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TALKING BALLS 007 – MONDAY 12TH OCTOBER 2009
By Stuart Fraser
Shanghai Masters gets underway
It seems an eternity since the US Open but finally the world’s best have assembled yet again in Shanghai, although minus Roger and Andy (Murray that is for the unaware).
Although the ATP tour has been hosting events every week since the end of the last slam of the year, the 250 & 500 events just don’t whet the appetite as much as a Masters 1000 Series event where all players make an effort to attend.
Before we go on, it was no surprise to hear of Andy Murray’s withdrawal from the event as he continues his recovery from a wrist injury. We hear the injury is nothing to worry about in the long-term but this event came just too soon for the Scot.
A couple more weeks of recovery for Murray and then he will return to action at the Valencia Open 500 which starts on the 2nd of November. His withdrawal from Japan last week and Shanghai this week means he drops to No.4 in the rankings next Monday but that’s nothing too concerning as I’m sure the Scot will move upwards again when he returns to the tour.
Anyway, the Shanghai masters is the final event in the ATP Tour’s Asian swing and the Chinese fans appear to be very enthusiastic despite losing the season ending Masters Cup to London (now rebranded the ATP World Tour Finals). In fact, so enthusiastic are the Chinese that 6,000 turned up at qualifying on Saturday. Incredible!
They have also had plenty to cheer with an incredible first round win for Chinese wild card Shao-Xuan Zeng over World No.44 Dudi Sela. Zeng is China’s No.1 ranked player at No.393 which is an incredible statistic considering the country is the world’s most populated. In comparison, Great Britain have 5 players higher than Zeng in this weeks rankings.
Anyway, Zeng now goes on to take on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round which should be a very appealing match for the local fans. Tsonga brings a brand of entertaining tennis to the court and considering he is coming up against the local hero, expect the Stadium Court to be packed.
Rafael Nadal is top seed this week but has a testing second round match against James Blake. It will be interesting to see how the Spaniard performs after his semi final run in Beijing last week. Marin Cilic thrashed him 6-1, 6-3 in the Chinese capital and I will also be watching the Croatian with interest after his stunning performance. That’s two very impressive wins for him against two of the top four in the past couple of months and can he now take his game to the next level? A tough opener awaits though against Tomas Berdych!
Anyway, it’s great to have Masters tennis back and let’s enjoy it as in just over a month and a half, the 2009 season will have come to a close!
Robson & Watson show encouraging signs
In last week’s Talking Balls, I mentioned my interest in the Ladies AEGON Pro-Series event taking place in Barnstaple in which both Laura Robson and Heather Watson were taking part.
15-year-old Robson & 17-year-old Watson are big British hopes for the future but of course, it would have been wrong to expect them to go all the way in this $50k event. Once again though, both showed encouraging signs for the future.
Both had tough first round matches against fellow Brits. Robson gave a good account of herself in a tight two set defeat to World No.230 Naomi Cavaday. However, Watson had an impressive straight sets victory over Melanie South, who is ranked over 600 places above her, before going out in the second round in three sets to Kristina Mladenovic.
The teenage pair had teamed up for the doubles and again astounded with a straight sets win over Sarah Borwell, Britain’s top doubles specialist, and Melanie South. Their run sadly ended in the quarter finals but the experience gained by both in Barnstaple this week is invaluable as they continue their progress in the game!
More British success
Great to report of some more British success with another title for Jamie Baker in Australia. The Scot beat Robert Smeets 6-1, 6-3 to claim his second futures title in two weeks. The win should see him return to the top 400 next week. Can he make it three titles in a row down under in Port Pirie this week?
Good to also see Ross Hutchins back in form as he made the final of the ATP Japan Open in Tokyo with temporary partner Jordan Kerr from Australia. The pair lost narrowly to Julian Knowle and Jurgen Melzer 10 – 8 in the match tiebreak. Good timing though for Ross as he has a substantial number of ranking points to defend this month!
Murray prepares for 2010 assault down under
Wouldn’t it be great if Andy Murray could mirror Jamie Baker’s success down under in the Australian Open in January? Well, Murray appears to be taking a different approach to the first slam of the season in 2010 compared to previous years.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have both confirmed their attendance at the Capitala World Tennis Championships in Abu Dhabi which starts on the 31st of December. Despite the grand title, the event is only an exhibition and Murray has decided against defending his crown in the UAE.
This would appear to suggest the reports are true that Murray will head to Australia earlier than normal and compete in the Hopman Cup in Perth for Great Britain along with Laura Robson. We await confirmation!