July 31, 2015

Isner and Bryan Brothers Advance at Atlanta Open

John Isner

John Isner

By Herman Wood

(July 30, 2015) ATLANTA, Georgia – If you’re wondering, yes, it’s still hot in Atlanta!  A few showers interrupted play on Thursday, and are not helping much with the heat, breaking the rhythm of matches and sending spectators scurrying.  Fortunately, they didn’t last long, didn’t wet the courts very much and play stayed on schedule.  In the first stadium match, No. 1 seed, American John Isner took on Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.  Stepanek did get an early break, with Isner’s rhythm a bit off from the interruptions and help from Hawkeye.  Isner got it back and with the match at five all, had a break point in hand looking at a Stepanek second serve.  Stepanek was equal to the task and the match proceeded to the requisite Isner tiebreak.  The breaker was not close, however, with Isner earning mini-breaks and the ball in his hand at 6-3.  The expected ace was punctuated by a fist pumping YES!  Isner had 33 for the match, compared to 3 for Stepanek.  Isner displayed some very nice touch after motoring to pick up Stepanek droppers, making accurate placements in the open court for winners.  The crowd was very appreciative of Isner’s effort as well as the aces.  Stepanek managed an early break anyway to go up 3-2, then consolidated with a hold for 4-3, even forcing Isner to fight off another break point.  The crowd got some serious entertainment with an exchange of drop shots initiated by Stepanek, leading first to a Stepanek lob directly over Isner, a tall order of itself.  Isner made the effort, but sent his return in the clouds.  When it finally came down, it wasn’t exactly an easy shot for Stepanek to finish the point and Isner was able to track down the overhead for a forehand winner.    The crowd let both men know how they felt!

Stepanek seemed to have a little steam out of his game, double faulting twice to even the set at four.  An encouraged Isner promptly needed five points to fire four aces and barking ensued.  Isner is a University of Georgia graduate and has been a crowd favorite in years past.  Georgia fans bark at the exploits of their teams to encourage them.  The crowed also started up a USA chant to further encourage the Davis Cup stalwart.  Perhaps the rival Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fans wanted to show their support but couldn’t stomach a “woof”.  Stepanek, serving, down 4-5, had to save a set point with his shaky serve, though Isner might have been a little jacked up and sailed a few long to help him out.  After an exchange of holds, it was time for another tiebreak.  (This was a theme tonight.)  The king of tiebreaks did have to put in a bit of extra tennis, closing out Stepanek in the breaker 9-7.  Match to Isner, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7).  Isner said after the match “Had the crowd on my side, helped so, so much.”  He’ll take on Ricardas Berankis in the next round on Saturday.

In the finale, number one doubles seeds Bob and Mike Bryan took on Treat Huey and Steve Johnson.  Johnson had already played a singles match in the worst of the afternoon’s heat, losing to Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-2.  It showed a bit early, though he really turned it around after getting loose again.  The Bryans ran out to a very workmanlike 5-1 lead in the first set.  Johnson showed some very nice geometry, angling groundstrokes and volleys, but Huey let him down with a few poor volleys.  Johnson put his foot on the gas pedal, blasting away on returns and passes, at more than one point splitting the Bryans.  The Bryans tried to be offensive from the baseline, earning break points but were not able to convert, allowing Huey/Johnson to break their way all the back to 4-5 with Johnson serving.  It seemed momentum had completely swung, with the Bryans bouncing balls in front of them at the net and not being their usual aggressive selves.  After holds, the match proceeded to the evening theme:  tiebreak.

The Bryans seemed to be able to pick on Huey at the net with blasts that would have been painful had they not been deflected.  They were effective in earning a mini-break and momentum, though Huey did get the mini-break back, momentum seemed to never leave the Bryans again.  They continued to pick on Huey and took the first set 7-6 (7-5 in the tie break).

The second set featured amazing shot making and tennis that looked more like the Harlem Globetrotters had changed sports.  Mike Bryan whiffed a volley and it appeared that Bob volleyed it back without looking.  Huey and Johnson were so stunned the ball was soon in their side of the net.  The crowd enjoyed it, though the Bryans seemed a bit apologetic.  Later in the set Huey and Johnson had both brothers scrambling madly.  One of the Bryans ended up in a heap in the corner after a ferocious get and screeching slide.  It did earn them a point, but it cost someone some skin!

At four all, Huey’s volleys again got loose, allowing a service break.  Bob Bryan had the opportunity to serve it out with the crowed loudly encouraging the team, but they couldn’t get it done. Johnson and Huey fought hard to even the set at five all.  After a family meeting, Mike Bryan took his turn to serve, trying to get to the seven point set tiebreaker.  Johnson fired some bullets at Bob Bryan at the net, with Bryan able to block one, though the second was too good on one amazing point.  The ball sounded like a shot coming off both mens’ racquets.

