June 27, 2016

Archives for 2012

Melanie Oudin – Looking backward, yet looking forward

NEW HAVEN – Almost three years have passed since her surprise surge to the quarterfinals in the 2009 US Open, but Melanie Oudin is still looking onward and upward despite her inconsistency on the court since that magical run in Flushing Meadow which saw her knock out Elena Dementieva and Maria Sharapova along the way. Oudin’s ranking plummeted to No. 370 back in April – a far cry from her career high ranking of 31 achieved back in late April of 2010, but she’s made strides since then to move back up to 106 in the world this week, thanks to capturing her first career WTA title in Birmingham back in June. She’s also moved her training base to the United States Tennis Association’s training center at the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow.
I asked the Marietta, Georgia native on Saturday, ‘What would 2012 Melanie Oudin tell 2009 Melanie Oudin after all that has happened?’
She replied:  “I would probably tell myself that I cannot believe everything that I’ve been through in the past three years and I’m only twenty years-old. I’ve already been through the highs and the lows of a tennis career, in about a three-year period.
“So that’s probably the craziest thing ever but really I think that.. there were always things that helped about that run in ’09 and there are things that didn’t help me in the run 09. I’ve never regretted it though. Of course not.
“Everyone says that it’s the best I’ve ever played, but I really, really think that I can still play better tennis than I played in ’09 and I have a feeling that I am going to be a better player through everything. You know, I’m getting smarter. As I get a little bit older I think that it’s just not quite here yet. I feel that it’s just going to take a little bit more time for me. But I do think I’m going to be a better player even when I did well in ’09.”
Oudin is looking forward to the upcoming US Open where she and Jack Sock are defending Mixed Doubles champions.
“We are going to play again,” said an excited Oudin. She said that people seemed to be surprised that she and Sock are playing together again. “We are undefeated- I mean our first time playing we win the tournament! So we are definitely looking to defend the title. It should be really, really fun.”
Oudin will participate in all three events at the US Open- singles, doubles and mixed doubles. “I’m looking forward to going deeper in singles and in Women’s Doubles as well,” Oudin said gleefully.
“Last year all I had to focus on were the Mixed Doubles, but this year I’m hoping to do well in all three events.”
Oudin reached the main draw of the New Haven Open as a “Lucky Loser” and lost in the first round on Monday to Sofia Arvidsson. Oudin will play in the US Open beginning next week.
Karen Pestaina is the editor and founder of Tennis Panorama News.
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Nicole Gibbs on Proposed NCAA changes “I think it would be a huge problem for college tennis”

Nicole Gibbs photo courtesy of the WTA and Getty Images

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut – Reigning NCAA singles and doubles champion, Stanford’s Nicole Gibbs advanced to the finals of qualifying at the New Haven Open on Saturday with a 6-3, 6–3 win over Lourdes Dominguez Lino.

Gibbs is upset about the NCAA’s recent proposals for Division I college tennis which include 10-point tiebreaks to be played in place of a third set, doubles matches shortened to a six game set, no warm ups with opponents before singles matches, breaks between doubles matches being reduced from 10 minutes to five minutes and changeover breaks being shrunk from 90 seconds to 60 seconds.

“I’m incredibly disappointed to hear that that’s even it is a proposal to be honest,” Gibbs told Tennis Panorama News and the Hartford Courant,  “and I’m kind of praying along with the rest of my fellow college tennis players that that  doesn’t come to pass.

“I think we have a lot of support going up against that proposal and I know, I’ve signed the petition and a lot of other players have signed a petition online to you know end the proposed changes…and  you know everyone from players to coaches are really involved and very serious about making sure those things don’t happen because I think it would be a huge problem for college tennis.”

Gibbs first learned about the proposed changes from a tweet from Junior and College tennis journalist Colette Lewis of ZooTennis.

This is all with the intent to shorten the matches, allegedly increase viewership which I really don’t see happening given that tennis is a very niche sport,” Gibbs added.

