2010 Tennis News Archive

Below you will find stringing news as it happened in 2009, starting with the pre-Australian Open events in Doha, Brisbane, and Abu Dhabi in January at the foot of the page, right up to the Davis Cup Final in Begrade in December at the top.

Davis Cup Final
It was joy for Serbia and despair for France as Serbia captured their first ever Davis Cup, coming from two matches to one down to claim victory in Belgrade at the beginning of December. Unusually, all four players in both teams played in a live rubber, with Viktor Troicki, substituting for Janko Tipsarevic, routed form-horse Michael Llodra in the fifth and final rubber to seal victory.

Gael Monfils got France off to a flying start, taking the first rubber against Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic had been Serbia’s hero in the semi-final, where he won both his matches, including the deciding fifth rubber to take Serbia through. This time round, however, he seemed out of touch and inhibited, as Monfils won in three easy sets. Both players had their usual racket/string set ups – Prince EXO3 Rebel 95 with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power strings for Monfils, and Tecnifibre T-Fight 325 VO2 Max with Tecnifibre BlackCode strings for Tipsarevic.

In a tactical move, French captain Guy Forget fielded Gilles Simon as his No 2 singles player against Novak Djokovic rather than Michael Llodra. Accepting that beating Djokovic in Belgrade was too big a task for his men, Forget elected to keep Llodra fresh for what was expected to be a vital doubles on the second day. Wielding his now familiar Head YouTek Speed MP 18/20 with hybrid Head Natural Gut/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough stringing Djokovic hammered the recently back from injury Simon in straight sets, to end the day 1-1.

The doubles on day two saw four fresh players on court, and a remarkable comeback by Llodra and Arnaud Clement, who came from two sets down to beat Viktor Troicki and Nenad Zimonjic in five. Both Llodra and Clement used Wilson rackets strung with Babolat VS Team natural gut, whilst Troicki played the Prince Ozone Tour strung with Prince Poly EXP, and Zimonjic, currently without a racket endorsement contract, used the Head YouTek Radical MP he has been campaigning, both in contract and out, for the last couple of years.

The final day saw Djokovic register a surprisingly easy win over Monfils in the fourth rubber, the Frenchman seemingly more interested in showboating and playing to the crowd than winning the match, and then up stepped Troicki, who played the match of his life to overturn the formbook and beat a clearly nervous and edgy Llodra in straight sets to seal victory.

Davis Cup Semi-Finals

Michael Llodra again led from the front as France crushed Argentina 5-0 in Lyon to reach the Davis Cup Final for the first time since 2002. The 30 year old left hander from Rueil Malmaison beat Juan Monaco in four sets in the opening rubber, then joined with Arnaud Clement to give France an unassailable 3-0 lead by taking the doubles in straight sets against Eduardo Schwank and Horacio Zeballos. Llodra is now using the Wilson BLX Pro Tour, strung with his usual Babolat VS Team natural gut at 52lbs.

The second point in France’s victory was gained by Gael Monfils, playing at No 1 in place of the injured Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Monfils secured a four set win over David Nalbandian, who is making his way back from injury. Monfils used the Prince EXO3 Rebel strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power at 57/55lbs, whilst Nalbandian played the Yonex RDiS 100 Mid Plus racket strung with Luxilon Big Banger Original at 64lbs.

In the final France will face first time finalists Serbia, led by US Open runner up Novak Djokovic, who edged the Czech Republic 3-2 in Belgrade. Djokovic may be Serbia’s No 1, but the semi-final belonged to No 2 Janko Tipsarevic. Tipsarevic stunned Wimbledon finalist in four sets on Day 1 to level the scores after Radek Stepanek had downed Victor Troicki, who substituted for an unwell Djokovic in the first rubber. Then, with the tie level at two rubbers all, Tipsarevic ripped through Stepanek in straight sets to send Serbia through to the final for the first time in its short history. Tipsarevic used Tecnifibre’s T-Fight 325 VO2 Max racket strung with Tecnifibre BlackCode string at 57/55lbs. Earlier, Djokovic had played his part by levelling the tie at 2-2 by recovering from the loss of the first set to defeat Berdych in four.