Following the theme for the night, the tiebreak for the second set was on.  Huey/Johnson earned mini-breaks, but the Bryans got them right back and finished off the tie break and the match, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).  The Bryans clearly relish having the opportunity to control the outcome of the match and have the ball on their racquet when it matters most.  It’s hard to argue that they aren’t the greatest doubles team of all time.  They’ll play the winner of Chris Eubanks/Donald Young and Austin Krajicek/Nicholas Monroe in the next round.

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood.

RESULTS – THURSDAY, 30 JULY 2015

Singles – Second Round
[1] J. Isner (USA) d [PR] R. Stepanek (CZE) 76(3) 76(7)
[Q] D. Kudla (USA) d [3] J. Sock (USA) 76(6) 63
R. Berankis (LTU) d [6] S. Johnson (USA) 64 62
D. Sela (ISR) d [8] B. Becker (GER) 75 63

Doubles – Quarter-finals
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d T. Huey (PHI) / S. Johnson (USA) 76(5) 76(4)
C. Fleming (GBR) / G. Muller (LUX) d M. Baghdatis (CYP) / M. Jaziri (TUN) 76(8) 62

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Tuesday in “Hotlanta” Sees Mardy Fish Fall in First Round

By Herman Wood

(July 28, 2015) ATLANTA, Georgia – Hotlanta indeed!  Following the directions of ushers to take a seat on Tuesday in Atlanta potentially risked a trip to the burn unit!  It certainly was not comfortable, even in the shade once the sun moved a bit at the Atlanta Open.  Action heated up on the courts as well, with a number of young and experienced Americans in action.  Steve Johnson got by Lukas Lacko 6-1, 6-7, 6-2, dropping a second set tiebreak 7-3.  Austin Krajicek fell to Marco Baghdatis 6-4, 6-0, despite some creative engineering of his frame, reportedly playing with a broken frame for one point.  Qualifier Denis Kudla sent wild card Ryan Harrison home for singles in three sets, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5).  Harrison tweeted later, “Fought hard today.  Thank you @BBTatlantaopen for this opportunity to play.  I will get better from this and always be back.  #Bounceback”   Eighteen year old Jared Donaldson took down fellow qualifier Somdev Devvarman 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.  Donaldson is impressive if for nothing else the ability to seriously launch a ball out of the stadium.  Interstate 75 is a possibility!

Australia’s Sam Groth had all he could handle with 17 year old American Frances Tiafoe.  It was a draw until the tiebreaker began for the first set.  The veteran Groth got a service mini-break early and that took some steam out of Tiafoe.  He certainly fought, but Groth kept blasting away.  Fellow American and Georgia Tech team member Chris Eubanks rooted loudly for Tiafoe, encouraging him to keep fighting.  The crowd was fully behind him, exhorting him as well.  He got a bit discouraged after dropping the tie break 7-3 and gave up an early break.  Soon, the racquet was thrown and the crowd got a bit quiet.  The statistics reflected a very even match, but all Groth needed was one tiebreak and one break point converted.  He made it hold up for a 7-6(3), 6-4 win.  Tiafoe won’t find much comfort in the statistics, but he only had one break chance and couldn’t convert it and that was really the difference.

Singles wrapped up for the day with a more mature American, Mardy Fish, who will be calling it a career after the US Open, taking on last year’s finalist – Dudi Sela.  Sela won over the Atlanta crowd last year with fine play and gracious humor.  The crowd appreciated fine play all night, but tried to raise Fish, though there wasn’t as much to cheer for as they might have liked.  Fish managed to hold his first service game, but it was a struggle.   The struggle continued in his second service game, as he was broken by just generally loose play, spraying balls long.  The game was certainly there, especially when the shot required a quick reaction, whether forehand or backhand.  Fish flashed a 131 mph serve at one point, but Sela was more than ready, blunting the attack, blocking backhand after backhand back authoritatively.  Fish managed to get the break back to level the set at four with the help of two net cords, but was promptly undone again, not able to finish points he had most certainly earned.  Sela had to work, holding off a break point, but closed the set 6-4 in his favor.  Fish apparently had an issue with his socks at some point and took advantage of a medical time out by Sela.  Apparently, he gestured to Roddick, who simply removed his socks and sent them to Fish.  That’s a bit more sharing than I think most people want to do with their doubles partner!  After Sela had his wrist attended to, play resumed and stayed on serve.  The length of rallies and level of play improved for both men, until Sela earned a break for 5-4 with a wild Fish forehand.  During the changeover, Sela’s homeland flag of Israel came out on display in the stands and it seemed to inspire him.  He served the set out, winning 6-4, 6-4.  He was gracious afterward, signing and posing with fans.  “If Mardy had played his best, he’d have kicked my ass!”

