Wimbledon 1985

There were three sensational under-age triumphs in Grand Slam tournaments in the Open era, all occurred in a span of seven years between 1982 and 1989. As I have recently mentioned in two Roland Garros stories, in Paris triumphed teenagers Mats Wilander and Michael Chang, in London it was Boris Becker [20]… Wilander and Chang stunned all spectators and pundits with a mix of extraordinary mental strength (for their age) and astonishing consistency from the back of the court. Becker was a different case on a different surface. The young tall West German (186 cm, grew 4 cm later on) like the Swede and the American, showed tremendous mental resistance, but in contrary to their counter-punch style, at rainy Wimbledon ’85 he demonstrated an uncompromising attacking game, based on strong serve and a unique net coverage – none player before him had been diving at the net with such an efficiency. He had a relatively lucky draw too, because didn’t face the biggest favorites during the fortnight, they were erased by his final opponent – Kevin Curren, who performed unbelievable tennis in back-to-back matches against champions of the previous four years.  Read more
The four youngest major champions of the Open era:
1. Michael Chang – Roland Garros 1989 – 17 years 3 months 20 days (fifth major)
2. Boris Becker – Wimbledon 1985 – 17 years 7 months 15 days (fourth major)
3. Mats Wilander – Roland Garros 1982 – 17 years 9 months 15 days (third major)
4. Bjorn Borg – Roland Garros 1974 – 18 years 10 days (fifth major)
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Madrid – final

(3)Roger Federer d. (6)Tomas Berdych
3-6, 7-5, 7-5                                                        [ 2:38 ]
Federer as usual began the match with an offensive attitude, but Berdych withstood the pressure being extremely focused, he won the opening service game from a 15/30 deficit, and broke in the following game to ’30’. His flat ground-strokes worked perfectly, he even had a double set point to win the 1st set 6-2, but Federer saved those balls with strong serves. Another two sets had very similar process, Federer was serving in both to win 6-3, but needed 12 games to clinch each of them. In the last game of the match Berdych fought off three consecutive match points with powerful strokes and was just two points away from the tie-break, which works for him exceptionally well lately, however, he sent a forehand long, then netted another one after Federer’s trademark shot – short backhand slice. The Swiss claimed 74th title and yet again ties Nadal’s record of ‘Masters 1000’ crowns – it’s the 20th, third one in Madrid (each time in a different surrounding, in three-year intervals: indoor ’06; red clay ’09; blue clay ’12). “It’s been a great spell and I couldn’t be more happy right now coming off a break winning right away,” said Federer “It’s always an ideal scenario for what’s to come.” The runner-up assessed: “I would just say that it was a very close game. You sometimes need to make those small adjustments to win a match like this, but it wasn’t my case today.” The Czech has now played finals of big tournaments on every surface (carpet, hard outdoor, grass & clay).

 Doubles final:
(4)M.Fyrstenberg/M.Matkowski d. R.Lindstedt/H.Tecau 6-3, 6-4

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Madrid – semifinals

2nd semifinal:

(3)Roger Federer d. (7)Janko Tipsarevic         6-2, 6-3                                 [ 1:07 h ]

Tipsarevic made a huge progress in the last fifteen months or so, but he hasn’t still reached a level to get a Grand Slam semifinal or ‘Masters 1000’ final. Federer jumped to a 4:1 lead in both sets to control the match emphatically. “I didn’t even know about the number two ranking so that’s new to me,” said Federer commenting a possibility to swap Nadal on No. 2 winning Madrid’s title tomorrow. “I’m focused on what I’m doing here this week, trying to play well and get far. I have been feeling better and better as the tournament went on. It’s tough conditions today. There was a lot of wind and so forth.” Federer improved a perfect 5-0 record against Tipsarevic, who stated: “I think that the main reason is that he was a better player than me out there. The main thing is that he managed to adjust to the wind really, really well. I think that apart from being the best player, that he is probably the best the player in the world when it comes to adjusting to any situation on the court.” Until this year the Serb appeared only twice in Madrid losing his opening matches on both occasions.

