STUART FRASER

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TALKING BALLS 033 Ė MONDAY 18TH OCTOBER 2010
By Stuart Fraser

Murray on form in Shanghai

For anyone who still needed convincing of Andy Murrayís capability to compete at the highest level on a tennis court, I hoped they watch the Shanghai Masters.

The world No.4 couldnít have made his march to the title look any easier.  OK, it wasnít the toughest of draws, but it is still hugely impressive that he didnít drop a set all week, even more so when you consider that he played Roger Federer in the final.

Amazingly, there were murmurs from some about his potential to win a grand slam after his third round defeat to Stanislas Wawrinka in the US Open and a tame quarter final defeat to Ivan Ljubicic in Beijing, but Murray showed in Shanghai last week that he is still more than capable of winning a major.

And not only did he send out a message, he clinched his place in the end-of-season ATP World Tour Finals in London.  A tournament on home soil which he would surely love to win.

If he continues with the form he displayed in Shanghai last week, then itís hard to look past him at the O2 Arena.

Murrayís second serve has been lambasted in the past, but in Shanghai, there was noticeably more variety and depth in it.  An observation backed up by the fact he won 41 of his 43 service games all week.

Impressively against Federer, he saved all six break points he faced.  These situations can be sticky when youíre facing a player of the calibre of the Swiss, but Murray coped with them comfortably.

All in all, it was a great week for the Scot and he will be full of confidence as he heads into the final part of the season, which for him will include tournaments in Valencia, Paris and, of course, London.

Federer will be disappointed with his performance in the final, although he rightfully gave credit to Murray in his post-match press conference.  After consecutive wins over Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic, he must have been confident of winning his third title of the year on Sunday, but after being broken in his opening service game, it just didnít happen for him.

His semi-final win over Djokovic was enough though to win back the world No.2 ranking, not that he will care too much with the No.1 ranking being the only one that really matters to him, and he now heads directly to Stockholm where he competes this week.

Some may feel itís a strange decision for him to play consecutive events thousands of miles apart, especially when Stockholm is only an ATP 250 event, but after withdrawing from the same event in 2008, Federer felt he owed the tournament organisers one and it shows what kind of a person he is.

Rafael Nadal opted to play three consecutive tournaments during the Asian swing and itís a decision which perhaps proved costly in Shanghai as he crashed out in the last 16 to Jurgen Melzer.

However, he still picked up a tournament win in Tokyo and will now head home for a few weeks of well earned rest before Paris and London.  If thereís one thing for sure, itís that Nadal will want to make up for last yearís disappointing performance at the O2 by lifting the trophy this year.

All in all, it was a fairly decent week of Masters tennis in Shanghai.  Nothing particularly outstanding apart from Murrayís march to the title.  Or should that be Murrayís cakewalk?

Commonwealth Tennis

The entry field for tennisí debut at the Commonwealth Games may not have been particularly outstanding, but the effort and commitment of those who did compete more than made up for the absence of several of the Commonwealthís top stars.

Playing for a Commonwealth medal genuinely did mean a lot to everyone competing in Delhi, and that meant we saw some fantastic drama-filled matches during the week.

The home supporters made for a great atmosphere when the Indian players were competing.  At times, it was like watching an Indian home tie in the Davis Cup.

Whilst Somdev Devvarman delivered gold in the menís singles, it was disappointment for big home hope Sania Mirza in the womenís singles final after she was defeated narrowly in a deciding tiebreak by Anastasia Rodionova.

Although the final was between two players ranked outwith the top 50, it was one of the most entertaining womenís matches I have watched all year.  It really was gripping stuff.

As a Scottish supporter, the highlight of the week has to be Colin Fleming and Jocelyn Raeís gold medal win in the mixed doubles.  The joy on their faces after beating Paul Hanley & Rodionova in the final was great to see and it really showed what winning Commonwealth gold for Scotland meant.

Although they played well in the final, their most impressive result of the week was beating Leander Paes and Sania Mirza on their own patch.  Although the win came with no ranking points or money, itís a result which will hopefully give both of them massive belief in themselves in future matches.

Well done also to Ross Hutchins and Ken Skupski who won a silver medal in the menís doubles.  Skupski also won a bronze in the mixed with Sarah Borwell, ironically beating Hutchins and Anna Smith in the final.

Itís just a shame that we wonít see tennis when the games come to Glasgow in 2014, especially for Fleming and Rae who wonít get the chance to defend their title on home soil.  Itís a poor decision from the Scottish organisers, especially at a time when tennis is booming in the country.

Glasgow Futures

Once again, Scotstoun hosts some more $15k futures action this week as the Aegon Pro-Series visits Glasgow.

As expected, there is plenty of British interest with 18 Brits in the 32 man draw.  Unfortunately no Scots this time, but with Andy Murray and Colin Fleming competing on the ATP World Tour and Jamie Baker concentrating on Challengers, then it is no real surprise.

Dan Cox, Dan Evans, Josh Goodall and Josh Milton all return and all four will feel they are in with a chance of winning the event if they can produce some good form.

George Morgan impressed me with his play when he previously played at Scotstoun and he also returns, but faces a tough draw against the World No.172 and top seed, Matthew Ebden from Australia.

Jocelyn Rae was due to be the only Scottish entrant in the womenís event, but unfortunately her homecoming has been ruined as she was forced to withdraw due to a right ankle injury sustained in a practice session last Friday in Delhi.

Nonetheless, there will still be plenty of quality tennis on show at Scotstoun all week and itís a chance to see some future tennis stars.  Remember, Andy Murray was a previous winner of this event in 2003.  With free entry all week, you really canít go wrong.

Murray & Robson reunite at Hopman Cup

Great to hear the news last week that Andy Murray and Laura Robson will team up once again for the 2011 Hopman Cup in Perth, Australia at the start of January.

The pair narrowly missed out on the title earlier this year, but it was still a great week, which proved to be a more than decent warm-up for Murray as he went on to reach the Australian Open final.

It may not offer any ranking points, but it offers a chance to acclimatise early to the tough Australian conditions and get some match practice in, whilst playing for your country.  The mixed doubles is always fairly light-hearted so itís good fun as well.

Great Britain have been drawn in Group B along with USA, Italy and France.  With USA fielding John Isner & Serena Williams, the last match between them & Great Britain could well be the group decider.

Top seeds Serbia are in Group A and with Novak Djokovic and Ana Ivanovic teaming up, it would be no surprise to see a Serbia vs Great Britain final.  It would be an excellent way to round off a fun week.