Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back Again

Hey, it's 2009! Tennis time! I will be blogging about this year's ASB Classic and Heineken Open from my most favouritest tennis blog Must Watch Tennis All The Time, I'm excited. The Classic starts tomorrow, with Elena Dementieva and Caroline Wozniacki leading the field. Nicole Vaidisova is playing too, it's a good group. And after that come the men, with Juan Martin del Potro and David Ferrer bringing the Latino heat. Wait, do Spaniards have Latino heat? Hmm. Come check it out anyway, it should be fun.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Open Wrap Up

Another successful Heineken Open is in the books. It may not have had as much star power as previous years, but the players delivered an exciting tournament with good matches on all six days. The sun was shining most of the time, the crowd was into it, and the players looked like they were in Auckland to win, not just to warm up for Melbourne. Even though champ Philipp Kohlschreiber may not be the most exciting or warmest guy on tour, he played well this week and deserved the title. And who knows, it could be the start of a huge year for the German. He is right next to Andy Roddick in the Australian Open draw…


Centre court. It's still Rebound Ace, but they coloured it blue to help the players pretend they were playing on the same surface as the Australian Open.

Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Juan Monaco.

Juan Ignacio Chela. Lots of Juans this year.

David Ferrer.

Marin Cilic.

Nicolas Massu.

Tag team champions Juan Monaco and Luis Horna.

Xavier Malisse.

Kiwi qualifier G.D. Jones. Brother of Sacha, whose picture you can see in the ASB Classic Wrap Up post.

Michael Llodra.

Julien Benneteau.

Florian Mayer.

Jurgen Melzer.

And finally, Philipp Kohlschreiber, the new champ.

So this is the end for Yellowballin’. I had a great time at the tennis these past two weeks, and life as a tennis blogger has been fun as well. Thanks for reading everybody, and special thanks to those of you who supported this journey into the blogosphere. Enjoy all the tennis you get to watch this year, be it live in person, on the television or on the information superhighway. Seeya.


Saturday, January 12, 2008


Whew, pretty intense final today. Good match, disappointing result. I mean, Philipp Kohlschreiber, really? He’s not in the same league as recent winners like Fernando Gonzalez, David Ferrer, or even Jarkko Nieminen and Dominik Hrbaty. But I’ll get over it. Congratulations Philipp. Have a good season, make a name for yourself, and come back next time. And bring Juan Carlos.

Philipp with two Ps was tough to beat at this tournament. He didn't play amazing tennis, but he made it very difficult for his opponents to break his serve. If you can keep holding serve you're not going to lose matches. Not that Kohlschreiber has a particularly huge serve, he just works very hard during his service games to win all the points. That’s what every tennis player sets out to do I guess, but PK was good at it this week.

The German played well today in his 76(4) 75 victory, but so did Juan Carlos Ferrero. In fact I would say Kohlschreiber was hitting errors more often than JC, but they tended to come at the beginning of games rather than the end, so it didn’t matter. The two men served well (PK started off a bit shaky but raised his first serve percentage when Ferrero began to make him work), and the free points they got from their big serves helped both of them get out of some close situations. After two service breaks at the beginning of the match there were no more until PK finally got one over Juan Carlos at 55 in the second. One more hold (with one tiny break point for Ferrero at 30-40 mind you) and it was all over Rover. Juan Carlos must be disappointed. It’s not as if he had a lot of missed chances to regret, it was a very close match, but if he had hit a few more winners in that tiebreak it could have been a lot different. But if Marin Cilic had finished Kohlschreiber off after being a break up in the third set of their second round match the whole tournament would have been a lot different. You can’t dwell on would have beens in tennis.

It was good to see Juan Monaco and Luis Horna win the doubles title today. They defeated fellow unseeded pair Jurgen Melzer and Xavier Malisse 64 36 10-7 in a close final. Monaco has had a great week in Auckland, reaching the semifinals in singles (improving on his quarterfinal result last year) and now winning his first doubles championship. Plus he has a famous girlfriend who came to watch all his matches. Famous enough to have a Wikipedia page anyway,, check it out. Horna must have been very pleased too, as he rolled his ankle quite badly in his final round of qualifying match on Monday and had to retire. That’s why they’re getting rid of Rebound Ace. But the Peruvian number one looked good in the doubles these past few days so he evidently recovered. The fact that he and Monaco didn’t start playing until Thursday probably helped.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a Heineken Open wrap up post, and then my time as a tennis blogger will have come to an end. Can’t believe I haven’t put up a picture of Juan Monaco in his tight shirt yet, we’ll rectify that tomorrow. For now, here’s your 2008 Heineken Open champion, Philipp Kohlschreiber. Neat trophy.

