2014/11/23

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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Li Na to Meet Flavia Pennetta in Indian Wells Semis

(March 13, 2014) INDIAN WELLS – In a rematch of the Australian Open final, top seed Li Na defeated Dominika Cibulkova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, while Flavia Pennetta battled past Sloane Stephens 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 and will face off in the semifinals of the BNP Paribas Open

The match which lasted 2 hours and 36 minutes improved Li’s record to 17-1 on the year. The woman from China lost just her first set during the tournament.

This is Li’s first WTA Premier event where she’s the top seed.

Everything for me is new, top seed, first time on the big tournament,” Li said

“Of course, you know, everyone looking different.  Not like before if I come here, maybe like No. 6 or No. 7 seed.

“But I think I am handling very well, so just continue.”

With being the top seed and a two-time major winner Li is feeling special at Indian Wells.

“No, I feel like I’m much friendlier,” she said with a smile. “No, joke.”

“Even like practicing the fans were watching.  But I think I find more fans supporting my husband, not for me.  Even we are practicing, working out, if he hit a winner, everyone was like so happy.

“It was a pretty tough match today,” said Cibulkova.  “I’m just disappointed a little bit that I didn’t win, because I had my chances today.”

“I think the biggest difference that I lost today was because her serve was better than mine.”

Flavia Pennetta had to endure a topsy-turvy two—hour and 26 minute match against Sloane Stephens. The Italian served for the match in both the second and third sets. She had to endure a dust storm with high winds and right herself after losing six straight games from the end of the second set to 0-3 in the third. Then she won six of the last seven games to seal the win on her fifth match point.

“I mean, we didn’t have a lot of fun today,” said the 32-year-old veteran.  “We didn’t play our best tennis.

“Maybe in the beginning we play much better, and in the second set one, but the third was a disaster for both of us.  I mean, I won.  I’m happy because I get through this match, but I don’t have a good feeling right now.  I mean, it’s normal.  Outside it’s crazy now.  It’s coming the wind from nowhere.

“But in the other part I’m really happy because I was down 3‑Love in the third, and I fight until the last point and the match was for me today.”

“I wasn’t playing my best at the beginning,” said Stephens.  “It was a bit up and down, but I just tried to battle and stay in there.  Second set was playing better and better.  Then the wind came, which was pretty unfortunate.

“I just tried to do my best and fight and battle for every point.  It was unfortunate that I lost.”

Pennetta

“It was a disaster,” the American said of the third set, agreeing with Pennetta who used those words during her post–match news conference  “It wasn’t super fun, super frustrating, but that happens sometimes.  You play tennis, so it is what it is.

“It really came out of nowhere.  Like I don’t even know what happened.  We just started the third set, and all of a sudden it was like ‑‑ it was like a windstorm.  I don’t know.  It was weird.”

Pennetta said her opponent has a bright future: “I think she’s already ‑‑ she’s 20, but she’s a good player.  She have a lot of matches, important matches.  She was in the semifinal already in a Grand Slam, so you are already a big champion for me.

“I mean, she’s one of the best players, of course.  In the future, I think she will be one of the best, top 10, for sure.

“She has everything:  unbelievable forehand; backhand; she improve a lot with the backhand in the last year; she’s powerful.”

“She play more or less like me, but she’s more powerful than me,” Pennetta said of her semifinal opponent Li Na.  “I have to be real aggressive tomorrow to try to take the situation, but is not going to be easy.”

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Jimmy Connors Ready for PowerShares Series Stops in Nashville and Charlotte

JimmyConnors
By Brad Hunter

NASHVILLE – Jimmy Connors will be making his 2014 debut in the PowerShares Series in Nashville, TN on Wednesday, March 12th.  Connors last played the PowerShares Series in 2012.  For the stop in Nashville, Connors will be joined by Pat Cash, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl.  To get ready for the event, PowerShares held a conference call with Connors and the media on Friday, March 7th.  Connors did play some of his junior tennis in the Nashville and Memphis area, but he has never played a professional or exhibition match in Nashville.

When asked about his current form heading into the event, Connors said, “The first thing I try to do is keep it inside the lines, keep the ball in play, try to have the same strokes and the same work ethic that I always did, even though it’s not quite as long as the old days. I still get the same pleasure going out and working for whatever I do, 45 minutes or an hour, getting a good sweat, putting forth that kind of effort as I did 30, 40 years ago.”

Connors said PowerShares gives the fans a chance to revisit the glory days of their tennis fandom and shows the club player a brand of tennis that is attainable for their own games. “To watch a Nastase, a McEnroe, Borg, even leading up to the Sampras, Courier, and Andy now, to see guys like that play, the kind of tennis they play, they feel they still can muster up that kind of energy to hit a shot like that once in a while, go back and say, Geez, I saw Borg or whoever hit that shot one time, and look at me, I can do that.”

