30 June, 2012

Wimbledon Day 6 (Three Thoughts)

Take A Bow:  Of the many tragic figures of Wimbledon, Andy Roddick looms among the largest.  The quick-witted American with the muscular serve is a three-time finalist at the All England Club, only Federer and Nadal have fared better here during this generation.  Like everywhere and everyone else on tour (Save Novak Djokovic), Roddick's road to tennis immortality has been largely blocked by the Spaniard and the Swissman who've dominated this era of tennis.  Roddick is a combined 6-28 against Nadal and Federer, with Federer particularly playing his bogeyman, boasting a 21-3 record versus Roddick.  Roddick's big serve and aggressive game have always felt Savile Row-made for the grass, but he's a combined 0-5 against Nadal and Federer on grass.  At Wimbledon specifically, four times the end of Roddick's road has been at a dead end called Roger Federer.  While almost everyone remembers Roddick's heartbreaking loss 16-14 in the fifth to Federer in the 2009 final, that might not be the one that Roddick ought regret the most.  Most know that in 2003, THE Roger Federer came into being by winning Wimbledon over Mark Philippoussis in the final. To get to that final, he knocked off Roddick in the semis 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-3.  Such began the Yank's hard luck at Wimbledon; today may have been the end of it.

29 June, 2012

Staring Into The Abyss

As if you missed the news Rafael Nadal was stunned yesterday in the 2nd round of Wimbledon by Czech journeyman Lukas Rosol  6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.  How big of an upset was this?  Rosol came into Wimbledon no tour level singles titles to his name, Nadal has 11 major titles.  Then suddenly, deja vu of Roland Garros 2009, Federer goes down 2 sets to love in is next match, to French veteran Julien Benneteau.    Benneteau was as close as two points from the win in the fourth set tiebreak.  For a wild couple of hours this Friday, tennis fans were forced to consider the very real prospect of losing Nadal and Federer on back to back days in the first week.  Were Benneteau to have come through, it would have marked the first major semifinal without Nadal AND Federer since the US Open...in 2003.  In other words, if a major semifinal happens and neither Federer nor Nadal play in it, did it really happen?

26 June, 2012

Wimbledon Day Two, Three Thoughts

Two days of Wimbledon 2012 are in the books.  We're still in the first round, but there's already been a fair bit of drama, upsets and sparkling tennis at the All England Club in SW19.  Here are Blacklabel Tennis' 3 thoughts from Day 2 at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon 2012 Day One (3 Thoughts)

Last Dance: Did You Realize Kim Clijsters is still playing professional tennis?  Well, Clijsters is quasi-semi-demi still playing professional tennis.  The Belgian former World No. 1 is on a lengthy farewell tour set to conclude after this year's US Open.  Clijsters' long goodbye could rival Cher farewell tour in everything except maybe the sequin count...there's still time, Fila.

25 June, 2012

Wimbledon 2012 Women's Bracket Breakdown

With Wimbledon about to kick off, once again, we find ourselves with less time than we'd like to handicap the ladies' draw of a major, but our picks are both thought-through and binding nonetheless.  What follows is our take on the 2012 Wimbledon ladies' brackets, the matches worth catching ESPN3 for and your next Wimbledon champion.  The BLT take on the Wimbledon ladies' draw commences after the jump.

Wimbledon 2012 Men's Bracket Breakdown

With Wimbledon fast approaching, Blacklabel Tennis' hiatus is over.  Here is our look at the 2012 Wimbledon men's draw, the players who should emerge to take the court on the final weekend, plus twenty matches you should keep an eye out for on ESPN3 in our new "First Round Five" capsule plus just more general Wimbledon bracket busting madness.  Without further ado, let's get to it:

12 June, 2012

7, 4, 11 - Roland Garros Mens & Ladies Recap

Probably the most riveting aspect of sports is the ability of the narratives that surround them shift and flex, reverse and bend back upon themselves with an unpredictability that neither admittedly scripted, nor “reality” programming can touch.   Rafael Nadal came into Roland Garros with a head of steam.  His title runs in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Rome looked downright pedestrian given the beatdowns he would inflict once he reached claycourt tennis' biggest stage.  The King of Clay flat-out embarrassed some of the world's best clay court players.  To wit, the following Nadal scorelines: versus World No. 13, Juan Monaco 6-2, 6-0, 6-0; versus World No. 6, David Ferrer 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, what else ya got, his snarl seemed to chuckle as he romped through the field.  

Then suddenly, the man whose serve had been broken once all tournament was broken…and broken…and broken over and over again, seven times in all.  At one point, Nadal went from leading by 2 sets and a break to dropping eight straight games (or a set and a break) to World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.  Fitful, frustrated and feeling his grip on the match slipping away, Nadal’s old friend, the rain, intensified.  Fitful and frustrated with the turn of events, he and Djokovic left the court, for the night as it turned out.   Once they returned it took Nadal just over 50 minutes to win French Open No. 7, halt Djokovic’s bid for four majors in a row and increase his own majors tally to 11.

