Written by Zach Kleiman | 23 August 2011

12 Months On From Nadal's Defeat of Djokovic
One year on since Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in the final of the US Open in four sets at Flushing Meadows and the only word that can describe what has happened since: incredible! 
Following that win, tennis pundits were suggesting that Nadal, now that he had completed a career Grand Slam, was capable of going on to overhaul the record tally of 16 Grand Slam titles held by Roger Federer. There was very little evidence to suggest that much stood in his way since Nadal had proven, particularly with the 2010 win over Djokovic at Flushing Meadows, that he had the measure of those rivals closest to him; regardless of the surface, he was justifiably ranked number one in the world and playing sensationally well.
That was 12 months ago, and since then a lot has changed. Those same plaudits have had their opinions changed completely to the point that they are now suggesting that Djokovic is the man who could overhaul Federer's Grand Slam total, eclipsing Nadal's achievements in the process.
Without any warning, Djokovic has suddenly raised his already outstanding game to new heights and continues to raise to standards that the tennis world has seldom seen before.
From January 2011, Djokovic has played 54 individual tennis matches on all surfaces and has lost just once, which came against Federer in the semi final of the French Open on clay at Roland Garros. Nadal went on to win the final giving him his tenth Grand Slam success, but Djokovic had already picked up the Australian Open in January after his one-sided victory over Britain’s Andy Murray.
In that 54 game streak, Djokovic has taken two Masters 1000 Titles defeating Nadal in the finals of the Rome and Madrid. Two wins that came after the Serbian had already won the first two Masters 1000 titles of the year at Indian Wells and Miami, where he also defeated Nadal in both finals.
After his only defeat of the year, Djokovic gained revenge on Nadal by winning Wimbledon, defeating Rafa for the fifth consecutive time in a final in 2011; the win also confirmed Djokovic as the new world number one in the ATP rankings. Since then the "Serbinator" has gone on to create a new world record of five Masters 1000 titles in one season, this came last week in Montreal where he beat American Mardy Fish in the final. Interestingly, Nadal, Federer and Murray all went out of this tournament early and now they have only one chance to gain a psychological edge over Djokovic, that comes this week in the Cincinnati Masters. After Cincinnati, the tennis circuit returns to Flushing Meadows for the US Open.
As it stands, there is no one in the world that would suggest that Djokovic will not win his first US Open crown as he is proving beyond any doubt that he is the new star of the sport and his rise has come at a time when tennis - certainly in the men's game - has never been played at a higher level.
At the age of 24 and with only three Grand Slam titles to his name, Novak Djokovic has some catching up to do if he's to surpass Federer's record,  but the way he has played over the past 12 months, who can discount that he won't be around to dominate the game for the next few years, starting at Flushing Meadows later this month.
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Written by Zach Kleiman | 20 August 2011

I have never been mistaken for an athlete. I rode the bench on my 8th grade basketball team and barely played on my college intramural team. (Great team sponsor, name and slogan, though: “Marquette Donuts – Take it to the Hole!”) I’ve dabbled in sports from time to time, but mostly have cheered for others from the comfort of the bleachers - which is why my last two weekends were nothing short of amazing.

As I’ve explained in the past, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with tennis. It’s the only exercise that I absolutely adore. I’ve spent the past six years trying to learn what many 8 year old players can do in their sleep. I’m ranked 3.5 which means I should know what to do, but often don’t do it. Some of my tennis friends and I formed a USTA State League Team. We had a very successful summer and advanced to the playoffs.

How do I explain the experience of a tennis team of mostly middle-aged suburban mothers competing in a playoff atmosphere? Well, first of all, we did what we know best – we mothered each other. We brought coolers full of water and sports drinks, we created team towels, we named our team (Team Pink!) we brought snacks and band-aids and we set up a comfy and quaint camp at the site of the competition. We shared tips on hydration and liberally passed the ibuprofen. Some teams were stocked with college-aged ringers or former high school players. Our team was made up of stay-at-home moms, accountants, executives, nurses, freelance writers and grandmothers. It seemed like the world was upside down when our kids and husbands were cheering for us instead of the other way around.