Connors also fielded a question about the current intense rivalries of yesteryear compared to the cordial nature of the current men’s game.  “It would be very hard to believe that if Mack ever beat me in the finals of a major event that he’d come over and give me a hug.  I just don’t see that happening.”

Last year, Connors was let go of his coaching duties with Maria Sharapova after 1 match. He also worked with Andy Roddick in the past.  When asked if he would ever consider coaching again he responded with a humorous “no” and then explained “I say that laughingly.  I shouldn’t say that so quickly.  I would prefer to get a young kid that’s eager and willing to listen, has had no success.  That would be the ultimate, I guess.  As much as I enjoyed being with Andy, traveling around, he was a major champion.  When you hit that height ‑ Maria also ‑ things change, things are different, attitudes are different.  As much as you want it, it’s still a different way of thinking.  So for me to say it, I would rather find somebody young that’s moldable would probably be the best way to say it.”

Connors concluded the call with some thoughts about Nashville native and oft-sidelined ATP pro player Brian Baker, “But to stick to it like he did, to want to go through all that, still want to go out and play, man, oh, man, I’d like to find a 14‑year‑old about like that, that’s willing to do all that, and also listens.  Boy, oh, boy, that would be something. I hope he finds nothing but success in anything he does.  He’s not going to walk away from any fight, no matter what.  That’s pretty special there.”

Brad Hunter will be in Nashville covering the Powershares Series Tennis event for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal Twitter @BradHunter.

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Approach Shots: Meet Andrew Krasny – The Voice of the BNP Paribas Open

Krasny in Paris

Andrew Krasny – The Voice of the BNP Paribas Open as well as many other tennis tournaments and events.

 

INDIAN WELLS, California – For those attending and watching BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the voice you’ll hear introducing the players and conducting on-court interviews on Stadium 1 will be that of jack of all entertainment media trades – Andrew Krasny. Krasny has done everything in the field of entertainment media, from radio to television, from producer to host.

Krasny is the voice of many tennis tournaments which include the Sony Open in Miami, Cincinnati and the Family Circle Cup in Charleston to name a few.  With all of his work in tennis some have dubbed him “the voice of tennis.”

“My first job in Hollywood was answering fan mail for comedienne Joan Rivers.”

How did he get the job? “I grew up in Los Angeles and my friend’s father was the Executive Producer of the Tonight Show and he introduced me to Joan and her family and we became friends and then while I was in college my first job was to work on her show when she was at Fox. Hopefully no one is doing the math that really shows how old I am.

“That was my first job and then I went into producing talk shows, became by choice an audience warm-up guy – where I got my formal training to be in front of crowds and then I continued to produce shows and got a job hosting a dating show in the USA Network called Crush. Which was a TV where if a friend had a crush on you and they were embarrassed to tell you, we told you your friend had a crush on you and then you had to decide which one of these three people in my life has the crush on me.

“And then I produced for Martin Short, Joan Rivers, Leeza Gibbons, John Tesh and then I was at a tennis tournament one day at UCLA. I can’t tell you what year it was but I was producing a radio show for Joan Rivers. I noticed that an older gentlemen was on the court and I was wondering where the energy was, and a friend of mine was working for the tournament at the time, I said to him, ‘do you think there is a need for an emcee and a host?’

“I met Bob Kramer and the next year Bob Kramer let me volunteer on court two and I was such a fan of tennis that to volunteer, to get free clothes, to be able to stand near Agassi, Sampras, Safin – and Joan Rivers gave me the week off every year. So for two or three years I volunteered, that led me to being moved to Stadium 1. And from Stadium 1 at UCLA I got recommended to do the women’s event in Carson. From Carson came the Women’s Championships, from the Championships became Indian Wells, From Indian Wells became Miami, from Miami became Stanford, Stanford became Cincinnati, Amelia Island, San Diego and next thing you know to make a long story short in 2009 I was asked to be part of the team at the US Open. This now I would say has become 60 percent of my livelihood and 60 percent of my career is becoming an emcee and announcer around the world for tennis.

“I’m realistic to the energy and expertise that I bring to the fan experience at a tennis tournament,” when he talked about further goals in tennis. “Everyone always asks me ‘do you want to be on TV more?’ and I go back and forth with that. I’m flattered and honored that many events use my post and pre-match interviews for television and it’s fun to be recognized when I’m out and about by people saying ‘you’re the guy who hands out trophies at tennis tournaments’ or ‘I saw you on ESPN’ or this or that.

“As far as tennis goes, I’m perfectly content doing what I do, and my other television career being a correspondent and a host on a few television shows – working with Marie Osmond currently, that I am pursuing my avenues of hosting and being more on television in that aspect, but as far as tennis goes, I felt I have won the lottery and I am not screwing with it for one single moment.”