“If I’m going to play like that, it’s going to be pretty tough,” Fish said in talking about the positives he’d taken from the match. “It’s just it’s nice to finish on my own terms. The sport, my job, was taken from me so abruptly that it took me a long time to get my life back.”

Fish is scheduled to play his last two tournaments of his career in Cincinnati and New York.

I was also able to chat with Chris Eubanks, a 6-7 sophomore from Georgia Tech (about a mile from Atlantic Station).  Eubanks graduated from Westlake High School, also here in Atlanta, and is the number 53rd ranked singles player in the NCAA.  Eubanks played with American Donald Young in the doubles draw, beating Mate Pavic and Michael Venus 6-2, 3-6, 10-5 in the super tiebreaker. Wednesday he’ll play Radek Stepanek in singles.  I asked how I would know if he were playing his best.  “I’ll be getting my first serve in and making my forehand.”  I responded that he had just described about ninety percent of American tennis players, whether on the tour or not.  That drew a laugh.  We also talked about on court demeanor and he shared how important it is that you have to be yourself on the court and express yourself in the way of your own choosing.  Eubanks was very gracious with his time, though he was clearly there to support Tiafoe.

In other singles results, German Benjamin Becker got by fellow German Michael Berrer, 7-5, retired.  In other doubles action, “Popsock”, Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock fell to Gilles Muller and Colin Fleming 6-4, 4-6,10-6.  Eric Butyric and Artem Sitak took out Matthew Ebden and Adrian Mannarino 6-2, 6-0.  Play continues on Wednesday with the evening matches focusing on doubles.  Fish and Roddick return to action, taking on Murray and Lu.  The Bryan Brothers have big serving Groth partnered up with fellow Australian Chris Guccione.

 

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood

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The Road to the US Open Begins This Weekend at the BB&T Atlanta Open

BB&TAtlantaOpen

By Herman Wood

(July 24, 2015)ATLANTA, Georgia – The road to the US Open starts in Atlanta with the BB&T Atlanta Open this weekend with qualifying.  The BB&T is a ATP World Tour 250 event, with a 28 player singles and 16 player doubles draw.  Total prize money this year is $585,870.00.  The venue is set in downtown Atlanta, amongst the sky scrapers and shopping of Atlantic Station.  Two time champion and former University of Georgia all-time leader in singles and doubles wins, John Isner returns in search of a historic three-peat.

Arguably the best doubles team of all time, Bob and Mike Bryan make their debut in the BB&T.  They got their first tour win in an Atlanta event in 1998.  Defending doubles champ and singles semifinalist Jack Sock, along with doubles partner Vasek Pospisil, are looking to take another step in their development.  The doubles draw could be very interesting if a showdown between the Bryan brothers and “Popsock” materializes.  It was only a year ago that Pospisil/Sock denied the Bryans the Wimbledon 2014 title.

Marco Baghdatis is already turning heads in the ATL.  As he dropped off his racquets for stringing by the Prince Team at the Serious Tennis tent with Deana Buzzy Mitchell, he was reportedly, “very sweet and winked at me!”  That kind of behavior is sure to make him a fan favorite with at least half of the crowd.  Americans Steve Johnson, Tim Symzek, and Donald Young are also looking to make a statement.   In what could be a big story line, two time champion Mardy Fish is returning to the tour in this tournament.  He has struggled with health issues almost since the last tournament win in Atlanta.  He’ll also be teaming up with another former Atlanta champion, Andy Roddick.  Roddick will not play in the singles main draw, but is playing an exhibition match against another young American, 17 year old Frances Tiafoe on Monday night.  Tiafoe created a stir in the qualifying last year and has been granted a wild card into the main draw.  Other crowd favorites returning include Dudi Sela, last year’s finalist, 2013 finalist Kevin Anderson, and 2012 finalist Giles Muller.  The draw will also include 4 players from a 32 draw qualifying tournament to be played this weekend.

2015 French Open Boys’ champion Tommy Paul and this year’s Wild Card Challenge winner Trent Bryde have accepted two wild card spots into that BB&T Atlanta Open qualifying tournament.  Paul is the No. 5-ranked American junior. Bryde had to make his way through 5 matches in the Wild Card Challenge.  Georgia Tech also is providing a wild card to sophomore Christopher Eubanks.  Eubanks was named all Atlantic Coast Conference as a freshman last spring and finished ranked number 47 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

Ticket sales have been on a record pace according to Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez.  Atlanta has always been a tennis town, with the largest local doubles league in the United States.  There will be several special events that are part of the tournament scene, including the above mentioned exhibition with Roddick, a kids weekend with special ticket promotions during the qualifying tournament, a Commodores concert, College Night, another concert featuring LoCash, Ladies Day, USTA member appreciation day, and a Family Zone presented by Prince at Atlantic Station where kids can play tennis.

