July 31, 2011

Let the Trumpets Sound!

Man, it feels like ages since we've been here! And though some of this week's winners have been missing from the game longer than others, when each announced their returns in championship fashion, you almost expected a full parade.

They all deserved it.

Nadia Petrova hadn't won a title in almost three years. The former world #3 once made at least the quarterfinals of four straight Grand Slams, but some very spotty play pushed her out of the top thirty and sent her home after five opening matches this year. Though she was seeded second at the inaugural Citi Open in College Park, Maryland, it's been so long since I saw her make an impact at any event I largely wrote her off from the start.

But despite her unpredictability, the Russian is clearly a strong hitter -- something she reminded us of early this past week. The twenty-nine year old dropped literally a handful of points on first serve in her opening two rounds and rebounded strongly from a set down to Irina Falconi in her semi to dominate the next two, advancing to her first final since New Haven last year. Against top seeded Shahar Peer on Sunday, she fired off seven aces and broke her opponent five times. After about an hour and a half, she was the one hoisting the trophy above her head, the tenth of her career, and putting herself back on the radar this season.

Over on the west coast, plenty of talent made its way to the Farmers Classic in Los Angeles, with top seeded Mardy Fish looking to extend his hard-court win streak a bit longer. And though he slugged his way to a second straight final, he ran into a resurgent Ernests Gulbis on Sunday, and was in for quite a ride. The titleist in Delray Beach last year was just starting to make a name for himself when an injury he sustained at Roland Garros a few months later effectively took him out of contention for a year. He regained a little bit of traction early in 2011, but came to LA with five straight losses since mid-May.

Things turned a corner for him this week, though, as he came back after losing his opening set to Xavier Malisse and then pulled off a one-sided victory over 2009 U.S. Open champion in the quarters, losing just three points on serve in the first set. Against the heavy favored Fish today, he raised his game even higher and survived the nearly three-hour marathon to notch his first top-ten win since he stunned Roger Federer in Rome last year. The victory may have only put a second trophy on his mantle, but the resolve he's shown in his rebuilding phase shows he might live up to the expectations we've all had for him for a long time.

Serena Williams has no expectations to live up to -- she's exceeded them all a hundred times over. Still, since injury, illness and a terrible health scare kept her out of the game for almost a year, dropping her ranking out of the top 150, we were forced to accept the possibility of tennis without her.

But Serena is nothing if not a fighter -- she took less than fifty minutes to dispatch Anastasia Rodionova in her Stanford opener, and though she had a mild hiccup against Maria Kirilenko a round later, she proceeded to the final in the days following with little drama. And though she found herself down a break early to Marion Bartoli on Sunday, she quickly rebounded for a straight set win -- her first non-Slam victory since 2008. But judging by the look in her eyes, it certainly meant just as much to her.

It sure is nice to see all these players back on top of the winner's podium. Whether they're new to it or decorated pros, whether it's been a few months or a few years, their victories herald the return of a new season.

And the future sure looks bright.

July 25, 2011

The Also-Rans

The summer hardcourt season kicked off with a bang this past week, with the first events of the season not only rewarding the champions, but also showing the potential of some rising stars that could very well cause some trouble for the favorites in the coming weeks.

At the inaugural Baku Cup in Azerbaijan, eventual champion Vera Zvonareva got momentum back on her side after some disappointing losses in recent weeks. Her victory over Ksenia Pervak in the final scored her a twelfth career trophy and her second of the year. But more importantly, it put her back on the radar as she looks to improve on her U.S. Open run from last year. It wasn't the toughest draw, of course -- she never faced an opponent ranked in the top fifty -- but you can never discount the confidence another title brings with it.

But the better stories out of Baku may have come from the ladies who didn't ultimately walk home with the title. Pervak has been climbing her way up the WTA rankings all year and is coming off her best ever showing at a Slam after making the fourth round at Wimbledon. This past week she notched a one-sided win over former top-twenty player Aravane Rezai on her way to her first Tour final, and though she wasn't able to get a real grip on her match versus Zvonareva, she certainly reiterated that she can hang with the big girls.

Anna Tatishvili didn't make as deep a run as these other ladies, but the young Georgian continues to improve her game. After beating Maria Kirilenko in Charleston and giving Yanina Wickmayer a run for the money at the All England Club, she seems to be hitting her stride now. She came back from a break down in the second against Vera in their quarterfinal match and managed to force a third -- dealing the only set lost by the Russian all week. She may not be that far into double digit rankings, but if she remains consistent she could be a real force soon.