Ferrero And Kohlschreiber Get The Ws

Juan Carlos Ferrero is very close to winning his first title in a long time. The Mosquito (is that what people call him? Weird.) came through his semifinal against Julien Benneteau 63 64. Benneteau may not have played quite as well as he did against David Ferrer last night, but he was still pretty tough. Ferrero fought hard to save break points a bunch of times (including after being down love 40), and one break of Benneteau’s serve was enough to win each set. Ferrero has been good this week with things like that. He hasn’t looked consistently awesome, but has come up with the goods on the important points, often with a spectacular shot out of nowhere. And the man can hold his own in a baseline rally, but that goes without saying, he’s Juan Carlos Ferrero.

Julien Benneteau looks like one of those dangerous players who are capable of playing magnificent tennis and scoring big upsets. But until he strings some of those good results together to get that big breakthrough there’ll be question marks concerning his reliability. Benneteau reached the quarterfinals at the 2006 French Open, but that’s as breakthroughish as he’s got. An ATP title breakthrough could have come this week in Auckland, he was playing well enough, but Ferrero won the right points today. I’ll take notice next time I see Benneteau’s name in a draw, that’s for sure.

I was glad Ferrero won that match. Philipp Kohlschreiber had knocked out Juan Monaco earlier in the day, and let’s face it, a Benneteau-Kohlschreiber final would have been a little weak. The German won his semifinal convincingly 62 61, but he was helped out by a poor performance from Juan Monaco. Monaco looked terrible today. Juan didn’t start off that badly, but after he lost his serve for the first time the frustration began to show. It soon became clear that Kohlschreiber wasn’t going to let Monaco break back in a hurry, and then the Argentine’s whole game unravelled. Monaco was hitting everything long, and only won two service games in the match, both in the first set. Kohlschreiber did a good job not letting himself drop to Monaco’s level. It was obvious the 3rd seed was having a bad day, so PK sensibly kept the ball in play until Juan made the errors. He knew if he concentrated on his own game the victory would come, and it did.

I’m a fan of Monaco’s so this was a bit disappointing. A final between him and Ferrero would have been something special. But after the match Monaco played doubles with Luis Horna and looked great. He was having a good time on court, smiling and laughing with his partner, as well as getting pumped up for the important points. It’s good to know that Monaco is a player who can recover quickly from a bad loss. And his focus paid off. Monaco and Horna won both their quarterfinal and semifinal doubles matches today, and tomorrow they’ll face Jurgen Melzer and Xavier Malisse in the final. Melzer and Malisse were fun to watch in singles this week (both made the second round) and look good together as a pair. They’ve each had some success in tag team tennis so we’ll see how they go tomorrow. The doubles will be the first match on centre court at 1pm.

So it’ll be JC vs PK for the 2008 Heineken Open Championship. The Auckland tennis season is almost all wrapped up. It’s not over yet though, and hopefully the final will be a good match and a good fight. Actually, to be honest as long as Ferrero wins it I don’t care if it’s a good match or not, but a tennis blogger shouldn’t say things like that. Pretend I said something noble like “May tennis be the true winner on the day”. Yeah, that’s good.

Here’s Philipp Kohlschreiber. I like the yellow shirt.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ferrer Gets Owned, Juan And Juan Fight To Win

When 7th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber, 4th seed Juan Carlos Ferrero and 3rd seed Juan Monaco all won their quarterfinal matches I thought, coolness, four seeds in the semifinals. But no, no coolness, as 1st seed David Ferrer was upset by Julien Benneteau in the evening session. Nobody saw this one coming, and the 64 60 scoreline is a bit shocking. Ferrer didn’t start off too badly, just the one break in the first set, no big. I assumed he’d come back strong in the second and teach Benneteau a lesson. But the only person taken to school was David Ferrer, as you can see by the score. The top seed, defending champion and world number 5 looked like none of the above as he hit more and more errors and Benneteau hit more and more winners. I like Ferrer a lot, so I’ll stick up for him and say that Benneteau played very well, having one of those days when everything went in. But it was a bad day at the office for the man who’s supposed to be the best returner in the game, and I hope this doesn’t hurt Ferrer’s confidence too much as he tries to repeat the stellar year he had in 2007.

Juan Carlos Ferrero overcame Nicolas Massu 46 63 64 in the match of the tournament so far. I’m not the best judge of how high the quality of the tennis was, but I can tell you that this was a great fight. Massu has been intense all week and looked like he really wanted this one, maybe even a bit more than Ferrero. But the Spaniard fired himself up after he lost the first set, and his passion was evident as he fought hard to come back and win the match. The two traded breaks in the third set before Juan Carlos broke Massu in the final game to seal the deal. They had a bit of a manly hug at the net afterwards, that got a cheer. Now the former French Open winner and US Open finalist (that’s proof he can do well on hard courts right there) will face Benneteau in the semis. How awesome would a Ferrer-Ferrero semifinal have been? Great fun to say aloud as well. Ferrer-Ferrero. Roll the rrrs. But never mind.