So which players give the best interviews? “First of all,” Krasny said, “I’m appreciative and grateful for every player has opened their heart out to me and has said many things to me over the past few years that have made my job the greatest job in the whole wide world.

“I will say by far there is not a better ambassador, more articulate ambassador to the game than Roger Federer. Roger has a great respect for the job that I do, and obviously I am a huge fan of his and love his work.

“No one gives me a better interview than Roger Federer. But that being said I’m grateful for the amazing things Rafa (Nadal) has said over the years, Novak Djokovic, it’s an incredible opportunity to get to know them better and understand and respect them.

“On the women’s side…. the first player who ever said to me ‘I love what you do and you are the first person who has done it the way you do’ goes back to Mary Pierce.

“First person who saw him on TV to know that a dream came true for Krasny in terms of finally being on air for tennis, was Lindsay Davenport who is a good friend. Davenport who will inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 12, was inducted into the Southern California Tennis Hall of fame by Krasny this past summer.

So with all of the very unique names in tennis, do any of them give him any problems in terms of pronunciation? “Some of women’s names tend to be harder than the men’s,” Krasny said.

“In terms of finding the correct way to say a player’s name, he goes straight to the player.

“Names are not so much a problem for me, I need to make sure I do my homework  and know my facts is more important to me than pronunciation names, because that’s a given.”

Krasny does admit that he makes a rare mistake or two. “Saying Fed Cup instead of Davis Cup in front of Tim Henman and he laughed. (I) said Belgian instead of Belgrade, Serbia in front of Novak Djokovic once and he stopped during warm-up to hit me with a tennis ball.”

At the Sony Open, Krasny incorrectly read a scoreboard and said that Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova were playing doubles together and Serena Williams sent him a text message to make fun of him.

The native Californian who also teaches on-air hosting and public speaking, tells his students, “you are never judged for a mistake you make, it’s how fast you can bounce back and get out of it.”

Tennis players make mistakes, he points out and so do announcers. “I hit a ball out, we make mistakes but at the end of the day, I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

I asked Krasny about what would people be surprised about him behind the scenes.

“I’m a diva when it comes to traveling. I’m not a huge fan of traveling. Once I’m there, I’m OK. But I love to make sure I have a nice hotel, I love to make sure I have transportation.”

“We are all on a mission to make sure that the fan experience is just unmatched and that I feel that I’ve been on the forefront of being part of a team that has really changed the sport in the last 10 years. When I started here at Indian Wells 9 years ago we had no videoboards, we had me on court from 11 in the morning to two in the morning with my iPod and look where we’ve gone. We’ve got a multi-billion dollar facility, we’ve got a new expansion with Stadium 2. Tennis is bigger and stronger than it’s ever been before and I’m so proud to be part of it. Behind the scenes we are just trying to put together the best show possible.”

Follow Andrew Krasny on twitter @AndrewHKrasny.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

 

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Ready, Set, WTA All-Access at the BNP Paribas Open

 

(March 5, 2014) INDIAN WELLS, California – The top eight women’s seeds held court on Wednesday taking questions from the media during roundtable interviews at the BNP Paribas Open. Here are a few notes and quotes from session:

Aga Radwanska

Agnieszka Radwanska and the Cheesecake Factory

Radwanska professed her love for the Cheesecake Factory. She has inked a multi-year agreement with her favorite restaurant. She’ll be sporting the logo on her visor when she plays.

Radwanska says that she can complain about her season so far – two semifinals including the Australian Open.

Last year Radwanska became a blonde and is back to being a brunette. When asked about the change back to her natural hair color, she said “I prefer the dark hair. It was good to change sometimes.”

LI Na media crush

Li Na is the No. 1 Seed

With Serena Williams absent from Indian Wells, Li Na holds the mantle as the No. 1 seed for the tournament. “Feel pretty good,” Li Na said about having the top spot. This is the first time that she’s been the top seed at WTA Premier Mandatory event.

So what’s life after winner her second major like? She says not much different. “I signed a lot of autographs. But not contracts, OK? So looking forward to signing a lot of contracts,” she said.

 

Kerber

Angelique Kerber – Germany’s Fed Cup team members get a Porsche

So what does she think makes her game special? She says she has the ability to read her opponent’s game, and her defense – how she runs and fights for every point. “That’s what I have inside,” she said. As to what she thinks she needs to improve, she says that she needs to play more “aggressive” tennis.

Kerber spot fondly of being a member of Germany’s Fed Cup. She says they are all friends so everyone wants to play and there is a nice incentive – each Fed Cup team member gets a Porsche. Porsche is the sponsor of the Fed Cup team in Germany.

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova NBC Correspondent

“Carrying the torch was the biggest honor I could have received,” said  former Sochi native Sharapova in choosing between carrying the Olympic torch or Russia’s flag at the Olympic games.