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood

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Great Britain Clinches Place in Davis Cup Semifinal

 

By Ros Satar

(July 19, 2015) LONDON, UK – In a rollercoaster race to the finish, Andy Murray overcame the worst possible start in the fourth rubber to clinch Great Britain’s place in the Davis Cup quarter-final against France.

 

From the outset though, it looked as though the crowds would be getting their money’s worth as a sluggish looking Murray floundered early against a far fresher looking Gilles Simon at the start of the first set.

 

The Frenchman seemed completely impenetrable on his serve, attacking well and out maneuvering Murray at every turn as he quickly consolidated an early break before wrapping up the first set.

 

While it was imperative that Murray got off to a quick start, getting broken in the first game of the second set was not in the plan, and there was many a furrowed British brow, as he struggled to stay with the Frenchman who was getting the better of the ling rallies, and at one stage reduced Murray to sink to his knees in despair. Even when he did get the break back, the Brit looked too exhausted to even bring forth a fist-pump, despite the crowd willing him on, yet somehow he consolidated.

 

Even in the tie-break, it looked as through the French were running away with it, with a 4-1 lead, but a couple of lacklustre points from Simon put Murray right back in it. Leveling the set saw a bit of a reaction, but there was still an awfully long way for him to go.

 

Murray was on the attack though, racing through the third set now that the momentum was shifting towards this side of the English Channel. But a bad slip after being broken at the start of the fourth set put the French at a disadvantage. Simon had already taken a tumble when his knee gave way as he landed from a serve, but after rolling his ankle, his movement was impaired as the fourth set got away from him completely. That being said, it took Murray four match points to wind up the tie 4-6, 7-6(5, 6-3, 6-0 and for Great Britain to win 3-1.

 

Of course once again the doubles was the pivotal point, no matter how many times team captains want to play it down, and at one stage it must have felt as though the entire tie was France versus The Murray family.

 

French team captain Arnaud Clement said: “It was every time a little push from the British team, a little bit more solid. A lot of sets during this weekend, just can see one or two points are missing and maybe can change but it was always in the same for the British team. So it’s just the British was a little bit more solid than us, and deserve this win.”

 

Leon Smith said: “It’s incredible how he find a way to dig as deep as he can. It is phenomenal what he finds within himself, a set and a break down and that tiebreak, 4-1 down but he fights and he fights and he fights and after a couple of those long brutal rallies, to be able to get up and serve again, ready for the next point. I was sitting there thinking this is why he does the hard work, those moments when he digs into his dark places of training and he finds a way to do it because his legs and his heart have been conditioned to do it, and he does it better than anyone. I have nothing but immense respect.”

 

For Murray it will be another tough battle to go deep at the US Open, and then face two if not three vital matches, if Britain are to keep their hopes of a place in their first Davis Cup final since 1936.

 

He said: “The memories that you have from those matches, like playing Glasgow earlier in the year, I mean I’m sure the whole team would agree the atmosphere was absolutely unbelievable there. You don’t get that in any other event, so you have a lot of memories from the Davis Cup and that’s one of the reasons you’re passionate to play.”

 

Great Britain will now play host to Australia, who fought back from 2-0 down against Kazakhstan in September, following the US Open.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

 

 

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Mauresmo, Hall, and Jeffett Headline the 2015 Tennis Hall of Fame

Hall of Famers gathered in Newport to welcome the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Left to right: Stan Smith, Owen Davidson, Jane Brown Grimes, Rosie Casals, ITHF Chairman Christopher Clouser, Peachy Kellmeyer, Pam Shriver, Gigi Fernandez, Vic Seixas, Brad Parks, David Hall, Nancy Jeffett.    Photo by Kate Whitney Lucey

Hall of Famers gathered in Newport to welcome the International Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Left to right: Stan Smith, Owen Davidson, Jane Brown Grimes, Rosie Casals, ITHF Chairman Christopher Clouser, Peachy Kellmeyer, Pam Shriver, Gigi Fernandez, Vic Seixas, Brad Parks, David Hall, Nancy Jeffett. Photo by Kate Whitney Lucey

 

By Jack Cunniff

(July 18, 2015) NEWPORT, Rhode Island – The International Tennis Hall of Fame inducted three new members on Saturday afternoon, Amelie Mauresmo and David Hall in the Recent Player category and Nancy Jeffett in the Contributor category.

 

Mauresmo, who could not attend the ceremony due to the impending birth of her first child, was the first Frenchwoman to ever achieve the No. 1 ranking and won two major events in her career, the 2006 Australian Open and 2006 Wimbledon Championships. Her first significant achievement as a professional was in January 1999, reaching her first major final at the Australian Open. The tennis world took notice of her game, a mix of power and grace, and over the next several years Mauresmo added an effective volley and net game to her repertoire. These added dimensions culminated in her most successful year, when she captured two of the four major events in 2006.