Then we started collecting stories – opposing players who were prickly, poor sports, unfriendly, bad line judges – and we shared them with a passion and enthusiasm we hadn’t expressed since our kids tried out for their sports teams. We cheered our victories and congratulated each other on our outstanding effort, knowing all the while that our families were watching to see if we practiced what we preached. We iced our achy joints and sometimes limped on and off the courts. And then something even more startling happened – WE ADVANCED TO THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS!

Suddenly, we were begging each other to cancel dinner reservations, book baby sitters, end vacations early and put our lives on hold so that we could play tennis at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium at the University of Wisconsin in Madison against other teams from around the state. Just fielding enough players for those three matches was nothing short of miraculous. Somehow we rounded up enough players, woke up pre-dawn and headed to Madison. That is when the fun began.

You see, for me, the amazing part of our ride through the playoffs was the friendship and camaraderie on the way to and from the matches. We shared our lives with each other and then we did what girls do best – we laughed hysterically and had wildly inappropriate conversations. (Sorry, I’m not spilling.) It was more cathartic than anything I’ve done in a long time. I felt revived and enriched, thanks to the fellowship of my teammates.

Another surprising aspect of our playoff experience was forging friendships with opposing players. In a sweet touch of irony, our first match was against The Western Racquet Club of Green Bay. (We play for Western Racquet Club of Elm Grove.) Despite the fact that we lost that match 2-3, we found the Green Bay girls to be nice, charming and funny which is why I cheered loudly when I heard that they won the State Championships and are on their way to Indianapolis for the Midwest Championships.

That’s right, we didn’t win it all. We lost every match at the State Championships, although several of our players won their individual matches. Nevertheless, I’m not looking back on this experience as a losing one. In fact, it almost feels like we won…at least off the court.

Besides, we took notes and already started making plans for next summer. Look out, Madison, we just might be back!

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Written by Thomas Rooney | 17 August 2011

Novak Djokovic is playing some frighteningly good tennis right now – not even Rafael Nadal can touch him.

He’s too hot for arguably the greatest player of all time, Roger Federer to handle, while Andy Murray just cannot get anywhere near him.

It has been an awesome year for the Serb, and the scary thing is he just seems to be getting better and better.

No more than two years ago, pundits were talking about how they felt sorry for Djokovic playing in the same era as Federer and Nadal, saying he could never be recognised as a great player, with such exceptional talents playing at the same time as him.

But what do pundits know, hey?

Such analysis seems to have done nothing if not spur Djokovic on in a bid to prove all his doubters wrong... and how.

In July, Djokovic rocketed to the top of the tennis world rankings for the first time in his career, having won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon – all in 2011.

As recently as last week, he won the ATP Masters to become the first player since Pete Sampras to capture an ATP tournament in a debut as the top ranked player in the world.

Whether this is just a spell of remarkably good form – or more a case of him morphing into one of the greatest all-time tennis players, is probably the main question.

What should be said is you don’t win three of tennis’ biggest tournaments in the space of a year with luck alone.

Djokovic was close to breaking one of the greatest and longest held tennis records back in June. Had he not been defeated by Roger Federer, he would have been on target to obliterate John McEnroe’s 42 win unbeaten start to a tennis season.

He is currently involved in the Cincinnati Masters and has aspirations to add that to his growing list of tournament wins.

It will be a tough ask for him with some of the top stars in world tennis all involved – but this is a rollercoaster that does not look like slowing down anytime soon.

By Will Taylor - A sports writer who uses bet365 bets when placing his Bookmakers Free Bets.
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Written by Zach Kleiman | 31 July 2011

