Sjogren's syndrome, an auto-immune disease that saps enery and strength from its victims.

She has been working her way back to full fitness this spring and will also play at the French Open where she will be unseeded.

"It's amazing what Venus has done. It's unbelievable," Serena said of her sibling with whom she has always enjoyed a close relationship.

"She's been playing so well and beaten several top 10 players and still dealing with what she has to go through, which I see.

"It's really intense, and I just don't know anyone out there who has gone through everything that she's gone through and just remaining completely positive and yet still playing so well."

Serena's last tournament in Rome last week ended in her withdrawing ahead of her semi-final against Li Na.

But she says the extra few days rest has done her good and she is ready for an all-out assault on the French Open title.

"It's better," she said of her bad back. "I took a couple days off and I got a lot of treatment and stuff like that.

"I feel a lot better. I played a lot, so I don't know if that's what it was. I'm maintaining everything now."


Tags: sport, tennis, france

First posted May 26, 2012 10:16:23

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Monfils out of French Open

Updated May 25, 2012 07:09:35

France's Gael Monfils has withdrawn from the French Open after failing to recover from a right knee injury, dealing a major blow to home hopes of ending a 29-year wait for a men's champion.

The world number 13, who reached the semi-finals in 2008 and quarter-finals in 2009 as well as last year, needs around three weeks to recover.

Monfils, 25, had looked likely to pull out of the second Grand Slam event of the season when he slumped to a straight sets defeat to world number 216 Brian Baker of the United States in Nice on Wednesday.

He underwent an examination in Paris on Thursday after which he decided to pull out.

Monfils will be replaced in Friday's draw by a 'lucky loser' from qualifying ahead of the start of the tournament on Sunday.

Yannick Noah was the last Frenchman to win at Roland Garros in 1983.

Elsewhere, Greg Jones is the last Australian left in the French Open qualifying draw.

Jones, who was a junior finalist at Roland Garros, completed a Kenny de Schepper 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Sydneysider needs to beat Frenchman Nicolas Devilder to gain a place in Sunday's draw.

Marinko Matosevic will not be in the men's draw after losing 6-4, 6-3 to Marc Giquel.


Tags: sport, tennis, france

First posted May 25, 2012 07:09:35

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Djokovic finds Federer in way of history

Updated May 25, 2012 21:28:02

Novak Djokovic's bid to become the first man in 43 years to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time hit its first hurdle on Friday when Roger Federer became a potential French Open semi-final opponent.

World number one Djokovic, three times a semi-finalist in Paris, is the top seed at the French Open with Federer, the 2009 champion, seeded three and Friday's draw pitted them in the same section.

Djokovic starts against Italy's Potito Starace and could face former world number one Lleyton Hewitt in the second round after the two shared a classic battle at the Australian Open.

Hewitt, granted a wildcard to take his spot at Roland Garros, takes on Slovenina Blaz Kavcic in the opening round while fellow Aussie Bernard Tomic faces a qualifier and Matt Ebden plays 24th seed Phillipp Kohlschreiber.

Samantha Stosur faces Scot Elena Baltacha in her opening-round match with a quarter-final clash with world number one Victoria Azarenka in the offing.

Casey Dellacqua plays 21st seed Sara Errani, Anastasia Radionova takes on Frenchwoman Mathilde Johansson, Jarmila Gajdosova faces Slovakian Magdalena Rybarikova and wildcard Ashleigh Barty meets fourth seed Petra Kvitova in the first round.

Adding spice to the top half of the men's draw is the presence of dangerous Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 US Open winner, who could face Federer in the fourth round.

Federer starts against Germany's Tobias Kamke with David Nalbandian a possible second-round foe and Czech Tomas Berdych a potential quarter-final opponent.

Rafael Nadal, the second seed bidding for a record seventh French Open, starts against Italy's Simone Bolelli and has dangerous clay-courters Nicolas Almagro and Juan Monaco also in his quarter of the draw.

The Spaniard could face Serbian eighth seed Janko Tipsarevic in the last eight.

Fourth seed Andy Murray, struggling with a back injury, is Nadal's scheduled semi-final opponent. Murray starts against Japan's Tatsuma Ito.

In the women's draw, top seed Azarenka begins against Italian Alberta Brianti while world number two Maria Sharapova was drawn against Alexandra Cadantu of Romania.

Sharapova and 2002 champion Serena Williams are potential quarter-final opponents.

Defending champion Li Na starts against Romania's Sorana Cirstea while Williams begins against France's Virginie Razzano.


Tags: tennis, sport, france, australia

First posted May 25, 2012 21:28:02

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Stosur eyes unfinished French business

Updated May 24, 2012 17:19:19

Samantha Stosur has arrived in Paris looking to complete some unfinished business at the French Open starting on Sunday.

Roland Garros was the scene of Stosur's greatest career disappointment, a shattering loss to Francesca Schiavone in the 2010 final, a year after dumping the Italian from the first round in straight sets.

On the flip side, the clay court major was also the tournament that marked Stosur's remarkable revival from career-threatening illness with an unexpected charge to the semi-finals in 2009.

Three years on and the reigning US Open champion has returned to the French capital determined not to be a one-slam wonder.

"It's funny how things always change as months move on and you get certain results," Stosur said.

"Before I won the US Open of course I just said I'd love to win one grand slam. But now I'm not settling for that.

"I've got one. Now I'd like to get two and you don't want to finish there."

Before reaching the last four in Paris three years ago, Stosur considered clay by far her worst surface.

