Young guns Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania and Ryan Harrison of Louisiana both prepared for the Australian Open with guidance from true living legends Roger Federer and John McEnroe. Berankis had a practice session with Roger Federer on Rod Laver Arena today in a rare moment this week without any rain. It may be a blessing that Ricardas lost in Sydney earlier this week to former Top 20 player Igor Andreev in order to get some invaluable time holding court with King Roger.
Berankis from Brisbane last week
Training with Roger Federer is nothing new for Berankis since you may recall that Roger brought both him and Jesse Levine down to Dubai back in 2007 as full-time hitting partners when Rafael Nadal first started nipping at his heels. Berankis always had good things to say about the experience and Roger as a person, and I am sure today helped Ricardas hone his game in time for the first Slam of 2011. Ricardas has a winnable 1st round match against Australian Wild Card Marinko Matosevic. While Marinko is no pushover, Ricardas will have a good chance to play the winner of Lleyton Hewitt and Nalbandian in the 2nd round. Now Roger can surely give Ricardas advice on both of those blokes.
Marinko with his Golden Ticket
Ryan Harrison saw for himself this week that Marinko can play some serious game. Young Ryan got a last-minute invitation to go to Adelaide for a unique event called the World Tennis Challenge when James Blake pulled out. The event fielded four teams that each consisted of an active ATP player and a Champions Tour legend with match play resembling that of Hopman Cup. Although Ryan lost all of his singles matches to Llodra, Ljubicic, and Matosevic who subbed for an ailing Nishikori; he and John McEnroe were able to emerge as champions.
Ryan got plenty of match play with lefties Llodra, Ljubicic, and McEnroe which will come in handy in Melbourne as his 1st Round match is against French lefty Adrian Mannarino. The pros played their singles matches with full intensity to help prepare them for Melbourne. You can see from the videos below that the all bets were off during the doubles matches especially when the French duo of Henri LeConte and Michael Llodra decided to take their clothes off. Ryan probably got more of an education than he wanted, but he seemed to have fun learning from the legends of the game.
Did Johnny Mac also teach Ryan how to speak to the umps?
Ryan has some fun and even gets the ump to hit the court the next day…
And lastly, Ryan watches and learns from the master at the trophy presentation.
Best of luck to Ryan and Ricardas in Melbourne, keep following those legends!
AND it’s okay to say so. Victor Troicki did not play his best tennis ever like the commentators felt the need to say in order to wax poetic and perhaps soften the blow for Llodra. Choking is a part of sport, and that is what we saw today. Troicki simply handled his nerves better, and that in no way diminishes what he was able to accomplish either.
What should also be pointed out is that France would not have been in the position to win the Davis Cup had it not been for Michael Llodra in the earlier rounds of play as well as his doubles win yesterday. Llodra has nothing to hang his head about, but let’s not be in denial that this was a major choke. Trust me, I’m an expert at choking matches.
Just a quick post for now, time to watch the end of the head-shaving and trophy presentation ceremonies.
Congratulations to Serbia, their players, and all their fans. ENJOY!
There was something very satisfying in watching Arnaud Clement capitalize on his chance to play the critical Davis Cup doubles match despite having a lackluster 2010. It is also quite fitting that he was able to achieve this with Michael Llodra since they have had some of their biggest doubles wins together with the 2006 Paris Masters, 2007 Wimbledon, and 7 previous Davis Cup doubles wins. Clement and Llodra rallied from 2 sets behind in a hostile Belgrade Arena to win 36 67(3) 64 75 64. The short and once speedy Frenchman has been relatively quiet since his breakout year in 2001 when he cracked the Top 10 in great part to his surprise Australian Open finals appearance that year.
And if you remember, Arnaud did not get to play the 2001 Davis Cup finals since Captain Forget went with Sebastien Grosjean and Nicolas Escude in singles over Clement. The risky decision of selecting Escude paid off as he became the team hero with singles wins over Wayne Arthurs and Lleyton Hewitt at Melbourne on grass, which was a big reason why Nicolas was selected as he did beat Lleyton at Wimbledon earlier that year. The following year in 2002, France also made the Davis Cup final but Clement was injured and could not compete with his team who lost 3-2 to the Russians. A young Mike Youzhny took advantage of Arnaud’s absence with a win over a nervous Paul Henri Mathieu who blew a 2 set lead in the decisive 5th rubber.
It was such a shame that for the second year in a row Arnaud was unable to compete in the Davis Cup Final since Team France made those finals in large part to his 6-1 record in live singles rubbers during those two years. His one loss in the 2001 quarterfinal round was to a lower ranked player, but you may have later heard of him….it was Roger Federer himself. Young Roger was on the verge of putting all the pieces together, and in the next couple of months he would make his first Grand Slam QF appearances at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon including that world-take-notice win over Pete Sampras on Centre Court. Oh by the way, Nicolas Escude was the hero in that Davis Cup QF round with a win over Roger and a live 5th rubber win over Bastl by a score of 8-6 in the 5th set. Young Clement provided some drama of his own in the first match against the Swiss with his 15-13 in the 5th set win over the towering Marc Rosset. Escude followed that up with yet another 8-6 in the 5th win during the semis of Davis Cup against Sjeng Schalken of the Netherlands. This was one more reason why Forget selected Escude over Clement in the 2001 Finals.
We will soon see if Clement’s win will be a crucial win toward France winning their 10th Davis Cup, but regardless it was a joy to watch Arnaud finally get to compete in that elusive Davis Cup Final. His best singles results and ranking may be in his past, but I hope this 32 year-old 5’8 veteran will be motivated to keep on playing both singles and doubles for a few more years. He gives hope to the short and/or old guys playing on tour as well as at the local parks and clubs.
Roger and Rafa provided a stellar finale to the 2010 season at the ATP World Tour finals, but the French and Serbian teams are just getting warmed up. This Friday, the Belgrade Arena will showcase this year’s Davis Cup final on an indoor hard court. Serbia has never been to the Davis Cup final before, while France is vying for their 10th title with their last coming in 2001 over Australia in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic and Nenad Zimonjic have arrived in Belgrade from the World Tour finals in London, and quite frankly they looked quite tired at their Davis Cup press conference. Who can blame them after such a long season, but they have a couple of days to get their pep back as well as get pumped up by the sure to be raucous crowd. Victor Troicki and Janko Tipsarevic round out the Davis Cup team, although it has not been determined yet what the match lineup will be.
The Frenchies on the other hand look lively and jovial with the official four-man squad consisting of Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon, Arnaud Clement, and Michael Llodra with Richard Gasquet as an un-official fifth. Captain Guy Forget explained, “I’ve included Richard Gasquet in my squad of four players as required by the ITF because for an event of this importance it strikes me as essential to prepare five players. They are all setting out on an equal footing.” Despite the uncertainty of which players will get the nod from Coach Forget, the French players sure look to be getting on just fine.