So that was the match of the tournament until the next one, when Juan Monaco narrowly scraped through against Michael Llodra 46 76(5) 76(5). I am so stoked that Monaco won that one. He had to get into the semi against Philipp Kohlschreiber to keep the tournament interesting. I don’t have anything against Llodra, I just didn’t particularly want to see him as my Heineken Open champion. But the recent Adelaide winner played phenomenally, he was acting like a French Pete Sampras. He consistently hit huge first serves, and on the occasions that he didn’t get an ace he would storm the net and put away the return with a big smash. The serve and volley is not dead. It was so effective I thought Monaco was done after the first set. I was ready to come home and write a post called “Who Does Michael Llodra Think He Is?” about how aging doubles specialists shouldn’t beat exciting young up and comers in important quarterfinal matches with dated techniques. I’ve calmed down a little since then, and now I applaud Llodra’s great start to the year and his inspiring use of serve and volley tennis. But boy am I happy Monaco won that third set tiebreak. At 5 games all in the third set Llodra missed a couple of first serves and Monaco broke him to love, but Llodra broke straight back to force the tiebreak. It was exciting stuff. The tiebreak was tense, staying with serve until Monaco hit a textbook forehand past the incoming Llodra on his first matchpoint. The Argentine pumped his fists a few times and shouted a bit, then went off to get ready for his doubles match with Luis Horna, which he also won. The kid’s got guts.

Philipp Kohlschreiber had an easier time with his quarterfinal, defeating fellow German Florian Mayer 63 64. Mayer hit more errors than he did in his wins over Sam Querrey and Juan Ignacio Chela, and Kohlschreiber got through without much hassle. Kohlschreiber behaved today, but he still carries himself like a bit of a villain. Not in real life of course, I’m sure he still sends his mother flowers on Mother’s Day. But there are some players, you know the ones, who, on the court, look like villains. Or heels, as they say in the wrestling world. Philipp Kohlschreiber is a natural heel.

So it’s Benneteau vs Ferrero and Monaco vs Kohlschreiber in the semifinals tomorrow. I’ll be pulling for the two Juans, that would be an awesome final. But there’s a Frenchman and a German who think it will only be an awesome final if they’re in it, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

Here’s a man love moment.

And here’s a better look at Juan Carlos Ferrero in his Lotto gear.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Heavy Cloud, No Rain

The rain stayed away, so there was a whole lot of tennis going on. You’ve got to stay on top of things on a catch up day like this, but that’s half the fun. Heaps to report, so I’m going to focus on the brave players who played two matches today.

Juan Carlos Ferrero looked very good. Play started at 10am with Ferrero taking on American Jesse Levine. Levine put up a good fight and impressed me more than Sam Querrey did on Monday, but Juan Carlos won the match without much drama 64 61. Later in the day Jurgen Melzer stepped up to block Ferrero’s path to the quarterfinals, but the former world number one would have none of it. Melzer showed some guts at the end, saving about five match points in the second set tiebreak, but Ferrero finally put him away 63 76(6). Ferrero’s quarterfinal opponent will be Nicolas Massu, who defeated the Spaniard in the first round last year. More on Massu later.

Top seed and defending champion David Ferrer took to centre court for the first time today, blasting his good friend Oscar Hernandez off the court 61 62 and then defeating Sergio Roitman 61 76(2). Roitman tested Ferrer a little, but the world number 5’s superior shotmaking was too good in the tiebreak. Ferrer looks like the man to beat. Tomorrow he’ll face Julien Benneteau, who upset 5th seed Nicolas Almagro 64 26 62.

Benneteau wasn’t the only Frenchman who had success on the courts today. Michael Llodra won both his first and second round matches in convincing fashion, with his big serve and big plays at the net looking quite hard to handle. First he eliminated loneliest man on tour Hyung-Taik Lee 61 64, before dismissing 8th seed Albert Montanes 63 64. Llodra won the title in Adelaide last week so he’s on a bit of a winning streak. But he’ll have to be playing his best tennis tomorrow if he wants to beat…

Juan Monaco! One of the interesting stories of 2007 was the rise of Monaco, who started his great year by qualifying and then reaching the quarterfinals in Auckland. This year the Argentine with the tight shirt is back as the number 3 seed, but I don’t think he’ll be satisfied with just a quarterfinal this time. Monaco looked awesome today, defeating Thomas Johansson 63 64 and Olivier Rochus 63 63. Last year Juan and Olivier had a long 3-hour battle in the second round, but Monaco took out Rochus a lot quicker this time, showing how much he has improved. His quarterfinal against Llodra tomorrow should be a good one, but it’s the Frenchman who will have to come up with something special to get the W.

