Federer headlines strong saturday line up

There appears to no longer be a debate about it as almost everyone is in agreement that Roger Federer is the best player to ever play the game.

Standing behind that claim is a record 16 Grand Slam titles, two more than Pete Sampras, the last record holder was able to win during his illustrious career.  And Federer also beats out Sampras in the fact that after years of trying, he finally conquered the red clay of the French Open last May, which means he’s won at all four Grand Slams.

Federer is no longer considered quite the giant force he was a few years, virtually unbeatable by most other players. Nowadays, he’ll have losses – something that has proven him to be human like the rest of us. But he’s still pretty much the player to beat day in-day out, which makes him a joy to watch.

Roger knows the lay of the land at the Sony Ericsson Open having won the title twice – he captured his first Miami crown in a fabulous five-set final win over Rafael Nadal, and beat Ivan Ljubicic in straight sets in 2006. He had an impressive 34-9 lifetime record in Miami, and is the only active player in the game who has managed to win back-to-back Indian Wells and Miami titles performing that feat twice.

The world No. 1 is also something of a fixture in the top spot on the ranking charts. He’s spent a total of 275 overall weeks on the ranking throne.

Federer’s first test at this year’s Sony Ericsson Open comes against Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador. Lapentti found his way into this year’s draw as a lucky loser then went on to outlast Potito Starace of Italy in the first round, his first match victory of the 2010 season.  Lapentti has played the tournament 11 times in the past but this is his first main draw appearance since 2006. Lapentti’s best showing in Miami was reaching the quarterfinals in 2000 and 2002.

Bottom line: Lapentti doesn’t have enough luck to stop the Fed Express from delivering a knock out.
Keep an eye on the Fernando Verdasco and Dudi Sela match as that’s an encounter bound to gather a crowd. The No. 12 ranked Verdasco, a good-looking Spaniard, is a popular player here in Miami. The Israeli players always court widespread support in Miami as well, so the No. 71 ranked Sela should enjoy a strong fan base.

Verdasco often trains in Las Vegas with former Andre Agassi fitness guru, Gil Reyes, and was planning on getting a place in Sin City. He certainly has game and showed that off when he reached the 2009 Australian Open semifinals. This year, he won the San Jose title over Andy Roddick, went to the quarterfinal of Acapulco, and the fourth round at the Australian Open.

Sela, a feisty opponent who is quick to cover the court, had his best result of 2010 in Chennai where he reached the semis.

Crowd support won’t be enough for Sela as Verdasco secures his second career victory over the Israeli.
The women are into the third round today and there are quite a number of interesting matches on the card.
One match definitely worth attention features No. 6 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic.

If you disregard the rankings – Radwanska is No. 9 and Ivanovic is No. 58 – there’s no denying that Ivanovic is the household name in this encounter.

Briefly ranked No. 1 in the world for 12 non-consecutive weeks after her French Open win,  Ivanovic along with fellow Serbian Jelena Jankovic made quite a statement in the women’s game a couple of years ago.  But following her French Open success, Ivanovic sustained a thumb injury and she’s just never seemed to be the same on court. Even after the thumb healed, her minds been scattered,  and she definitely is lacking focus and self-assuredness on the court.

Ivanovic has had one encouraging moment this season, reaching the semifinals at Brisbane, which marks her best result on the WTA Tour since the 2009 Indian Wells tournament just over a year ago.

As for Radwanska, the year is going fairly well as she reached the semifinal at Dubai and Indian Wells. While her success at the Grand Slams has not taken her beyond three quarterfinal finishes as a pro, the Polish native did win two junior Grand Slam trophies at Wimbledon in 2005 and the French Open in 2006.
Ivanovic heads into this match with a 3-1 career edge over Radwanska, but it’s hard to give that advantage much muster at this point in time. There’s no denying that Ivanovic needs a win in a match like today’s to start building up her confidence, but Radwanska will roll along in the draw.

Another women’s match to watch will be between No. 16 seed Nadia Petrova of Russia against Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia.Miamians should embrace Nadia as one of their own as the Russian has taken up residence in the city. In fact, she can be seen eating at restaurants along Brickell Ave., as can British transplant Andy Murray, who maintains an apartment with a hip Brickell Ave. address.
Petrova’s best result of the season was a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open and she reached the fourth round at Indian Wells, too.

The No. 25 ranked Hantuchova ‘s been to the final of Monterrey and the quarterfinals of Brisbane this year and would dearly love to return to a top 10 ranking.

Hantuchova’s one win over Petrova came in their first meeting back in 2000, but Petrova won their four other matches. The last time they played was on hard courts at Beijing last fall and it took Petrova three sets to secure the victory.

This is a match that Hantuchova can win, but with Petrova playing with a home court advantage it makes the Miami-based Russian the ruler of the court.

Date: 27.03.2010, Source: Miami


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