2015/06/30

Brad Gilbert Talks Tennis “Glossary”

Gilbert's Glossary

(June 29, 2015) Brad Gilbert has a new series of unique video shorts entitled “Gilbert’s Glossary,” which will air online during Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The former world No. 4 and ESPN Tennis commentator puts his own spin on explaining tennis terms such as “Buggy Whip,” “Love,” “Breadsticks” and “Bagels,” “Can Opener” and Moonball to name a few. These video shorts are produced by Voya Financial and coincide with the company’s sponsorship of ESPN’s telecasts of the last two majors of the year.

Tennis Panorama News asked Gilbert a few questions about his own personal tennis glossary and about his tennis nicknames.

Tennis Panorama News: Brad, you have a unique set of glossary terms of your own, including a number of player nicknames, how did that begin? Was Bud Collins an influence on why you do it, since he’s done it for ages?

 

Brad Gilbert: The glossary of terms and nicknames has been more of a natural progression of having fun. I always kind of did it as a player and then as I progressed into coaching I used it for levity and memory/code words, etc.  For TV it really took off, just because I feel it’s important to have fun and keep things simple for the viewer and fans. It’s just my thing. It’s always respectful and more to the strengths of the player than anything else. Plus there are so many players, it’s a way to remember and keep it fun. As far as it stemming from anyone, not really, but if anybody, I’m a Chris Berman fan.

 

TPN: What’s your favorite term from your “own” glossary?

BG:  Favorite terms:

FEARhand:  Massive Forehand

SURF & TURF: A one-two term for a big serve and big fearhand winner.

LARGE & IN CHARGE:  Refers to a player dominating on the court.

BACHHAND – (always liked it Vic Braden accent as a kid.)  Just a beautiful looking shot on the backhand side.

All-time favorite: DISHEVELED when a player looks gone in the match (plus it irritates the grammar police)

 

TPN: Any plans to produce a master list of your unique nicknames any time soon?

 

BG: No, it’s more of a cult following approach. My Twitter followers always attempt at creating one, but it’s a never ending thing and should remain elusive. Also, I don’t have a staff – with the exception of Mrs. G and doubtful she’d be in agreement, she has her limits!

 

TPN: With this new Voya Financial sponsorship for the U.S. Open and Wimbledon will you do different glossaries for each?

 

BG: Throughout Wimbledon and the US Open, Voya will distribute a total of 12 ‘Gilbert Glossary’ videos, six for each tournament. In the videos I hope to change the way people think about tennis just like Voya is helping change the way consumers think about retirement.

 

TPN: With both slams being very different, what new types of glossary terms would you use to describe each of them?

 

BG: Wimbledon Terms? Grass related, it’s a Cathedral of Tennis. It’s unique because it’s a club. The US Open and Wimby are two completely different events, atmospheres, fans, and flow. I’ll have to come up with something for the weather during the “Fortnight” (one of the unique Wimby terms), as they are anticipating an unprecedented heat wave. I’m predicting I’ll have a lot of weather references…something will come from that I’m sure. In general, The Glossary is spontaneous, there’s no forethought, no over-thinking, no planning – it just comes to me. It’s what the moment speaks – it’s just my style.

Look out for Gilbert’s videos throughout the summer. Each video ends with a tag line, “Brad Gilbert: Changing the Way You Think About Tennis. Voya Financial: Changing the Way You Think About Retirement.”

Follow Brad Gilbert on Twitter at @bgtennisnation

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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From ATP Pro to “Shark Tank” – Zack Fleishman Talks About Being an Entrepreneur

Zack Fleishman ucla 4

(May 12, 2015) Former ATP World Tour professional Zack Fleishman will be taking the plunge on the ABC-TV show “Shark Tank” on Friday, May 15, 2015.

 

Shark Tank, which has aired on ABC since 2009, is a program in which aspiring entrepreneur contestants make business presentations to a panel of “shark” investors.

 

The former tennis player who reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 127 in 2007, will have his company Shark Wheel featured on the program. Fleishman is the company’s Chief Operating Officer.

 

Shark Wheel is based in in the Lake Forest community of Orange County. Shark Wheel’s technology guru David Patrick has literally reinvented the wheel with a design that offers superior performance advantages to the traditional wheel.

 

The Shark Wheel design is the perfect intersection of a cube, a sphere, and a three-dimensional sine wave. It appears to be a square or cube rolling from the side/45 degree angle, but from the rear view looks like a snake or three-dimensional sine wave in motion.

 

The former UCLA All-American who competed in all four majors as a professional, with career wins over the likes of Fernando González, David Nalbandian, Vince Spadea, Mardy Fish, Robby Ginepri, Daniel Nestor, Tomáš Berdych, Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson and Nicolas Mahut talked about his transition from swinging racquets to reinventing wheels.

“What happened was that I was having my best year in tennis in 2007, reached my career high of No. 11 in the United States, No. 127 in the world and in 2008 I flew off a mountain bike and had a horrible accident, said the 35-year-old Californian. “My tire popped and I flew over the handlebars and severely injured my shoulder, I tore everything, so I had to get reconstructive shoulder surgery. And I tried to come back a year later. I actually won a futures tournament and I had to get a second shoulder surgery, re-torn in the same spot. So that basically knocked me out of competition.”

 

“Then I started teaching tennis full-time and then what happened was my tennis coach, he was also my fitness trainer. He used to travel with me to the U.S. Open and a bunch of other big tournaments and he used to always make fun of me because I used to read science books all the time. That was my obsession – physics, cosmology, anything to do with science.

“So one day when I was working out, one of my clients made a major scientific discovery which made the cover of Time Magazine. He said that I think you would understand the scientific discovery and that he would like me to hear all about it. I said absolutely.

