2009 Tennis News Archive

Below you will find stringing news as it happened in 2009, starting with the Australian Open at the foot of the page, right up to the ATP Masters Finals in London at the top.

ATP Masters Finals, London

Nikolay Davydenko was the surprise winner of the singles at the end of season finale at the O2 Arena in London in November, whilst Bob and Mike Bryan regained the No 1 Doubles ranking by taking the doubles title.

It was the biggest week of Davydenko’s career, as he scored a first ever win over Roger Federer in the semi-final, before downing Juan-Martin del Potro in straight sets in the final. Having beaten Rafa Nadal in the round robin stages, Davydenko had thus beaten the holders of all four Grand Slam titles to take the top prize. Currently without a formal racket contract, Davydenko continues to play with the Prince Ozone Tour, strung with Polystar Energy, (surely the most underrated polyester string on the market), strung at 55/53lbs, and used this combination to deadly effect throughout the week.

The Bryan Brothers gave Prince cause for a double celebration when they took the doubles title with a straight set win over the this-year-only paring of Max Mirnyi and Andy Ram. In the latter part of the year the brothers have switched from the Prince O3 Speedport Black to the Prince EXO3 Ignite Team, and also started using Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power rough strings. The Ignite Team is a sub-300 gramme racket aimed more at the recreational level than tour players, but its easy manoeuvrability and generous sweetspot make it ideal for the fast moving cut and thrust of the doubles game. Stinging topspin returns of serve and groundstrokes were the basis of the brothers’ wins throughout the week, their switch to the Alu Power Rough strings seeming to give them access to a bit more controlling spin than earlier in the season.

Davis Cup Semi-Finals

Defending champions Spain and the Czech Republic will contest this year’s Davis Cup final in December after contrasting semi-finals.

In Porec, Croatia, the home team suffered the agony of two five set defeats on Day 1, on the way to a two-day defeat at the hands of the Czech Republic. In the first match Ivo Karlovic hit 78 aces, (yes, seventy-eight) – equivalent to nineteen and a half games – but still went down 16-14 in the final set to Radek Stepanek. Stepanek only broke serve once, at 14-all in the final set, but it was enough to seal victory. Stepanek’s game has revived considerably this year, his Bosworth Custom racket and Pacific Prime Gut strings helping him to his highest ranking for over three years. For Karlovic, still playing with his Head-disguised-as-a-Babolat racket, it was the second time this year he’s set a new Most Aces in a Match record, (55 in the French Open against Lleyton Hewitt), and ended up the loser.

Another five setter followed, Marin Cilic rallying from two sets down against Tomas Berdych before going down 6-3 in the fifth. Cilic continues to play with the Head MicroGel Prestige racket, even though it’s now been superseded by the YouTek Prestige.

In Murcia, Spain had an easier time against surprise semi-finalists Israel. Even with Rafa Nadal missing through injury Spain wrapped up the tie in two days, only Israel’s doubles team of Jonathan Ehrlich and Andy Ram managing to salvage a set. In Rafa’s absence, David Ferrer and Juan-Carlos Ferrero, both playing with Prince rackets, (Vendetta DB for Ferrer, Ozone Tour for Ferrero), and both using Luxilon Big Banger Original strings, played the singles matches, and only dropped 14 games between them on the first day as they laid the foundation for victory. Rafa should be back for the final, which will see Spain with home advantage as they seek to retain the title they won in Argentina last year.

US Open Report

A first Grand Slam title for one player, and a second for the other is the best way to describe how the Singles went at this year’s US Open.

Juan Martin del Potro hammered his way to the Men’s title, taking out Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the semi-final and final, his Wilson [K] Six.One 95 racket strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power at 62lbs helping him to a straight sets win over Nadal, and his five set victory over defending champion Federer. Both Rafa and Roger had their usual Babolat and Wilson racket and string combinations, (see Tennis Pros & Their Strings).

Kim Clijsters picked up where she left off by winning the Ladies’ Singles for the second time, and also picked up where she left off on the racket/strings front, playing with the same Babolat Pure Drive she used when winning the 2005 title, and stringing with the same Babolat VS Touch natural gut strings at the same tension of 58lbs.

Caroline Wozniacki surpassed all expectations by reaching the ladies’ final, and putting up a great fight before going down. Caroline uses the same Babolat AeroPro Drive as Rafa Nadal, and using the same Babolat VS Touch natural gut strings as Kim Clijsters.

Serena Williams grabbed the headlines for all the wrong reasons when she was defaulted in her match against Clijsters in the semi-final. Interestingly, Serena had increased the tension in her Wilson [K]Blade Team from 65lbs to 68lbs, the same as her sister Venus, for this event.