In addition to her torch carrying duty, Sharapova was a correspondent for NBC during the Sochi games. “It was really fun,” said the Russian.

Asked if she would be interested in media in the future she said, ” I am not sure. I had a great time and I don’t know if that’s something I would do for long periods of time. I love that challenge of it.

“We shot for so many hours for a three minute clip.” She emphasized how it takes a lot of time to put a short piece together in television between shooting and travel time.

Her Sochi experience was a great one, but she’s happy to get back to the court.

 

Petra Kvitova

Petra Kvitova

When asked about whether she feels that most of the time her matches are on her racquet, she responded, When I’m playing, I’m feeling it’s about me and I’m playing aggressive myself, that’s most(ly) about me.” Not all of the time is a happy end.” Kvitova admits that she’s OK with her game but she has some  more expectations of herself.

Playing aggressively comes natural to the 2011 Wimbledon champion.

 

Halep

Simona Halep is a first-timer at the WTA All-Access

Simona Halep’s ranking has been on the rise for the past few years. Last year only No. 1 Serena Williams claimed more titles than the Romanian during the year.

To what does Halep attribute that success to? “I was more aggressive starting  with last year in Rome, becasue I played really well there. Before I had (a) back injury and it was very hard and I couldn’t play at my level but after that I did really well.”

” I am very happy to be top ten . It’s amazing. Now I can see that I can play the highest level in tennis so I want to continue to be focused.”

She admits that she enjoys the perks of being in the top ten. “I have the bigger car,” she said. As a top ten player it entitles her to a bigger car at tournaments. She enjoys driving and one of the reasons she loves this tournament is that she can drive.

She recently purchased a Range Rover back home in Romania.

Halep’s biggest triumph came in Doha last month, where she beat three top ten players for the title. ” After Australia I thought I could be at highest level of tennis, now I am really happy that I can play in top ten.”

 

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic models new French Open Fila dress

Jelena Jankovic walked into her roundtable session modeling her new Fila outfit for the French Open accompanied by the designer Ginny Hilfiger.

Jankovic reacted to her former coach Nick Bollettieri being named for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. “Nick is an amazing person,” Jankovic said. “He’s the one who helped me quite a  lot, you know when it comes to my game brought me a lot at young age.”

“He helped me to believe in myself,” said the former No. 1.

 

 

azarenka-cincy-slider-1

Victoria Azarenka is coming back from a foot injury

By viewing her practices on Monday, one could tell that No. 4 Victoria Azarenka was in some type of pain. She told media that her foot injury had her in a walking boot for three weeks last month. She confessed that she’s only been able to practice for less than a week.

“When you hear for the first time from the doctor that you have to wear a boot for three weeks and the tournament is four-and-a-half weeks away you’re like ‘OK, let’s see how it goes,’” she said. “I just wanted to stay positive and do the best job as possible.”

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Juan Martin Del Potro Retires from Match in Dubai

Del Potro retires

(February 25, 2014) DUBAI – Juan Martin Del Potro was forced to retire from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday with a left wrist injury after losing the first set in a tiebreak to Somdev Devvarman.

 

The No. 2 seed had been suffering with the injury before he arrived in Dubai, and he sought medical advice in the United States following his opening round loss at the Australian Open last month. Del Potro missed most of the 2010 season recovering from wrist surgery. Del Potro won the US Open, his only major in 2009.

 

Although he broke for a 2-0 lead, Del Potro immediately dropped his own serve in the next game and after failing to convert three set points on his opponent’s serve at 6-5 he lost the tiebreak 7-3.

 

“My wrist is hurting a lot and it was really tough to play today and I tried everything, but it’s very difficult play like in these conditions, you know, playing slices or I cannot be the player what I would like to be,” said the Argentine.

 

“It’s hurting all the time, it’s sometimes less and sometimes little more. But it’s hurting, and I have been in contact with my doctor all the time.  He’s trying to keep me motivated to keep playing, but I know what it’s my limit playing on court. Today was enough. I have been doing a big effort to play this tournament, and it was not enough to play what I like to play.”

 

Devvarman said that he realized after a few games that Del Potro was having some pain.

 

“After starting the match, I realized that he wasn’t very comfortable hitting backhands obviously, and I tried to make him hit as many as I could, and he wasn’t really hitting over it, so I knew that he wasn’t happy,” said Devvarman. “I just tried to fight hard and tried my best to make things tough for him, make things easier for me.

 

“Obviously it’s unfortunate, you know, especially for a guy like him. I think he’s been playing really good tennis to be in the top 5, and I wish him nothing but the best and a good recovery.”

 

Del Potro said that he plans to head straight to the Mayo Clinic for another consultation with his physician Dr. Richard Berger, who operated his right wrist surgery.
The next tournament is in the United States, and I have a couple of weeks off before the tournament and I will be there to see the doctor and what advice he will give to me,“ Del Potro said.

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