French Open

If you don’t know the name Rafael Nadal, no rx we don’t know what you’ve been missing. The tennis player just earned his ninth French Open title yesterday in a repeat of last year’s final versus Novak Djokovic, illness making the 28-year-old clay legend (he’s got a 63-1 record!) our HAM of the Week.

Rafa”, as he is known to his legion of fans, is the current world #1, and he’s aced his way into our hearts. He’s a sexy and single Spaniard who has won more than 50 titles in his 13 years of turning pro—what more can we love about our HAM of the Week?

For starters, he is only one of two singles players (behind tennis legend Andre Agassi) to complete a Career Golden Slam, meaning he has won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, in addition to the Olympic gold medal (which he won in 2008) in the span of his career.

He’s also an avid soccer fan, having played the sport when he was young in addition to tennis. Though he chose to focus on the latter, he still supports Real Madrid and RCD Mallorca as well as the Spanish national team, fitting for the World Cup, which begins this week.

Rafael Nadal HAM

Rafael Nadal, http://www.hollywoodgossip.com

Turning pro at 15, Nadal participated in events at the junior and senior circuits, winning his first major senior match on the ATP circuit just before he turned 16. But it wasn’t until the following year that he faced current rival Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

By 19, Nadal won his first French Open title in his first appearance at the event, the first man to win the title since 1982. He went on to win the tournament the next three times.

Injury sidelined Nadal in 2012, but he’s obviously emerged as the reigning king of the (clay) court, quite possibly making him one of the best tennis players of all time.

If Nadal ever reaches a final in a tournament, you can bet he’s either going against Djokovic or Federer, the other two players who seem to be challenging Nadal for the best of the best. Nadal has faced Djokovic more than 40 times, with about half of those matches faced in the final round. Nadal has faced Federer 33 times, with 20 of those matches faced in the final.

Rafael Nadal HAM

Rafael Nadal, http://www.tennisnow.com

According to his autobiography, while he does have a game plan against Federer, he’s still looking for one against Djokovic.

We’re not sure about Rafa’s constant habit of biting his trophies, but wow, it makes him so much sexier…

And it’s not everyday that you have an asteroid named after you. According to ATP World Tour, the asteroid is located between Mars and Jupiter and travels through space at 20 kilometers per second. Talk about star power.

Nadal is also charitable; his organization, Fundacion Rafa Nadal, provides educational programs for deprived children and teenagers through sports.

Rafael Nadal, http://www.dailymaik.co.uk

Rafael Nadal, http://www.dailymaik.co.uk

The one sport he’s not good at? Golf. But we’d rather have a superstar with 15 major Grand Slam titles to his name on the tennis court than anywhere else.

As a spokesman for Nike, Nadal also has a collection with the retailer, and has also emerged as a somewhat fashion icon. At just over 6 feet, he seems to be all muscle and pure heart.

Not to mention, being photographed by famed photographer Bruce Weber for the June 2009 issue of Vogue:

Catch up with Rafa at Wimbledon, which starts Monday, June 23. Follow Rafael Nadal on Twitter at @RafaelNadal (he tweets in Spanish and English!) and at www.rafaelnadal.com.

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mcillroy_wozniacki_broke_up_over_phone_600

The French Open tennis Grand Slam began with early round play a couple days ago and a summary of who’s in and who’s out (e.g. what happened Serena?) will be coming out soon. Plus, cheap you won’t want to miss my notoriously wrong picks. But the big story now is what has happened off the court.

This has been a busy time for gossiping golfers and tennis players. The huge headline is that our favorite sports power couple Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki have broken up just weeks after their wedding invitations had been sent out. The big question was who will recover first?

This past week it has become very apparent on who is struggling and who is not. Rory recovered so strong that he won the BMW PGA Championship in Virginia Water, England on Sunday. He finished out his winning round with a birdie and seemed to find an escape from his personal drama out on the course. However we must keep in mind Rory was the one to break off the engagement (over the phone!) so we cannot help but wonder if this was somewhat of a weight lifted off of his shoulders.