A little closer to the U.S. Open, the men began their hardcourt prep in Atlanta. In a rematch of last year's final Mardy Fish once again prevailed over John Isner, further cementing himself as the top-ranked American in the sport. After dropping the first set and finding himself down a break early in the second, he came back from 1-5 in a tiebreak and saved two championship points -- one on Isner's serve -- to force a decider. With momentum back on his side, he finished off the match, winning all but six points on his first serve and firing off thirteen aces. It was his first title in a year and comes at an opportune time, as he looks to keep the momentum of what's been his most successful year on Tour. If he keeps it up, he could very well be a real contender at the next Major.

But a couple other hopefuls will be doing their part to dash his hopes, and their performances down south go a long way to proving that. Nineteen-year-old Ryan Harrison, long-touted as the next great thing in American tennis, continues to improve his game on the big stage. After breaking out at the U.S. Open last year, he claimed a set from Robin Soderling at Roland Garros, and forced David Ferrer to a fifth at Wimbledon. He hasn't yet beaten a top ten player, but by making the semis in Atlanta he's shown his resolve to put up a fight. And something tells me things are going to turn in his favor pretty soon.

India's Somdev Devvarman may not have made as big a splash on Tour, but quietly plodding away he's been able to increase his ranking well into the top hundred. He beat Marcos Baghdatis and Xavier Malisse in Indian Wells and stunned Milos Raonic a week later in Miami. He's lost the only two finals he's played -- most recently to fellow college star Kevin Anderson in Johannesburg -- but he's really getting a strong foothold against the biggest threats in the game. Now at his highest career ranking, he may be in a position to cause some real damage in New York.

It's of course too early to pick the real contenders for the year's last Grand Slam, but even if some of these guys didn't come away with trophies this past week, they each made the case for themselves as potential favorites -- and spoilers -- over the next month and a half. And everyone else should truly sit up and take notice.

July 21, 2011

Familiar Faces

The past twelve months have seen some new stars of tennis really break out, and you can't help but applaud the efforts made by those who've reached new milestones or finally made a name for themselves. As some rise, though, others must inevitably fall -- but those who have struggled recently seem to be turning the tables back in their favor this week in Hamburg, and it sure is good to see them back.

I once thought Marin Cilic had the best potential to break into the very top ranks of the sport. In 2009 he'd recorded wins over Andy Murray at the U.S. Open, Rafael Nadal in Beijing and built up enough points to reach a career high ranking of #9 in the world. Since then he's struggled, though, failing to defend two titles early in 2011 -- both of which he'd held for two straight years -- and losing first rounds at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon.

The Croat held on to the twelfth seed in Germany and benefited from early exits from potential opponents like Juan Ignacio Chela and Ivan Dodig. Earlier today he found himself down a set to wildcard Tobias Kamke, ranked just inside the top hundred in the sport, but was able to hold strong and ground out the win in over two hours. His bigger tests are still ahead, of course, but I'm somewhat encouraged by his resolve so far this week.

Fernando Verdasco has had a similar, if slightly less precipitous, slide out of the spotlight. Since really bursting onto the scene two years ago with one of the best Australian Open matches I've ever seen, he climbed to a career-high #7, won three titles and claimed Davis Cup victory. But he lost a shocking seven opening matches this year and, frankly, seemed to choke in the two finals he's played.

He seems to have his game together in Hamburg, though. After avenging his Miami loss to countryman Pablo Andujar on Wednesday despite weak serving statistics, Verdasco upped his game today against up-and-comer Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. Capitalizing on five of seven break chances, he put together a decisive win to reach the quarters for the third time in his career. He's never made it past this round, but if he can make it through a tough remaining field, it could bode well for the rest of his season.

Mikhail Youzhny struggled with a back injury during the spring, and though he's been back on Tour for a while, he has nevertheless notched some surprising losses to Olivier Rochus and Philipp Kohlschreiber. Having failed to defend points from Munich in May, he fell out of spitting distance of the top ten and came to Germany with a #17 rank and fourth seed.

Like Cilic, Youzhny hasn't had the toughest draw, but he did come back from a break down against a developing Carlos Berlocq to survive a tiebreak in a two-plus hour, straight set match. His third round against Julian Reister was much more straight forward, as he allowed no break points and dropped just ten points on serve. The Russian can clearly be volatile, so there's no telling what happens from here -- but if he keeps calm he could capture his first title in over a year.