“ The people that come to our matches are people who are going to be there regardless of what the format is. Perhaps we could get a few more fans based on a shorter match link but I think more importantly we’re going to lose a huge fan base, a huge support base for college tennis because it won’t be legitimate grounds for development anymore.

Asked if more college players will turn pro if the proposals take place, Gibbs said: “Absolutely! I mean If I had been looking to four-years of 10-point tiebreaks in the third set, I don’t think I would have gone to college in the first place.”

“There are a lot of players really on the bubble about whether to go college to use those years to develop or to go straight on the tour because there’s an argument that college isn’t a good enough development program as is. And this is especially frustrating for players like me and specifically Mallory Burdette my teammate who have been out here on the tour all summer trying to prove to people that you know, this is a legitimate grounds for development and encouraging people to get their education so they have you know, something to fall back on after their tennis careers. We think that’s really important and that what’s we’re representing and I think the NCAA proposal would be a huge set back to that.”

Gibbs, broken when serving for the match admitted to be nervous in closing the match. “I definitely got a little tight at the end there, started thinking about the broader scope of what it means to beat a top-100 player,” Gibbs said. “She played tough points and made me earn it, so credit to her on that front, but I was very tight.

Gibbs goes for a spot in the main draw on Sunday when she takes on Garbiñe Muguruza.

Karen Pestaina is covering the New Haven Open this weekend for Tennis Panorama News. follow her updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

Nicole Gibbs talks about NCAA proposed changes at  New Haven Open – 08182012

At the 3:50 mark to the 6:30 mark, Gibbs discusses the NCAA.

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Stringer Stories in Atlanta

Adam Queen from Your Serve Tennis, Photo by Herman Wood for Tennis Panorama.

By Herman Wood

 

ATLANTA, Georgia – At Atlanta’s BB&T Open, players are on a plane far above the recreational, league player or even teaching professional. Yesterday, Jack Sock recorded a 141 mph service ace while playing Alexander Bogomolov. Bogomolov had a few thunder claps of his own (or was that the usual Atlanta summer thunder storm that interrupted the match?). I know they’re bigger, stronger, and certainly better conditioned, but how is it possible to hit a ball 40 mph faster than the average Joe USTA? The racquets are the same, right? They’re using the same string, aren’t they?

I spoke to Adam Queen, stringer from Your Serve Tennis, the official stringer for the tournament to find out. “All the players are particular. They know what works best for them for different courts, balls, and conditions.” Conditions? “Most go up on tension with heat & humidity because the ball tends to fly.” Unlike you or I, professionals don’t need the stringers’ advice. They’ve experimented with different strings, tensions, number of knots and everything else you can imagine. Queen’s job is to meet those specs, unlike in one of his stores, where he’ll talk to a customer to find out what they need. Just like you and I, the pros want quality and consistency, but they want it to a high level. As an example, most players want their racquets done as close to match time as possible. Mardy Fish wants the second racquet he’ll use delivered ten minutes after the match starts! How would that make a difference?

It turns out that strings lose tension with time, not just use. Polyester string can lose thirty percent overnight! Alright, I could get my racquet strung just before my match if I could hit a 140 mph serve!

“That could be kind of tough on your arm if you use the same string the pros do and you’d have to restring for every match.” I asked Queen why it was tough on the arm. “Almost every pro uses polyester. Polyester string loses tension relatively quickly and becomes dead. Professionals’ shoulder, wrist, and elbow are better able to handle the demands of daily play and demanding equipment.” So that’s why my shoulder hurts when I hit with that year old polyester string! “They restring every time out.” That sounds expensive! So what else do they do differently? “Jack Sock strings at 40 pounds. James Blake uses 63 pounds. Both use polyester.” I guess that means I can play like Sock if I string at 40 and like Blake if at 63? Oh, I forgot- I don’t practice for hours on end every day and do physical conditioning for hours on end. What can I do?

“Be willing to experiment. Talk to your stringer. Give polyester a try, but be willing to cut it out after a few weeks even if it doesn’t break.” You think maybe I can hit that 140 mph serve, just once?