Photo: Darko Vojinovic, AP

Photo: Darko Vojinovic, AP

However for Caroline it seems like the weight of the world is crashing down on her!

In her first round at the French Open she had a pretty tough first-round draw. She had to face off against number 64 ranked Yanina Wickmayer. Wozniacki was ranked number 12 and it seemed like she should win without issue, but Wickmayer is an excellent player who was once ranked number 12 and was a semifinalist at the 2009 United States Open. We also need to remember that Wozniacki has had a season filled with injuries. She has endured injuries to her wrist and knee and has not been fully focused on her tennis career.

So the big question remains, was it the breakup that accounts for her loss? Or is it the slew of other factors? With a final score of 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2, Wozniacki is out of the French Open in the first round and questions came flying. She responded: “I don’t really want to talk about my personal life.” She has admitted to the breakup being a bit of a shock and we know that that must have some affect one her personally.

Our hearts go out to Caroline Wozniacki and we hope she will recover from her heartbreak.

A big shout out and thanks to Smashing intern and Lehigh University golfer Nicole Feierberg for the research for this article.

Smashing Golf & Tennis - Made in Chicago

Smashing Golf & Tennis – Made in Chicago

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Nadal Winning French Open for 8th Time (NYTimes.com)

The 2013 French Open culminated on Sunday with Rafael Nadal winning a record eighth title with a straight sets 6-3 6-2 6-3 dismissal of fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. Commentator and tennis legend John McEnroe summed it up best midway through the match, advice “This is like a heavyweight versus a welterweight”.  This match was all Nadal – the undisputed “King of Clay”.

Protesters Disrupt French Open

French Open Protestor (ABCNews.com)

The final was briefly interrupted by a man protesting same-sex marriage by waving a lighted flare. Nadal was serving for the second set at 5-1 when a shirtless man with a white mask ran onto the court and came to within a few feet of Nadal.  The intruder was quickly tackled by security staff, check but  red smoke was still billowing over the court as play continued. What was surely an incredibly scary situation for everyone involved, the incident clearly shook both the players on the court and the fans in the stands.

Nadal Triumphant (Newsday.com)

Understandably shaken, Nadal dropped his service but quickly regained his composure to close out the set in the next game.

After which point, there was no doubt that this was going to be a short match, lasting only 136 minutes. A stark contrast to the 277 minute Nadal vs Djokovic semifinal match Friday.

This is Nadal’s 12th grand slam title – especially sweet after his prolonged eighth month absence due to a knee injury – only returning to match play in February. He also becomes the first man to win the same grand slam title eight times – breaking out of a tie with Roger Federer and Pete Sampras – both of who have seven wins apiece at Wimbledon. Nadal also broke the men’s record for match wins at Roland Garros, where he improved to 59-1, with his lone defeat against Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.

Nadal def Ferrer (Photo: AP)

Nadal has beaten every one of his top rivals in Paris: Djokovic, Federer, Andy Murray and Ferrer. “If he continues that way, who is to stop him?” Ferrer asked.

“It’s clear this year means something very special to me,” Nadal said. “Five months ago nobody in my team dreamed of a comeback like this, because we thought it would be impossible. But here we are today, and that’s really fantastic and incredible.”

Serena Wins 16th Grand Slam

Serena def Sharapova

No. 1-ranked Serena Williams won her first French Open championship since 2002, when she beat her sister Venus. Serena dominated the clay Saturday with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Maria Sharapova.

Eager to repeat the elation of 2002, and motivated by the disappointment of 2012, Williams used terrific defense and her usual powerful hitting in Saturday’s final.

Serena Served 10 Aces (Photo: AP)

Topping her great hitting, Williams served 10 aces in the final, including three in the final game, and the last coming on match point at 123 mph – her hardest serve of the day.

“Eleven years,” Williams said in French during the trophy ceremony. “I think it’s unbelievable. Now I have 16 Grand Slam titles. It’s difficult for me to speak because I’m so excited.”