Having mastered the art of bossing her opponents around from the baseline with her high-kicking serve and brutal forehand, Stosur has since racked up 50 wins on the slow surface.

The 28-year-old Queenslander has won 14 of her past 17 matches in Paris and openly admits to feeling more at home these days at Roland Garros than Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena.

"Ever since that semi-final run in '09 I've felt really comfortable on the courts and just really enjoyed playing here," Stosur said.

"It's got a great atmosphere and it just feels nice to be here."

Unlike during her forgettable Australian summer, featuring a first-round Australian Open loss, Stosur insists she is feeling little pressure ahead of the season's second major.

"It's just more excitement to play," said the world number six.

"It's the last opportunity to play on clay for the year and you want to try and do as best as you can because it is such a short period of the year and I really enjoy this time.

"I'm just wanting to get out there and hopefully play lots and lots of matches and do well.

"It's comforting to know that you have played well on these courts and you can use that."

Stosur is 13 from 17 on clay in 2012, with two of her defeats coming against Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, the two French Open favourites who have collected five clay court titles between them this season.

Stosur, the Open's fourth favourite, also lost to Venus Williams last week in Rome and to Czech Lucie Hradecka on Madrid's maligned blue courts.

"I've been playing really quite well so not too much to be disappointed about," she said.

Stosur's countrywomen Olivia Rogowska, Isabella Holland and Sacha Jones have all failed to make the main draw after losing in the first round of qualifying on Wednesday.


Tags: sport, tennis, australia, france

First posted May 24, 2012 17:19:19

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Aussies win in French Open qualifying

Updated May 23, 2012 11:28:17

Australians Marinko Matosevic and Greg Jones are a step closer to earning a spot in the French Open main draw after winning their opening qualifying matches.

Matosevic, the world number 89 who just missed out on direct entry to the clay-court major, thumped Frenchman Mathieu Rodrigues 6-1, 6-1.

Jones also advanced comfortably, downing Czech Jan Hernych 6-1, 6-4.

Matosevic will play Marc Gicquel in the second round of qualifying, while Jones also takes on a local, Kenny De Schepper.

But the other two Australian men in the qualifying competition crashed out at the first hurdle.

Twenty-year-old James Duckworth - who took number nine seed Janko Tipsarevic to four tight sets in the second second round of the Australian Open in January - was beaten 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) by German Daniel Brands.

Benjamin Mitchell lost a tight three-setter at Roland Garros to France's Albano Olivetti 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The French Open women's qualifying event begins on Wednesday, with three Australians in action - Sacha Jones, Isabella Holland and Olivia Rogowska.

Meanwhile, Bernard Tomic has advanced to the second round of the Open de Nice tournament in the south of France.

The fifth-seeded Australian beat Slovakia's Lukas Lacko 6-2, 6-3 to record a comfortable straight sets victory.

Tomic will play Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in the next round.

Fellow Aussie Matthew Ebden went down 6-3, 6-3 to Russia's Nikolai Davydenko.


Tags: sport, tennis, france

First posted May 23, 2012 11:23:56

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Clijsters to retire after US Open

Updated May 23, 2012 07:21:49

Former world number one Kim Clijsters announced on Tuesday she is to retire after the US Open in September.

The 28-year-old Belgian told a news conference that she wanted to sign out in New York where she enjoyed the biggest success of her career winning the the women's singles title at Flushing Meadow three times in 2005, 2009 and 2010.

"As it stands I will end my career at the US Open. That is where I enjoyed my greatest triumphs and it is a very special place for me," she said.

"The stadium is only about 45 minutes away from our house in the United States and my parents-in-law will be able to be present."

Clijsters is married to former US basketball player Brian Lynch and the couple have a daughter Jada.

She retired for a first time in May 2007 and gave birth to her daughter before staging a remarkable comeback in 2009 which ended in her triumph at the US Open which she successfully defended the following year.

Clijsters also won the Australian Open in 2011, the same year she topped the world rankings for the first time in five years.

But she has increasingly been dogged by injuries which caused her to draw down the curtain on the claycourt season and concentrate instead on the London Olympics and the US Open.


Tags: sport, tennis, united-states

First posted May 23, 2012 07:21:49

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Aussie women bow out of French qualifying

Updated May 24, 2012 12:56:00

Australian trio Olivia Rogowska, Isabella Holland and Sacha Jones have all lost in the first round of women's qualifying at the French Open.

It was a similar tale of woe for men's hopeful Bernard Tomic at the Open de Nice tournament in the south of France, where he was bundled out by Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin.

The fifth-seeded Tomic took the first set but bowed out after a 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 defeat

In qualifying, Rogowska - who reached the second round of the main draw on debut at Roland Garros in 2009 - lost 7-5, 6-3 to China's Shuai Jang.

Holland lost 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 to French 24th seed Iryna Bremond, while Jones fell 6-4, 6-2 to Sandra Zaniewska of Poland.


Tags: tennis, france

First posted May 24, 2012 12:48:40

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Soderling to take further time out from tennis

Updated May 22, 2012 09:50:49

Former world number four Robin Soderling is to take a further break from tennis after suffering an illness-hit 10 months.

Twice a losing finalist at the French Open, Soderling was struck down by glandular fever after winning the Swedish Open in Bastad in July 2011 and has not played since.

But despite damage done to his thyroid and adrenal glands by the fever, he has no plans to quit the sport for good just yet.