 

“So he introduced me to one of his clients and it started off for the first two months as me almost being his apprentice, learning all about the discoveries that he made, it was beyond fascinating.

 

“And then it slowly turned into a business relationship when he had all these unique shapes that came out of this discovery.

“He actually spent years developing this scientific model.

“Then one day he said, did I ever show you this wheel.

“He showed it to me, and I literally called the patent lawyer five minutes later.

“And we changed directions only working on the (Shark) wheel.

“I was just extremely hungry to help him get his ideas to the marketplace and that’s how I got involved and went from tennis into entrepreneurship.”

 

A small company based in the Lake Forest community of Orange County, Shark Wheel’s technology guru David Patrick has literally reinvented the wheel with a revolutionary design.

 

Patrick’s passion for skateboarding along with his interest in the natural world led to the discovery of the Shark Wheel.  Patrick discovered the shape while studying natural sciences. It is based on the shape of shark jaws and is a pattern found throughout nature. Once he realized the significant advantages of the wheel, a team was assembled, a patent was obtained, and Shark Wheel was born. The Shark Wheel offers a faster ride, more slide control, and better grip through rain and rough terrains.

 

The Shark Wheel can be used for almost any application that uses a wheel, but it is the company’s intent to manufacture only skateboard products and roller skate/roller derby wheels.  Shark Wheel ‘s expansion into a full spectrum of markets where the Shark Wheel could increase efficiency, roll faster, and maneuver through uneven surfaces would be executed only through licensing agreements.

 

As for expanding the wheel’s use, Fleishman said: “We decided to start in skateboarding because it’s a cool market.

“We plan to go into a variety of markets – doing licensing deals from everything from scooters to roller skates to luggage to office chairs, all the way down to cars one day.”

Any possible use of this wheel in tennis someday? “Not quite yet -we may be able to throw some wheels on the umpire’s chair and a couple of other places,” the entrepreneur said with smile in his voice, “but I plan to look into that soon because I’d love to bring my current business back into the tennis world somehow.”

Fleishman talked about playing pro tennis versus what he’s doing now in the business world: “I look at business as a sport and when I was playing tennis, all I was doing was trying to out-work my opponent, out-think my opponent and figure out ways to get ahead, find advantages – and that’s exactly how I look at business.

“I’m scared that my competition is out-working me, out-thinking me. So even though it’s a lot less physical, it’s a lot more mental, it’s a whole new exciting learning curve for me to master the art.

“And I’m just an extraordinarily competitive person and I look at this as a different sport that I took up.”

 

As for preparing his pitch for Shark Tank, “We were only given a few weeks of preparation time so it was a full-time job getting ready for the show, he said. “We had a very small time frame to build prototypes to show on the show and I had to learn every single part of our business, every single number, down to the penny. I was very well-prepared by the time the filming of the TV show came around.”

The show was taped a few months ago.

The former world No. 127 still keeps up with the tennis world. Of particular interest to him is college tennis and the up-and-comers on the pro tours.

He’s very proud of having coached the No. 1 women’s college player – Maegan Manasse of the California Bears, University of California, Berkeley. He predicts that she’ll be a Top 20 player someday. He thinks she’s ready for the pro tour and to keep an eye out for her as she’s been “under the radar” for her entire career.

 

As for the men, Fleishman likes to watch Dominic Theim, Borna Coric. “I really like watching those young guys, how they are able to perform at such a high level at such a young age.”

 

“It’s so amazing for me to be part of a new discovery that has never occurred in all of human history – somebody reinvented the shape of the wheel and it actually out performs a traditional wheel.”

 

See if Fleishman can convince the panel on Shark Tank to back the Shark Wheel on Friday, May 15, 2015 on ABC-TV. Check local listings for the time and the exact channel.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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Charting a New Future by Remembering the Past

Serena Williams

By Andreen Soley

(March 7, 2015) I have been fairly deliberate in my decision to not write about Serena Williams returning to Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open in March. After a 14-year boycott of the tournament, which cost her ranking points and prize monies, Serena Williams announced her return in a statement via Time magazine.

After much reflection, I waded into Serena’s return by focusing on the most intriguing aspect, her decision to highlight the work of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a private, nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners who have been denied fair and just treatment in the legal system. With the Omaze campaign, Serena Williams will allow one lucky contest winner to be seated as a VIP in her box during her opening match at the BNP Paribas Open and the money raised through the contest entries (donations less campaign expenses and platform fees) will then be delivered to EJI.

Curious to understand why Serena Williams reached out to EJI, I spoke with its founder and executive director, Bryan Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson has won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color in the criminal justice system. Since graduating from Harvard Law School and the Harvard School of Government, he has assisted in securing relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, advocated for poor people and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice. He also is on the law faculty at New York University School of Law.

Andreen Soley: Thank you for agreeing to talk with me:

Bryan Stevenson: I was happy to get your inquiry. I am really happy to talk about what Serena is doing because I’m really, really energized by her decision to do this. It’s just so remarkable because she reached out to us. She has been incredibly enthusiastic about educating people about the work that we do and drawing attention to the context of what happened to her. There is a narrative behind these incidents that we don’t talk about in this country. We tend to think it’s one person here or one person there. But the truth is we have a history of racial inequality and racial bias that manifests itself all the time in our society. If we don’t start talking about that history and the narrative of racial difference that continues to haunt all of us, we are not going to make the progress that we want to make. You can be the best tennis player the world has ever seen, or the greatest golfer or the greatest basketball player, but you are not going to overcome that narrative of racial difference until you create some space to talk honestly about these issues that too many people try to ignore. I’m super proud of her and thrilled that she made a choice to try to do that by partnering with us on this project.

AS: What do you see as the natural link between what happened to Serena Williams and what you do every day at EJI?