1st semifinal:

(6)Tomas Berdych d. (10)Juan Martin del Potro            7-6(5), 7-6(6)                      [ 2:18 h

Four previous matches between Berdych and Del Potro disappointed, all of them were lopsided, Del Potro won on three occasions. This time was otherwise, two tight sets lasting more than two hours, both won by Berdych despite Del Potro was two points away in both tie-breakers. The Argentine had also a good position to win the 1st set leading 5:3*, but lost the two following games to 15 & 0. In the 1st tie-break DelPo recovered from a 1:5 deficit, but made an unforced backhand error serving at 5-all. He suffered a semifinal defeat after exactly the same scoreline to Federer two months ago in Dubai… Berdych has been the biggest specialist of tie-breaks given two seasons: 29-10 record (74 %). He advances for the third time to a Masters 1000 final, previously he did it in Paris ’05 and Miami ’10. “I am definitely very happy with the game I played here since the beginning of the week,” said Berdych. “It doesn’t matter that much if you drop a set or not, it’s just how it is. Sometimes you can fight through the whole tournament and then get to the final as well.”

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Madrid – round 3rd + QF’s

Quarterfinals

Three quarterfinals were scheduled on Manolo Santana (Centre) court, but the first match on Friday between a powerful Juan Martin del Potro [11] and a smart Alexandr Dolgopolov [20] was held on Stadium 3. Del Potro was very solid in all departments, broke his two months younger opponent at the beginning of both sets to notch a 6-3 6-4 victory in 1 hour 23 minutes. The Argentine has been in impressive form since Australian Open winning a couple matches in each tournament he enters, recently is on a 10-match winning streak not dropping a set! It’s almost certain that Del Potro will play for the third time in the season ending championships in London. Fernando Verdasco was a one-day hero. 24 hours after sensational win over Nadal he came back on earth suffering a painful 1-6 2-6 loss to Tomas Berdych in 66 minutes, who a day before dropped even one game less against Monfils! Berdych was superior player over Verdasco from start to finish, playing four consecutive winners in the end (two forehand winners, ace and stretch-backhand volley).
Apparently speed of courts in Madrid is another important factor along with new color, altitude, and semi-indoor smaller arenas. Del Potro and Berdych hit flat shots from both wings as well as Janko Tipsarevic who ousted 7-6 6-3 the defending champion Novak Djokovic. Tipsarevic [8] didn’t lose his serve throughout and showed very good composure because after wasting a triple match point at 5:2 in the 2nd set, was forced to save three break points in the following game – No. 1 in the world “clearly” helped at one of those chances sending an easy ball long. David Ferrer should know very well Almagro’s feelings of losing to Ferrer constantly, because Ferrer has the same problem with Roger Federer. Just one day after extending H2H against Almagro to 10-0, the Spaniard lost for the 13th straight time to Federer, this time 4-6 4-6 being utterly demolished in service game of the opponent – Ferrer managed to win only 6 points in Federer’s 10 service games!

Third round

14-0 in H2H *, 5:2 (30 all) on serve in the 3rd set… is it possible to lose in these circumstances? Especially when the serving player is Rafael Nadal, who had never lost a match trying to close the match twice, and on the other side of the net stands Fernando Verdasco [19], who doesn’t win often tight matches in the deciding set [ albeit had made one magnificent comeback lately, from *2:5 (0/40) in the decider to Javier Marti at Sao Paulo two months ago ]… Fortunately miracles in tennis happen from time to time, it was one of them. Nadal being two points away (twice) in that 8th game, produced weird baseline errors and lost the game. And then, happened something stunning – Verdasco showed signs of belief fist-pumping despite his triumph was far away at that time. It was a typical shift of momentum, the older Spaniard, the home-town boy, was encouraged by the crowd to play as good as he did in the 1st set which he won quiet convincingly. Kick-serves, accurate returns, strong forehands, everything worked very well, and after three quick games Nadal found himself serving to stay in the match! He looked intimidated, correcting his hair and headband more nervous than ever, couldn’t win a rally but responded three times with the fastest services he can deliver, but on ‘deuce’ made an untypical forehand error similar to those when he led 5:2. Verdasco didn’t shiver as Nadal gave him a high ball in the middle of the court, finishing off on the second match point with his trademark shot – forehand on the rise. In the following second he fell on the court and enjoyed the famous victory with tears sinking in shoulders of closest friends and his father – it was only the third round but the style of celebration was characteristic for winning a Grand Slam tournament. What a relief to beat the toughest rival after 3 hours 10 minutes 6-3 3-6 7-5! Verdasco in those 14 straight defeats to Nadal was close to win three times: twice two points away (Queens Club ’06, Cincinnati ’11), once six points away (memorable semifinal at the Australian Open ’09 which lasted over 5 hours). This loss ends Nadal’s 22-match winning streak on clay. “I knew I was in control of the match,” said Nadal. “I lost because I deserved to lose today, even if I was winning 5-2. When the moment came to close [out] the match I didn’t know how to do it. I made a big mistake with a smash at 5-2 and 15/0, but that is just anecdotal. That’s what happened, he played better than me and he beat me.”
When that epic match was concluded, two other Spaniards stuck in the 1st set on Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario court dealing with a very similar rivalry to that of Nadal and Verdasco. David Ferrer ultimately prevailed against Nicolas Almagro [13] 7-6 3-6 7-6 in 2 hours 53 minutes. Almagro wasn’t arguably in their previous 9 encounters as close to win as today, however he wasted six match points in their first meeting six years ago. Today, he led 5:3 in both tie-breaks, the second one was extraordinary, both guys were playing with a full risk manufacturing amazing winners from the baseline. Almagro held three match points (6:5, *7:6, 8:7) but every time the amazingly stable Ferrer responded with offensive strokes (first match point saved with a forehand winner, on another two he forced Almagro’s errors). Ferrer joins the narrow group of active players to win at least 10 matches facing match points (7 of them against fellow Spaniards) #