So, Serbia will host France in Belgrade in the final from 3rd to 5th December. France will again be without their No 1 Tsonga, so it may be down to Llodra to inspire the team again. Tipsarevic will fight for Serbia’s No 2 spot with Troicki, and one of the closest finals in years is in prospect.


US Open Report

Rafael Nadal completed his Career Grand Slam and Kim Clijsters retained the title she won in 2009 at this year’s US Open. It was another singles double for Babolat, with Nadal and Clijsters using both Babolat rackets and strings. Rafa played with the AeroPro Drive racket he has used to secure all his Grand Slam championships, strung with the RPM Blast strings he has used all season at 55lbs. Kim used the Pure Drive racket she has played with all her professional life, strung with VS Touch natural gut strings at 58lbs.

Men’s Singles finalist Novak Djokovic enjoyed his best Grand Slam since winning the Australian Open in 2008, proving that he’s now fully attuned to his Head Speed Pro racket. He used a natural gut/polyester hybrid of Head Natural Gut mains and Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough crosses, strung at 55/52lbs.

Vera Zvonereva finished runner up at her second Grand Slam in succession, after a nasty experience in her semi-final. Vera broke strings in five rackets in the semi. A bad batch of strings? Badly strung rackets? Who knows, but, not surprisingly, she looked more and more concerned as the match wore on. Luckily, she was able to finish the match before she ran out of rackets! Vera used the same racket/string combination she did at Wimbledon – the Prince EXO3 Black racket, and Gamma Live Wire Professional strings strung at 53/55lbs.

Davis Cup Quarter-Finals

Without doubt, the biggest news of the quarter-finals was the 5-0 thrashing of defending champions Spain by France at Clermont-Ferrand. Granted, Spain were without World No 1 Rafa Nadal, but with David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco in singles and Verdasco and Feliciano Lopez in doubles, they had the team that had brought home the Cup without Nadal in 2008.

Michael Llodra was France’s hero, beating Fernando Verdasco on Day 1, then teaming with Julian Benneteau to win the decisive doubles on Day 2. Llodra uses the Wilson [K] Factor Team, strung with Babolat VS Team Natural Gut at 52lbs. For Verdasco they were two more losses with a Dunlop racket. He’s still using the Luxilon Big Banger Original strings he was using in his old Tecnifibre frames, so he’s clearly having trouble adapting. France’s opening point had come courtesy of Gael Monfils’s five set victory over Ferrer. Both these players used Prince rackets and Luxilon strings. In Monfils’ case it was the Prince EXO3 racket strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power strings at 57/55lbs, and in Ferrer’s it was the Prince Ozone Tour with Luxilon Big Banger Original strings at 51lbs.

Elsewhere, Serbia was a convincing winner over Croatia in the first Davis Cup meeting of the two former Yugoslav states away in Split. Novak Djokovic led from the front, with two convincing straight set wins over Ivan Ljubicic and Marin Cilic, whilst doubles expert Nenad Zimonjic teamed with Janko Tipsarevic to win the doubles that put Serbia 2-1 up and paved the way for victory. Djokovic used the 18×20 string version of the Head YouTek Speed Pro, but his string choice was unclear. Could it be that he had gone back to the Tecnifibre X-One Biphase he used when he was so successful in 2007 and 2008?

France will take on Argentina at home in Lyon, and Serbia will host the Czech republic in the semi-finals, which will take place 17th-19th September.


Wimbledon Report

A title retained for Serena Williams and a title regained for Rafael Nadal is probably the simplest way to sum up Wimbledon 2010. The best weather for years saw Serena retain the Ladies’ Singles title, defeating first-time Grand Slam finalist Vera Zvonereva in straight sets, whilst Rafa regained the Men’s Singles he won for the first time in 2008 with a convincing three set win over another first-time Grand Slam finalist, Tomas Berdych.