"Of course I've thought about it now and then but I'm 28 now and I have plenty of good years in front of me," the Swede told a news conference in Stockholm on Monday.

Soderling, who has slid to 56 in the world rankings, has shelved any plans of taking part in Wimbledon or the Olympics but could return later in the year.

"I haven't given up on the year. Hopefully I can come back a little, at an OK level," he said.

Soderling has won 10 career titles since his ATP tour debut in 2001 and was ranked number four in the world in 2010 and last year, but the glare of publicity has not always been welcome.

"Sometimes I wish I was involved in bowling or something, so I could be sick in peace," he said.


Tags: sport, tennis, sweden

First posted May 22, 2012 09:50:49

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Second Rome win for Sharapova

Updated May 21, 2012 10:15:28

Maria Sharapova won her second straight Rome title on Sunday, defeating China's Li Na in a match full of momentum shifts, a lengthy rain delay and noisy distractions from football fans.

The world number two claimed the 26th trophy of her career triumphing over Li 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).

But the Russian was nearly down and out at 6-4, 4-0 down before making a big comeback.

Then, after Sharapova and Li had battled to 6-6 in the final set, and the decisive tie-break was about to commence, the players were forced off by rain for over two hours.

"It was a crazy match," said Sharapova.

"Either one of us could have won it. There really is no loser."

The win gave Sharapova her second Rome crown to add to the Stuttgart claycourt title she earned in April.

For her opponent, it was so near, yet so far, as she came close to her first title since claiming her historic French Open title last June.

During the final, hovering helicopters, exploding fireworks and chanting fans - heading for the Italian Cup soccer final between Juventus and Napoli at the nearby Olympic Stadium - made for distractions.

"The match was a joke, it was like playing a football match in the rain," said Li.

"Even when we were sent off court, you had to still concentrate for every second, it was tiring for both players.

"You could not relax. It was tense. When we came back out, she was the tougher player. But I take some positives away. It's getting close to Roland Garros and I think I hit the ball well. I also moved her around the court well."

Sharapova and Li were sent off court with the third set poised at a tiebreaker to decide the match. They came back more than two hours later and played seven additional minutes before Sharapova prevailed.

The Russian looked flat in the first set, losing an early break and the set.

With Li leading a set and 4-0, the momentum suddenly shifted as Sharapova woke up to reel off eight consecutive games, winning the second set to level the match and going 2-0 up in the third.

But with victory in sight Sharapova suddenly went off the boil, leading 4-1 before dropping two serves as Li recovered.

As steady rain fell, the determined pair played on, with a brief stoppage at the two-and-a-half-hour mark while players sat in their chairs.

Once it resumed, neither seemed inclined to close it out, with Sharapova saving a match point in the 12th game from a forehand winner, before the rain finally forced the players off before the tie-break.


Tags: sport, tennis, italy

First posted May 21, 2012 06:45:08

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Rain puts off Novak-Nadal showdown

Updated May 21, 2012 08:17:26

Heavy rain caused Sunday's eagerly anticipated Rome Masters final between defending champion Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal to be postponed until Monday.

"The conditions for play are not suitable. The final is postponed until Monday at 1200 (2000 AEST)," said tournament director Sergio Palmieri.

Earlier, the women's final had been interrupted for over two hours due to the rain before Maria Sharapova successfully defended her title by beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

Angry spectators through plastic bottles onto the court in protest after the men's final was postponed.

For Nadal, the final is a chance to get revenge for last year's event, when Djokovic beat him in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, on the clay in Rome.

It is also a chance to rebound after his shock quarter-final loss to Spain's Fernando Verdasco on the controversial "blue clay" in Madrid, and push to regain the number two world ranking from rival Roger Federer.

For Djokovic, it is an opportunity to defend his title and gain the psychological advantage over Nadal on the Spaniard's favourite surface leading into next week's French Open.

Nadal will be seeking his seventh French Open at Roland Garros, while Djokovic is yet to win in Paris.


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First posted May 21, 2012 08:17:26

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Nadal captures sixth Rome title

Updated May 21, 2012 22:59:19

Rafa Nadal enjoyed the perfect fillip ahead of his French Open defence with a commanding 7-5, 6-3 victory over world number one Novak Djokovic in the delayed Rome Masters final on Monday.

Beaten surprisingly early on Madrid's blue clay earlier this month, the 25-year-old Mallorcan was at his destructive best to claim the title in the Italian capital for the sixth time.

In doing so he will rise back to second in the world rankings after being overtaken by Roger Federer last week.

The match, the 32nd between the pair, had been postponed by rain on Sunday, but both players came out firing in front of a healthy crowd in the Foro Italico as the sun returned.

Nadal went immediately on the attack, carving out two break points in Djokovic's opening service game only for the elastic-limbed Serb's defences to dig him out of trouble.

The Spaniard did draw first blood when he punished a dreadful Djokovic drop shot in the fifth game to move ahead but he immediately handed the service break back with a lacklustre game culminating in a forehand error.

Djokovic briefly switched up a gear and began to dominate the rallies but was broken again at 5-5 after a volleying exchange and Nadal served out a 76-minute opener.

Nadal made it five games in a row when he moved 2-0 ahead in the second set and although Djokovic hung on grimly, threatening to break back in the fourth game only to mess up an easy smash, he stayed in control.

Two bad bounces and a double-fault on match point helped Nadal close it out and improve his career head-to-head record over the Serb to 18-14.