Thursday I went to UCLA to watch tennis.  Mardy Fish was playing Gilles Muller at the Farmers Classic.  I was with my friend Judah.  We wolfed down our hot dogs at the condiments' table and took luke-warm beers to our seats.  We settled in and watched two points and I thought to myself, “Why am I here? What the hell am I watching tennis for?”  Don’t get me wrong, I like tennis, I like it a lot; but watching it with a friend whom I could have been playing with made me realize I like playing tennis way more than watching it.  
The idea of playing versus watching immediately reminded me of work.  The days I play at work, bouncing ideas back and forth with my co-workers, those are the very good days.  The days I just watch are the long days.  Those days I stare at the clock.  Match time: 8 hours.  Oh brother! 
This wasn’t a great revelation – that engaging and taking part in something makes it more interesting; more interesting makes time fly – but when I saw it in terms of watching tennis versus playing it I thought: I’d be a fool just to watch at work ever again.   
Well, sitting in the stadium just watching, our minds quickly began to wander.  Judah told me he had had a fight with his girlfriend the night before.  “Maybe fighting is like playing a relationship,” I said.  “You can fight back or you can go: fine, whatever.  And that’s just watching.”  When someone starts a fight with me I’ve noticed they really don’t like it if I don’t fight back.  Maybe that’s what my relationships need, more fights!  But I’ll try to think of it as playing and not fighting.  I just don’t want to do any more watching.  
Friday I went back to UCLA without Judah and watched three matches.  I just watched and it was great.  Oh well.  Love the one you’re with, I guess.
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Written by Thomas Rooney | 22 July 2011

The Great Britain Davis Cup Team beat Luxembourg 4-1 a fortnight ago, thanks almost entirely to Andy Murray’s efforts. The world number four only conceded eight games to his opponents in the two singles matches he played, and he and his brother Jamie were also able to win their doubles match comfortably.

The headlines all revolved around Andy’s tears after beating Giles Muller in straight sets and putting the tie out of reach. But more significant is the reliance the British team has on Murray’s desire to play in the Davis Cup.

Great Britain and Luxembourg have the same number of players in the top 150: one (Muller is ranked 82). This is not only worrying, but worryingly predictable. The UK plays host to the most revered tennis tournament in the world: Wimbledon.

The UK is about to stage the biggest sporting event in the world: the Olympics. Why then, has the country failed to produce any sort of stable of up and coming tennis players to challenge the world’s best? Even Henman had Rusedski as a hitting partner.

Murray has his brother and a couple of players who have shone briefly at events (James Ward, Alex Bogdanovic) but no one of any real substance.

By beating Luxembourg, Great Britain now faces Hungary in a bid for promotion to the Europe/Africa Group I division. Can you name Hungary’s danger men? No, me neither. Their highest ranked player is Attila Balazs, ranked 223. Let’s just hope Andy’s free that weekend.

Otherwise we might as well be playing Online Fruit Machines for the weeked!

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Written by Thomas Rooney | 08 July 2011

Novak Djokovic continues to amaze everyone.

Not only has Djokovic only lost just one game since the turn of the year, but he has also claimed the French Open and Wimbledon titles as well as become the number one ranked tennis player in the world.

It’s been an unbelievable route to the top for the Serbian after the dominance of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who he hammered in the final at SW19 despite free bets heavily backing the Spaniard. Djokovic has turned his momentum into dominance and looks at ease with his game at this moment in time.

It’s been a long time coming but now Federer and Nadal have a task on their hands to reach the next level and knock Djokovic off his throne. Djokovic has found a winning formula, matured as a player and knows his game inside out which has proved to be a success in the last seven months.

The way he powered past Nadal in the final was similar to the way the Spaniard had beaten Djokovic in the past. It was easy but effective tennis and, although Nadal was not fully-fit, the Serb has now underlined his power in the tennis world. Much like the dominance of Phil Taylor in Darts and Ronnie O’Sullivan in Snooker, no-one wants to be drawn against Djokovic because in this form he really is unbeatable.

Djokovic’s dominance this year must come as an inspiration and motivation to Andy Murray, who like Djokovic in his early career has struggled to overcome the dominance of Federer and Nadal. Murray is the nearly man of Tennis at the minute but it only takes one major win to inject belief and confidence that he can become a champion in future years, just ask Novak.

Djokovic’s rise to the top of the rankings all raises questions about Federer’s place in Tennis. Where does he go from now? Is he coming to the end of his career due to Nadal and Djokovic taking over or will he gain motivation from their success and breathe new life into his own game? Age is not on Federer’s side and it will be interesting to see how he overcomes his lack of dominance.