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

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Capriati and Kuerten Highlight Emotional Hall of Fame Inductions

Gustavo Kuerten photo by Ben Solomon

By Jack Cunniff

NEWPORT, Rhode Island – The skies in Newport were dry, but the eyes were not, as Jennifer Capriati and Gustavo “Guga” Kuerten headlined the 2012 class of inductees into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The ceremony was held Saturday, July 14th on Center Court at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.  Capriati and Kuerten, former top-ranked players elected to the Hall of Fame under the Recent Player category, gave stirring speeches that touched the tennis fans in attendance.  Other inductees this afternoon were Randy Snow, the late wheelchair tennis champion and advocate; Mike Davies, in the Contributor category; and Manuel Orantes, in the Master Player category.

Monica Seles, a 2009 Hall of Fame inductee, was selected by Capriati to introduce her at the ceremony. It was a fitting selection as both players burst on the tennis scene just months apart as teenagers, and set multiple “youngest ever” records for women’s tennis.  Capriati, a three-time champion at Grand Slam events and Olympic gold medal winner, was emotional throughout her acceptance speech.  While honored by the Hall of Fame recognition, it closes a chapter in her life that Capriati was not quite ready to close. It signifies that there are no more comebacks in store, and her career would end as the result of wrist and shoulder injuries. But as she did throughout her career, Capriati persevered today. She expressed the joy and pain that tennis has brought to her life, and noted that tennis taught her what hard work and commitment mean. She thanked her friends and family for their love and support over the years, and also recognized the fan support she received throughout her career, a comment that was punctuated by someone in the crowd shouting “We love you!”

Alice Kuerten, Gustavo’s mother, had the honor of introducing her son to the crowd. She spoke not of Guga’s French Open titles or number one ranking, but of his intangible qualities, his role as son and brother, and his philanthropy. Guga charmed the crowd with an unscripted speech, sharing his appreciation for all that tennis has provided him. His father introduced Kuerten to the sport, but passed away when Guga was a teenager. It was tennis, Kuerten noted, that provided him two new fathers in the form of his former coach Larri Passos, and older brother and manager Raphael. Kuerten was very close to his late younger brother Guillaime, who suffered from cerebral  palsy and passed away in 2007, and thus found it fitting to be inducted on the same day as Randy Snow. Kuerten also thanked Mariana, his wife and mother to their five-month-old daughter.

Randy Snow passed away in from a heart attack in 2009, so his father Tom accepted the award on his behalf. A successful junior tennis player when he was paralyzed at age 16, Snow found his success as a wheelchair tennis champion and gold medal winning Paralympian.  Tom thanked Brad Parks, a fellow Hall of Fame member who created the concept of wheelchair tennis, and the various federations who have supported wheelchair tennis.

Mike Davies was awarded for his leadership behind the scenes with tennis. He was the driving force behind several changes in tennis targeted at making it more television friendly. Thanks to Davies, we have yellow tennis balls, blue courts, colored clothing, and chairs on changeovers. Each of these advances made tennis more marketable, and contributed to increased popularity of the sport in the 1970s. Davis thanked his fellow pros and co-workers for today’s honor.

The Hall of Fame president Stan Smith introduced Manual Orantes, and noted Orantes was not only a great champion, but a great sportsman.  Orantes looked back on his 1975 U.S. Open title over Jimmy Connors, and semifinal comeback over Guillermo Vilas earlier in that event, as the greatest matches in his career. He expressed appreciation for his Barcelona tennis club for making him into a champion.

While many tears were shed during the ceremony, the newest Hall of Fame members were all smiles when they took a final march around Center Court.

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No History Made at Wimbledon for Murray

 

WIMBLEDON – History was going to be made today, whoever won.  If Andy Murray had won, he would have become the first British man to lift the title, since the legendary Fred Perry, in 1936.

If Roger Federer won, he would equal Pete Sampras’ record of seven Wimbledon titles, and will have won his first Slam title in two-and-a-half years.

The slice of history went to Federer, who defeated Murray 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

No-one could accuse Murray of starting slowly, breaking Federer in the first game, and starting decisively.

