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Raonic on the Rise

Milos Raonic is a Canadian tennis player who has gone on under the radar since his professional debut in 2008. The rising star is a mere twenty one years old and is breaking through to the top of the ATP rankings. In just a year on tour, Raonic managed to find his way into the top 500, and in the past year and a half he went from jumping down to 94 from 152 in January 2011 to an outstanding 23rd in the world as of April 30th this year. Just last week he managed to run through Andy Murray (#4) in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell. He fell to David Ferrer (#6) in the semis in two tie breaker sets to fall shy of taking on the God of Clay, Mr. Rafael Nadal. Raonic is surely on his way to breaking the top 10. The next big tournament obviously is the Frenchh Open, and I look forward to seeing if he can make a big impact in France!

The reason for my fancy of Raonic goes beyond artificial pampering though. Take a look at this video (it’s 12 minutes, no need to watch the whole thing) and then I’ll tell you why In Raonic I trust..

As you can see, at 6’5″, 198lbs, the man is a juggernaut of a human being. He can crush a serve or ground stroke like it is nobody’s business, and if he gets to net on you there is no hope of passing him in any direction – unless you have the inhuman finesse of Roger Federer of course. The only thing holding Raonic back at this point is his speed. Granted, from a cost-benefit analysis standpoint I don’t blame him for focusing on his strokes and serves as much as he has since those are what carry him through matches. However if he wants to be able to stand up to the greatest of tennis players today, this giant is going to need to begin building his foot speed. It is almost embarrassing how slow he is at times in that video. Not to mention, dramatically improved fitness is exactly what carried Novak Djokovic to number one these past couple of years.

I have high hopes for Raonic, but only if he begins committing himself to the work that inevitably needs to be done. Regardless, I will look forward to seeing him play in the upcoming French Open!

While we are all busy working and studying, the top players in the world have been suffering through a week of sunshine and the beautiful island country-side of Monaco, France. This tourist’s dreamland is the host of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, the traditional predecessor to the French Open. This year fans of the great sport of tennis were able to witness a variety of action and great match-ups as the week progressed. Some key developments that took place include:

– Andy Murray (#4 in the world) being shut down by Tomas Berdych (#7) in three sets after getting a free pass to the Quarterfinals from an on-court injury.

– Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (#5 and a personal favorite) going down fighting against Gilles Simon (#15) in a close two set match.

– American Donald Young (#50) being completely humbled by a wild card Paul-Henri Mathieu (#352) 6-0, 6-1. Although in his defense Mathieu is an experience player who once broke into the top 20 in the world.

– Finally, we will all be going into tomorrow (Sunday) with a myriad of expectations about the Finals match-up between Novak Djokavic (#1) and Rafael Nadal (#2). Djokavic has been dominating the Spaniard in recent encounters, but Nadal is essentially the king of clay with his six French Open titles and 7 previous titles at the Monte Carlo, so I am utterly undecided as to who could come out on top in tomorrow’s great Finals match.

The Monte Carlo is usually a very good indicator for fans as to what is to come in the imminent French Open. Players who lost early on like Young are going to be hard-pressed to break through and make an impact at Roland Garros, while the winner between Nadal and Djokavic is going to hold a huge mental edge over every other player that they come up against.

In order to make a decision for yourself regarding the Finals match tomorrow, here is some recent footage from these two legendary players – you decide!

Sources:

http://www.monte-carlorolexmasters.com/

Just this past Friday, Jennifer Capriati was elected to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Obviously getting inducted to any hall of fame is a huge deal for anyone involved in any sport/activity.  However, for Jennifer, someone who has held a  plethora of successes yet dealt with an inordinate amount of troubling life experiences, being inducted is going to be an accomplishment she is guaranteed to have trouble putting into words.  For this week’s blog I am going to delve into Jennifer’s tennis history and what earned her the above honor.  However, I will warn/apologize that this post is going to be a little longer than usual (sorry professor), but hopefully for good reasons, so strap in!