BS: We have this history of racial inequality that began with slavery in this country. The true evil of slavery wasn’t involuntary servitude, it was this ideology of white supremacy. This idea that Black people are different, that they are not as smart, that they are not as hard working, that they have these character deficits. In many ways, the 13th amendment didn’t deal with the true evil which was that narrative. In my opinion, slavery didn’t end in 1865, it evolved. It turned into this era where people were constantly trying to legitimate racial hierarchy. They use terror and violence and menace and segregation and Jim Crow laws to maintain this lie.

Whenever an athlete would do something exceptional to complicate that narrative, people would get confused. So, when Joe Johnson or Joe Louis began to have success as fighters and Jesse Owens had his success, it really complicated the narrative for a lot of people. There was always this ambivalence about how much you can applaud them. We were grateful that Owens won gold medals in Berlin because the Nazis were emerging as the bigger threat than African-Americans in this country. Yet, there was not uniform enthusiasm for his success. You see that throughout the 50s and when Jackie Robinson breaks the color line, we celebrate his courage. But the truth is people still held on to this narrative of racial differences even as these athletes were showing that they were every bit as talented and capable of succeeding as white athletes. That narrative of racial differences still haunts us and that’s one of the reasons why we have a criminal justice system that presumes too many young people of color are dangerous and guilty. It’s how too many people are wrongly convicted.

Our work [at EJI] is really trying to confront the consequences of a presumption of dangerousness and guilt that is a feature of our failure to talk more honestly about our history. I think what Serena encountered at Indian Wells was precisely that same presumption of guilt. People could not accept that anything she said or did about her play was honest or legitimate because this presumption that she is not like everybody else was all out there. People have gotten comfortable in this country, giving voice to that, unfairly in words that are racially biased and loaded and hurtful. In many ways tolerating the kind of racial bigotry that she experienced is unacceptable. But it is equally unacceptable in our criminal justice system where it is often tolerated because there is a presumption that the person committed the crime and therefore, we don’t have to worry about whether they are being discriminated against on the basis of race. There is probably no part of American society where race matters more than in the criminal justice system.

Ultimately, as a tennis player, you can, if you have got the right character, courage and heart, which Serena has, you can overcome, you can win and then people will have to eventually shift. That’s not true [in other places]. When someone has won and they choose to shed light on the people who are in situations and structures where they don’t have the opportunity to keep playing and win, I think that speaks powerfully about the importance of this issue. The Bureau of Justice reports that 1 in 3 Black male babies born in the US is expected to go to prison in his lifetime. That was not true in the 20th or the 19th century. That became true in the 21st century.

We have so many Black athletes in this society who have succeeded, who have accomplished extraordinary things and as result of that have platforms from which they can speak to a whole range of issues. It’s often disheartening that so few give voice to these larger societal issues. I know many of them are painfully aware that but for their exceptional athletic ability, they’d be confronting these realities in the ways that many of my clients do.

I do think it’s incredibly inspiring that an athlete stands up and says, I was the victim of unfair racial bias and bigotry and prejudice. I’ve overcome. I’m going back here to play, but I want us to talk about this continuing problem of racial bias and bigotry. Even if it doesn’t directly keep me from doing what I have to, it’s burdening too many people in our society. I think that’s a really important story to tell.

AS: For the individual tennis fan who comes to your work because they watch Serena Williams and have seen the campaign on Omaze, what do you hope will happen for that individual?

BS: I hope that they will go to our website and get our calendar on racial history which is a tool to help them each day of each week of each month learn more about how and why Serena found herself in the situation she was in the last time she was at Indian Wells. If they understand that more, then they will understand what it takes to overcome that, to confront that. Confronting racial bias and racial inequality requires some proximity, it requires us getting closer to these issues; it requires us to understand this history, it requires us to be hopeful about what we can do. Sometimes it requires us to do something that is uncomfortable, which is to speak to these issues when we see them and too few people said anything when these taunts and slurs were being directed at Serena. It was the Indian Wells community that should have intervened on her behalf in a way that was unmistakably clear that that kind of behavior was not only unacceptable but was something that could never ever be tolerated. That didn’t happen in the way I think it could have or should have. We’d like to hope that it will happen moving forward. It got attention because it was a professional tennis tournament in a setting that is highly scrutinized. It happens too often in athletic venues all across this country, in police departments, on college campuses. It happens in a lot of spaces where people who follow tennis and who admire Serena need to be prepared to stand up and to confront that kind of bias. I hope that the tennis fans who enjoy watching Serena will also engage on these issues and educate themselves and be part of this movement to confront bias and bigotry and racial prejudice whenever and wherever they encounter it.

AS: What often happens and I think it happened in Indian Wells is a kind of blaming of the individual or making it a wholly an individual issue or a personality issue. In your mind, what is the community’s role? You say that the Indian Wells community had a role to play, what do you envision for Indian Wells and other places in America?

BS: The problem that we see in this country is that [these actions] are tolerated. We have got to be vocal. Obviously, this is not my role but a tournament that experiences that kind of problem needs to be celebrating in a very visible and active way the accomplishments of African-American tennis players as a teaching tool to people in that community. I’d distribute a little program that talks about all the extraordinary African-American women who broke the color barriers and how hard it was. If they reached out to us and said they wanted our calendar to distribute to everyone who comes to the tournament, we’d make them available. I think the challenge for sport and venues is to find ways to promote an understanding of the need to be aware of how our presumptions of dangerousness, guilt and the narrative of racial differences sometimes cause us to say and do things that are unfair and unjust.

AS: In Serena Williams’s statement she said: “I’m fortunate to be at a point in my career where I have nothing to prove. I’m still as driven as ever, but the ride is a little easier. I play for the love of the game. And it is with that love in mind, and a new understanding of the true meaning of forgiveness, that I will proudly return to Indian Wells in 2015.” I have seen similar language in the way that you talk about your work. Can you talk about forgiveness which I think is a valuable thing but not in the kind of namby-pamby way people usually talk about forgiveness?