Serena used her usual Wilson [K] Factor Team strung with Wilson Natural Gut, whilst Rafa had the same combination with which he’d taken the French Open, the Babolat AeroPro Drive strung with Babolat’s new RPM Blast string. Ladies’ runner up Zvonereva played with the Prince EXO3 Black racket with Gamma Live Wire Professional strings. Zvonereva Is Gamma’s primary endorsee, and her racket strings bear the Gamma red dot logo.

As was the case at Roland Garros, men’s runner up Berdych carried his rackets in a Dunlop bag, but there was no logo on the strings and the rackets weren’t Dunlops, they were Head YouTek Radicals. There was no attempt to disguise the frame, the Head name being clearly visible both to live spectators , and the millions watching on TV. He strung with his usual Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power.

Earlier in the season Fernando Verdasco was another carrying a Dunlop bag but not using Dunlop rackets. This time out, however, he was wielding a genuine Dunlop frame – and lost in the first round to Fabio Fognini. Maria Sharapova was playing with the same all black frame she played with at Roland Garros. Definitely not a Prince, (with whom she has a lifetime contract), and the lack of logo suggests it’s a current model from a rival manufacturer’s range.

French Open Report

This year’s French Open was all about one string – Babolat’s RPM Blast. This black-coloured string was used by both Singles champions – Rafael Nadal and Francesca Schiavone – and also by Ladies’ runner up Sam Stosur. Rarely has a new string taken made such an impact in its first year on tour. Not only did Nadal and Schiavone use the same string, they also played with the same racket, the Babolat AeroPro Drive. Nadal strung his at 55lbs, whilst Schiavone was at 53lbs. RPM Blast is also being used by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and is without question the hottest string of the moment.

Men’s runner up for the second successive year Robin Soderling used the Head YouTek Radical frame, strung with Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power at 56lbs, whilst Austria’s Jürgen Melzer reached his first Grand Slam semi-final, playing with the Dunlop Aerogel 4D 3Hundred Tour racket, strung with Isospeed Professional strings at 75lbs.

There were some interesting player/racket combinations at Roland Garros, some players using rackets that were clearly not what their contracts say they should be using. Men’s semi-finalist Tomas Berdych was carrying his rackets in a Dunlop bag, and his rackets had no logo on them – but he was using the Head YouTek Radical. Another carrying his rackets in a Dunlop bag but not using a Dunlop was Monte Carlo runner up and Barcelona winner Fernando Verdasco, who was using one of the Tecnifibre frames he played with last year.

It was good to see Maria Sharapova getting back to somewhere near her best in taking Justine Henin to three sets, but this Prince lifetime contract player was another whose racket and bag didn’t stack up. Maria carried a Prince bag, and used a logo-less racket. Maria is Prince’s No 1 endorsee, their latest advertising campaign featuring the EXO3 Black as her racket of choice, but the completely black frame she was using was definitely not a Prince, and looked very much like a Head Prestige. It’ll be interesting to see what she turns up with at Wimbledon.

Davis Cup 1st Round

No surprises in the World Group 1st Round ties, home advantage proving crucial in a number of ties. A USA team without stalwarts Andy Roddick and James Blake went down 3-2 in Belgrade to a Serbian team led by World No 2 Novak Djokovic, but big John Isner furthered his growing reputation as a future star, losing in five sets to Djokovic, and stepping into the breach when Mike Bryan was unable to play by partnering Bob Bryan to victory in the doubles. Isner continues to play with the discontinued Prince O3 White racket, which he feels is best suited to his game. He strings with Tecnifibre Pro RedCode at 62lbs.

Another player using a discontinued Prince racket didn’t have as much success. Xavier Malisse, who still uses the Prince Diablo, was unable to prevent Belgium going down 4-1 to a strong Czech side at home in Bree. Czech Tomas Berdych played with Head YouTek Radical rackets but carried them in a Dunlop bag. There was no logo on the racket strings.