At first I was kind of surprised to hear Jennifer was being inducted, because as an ignorant, young, millennium generation brat, I was unfamiliar with her true accomplishments as a player and as a person and judged her solely on what little I had seen of her when I was younger.  Jennifer turned pro in 1990 when she was merely 13 years old, shocking everyone by making it to the semifinals of the French Open that same year!  And the following year, she stampeded into the top 10 in the world, making her the youngest player to accomplish such a feat.  Over the next three years she managed to claim six singles titles, including a Gold Medal at the Barcelona Olympics of 1992.  Basically, she had accomplished more than most of us will in our entire lives by an age where guys are just beginning to gain the notion that there is nothing more to life than girls.

Unfortunately, the star-stricken teenager cracked under the pressure of being a professional athlete at such a young age when, in 1993, she lost in the first round of the US Open and took a 14 month hiatus that led to addictions and depression.  During this time she was “arrest[ed] for shoplifting and possession of marijuana”.

**Sorry, that was not very descriptive.  I just find it comical that the quote I provided above is all Wikipedia has to say about Jennifer’s break from professional tennis – that she was arrested for shoplifting a $15 bracelet and possession of marijuana.  Marijuana.  Hmm, well at this point I realized Wikipedia was probably going soft on me, considering a kid I knew through competitive tennis in high school – NOT the same as high school tennis – once told me that if I named any junior tennis player we both knew, he could confirm that they were smoking “pot” regularly.**

Jennifer was a little bit more unique than your standard troubled teen in high school.  At the age of 17, she ended up drinking heavily and experimenting with multiple drugs, hitting rock bottom very hard, and very quickly.  However, this dip into the darker side of life is exactly what showed people how incredible she really is.

In 1996, after a year of recovery, Jennifer finally returned to what she did best.  It took her a few years to make an impact in any of the major tournaments, but finally, in 2001, she threw the world into a mad craze during the Australian Open when she beat out the defending champ, Lindsay Davenport, in the semifinals and swiftly defeated Martina Hingis (#1 player in the world at the time) to claim her first Grand Slam, and more importantly her first title since her destructive hiatus in 1993.  She continued to prove her role as the comeback kid as she won the French Open that same year and defended her Australian Open title the following year.  After reigning as #1 in the world for 18 weeks, Jennifer remained a brutal force in the Women’s Tour until 2004, holding onto a spot in the top 10 in the world until injuries beyond the scope of surgery forced her into early retirement.

I hope it is clear to any of you who were in the same position I was in, that Jennifer Capriati, with her phenomenally early start in professional tennis, 14 singles titles and 430-176 professional record, more than deserves her induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.  Some may not like Jennifer for ever falling to drugs and alcohol, but as Andrea Jaeger, another former teenage star, was quoted saying, “Success insulates you from what’s normal.  You don’t learn skills to cope with ordinary situations.”  Granted this is not a perfectly acceptable excuse, since otherwise you might as well consider Tiger Woods a saint, but the fact that she fought so hard to achieve her comeback proves that she is greater than the influences she once succumbed to .  Not to mention, it is documented that Jennifer was a prodigy of an athlete growing up, capable of swimming before she could crawl, climbing monkey bars before she could walk, and learning how to actually play tennis before she reached kindergarten!

As far as I am concerned, knowing the amount of heart, talent, willpower, and incredible natural athleticism she displayed throughout her career, Jennifer has gone from being just another professional athlete in my books to becoming an inspirational figure.  Congratulations Ms. Capriati on all of your successes.

 

 

*Pictures coming soon!

Sources:

Besides Wikipedia lightly, I also used biography.com’s write up on Jennifer as well as Yahoo’s article on her election.

With the close of Easter Sunday, the Quarter Finals of the Davis Cup came to a close as well.  The USA, France, Spain, Australia, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Argentina all remained in the World Group going into Friday’s matches; however, today that all changed as Spain, the Czech Republic, Argentina, and most importantly the USA moved on to the Semifinals.    That’s right, for the first time since 2008, we managed to break through to the Semis!  This is a huge moment for the United States, especially since our top player, Mardy Fish, is out due to a hamstring injury.  Luckily, we still had John Isner (#10 in the world for singles) and the Bryan brothers (#1 in the world for doubles) who were able to lead the USA to a 3-2 victory over France on their home turf and preferred court-surface type.  Overall, we beat France 3-2, Spain beat Australia 4-1, the Czech Republic beat Serbia 4-1, and Argentina beat Croatia 4-1.  Our tie was really the only match-up that held any sort of suspense, so I will do a quick breakdown of the individual rubbers…they really could have picked a better name for those.