BS: I think that we really want the society to move forward because many families of color want their children to be less burdened by this presumption of guilt than they have been. The only way we are going to do that is by talking about it. To be truthful, I see this as work that is not designed to help African-Americans but is designed to help everybody. We have a generation of people in this country that were taught by people they love that they are better than other people of their skin color. They didn’t see the kind of evidence to contradict that because they live their lives in segregated and isolated spaces. White people who were taught that, who have learned that and who have had that message reinforced have been injured by that lie. Because it is a lie! We have got to help them recover just like we need people of color to recover from the trauma and the victimization that comes from some of those lies. In order to create a healthy community and a healthier society, we need everybody to move forward on this. I think that is how you get to a different place.

Andreen Soley currently works as an education consultant/grant writer for a Los Angeles non-profit and university. She writes about tennis and solo female travel at her personal website: http://soleytennistravels.com/

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Davis Cup in Glasgow – Can the US overturn Britain’s home advantage?

(March 4, 2015) GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – The pre-draw news conference was really a tale of two confident captains and cautious players, as the teams readied themselves for the Davis Cup World Group first round, as Great Britain plays host to the USA.

 

British Team Captain Leon Smith did a lot of the talking, between dispensing with any discussion about the possible ramifications of Andy Murray’s support for the Scottish Referendum, Yes vote at the eleventh hour, preferring to concentrate on the tennis, but Courier was quick to acknowledge that they were aware of the situation.

 

“We obviously know there’s some political undercurrent here as well, we’re aware of that. I think it just adds a little bit of intrigue and it’s another wrinkle of the element in this competition. We know what it means to everyone to play for their country and maybe a little extra special for Andy and Jamie playing here in Scotland. For us it is business but we’re also aware of that extra little wrinkle.”

 

As much as Smith believed that the US had not used their advantage to its full effect last year, US Captain Jim Courier knows the power his players have to inflict the same result on the hosts.

 

Courier continued: “There’s something beautiful for a player to be able to silence a crowd with a shot if you’re the foreign player and I’m sure Andy and James experienced that in San Diego with us last year, and we’d like to experience it here an there’s something magnificent about that and there’s obviously something incredible when you get the crowd behind you and you’re playing at home. It’s a very different feeling for sure but there’s beauty in both sides.”

 

While US No. 2 Sam Querrey is out with an injury, and more pressing matters as the star of Millionaire Matchmaker in the US, the American No. 1 John Isner is ready to do battle after the disappointment of pulling out injured from his home tie last year.

 

Isner said: “I wasn’t able to compete which was tough to swallow and for me, I’ve played more road matches than home matches so its tough to miss a home match. The venue was beautiful, the crowd was great. It was tough to sit back and watch, but I’m here, I’m healthy and I’m ready to go and ready to help our country this time.”

 

Donald Young is the US No. 2 on this occasion and despite a little tendonitis, he is ready to build on his Davis Cup debut last year. Courier had nothing but praise for his second pick, stating that while Isner and the Bryan brothers were certainties, it was down to either Young or Steve Johnson, who has been speeding up the rankings, in the running.

 

Courier explained: “The second spot was in play this past month in February, and Donald really performed well, semis of Memphis, finals in Delray Beach and Sam suffered a back injury which really took him out of the running, so it came down to Donald and Steve and Donald outperformed and earned the spot.”

 

The draws for the tie will take place on Thursday, and the first singles rubbers will be played on Friday with the often decisive doubles rubber on Saturday and the reverse singles on Sunday. Things could come down to a fifth rubber and the British hero of the hour last year in San Diego, James Ward is ready.

 

Ward said: “Obviously it gave me a lot of confidence to push on for the rest of the year and the probably the biggest moment of my career winning that away from home in such a big tie. As Andy said it’s a completely different tie, Querrey’s not here. Playing John is going to be a different match altogether on a different surface so we’ll see what happens on Friday.”

 

He continued: “I’m looking to play well on Friday and get the win there so it doesn’t come down to it.”

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.

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“On The Call” with Monica Seles on Upcoming match versus Gabriela Sabatini at Madison Square Garden at the BNP Paribas Showdown

Monica Seles at 2012 hall of Fame induction

(January 15, 2015) NEW YORK, NY – A pair of Tennis Hall of famers, Monica Seles and Gabriela Sabatini will face off at Madison Square Garden in a 25th anniversary rematch of their 1990 five-set year end WTA Championship final, in the 2015 BNP Paribas Showdown on March 10. The best of three-set match will take place before Roger Federer faces Grigor Dimitrov.

Seles participated in the WTA Championships at Madison Square Garden in 1988-1992, 1995-1998 and 2000. She’ll be making her eleventh appearance in the world’s most famous arena.

The former world No. 1 and nine-time major winner spoke to the media in a conference call on Thursday about her participation and reflected on the first ever five-set for women.

“I always loved playing three out of five, it’s more of an equalizer if you’re a slow starter, more of a true barometer,” Seles said.

“I think the ladies are definitely fit enough to play best-of-five matches, and I think at Grand Slams it would be a lot of fun in the semis and final.”

Seles regrets that the WTA Championships ever left The Garden.

“For me, one of the saddest days was when the season-ending championships were moved to Germany,” Seles said. “The Garden was the perfect setting. You play at MSG, the stands are really close and you feel the energy. As a player, you just thrive on that.”

Seles has fond memories of competing against Sabatini, the first time coming when she was a 14-year-old at the Miami event in 1988.

“She was already a star and it was my first night match,” Seles said. “I was absolutely star-struck with her. But she was such a lady on and off the court, if you won against her or lost against her.”