* Nadal led 13-0 on the main tour, their first official match took place in a Challenger (Hamburg ’03)
# At least 10 MP-down wins (active players):
15-7 Juan Carlos Ferrero; 14-5 Ivo Karlovic
12-12 Roger Federer; 12-11 Andy Roddick; 12-6 Jarkko Nieminen; 12-4 David Nalbandian
10-5 Lleyton Hewitt, Olivier Rochus; 10-4 David Ferrer
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Madrid – round 1st + 2nd

It’s the first tournament in history held on a blue clay (!) which obviously creates some controversies. The all-time biggest specialist of clay, Rafael Nadal complained before the Mutua Madrileña Open kicked off: “Madrid is one of the best tournaments in the world and does not need this. It is played at altitude. That makes it different already. I appreciate the idea but it should have never been allowed.” Nadal didn’t mention that the construction of the courts makes the tournament special too, stands on smaller courts are partially covered by a roof which reminds of the Centre Court in Melbourne and creates semi-indoor conditions. Nadal’s biggest rival, the Serbian slayer Novak Djokovic joined in the criticism: “If you don’t have, especially, top players testing the court and agreeing for this change, that should mean something. They should have value in what they say.” Despite complaining, the best players in the world won their opening matches convincingly, Nadal needed only 80 minutes against fading Nikolay Davydenko [54] with whom he has still a negative H2H (5-6, lost four straight matches prior to Madrid); Djokovic 26 minutes more against Daniel Gimeno-Traver [137], surprisingly losing the middle set. Gimeno-Traver hadn’t won an ATP match since July (8 consecutive defeats) before ousted in the first round Victor Hanescu, thanks to his only break of the match in the 8th game of the 3rd set. “Taking into consideration that this was my first official match on the blue clay and that my opponent today already had three matches behind him, maybe that was a little disadvantage on my side,” said Djokovic after the 6-2 2-6 6-3 victory…
Personally I don’t have any problem with this Ion Tiriac‘s revolutionary concept, in my opinion every diversity is interesting and worth tasting. There’s always a possibility to come back to something which had been approved earlier. The blue clay may be adopted in the following years by other tournaments and in the future the red-clay might have been perceived as an obsolete surface. Esthetically I find the new Madrid color as a nice one, and presumably it doesn’t stain clothes as much as the red clay (Serena Williams’ notice) which is a positive trait of the experimental surface…
Gael Monfils [14] came back on tour after a month break and beat in his opening round Philipp Kohlschreiber [25] in an entertaining battle on Stadium 3. The Frenchman saved two set points at *2:5 in the 1st set, erased a 2:5 hole in the 2nd as well, but the match was decided at 3 games apiece in the decider, when the German lost his focus and 12 points in a row to the end of the match which Monfils won 7-5 6-7 6-3.  In the second set tie-break, Monfils almost played a volley forehand winner between the legs from the baseline (photo)! In the second round he could meet Juan Carlos Ferrero [49] – the Spanish veteran returned on tour after even longer break – he didn’t play since the South American swing. Former No. 1 in the world was eliminated by qualifier Igor Andreev [77] in straight sets though, despite a double set point in the 2nd set. Ferrero has arguably the worst period in his very long tennis career, he hasn’t won a tournament match since Valencia ’11, which makes eight first round  defeats in succession. Richard Gasquet [18] needed 7 match points to finish the last year’s semifinalist Thomaz Bellucci 4-6 6-4 7-6. The Brazilian [69] had saved match points in three different games, but on the 7th match point Gasquet concluded the contest with a blistering cross-court backhand directly after Bellucci’s return. The handsome Brazilian has the worst deciding TB record among active players who finded themselves at least 10 times in this situation – 2/8. Gasquet had a 0-8 record this season until Estoril in sets which went to 5-all, since then he has had a 5-0 record in these sets (after beating Viktor Troicki 7-5 6-3 in the second round). Milos Raonic [23] served 37 aces summing up two consecutive days but it wasn’t enough to secure a third round spot. After dispatching David Nalbandian in straight sets, Raonic had a mini-match point at 5-all in the 2nd set to add another straight setters to his activity. His opponent Roger Federer [3] played a solid serve-and-forehand action forcing an error, and stepped up in the following game to obtain his only break in the entire match. In the 3rd set the Canadian had two break points at 3:3 (40/15) – this time Federer escaped with a backhand stop-volley (went to the net after 2nd serve) and an ace. In the deciding tie-break Raonic’s serve let him down and Federer notched a 4-6 7-5 7-6 win in his first match since sensational loss to Andy Roddick in Miami. For Raonic it’s the first defeat in the 3rd set deciding tie-break (6-1 record).
Two top 10 players pulled out, Andy Murray [4] due to back injury and Mardy Fish [9] because of fatigue he’s been struggling since the first months of the year. “I always love coming to Madrid so it is a big disappointment. I look forward to returning next year and wish everyone a great week of tennis.” said the British player. Fish said he believes the grass-court season can turn the tables for him, it is still uncertain whether he plays on the European clay this year or not. Murray is eager to participate at Foro Italico next week. The tournament is deprived of two injured Top 20 guys as well – Juan Monaco and Kei Nishikori. The former suffered an injury at Monte Carlo, the latter in Barcelona.