 

In total, Mauresmo won 25 WTA Singles titles, including the year-end WTA Tour Championships in 2005. She also represented France in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, winning a silver medal in Athens 2004, and was a seven-time member of the French Fed Cup team, including the 2003 squad that won the championship.

 

Mauresmo retired from professional tennis following the 2009 U.S. Open, but has not disappeared from the tennis scene. Today she is the coach of Andy Murray, the No. 3 ranked player, a rare women’s coach on the ATP Tour. She also successfully coached her countrywoman Marion Bartoli to the 2013 Wimbledon title, and since 2012 has been the coach of the French Federation Cup Team.

 

David Hall of Australia is a former No. 1 ranked wheelchair tennis player. When he was 16, David was involved in a car accident that resulted in the amputation of both legs. Very soon after, he was inspired when he saw a photograph of a wheelchair tennis player. He used tennis as an outlet, and turned a negative into a positive. His incredibly successful wheelchair tennis career includes six Paralympic medals, including a gold medal in Wheelchair Singles in his hometown of Sydney, and 32 singles championships. Hall was introduced by his former coach, Rich Berman.

 

Nancy Jeffett was introduced by Hall-of-Famer Pam Shriver. In her comments, Shriver highlighted Jeffett’s accomplishments, most notably co-founding the Maureen Connolly Brinker Tennis Foundation with “Little Mo” Connolly. To this day, the MCB Foundation sponsors junior tennis tournaments, and helps develop and support junior players worldwide. Shriver also noted that Jeffett was influential in the decision to host a 1965 Davis Cup tie featuring Arthur Ashe in a Dallas public park, foreshadowing the move of the U.S. Open to a public facility.

 

The Enshrinement Ceremony also featured the Hall of Fame ring presentation to Billie Jean King, a 1987 Tennis Hall of Fame inductee.

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Brits Serve Up a 2-1 Lead Going into Last Day of Davis Cup Quarterfinal

By Ros Satar

(July 18, 2015) LONDON, UK – Great Britain gave themselves the best chance of advancing in the Davis Cup since the 1980’s after they beat the French to set up a 2-1 lead going into the final day.

 

Although Britain had nominated doubles specialists Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot, there was a widely held consensus that in order for the Brits to give themselves the best possible chance, Andy Murray had to play.

 

Yet he himself had said that he would have to be very honest with the team about how he felt after a long European swing, which saw him win his first titles on clay, Queen’s and then bowing out at the semi-final stage of Wimbledon.

 

His older brother Jamie had the best success of his career to date, making the Wimbledon men’s doubles final with his Australian partner John Peers. He, along with Inglot had paired up in Glasgow earlier in the year, but lost to the Bryan Brothers in a close affair against the United States.

 

Right down to the wire, the decision was made that the Murray brothers would face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nicolas Mahut in Saturday’s pivotal rubber, and early on it looked as though this might not be the wisest choice, as Andy Murray was broken in the opening game of the match, the French not relinquishing the advantage.

 

The second set was a much tighter affair between the sides, with the Brits finally earning their first break point to hit the front for the first time in the match, and with a far more boisterous crowd than yesterday, the atmosphere was electric as Britain leveled.

 

There was drama to come through, as the court has had very little time to recover to be ready for the tie, and over the course of the two days the players have been taking tumbles. The younger Murray had already tweaked his groin in his first match, and an awkward slip rendered him face down in the grass, not to mention some embarrassingly painful looking manipulation afterward.

 

Yet as the pair battled through a tense tie-break to secure a 2-1 lead, Murray minor was leaping around pumped and getting the crowd behind him. It must have worked as the brothers quickly notched up a 5-0 lead, with the French registering a game on the board, and even pushing Jamie’s serve to a break point, before the doubles specialist stole the day with the final winner on match point – final score 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-1

 

It was a subdued Arnaud Clement who met with the press to defend his choices, and of course he can field Richard Gasquet in place of Gilles Simon tomorrow for the fourth rubber, leaving Tsonga to face James Ward if it comes to a fifth rubber.

 

Definitely not subdued was Jamie Murray whose confidence after his Wimbledon run spilled over as he made the most of being chief speaker after today’s result.

 

He said: “I think the crowd were great from first to the last point. Obviously that tie-break proved critical. I don’t really even remember much about it to be honest other than Andy getting that serve back and Mahut diving, and turning round and seeing Andy six feet off the ground. But you know, that’s the thing [about] home support – it’s brilliant to have it and I think as long as we’re playing home ties, everyone that’s coming to watch us should be there and cheering as loud as they can and trying to help the players, because it does really help us to perform as best we possibly can.”

 

Andy now has to try and get himself in gear for the earlier start on Sunday, especially with mixed reports about weather closing in, although no one wants this to push through into next week.