Although Federer did break back, a further break saw Murray claim his first Slam set, in four finals.

A nation dared to hope.

Murray said, of his match: “I’d say that’s the best I’ve played in a slam final.

“I created chances.  Obviously went up a set.

“It wasn’t like I gave away bad games or stupid games and stuff.  I played a good match.  I made pretty good decisions for the most part, so I’m happy with that.

“I felt more comfortable this morning and before the match than I had done maybe in the previous slams.”

When Federer took the second set, having settled his obvious nerves, Murray started to look fatigued.

When the rains came down hard the players were still gathering their things as the groundsmen covered the court, and British fans hoped the break would rejuvenate Murray.

Both players have had to play under the roof a lot this year, so it was hoped they would adapt the conditions quickly at the restart.

When the play started again, Federer’s ball-striking, placement and timing was nothing short of dominating.

Murray said: “When we came out after the break he was more aggressive on my serve.

“I maybe didn’t serve as well under the roof as I did the first couple of sets.”

The pivotal point of the match was a 20 minute service game on Murray’s serve in the third set, and once broken, Federer dictated the play as the momentum stayed with him.

Murray said: “It was tough, a tough game to lose.

“But, you know, I wasn’t disappointed necessarily with the way I played in that game.  Yeah, it was a frustrating game to lose, but I still had chances after that.”

A single break in the fourth set was all that he needed, to equal Sampras’ record – let’s not forget his first Wimbledon victory came at Sampras’ expense.

 

The runner’s up speech was always going to be tough, and many still remember Murray’s emotional speech after losing to Federer in the 2010 Australian Open final.

Yet he still managed to display some of that trademark dry humour, saying: “I’m getting closer.”

He took the microphone and delivered congratulations to Federer before emotionally thanking his support team and the fans.

Many in the crowd were reduced to tears, including his mother Judy, and his girlfriend Kim Sears.

Federer equally looked moved as his daughters came in the players box after he won the match, acknowledging that a win after two and a half years, and tying another record was a special moment for him.

Federer said: “I didn’t try to think of the world No. 1 ranking or the seventh or the seventeenth.

“So I think that’s going to actually, for a change, take much longer to sort of, you know, understand what I was able to achieve today.”

With his victory, he reclaims the world number one slot.  Not bad for a 30-year-old (to paraphrase Murray’s congratulatory speech).

“I’m so happy I’m at the age I am right now, because I had such a great run and I know there’s still more possible,” said Federer, “it’s very different than when I was 20 or 25.”

He continued: “I’m at a much more stable place in my life.

“So this is very, very special right now.”

Both players paid tribute to each other in press, Murray acknowledging that Federer and Rafael Nadal are among the greatest athletes in tennis history, and Federer believing that Murray will win Slam(s) and praising his professionalism and work ethic.

History smiled down on one, and for the other?  Well the Olympics are around the corner followed by the US Open.  The Slam dream is not over yet.

Ros Satar is a British Journalist- an IT journalist by day, and a sports journalist in all the gaps in between. She is the co-founder of Britwatch Sports (britwatchsports.com). Follow her on twitter at @rfsatar.

 

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A Tale from the Wimbledon Queue

WIMBLEDON – I’m not so sure if a Wimbledon experience would be complete without queuing up for tickets. But camping overnight for a fifth row Centre Court seat was totally worth it. And would I ever do it again? In a heartbeat, yes.

Maybe we got lucky with the weather (it only drizzled for a bit on our second day of camping, with a little rain late at night), but for the most part, camping for Wimbledon tickets was an enjoyable and worthwhile experience. This coming from someone who has never camped in her life, with friends who have never camped in their lives. Yet, the consensus was the same: 100% fun.

 

Even though I got lucky and won Centre Court tickets for the second Monday of the Championships (here’s a tip: your chances of getting tickets through the ballot are better if you register to become a member of British Tennis for a minimal 1 year fee) I knew I would still queue for the other days. I wasn’t going to travel to London all the way from the Philippines just to see one day of tennis.