Maria Sharapova continues to make progress in her comeback, despite a surprise loss to Melanie Oudin. To help protect her suspect shoulder from shcok, Sharapova has switched to a new string combination in her Prince O3 Speedport Black. She’s now playing Luxilon M2 main strings, and Prince Natural Gut crosses, strung at 62lbs. Maria is hoping this will help protect her from further injury.

Six years ago Andy Roddick powered his way to the Men’s title on the back of a bludgeoning serve and thundering forehand. This time around Roddick went out in the third round to fellow countryman John Isner, who used a bludgeoning serve and thundering forehand to down this year’s Wimbledon finalist after five pulsating sets. Isner plays the Prince O3 White racket strung with Tecnifibre Pro RedCode strings at 62lbs. Will Isner push on from here? Only time will tell.

Wimbledon Report

Having won his first French Open title at Roland Garros less than a month earlier, Roger Federer took his place in history as the winner of the most Grand Slam singles titles on the male side when he captured his sixth Wimbledon Championship in July. The man who now holds 15 Slam titles survived a second successive five set Wimbledon final to edge out Andy Roddick 16-14 in the final set. As in Paris, Roger relied on his trust Wilson K Factor [K]Six-One Tour 90 strung with his Wilson Natural Gut/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough hybrid. Roddick, in a Grand Slam final for the first time since the US Open final in 2006, (where he also fell to Federer), played his signature Babolat Pure Drive Roddick GT, which he strings with a hybrid of Babolat strings – Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour mains, and Babolat VS Team crosses, strung at 73lbs.

Roddick had broken British hearts in the semi-finals, downing second seeded Andy Murray and scotching the anticipated Federer v Murray dream final. Roddick outplayed Murray in all departments, leaving the Brits with at least another year to wait before a successor to Fred Perry can be crowned. Murray played with the Head YouTek Radical Pro, strung with Babolat VS Team/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough at a tension of 62lbs.

Both Ladies’ Singles finalists used the same racket and string. Serena and Venus Williams both use the Wilson [K]Blade Tour, and both string with Wilson Natural Gut. Winner Serena strings at 65lbs, and finalist and five times previous winner Venus strings at 65lbs. Elena Dementieva came within one point of taking out Serena in the semi-final, only a bold net-cord backhand volley from Serena pulling her through. Elena uses the Yonex RDiS 100 Mid Plus racket, strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power at 51/48.lbs. Top seed Dinara Safina did better than some had suggested, reaching the semis before being crushed by Venus. Safina had trouble keeping the ball in court against the defending champion, and possibly an increase in tension from the already pretty high 68/66lbs she has with her Babolat Pro Hurricane strings in her Babolat AeroStorm would have helped. Then again, the way Venus was striking the ball, possibly not !

Maria Sharapova continued on the comeback trail, hoping to revitalise her career at the tournament that launched her into the big time back in 2004. Using the Prince O3 Speedport Black strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut strings at 62lbs, she survived the first round, but went down in three sets in Round 2 against Gisela Dulko. Dulko, Tecnifibre’s No 1 female endorsee, played with the Tecnifibre Rebound Pro racket, a racket designed specifically for lady players, strung with Tecnifibre’s X-One Biphase string, in its very thin 1.18mm version. This string provides exceptional resilience and performance, a true natural gut feel, although its thin gauge means durability is not as great as some other strings.

On the doubles front the Williams sisters captured their fourth Ladies’ Doubles title, whilst Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic successfully defended the title they had won the previous year. Nestor uses the same Wilson [K] Six-One Tour 90 racket as Roger Federer and the same Wilson/Luxilon hybrid strung at 55/53lbs, whilst Zimonjic plays the Head YouTek Radical MP stung at 53/49.5lbs. Shortly after The Championships the Bryans announced that they had signed a deal to play with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough strings. No doubt they’ll be hoping that the deal brings them more luck than they’ve been having, at Wimbledon, where they’re only won one final in four appearances.

French Open Report

Well, it had to happen sometime – it was an upset of seismic proportions, but, after 31 consecutive victories at Roland Garros Rafael Nadal actually lost a match at the French Open. The four times defending champion lost in the last sixteen to Robin Soderling, who went on to reach the final. Soderling plays with the Head YouTek Radical MP, which he strings with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power at a tension of 56lbs. Rafa had his usual Babolat AeroPro Drive/Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour combination, but couldn’t handle an inspired performance from Sweden’s top ranked player.

Rafa’s downfall helped Roger Federer complete his career Grand Slam, as he equalled Pete Sampras’s record of 14 Slam titles with a straight sets win over Soderling in the final. Roger’s win was his fifth Slam with the Wilson [K] Factor KSix-One Tour 90 racket which he helped design, in which he had his normal Wilson Natural Gut/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough hybrid strung at 55/52lbs.

Nadal’s unexpected early departure left Fernando Gonzalez flying the flag for Babolat in the Men’s Singles at their home Grand Slam, and, using his Babolat Pure Storm Team strung with Babolat Pro Hurricane strings at 60lbs he went all the way to the semi-finals, where he took Soderling to five sets and looked a likely winner before fading.