Tags: tennis, sport, italy

First posted May 21, 2012 22:51:25

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Djokovic, Nadal set up Rome rematch

Updated May 20, 2012 13:55:41

World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic swept past Roger Federer to set up a Rome Masters final rematch with five-time winner Rafael Nadal.

Top seed Djokovic ended Federer's brilliant run of recent clay form, defeating the world number two, and last week's Madrid champion, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) while Nadal reached a seventh Rome final with a 7-6 (8-6), 6-0 win over compatriot David Ferrer.

Federer saved a match point for 5-5 in the second set as he broke Djokovic on a stinging forehand winner.

But he could not extend that battling instinct into the tie-breaker, with Djokovic taking victory on his second winning chance as the Swiss put a backhand long after an hour and 39 minutes on court.

"This was my best match on clay so far," said Djokovic.

"I was focused from the beginning and very determined and concentrated.

"I was hitting the ball well and returning extremely well. I was making him play the extra shot and make errors. I'm very pleased to be back in the final."

After defeating Ferrer for the 12th consecutive time on clay, Nadal will face Djokovic for the 32nd time on Sunday, with the Spaniard going into the contest holding a 17-14 lead.

Nadal won their last meeting in April for the Monte Carlo title, snapping a run of seven consecutive losses to his rival in finals dating back to March 2011.

"I've raised the level of our rivalry," said Djokovic.

"Playing Rafa in the finals again is very encouraging. It is what I want before Roland Garros."

Djokovic controlled Federer in their first meeting since the US Open semis last autumn when Federer held two match points but lost. Since that disappointment he has won seven ATP titles.

"Overall, I wasn't playing quite good enough," said Federer, who admitted that he was relieved the tournament was over.

"I've played a lot of tennis in the last few weeks. Novak was looking fresh, he was better tonight. He really put pressure on me."


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First posted May 20, 2012 09:19:34

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Williams withdraws from Rome semi

Updated May 19, 2012 21:47:12

Serena Williams withdrew from the Rome Masters semi-final with China's Li Na due to back pain, but insists she will be fine for the French Open.

"I'm fine, I'll be 100 per cent for the French," said 30-year-old Williams, who added she pulled out to make sure she did not aggravate the injury.

"I've been feeling a little pain this week and I have a huge schedule coming up," said the American who was on a 17-match win streak on clay.

China's eighth seed Li could not have asked for better timing as she heads into her Roland Garros title defence beginning in eight days.

Li will play for the Rome title against German Angelique Kerber or defending champion Maria Sharapova.

Williams did not face much of a match in the quarter-finals, needing less than half an hour on court as opponent Flavia Pennetta quit after four games with a wrist problem.

"I would have hoped to have played until the end of that match but it would have depended on my back," said 13-time grand slam winner Williams, the 2002 Rome champion.

Williams has won two clay titles in recent weeks, in Charleston and Madrid.

"I've been playing a lot and my body is getting used to a lot of matches again. My form is good heading to Paris. I want to be ready for the next couple of months (French Open, Wimbledon, Olympics and US Open).

"I'm just living for the moment now, maybe I'll stay a few days in Rome, I really love the city," said Williams.


Tags: sport, tennis, italy

First posted May 19, 2012 21:45:59

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Big names on Rome collision course

Updated May 19, 2012 08:49:13

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to another possible final showdown after recording straight-set wins in the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters.

Holder and top seed Djokovic survived a tight first set to beat Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 6-1, while Nadal, striking the ball better than he has done in months, recorded an impressive 6-4, 7-5 victory over in-form Czech Tomas Berdych.

Djokovic and Tsonga exchanged two service breaks apiece to reach 5-5, but the Serb clinched the opening set when the fifth seed served his first double fault.

The world number one then ran away with the second set to set up a clash with second-ranked Roger Federer, who demolished Andreas Seppi of Italy 6-1, 6-2.

"The second set was the best I have played this week," Djokovic said.

"I don't like to compare how I am playing to last year, but I am very happy with my game," he added before considering his first meeting with Federer since he saved two match points to beat him in the semi-finals at last year's US Open.

"Obviously there are no secrets between us, we have played many big matches over the last four or five years. But I believe I am ready and I will go on court with the right attitude and hopefully play well."

Nadal, who slipped behind Federer in the rankings after the Swiss won the Madrid title last weekend, produced an outstanding performance to beat seventh seed Berdych.

The Spaniard - chasing a sixth title in Rome - came from a break down in the second set to clinch victory.

"I played one of my best matches of the year today," Nadal told a news conference.

"Tomas is a player with a lot of confidence and playing very well, so I am very happy with how I played.

"I did one fantastic thing, in my opinion. I stepped inside the court a lot, with my forehand and my movements were fantastic."

In the semi-finals, Nadal will meet fellow Spaniard David Ferrer, who edged out Richard Gasquet of France 7-6, 6-3.

Nadal beat Ferrer to win the title in Barcelona last month but said he would need to play better on Saturday if he is to make the final.

"I was a little bit lucky in some moments in Barcelona," he said. "I didn't play my best tennis that day.

"I know I can play better than that and I will have to play my best tennis against David because he is a great player.

"But I am very happy with the way I am playing and the way I have played the whole clay court season."

In the women's draw, Maria Sharapova ended the encouraging run of Venus Williams to reach the semi-finals, but Serena Williams enjoyed an easy passage through to the last four.

World number two Sharapova downed Venus 6-4, 6-3 in a high-quality encounter to set up a clash with Germany's Angelique Kerber who upset Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova 7-6, 1-6, 6-1.