 

He said: “Got to make sure tonight conserve as much energy as possible, go back, recover properly. Get a good night’s sleep and hopefully come out tomorrow and feel good when I get up. Obviously right now after that match, it’s hard not to feel good.

 

“But I’ve also played matches where you do have a massive high, a massive adrenalin rush during the match and in the evening you can feel quite fatigued as well. I’ve been through that before. Just deal with whatever cards I’m dealt tomorrow when I wake up and hopefully play a good match.”

 

The final day starts with Murray facing either Richard Gasquet or Gilles Simon in the fourth rubber, and if it comes down to a fifth and decisive rubber, James Ward will face Tsonga.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

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Andy Murray Levels Great Britain versus France Davis Cup Tie at 1-1

Tsonga Murray 8814

By Ros Satar

(July 17, 2015) LONDON, UK – It was always going to be a tough ask for James Ward to tackle France’s highest ranked singles player (mind you, they are all stacked one after the other in the rankings).

 

With the fans kitted out in red and blue T-shirts, it was les Bleus who took first blood, as Gilles Simon edged past Ward in the first two sets with a single break, just having to up the level of intensity a little.

 

The third set was a runaway though by French standards as Simon closed out the first rubber comfortably under two hours, 6-4, 6-4, 6-1.

 

The Frenchman is no stranger to these courts this year, having reached the semi-finals here earlier this year, before going on to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

 

Ward had no option really but to praise his some-time hitting partner as ‘crafty’. He said: “He hits the ball very flat and moves very well, so even if guys are serving well, he returns well, he makes a lot of balls. And he’s pretty crafty, he puts the ball in places that are not always easy to attack from.”

 

The disappointment was evident in his body-language as he admitted that he and tea, captain Leon Smith had agreed upon tactics for the game, that just hadn’t worked out well today.

 

Ward said: “The guy moves very well, and even when I feel like I’m being aggressive, you can’t go too much because he gets a lot of balls back. And as I say it was very windy, it was moving around a lot there, so to time the ball perfect is very difficult. Sometimes you’re more worried about getting the ball in than trying to go for a winner and close to the line because the margins are small.”

 

So it was left to Andy Murray to level the tie, with a competitive first set just edged as Jo-Wilfred Tsonga went off the boil, spraying some wild forehands generously around the court.

 

There was a hope for the French though, as Tsonga broke at the start of the second set, and as the pair battled into a second set tie-break it looked again as though the French had the upper hand.

 

A strong fight-back from Murray saw them swap set points between them until finally an unforced error from Tsonga put the Brits in a commanding 2 set to love lead. From there it seemed to get away from Tsonga very quickly, with a nervy serve out by Murray at the end to level the tie.

 

He said: “I thought I did well. I mean the atmosphere helps. The crowd was great today, especially the important moments and yeah I was happy with the job I did today. I didn’t feel like I played amazing. I played some good shots at important times but it was very tough conditions today. It was extremely windy on the court today and swirling around a lot so it wasn’t easy to play very well.”

 

It remains to be seen what possible permutations come out for either teams for what is sure to be the pivotal doubles rubber on Saturday.

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

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French Pull Surprise at Davis Cup Draw Versus Great Britain

 

Tsonga Murray 8814

By Ros Satar

LONDON, UK – The BNP Paribas offices in Central London played host to the draw ceremony for the Davis Cup quarter-final tie between Great Britain and France

 

France perhaps pulled off the biggest surprise of all by announcing that the French No. 1 and No. 2 would be Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, leaving Wimbledon semi-finalist Richard Gasquet off the side.

 

The British team were predictably in good spirits, laughing at in-jokes, and explaining away the strength in depth that the French have got, and always acknowledging that at any time, team captain Arnaud Clement could change his mind.

 

James Ward has the task of starting the whole tie off, and with a close history between his coach and Simon’s, the pair probably know their games inside out.

 

“I know him better than the other guys, I practice with him a lot so he knows my game just as well as I know his. I just need to stay aggressive and try and play my game and not worry too much about him, and yeah see how we get on.”

 

Simon agreed when asked in the French team’s press conference, adding: “I know what to expect, it will be hard but I think it will be a good match.”

 

The main focus of course is on Murray, who admitted yesterday that it had taken a few days to get over the Wimbledon semi-final loss to Roger Federer. But within the banter of the team, he was able to put his finger on what to expect when he plays the second rubber on Friday.

 

“He’s an explosive player, he can serve big, he can get to the net quickly, he can be dangerous,” he said. “The things that I’ll look for is to try and play a very consistent match from start to finish. If his level drops at times where he makes a few errors, try to capitalize on that, but he’s a tough tough guy to beat on this surface.”