The victory completed her rebound from a shocking loss to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano in the first round at the French Open a year ago. Since that defeat she’s 74-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the London Olympics and the season-ending WTA Championships.

French Open Finals (ESPN.com)

At 31, she became the oldest woman to win a major title since Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1990 at age 33. Her 11-year gap between Roland Garros titles is the longest for any woman.

Now comes the switch to grass, and she’ll be a heavy favorite to win Wimbledon for the sixth time. Wimbledon 2013 begins on Monday, June 24 and ends on Sunday, July 7 and I’ll be back in a couple weeks to cover the classic event at the All England Club.

Smashing Golf & Tennis www.SmashingOnline.com
(Photo: Mike Caplan)

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The semifinals did not disappoint this morning at the French Open in Roland Garros, try France. Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in a five set thriller that has left the tennis and sports world buzzing! Read on for the must know details and a preview of the Men’s and Women’s Finals, the climatic finish of the 2013 French Open.

Five Set Djokovic v Nadal Semi – Highlight of the French Open

In a five set thriller at Roland Garros Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 9-7. This epic match is sure to be the highlight of the 2013 French Open, if not the Grand Slam year, with Nadal set to be the heavy favorite in the semifinal Sunday vs. Ferrer.

Nadal defeats Djokovic (Photo: skysports.com)

Rafa had a several opportunities in the 4th set to put the match away, but Djokovic showed everyone why he’s currently ranked #1 and pulled out that set in the tiebreaker. There was some concern that Nadal, coming off an injury and not playing a 5-set match in 18 months, would be able to last the 5th set.

Nadal def Djokovic (Photo: SI.com)

The tense fifth set will be a match that will be deemed one of the classics of all time with countless remarkable shots when the point should have already been over. The fifth set alone lasted longer than Serena’s entire match vs Errani the previous day. There is no tie-breaker in the 5th set, and the match must continue until the a player is up by 2 games, which ended 9-7 with Djokovic hitting his last shot out of bounds.  It looked like Djokovic just lost his focus at the end, arguing a little at the umpire about watering the baseline area, during the change of sides.

Men’s Finals

Nadal vs Ferrer Sunday

Ferrer def Tsonga (Photo SI.com)

PS Tsonga and Ferrer also played Friday.  Ferrer beat Tsonga in straight sets, 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 in an anti-climatic match following the Nadal vs Djokovic nail-biter.

My prediction – not really going out on a limb here, but Nadal will win his 8th French Open on Sunday at 8 am on NBC in 4 sets.

Women’s Finals

Serena vs Sharapova Saturday

Serena easily defeats Errani in Semi (Photo: Reuters)

Serena Williams advanced to the French Open women’s final for the first time in over a decade. She faces Maria Sharapova, who is making her second straight final appearance as defending champion at Roland Garros at Saturday at 8 a.m. CT on NBC.

Despite her champion status, the second-seeded Sharapova hasn’t had much success against Williams throughout her career. Serena leads the all-time series 13-2, including 5-2 in finals.

Williams, the women’s overall top seed, has been utterly dominant to this point in the tournament, and has only dropped one set and boasts a 30-match winning streak coming into the championship round. Sharapova may be the defending champion of this tournament, but she will be at a major disadvantage on Saturday taking on a player who has dominated her in recent matchups.

Sharapova def. Azarenka (Photo: usatoday.com)

Maria Sharapova, the defending champion, struggled in the second set but overcame 11 double-faults to win a semifinal against Victoria Azarenka, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

My prediction – Sharapova hasn’t beaten Williams in nine years, and looks set on adding another title to the trophy case.

 

 

Smashing Golf & Tennis

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Tsonga def. Federer (Photo: www.rolandgarros.com)

The French Open is heating up as Roger Federer is eliminated, stuff Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova advance and the matchup everyone has been waiting for, Nadal and Djokovic, gets underway on Friday. All this and more below.