Despite Seles having an 11-3 record against the Argentine, what Seles remembers best about Sabatini was her support after Seles was stabbed in 1993 in a tournament in Hamburg. After Seles returned to the tour, Sabatini was the only top 10 player to support Seles’ ranking being frozen at No. 1.

“She thought about a human being before a dollar amount,” Seles said. “That speaks about a tremendous amount of character.”

Seles was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame back in 2009 while Sabatini was enshrined in 2006.

Seeing the trend of former Grand Slam champions coaching on the tours, Seles said that she personally does not have an interested in coaching.

“Coaching doesn’t appeal to me,” she said. “I just don’t want to travel” I did it for so many years, I just really don’t want that lifestyle.”

“Madison Keys having Lindsay (Davenport) as her coach is a tremendous asset. Not just for the game but from the mental aspect too.

She thinks that Martina Navratilova coaching Agnieszka Radwanska will bring emotion to the Pole’s game.

“(Amelie) Mauresmo (is) breaking the mold in coaching Andy Murray.” Seles credits Ivan Lendl with all of “star” coaching that’s happening now when he coached Andy Murray. She thinks that the “star” coaching brings so much experience to current players. Seles said that in hindsight that she wishes she could have done that. “ I could have hired Navratilova who could have helped me more with my net game and help with my lefty serves and things like that.”

What does she miss the most since she has retired from tennis? The 41-year-old says she misses “the excitement and adrenaline of a big match. There’s nothing like it.”

She’s busy preparing for her match with Sabatini. “I’ve been preparing by playing tennis. It’s been a shock to the body playing singles, I’ve only played doubles so far. I have some good days and I have some bad days.

“It’s very hard for the ego to understand that I can not do the same things that I did ten years ago,” Seles said. She’s working with a couple of people in Florida on her fitness. “At times it’s been frustrating, but at the same time it’s been a wonderful challenge.”

“Bottom line is I love to play tennis and I love to compete, Seles continued. “This is really like a highlight for me and a great honor to be a part of it and to have someone like Roger Federer follow our match. What a wonderful way to celebrate (World) Tennis Day.

BNP Paribas Showdown 2015

The BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden will again headline a full day of international activities as part of “World Tennis Day,” a global tennis participation effort on March 10.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

 

Related stories:

Roger Federer vs. Grigor Dimitrov in BNP Paribas Showdown

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Murray, Ferrer, Kohlschreiber and Troicki Reach Semis in Vienna

By Florian Heer

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

(October 17, 2014) VIENNA – In a bid for crucial points in the ATP Race to London, David Ferrer and Andy Murray took last minute wild cards into the 40th edition of the Erste Bank Open and both headlined the action on quarterfinal day in Vienna on Friday.

Andy Murray is making his Vienna debut as he continues his push for a Top 8 finish and a spot at the ATP World Tour Finals. It is the first time the Brit has played in four straight post-US Open tournaments since 2008. Murray started his week with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Vasek Pospisil on Thursday. In the quarterfinal he clashed German youngster Jan-Lennard Struff for the first time. Murray emerged victorious after 86 minutes winning 6-2, 7-5 but had to work hard for his points.

The world No. 11, who didn’t know much about the German before the match, didn’t seem to be surprised facing such a competitive opponent.

“I expected a good match,” Murray said. “He is a big guy, strong with a good serve. Playing against such a player on indoor courts is always difficult. I had to fight hard. Nonetheless, I was more solid than yesterday and made less mistakes. I changed rhythm and the variety in my shots as much as I could and tried to go for the winners,” Murray explained.

 

Top-seed David Ferrer went up against big-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic. The pair has met three times with the Spanish world No. 5 leading their head-to-head record 2-1 before Friday’s encounter. After taking the opening set without any break points, in the tie-break, Ferrer gained the decisive break in the third game of the second and served out by an ace winning 7-6, 6-4 after 84 minutes.

“It was very difficult today because Ivo has the best serve on the Tour,” said the relieved Spaniard afterwards.

“It is very nice to get the support from the people here in Vienna. You feel that the crowd loves tennis and this is very good for us players on the court,” Ferrer said about the Austrian audience, which backed the Spaniard in the important moments of the evening match.

Philipp Kohlschreiber will be the next opponent for the second seed, as he won the first ever all-German encounter against an in-form Benjamin Becker, who reached the stage of the final four in Tokyo two weeks ago, in straight sets winning 6-4, 7-6. The man from Augsburg, who turned 31 on Thursday, hit eleven aces and won 67 percent of his serves to advance to his third semi-final in Vienna after 2008 and 2009.

 

Viktor Troicki

Viktor Troicki

Great Britain’s No. 1 is going to face Viktor Troicki in the next round. The Serbian qualifier has reached his first semi-final since Moscow 2011 winning 7-6, 6-7, 6-2 over Tomaz Bellucci in two hours and 27 minutes.

“I’m happy to reach the semi-finals here in Vienna, a tournament with so many tough players,“ said the Serb. “It has passed a long time since I have reached this stage. I had some pretty close matches here in the qualifying and a long one today. Playing six matches is hard but I’m feeling good and fresh on the court. I felt physically more prepared in the third set. I also felt that Tomaz (Bellucci) was not at 100 per cent, and I took that opportunity to play on the offensive. It worked out well,” Troicki said afterwards.

“Against Andy you have to play smart. You need to play offensive and of course you have to use your chances,” the Serb is looking forward to the match, even though he has never been able to gain a victory against the Brit.”

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit!  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

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‘Age is Just a Number’ – 34-year-old Victor Estrella Burgos Beats 17-year-old Borna Coric at US Open

estrella burgos 1

(August 28, 2014) From a country more well-known for baseball shortstops than tennis players, Victor Estrella Burgos from the Dominican Republic has advanced to the third round of the US Open.

