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TALKING BALLS 002 Ė MONDAY 7TH SEPTEMBER 2009
By Stuart Fraser
US Open provides great entertainment
Well, one week down, one to go at the 2009 US Open and itís been an entertaining first week to say the least. No real surprises in the Menís draw but plenty on the female side including the emergence of a 17-year-old American as the next great hope for the Yanks.
For me so far, itís been the best of the three slams held this summer due to the entertainment aspect. Couple this with the excellent coverage from Sky Sports and it makes great viewing for the armchair enthusiast.
Wimbledon has the prestige and Roland Garros is classy but they canít beat Flushing Meadows for entertainment. The night sessions have been superb and moments to remember for me include the ball boy tripping over into the photographers pit and John McEnroe running onto court to take on Novak Djokovic for a fun few points which featured an incredible volley from the veteran.
Itís no surprise to see the big four in Menís tennis making it comfortably through to the second week in New York. Roger Federer has looked very impressive and remarkably relaxed in his first few matches and still remains the clear favourite. Andy Murray has looked solid apart from one poor set against Paul Capdeville in the second round and it was a bonus that his potential third round opponent Ivo Karlovic went out in the first round. World No.17 Marin Cilic should provide a tougher test for Murray in the last 16 but I fully expect Murray to get through that one to set up a mouth-watering quarter final against Juan Martin Del Potro.
Rafael Nadal has performed well so far although there seems to be some doubt over his fitness after his third round match against Nicolas Almagro. The Spaniard is remaining tight-lipped which makes his fourth round match against Gael Monfils all the more interesting. Even if he comes through that, a quarter final awaits against either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Fernando Gonzalez. Although I am going to stick with my prediction that he will reach the semis, I would be very surprised if Nadal was to win his first US Open title on Sunday.
Djokovic is looking more and more confident as the tournament goes on and his antics on court with John McEnroe last night has shown that the fun of the game is back in his life after a tough spell for the Serb which included losing the support of the New York crowd after his win over Andy Roddick last year. We know he has the talent and the fact he is enjoying the game again makes him a dangerous opponent.
Tough times for the USA though with no American men in the last eight for the first time since the Open era. Just as well then that 17-year-old Melanie Oudin has provided a fascinating story knocking out four Russians on her way to the quarter finals in the Womenís singles. It really isnít beyond the realms of possibility that the teenager could make up one half of the final on Saturday.
As well as the huge number of shocks in the Womenís draw (only four seeds are left in the quarter final line-up), Kim Clijsters has also surprised me with the manner of her victories. Over time, I did expect her to rise back up to the top of the Womenís game but I certainly didnít think it would be as soon as this. There may be a better level of play in the Menís game but all the big stories are on the Womenís side which is perfect timing for the WTA who will be hoping to raise the profile of the female tour on the back of this.
Crazy Dani could be good for the game
Daniel Koellerer is not instantly recognisable amongst the general public but amongst the Tennis enthusiasts, Crazy Dani is well known for his outbursts, insults, mind-games and general craziness on court. There has been many a time I have typed his name into YouTube for a laugh.
A petition was circulated amongst some of the professionals to have him thrown off tour due to his behaviour. Signatures were gathered but no action was taken and just as well!
Koellererís ranking has steadily improved over the past year and his current ranking of 62 allows him direct entry into the slams as well as most of the ATP events so recently, we have been seeing a lot more of the man renowned for his antics on the challenger tour.
The guy is unique and some of the celebrations he was pulling off for winning points against Del Potro in their US Open third round match on Sunday made you look at the calendar to make sure it wasnít the final they were playing a week later.
In the pub where I was sitting watching the match, a non-tennis fan asked me who this guy was as she was in stitches over his antics. If someone like Crazy Dani could make her have a slight interest in tennis, then I think he might do the same for a few more in the same boat.
Some of his insults may be ridiculous but his tennis is decent and his ranking deserved. And with a personality like his, he canít be doing the game any harm.
Mixed doubles for Murray and Robson
Talk about mixed doubles with Murray and you instantly think of Jamie. Sadly though, the older Murray brotherís ranking is now so low at No.121, he didnít make the cut for the US Open. The first slam he has not appeared in since Flushing Meadows in 2006.
No, the talk recently concerning a Murray and mixed doubles has been about Andy teaming up with Laura Robson at the 2010 Hopman Cup in Perth as part of the build up for the Australian Open. Andy hasnít played too much mixed doubles in his career (only twice at Wimbledon in 2005 and 2006) but this British partnership in Oz sounds like a good idea to me.
Murray has never progressed past the fourth round in Melbourne and going by that, itís his weakest slam which is surprising considering itís played on what is generally regarded as his favourite surface. Rather than playing in Doha and only having a week to prepare down under, playing in Perth will allow him to have much more time to adjust to the Australian conditions.
Yes, itís effectively an exhibition event which doesnít count towards the rankings but in terms of preparation, it is ideal. Murray likes to incorporate fun into his training schedule in the form of tennis-football and forfeits with his team and playing some singles and doubles with Robson for Great Britain sounds like fun to me.
Itís also a great opportunity for Robson to gain some more experience at a senior level playing singles matches against top opponents and as well, a chance to learn from the best in the doubles matches.
Scottish success on the futures circuit
Great to see Jamie Baker and Colin Fleming both winning singles titles on the futures circuit last week.
Baker was set for big things after he managed to qualify for the Australian Open in 2008 and represented the British Davis Cup team in Argentina a few weeks later. Sadly, he then fell ill and was out for several months as a result. Itís been tough for the 23-year-old returning to the tour but he has found his form again recently in Thailand with two semi final appearances followed by victory in Nonthaburi last week. Nice to see him back to winning ways and letís hope he can quickly rise back up the rankings.
Fleming is close to achieving a new career high singles ranking after his win at Cumberland Club last week and his return to the tour after taking a break to complete his degree studies has been phenomenal. His partnership with Ken Skupski on the doubles court has achieved some great results and they are very close to becoming regulars on the ATP main tour. The pair are playing in a challenger in St. Remy, France this week and Fleming managed to make it in time to sign in for singles qualifying from which he duly made the main draw.
It was disappointing to see that John Lloyd did not select him for the British Davis Cup squad this time round considering his ability to play both singles and doubles to a good standard which would make him a useful member of the team but if he continues climbing up the rankings, then there is no doubt that heíll be back in the team in the future.