Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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Temperatures reached 108 degrees during the second day of the tennis season’s first Grand Slam event of the year.  The Australian Open began Monday, capsule January 13th in Melbourne and this hard-court slam lasts two weeks – culminating with the Women’s final on Saturday, drugstore January 25th and the Men’s final on Sunday, January 26th.

Juan Martn Del Potro of Argentina feels the heat. Michael Dodge Getty Images

Forecasts call for more 100-plus degree heat for the next two to three days. Although not all due to the extreme heat, nine players retired in the first round after the second day, which ties the 2011 U.S. Open for most retirements in a single round at a Grand Slam tournament.

It was so hot that a ball boy required medical attention after collapsing during an early-day match. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France said the under soles of his sneakers became soft.

China’s Peng Shuai threw up in a bucket and then cramped near the end of a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 loss to Japan’s Kurumi Nara. Peng limped off the court barely able to finish. Others described the court surface as a frying pan and the wind like “when I open the oven and the potatoes are done,” said American John Isner.  (Isner, seeded 13th, had to retire during his match again Slovakia’s Martin Klizan with an ankle injury. Isner had just won the title last weekend at Auckland.)

However many players took the scorching heat in stride, including Roger Federer, who often trains in the hot desert of Dubai and had little sympathy for his peers, calling it “just a mental thing”.

Aussie Open Outlook

Djokovic  def. Murray 2013 Australian Open final. WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

In the spotlight are whether last years’ Aussie Open champions Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka can both defend their 2013 singles titles.  It was Djokovic’s third straight victory at Melbourne Park, making him the first man to win three straight Australian titles in the Open era.

MEN’S SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP

The men’s side is dominated by the Big Three—Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Many tennis enthusiast predict that Djokovic will break the record for most titles by anyone in the Open Era – or after 1968 when professionals were allowed to join the tournament. He is currently tied with Federer and Andre Agassi with four Aussie titles.

Roger Federer plays a forehand in his first-round match against James Duckworth. Scott Barbour, Getty Images

Novak Djokovic improved his winning streak at Melbourne Park to 22 matches as he began his bid for a fourth consecutive Australian Open title defeating Lukas Lacko of Slovakia.

World No 1 Rafael Nadal easily advances to the second round after one set after Bernard Tomic is forced to retire with a groin injury after losing opening set.

Andy Murray has reached the final of the last five Slams. In his opening match, Murray hit 32 winners, 12 aces and only 13 unforced errors on his way to an easy victory against Go Soeda of Japan 6-1, 6-1, 6-3.

However, Roger Federer is looking to re-enter fray and won in his first match with former world no. 1 Stefan Edberg as a coach, by defeating James Duckworth, 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

WOMEN’S SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP

Not surprisingly, Serena Williams will head into the Australian Open as the player to beat. On opening day, Williams easily defeated Ashleigh Barty, 6-2, 6-1 a 17-year-old Australian wild-card entry. The World No.1 has an incredible 78-4 win/loss record for the season including The French Open and the US Open slams.  Serena ended the season with the WTA Championships and will arrive in Melbourne with an 18 match winning streak. Serena will be competing for her sixth Aussie Open and 18th Grand Slam crown.

Azarenka celebrates defeating Na Li in 2013 Julian Finney/Getty Images

The second-ranked Victoria Azarenka had a difficult match Monday against Larsson, ranked 91st, who twice had chances to serve for the first set but lost in a tiebreaker. However, Azarenka still seems to be the only player who has both the talent and attitude to have a chance of defeating Serena Williams. Azarenka beat her twice in 2013 at Doha and Cincinnati and challenged Serena by taking her to three sets of the US Open final in September.  However, Azarenka has yet to beat Williams in a Slam final – losing out to the 17 times Major winner in back-to-back finals at Flushing Meadows in 2012 and 2013.

However, it’s not impossible for Azarenka.  She just beat Williams in straight sets in an exhibition match between the world’s top two women’s players in Thailand the end of December. Azarenka defeated Williams 7-5, 6-3 in front of about 3,000 fans at the Hua Hin World Tennis Invitation in a match both players used as a warm-up ahead of the Australian Open.