Men’s Quarterfinal Results

Federer Falls to Frenchman Tsonga

Former world No. 1 Roger Federer lost Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the French Open, falling to No.6 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France 7-5, 6-3, 6-3.

Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam champion, showed all of his 31 years and simply couldn’t get his game going and Tsonga took advantage in a big way, winning in straight sets.  Federer dismissed any suggestion that he was suffering from a revival of his back problems of late.

“I thought he played great today,” said Federer. “He was in all areas better than me today, that’s why the result was pretty clean.  No doubt about it. I was impressed by the way he played today.”

There are already questions whether Federer, widely acknowledged greatest tennis player of all-time, should retire. Though the legendary tennis star has struggled thus far in 2013, he is far from finished as a major force in men’s tennis, and I for one look forward to watching him next month at Wimbledon to defend his title there.

Ferrer Crushes Robredo (Photo: Reuters)

Tsongo will go on to play 4th seed David Ferrer of Spain in the semi-finals Friday.  Ferrer easily defeated fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-2, 6-1, 6-1. Many feel Ferrer will have the edge in Friday’s semifinal considering he took out Tsonga in straight sets in their only clay-court meeting in Rome three years ago.

Nadal vs. Djokovic Meet in Semifinals

Djokovic vs Nadal Semi must see this Friday (Getty Images)

Due to the seeding and the being in the tougher bracket, the best match of the Men’s Singles at the French Open may well be the Nadal vs. Djokovic meeting in the Semifinals. The winner of this semifinal will be the heavy favorite to win the title against the winner of the Tsonga vs. Ferrer match earlier in the day

Seven-time champion Nadal defeated Stanislas Wawrinka in straight sets 6-2 6-3 6-1, while world number one Djokovic beat Tommy Haas 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 7-5.

Nadal wants nothing more than winning the French Open for an eighth time. But he first needs to conquer his fiercest rival and the No. 1 player in the world, Novak Djokovic on Friday. This must watch match will be the 35th meeting between the two with Nadal holding a 12-3 lead on clay, who is arguably the best clay-court player of all time.

Women’s Quarterfinal Results

Serena Williams Rallies to Semis

Serena def Kuznetsova (Photo: news.yahoo.com)

Serena Williams came from behind in the third set to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 Tuesday and advanced to Roland Garros’ final four for the first time since 2003.

“I’m very happy to have won this quarterfinal because the whole night I was afraid of my quarterfinal match,” Williams said in French. “It was a very tough match today…. I am exhausted.”

Williams is the first American woman to reach the French Open semifinals since Jennifer Capriati in 2004. Her opponent Thursday will be 2012 runner-up Sara Errani, who advanced by beating No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska 6-4, 7-6. Williams is 5-0 against Errani.

Sharapova Overcomes Quarterfinal Scare

Sharapova advances to Semi’s. (Getty Images)

Maria Sharapova had an early scare losing the first set 0-6 against childhood rival Jelena Jankovic.  But defending French Open champion Sharapova rallied the next two sets to defeat Jankovic and winning 0-6, 6-4, 6-3, to advance to the French Open semifinals.

Sharapova will face third-seeded Victoria Azarenka Thursday, who had an easier time dismissing Maria Kirilenko, 7-6, 6-2, to advance to her first semifinal at Roland Garros.

Semifinal Schedule of Play

Thursday, June 6

8:00AM  Maria Sharapova vs. Victoria Azarenka on ESPN2

10:00AM Serena Williams vs. Sara Errani on NBC

Friday, June 7

4:00AM David Ferrer vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on ESPN2

7:00AM Novak Djokovic vs. Rafael Nadal on NBC

 

Smashing Golf & Tennis – Made in Chicago

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Will the Magic of Monfils Continue? (Getty Images)

If you’ve been watching the first week of the French Open, drugstore you’ve probably noticed the less than perfect conditions. The first five days of the French Open at Roland Garros have been unusually cold and rainy causing long delays and postponed matches, levitra however, there’s still been plenty of upsets, drama and exciting play to discuss.

