Tag Archives: Marat Safin

Is Ernests Gulbis the Next Marat Safin? Probably.

It’s still a little too soon to start reading the tea leaves for future guidance into Ernests Gulbis’s career after his semifinal run at the Italian Open last week. One thing is for sure, the 21 year old Latvian who has been touted as the “next big thing” is finally, and I do mean finally, living up to that hype.

After several years of showing flashes of brilliance and flashes of awful, mixed in with a bad judgment call last year in Stockholm involving certain “ladies”, Gulbis, with his powerful strokes and his candid yet funny demeanor, reminds me of another past champion — Marat Safin. Continue reading

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“The Best” in Tennis – 2009 Review.

Of course this being December, everyone is taking a look back at the year that was. Here’s my brief look back at the best in tennis for 2009.

Player of the Year – Kim Clijsters.
Yes I know Roger Federer had an amazing year, again, but Kim Clijsters’s title run at the U.S. Open was the story of the year not only for her exceptional play but also that it highlighted, unfairly perhaps, the lack of depth in the women’s game right now. If Clijsters had not won the Open, I doubt Justine Henin would have returned as she too senses an opportunity for more glory. Clijsters’s win in New York was a “tour-changer” and its impact will be felt in 2010 regardless how well Clijsters does next year.

Best Men’s Match of the Year. – Roger Federer vs. Andy Roddick – Wimbledon Men’s Final.
Ok so this wasn’t quite the epic that Federer vs. Nadal was last year, but it certainly had it’s share of drama especially the fifth set “serve-off” that Federer barely won thus eclipsing Roddick’s dream of a Wimbledon title. One wonders if Roddick still thinks about that missed backhand volley that could have given him a two set to love lead in the match, but the respect Roddick earned worldwide will certainly be with him next year. (I know some would say Nadal vs. Verdasco in the Australian Open Semis was “the” match, but I have to give the edge here just because it was for the Wimbledon title.)

Best Women’s Match of the Year – Serena Williams vs. Elena Dementieva – Wimbledon Semifinals.
What impressed me the most was the ball striking in this one as the ladies hit the ball harder than any men’s match I’ve ever seen. Dementieva was oh so close to taking out the top seed but Serena’s perseverance not only paid off by winning this match, and then the finals against sister Venus, but did a lot to cement Serena as the female player of the decade.

Comeback Players of the Year – Svetlana Kuznetsova and Nikolay Davydenko.
I know people are expecting Kim Clijsters here but let’s face it, “Sveta’s” win at the French Open was a bit unexpected as many had already written her off as a one Slam wonder. Her consistent play throughout the year indicated that Sveta was hungry for more glory and I expect her to do well in 2010. As for Davydenko, many had forgotten him at the beginning of the year and his substandard play during the Slams. But his late season run including wins at Shanghai and the Barclays ATP Finals proved he was always in the mix.

Rising Star of the Year – Juan Martin Del Potro.
With his total beatdown of Rafael Nadal in the semis of the U.S. Open and then his amazing five set win over Roger Federer in the finals, Del Potro emerged from the pack of contenders to become “the” contender for Roger’s crown in 2010. How he handles his newfound fame, considering his rather shy nature, remains to be seen but do not count Delpo for any title next year.

And finally a special thanks to those players who retired this year including Marat Safin, Amelie Mauresmo, Fabrice Santoro and Ai Sugiyama. All of them brought their own unique gifts, spins and personalities to a game that desperately needs more players like them. I wish them all the best in their new lives.

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Bonne Chance Marat!

I’m not paying that much attention to Paris this week only because it feels all like overkill before London but yesterday’s action was obviously worth noting with Roger Federer losing to an inspired Julian Benneteau, Rafael Nadal surviving five match points against Nicolas Almagro and Andy Murray enduring a three set war versus James Blake before Murray finally won the third set tiebreak.

Wasn’t Federer’s long break after the U.S. Open suppossed to refresh him for the last leg of the year? Instead his long break seems to have made him rather lethargic about the whole thing. Fed is also starting a pattern of being broken in his opening service games of final sets. He did it against Del Potro in New York, Djokovic in Basel and now in Paris. Mental fatigue or baby fatigue? And why is it that everytime Fed loses, it’s described as “shocking” or “unforeseen”?

And yes, yesterday was the very last match of Marat Safin’s career after he lost a tough three setter to Juan Martin Del Potro. Delpo showed real poise during the whole affair. The ceremony for Safin at the end was very generous especially with many players coming on court to say goodbye. You can watch the end of it here.