Australian Open TV Coverage

Melbourne is 17 hours ahead of Chicago. As far as TV coverage goes, ESPN and the Tennis Channel have you covered throughout the whole tournament. ESPN’s early round coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on their ESPN2 network, and will run through 7 a.m. The Tennis Channel will carry coverage from 7 p.m. through 9 p.m.  For complete listing see link ESPN.

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Nadal Loses in the First Round. (Photo: BBC Sports)

It’s been a wild first few days at the All England Club in Wimbledon, try a record seven players pull out of the tournament, healing while Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer are upset in their second round matches.  Add to this, stuff Rafael Nadal’s first-round upset on Monday and there’s been more excitement and drama on the grass courts of London than we have seen all season.

Men’s Singles – Nadal and Federer Upsets

The first upset came on Monday, the opening day of the tournament, when world #5 Rafael Nadal was defeated in the first-round by Steve Darcis – ranked #135 – in three sets 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.  Nadal in the post match interview declared that it was “not a tragedy” and refused to blame his exit on his persistent knee injury.

However, it was obvious that he was in pain, as he went down to the Belgian (Darcis.) Nadal was barely able to use his backhand and was limping at times. Nadal was also clearly annoyed by suggestions that he had focused too much on the clay-court season and was not prepared for Wimbledon.

“On grass it’s difficult to adapt your game when you don’t have the chance to play before and I didn’t find my rhythm,” said Nadal, who decided to rest instead of playing the grass court tournament in Halle, Germany.

Federer Suffers Earliest Wimbledon Exit Since 2002

Sergiy Stakhovsky def Roger Federer in 2nd Round (USA Today)

Defending champion Roger Federer suffered his earliest exit at Wimbledon since 2002 with a second-round defeat to Sergiy Stakhovsky Wednesday. Seven-time winner Federer lost 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.

Stakhovsky is ranked No. 116 in the world while Federer is ranked No. 3. The victory is Stakhovsky’s first against an opponent ranked in the top 10. Sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew from his second-round match because of an injury, one of seven men and women to do so on day three.

Murray Wimbledon 2013 (Photo BBC Sports)

Thus, with Federer, Nadal and  Tsonga having exited the competition,  Andy Murray’s title hopes may be realized.

The top-ranked player in Murray’s side of the draw is 15th seed Milos Raonic.

The top seed, Novak Djokovic, moved on defeating Florian Mayer of Germany, who is ranked No. 34 in the world, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

One would assume that the way looks clear to a Djokovic vs Murray Final at the end of the fortnight, but with the bizarre Wimbledon happenings this year, anything can happen.

Women’s Singles – Sharapova Upset

Sharapova falls during her match vs Larcher De Brito (USA Today)

Maria Sharapova was knocked out of Wimbledon by a 131st-ranked qualifier on a day when injuries forced the withdrawal of seven other players.

The third-seeded and 2004 Wimbledon champion, Sharapova, lost 6-3, 6-4 to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal in the second round.

“I just wasn’t there,” Sharapova said.  “She played really great tennis… All the credit to her. She played really well from start to finish.”

However, she was heard telling the umpire: “These courts are dangerous.” Sharapova fell three times during her match on the slippery grass.

Azarenka twisted her knee in her first round win. (Getty Images)

Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of Wimbledon after hurting her right knee in her opening-round win, minutes before her second-round match against Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday.

Early in the second set of her match against Maria Joao Koehler, Azarenka did the splits near the baseline then crumpled to the grass, clutching her right knee and sobbing.

Sharapova and Azarenka were seen as the top challengers to Serena Williams for this year’s women’s title.

Wimbledon TV Coverage

ESPN2 will begin coverage at 6 a.m. CT and will run throughout the day.  You can also catch their coverage beginning at 5:30 a.m. on ESPN3 if you’re viewing online, and the official Wimbledon website has some live video options as well.

Thursday’s notable matches are listed below:

Men’s Singles

No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Bobby Reynolds
No. 4 David Ferrer vs. Roberto Bautista Agut
No. 7 Tomas Berdych vs. Daniel Brands
No. 8 Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Jesse Levine
No. 12 Kei Nishikori vs. Leonardo Mayer
No. 13 Tommy Haas vs. Jimmy Wang

Women’s Singles

No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Carolina Garcia
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Mathilde Johansson
No. 6 Na Li vs. Simona Halep
No. 14 Samantha Stosur vs. Olga Puchkova

 

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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

 

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