Murray, Sharapova get confidence boosters ahead of US Open



by PRAKASH

Murray, Sharapova get confidence boosters ahead of US Open

The last major tune-up event ahead of the US Open is complete with the men and women playing the first combined Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio. Andy Murray won the men's title taking down an injured and exhausted Novak Djokovic in the final.

The Serb hurt his shoulder and looked physically spent, pulling out of the final when he was down 4-6, 0-3 - marking only his second defeat in 59 matches in 2011. The morale boosting win for Murray puts him back into the conversation for the US Open title, especially if Djokovic fails to recover sufficiently from his injury.

The Serb seems on his way to building the best tennis season since Johnny Mac's 1984 run where the American went 82-3 but will need to be in top physical shape if he wants to win his third Grand Slam title of the year. The two other US Open contenders, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, both lost in the quarter-finals.

Federer suffered another loss to another big-hitter - this time to Thomas Berdych while Nadal burnt his fingers on his right hand in a restaurant which troubled him on his serve and backhand as he went down to American Mardy Fish, also in the quarters.

Fish, who lost a tense straight setter to Murray in the semis, will be hoping his good form extends into New York where he will be the leading American by a mile. Torch-bearer of American men's tennis for over a decade, Andy Roddick dropped out of the top 20 this week after losing his temper and his first round match in Cincinnati.

Maria Sharapova won the women's title, coming from a set and a break down to defeat another former world no. 1 Jelena Jankovic in a marathon final. The win moves Sharapova up to no. 4 in the world rankings and also to the top of the WTA Championships Race.

Sharapova scored her first win over a top 5 player since January 2008 when she took down world no. 2 Vera Zvonareva in the semis and will now be hoping to go one step better than her Wimbledon runners-up position in New York.

The Russian's game and confidence hinges on her serve, which will need to be working in order to add to her Grand Slam tally. Jankovic, also in a prolonged slump of her own due to fitness, injury and poor form, will be disappointed with letting a winning position vanish in Cincinnati but happy with her performance this week - her best result this year.

The big news early on was Serena Williams' withdrawal in the second round, due to an aggravated right toe - the same toe that she injured last year. Serena had won her last two events and is expected to be fit and the favourite in New York.

Other Slam champions in the draw - Petra Kvitova, Li Na, Francesca Schiavone, Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova - all lost early while world no.1 Caroline Wozniacki suffered another early loss - this time to the American teen Christina McHale.

Wozniacki also announced that she will no longer be coached by her father and will be joined by a new coach in New York - an interesting turn of events for the Dane who seemed to be on top of the world earlier this year. The US Open gets underway on August 29.

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