The 34-year-old Estrella Burgos, playing in his first US Open, took out 17-year-old Borna Coric 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

When I asked about playing someone half his age he said: “He half my half age, is true this. But I know he’s a very good player. I check him some video. I had to do some strategy how to play against him because he’s a really good player, he have a very good future. I need to see so much about how he play. I change my game every time because I know he’s younger. But how I said before, the age is just number. From his mind, is very older, I think.”

Despite this being his debut playing the US Open and being the first player from his country to compete in a Grand Slam event, the 80th ranked Estrella Burgos had plenty of supporters with thousands of Dominicans living in New York City and the surrounding areas – and they made their presence felt with loud cheering and chants.

“People from Dominican, I think they are in the party now,” Estrella Burgos said. “They are very happy. This is very special for me, to be came from very, very long way, you know, very down. Nobody play — I don’t have any idea before when I have 18 years old about this tournament, this kind of tournament. But now I’m enjoy so much. This make me like every day, doesn’t matter if I’m 38 whatever, make me strong. Every time when I get into the court, make me strong.”

“Have a big emotion when I serving for the match, serving match point,’” he said. “I cannot believe I’m in this situation. Like I going to make the third round in US Open. Was little nervous and very, very emotional for me. But thank God I got the point.”

Estrella Burgos first turned pro in 2002, but left the sport after having problems in getting money to play the tour. He returned to tennis in 2006 and thought about retiring after he hurt his elbow in 2012. He became the first Dominican to break into the top 100 back in March.

The win puts Estrella Burgos in the third round, his deepest run at ta Grand Slam event where he will play Canadian Milos Raonic, the fifth seed.

“I think I’m going to play stadium or grandstand, I don’t know where, said the 5-foot-8 Dominican who has played both of his matches on Court 6, a non-televised court.

“I think going to be in bigger court. We talking about like how many Dominicans going to come? Today was full, the court was full. I have like thousand coach because all of them, they coaching me,” he said with a big smile. “We are in the game. We going to take the towel. We hear like what they say every time. I don’t know. I don’t know how to word this, but I think they going to buy the ticket for sure to come Saturday to see me play in the stadium.”

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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An Interview With: Victor Estrella Burgos

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Q. We saw some tears after the match point. Must have been very emotional. Can you talk a bit about it.

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: Of course. Have a big emotion when I serving for the match, serving match point. I cannot believe I’m in this situation. Like I going to make the third round in US Open. Was little nervous and very, very emotional for me. But thank God I got the point. After that I get a bigger tear again.

Q. How did it feel coming into the match knowing you were playing someone half your age?

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: He have my half age, is true this. But I know he’s a very good player. I check him some video. I had to do some strategy how to play against him because he’s a really good player, he have a very good future. I need to see so much about how he play. I change my game every time because I know he’s younger. But how I said before, the age is just number. From his mind, is very older, I think.

Q. I know your story for a long time. Some visitors came to us, from the Dominican Republic. They were celebrating your win as if they were in the finals themselves. They told us you really came from the dust. Do you know what I mean? It’s really an inspirational story you’re coming here.

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: First, this is make me very strong because I know where I coming from. I came from like very down. I come from Dominican Republic. I think I opening way to another player. This make me more hungry to do better and better. I’m in the winner, not just for today. I’m in the winner, I’m top 100, I have my enter to US Open. I’m a winner already. But now the winner is very different, it’s bigger. I’m in the third round. I’m very happy. People from Dominican, I think they are in the party now. They are very happy. This is very special for me, to be came from very, very long way, you know, very down. Nobody play — I don’t have any idea before when I have 18 years old about this tournament, this kind of tournament. But now I’m enjoy so much. This make me like every day, doesn’t matter if I’m 38 whatever, make me strong. Every time when I get into the court, make me strong.

Q. The crowd was crazy today. Do you expect to play in the stadium your next game?

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: Really the thing, I was talking with my physical coach, my physical trainer. We talking about if you play again, I think I’m going to play stadium or grandstand, I don’t know where. I think going to be in bigger court. We talking about like how many Dominicans going to come? Today was full, the court was full. I have like thousand coach because all of them, they coaching me, you know (smiling). We are in the game. We going to take the towel. We hear like what they say every time. I don’t know. I don’t know how to word this, but I think they going to buy the ticket for sure to come Saturday to see me play in the stadium.

Q. How much do you think these two matches have taken out of you physically and emotionally?

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: First physically, too much for me is not nothing. I feel like very good. Emotionally really big. I think is more bigger, emotionally is more bigger than physically. I feeling very good. I think I’m going to be ready for Saturday. I’m going to be so hungry to get into the court to play again.

Q. You had a bad line call that got you a little upset. Also when you took the injury timeout. You stayed focus. Is that one of your main strengths? How do you stay focused with so much distraction between the crowd, the player, the bad line call?

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: We are professional. We working in that, you know. He call the trainer. He was up 3-0. He call the trainer after I broke him. The match was 3-2. I get in very good time. He call the trainer. I don’t think he have anything because he running like crazy. But I just keeping focus in the court. I saw my coach. He tell me, Move, get focus. That’s the only thing. I don’t thinking what he have, what he doing, just thinking I have to be focus on keeping warm for make the next match.

Q. Why is it happening now at the latter stage of your career? Is there anything different?

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: I think is happening now because this had to happen now. I think when I have 20 years old, I tell you before, I don’t have any idea about the tournament. Because in Dominican, we don’t have this. I think for me this is the best time. This happen now. I had to get like very good, very simple for me. I think now is now. I cannot go back. I cannot start to thinking why this doesn’t happen when I have 20 or 22 or 24. Now it happening when I have 34, I very happy.