Nadal is sure to come straight back at Djokovic and will likely remain the free bet favourite for the matches in the near future at least - that’s the kind of athlete and performer he is. He has belief in his own ability and knows he can return to number one in the world.

Men’s Tennis is certainly healthy right now and Djokovic must keep progressing to ensure he is at the top of the rankings for some time because there is a handful of players breathing down his neck.
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Written by Steve Law | 03 July 2011

Gentlemen's Final: Rafael Nadal (ESP) vs Novak Djokovic (SRB)

Novak Djokovic, or Nole as he is more simply and affectionately known, put in an exemplary display that turned heads and had people gasping at his brilliance as he made the seemingly impossible become possible.

In a display of utter dominance for at least three out of the four sets this afternoon,  Djokovic took his first Wimbledon title and made his childhood dreams come true.

With performances throughout the championship often failing to meet the standard Djokovic has began to expect of himself, today there was little doubt who is the current best player in the world; Nole even had moments of toying with his opponent as if, in the words of Tim Henman, “he had him on a piece of string”.

Djokovic breezed through the first set 6-4 and utterly outclassed Nadal in the second 6-1. Nadal, who appears to have added to his box of ticks with a quick step ‘zumba’, (the new and fashionable way of keeping fit for the middle classes involving cross-over steps and various jumping moves), as he’s readying to receive serve, was certainly not playing his best tennis. But this was mainly due to the lack of opportunity given to him by Djokovic as opposed to a poor game plan, a lack of form or any sign of that foot injury.

The damage that Nadal normally inflicts with his meat cleaver forehand was neutralised by Djokovic’s master anticipational skills, ‘moving like the clappers’ skills and Agassi-like court positioning. Federer has never been able to overcome the heavy-lefty forehand into the single handed backhand basic tactical advantage that Nadal has had over him, especially on clay, but Djokovic with the aid of his double handed backhand and electrifying speed has miraculously found a way through.

In the third set Nadal took an early break and came back to take the set, but again it was due to the inability of Djokovic to maintain his supreme level as opposed to any change of intensity or game-plan from Nadal.

Djokovic took an early break in the fourth, and re-asserted his dominace, but Nadal kept fighting, as only he knows how, and struck lucky with a dead net chord and broke back immediately to level the set at 2-2. Djokovic broke once more and had the chance to serve out the match at 5-3.

If, at this stage, we were ever in doubt at Djokovic’s mental state, he serve-volleyed for the first time in the match and put away a clean backhand volley winner to set up match point; courageous and clever.

On match point he kept his foot on the gas and approached with an aggressive forehand into Nadals weaker side to force the error, and fell flat on his back in celebration as Nadal's backhand flew long. The final score: 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3

Djokovic has seen all his dreams come true in a single weekend. As not only is he the new Wimbledon champion but tomorrow he will be the new official number 1 player in the world. Not to mention £1.1m better off. It remains to be seen whether he can maintain the intensity to keep himself right at the top of the game for a lengthy period. But one thing is for sure; Ole,ole,ole will be back.

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Written by Zach Kleiman | 02 July 2011

Do you want to see the new, the current and the first Czech Republic Wimbledon Champion since 1998?

Do you want to see her up close, in an intimate venue? You have your chance in 28 days.

Petra Kvitova, the 21-year-old from the Czech Republic who earlier today captured the Wimbledon ladies’ singles title, will play in the 2011 Mercury Insurance Open, July 30 – August 7 at the La Costa Resort and Spa.

In addition to Kvitova, the field will be highlighted by former world No.1 Kim Clijsters, defending-champion Svetlana Kuznetsova and other WTA stars Vera Zvonareva, Agnieszka Radwanska, Ana Ivanovic, Daniela Hantuchova, Maria Kirilenko, Flavia Pennetta, Melanie Oudin, Coco Vandeweghe, Julia Goerges, Anna Chakvetadze and Yanina Wickmayer.