Second seeded Jurgen Melzer hasn't fallen from grace yet, but last year's runner-up in Hamburg could start to see points come off his ranking quickly if he doesn't repeat. He's already lost some ground with a second-round defeat in Paris, and only made one clay court quarter this year.

The Austrian might have had the roughest road of these favorites, first facing feisty Daniel Gimeno-Traver -- a man who beat him in Madrid -- and then taking on tricky Fabio Fognini on Thursday. He'll get another dirt specialist next with Verdasco, so clearly there's no room to breathe just yet. But with the clean, aggressive game he's been playing, the odds might be in his favor this time.

It's a bit of a shame that all these guys will meet each other in the next round, so only two runs will be able to continue. But the wins they've put together this week, even if on a surface they won't see again for quite some time, should put momentum back on their side. And as they're all about to make the shift to hard courts, there's no better time to come out swinging again.

July 18, 2011

An End to the Dry Spell

We're just about ready to make the full shift to the summer hardcourt season, and as the dust from the soon-to-be abandoned clay settles, a couple players brushed the cobwebs off themselves as they made the return to the winner's circle this weekend.

Two-time French Open finalist Robin Soderling has been a little quiet on Tour since the early part of the year, when he captured three titles in four events. And though he was the top seed in Bastad, he had a tough road with players like Potito Starace and Tomas Berdych in his path. Still he was able to advance to the final without dropping a set and made surprisingly quick work of David Ferrer in Sunday's championship. Only dropping three points on his first serve and limiting his opponent to less than thirty percent on the return, he was able to lift the trophy in his homeland for the second time and claim his first title since February -- not exactly a drought, but a bit of a relief given how absent he was from the winner's podium during his best part of the year.

Anabel Medina Garrigues had been mired in a slightly longer dry spell, losing a slew of first round matches over the last eighteen months, but she finally won her first title in almost two years this past April in Estoril. She's climbed her way back into the top forty since then and earned the fifth seed in Palermo, where she avenged a semifinal loss to Irina-Camelia Begu in the third round. With many of the higher-ranked players eliminated for her, she marched to the final without much drama and summarily ended Bastad champion Polona Hercog's nine-match win streak in about eighty minutes. The victory -- her fifth in Palermo -- made Anabel the winning-est clay court player still active on Tour, surpassing Venus Williams with her tenth title on the dirt. Not a bad way to remind us all she's still a force to be reckoned with.

The same can be said for the action in Stuttgart last week, where uber-veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero was trying to make his latest career comeback. Since knee and wrist surgery late last year, he's only played a handful of matches in 2011, making a nice run in Barcelona, but skipping the Majors, and has seen his ranking fall back out of the top eighty. JCF is not a man to be ignored, however, and though he was unseeded in Germany, he handled his biggest challenge in world #17 Mikhail Youzhny and never looked back. Against quickly rising Pablo Andujar in the final, Ferrero took advantage of weak serving and seven double faults, blanking his countryman in the second set. It was his first crown since last July and, at thirty-one years of age, the latest announcement that the Spaniard is still relevant.

A little further east in Bad Gastein, the draw had been opened early, but it was really some seasoned talent that made its way through the week. Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, who reached a career high rank of #19 in the world after a title in Rome last year, had struggled to rebound from a knee injury and didn't progress past a second round this year until Wimbledon. In Austria she battled through a close first round against qualifier Paula Ormaechea, but saw largely smooth sailing after that. In Sunday's final against Patricia Mayr-Achleitner, she fired off nine aces and, though she missed a bunch of first serves herself, she broke her opponent six times in nine return games, securing her first championship in over a year.

As these ladies and gentlemen next move to U.S. Open prep, it's encouraging to see them each show they can still make an impact. Whether that translates into more titles this year is yet to be seen. But a return to the spotlight for each at least ensures that no one will take them lightly.

July 15, 2011

Time Warp

I've never understood the rationale, these few weeks after the end of Wimbledon, of taking players directly from the super-short grass court season, just weeks away from the hard court U.S. Open, and sticking them back on the red clay, a surface on which they won't be chasing any big titles again for another eight months.

It's a jarring shift for the athletes, I'd wager, but one which suits some significantly more than others -- and it's not necessarily the ones who'd been favored to win.