Maria Sharapova came to Paris with the wind at her back as well.  She had warmed up with titles in Stuttgart and Rome, things looked great for her to finally conquer Paris...except she was drawn to face a fit and focused Serena Williams if she reached the final eight.  Before the tournament even reached its stride, that specter was erased in a topsy, turvy match that left Williams a shocking 4-for-4 in poor showings (for her) at majors.  Serena's shock loss to Virginie Razzano eased Sharapova's path, while on the other side of the draw, a player who had never before advanced past the third round of a major was doing the hard yards herself.  Italy's Sara Errani knocked off two recent Roland Garros champions just to face another recent finalist for good measure in the semis.  Sara Errani wasn’t through though, she won her way all the way to the final before finally being outcompeted by a determined Sharapova.  

Nadal and Sharapova, as we predicted, are your Roland Garros champions...so what does it all mean?  Keep reading.

08 June, 2012

Semi Charmed Lives: Roland Garros Men's Semifinal Previews & Predictions

Four men left at Roland Garros and surprisingly enough, it's exactly the four we expected to see at the outset.  With all due respect to Andy Murray, the Big Three are here as well as the best player on clay outside of the top troika, No. 6 ranked David Ferrer.  There are no easy matches at this stage and no man int he draw who would not prove a worth champion of this tournament.  Roger Federer is seeking his record-extending 17th major title, but just his second at Roland Garros.  Rafael Nadal is seeking his 11th major title and his record-breaking 7th win in 8 attempts at the French Open.  Novak Djokovic is out to win his sixth major and more importantly his fourth in a row, a non-calendar year Grand Slam.  Winning in Paris would give Djokovic a sixth major and make him more importantly, the first man since Rod Laver to hold all four majors at once.  If 30 year old David Ferrer wins this tournament, he might just up and quit right there, and who could blame him.  Ferrer could become only the second man to win a major outside of the Big Three since the 2005 Australian Open.  To do it, he'll have to go through Nadal and either Federer or Djokovic.  Trust me, there's no way his career could go up from there, it's just not possible.  Who will play on the big Philippe Chatrier court on Sunday?  Here's our take:

07 June, 2012

Semi Charmed Lives: Roland Garros Women's Semifinal Previews & Predictions

Out of the 128 women who entered Roland Garros this year, only four are left with a chance at taking home the Suzanne Lenglen trophy.  If Sara Errani wins the whole shooting match, it will be her first major...and she still might miss the Top 10 on Monday.  For Petra Kvitova and Samantha Stosur, a win in Paris would further legitimize their recent results.  An all-important second major title would take both women beyond any thought of being one fortnight wonders and launch them into the conversation for future Hall-of-Fame candidacy.  Sharapova, already a veritable lock for Newport with three major titles to her name is playing for the Career Grand Slam, the No. 1 ranking and vindication that the four years of hard work coming back from her shoulder surgery indeed was worth all of the pain (physical and otherwise).  As Roland Garros draws to a close, we will break down Roland Garros match-by-match.  Up next, the ladies' semifinals.   Our thoughts on both matches after the jump:

03 June, 2012

Holy Sunday!

Alert: The Perrier supply at Roland Garros needs to be tested.  There was obviously something in the water today at Roland Garros and whatever it was, it was toxic to the top seeds.  For a heady couple of hours, the tennis galaxy of the Twittersphere was abuzz that perhaps the biggest day of upsets in the history of Grand Slam tennis could be upon us.  The seed-pocalypse that began with the fall of World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka threatened to fell Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer simultaneously on Phillipe Chatrier and Suzanne Lenglen, respectively.  Had those seismic events happened, they would have left a hole big enough in the top half of the draw for Juan Martin del Potro to walk through...or Tomas Berdych, same difference.  All three superstars (Azarenka, Djokovic and Federer) walked onto the court today heavy favorites.  All three walked off the court having faced far stiffer challenges than any of them (or us) could have imagined.  In the end, despite a trio of underdogs bringing the drama, it was only the highest seeded of them, 15th seeded Dominika Cibulkova, who finished the job.  She helped Azarenka book a ticket back to Minsk, with a surprising victory.  Here are my three thoughts from a wild and wooly day at Roland Garros.

02 June, 2012

US Olympic Tennis Watch

As you're no doubt aware by now, the rankings released at the end of Roland Garros will not just mark the success or failure of touring pros over the last 52 weeks, but also the culmination of a four year race to represent one's country at the Olympics.  The June 11th ATP and WTA rankings will be used as the official ITF cutoff for Olympic eligibility.  Over the course of the tournament, one narrative (at least for American watchers) has been around the question of which women will make the US Olympic team.  We wanted to help clear the air a little.  Ultimately, well...we don't quite know yet, but we're close.  Read on to see how things are playing out.