Western and Southern Financial Group Masters (3)

Coverage from the ATP 1000 tournament in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, August 17-23, 2009.

Sunday, 23 August 2009 04:00

Finals Weekend

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Roger Federer and Novak DjokovicSaturday

Momentum was up for grabs at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati this weekend, as the semifinals set up the ATP World Tour’s big four to play against each other going into the US Open. Top seed and World No. 1 Roger Federer was pitted against new World No. 2 Andy Murray, and World No. 3 Rafael Nadal against World No. 4 Novak Djokovic.

Fans got the dream lineup they wanted, but the tennis fell short of expectations.

Federer went into the first semifinal on a four-match losing streak against Murray. But on Saturday, the Swiss burst out of the gates with confident, thumping forehands and suffocating pressure, while Murray struggled to find his A-game. “I was leaving the ball short and giving him a lot of second serves to look at and not making a whole lot of returns,” the Scot said after the match.
Sunday, 23 August 2009 04:00

Keys to the Game

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Scoreboard at the 2009 Western and Southern Financial Group Masters Tennis TournamentSure, you can keep score during a tennis match. But do you have what it takes to be an official scorekeeper at a tournament?

The scoring booth high above the court at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters is a high-paced stats factory. “Radar on,” one of three statisticians announces before every serve. Then, fingers dance on computer keyboards as two people record each touch of the ball before assigning a verdict to the last shot – like “backhand volley forced error Nestor” – a split-second after it ends. Calling a point is a rapid-fire test of tennis aptitude. “Grand Slam Scorekeeping” would make a good drinking game.

A third scorer, the “spotter,” provides another set of eyes, especially during doubles matches. Doubles matches are harder to score than singles because they require keeping track of four players, not just two, and often the players aren’t familiar faces. Doubles teams in matching outfits especially bedevil statisticians. “If the Bryan brothers did this just once, they would never dress identically,” Newton says. Luckily, each twin has a natural ID: Mike is right-handed and Bob is left-handed. “Righty Mikey” is how he’s known in the scorekeeping booth.
Saturday, 22 August 2009 04:00

Fantastic Four

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Roger Federer at the 2009 Western and Southern Financial Group Masters Tennis TournamentLast week in Montreal, the top eight seeds made the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup. This week in Cincinnati, the top four seeds are still alive for the semifinals on Saturday.

Three of the four secured their spots with comfortable wins, while No. 3 seed Andy Murray was pushed to three sets by lucky loser Julian Benneteau, who was playing his first Masters Series 1000 quarterfinal. This match produced the first fantastic stat of the day: a 53-shot rally won by Murray to get back on serve in the second set.

The marathon point came when Benneteau was leading 6-4, 2-0, 30-40. Murray was in this same position in the quarterfinals last year – down a set and a break against Carlos Moya – before he went on to win the match and the title. Once again, Murray managed to turn the match around, just as it was ready to slip away, and he did it in spectacular fashion. Benneteau looked to be in control of the point, hitting a solid first serve and later a pair of overheads, which Murray scrambled to return and lobbed into the sun. “I thought I had a winner on my serve,” Benneteau remarked after the match. “It’s very hard against him because he is everywhere. There are no free points.”