There were very few surprises in Palermo, Italy, where a struggling Flavia Pennetta took the top seed here. She'd only won a handful of matches since Dubai and fell in four straight openers during the spring. But she seems to have regained her footing in her hometown, reaching the quarters along with six other seeds. She'll next face Tsvetana Pironkova, another semi-elite player trying to rebuild her year -- and though the Bulgarian has more recent success, I feel Pennetta's prowess on the surface should help her through.

The only big surprise of the tournament so far has been the loss of red-hot (okay, maybe just pink-hot) Roberta Vinci. A three-time titleist already this year, the twenty-eight year old was sitting on a career-best ranking of #23 in the world. But in a rematch of last Sunday's final in Budapest -- which she won -- Vinci didn't have many answers to rising star Irina-Camelia Begu this time, getting less than half her first serves in and only making a slight dent in her return games. Begu's recently beaten her next opponent, too, but Anabel Medina Garrigues could easily avenge that loss and further make the case for the veterans in Italy.

The seeds have had similar luck in Sweden where two-time French Open runner-up Robin Soderling looks to reverse some of his recent luck. After kicking off the year winning three trophies in four tournaments, he lost in the quarters at Roland Garros and was summarily upset in the third round of Wimbledon. He only lost one game in his opener in Bastad, and didn't allow Potito Starace a break chance in the quarters. From here it'll be difficult for someone else to wrest the crown in his homeland from the world #5.

But that's not to say it can't be done. David Ferrer is coming off a solid Davis Cup showing last week, and had one of his best clay court seasons this year. And Nicolas Almagro, a winner of three titles on dirt himself in 2011, should have a fairly easy road until at least the semis. And with so much talent left in the field, we should see at the very least some high-quality matches the next few days.

Things have been a little more surprising elsewhere this week. In Bad Gastein only one seed made it out of the first round -- defending champion Julia Goerges and top-thirty player Jarmila Gajdosova, among others all lost their openers, leaving world #61 Ksenia Pervak as the on-paper favorite. The twenty-year-old has won a couple ITF titles and has wins over Goerges and Andrea Petkovic already this year. But though her future road is less bumpy thanks to her colleagues' losses, some with more experience may win out in the end.

Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez has been climbing her way back from injury after a stellar start to 2010. Last year's champion in Rome, MJM hasn't won more than two matches at one event all year, but as a former top-twenty player, she's probably the most accomplished of the field. And Carla Suarez Navarro, who lost most of last season with an ankle injury, has been marking time this year at ITF events. She still hasn't won a Tour title, but with wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova and Venus Williams on her record, she certainly has the ability to make her mark.

It was just as hard a road for the favorites in Stuttgart. Mikhail Youzhny and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez both won their first round matches, but that was as far as either made it. In their place qualifier Federico Del Bonis and wildcard Cedrik-Marcel Stebe have emerged as the big spoilers. But here, again, it might be the journeymen who are standing at the end of the day.

Juan Carlos Ferrero, making his umpteenth career comeback, took out Youzhny on Thursday and has fought back from breaks down against Marcel Granollers to get the win in his quarterfinal. And twenty-nine year old Lukasz Kubot, who caused upsets this year at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, seems to be putting out his best career performances these days. With a battle against Santiago Giraldo for a spot in the semis, he has a more-than-likely shot at getting the win.

The return to clay has proven something of a comfort for these players as they get back to their winning ways. Hopefully it won't be too tough a transition when they begin their U.S. Open prep in earnest, but with the wins they've accumulated, they should at least bring the confidence they need when they come back to the present.

July 12, 2011

Blogcast: 2011 Hall of Fame Induction

The latest class of inductees to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI includes a long-time contributor to the WTA and eight-time Grand Slam champion Andre Agassi.

For more of Tennis Spin's video content, please click the "Blogcasts" tab above.