Serena was leading Flavia Pennetta 4-0, 40-0 when the Italian retired with a right wrist injury. She will play China's Li Na who beat Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 6-1, 7-6.


Tags: tennis, sport, italy

First posted May 19, 2012 08:36:38

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Stosur joins Murray on road out of Rome

Updated May 18, 2012 08:10:47

Ailing Briton Andy Murray suffered another setback to his French Open preparations as he was ousted 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 6-2 by Richard Gasquet in the third round of the Rome Masters.

The world number four, who continues to be troubled by a long-term back injury, dominated the first set tie-break, but was made to pay for missing 15 of 17 break points as he lost to the 22nd ranked Frenchman in just under three hours.

Holder Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, who he beat in last year's final, reached the last eight in contrasting fashion while Roger Federer was pushed to three sets by Juan Carlos Ferrero to win 6-2, 7-5, 6-1.

Meanwhile, Australian Samantha Stosur was ousted in the third round by a rejuvenated Venus Williams 6-4, 6-3.

Djokovic demonstrated the art of smashing a racquet as he beat Argentina's Juan Monaco 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 while Nadal made light work of fellow Spaniard Marcel Granollers, winning 6-1, 6-1.

Murray had reached the quarter-finals in Monte Carlo but pulled out of the Madrid Masters with a back injury before winning his opening match in Rome.

The Scot said his back had been a problem for several months and admitted it was a concern heading into the French Open, which begins on May 27.

"I don't really want to go into detail of what it is and what treatment I've had done, but I've had it a while, since December," Murray told a news conference.

"Since then there hasn't been that much time to take an extended break and now with the French Open, Wimbledon, Olympics and the US Open to come, there's not much time to take a rest.

"But hopefully by the time the French Open comes around I'll be in peak condition. That's the goal."

The swirling wind and shadows across the court made life difficult for both men, but 16th seed Gasquet took his chances to set up a quarter-final with Spain's David Ferrer, the sixth seed winning 6-0, 7-6 (7-5) against Gilles Simon of France.

Djokovic mangled his racquet when he lost the first set against but from 2-1 down in the second set he reeled off 20 of 24 points to draw level before going on to victory.

"I hope the children watching don't do that," a smiling Djokovic said of his racquet-smashing. "But I show my emotions out there. That's who I am.

"I struggled with the wind today and I was a bit defensive and passive in the first set, but once I was more direct I started to play much better."

Nadal eased through against Granollers in one hour and 28 minutes, setting up a clash with seventh seed Tomas Berdych who defeated Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7-3), 6-3.

Fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga outgunned Juan Martin Del Potro 6-4, 6-1 while Italian Andreas Seppi won a marathon 6-7 (1-7), 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (8-6) battle against Stanislas Wawrinka.

In the women's event, it was a good day for the Williams sisters as Serena and Venus reached the quarter finals.

Ninth-seeded Serena, fresh from her victory in Madrid last weekend, crushed Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain 6-3, 6-1, while unseeded Venus upset fifth seed Stosur.

Venus's victory puts her in line for a place in the US Olympic team, a remarkable achievement in her comeback after she was diagnosed with Sjogren's Disease, which saps her energy, during last year's US Open.

"Seriously," she said, before doing a fist pump at her news conference. "I wouldn't have come back so soon but I needed the points to get in the Olympics.

"I probably wouldn't have come back before Wimbledon or maybe even after it. I need to win more but that's great."

Things are likely to get tougher for Venus, though, when she plays holder Maria Sharapova in the last eight.

The Russian saved six set points in the first set before beating former French Open champion Ana Ivanovic 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.

Wimbledon champion and fourth seed Petra Kvitova also advanced with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Sorana Cirstea while China's Li Na and Italian Flavia Pennetta both won through.


Tags: tennis, sport, italy, australia

First posted May 18, 2012 07:53:34

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Serena humbles Azarenka in Madrid final

Updated May 14, 2012 07:31:10

A fired-up Serena Williams sent out a warning to the young pretenders of women's tennis when she powered to a crushing 6-1, 6-3 victory over world number one Victoria Azarenka to win the Madrid Open.

The 30-year-old former number one, seeded ninth at the premier clay event in the Spanish capital, extended her winning streak to 13 matches and looks to be coming into top form right on time for the French Open starting later this month.

With the sliding roof of the futuristic Magic Box arena open to the baking Madrid sun, Williams made the most of Azarenka's error-strewn start on the blue dirt of the Manolo Santana show court to race into a 4-0 lead.

After breaking the Belarussian's serve for a third time to clinch the first set, Williams turned the screw with another break early in the second and clinched victory on her first match point when Azarenka, also runner-up last year, completely missed an attempted return.

It was the American's second title of the year after her success on the clay at Charleston last month and her 41st singles crown overall, putting her in joint 13th on the all-time list with Belgian Kim Clijsters.

"My whole thing is just to play consistent and that is what I have been doing the past couple of weeks," Williams told reporters.

"I belong on a tennis court and that's where I feel amazing."

A 13-times grand slam singles champion who was last number one in October 2010, Williams is projected to rise to number six when the rankings are updated and said she had her eye on extending her overall tally of 123 weeks at the top.

"I don't play to be number two, I don't think Victoria plays to be number two," she said.

"We all play to be the best."

Serena beat her sister Venus in the French Open final in her sole triumph at Roland Garros in 2002 but has not been past the quarter-finals since 2004, leading to a perception she is less comfortable on the dirt than grass or hardcourt.