In Varazin, Croatia, Marin Cilic and Ivo Karlovic led the home side to a 5-0 whitewash of Ecuador. Both players used Head rackets, although in Karlovic’s case it was the same blacked-out frame with a Babolat logo on the strings as he used last year.

Australian Open Update

It was business as usual for top seeds and World Number Ones Roger Federer and Serena Williams, as the both recorded straight sets victories in the finals of this year’s Australian Open.

Using his new Wilson Six.One Tour BLX racket Federer dropped only two sets on his way to the title, one of these to the man on the hottest streak going into Melbourne Park, Nikolay Davydenko. Although the racket was new, Federer’s hybrid string combination of Wilson Natural Gut mains and Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough crosses was the same as he’s used for a number of years now. Roger’s tension choice was 55/52lbs. Finalist Andy Murray played the Head YouTek Radical Pro racket, strung with a hybrid of Babolat VS Team/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough at 62lbs. It was interesting to see that Davydenko was playing with the strings of his Prince Ozone Tour stencilled with the Prince ‘P’, probably indicating that he has settled his dispute with his racket manufacturer.

Whilst Federer may be playing with a new racket, Serena Williams continues to play and win with the same Wilson [K] Blade team she used last year. The biggest story in the Ladies’ Singles, however, was undoubtedly the fantastic comeback run all the way to the final of Justine Henin. Henin did have a new racket, the Wilson BLX Tour, a racket from the same 2010 range as Roger Federer. Both players used all natural gut strings, continuing gut’s domination of Grand Slam titles on the ladies’ side. Only Ana Ivanovic’s win using Luxilon strings at the French Open in 2008 has broken an uninterrupted period of dominance by natural gut.

Serena used Wilson Natural Gut strung at 68lbs, whilst Justine was using Babolat VS Touch natural gut at 27kg, (59.5lbs). The use of Babolat was a departure from her string of choice before her short retirement. Before she left the game, Justine had been a devotee of Maillot Savarez natural gut, which she routinely strung at 26kg, (57.5lbs).

The black strings Rafael Nadal has been using in the early season tournaments were again a talking point, with both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Roddick also using them, (Roddick in a hybrid with Babolat natural gut). It’s now been revealed that the string is Babolat RPM Blast, a co-polymer polyester string, whose official launch in scheduled for end Feb/beginning March, when full details will be revealed. In the meantime, check out Babolat’s RPM Blast ad at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh2FSLeBBac. Tsonga seemed to enjoy its benefits, getting to the semi-finals before being overwhelmed by Federer.

There were a number of new player/racket combinations at Melbourne this year. The aforementioned Tsonga has switched from the Wilson [K]obra he was using last year to the same Babolat AeroPro Drive GT as Rafa Nadal. Both James Blake and Tomas Berdych playing without their usual Dunlop frames. Blake played the same Wilson Six.One Tour BLX as Roger Federer, whilst Berdych has move to Head. Both players stayed loyal to Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power strings. Blake played with no Wilson ‘W’ logo on his strings, so he’s either not under contract to Wilson, or maybe still under contract to Dunlop. Neither fared very well, Berdych going out in the first round, and Blake only making Round 2.

US Open champion Juan-Martin del Potro was wielding the new Wilson Pro Tour BLX frame, and last year’s US Open Ladies semi-finalist, Yanina Wickmayer, has moved from Babolat. Having played her first match with an all black frame, she then appeared with a Donnay racket and racket bag. Yanina is the first top line player to pick up a Donnay since Greg Rusedski almost 10 years ago, and there’s been no official announcement as to what the racket is.

Finally, official statistics issued after the Open showed that Wilson was the most popular brand of racket at the event, being chosen by 36% of competitors. Next most popular was Babolat with 26%, and then Head with 21%. With these three accounting for 83% of players, it doesn’t leave much room for the Princes, Dunlops, Yonexes, Tecnifibres, and other manufacturers around.