July 8, 2011

The New Class

The ladies' championship at Wimbledon was many things, but perhaps most importantly it served to usher in the next generation of tennis superstars. And some of the players making a statement over the past week prove that Petra Kvitova is not the only young player to watch. In Budapest, twenty-year-old Irina-Camelia Begu has been on a roll. The Romanian had already made a splash this year, making the final in Marbella after taking out then-rebuilding Alberta Brianti and heavy favorite Svetlana Kuznetsova as a qualifier. This week she hasn't had quite as difficult a draw, but in three matches, she hasn't dropped a set -- earlier today she won eight games in a row in her victory over Estrella Cabeza Candela. With a semifinal meeting against veteran Anabel Medina Garrigues she'll be surely tested, but if she's fresh and confident she might be able to get the upset. Sweden's Johanna Larsson has been on Tour for a couple years, but she's only really made an impact in the last twelve months. It started with a win over Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova last July in Portoroz, and this year she's notched wins over both Na Li and Ana Ivanovic. She came to the Swedish Open, her home tournament, unseeded, but already knocked out Vera Dushevina and Lourdes Dominguez Lino. She was up a break early against Sofia Arvidsson when play was suspended for rain on Friday, but she's got more than a few surprises in her, and could very well keep her run going. In the other half of the Bastad draw, journeywoman Barbora Zahlavova Strycova is trying to initiate her own breakthrough. By far the most experienced of this bunch, she hasn't yet won a singles title on Tour, but she has defeated players like Kvitova, Nadia Petrova and Aravane Rezai already this year. More importantly, this week, she stopped second-seeded Flavia Pennetta's comeback cold on Thursday, battling through a two-plus hour third round to make her first semi since Prague last year. She's scheduled to face a tough but spotty Polona Hercog today, and she's certainly got the talent to keep up her streak. Whether these ladies translate success this week into longer term gains remains to be seen. But as we patiently wait for the next crop of talent to take the reins in women's tennis, any one of them could be up to the task. And as has been true for quite some time, we're certainly open for some new big-hitters to shine.

July 4, 2011

The Dawn of a New Era

As I wake up this Fourth of July Monday, things look very different than they did just a few short weeks ago.

Sure Novak Djokovic became the twenty-fifth man in Open Era history to secure the #1 ranking several days ago. But it wasn't until Sunday that he proved the distinction was more than just mathematics. And this morning, everything is official.

Playing his first Wimbledon final yesterday against the defending champion and the man from whom he'd usurped the top spot, Djokovic showed no sign of the nerves that so often grip players new to the biggest stages -- but why should he? He'd already beaten Rafael Nadal in the previous four finals they'd played this year, and though his record had been made slightly imperfect at Roland Garros, he resumed his win streak with aplomb when he returned to the All England Club this year. And now in full possession of the confidence that he can beat the best, Djokovic took control of his fifth Grand Slam final from the get-go.

The championship match itself was less exciting than I'd hoped. After trading solid service games with Nadal to start, the Serb finally earned a break opportunity in the tenth game and converted for the set lead. He broke again early in the second and ran off with a two-set lead in just over an hour. The ten-time Major winner is not one to take defeat lightly, though, and served up a mirror image drubbing in the third, but it was too late. Nole was able to hold onto a lead in the fourth and capped off a somewhat incredulous run to his third Major crown.

It is a bit vindicating to get the win after clinching the #1 ranking -- I'm sure it would have left a bad taste in many mouths had Djokovic lost on Sunday, even after the stellar run he had to start the year. But more significantly it marks a new age in men's tennis, one which is no longer dominated by two big forces -- at least not the same big forces that ruled the last decade -- and it further sets apart the new elite from the rest of the crowd. It's going to be a long wall to climb for someone else to take over, but clearly it's not impossible -- I doubt anyone would have predicted this turnabout a year ago.

And it will be interesting to see what this new age of tennis brings for the sport -- something tells me it's gonna last a while.

July 2, 2011

Well, That Was Easy

A year ago, little-known Czech Petra Kvitova won her first match at the All England Club.

Then ranked #62, she had lost the opening rounds in her previous two appearances, but ended that streak when she pulled off one upset after another and eventually reached the semis.

We should've known that would be a sign of things to come.

This year Kvitova came to Wimbledon ranked #8 in the world, a career high. She had won three titles already in 2011, stunning Kim Clijsters in the Paris finals and claiming her biggest trophy a few months later in Madrid. But critics pointed out her spotty play -- she was down match points in her Paris second round against Barbora Zahlavova Strycova and lost in the final of a Challenger event to world #72 Magdalena Rybarikova in her home country.

Still, on her return to the tournament where she first hit everyone's radar, the twenty-one year old Czech was clearly on familiar ground. She wasn't really tested until the quarterfinals, where she dropped the middle set tiebreak to last year's other surprise semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova. And though Victoria Azarenka tried to keep it close a match later, it was Kvitova again dominating that match with nine aces, forty winners and four breaks of serve.