Q. You reached the third round. You’re living the American dream in New York. How do you think this will change your life and how do you want it to change your life?

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: No, I don’t think this going to change my life. Going the same life. Tennis player. Different level now, of course, because I get my new ranking, going to get very good ranking. But I think going to be the same Victor, the same Victor working every day very hard, happy in the locker. When I have challenger ATP, I going to be the same. Nothing going to change.

Q. I know you have quit your career already a few years ago. Do you feel less used because you were not playing for some years? Secondly, how far do you think you can go in the rankings?

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: I stop, I quit to play I think for four year and a half, like professional. I didn’t traveling. But I’m keeping in tennis because I play Davis Cup for Dominican. I think my dream was I want to make — with my team we talking about which ranking I want this year. I say I want to be top 50. This is what I want now. After that if I get, I have to start to next step. Now I going to get to the top 50. This is what I want now. I just thinking about that.

Q. Do you feel less used because you were not playing for those four years?

VICTOR ESTRELLA BURGOS: Yes, for sure, because I have like long time. Just play two times per year, like Davis Cup. Also physically I not used so much. I don’t have this before, like traveling 25 week per year. I don’t have this before.

Note: As website-only media covering the US Open as media,  Tennis Panorama News has special permission to post interview transcripts per the USTA.

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Isner Discusses College Tennis Rule Change and Upcoming Davis Cup Tie

ISnerparty with the pros

John Isner photo courtesy of Getty Images, used with permission

By Karen Pestaina

(August 23, 2014) NEW YORK, NY – John Isner was one of the four tennis pros in attendance along with 150 people at the “Party with Pros event,” a part of Taste of Tennis Week, at the Measure Lounge of the Langham Place Fifth Avenue Hotel in Manhattan produced by AYS.

I asked the 29-year-old Isner who played college tennis at the University of  Georgia, about what he thought about Division I college singles rule change to using the no-ad scoring system.

He replied: “I think in doubles it’s good. Singles – if I had it my way, I’d probably not choose it that way, but at the same time you can argue that it will make players play better under pressure, when it does get to deuce, that no-ad point, there is going to be so much riding on that game, because the is.

“Sometimes college matches can drag on a little bit too much. I can understand what they’re doing, but if I was in charge I wouldn’t have that.”

After the US Open, the North Carolina native will be traveling to the Chicago area to lead the United States Davis Cup team in a critical World Group playoff tie versus the Slovak Republic. The winner will be in the World Group in 2015 while the loser will be relegated to Group 1 in their respective zone.

“Well it’s going to be a tough tie, “Isner said. “I think our chances are very good of moving on, but at the same time, it’s going to be extremely tough.

“I don’t care who we are playing against, I always believe that our team can win. It’s an extremely important tie for the fact that it’s a relegation tie. It’s a must win for both countries, but we do have the home court going for us. We’ll try to get that win to get back in the world group and start fresh next year.”

Isner pulled out of the Winston-Salem Open with a sprained left ankle earlier in the week. He said that he’s “doing very well.”

With the week before the US Open full of parties and photo-ops, I asked him if enjoyed participating in these type of social events before a major.

“It draws attention to our game,” he said. “Obviously we are here at the US Open. The US Open draws enough attention by itself. You know it’s a worldwide event and this city embraces the US Open, some people are watching it from all over the world, that’s why they have record crowds come in every year.

“Events like this draw more attention to the game. I guess people get to meet me. Hopefully they have a good impression of me and they try to watch me on TV cheer me on. If I can gain some fans by interacting a little bit it’s well worth it.”

The 13th seed at the US Open, Isner begins his quest for a US Open title when he faces off against fellow American 21-year-old Marcos Giron in the first round.

 

Azarenka Talks US Open “Party Patrol at Party with the Pros” Event

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Azarenka Talks US Open “Party Patrol at Party with the Pros” Event

 

AZARENKA party with the pros

(August 23, 2014) NEW YORK, NY – As part of Taste of Tennis Week, a series of special culinary events and parties leading into the 2014 US Open, the Measure Lounge of the Langham Place Fifth Avenue Hotel played  host to an exclusive party on Saturday night limited to 150 people called “Party with the Pros” an event produced by AYS.  Partygoers were treated to culinary delights as well as a chance to take photos with s few tennis pros. In attendance for the event were No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, two-time Australian Open winner, No. 17 Victoria Azarenka, No. 22 Sloane Stephens and top US men’s player John Isner, currently ranked at No. 15 in the world.

Tennis Panorama News has a chance to speak with Azarenka about her week before the US Open.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: You’ve been on what I like to call “Party Patrol” this week, at Taste of Tennis and now here at Party with the Pros. What do you like about doing these type of events?

Victoria Azarenka: Well Taste of Tennis is always a great opportunity to just get the night out, you know. It’s a great celebration with great food, which all of the athletes like to eat, obviously, and to just get your mind away a little bit and they always place where you can go out and enjoy yourself. It’s not too close to the tournament, an you know when they put me and Gael Monfils in the same room, it’s always going to be fun!

KP: I noticed that you tow were almost dancing when “Happy” came on (at the Taste of Tennis).

VA: We were dancing, we were dancing. I was also dancing with somebody else. We always have a good time. It’s great for other people to us enjoy ourselves off the court. On the court we mean business, but off the court, we are just chill, cool people who like to have a good time.

KP: It seems that tennis players are “foodies.” Would you agree with that?

VA: I am a big foodie. I love food. I appreciate good food. I appreciate healthy food, I’m not too big on junk food and hot dogs and all this stuff and I love to cook so I am definitely a foodie.

KP: I know that this has been a very challenging season for you. What are you looking forward to about playing the US Open?