 

Here’s what we did on our two days of camping experience:

 

1.) We booked our hotel in Wimbledon. Marple Cottage is a quaint yet inexpensive B&B, that’s only a 10 minute bus ride to Wimbledon Park. It’s run by a lovely couple and serves a delicious breakfast.

 

2.) We ordered all our camping needs (our tent and sleeping bags) online at Argos’ Wimbledon branch 24 hours before we arrived in London which we then picked up right after checking in at our hotel.

 

3.) We figured around 11am was the best time to start queuing up for next day since we wanted Centre Court tickets. For the two days we did, we were number 140 on Monday for Tuesday’s play, and 90 on the queue card on Wed.

 

4.) After setting up our tent and base camp, it’s time to wait for the queue cards which they give out around 3pm-5pm. Everyone must be there to receive their queue cards so no one could leave. But once we got them, we could leave our tent behind and have a late lunch either at Wimbledon Village, or even closer, in Southfields.

 

5.) The reason why it’s best to book your hotel in Wimbledon is so you can go back to your hotel to shower. Around 7:30pm, we’d head back to our hotel, take a shower, order take out somewhere and head back to our tent for dinner. Then it’s time to sleep.

 

6.) The stewards line everybody up by 7am. So before that time, everything must be packed up, with bags and camping equipment checked in at the left luggage facility. Then, it’s a long wait and walk till you get your choice of ticket for the day. The ticket turnstiles indicate which section of the court they sell tickets to, so line up in the one where you want to be seated.

 

Overall, the entire experience was so much easier than I imagined it would be. By our second day of camping, we were experts at putting up our tent. The restrooms at the park were always clean, well-maintained and well-stocked.

 

It’s a fun, festive atmosphere all-around with chances to meet and befriend fellow tennis fans.

 

One tip: make sure you go with fun, tennis-obsessed companions. You’ll be stuck with them the whole time, and it’s truly them that can make or break your trip.  And mine was nothing but wonderful experience I’d be willing to do all over again.

 

By Abigail Hinto visiting Wimbledon for the first time from the Philippines. All photos by Abigail Hinto.

 

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Kick on for Queen and Country

For most years the success (or otherwise) of Britain’s tennis players rises to the top of people’s priority for the last week in June and the first week in July.

Then for the non-tennis following public, the hub-bub simply disappears and remains perhaps a footnote on the odd national news sports bulletin.

But this year something strange happened.

Perhaps due to the Jubilee, or the forthcoming Olympics, but the news of five people into the second round was a cause for a decent cream tea and perhaps a cheeky Pimms.

Even where players fell at the first hurdle, there were hard fought battles with higher raked opponents being pushed hard, step forward plucky fighters Jamie Baker and Laura Robson, giving former Slam champions Andy Roddick and Francesca Schiavone more than just a routine practice.

But Slam progression is just one match at a time, and the second round saw the numbers dwindle sharply.

Andy Murray needed to harness physical and mental strength to withstand the bombardment of 130 mph+ missiles from big serving Croat Ivo Karlovic, winning 7-5 6-7(7), 6-2 7-6(7).

In a match where it was unlikely he would gather much rhythm, and was at times surprised by Karlovic’s nimbleness at the net, Murray prevailed in a fourth set tiebreak which left many fans fingers gnawed to the bone.

Heather Watson has impressed everyone this year with the apparent ease of her first two victories, and faces a real test against the world number 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in the third round.

Yet there still could be a good chance for her, if her self-belief continues.

Maybe the key to her success this year has been a willingness to change her approach.

After her second round victory against USA’s Jamie Hampton, 6-1, 6-4, she acknowledged that making some changes was a way to move herself up a level.

Watson said:”I’ve been known as kind of a counter‑puncher, good at moving and reading the game well, and I wanted to get to the next step, improve my game.

“I’ve been working with my coach at being more aggressive, coming to the net.

“I can volley.  I love to volley.  Probably volleyed once today and missed it.

“I’ve been working on being more aggressive.  And especially on the grass, you have to be.”