"It's a big myth because I actually love the clay, I grew up on clay," Williams said.

"My results haven't been stellar but I have won the French Open, the ultimate claycourt tournament.

"Actually I like it more than the grass which is weird."

It was only Azarenka's third defeat in a year in which the 22-year-old won her first grand slam singles title at the Australian Open, which lifted her to the top of the rankings, and has earned more than $4 million in prize money.

Williams clubbed 26 winners to Azarenka's six and smashed down 14 aces, while her opponent did not manage a single one and offered up six double faults.

"She was just so much better than me today," Azarenka said.

"I do need to return a bit better and definitely improve my serve which today was just a disaster.

"These kinds of matches make you realize you have to take a moment and look at what you can do better."

Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and others who have complained about the blue clay at the Madrid Open are "weenies", Williams.

Asked about criticism from Djokovic and Nadal over the slippery surface on the Manolo Santana show court, Williams told a news conference that women were simply tougher than their male counterparts.

"Women are way tougher than men. That's why we have the babies, you guys could never handle kids," Williams said.

"We ladies don't complain we just do our best. On the WTA (tour) we are real performers, we are not about going out there and being weenies."


Tags: tennis, sport, spain

First posted May 14, 2012 06:36:33

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Sore Federer battles through in Rome

Updated May 17, 2012 10:41:23

An aching Roger Federer made up for lost time as he saw off Carlos Berlocq of Argentina 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round of the Rome Masters.

The Swiss only decided to play after his morning practice session, carrying a few aches and pains following his Madrid Masters title win last weekend.

Second seed Rafa Nadal, beaten in the third round on the blue clay in Madrid, looked delighted to be back on the red stuff as he beat German Florian Mayer 6-1, 7-5.

Meanwhile, Australian Samantha Stosur setup a third-round clash with Venus Williams after easing past Italian Sara Errani 6-3, 7-5.

Adjusting from the slick, slippery blue clay to the far slower red clay of the Foro Italico with ease, Federer conceded he had been unsure what to do up to the very last minute.

"I wanted to see how I felt and make sure that I didn't have anything major because we're ahead of a long summer," he told a news conference.

"If this was the last tournament of the season it would be no problem. But as this is the beginning of many tournaments in a row, potentially a lot of five-setters in a row, I need to make sure I make good decisions, so I go round by round.

"I'm happy that I felt OK out there today."

A good performance this week from Federer, who now plays former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero, would help him to close the gap on Novak Djokovic in top spot.

"I might be world number three again next week but that doesn't matter for Rafa (Nadal, the number three) and myself," he said.

"It's interesting times right now and I know there's going to be a lot of talk about the rankings.

"What I know is that I'll have a shot until the US Open, whatever shape or form with the rankings, and we'll see how it's going to play. Right now I'm just happy I'm healthy."

Tomas Berdych, beaten by Federer in the Madrid final, eased past Lukas Kubot 6-4, 6-1 to reach round three, while Juan Martin Del Potro also advanced.

In the women's event, Serena Williams made it two wins in the space of 18 hours as she battled back to beat Russia's Nadia Petrova 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

"It was very difficult for me today," Williams told a delighted crowd in Italian. "I hope that I can play better from here."

Venus Williams improved her chances of making the Olympics on merit as she battled to a 7-6, 6-1 win over Ekaterina Makerova of Russia.

The former world number one, who needs to climb above Varvara Lepchenko in the United States pecking order, will take on fifth seed Stosur in round three.

There were defeats, though, for world number three Agnieszka Radwanska and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki.

Radwanska was ousted 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 by Petra Cetkovska of the Czech Republic while Wozniacki, suffering from sinus problems, quit when trailing 6-4, 4-0 to Anabel Medina Garrigues of Spain.

World number one Victoria Azarenka suffered a blow to her French Open preparations when she was forced to pull out with a right shoulder injury.

Azarenka had shown no sign of discomfort when she walloped Israel's Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-2 in the second round but the WTA announced her withdrawal shortly after the victory.

With just 10 days until the start of the French Open, the Belarusian will hope for a quick recovery ahead of her bid for a second straight grand slam title.


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First posted May 17, 2012 07:18:27

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Federer goes second after Madrid win

Updated May 14, 2012 06:40:32

Roger Federer put his best fighting tennis on display to produce a 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory over Tomas Berdych to capture a third Madrid Masters title and depose Rafael Nadal as world number two.

The Swiss, with 16 grand slam titles, will now stand behind Novak Djokovic on Monday on the ATP list after sending Nadal back to third with his winning performance on the controversial blue clay laid down at the Caja Magica.

"I feel amazing," said Federer, who came through on his fourth match point as Berdych ploughed a forehand into the net.

"This is a tough tournament and a brutal draw. I'm playing well and I'm so happy to win this once again."

The 30-year-old went level with Nadal on 20 career titles at Masters 1000 level, with both men sharing the overall record.

Federer, playing in his 104th ATP final, won his 74th title and fourth of the season.

He now stands 11-4 in head-to-head encounters with Berdych, who had beaten him in three of their five most recent matches.

But Federer was having no more of that scenario as he turned in victory in just over two and a half hours with a dozen aces, 44 winners and 30 unforced errors.

Berdych saved three match points in the final game before going down.

"We both played a nice match, but Roger showed why he's the star," the Czech said.

"He was able to win in the conditions, it was well done."

Berdych claimed the first set as he dominated with 14 winners and two unforced errors, only to quickly find himself on the other end of a Federer fightback in the second.