Doha (Men) and Brisbane (Men and Ladies)

Doha

Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice? Having beaten Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the last major event of 2009, Nicolay Davydenko repeated the feat in the first open event of 2010 at Doha in Qatar.

After taking our Federer in straight sets in the semi-final, Davydenko recovered from the loss of a 6-0 first set to take the match 6-4 in the third. Davydenko played with the Prince Ozone Tour racket, strung with Polystar Energy strings at55/53lbs. There was no ‘P’ logo on Davydenko’s Prince racket, an indication that, as in 2009, he is still to agree sponsorship terms with Prince. Davydenko is hot at the moment, and must be an outside bet for the upcoming Australian Open. His Polystar strings remain one of the most underrated on the market.

As in the exhibition event in Abu Dhabi the week before, Rafa Nadal played the Babolat AeroPro Drive racket strung with black strings at 55lbs. Still no word on what the strings are, but a black version of the Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour he’s used so successfully for the last few years remains the best bet.

Roger Federer’s semi-final loss has led him to withdraw from the eight man exhibition at Kooyong the week before the Australian Open. Problems with his new Wilson Six.One Tour BLX racket? Possibly, He’s using the same Wilson Natural Gut/Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough hybrid stringing he’s used for the past four years, so there shouldn’t be any problems there. Perhaps it’s just early season rust.

Brisbane

Andy Roddick picked up the Men’s Singles title in Brisbane, with a straight sets, two-tie-break win over Radek Stepanek. A great result for Roddick, playing his first tournament since his return from injury. Roddick used the Babolat Pure Drive Roddick GT racket strung with a Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour/ Babolat VS Team hybrid at 73/61lbs. Radek Stepanek played with the Bosworth Custom racket and Pacific Prime Gut combination that served him so well last year, Radek’s chosen tension being 55/53lbs.

The men in Brisbane were overshadowed by the ladies, however, with the ‘dream final’ of Kim Clijsters v Justine Henin coming to fruition. Clijsters survived two match points to take the title in a third set tie-break, having let slip a lead of a set and 3-0, and 4-1. Kim used her usual Babolat Pure Drive racket, strung, as usual, with Babolat Pure Drive Team natural gut strings at 58lbs. Runner-up Justine was using the new Wilson Tour BLX racket. Justine remained faithful to the Maillot Savarez natural gut strings she used before her short retirement, and strung at her usual 57.5lbs. Natural gut strings continue to be the choice amongst the top women players, whilst polyesters and polyester hybrids lead the way on the men’s side.

Capitala World Tennis Championships – Abu Dhabi

2010 got underway with a men’s invitation exhibition event, where there was some new equipment on display. Roger Federer debuted the new Wilson Six.One Tour BLX racket he’ll be using this year in place of the Wilson [K] Factor Six.One Tour he’s used since 2006. His string choice remains the same – Wilson Natural Gut mains, and Luxilon Big Banger Alu Power Rough crosses, strung at 50/47lbs.

Rafael Nadal pitched up with his new Babolat AeroPro Drive GT racket, the GT standing for ‘Graphite Tungsten’, materials incorporated in the frame. It’s an evolution of the AeroPro Drive he’s used so successfully for the last few years. Creating more interest, however, were the black strings Rafa was using. What were they? As he’s under a ten year contract to play with Babolat rackets and strings they’ll certainly be Babolat, but there are no black strings in the current Babolat string range. The smart money says they’re Babolat Pro Hurricane Tour in a black finish, and he was stringing at his usual tension of 55lbs. Whether this is the case or not, and whether Rafa uses them in the upcoming Australian Open, remains to be seen. As he won the event they can’t be playing too badly!

Lastly, David Ferrer, a late replacement for Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, played with the Prince Ozone Tour rather than his usual Prince Vendetta DB. It could be that Ferrer was using the event to evaluate the Ozone in competitive play prior to making a decision on a possible switch, or he may already have decided. Again, the Australian Open, which begins on 18th January, will see.