In her first Slam final she met a slightly more decorated champion in 2004 titleist Maria Sharapova. The Russian had been on the rise again this year, climbing back into the top ten on the heels of a finals run in Miami and a trophy in Rome. And many oddsmakers put money on her to reclaim the title that launched her career seven years ago -- especially after both Williams sisters and top-ranked Caroline Wozniacki fell out of the event. And in her first six matches this past fortnight, the world #6 was nearly unstoppable, winning nearly three-quarters of her first serve points and never dropping a set.

Maria got off to a good start this morning too, breaking her opponent in the first game of the match. But Kvitova quickly leveled the score and a few games later pulled ahead. Up a set, momentum was on the Czech's side and she capitalized by getting the lead early in the second. But the pair traded breaks for the next twenty minutes or so as both ladies raced down balls and fired off blinding groundstrokes before Petra finally secured the deciding break in the seventh game. After less than an hour-and-a-half of play, it was the unlikely underdog raising the trophy in victory.

It was a comprehensive win for Kvitova, whose domination of her first Grand Slam final from beginning to end reminded me a bit of Maria's demolishing of Serena Williams in the '04 championship. She showed no signs of nerves on the grandest stage and little of the streakiness that's caused many to give her grief over the past year. And with the title she's proven the couple big wins she's put together in 2011 were no fluke -- and that the jump she's made could have even farther to go. She's now proven she's an all-court player, so few opponents should feel they're in for an easy ride under any circumstances. Whatever her shortcomings, this young woman has established herself as a real force in this sport.

All she had to do was win Wimbledon.

July 1, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your New #1

This has been a long time coming.

Okay, maybe not that long, but Novak Djokovic has spent the first half of the year proving he's the player to beat in 2011. We thought the first few tournaments were just good luck. When he won Miami right after Indian Wells, we acknowledged his prowess on hard courts. When he took Belgrade, we wrote it off as home-court advantage with few dangerous opponents. When he captured Madrid -- beating King of Clay Rafael Nadal in the final -- we started scratching our heads. And then after a title in Rome we really took notice.

We were all brought down to earth, of course, when his dream run came to a halt in Paris, but his slightly sullied streak resumed at the All England Club where, after five rounds of fairly routine play, Novak Djokovic was again one win away from seizing the #1 ranking.

It wasn't the straightforward match up you'd expect, though. Instead of another Major match-up against six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer, he faced an ostensibly less-intimidating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. But the Queen's Club runner-up held a surprising 5-2 record against the Serb, most recently a come-from-behind, five-set victory in Melbourne last year, and he was seeded here a solid seven spots ahead of his actual #19 ranking.

And the first semifinal contested on Friday did not disappoint. Tsonga began with a break of Nole's serve and had the opportunity to serve out the first set before being forced to a tiebreak. Djokovic came roaring back and took a two-set -- plus a break -- lead when the Frenchman finally seemed to wake up. He broke the current world #2 twice in the third, once when he served for the set, and saved two match points in another breaker to push it to a fourth. Both gentlemen -- what else can you call them at the All England Club? -- produced some of the best tennis of the fortnight that set, diving for balls, catching every line, and most importantly never giving up on a point.

Ultimately, though, the inevitable occured. Djokovic got a break early in the last set and never looked back. In three tries, it was his first semifinal victory at Wimbledon, and with it -- on Monday -- he'll become the first non-Rafa, non-Roger #1 since Andy Roddick held the position in 2004.

There were definitely mixed opinions on the switch. Chaztopher tweeted: "Rafa being No. 2 with wins in five of last six majors would be dumber than Wozniacki being No. 1 without any." But robinhosking had just one word (and lot of punctuation): "AJDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Whatever your opinion, you can't deny that Novak Djokovic deserves congratulations. He's pulled off some amazing wins this year, and with just one loss on the books, he's clearly the best player right now.

But it's not over.

Next up Djokovic will face the winner of the second semifinal of the day: Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Murray -- ironically the same players he faced in his last two Slam championships, with markedly different results. The match makes me a bit nervous, of course, as the Scot/Brit certainly has more than a fair chance of unseating the defending titleist. And personal feelings aside, I can't help but root for a battle between the two top talents in the sport.

And as the latest rivalry emerges in the sport, it sure promises to be a good one.