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Roland Garros 1997

It was the third and last by far, miracle in Paris – the tournament was captured by a player who theoretically hadn’t any basis to win the event before it started. In some respects Gustavo Kuerten‘s triumph was more astonishing than Chang and Wilander victories. Admittedly Kuerten was three years older, but in contrary to them, he wasn’t a Top 20 player, enough to say he hadn’t even won three straight matches at the main level prior to Roland Garros ’97 whereas Chang and Wilander before their triumphs had played Grand Prix finals, Chang even got a title. Read more…
Below comparison of three “Parisian miracles” at the time they occurred, in order: year of the triumph, age of players (years-months-days), number of tournaments played (appearances in Paris before triumph), number of titles, position in the ATP ranking:
Mats Wilander      1982,   17-9-15,    22 (0)     –     [18]
Michael Chang     1989,   17-3-20,   23 (1)      1     [19]
Gustavo Kuerten 1997,   20-8-29,   20 (1)      –     [66]
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18th week

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Three tournaments this week, all of them with a 28-draw. I have to admit I’m not an advocate of tournaments of this type because they clearly handicap top seeded players. It’s really tough to expect that a tournament would win … Continue reading

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Australian Open 1989

Ivan Lendl [2], with Roland Garros and US Open titles captured in the mid 80s, dreamed about winning Australian Open and Wimbledon. After several unsuccessful attempts (three consecutive semi-final defeats), he finally won the coveted Australian Open title in his 200th professional event, playing arguably the best tennis of his life, especially in service games. During the tournament he met the last time in majors his arch-rival John McEnroe. It was a breakthrough event for a 17-year-old qualifier – Goran Ivanisevic of Yugoslavia, who took an advantage of very favorable draw to secure himself a sensational spot in the quarter-finals. Read more…
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17th week

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Men’s clay-court tennis in Europe has been functioning in cycles for many years. Rafael Nadal [2] begins it with the Monte Carlo title, then fortifies his supremacy over all other clay-court specialists beating the best of them – David Ferrer … Continue reading

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US Open 1983

The eighth and last major title for Jimmy Connors, who beat Ivan Lendl second straight year in a 4-set final. It was a tournament which made a “Bollettieri” name famous. Two young pupils of his tennis academy (he’d opened it five years before) made a fuss: 16-year-old Aaron Krickstein, and three years older Jimmy Arias, who advanced to the semi-finals and looked like a future major champion, but it was a highlight of his career, the American never again played in the last 4 of a Grand Slam event (he didn’t even win a tournament after 1983!). Krickstein had prevailed two dramatic 5-setters and winning a fifth set maintained a hallmark to the end of his career. Read more…
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