James Ward had a real chance to push his way past Mardy Fish, and battled through a tough fifth set decider, before Fish’s experience got the better of him.

After his great run at Queens last year, and already having come through a five-setter to get to the second round, the crowd on Court 1 stood to give Ward an ovation at the end of the match.

Ward said “It was nice of Mardy, as well.  He said the standing ovation was for me, so go out and enjoy it.  It was nice.  I appreciate it.”

Elena Baltacha pushed the 2011 Champion Petra Kvitova more in the second set, but sadly lost 0-6. 4-6.

However, Baltacha remained fairly pragmatic.

“I just kind of wish the second set was the first set, and then who knows what could have happened.  She played absolutely unbelievable,” she said, “she’s a very classy player.”

And of course being awarded an ITF wildcard, Baltacha will return for the Olympics

After years of injuries and an illness that almost put paid to her career, she could be forgiven for allowing retirement to cross her mind.

“I think if I still really enjoy it, if I still believe I’m improving and I still love it, then I’ll carry on.  But I’m literally going on a week‑to‑week basis.  I don’t put any pressure on myself.”

Anne Keothavong had perhaps more chances against French Open finalist Sara Errani, but succumbed 4-6, 4-6.

She admitted that she had her chances, and simply didn’t take those opportunities.

Keothavong said: “I’m disappointed with my own performance because I know I can play better.  I didn’t challenge her today as much as I would have liked.

“To lose in that fashion, you know, it’s not particularly pleasing.”

Like Baltacha, she will be returning to SW19 for the Olympics, also having been awarded a wildcard.

In between, she is looking ahead to the US swing.

“Had I not been on the Olympic team I would have camped out there until the US Open.  But I think the gap’s just too long from now until the Olympics.”

As with Baltacha, the question of retirement was also put to her.

“I have been around for a while, but there are girls older than me who are still out there winning slams and doing really well.

“That keeps me motivated.  You know, as long as I’m still enjoying it and as long as I’m fit and healthy, there are worse ways to make a living.”

It is strange to use the words “putting Murray aside”, but the real question is can these players now kick on and achieve more success as we gear up first for the Olympics, and then the US Open.

Where once cynics would complain about our Brits “crashing out”, there does appear to be some optimism.

Is there a sense of optimism in 2012 and a stirring of national pride in our tennis players?

And more importantly, with the US Open still to come in the tennis calendar, is now the time for the top British players to use this sense of optimism to “kick on” for Queen and country, and perhaps reach their full potential?

Ros Satar is a British Journalist- an IT Journalist by day, a Sports journalist part-time and her match observations can be found at the Chalkdust Chronicles (chalkdustchronicles.blogspot.com). Follow her on twitter at @rfsatar.

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Serena Williams Says No to Blue Clay and Talks Olympic Mixed Doubles at Product Launch

NEW YORK, NY (April 27, 2012) – Serena Williams continued her busy week in New York City at the Walgreens store in Times Square by launching Sleep Sheets® – a product which sells itself as a natural sleep aid.  It’s part of a new venture with basketball players LeBron James, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Chris Paul and recording artist Pitbull.

Here is a podcast of Tennis Panorama’s interview with the 13-time major champion. She discussed the new product she’s launching, her reaction to Madrid’s blue clay courts and the battle amongst American male players vying for her to pair with them for the mixed doubles competition at the London the Olympic Games.

Serena Williams interview Podcast with Tennis Panorama at Walgreens in Times Square 4-27-12

As part of the promotion for the product, instant-win golden tickets will be randomly inserted into Sleep Sheets® packages. Find one of the tickets and someone will win an once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet Serena Williams. For more information www.facebook.com/takeasheet.

 

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Approach Shots – 45 Love: My Yearlong Quest to Fulfill a Lifelong Dream in the Sport of Tennis

 

Ray Krueger is the deputy managing editor of the New York Times News Service and the author of the book 45 Love: My Yearlong Quest to Fulfill a Lifelong Dream in the Sport of Tennis (Diversion Books – March 1, 2012).