The first round was Tsonga (FR) versus the novice American, Harrison; Harrison was defeated steadily 5-7, 2-6, 6-2, 2-6.  Isner was able to keep the USA in the tie with a solid victory over Simon at 6-3, 6-2, 7-5.  On Saturday the Bryan brothers cleaned up in doubles with 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over Benneteau and Llodra.  On the final day of matches, Isner came out strong and pulled a 6-3, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-3 upset against Tsonga to clinch the victory for the US, and unfortunately Harrison dropped the last match to Simon 2-6,3-6 (once the win was secured, the remaining match was played as best out 3 sets instead of 5).

The USA did an incredible job pulling out a huge win against France.  Given the conditions with Fish being injured and playing in France on what is typically America’s weakest court surface – clay – we were by far the underdogs for this past weekend’s tie against France.  The situation was laid out over the weekend pretty well by the American team’s captain and past American superstar of tennis, Jim Courier.

Also, some highlights of one of Isner’s matches was recorded, so for those who are interested in seeing some of the match play, you’re welcome!

 

Sources:

All information pulled for these past two blogs can be found throughout here, the official Davis Cup website.

Also, rankings on the players were found at the ATP website.

Hello everyone!

I wanted to take some time to talk about the Davis Cup, because it is a very big part of what makes tennis an internationally respected sport.  First though, I will explain what Davis Cup is for those unfamiliar with the competition.

The Davis Cup is an opportunity for professional tennis players to experience a team aspect within the sport they love.  Basically, each country that is a member of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) is able to put together a team of the top players from their country, including one captain, that will compete against other countries.  The top 16 teams (based on previous results and professional rankings) become apart of the World Group and take part in a tournament bracket-style competition.  The matches are spread through the entire year, with the Round of Sixteen taking place in February, the Quarterfinals just this past weekend in April, the Semifinals in September, and the Finals in November.  Each match-up (called a “tie”) consists of a series of 5 tennis matches (called “rubbers”) where the top nominated players from the respective countries compete in a total of four singles matches and one doubles match.  The weekend of each tie, two singles matches are played on Friday, doubles is played on Saturday, and the same two singles matches are switched up and played again on Sunday.  Typically the same two people will play singles for all four singles matches, but if a team has already secured the needed three out of five possible wins, then they will allow one of their back up players to get experience by playing the last singles match.

Overall the Davis Cup is an exciting team event that brings countries together and allows for professional players to do something a little out of the norm of standard professional tournaments.  In addition to working as a team, each player also can receive coaching during their matches from their country’s captain, which is a refreshing addition for the sake of the players.  Not only is this a very unique opportunity for the top players throughout the world, but it also has to be a ton of fun!  Each competitor plays no more than once each day, with a break on Saturday for doubles, and in the meantime allows for the visiting teams to experiences a new country over a span of three days.  If you are a professional tennis player with allegiance to your country, you want to be competing in the Davis Cup!

Now that the basics of the Davis Cup have been covered, I will provide coverage and updates on the latest Davis Cup news and results.

 

My Mission

Hey everyone!

 

The purpose I have laid out for myself with this blog is to keep track of anything notable that is happening in the world of racquet sports – squash, tennis, ping pong, you name it.  Whether a new company will be introducing a line of tennis racquets, a major international racquetball tournament is coming up, or Nadal realizes that Capri pants were never meant to be worn by any guy (even Europeans), I want to keep track of it and write all about it here!  I have been playing tennis for over 10 years, 6 competitively, and I helped start the first tennis club here at the University of Notre Dame, so my heart lies with this incredible sport and any derivations of it.  I am looking forward to posting my first actual blog soon!