 

There is always the option of adding Andy to the doubles mix, instead of Dominic Inglot who had to struggle to get fit in time for Wimbledon, and a lot will now depend on how that first rubber kicks off.

 

But one thing was clear – this was a team effort, and not a chance for Andy only to fill any hole in his trophy cabinet.

 

He said: “I wouldn’t say winning this year is the chance of the lifetime because we’re playing against a great team. It’s not like this is an amazing opportunity because the draw has opened up, this is an easy match or we have an easy path through to the final. It is extremely tough tie, beating the States was hard as well, and yeah it’s an opportunity obviously, but opportunity of a lifetime for me personally, no I don’t agree with that at all.”

 

As part of the team effort, the team are altogether in a hotel, fostering the team spirit we have seen when they greet the press for these draw conferences. Equally, the French team are just as motivated after their loss to the Swiss last year in the final.

 

The tie will start on Friday – James Ward v Gilles Simon followed by Andy Murray versus Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The doubles is expected to be Jamie Murray and Dominic Inglot versus Nicolas Mahut and Richard Gasquet, with the reverse singles on Sunday starting with Murray versus Simon.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

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Fighting talk from the French and the British ahead of the Davis Cup Quarterfinal

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By Ros Satar

LONDON, England – Arnaud Clement fields a team of players who believes can handle any surface thrown at them, as he prepares to face Great Britain at home at Queen’s club for the quarter-final of the Davis Cup.

 

The team comprising of Wimbledon semi-finalist Richard Gasquet, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon, Nicholas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert met with the press ahead of the draw, to talk about their preparations.

 

Last year’s finalists may be more traditionally associated with the clay of Roland Garros, but their players are no slouches on the grass, as team captain

 

Arnaud Clement explained: “You know for our team, to play on grass, hard court, indoor court or clay court it’s almost the same. My players are good on all surface and reach finals and won tournaments on all the surface all over the world so for us, I think they chose grass because it’s the best surface for Great Britain.”

 

He may have some early injury worries, as Gilles Simon was spotted limping off court an hour before the press conference, although he played down questions about his condition joking that he was in great shape and had not wanted to play anymore.

 

Conditions have veered between bouts of rain and sun making the rested courts at Queen’s probably a little slick.

 

Gasquet, who bowed out to eventual champion Novak Djokovic after a five set quarter-final against recently crowned French Open champion Stan Wawrinka gave himself a well-earned rest ahead of the tie.

 

He said: “I stopped three days and started again yesterday. I’m feeling great. I like to play on grass and playing well. And I’m in great shape now and ready for the weekend.”

 

With two of the British team also in the latter stages of the tournament, team Captain Leon Smith was quick to point out that no matter how much match research and planning he or Clement had done, it would all come down to the three days, saying: “The players are so well known. Anyway you can plan as much as you want but it will be much more down to what happens on the day and trying to react. These guys are trying to do the most important part, which is playing. It’s going to be up to us to do the best as possible on the day.”

 

That being said, the nature of Andy Murray’s defeat at the hands of Roger Federer on perhaps a flawless day of serving still was weighing heavy on his mind.

 

He said: “I still thought about it most days, yeah. I did say at the time, the guy served over 80% the first and third set. That’s won’t happen to me for the rest of the year.

 

“You have to look at the match and see what’s happened and analyse it a little bit and look at the tournament as a whole, and Queen’s as well and think about those things and see what I can do better in the future. It doesn’t take one day, there’s a lot of preparation goes into those events and you need to take your time. When you are finished you need to analyse what’s gone right and wrong and things you can do to improve in the future.”

 

There was far less bravado from the British side, but their camaraderie and results over the past few ties have helped make them a formidable unite when combined.

 

Murray continued: “I would say in the last couple of years, everyone’s played their part and all of the matches that have been played, obviously James has won some big singles marches. Even though Jamie and Dom didn’t get the win in Glasgow, they played a great match against the Bryan bros and I think over the last couple of years we’ve had some great performances and I think this is our level now, as a team, and this weekend is going to be a tough ask against four top grass court players. They’re all really really good players, it’s going to be a tough challenge for us but we have an opportunity win it with playing our best level.”

 

The draw will take place on Thursday, with play starting at Queen’s Club London on Friday.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist covering tennis, and can also be found at Britwatch Sports.

 

 

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2015 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Contender Profiles – Fast Facts with Jack Cunniff

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

(June 28, 2015) Profiles of the top Men’s Singles contenders for 2015 Wimbledon. Note: Grand Slam records for main draw matches only.  – by Jack Cunniff     http://twitter.com/jrcunniff

 

Novak Djokovic

2015 Record: 41-3

Grand Slam Record: 193-34

Wimbledon Record: 45-8

Wimbledon Best Result: Won (2011, ‘14)

Fast Fact: Djokovic is currently 11th in Open Era Wimbledon match wins with 45, but could pass Agassi (46), Lendl (48), Ivanisevic (49), Edberg (49), and Borg (51) with a title defense.

