Federer makes it 3rd title in a row at the Pacific Life Open in (3/06)

The World’s best Roger Federer captured the Pacific Life Open for the 3rd straight year
defeating red hot James Blake 7-5, 6-3, -6-0.  Blake started out on fire and broke Federer
twice early in the first set before succumbing to the #1 player. Federer is now 22-1 this
year only losing to Rafael Nadal in the Dubai Finals 2 weeks prior.  Nadal was upended in
the semis by Blake in a thrilling night match. Blake has won 2 tournaments this year at
Sydney and Las Vegas and moved up to #9 in the ATP rankings after this tournament.  Federer
defeated Paradon Srichaphan  with ease in the other semi 6-2, 6-3.
     In the woman’s final, Maria Sharapova dominated countrywoman Elena Dementieva 6-1,6-2 
and #2 Knowles/Nesto team beat the #1 Bryan Brothers in the doubles final  6-4, 6-4.
     There were some surprises and other young players making impressions. Included was
Russian Igor Andreev beating Andy Roddick in 3 sets using his dominating forehand and
picking on Roddick’s weaker backhand.  Andreev then bowed out to James Blake in the
quarterfinals as he out powered and made less errors  6-1, 6-4.  Another player jumping up
in the rankings is Marcos Baghdatis from Cypress.  He lost to Nadal but has had a great year
so far reaching the finals of the Australian Open. Look out for him in the near future and
the years to come.  Bright level headed kid and becoming a fan favorite with his enthusiasm
and fine play.  Jarko Neiminen took out shaky Marat Safin in the round of 16 in an ugly
match.  Safin was so out of it as Neiminen basically hit the ball back very easy continuously
until Safin made an error.  Thoman Berdych from the Czech Republic is up and coming and beat
struggling Lleyton Hewitt whose been falling fast on the court but improving in the family life
with his new wife and baby.
     On the woman’s side, Justine Henin- Hardenne has played pretty well this year but lost
to Dementieva in the semis while Martina Hingis is making a strong comeback even though she
lost to eventual champ Sharapova in the semis.
     Overall thoughts after this tournament in my opinion.  Federer is the playing so well,
he may break the single season  % record as well as winning the Grand Slam (all 4 majors this year).  I am giving him the nod over Nadal at the French.  Nadal has been slowed by injuries and isn’t playing the
same as last year when he tied Federer with 11 match victories.  He is still second best. 
I think Ivan Ljubicic is the 3rd best player in the world followed by Nalbandian, Blake,
Baghdatis, Davydenko  &  possibly David Ferrer, Richard Gasquet and Tommy Haas.  Roddick, Safin and Hewitt, and Coria have fallen in the ranks and having personal problems or just struggling.  Roddick
recently hired his brother as coach and is looking for a fresh start..  I think a good guy
for him would be John McEnroe (not that he is interested).  Roddick needs to improve his
volleys and intensity besides his weak backhand.  Coming up April 7-9th in Rancho Mirage
is the Davis Cup on grass for Roddick, Blake and the Bryan Brothers vs. Chile (Fernando
Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu- Olympic Gold Metal Team).  I interviewed Roddick and he mentioned he needs to keep up his hard work and improve on his backhand.  His serve doesn’t seem to be as dominant as it was in the past and that is needed against all the great players these days.  His confidence has not been as high as when he was making his way up the rankings a few years back and the players know it. Many of the players are using the strategy to get in a ralley with him and he will make his errors.  He is still young and can battle through it with hard work and practice at his weaknesses.
     Andre Agassi skipped this tournament and has reduced his schedule.  He is taking off
the clay court season and concentrating this summer on grass then hard courts.  He is nearing the end but has not given any indication of stopping yet.  Other Americans worth noting: Robby Ginepri has fallen on hard times since reaching the semis of the US Open last year.  Taylor Dent has been injured and inconsistent.  Mardy Fish is trying to come back from injuries and inconsistent play.  Vince Spadea has dropped in play after reaching the top 20 in 2004.  Roddick and Blake are the mainstays these days. 
More info on this years touney and tickets for next year at www.pacificlifeopen.com 

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