I know everyone is moaning and groaning about him leaving but just watching him here, one can see that he’s at peace and ready to start a new life. Good for him. I wish more current players would take his cue and realize when it’s time for something else. And as he said it recently.

“I’ve lived my life the way I wanted to, whether scaling the mountains, partying long into the night or having fun playing soccer.”

Bonne Chance Marat!

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Paris Preview – Are We Done Yet?

As play at the BNP Paribas Masters officially got underway yesterday with the highlight being James Blake defeating Fabrice Santoro in his final career match, I’ll just do a quick preview of what to expect and not.

The only real drama left is who will qualify for the final two spots for the Barclays ATP Masters Finale in London. At this point, Nikolay Davydenko is a lock while Fernando Verdasco just needs to win a few rounds to squeak in. It’s possible that someone like Jo-Wilifred Tsonga, the defending champion, could get inspired on his home court, but I doubt it.

Although the European indoor swing has provided some great matches, at this point it all feels like overkill and that the boys should be wrapping things up by now. I still think that the tour should put the Asia events after the Australian Open since everyone is on that side of the world already. That way they could take a week or two off after Flushing Meadows and then start the indoor swing in mid-September and finish the year in early November. Of course some of those spring clay court events would have to go…

And don’t forget this is Marat Safin’s last professional event. He survived three match points in his first round match and now faces Juan Martin Del Potro next. As with all things Safin his post-match interview was full of candor i.e. “I didn’t practice at all last week.” and on Del Potro “he will be fighting to be number one next year.”

Ah Marat, what could have been.

Watch his interview here.

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ATP Players on the “London Bubble” Battle This Week.

This week several hopefuls for the final spot at the ATP Barclays Finale in London will do battle against each other this week. All these events are ATP 250 so a title win is a must for those on the London “bubble”. In my recent poll, most of you said Fernando Verdasco would grab the final spot followed by Robin Soderling.

In Lyon, Jo-Wilifred Tsonga and good friend Gilles Simon head up the field there while in Vienna, Marin Cilic, who bounced out of Shanghai in the first round, looks to get his momentum back against such players as Gael Monfils and Radek Stepanek.

St. Petersburg is also this week but the only newsworthy event there is the continuing Marat Safin retirement tour. This event will be the last time Safin plays in his native Russia.

And congratulations to Mikhail Youzhny who won the Kremlin Cup and is now back in the top 25 again and also congrats to fan favorite Marcos Baghdatis who won the Stockholm Open.

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J.J. Qualifies while Kimmie’s Streak Ends.

The final spot for the season ending WTA Championships in Doha went to Jelena Jankovic after Vera Zvonareva lost her second round match to qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova 6-0, 6-2 at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.

Jankovic who won her match against Lucie Safarova 7-6 (5), 6-3 clinched the remaining spot. She said afterwards “I was really happy when I heard that I’d made it to Doha,” Jankovic said. “It was very important for me.”

On the men’s side, Robby Ginepri and Janko Tipsarevic won while Marat Safin lost in his final bid to win his hometown tournament, losing to Evgueni Korolev.

At the BNP Paribas Open Luxembourg, Kim Clijsters’s win streak, which included her now fabled run at the U.S. Open, came to an end when she lost to Patty Schnyder 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (6). Clijsters is not planning to play anymore events until the start of 2010.

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Gulbis Bounced out of Stockholm.

Perhaps Ernests Gulbis wishes he had stayed home rather than take that wildcard into the Stockholm Open. Although he has yet to acknowledge or deny Sunday night’s events, his tennis career is still not going in the right direction as he endured a 6-2, 6-4 loss in the first round by eighth seed Feliciano Lopez. Other winners included Robin Soderling and Tommy Haas.

In Moscow at the Kremlin Cup, Marat Safin’s retirement party in his native country was extended thanks to his mild upset of top seed Nikolay Davydenko 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. I say “mild” as Davydenko admitted to being a bit tired after his extraordinary title run at Shanghai the week before. But Davydenko still looks in good shape to qualify for the ATP Barclays Final in London.

In other end of the year qualifying news, Agnieska Radwanska saw her chance to make it to Doha end when she lost to Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 6-3. The early exit means that it is now down to Jelena Jankovic and Vera Zvonareva to battle for the final spot as they are both still alive in the Kremlin Cup.

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