 

Roger Federer

2015 Record: 34-6

Grand Slam Record: 285-47

Wimbledon Record: 73-9

Wimbledon Best Result: Won (2003, ’04, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’09, ‘12)

Fast Fact: Federer is trying to reach his 10th Wimbledon final, the most for a player at a single major in the Open Era; he’s currently tied for first (9 Wimbledon finals) with Nadal (9 French Open finals).

 

Andy Murray

2015 Record: 41-6

Grand Slam Record: 145-35

Wimbledon Record: 41-8

Wimbledon Best Result: Won (2013)

Fast Fact: In 2015, Murray has a 41-2 record (95.3%) against players other than Novak Djokovic, but an 0-4 record vs. Djokovic.

 

Stan Wawrinka

2015 Record: 30-9

Grand Slam Record: 94-39

Wimbledon Record: 13-10

Wimbledon Best Result: QF (2014)

Fast Fact: Wawrinka has won 20 matches in Grand Slam events over the last year, more than any man except Djokovic.

 

Kei Nishikori

2015 Record: 37-9

Grand Slam Record: 44-23

Wimbledon Record: 7-6

Wimbledon Best Result: 4R (2014)

Fast Fact: Nishikori’s career record vs. Top Ten players is 23-35, but over the past year he has a winning record vs. the Top Ten (10-8).

 

Tomas Berdych

2015 Record: 37-11

Grand Slam Record: 111-47

Wimbledon Record: 29-11

Wimbledon Best Result: RU (2010)

Fast Fact: Berdych’s career record vs. Top 50 opponents on grass is 17-17 (50%).

 

Milos Raonic

2015 Record: 23-10

Grand Slam Record: 39-17

Wimbledon Record: 8-4

Wimbledon Best Result: SF (2014)

Fast Fact: In his last 10 appearances in Grand Slam events, Raonic has compiled a 27-1 record vs. players ranked outside of the Top 25 (lost to Sijsling, 2R 2013 Wimbledon).

 

Marin Cilic

2015 Record: 10-9

Grand Slam Record: 66-28

Wimbledon Record: 13-7

Wimbledon Best Result: QF (2014)

Fast Fact: Cilic has won a professional title every year for the last 7 years (since 2008), but has yet to reach a final in 2015.

 

Rafael Nadal

2015 Record: 33-11

Grand Slam Record: 195-27

Wimbledon Record: 39-8

Wimbledon Best Result: Won (2008, ‘10)

Fast Fact: Until winning in Stuttgart two weeks ago, Nadal hadn’t defeated a Top 50 opponent on grass since the 2011 Wimbledon semifinals.

 

Grigor Dimitrov

2015 Record: 19-12

Grand Slam Record: 23-19

Wimbledon Record: 8-5

Wimbledon Best Result: SF (2014)

Fast Fact: Excluding Dimitrov’s run to the 2014 Wimbledon semifinals, his record in Grand Slam events would be .500 (18-18).

 

Gilles Simon

2015 Record: 28-13

Grand Slam Record: 61-36

Wimbledon Record: 12-9

Wimbledon Best Result: 4R (2009)

Fast Fact: In his 36 Grand Slam events, Simon has earned a Top 20 seed in half of his appearances, but has managed to reach the quarterfinals only once (2009 Australian Open).

 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

2015 Record: 11-6

Grand Slam Record: 89-29

Wimbledon Record: 22-7

Wimbledon Best Result: SF (2011, ‘12)

Fast Fact: All 18 players to have defeated Tsonga in Grand Slam events have career high rankings in the Top 25; only three of those players have never reached the Top Ten. (Klizan – 24, Karlovic – 14, Dolgopolov – 13).

 

Kevin Anderson

2015 Record: 25-14

Grand Slam Record: 35-25

Wimbledon Record: 6-6

Wimbledon Best Result: 4R (2014)

Fast Fact: Anderson is attempting to win his 200th career ATP match in the opening round of Wimbledon (199-149).

 

Feliciano Lopez

2015 Record: 16-15

Grand Slam Record: 76-54

Wimbledon Record: 29-13

Wimbledon Best Result: QF (2005, ’08, ‘11)

Fast Fact: Lopez enters Wimbledon with a losing record on grass for the year (2-3, 40%) the first time that’s happened since 2008.

 

John Isner

2015 Record: 21-14

Grand Slam Record: 40-28

Wimbledon Record: 5-6

Wimbledon Best Result: 3R (2014)

Fast Fact: In his past 2 Wimbledon appearances, Isner has a 3-2 record, and has played 155 total games in under 9 hours, less than his historic 2010 match vs. Mahut (183 total games, over 11 hours).

 

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