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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tennis: Capsules on men to watch at 2010 Australian Open

AP Sports Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia — Men to watch at the Australian Open, which begins Monday (seedings in parentheses):

Age: 28
Country: Switzerland
2009 Match Record: 61-12
2009 Singles Titles: 4
Career Singles Titles: 61
Major Titles: 15 — U.S. Open (’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’08), Australian Open (’04, ’06, ’07), French Open (’09), Wimbledon (’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’09)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ’09-Runner-up, ’08-Semifinalist, ’07-Won championship, ’06-W, ’05-SF.
Topspin: Equaled Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles with his first French championship and broke it with a sixth Wimbledon crown, then surprisingly lost the U.S. Open final to Juan Martin del Potro, ending his run at five titles at Flushing Meadows. ... Has reached the final at 17 of past 18 majors and the semifinals at 22 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments — more than double the previous record. ... Hadn’t won a tournament in 2009 by May, then won four of his next five tournaments leading into the U.S. Open, his first Grand Slam tournament as a father: His wife, Mirka, gave birth to twin daughters in July. ... Perennial favorite to win at Melbourne Park has won three titles and only lost to the eventual champion dating back to 2004.

Age: 23
Country: Spain
2009 Match Record: 66-14
2009 Singles Titles: 5
Career Singles Titles: 36
Major Titles: 6 — Australian Open (’09), French Open (’05, ’06, ’07, ’08), Wimbledon (’08)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ’09-W, ’08-SF, ’07-QF, ’06-Did Not Play, ’05-4th
Topspin: Was ranked No. 1 here last year and collected his first Grand Slam on hard courts, leaving Federer in tears after beating him in five sets in the final. ... That win followed a 5-hour, 14-minute marathon, five-set semifinal victory over fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco. ... Injuries hampered his season beginning in March, when he injured his right knee ... His 31-match French Open winning streak ended with a stunning loss to Robin Soderling in the fourth round at Roland Garros. ... Skipped Wimbledon, citing tendinitis in both knees — only the second man in three decades to not defend his title at the All England Club. ... His 46-week stint at No. 1 ended in July. ... Returned in August and played the U.S. Open in September, losing to del Potro in the semis. ... Helped Spain win the Davis Cup. ... Compiling 13-2 record against top-10 players until May, then finished the season at 14-11.

Age: 22
Country: Serbia
2009 Match Record: 78-19
2009 Singles Titles: 5
Career Singles Titles: 16
Major Titles: 1 — Australian Open (’08)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ’09-QF, ’08-W, ’07-4th, ’06-1st, ’05-1st.
Topspin: Hasn’t reached a Grand Slam final since winning the 2008 Australian Open, when he upset Federer in the semifinals and beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the championship. ... Finished No. 3 in rankings for third straight season, closing with a 29-4 record with three titles in his last seven tournaments. ... His 97 matches played and 78 wins were highs for the ATP World Tour.

Age: 21
Country: Argentina
2009 Match Record: 54-16
2009 Singles Titles: 3
Career Singles Titles: 7
Major Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (’09)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ’09-QF, ’08-2nd, ’07-2nd, ’06-DNP, ’05-DNP
Topspin: The 6-foot-6 Argentine had a breakthrough year in ’09, rallying from 2-1 down to beat Federer in the U.S. Open final for his first major. ... Beat Nadal in the semis at Flushing Meadows, becoming the first player to beat both Nadal and Federer at a Grand Slam tournament. ... Finished the year by reaching the final of the World Tour Finals in London. ... Pushed Federer to five sets at Roland Garros in first career major semifinal. ... Youngest member of top 10. ... Lost to Federer in straight sets in the quarterfinals at the last Australian Open, but has grown in confidence since.

Age: 22
Country: Scotland
2009 Match Record: 66-11
2009 Singles Titles: 6
Career Singles Titles: 14
Major Titles: 0 — Best: F, at U.S. Open in ’08
Last 5 Australian Opens: ’09-4th, ’08-1st, ’07-4th, ’06-1st, ’05-DNP.
Topspin: Won a tour high six titles last season and moved to a career-high second in the ATP rankings in August, highest showing for a British man. ... Spent four weeks at No. 2 and was the first to break the Federer-Nadal hold on the top two spots since July, 2005. ... Still striving to be the first British male champion at any Grand Slam tennis tournament since the 1930s. ... Hasn’t reached another major final since losing the 2008 U.S. Open to Federer. ... Changed preparation this year, skipping Doha where he won two previous titles. ... Leads Federer 6-4 in career head-to-heads, but has lost the last two encounters. By not defending Doha title, dropped points that cost him a spot in the top four for the first time since 2008.

Age: 27
Country: United States
2009 Match Record: 48-15
2009 Singles Titles: 1
Career Singles Titles: 28
Major Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (’03)
Last 5 Australian Opens: ’09-SF, ’08-3rd, ’07-SF, ’06-4th, ’05-SF
Topspin: Had a heartbreaking loss to Federer at Wimbledon — 16-14 in the longest fifth set in Grand Slam final history; only dropped serve once — in the last game. ... Missed five weeks with a hip injury and only played two tournaments before losing in third round of the U.S. Open. ... Didn’t play after withdrawing in Shanghai in October with an injured knee. ... Led the tour in first-service percentage (70) and was second in aces (762). ... Is showing benefits of extra emphasis on his all-court game. ... Lost in the semifinals to Federer here last year. ... Finished in top 10 for eighth consecutive year and started 2010 by winning the Brisbane International, beating 2009 champion Radek Stepanek in the final for his 28th career title.

Age: 26
Country: Spain
2009 Match Record: 52-25
2009 Singles Titles: 1
Career Singles Titles: 3
Major Titles: 0 — Best: SF, at Australian Open ’09
Last 5 Australian Opens: ’09-SF, ’08-2nd, ’07-2nd, ’06-2nd, ’05-2nd
Topspin: Compiled his career best season in 2009 after breaking into the top 10 following his semifinal run at the Australian Open. ... He beat No. 4 Murray, No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals before losing to Nadal in the semis in what became the longest singles match in the tournament’s history. ... Sealed the Davis Cup victory for Spain for second year running by winning doubles. ... Has a game well suited to the Australian conditions but has struggled against top 10 opponents, finishing 2-14 in 2009.

Age: 24
Country: France
2009 Match Record: 53-20
2009 Singles Titles: 3
Career Singles Titles: 5
Major Titles: 0 — Best: F, at Australian Open in ’08
Last 5 Australian Opens: ’09-QF, ’08-Final, ’07-1st, ’06-DNP, ’05-DNP.
Topspin: Nicknamed Ali for his uncanny likeness to Muhammad Ali and for his prizefighter-like power and celebrations. ... Burst onto the scene at ’08 Australian Open, where he beat three top-10 players — Murray, Richard Gasquet and Nadal in the semis — to reach his first career final. ... Conditions in Melbourne well suited to his game. ... Became first Frenchman since Yannick Noah in 1982-87 to finish back-to-back seasons in the top 10. ... Had a 19-3 record including two titles in his first six events last year, but went cold until a strong finish.