VA: Just enjoy and really have to give my best and try my hardest. That’s what it’s all about all the time. We go out there to compete and give your best, you face your opponent who tries to do the same. Just to be out there and playing tennis for me, because I wasn’t even able to play four months ago at all so, I’m really going to enjoy that. And for me the process to get back into the playing mode. I’ve been working really hard, it’s all about just getting into the rhythm and then it’s gonna happen.

 

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Approach Shots: Getting to Know Tennis Umpire Ali Nili

By Wendy M. Grossman

(June 14, 2014) LONDON – “To be close to professional tennis,” says Ali Nili, in explaining his motivation for working as a tennis umpire. Nili is an Iran-born US citizen and one of the ATP’s cadre of ten full-time umpires. This makes him as much of an elite member of his profession as the players whose matches he oversees: only 25 umpires in the world have, like him, earned the profession’s highest qualification, a gold badge. Ten of them work full-time for the ATP, traveling the tour alongside the players.

Umpiring wasn’t what he set out to do. “I wanted to play. I wasn’t good enough.” He sounds comfortable with that.

“It’s just a fun job in general, especially if you’re a tennis fan.” Nili is speaking shortly after umpiring the semifinal between Stanislas Wawrinka and Grigor Dimitrov. It was a match not without incident: down a set and 3-5, Wawrinka crashed his racquet repeatedly on the court and then, apparently dissatisfied with the demolition job, deliberately folded it in half. Nili seems unbothered by that or any suggestion that angry players might be at all scary. “Just because of the fact that I know them, I work with them every week.”

On the other hand… “I would rather deal with any professional player than any junior’s parents. They want their kid to win at any cost, and anybody in their way is an enemy. I realized that early in my career and tried to stay away from it.”

From the sounds of it, umpiring is a more social job than playing: umpires at the top level hardly ever work with anyone they don’t know, and accordingly they have each other as company.

But players do have one advantage. In a long match they can leave the court for bathroom breaks or request medical treatment. Umpires, on the other hand, stay in place throughout, climbing down only when the match ends or, on clay, if someone wants a mark inspected. It’s not surprising, therefore, when Nili says that ,”My only pre-match routine is go to the bathroom.” When he’s working at Wimbledon or one of the other Grand Slams, where the men play five-set matches, he doesn’t drink anything until the end of his last five-set match.

“It’s easier to stay sharp thirsty than when you have to go to the bathroom out there.”

Nili earned his first international certificate in 1998. Like players, umpires start out in the weeds of the game – small, local events or junior matches. As they learn, gain experience, and improve, they move up the ranks through a series of certificates: white, bronze, silver, and, finally, gold. A tournament like Queen’s, with a singles main draw of 56 and a doubles draw of 16, uses six umpires, four from the ATP’s group, the rest contractors.

Nili jokes about preferring women’s matches at the major because they’re only best-of-three sets, but you have to suspect that every umpire would have liked to have been in the chair for the historic 2010 Wimbledon first-round match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which went to 70-68 in the fifth and took more than 11 hours over three days to complete.

“Even he” – meaning the umpire in that match, Mohamed Lahyani – “would tell you that it goes a lot faster than the action time.” In general, he says, “The better the match is, the easier it is to keep your level of concentration. You do a tough five-set match which lasts four hours and when you sit up there it feels like a half an hour.” By contrast, “The opposite is also possible. You might do a match, that might never really pick up, you know, and it’s not the most exciting match in the world and it’s one hour and it feels like three hours. The closer the match is, the tougher the match is, the better the tennis is, the easier it is to concentrate. You get into the flow and the match just drives you along.”

Mistakes still do happen, of course. Umpires are taught not to dwell on them. “We just really always think forward. We always just think about the next call. The more you think about what happened the more chance there is that you’ll miss something else because you’re losing concentration.”

Few mistakes have lasting effects like the one in Venus Williams’ second round match at Wimbledon 2004, when the umpire incorrectly awarded an extra point to her opponent, Karolina Sprem, in the second-set tiebreak. No one corrected the error, and Sprem went on to win the match, though Williams did earn – and lose – three set points along the way.

“Usually, at least in men’s tennis, if you call the score wrong for two points in succession one of the players is going to tell you.” Or, if not the players, a line judge. “It’s not something that happens really often.” Modern technology helps: umpires have tablets that connect directly to the scoreboard so when he punches in the score everyone sees it and it feeds through to TV. A wrong score popping up in those circumstances generally gets a reaction in the stadium.

The hardest thing to learn, Nili says, is “to see the ball well”. Most, though not all, of the top rank of umpires play tennis themselves. “And then communication and not taking things personally.”

One surprising thing to learn is that just as the players must change their games in shifting from clay to grass, so must umpires change their procedures.

“It’s kind of like an art to umpire on clay,” Nili says. “It’s very different. You have to have a better feeling for the match. You have to have done a lot of clay-court matches in order to be a good clay-court umpire.” Years of experience on other surfaces doesn’t automatically translate.

“It’s a lot different.” On other surfaces – hard, indoor, grass – whether or not Hawkeye is available, as soon as a point ends the umpire looks at the loser in case he has questions, comments, or breaks a racquet. “On clay you keep staring at the mark so you don’t lose it.” Obviously. Because: if there’s a disagreement you will have to get down and go check it.

Asked to name the stand-out matches he’s umpired, Nili picks first the 2008 match between Rafael Nadal and Carlos Moya, which stretched to three tiebreaker sets and took two hours, 35 minutes to finish. “The longest three-set match ever played on hard court,” Nili says, and also, “Every point was really amazing. That’s probably the best tennis I would say, I’ve umpired.” Then he names a match from a few months ago: Federer versus Djokovic at this year’s Indian Wells final – “That was a good match.” He umpires comparatively few women’s matches, but obliges with Serena Williams versus Jelena Jankovic in Rome.

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