 

The work tells his story, that of a 275-pound teenager who falls in love with the game of tennis and works his way to becoming a top 20 tennis player in the USTA 45-and-over age division despite physical and emotional obstacles.

 

Even if you don’t play tennis, readers will relate to the passion that Krueger has for the game and competing. Krueger brings the reader along  with him on his quest for a national ranking with his engaging stories and his personal struggles. It’s one of those rare books that once you start reading you can’t put it down until you finish.

 

Krueger generously took time out to answer questions about 45-Love.

 

Karen Pestaina: What led you to write this book?
Ray Krueger: A lot of things. My professional life was in turmoil and I knew I was going to take a run at getting the best possible national ranking in the 45-and-over division. Having years of tournaments under my belt, and a lot of stories to tell from those experiences, I decided to write about them. But then as I went back into my childhood and teenage years I realized how tennis had been such powerful force in my life.

 

Q: What was the writing process like? What the most difficult part of it to write?
RK: The most difficult parts to write were the parts where I left out people’s real names. I didn’t want the book to have the feel of getting even with people who I had problems with on the court. When they signed up for a tournament they didn’t sign up to have their misbehavior broadcast for the world to see. Yet I still wanted the stories to be true representations of what really happened. So against some of my journalistic instincts I gave them nicknames, nicknames I have remembered them by through the years.


In terms of the writing process itself, I had lots of downtime as I was at tournaments and in between matches I would be back in my hotel room writing on my laptop. I would even scribble ideas sitting in my car, or even write emails to myself on my phone with ideas or matches I wanted to make sure to mention.

Q: What led you to play tennis in the first place?
RK: The idea of hitting something that didn’t hit back was very appealing. And as a loner I liked the idea of not being dependent on a team and all the social dynamics that seemed to bring.

 

Q: What did you think about the USTA ranking system when it was changed?
RK: I hated it. I think the computer looking at who you beat and who you lose to is the best system. But the USTA wanted to encourage players to play more tournaments so I understand why they did it. I am sort of obsessed with the negative effects of points-per-round so I volunteered to design the points system used in the Eastern Section. I put in a “Best of ….” system to encourage play without turning the rankings into an attendance test.


But no matter what you do the system will never be perfect. I remember a guy I once lost to 6-0, 6-0 at National clay courts was ranked one spot below me because that was the only tournament he played in that year.

 

Q: Since you are a stats person, what do think about the ATP and WTA current ranking systems?
RK: That is a very complicated question.

 

Like I said, I think the computer parsing out the rankings by who players beat and lose to is the best system. But that would make it impossible for fans to see what players need to do to rise and fall. And then you might have a case where a player wins a Grand Slam and doesn’t crack the top 50 because they haven’t beat the top players. Right now the big complaint seems to be that you can be number 1 without winning a Grand Slam (Caroline Wozniacki) but I think other systems would have the same problem. Or different problems. If you devise a point system that so heavily favors the Slams you could have somebody like a Melanie Oudin being in the Top 20 for a year after her run at the U.S. Open.

 

Q: What advice would you give those in their quest for a national ranking?
RK: Have an understanding spouse! But also plan out your tournament schedule a year in advance so you can try to get your work and family life in synch with your tournament schedule (if that is ever possible). The most important thing is to get into the best shape as possible. It is one thing to travel across the country and lose to someone who is clearly better than you. It is another thing to lose because you are not in the best shape you can be.

 

Q: With anyone allowed to enter the US Open National Playoffs to gain a spot in the US Open Qualifying, do you see yourself participating?
RK: I might. I gave up playing USTA Open tournaments a long time ago but this year I might make a comeback.

 

Q: Have you really stopped eating Haagen-Daas?
RK: Yes. It is low-fat sugar-free frozen yogurt for me. But I won’t tell you how much of it I eat.