Maria Sharapova was unable to finish her second-round match against Eugenie Bouchard on a rainy fifth day of action in Paris and the officials finally suspended play and will pick up where they left off on Friday. Match play has been delayed, but with the hope that Friday will bring better weather and a chance to finish the remaining second and third round matches before the weekend.

In the meantime, some highlights from the week so far.

Men’s Singles

Nadal First Round Scare

Rafa in Disbelief in early 1st Round (Gallo Images)

French Open favorite Rafael “Rafa” Nadal had a very scary first two sets in the first round.  Rafa struggled during his opening-round win over German Daniel Brands after dropping the first set—only the 15th set he has lost at Roland Garros—and falling to 0-3 in the second.

Of course, Rafa then made it look easy and then went on to win decisively in four sets, but it was exciting to watch live and wonder if my prediction would fall on only the second day of play.

Monfils the “Magician”

Monfils “The Magician” (Washington Post)

The biggest upset on the Men’s side this week so far has been fifth seed Tomas Berdych’s shocking loss after five sets by unseeded Frenchmen Gael Monfils on Monday 7-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5 in a thrilling four hour and two minute match.

Monfils continued to perform his magic to the delight of local crowds Wednesday by beating 40th ranked Ernests Gulbis  6-7, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2, in what was one of the most entertaining and competitive matches so far.

Ironically, a Frenchman has not won at Roland Garros since Yannick Noah, the father of Chicago Bull, Joakim Noah,  in 1983.  Monfils will next play 34th ranked Tommy Robredo on Friday, who’s first 2 rounds have not have been as hard fought as Monfils, but the local crowds will be cheering on for more of Monfils magic and will be a match not to be missed.

The Other Top Seeded Men

Roger Federer (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic eased into the third round with decisive 6-2, 6-0, 6-2 win over Argentina’s Guido Pella Thursday, and Federer barely broke a sweat defeating Somdev Dewarman of India in the second round 6-2, 6-1, 6-1.

Women’s Singles

Mattek-Sands Shocks 2011 Champion Li

Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Photo : AFP)

Unconventionally dressed American Bethanie Mattek-Sands delivered the biggest upset of this year’s French Open so far by beating the 2011 champ and current #6 Li Na of China  5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

Mattek-Sands is renown for her unusual style and says “I’m kind of doing my own thing, I want my tennis to do my talking.”  This week at the French Open, she did just that.

Serena – Inevitable Champion? 

Serena Williams (USA Today)

Serena Williams easily extended her winning streak to 26 matches Wednesday by beating #114th ranked Caroline Garcia of France, 6-1, 6-2 in the second round.

The No. 1-ranked Williams seeks her first French Open title since 2002. She hasn’t reached the semifinal since 2003 and lost in the first round last year at Roland Garros.

Other Upsets

Former top-ranked and current #10 ranked Caroline Wozniacki lost 7-6 (2), 6-3 to 47th ranked Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia in the second round of the French Open on Wednesday.

Who to Watch Friday

(Roland Garros)

Due to the rain suspended play on Thursday, the match schedule was not finalized at time of writing.  Check link for Friday final schedule of play at French Open.

However, the following matches should be worth watching.

Men’s Singles  

  • Rafael Nadal vs. Martin Klizan
  • Gael Monfils vs.Tommy Robredo

Women’s Singles

  • Maria Sharapova vs. Eugenie Bouchard – To finish rain delayed match, currently at 6-2 4-2
  • Serena Williams vs. Sorana Cirstea
  • Agnieszka Radwanska  vs. Dinah Pfizenmaier

The matches get started at 4 a.m. on ESPN2, and will run on that channel through 9 a.m. The Tennis Channel will then pick up coverage from 9 all the way through 6 p.m., so there will be plenty of opportunities to watch on Friday. The Tennis Channel then has the French Open Highlights at 6 p.m. and this program runs again at 9pm.

Smashing Golf & Tennis – Made in Chicago
(Photo: Mike Caplan)

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