Ivo Karlovic was once again playing with his all black racket, (see Monte Carlo and Italian Open Update), and served up 55 aces in his first round match against Lleyton Hewitt – a world record. A world record it may have been, but he ended up a loser in five sets having won the first two. Hewitt played with the Yonex RDiS 100 racket, strung with a Babolat VS Team/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power hybrid at 56lbs.

On the ladies’ side, Svetlana Kuznetsova took her second Grand Slam title, the best part of five years after she won the 2004 US Open, by beating World No1 Dinara Safina in the final. Kuznetsova’s choice of racket and string was the Head Extreme Pro racket strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power at 57/55lbs. For her part, Safina used Babolat’s AeroStorm racket with Babolat Pro Hurricane strings at 68/66lbs. Three Grand Slam finals and three defeats for Safina, who’ll still be ranked No 1 come Wimbledon, and who’ll be looking to change things for the better in the big events. Trouble is, her record on the grass at SW19 is uninspiring to say the least.

The stringing team at Roland Garros strung other 3,000 rackets during qualifying and the main events, more than 300 more than last year. Serena Williams was their best customer, her Wilson [K]Blade Tours being restrung a total of 52 times. Highest tension used was Jurgen Melzer’s 77lbs, and the lowest was Filipo Volandri’s incredibly spongy 22lbs !

Monte Carlo Masters and Italian Open (Rome Masters)

Clay in Europe and Rafael Nadal hoisting the trophy – a familiar scene, and the story of both the Monte Carlo Masters and the Italian Open again this year. Wielding his Babolat AeroPro Drive strung with Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour at 55lbs as usual, Rafa pounded his way to both titles without problem as he strengthened his grip on the World No 1 spot.

There was better news for Novak Djokovic and his Head You Tek Speed Pro, as he reached both finals. Persevering with the Wilson Natural Gut/Luxilon Big banger Alu Power rough hybrid, Novak at last looked fairly comfortable with his new frame, as he narrowly failed to defend his Rome title.

In Monte Carlo there was a notable early round win for Janko Tipsarevic over Gael Monfils. Tipsarevic was using the new Tecnifibre Black Code polyester string. Black Code is a pentagonal shape, its five-sided construction being specially designed to bite into the ball for maximum spin. Tipsarevic was unable to reproduce his form in subsequent rounds, but his win over Monfils certainly brought Black Code to prominence.

Biggest surprise in Monte Carlo was Roger Federer’s defeat by friend and Davis Cup team mate Stanislas Wawrinka. Using the Head MicroGel Prestige Mid strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power strings, Stan recorded his best ever win over his Swiss colleague, and went on to reach the semi-finals.

For the record, Singles winner Nadal had 33 rackets strung during the tournament, although this was surpassed by Ivan Ljubicic, who had 40 restrings of his Head MicroGel Extreme Pro rackets with Babolat Pro Hurricane string on his way to the quarter-finals !

The final result in Rome was the same, but Roger Federer was getting back to his best form, reaching the semis and taking the first set in confident style from Novak Djokovic before losing his concentration on the way to an error strewn three set defeat. Both Roger and Novak used the same Wilson Natural Gut/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough hybrid string combination, Roger stringing at 55/52lbs, and Novak at 55lbs.

Ivo Karlovic, who was struggling with the Babolat AeroPro Drive earlier in the season, was using a plain black frame which looked suspiciously like his old Head Liquidmetal Instinct in Rome. With Babolat’s double line logo on his strings Ivo pushed Federer to two close 6-4 sets, and was firing aces to all parts of the court rather than double faults as he was serving up earlier in the year. A new model from Babolat, or a disguised Head? Whatever, Karlovic looked much happier than he’s done for some time.

BNP Paribas Open – Indian Wells

Another title for Rafa Nadal, and the biggest win in Vera Zvonareva’s career sum up this year’s Indian Wells tournament.

Rafa strengthened his grip on the No 1 ranking with a convincing 6-1, 6-2 victory over Andy Murray in a one-sided final. As usual, Rafa used his Babolat AeroPro Drive racket strung with Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour strings at his usual tension of 55lbs. Andy Murray used Head’s Microgel Radical MP racket with Babolat VS Team natural gut main strings, and Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power crosses, strung at 57/55lbs.

Novak Djokovic continues to struggle with his Head You Tek Speed Pro. At Indian Wells he used the same string combination as Roger Federer, with Wilson Natural Gut main strings, and Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power cross strings. His tension was 55lbs. Sadly, this string job didn’t do the trick, as he went down in straight sets to Andy Roddick in the quarter-finals.