Xavier Malisse also played two matches today. The Belgian with the short haircut has a protected ranking of 31 but isn’t seeded, so I assume that protected rankings get you direct entry into tournaments but that’s it. Malisse got started by shutting down 5th seed Jarkko Nieminen 76(3) 63 in a close match. Nieminen won the Heineken Open in 2006, but since then hasn’t got past the first round, losing to Olivier Rochus last year and now the X-Man this year. But those are some tough draws. Give Jarkko a New Zealand wildcard in the first round next year, he deserves it. Malisse ran into Nicolas Massu in the second round, losing 64 64. Or is that 46 46? Both players were serving well, but when Malisse did play a bad service game Massu pounced on it and took him out. Qualifier Massu looks like a man on a mission, and I’m looking forward to his match against Ferrero tomorrow.

Marin Cilic was in the same boat as Malisse, winning his first match against Tomas Cakl 64 63 but falling to 7th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 63 67(5) 64 in the second round. Cilic almost won that match and he looks like a great young player. The kid is very tall, has a big serve and can rush the net something fierce. One to keep your eye on. Cilic is very similar to Mario Ancic actually, they're both the same height even, 6 foot 5. As for Kohlschreiber, the German has a bit of an attitude on him. He has no reservations about snarling at ball boys, pointing out line judges’ shortcomings and complaining to the chair umpire. It makes him a more interesting player though. They can’t all be nice guys on court. In his quarterfinal match tomorrow Kohlschreiber will face a more pleasant German, Florian Mayer. Mayer upset the number 2 seed Juan Ignacio Chela 63 76(7). Chela looked vulnerable against King-Turner on Monday so it’s not a huge surprise he went out, but he did have some set points in the second set so it could have gone either way. Mayer played very well though, and could give Kohlschreiber some problems in the all-German match tomorrow. As Mayer said, his goal is to “make it difficult” for the higher ranked players that he faces.

See what I did there? I started talking about the guys who played two matches, but then I seamlessly transitioned into recaps of the other results. Well maybe not seamlessly, but thanks for bearing with me. Smooth like gravel. Quarterfinals day tomorrow, anything could happen.

Sticking with the orange theme here’s a picture of David Ferrer. His outfit may look a little red in the photo, but it’s as orange as a traffic cone. There’s a shiny silver pattern on the shirt as well, it’s retro yet space age. Juan Carlos Ferrero was wearing the exact same thing today, they’re Lotto buddies.

Two pictures today, here's Marin Cilic. He's not Ivo Karlovic tall, but he's still pretty tall.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Wet Wet Wet

Lots of rain today, so not much tennis at all. We got to see Kiwi qualifier G.D. Jones take on Nicolas Massu in their first round match. Jones served well to keep the first set close, but Massu eventually ran away with it 64 62. In his pre match interview Massu said that he wasn’t terribly happy with his 2007 results, but had trained hard over the off season and was looking forward to a successful 2008. The Chilean is always dangerous, and he came through qualifying so he’s got some momentum. Massu will face the winner of Jarkko Nieminen-Xavier Malisse in the second round.

This was all we got to see on centre court before the rain settled in, but while Massu-Jones was going on 7th seed Philip Kohlschreiber and Sergio Roitman both won their first round matches. I also saw a little bit of young Croat Marin Cilic vs qualifier Tomas Cakl. They only got a few games in before the rain hit but I liked what I saw from Cilic. He’s got a good look. That reminds me, Mario Ancic did pull out of his match against Juan Carlos Ferrero. Stomach virus. It’s a shame as the Croatian fans were out in force to cheer him on in their neat chequered shirts, but they got behind Cilic for the short time he was on court. Jesse Levine will take Ancic’s place in the draw and meet Ferrero tomorrow. I think Levine is a good replacement, he was one of the more interesting players in the qualifying draw. The 20-year-old was a sparring partner for Roger Federer last year, that’s a decent claim to fame.

So there are a gazillion matches scheduled for tomorrow, plenty to choose from on all the courts. Some players will have to play two matches in one day, so it will be interesting to see if that has a big impact on anyone’s games. But these Spaniards and South Americans are all very fit. The forecast says there may be a few showers, but hopefully the catch up will be achieved and I’ll have lots to report tomorrow night.

Nicolas Massu’s orange and white outfit is easier on the eyes than the orange and black Juan Ignacio Chela wore yesterday. Maybe we’ll see some more orange tomorrow.