The Swiss third seed missed on a set point while serving at 5-3 to level, but stayed in the chase, finally taking the set 7-5 as Berdych double-faulted on set point.

In the third, Federer rallied from 0-30 in his first three service games, then moved into position with a break for 5-3, which was finally achieved after Berdych saved three break points with consecutive aces but then sent over two double-faults in a row to give away the game

Federer still could not close as he was broken in the next game, 5-4.

The Swiss hung tough through the next two games on serve before finally putting away the win on his fourth match point.

"It's a great feeling to win any event, but especially another here in Madrid," Federer added.

"This is a tough tournament. It was tough to move on the clay but you just get on with it and try to make the best of the situation.

"The level of play was good this week and I'm looking forward to the next few weeks."

In an unexpected post-match ceremony, American film star Will Smith came down from his spectator position to present the winner with the suit he wore in his latest Men in Black film.

The American also said a few words to the delighted crowd in Spanish.


Tags: tennis, sport, spain

First posted May 14, 2012 05:41:38

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Azarenka battling against time for French Open

Updated May 17, 2012 22:25:10

Victoria Azarenka is facing a battle to be fit for the French Open after the top seed pulled out of the Rome Masters with a shoulder injury.

The Belarussian has nine days to recover in time for the start of Roland Garros on May 27 as she seeks to back up the Australian Open title she won by beating Maria Sharapova in the final.

Despite battling a left injury ankle that forced her to withdraw from the Dubai, the world number one continued her superb form, winning her first 26 matches of 2012 before losing to Marion Bartoli in Miami.

Her only other two defeats have come in finals in Stuttgart and WTA final.

She was the last on court on Wednesday when she saw off the talented Israeli Shahar Peer with a 6-1, 6-2 victory in the second round.

Her withdrawal handed a walkover victory to her scheduled third-round opponent Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia.

The 14th-seeded Cibulkova will play in the last eight on Friday against the winner from eighth seed Li Na of China and Chanelle Scheepers of South Africa.


Tags: sport, tennis, france, belarus

First posted May 17, 2012 22:25:10

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Hewitt, Barty get French wildcards

Updated May 16, 2012 10:25:59

Australian veteran Lleyton Hewitt will make an early return from injury after being awarded a wildcard into next week's French Open.

The 31-year-old Hewitt has recovered faster than expected from foot surgery in February and along with rising star Ashley Barty was granted a spot in the main draw at Roland Garros by Tennis Australia.

"I'm looking forward to playing the French Open especially after missing it last year due to injury," said Hewitt, a two-time quarter-finalist in Paris.

Barty, one of only two 16-year-olds in the women's top 330, will be making her French Open debut.

"I'm thrilled to compete in the main draw of the French Open for the first time and test my game against the world's best. Thank you to Tennis Australia for believing in me enough to give me this opportunity and I will do my best to make everyone proud," Barty said.

Hewitt and Barty will join fifth-seed Samantha Stosur, Jarmila Gajdosova (69), Casey Dellacqua (69), Anastasia Rodionova (106), Bernard Tomic (32) and Matt Ebden (69) in the main draw at Roland Garros.

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First posted May 16, 2012 10:25:59

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Tomic no match for determined Djokovic

Updated May 16, 2012 09:05:45

Novak Djokovic was back in top form as he brushed aside Australian Bernard Tomic 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round of the Rome Masters.

While Andy Murray narrowly avoided defeat on his 25th birthday and there were struggles for Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova in the women's event, Djokovic looked every inch the world number one on his way to a confident victory.

Djokovic took just 69 minutes to see off Tomic and erase the memories of his quarter-final defeat on the blue clay of Madrid.

The manner of his victory was in stark contrast to that of Murray, who had to battle from 3-1 down in the final set to beat Argentina's David Nalbandian for his place in round three.

Britain's world number four, a semi-finalist here last year, romped through the first set but had to dig deep in the third toclaim a 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

"After the last couple of weeks I have had, I am so happy to win," said Murray, who missed Madrid with a back injury.

"Getting the break back immediately in the third was important and I got a bit lucky at the end but I went for it and sometimes you make your luck."

The luck came on a dead net cord at 5-5 in the deciding set which gave him the break and he served out for victory before blowing out a candle on his birthday cake on court.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and David Ferrer, seeded fifth and sixth respectively, advanced but Gael Monfils, seeded 13, was beaten 7-5, 6-3 by former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero.

In the women's draw, Madrid champion and ninth seed Serena Williams eased into the event with a 6-2, 6-3 second round win over Galina Voskoboeva of Kazakhstan.

Holder and second seed Maria Sharapova battled past American world number 36 Christina McHale 7-5, 7-5 to reach the third round, having trailed 4-1 and 5-3 in the opening set.

"It was really about adjusting from Madrid," the Russian told a news conference after setting up a third-round clash with either Ana Ivanovic or Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler Espinosa.

"I made a few too many unforced errors at first and maybe I was going for too many lines but she was extremely consistent.

"I was a bit lucky to get out of the first set and the second set was close but she's definitely improved since the last time I played her. I'll have to improve in the next round too."

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova of Czech Republic, seeded fourth, also had to battle, recovering from a slow start to beat Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-4.

Former world number one Venus Williams, in her fourth tournament back since she was diagnosed with the energy-sapping Sjogren's Disease, reached round two with a 6-3, 6-4 win overSimona Halep of Romania.