Vera Zvonareva achieved her big win playing with the Prince O3 White racket strung with Gamma Zo Tour strings at 53lbs main strings/55lbs cross strings. Zvonareva is Gamma’s No 1 endorsee, and whilst Gamma strings regularly rank highly in USRSA and other string surveys this is their first major tour title.

Ana Ivanovic, the beaten finalist and last year’s Roland Garros champion, has stayed with Yonex rackets, but is using different strings this year. Having won the French Open and reached No 1 in the world using Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power strings last year, this year she’s playing a hybrid of Wilson Natural Gut mains and Yonex Poly Tour polyester crosses. Her current choice of racket is the Yonex RQiS1 Tour XL.

Davis Cup First Round

The first round of the Davis Cup at the beginning of March didn’t produce any major upsets, although the fancied team from France fell to the Czechs in Ostrava. The French force of Top Tenners Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, along with Richard Gasquet and doubles expert Michael Llodra fell to a Czech team led by the resurgent Radek Stepanek, and, in this tie at least, an equally resurgent Tomas Berdych. Stepanek’s start to the season, (titles in Brisbane and San Jose, and finalist at Memphis), just keeps getting better, and his defeat of Gilles Simon in the fourth rubber sealed France’s fate. Stepanek’s game has improved markedly since he started playing with a custom frame made by American racket guru Warren Bosworth. His choice of string remains Pacific Prime Gut. Tomas Berdych played his part, rediscovering his old from and also taking down Simon in the first rubber of the match. Berdych is using Dunlop’s new 4D 2Hundred racket this year, strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power.

Over in the States, the much anticipated and hyped clash between Roger Federer and the US team failed to materialise, Federer withdrawing a couple of weeks before the tie to allow his back to heal. The Swiss team did their best, Stanislas Wawrinka scoring an excellent win over James Blake, but without Roger they were always on a hiding to nothing. Not much to report here really, other than that Bob Bryan is back using Tecnifibre’s NRG2 string, having played with their Pro RedCode string last year. Bob’s had plenty of shoulder problems, and the switch to NRG2’s multifilament construction from Pro RedCode’s polyester could be in an effort to avoid further problems, NRG2 providing a much softer feel.

Elsewhere, Spain demolished Serbia 4-1, with Serbia’s only point coming in the doubles via Wimbledon doubles champion Nenad Zimonjic and Victor Troicki. Novak Djokovic continues to struggle with his new Head racket, his defeat to David Ferrer in the first rubber setting the tone for things to follow. In a clash of white frames, Ferrer played with the Prince Vendetta, a racket which only features in Prince’s European range.

Australian Open Report

The year’s first Grand Slam is concluded, with Rafa Nadal gaining his first Aussie Open and retaining his World No 1 ranking, and Serena Williams regaining the title she won two years ago, and regaining the No 1 position into the bargain.

In a pulsating Men’s Singles final Rafa maintained his stranglehold on Roger Federer, taking him down 6-2 in the fifth. As usual, Nadal played with the Babolat AeroPro Drive racket, strung with Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour strings at 55lbs tension. This string comes in three gauges, (1.25mm, 1.30mm, and 1.35mm), and Rafa chose the 1.30, as opposed to the 1.35 he uses on clay.

Roger Federer also stayed with his tried and trusted combination of the Wilson [K] Factor KSix-One Tour 90 racket, and his hybrid stringing of Wilson Natural Gut main strings and Big Banger Alu Power Rough cross strings. Information on his chosen tension for this event is not available.

Serena Williams demolition of Dinara Safina in the final was achieved with her usual Wilson [K]Blade Team strung, as always, with Wilson Natural Gut at 65lbs. Her success continues the great run of natural in the Ladies’ Singles at Grand Slam events, with only Ana Ivanovic’s victory with a Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power hybrid at last year’s French Open breaking the run. Dinara Safina finished a Grand Slam runner up for the second time with her Babolat AeroStorm Tour strung with Babolat Pro Hurricane at 55lbs.

Several new combinations of players/rackets/strings made their Grand Slam debut at the Australian, notably defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic and his white, as yet unnamed, Head Microgel. Having been a long time user of Tecnifibre X-One Biphase strings, Djokovic switched to Wilson Natural Gut last year, his last with Wilson rackets. Now that he’s with Head he’s back with Tecnifibre.

Gaël Monfils played with the new Prince EXO3 Rebel racket, strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power, having left the Head racket and strings combination he’s played with for the past few years. He seems right at home straight away, no mean feat for someone changing both racket and strings.

Lastly, big serving Ivo Karlovic has also left Head, and is playing the same Babolat AeroPro Drive racket as Rafa Nadal. It’s difficult to imagine two more contrasting styles of play with the same racket. The change didn’t diminish Karlovic’s ace count, but his normally assured volleying seemed less reliable than usual, and his forehand was definitely wayward on occasions.

It’ll be interesting to see how these new combinations fare during the coming season.