For more info and tickets: www.mercuryinsuranceopen.com

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Written by Steve Law | 01 July 2011

At one set to love and 2-1 up in the second set there is a real sense that Murray can really do this. He's outclassed Nadal in the first, bossed the points and really shown he's got what it takes to keep Nadal on the run and guessing. 
Nadal is serving at 15-30.
And Murray has an 'easy' inside out forehand put-away to give him two more break points. 
He misses, by an inch or two.
30 all.
You can see the disappointment.
Nadal holds.
We sense a turning point.
Murray misses an awkward but routine overhead in the very next game. Maybe the sun was in his eyes.
Nadal is at 3-2 and the match is turning fast.
Murray starts to miss all those he was making in the first set.
The feeling of inevitability starts to grow.
Murray battles, plays smart but just cannot find his first set form.
He's missing more first serves and Nadal starts to dominate.
And so the story goes. 

Nadal Levels at 1 set all, takes an early break in the the third and Murray may still be thinking of that 15-30 opportunity. I have rarely, if ever, seen Murray play with this much class, authority, and control. But still it just isn't good enough. 

He certainly seems to have grown in stature since last year, he is a more accomplished and a better class of player. He is still only 24 and many say he will win a grand slam. And win Wimbledon. If we shoot Nadal, at least a few times as he'll likely get up from the first couple spitting bullets like a cartoon tommy-gun, I'd likely agree with the many.
And at least we've seen a more mature and confident Murray, at last. And certainly much more so than at the Australian Open where he looked completely out of sorts, and at the French where he abused himSELF horribly. 
Nadal took the match 5-7 6-2 6-2 6-4.

In the Other Semi Novak Djokovic was reminiscent of Agassi in his glory days.
'Moving like a gazelle' were the words I once heard Agassi use when he was practicing with Brad Gilbert. Today Djokovic made gazelle look sloth-like.
Only a massively courageous effort from Tsonga temporarily de-railed Djokovic's steam-train. Tsonga took the third set, after going two sets to love down, and had Novak screaming blue murder for a moment or two. But although Novak exhibited a few nerves in the fourth, he maintained his composure and took an early break, as Tsonga appeared to be running on empty. Tsonga may rue his bathroom break at the end of the third set, but it is highly unlikely that it made any difference and even more unlikely that he could repeat the feat of overcoming another top 3 player,(the other being Federer on Wednesday), from 2 sets down. Djokovic took the match 7-6(4) 6-2 6-7(9) 6-3

Well for me at least, It's nice to predict right occasionally: Nadal plays Djokovic on Sunday in the Men's Final. It could be a thriller.   
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Written by Thomas Rooney | 01 July 2011

With many expecting Maria Sharapova to secure the Wimbledon title this weekend, the player herself has spoken of her determination to remain focused and not underestimate her opponent.

Much attention has been on the former champion this year as she enjoys a welcome return to form. Saturday’s final will be her first in a Grand Slam since the 2008 Australian Open and

She doesn’t have an automatic right to win the match though and she seems aware that the hardest challenge of her comeback will come on Saturday in this eagerly anticipated final.

The 24-year-old said: “It's amazing to be back in the final, it's been a while. I'm really happy. I didn't play my best tennis, but I remained really focused.”

“I still feel I have more to do. Kvitova is a great player on grass and is playing really good tennis - it'll be a tough match, but I'm looking forward to it."

Sharapova would certainly be a popular champion with the centre court crowd and those looking to get free bets. She won British tennis fans over seven years ago when she secured the title as a 17-year-old and it is good to see her competing for major honours again.

However, Petra Kvitova has had an incredible tournament too so she will be extremely tough to beat. There is a chance the occasion could get the better of her, but the Czech will be desperate to hold her nerve and take the game to the 2004 Wimbledon Champion.

Overall, it could be a very interesting match and one which could go all of the way. Both players have their own stories leading up to this final and it would be a fairytale ending whoever comes out on top.

Of course Sharapova is the more experienced player and is favourite to win the match according to those who bet with paypal. Kvitova is very capable on grass though and there is no doubt Sharapova will have to raise her game from a rather under-par performance in the semi-final.

Every point will be crucial during the 2011 Wimbledon women’s singles final between Maria Sharapova and Petra Kvitova.

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