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First posted May 16, 2012 09:05:45

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Tomic through to face Djokovic in Rome

Updated May 15, 2012 09:41:58

Bernard Tomic moved through to the second round at the Rome Masters with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Colombian Santiago Giraldo.

Tomic, making his debut in Rome, progressed to a second round showdown with world number one Novak Djokovic in the high-profile lead-up event to this month's French Open.

His only previous clash with the top-ranked Serb saw the young Aussie take a set before losing a highly-anticipated quarter-final clash at Wimbledon in 2011.

In the women's draw in Rome, fellow Aussie Jarmila Gajdosova went down to South African Chanelle Scheepers, losing 6-4, 7-6 on the red clay.

Meanwhile, Rafa Nadal said his chances of winning an open era record seventh French Open title next month will not be affected by his fall to number three in the world rankings.

His third-round defeat last week in Madrid meant he was overtaken by tournament winner Roger Federer, with Djokovic still top of the pile.

"Being number two or number three isn't going to change my goal," Nadal told a news conference at the Foro Italico, the long-time home of the Rome Masters.

"My goal will be the same, number two, three or number 10.

"To win you have to beat the best players in the world. The only change is in the semi-finals but it doesn't make any difference."

Nadal could regain second spot from Federer this week but said he was more concerned with the way he is playing.

"I will try my best to play my best and if I am able to do that I will have my chances to have a good result," he said.

"I will just try to play the same way I did in Monte Carlo and Barcelona (where he won the title). The feeling is there and I am happy with how I am playing."

Nadal and Djokovic were the most vocal critics of the slippery nature of the blue clay which was used in Madrid for the first time last week.

"I don't think about Madrid," Nadal said.

"I lost (to Fernando Verdasco). I accept that I played bad and I lost because I didn't play the level that I needed to win.

"But Rome is a tournament I love, one of my favourite tournaments of the year. I am just excited and motivated to come back here."

Beaten in the final by Djokovic last year, Nadal is due to begin his title bid on Thursday (AEST) against Florian Mayer, a German with an awkward game who beat him when they played in Shanghai last October.

Federer will also be in action on Thursday against Carlos Berlocq of Argentina while Djokovic and fourth seed Andy Murray play on Wednesday (AEST).

Top seed Djokovic takes on Tomic and Murray plays Argentine David Nalbandian.


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First posted May 15, 2012 09:35:46

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Djokovic crashes out, vows no return to blue clay

Updated May 12, 2012 09:26:13

World number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic has crashed out of the Madrid Masters, vowing never to return to play on the tournament's controversial blue clay.

Meanwhile, Samantha Stosur lost out to Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka in a tough encounter in the women's draw.

Hradecka stunned the fifth-seeded Stosur to win 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (8-6) as she rained down 19 aces to book a semi-final berth with Serena Williams.

Djokovic lost 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 to Serbian compatriot Janko Tipsarevic, his quarter-final defeat coming a day after an equally frustrated world number two Rafael Nadal had lost to fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.

"I want to forget this week as soon as possible and move on to the real clay courts," said the top seed Djokovic, who beat Nadal a year ago for the trophy.

"They can do what they like, I won't be here next year if this clay stays."

Nadal also insisted that he, too, would not play the Madrid tournament if the blue clay remains in place in 2013.

In other women's results, Serena Williams thumped Maria Sharapova 6-1, 6-3, while top seed Victoria Azarenka saw off China's Li Na with a battling 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win to also reach the semi-finals.

The Belarusian world number one will now play Agnieszka Radwanska, the Polish fourth seed, who saw off American qualifier Varvara Lepchenko 6-4, 6-4.

On the men's side, third seed and 2009 winner Roger Federer became the only elite survivor after another effortless performance in a 6-4, 6-4 defeat of fifth seed David Ferrer.

The Swiss star will next play Tipsarevic, whom he has beaten four times.

"I missed some opportunities late in the match, and he hung in there," Federer said.

"The surface is quick and anything can happen. I'm happy to win but I've got a tough semi-final coming. It's unusual to have only one of the top four guys here, but I'll take it."

Federer stands 26-3 on the season, playing for the first time after a six-week break.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion could move to second in the world behind Djokovic should he win the title on Sunday.

Earlier tournament supremo Ion Tiriac had been forced to apologise for the anger felt by the players towards the blue surface.

"The court is slippery and I apologise," the former Davis Cup player said.

"We wanted to make sure that we had no player injuries, no ankle problems. As a result, the court experts rolled the base with too much pressure. When the blue sand was put on top it was unable to meld with the base, creating the slippage."

But Tiriac said that after striking a maintenance deal with the city of Madrid, the blue courts will remain in place year-round at the Caja Magica and will eventually be as comfortable to play on as traditional red clay.

Djokovic saved three match points in the penultimate game against Tipsarevic on Friday - the first two with aces - as he held on for 3-5.

But Tipsarevic came through for the upset on his fourth chance a game later as Djokovic lifted a backhand out.

"Janko played a great match. It was one of his best events. I hope he can go all the way. I missed chances in the opening games on return," Djokovic added.

"Any time I had a chance, he delivered his best shot. You cannot predict the court here, anything is possible."

Tomas Berdych brought Verdasco crashing back to earth as the sixth seed produced a 6-1, 6-2 quarter-final win over the Madrid-born 15th seed.

The Czech will next play Argentine 10th seed Juan Martin del Potro, who put out Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-4, just a week after winning the title in Estoril.


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First posted May 12, 2012 08:13:17

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