 

Ray Krueger is the deputy managing editor of the New York Times News Service, the wire service of the New York Times, and has written about tennis and mixed martial arts both for the paper and its website. He is also one of the founding writer/editors of the Times’ tennis blog, Straight Sets. Previously, he wrote for the New York Daily News, the Jersey Journal and Reuters and has also worked for CBS Radio and Sportsticker. He continues to train for his next tennis tournament as he researches his next book project and lives with his wife, a former junior player herself, and two kittens in Manhattan. He hopes to improve on his best national ranking by the time he gets to the 90-and-over age group.

45 Love: My Yearlong Quest to Fulfill a Lifelong Dream in the Sport of Tennis [Kindle Edition] is available on Amazon.com http://amzn.to/ADfW87

 

Bonus – An excerpt from the book:

It started with a phone call from a friend and regular practice partner.
“Ray, you are not going to believe what happened to me. It is the craziest thing I
have seen at a tournament.”
To protect the guilty, I will call him Ken Rosewall.
He told the story of playing in an unsanctioned local tournament. He was winning
the match easily and in the second set his opponent said he was quick serving him.
Rosewall said it was supposed to be server’s pace and if there was a problem they should get the referee.

The referee agreed with Rosewall.
But at a changeover, his opponent grabbed the balls, ran to the service line and
served while Rosewall was still on his chair. He then said it was the same thing Rosewall was doing to him. The referee defaulted him.
He went berserk. He would not stop going after the tournament director and my
friend. Cops were called. Days later, Rosewall said he heard Berserker went to the
tournament director’s house and a restraining order was filed.
A month later I was playing in the semifinal of a local tournament against a guy I
had never heard of.
I didn’t have any problems with his calls, but he was playing very slow. He did
something I had never seen on a court before. He would serve with one ball and if he
missed his first serve he would walk back to the fence to pick up another ball for his
second serve. He would towel off at the back fence where he kept the other ball, and then hit his second serve.
Well, we are supposed to play at server’s pace…
I looked over to the tournament director. He wasn’t there. He had to leave and his
girlfriend was handling the desk.
I decided to stay calm. My opponent didn’t have any weapons, and just ran down
everything. That is my style and I was confident I could outlast him. He seemed to be the brooding sort, not talking before the match, not looking me in the eye.
But as I started winning he finally blew. Screaming, yelling, hitting the balls into the
fence. After every point. Some of the worst behavior I had ever seen. I kept calm. He was self-destructing. But it was uncomfortable and scary. He was directing his anger at me.
“You have nothing,” he was screaming at me. And now he was looking at me straight in the eye.
It was rage trash-talking. He wasn’t saying how he was going to beat me, but saying
how much I sucked. I had never seen that before. He was losing and the more he was
losing the more abusive he became. I just took it, but I was boiling.
The match had gone over an hour before I won the first set. I was more exhausted
from holding myself back from responding to the abuse than I was the match.
Then at a changeover he walked past me, glared at me and with full force kicked my
tennis bag. My anger boiled over.
“You can do all you want out here, but you can’t kick my bag,” I screamed. He didn’t
say a word, just looking at me his eyes getting wider and his chest poking out like he was preparing for a fight. The silence bothered me so I said, “I have glasses in my bag.”
“I didn’t break anything,” he screamed. I kept walking to the other side of the court. “That doesn’t make a difference,” I screamed back.
I looked over at the tournament director’s girlfriend. She was angry as well, although
I thought it was for her boyfriend leaving her to be in the middle of this situation. Hearing the commotion in the first set, a bunch of people had gathered to watch. The match was in an urban park and the locals who may have never cared about tennis wanted to see what the ruckus was about.
They seemed to both welcome my going back at him and be afraid about what might
happen next. I was in a car crash and I wasn’t driving.
The crowd watching, and my outburst, only seemed to make my opponent’s behavior
worse. I started to wonder if he might have a weapon in his bag. But I was so enraged
myself that I didn’t care. I wasn’t married at the time and at that point was willing to die on that court.
I won the next game.
Then my opponent took all three balls and launched them, one at a time, over the
fence as far as he could. He sat down in the center of the court at the serving T, as if it
was a 1960s sit in.
I walked over to the fence where the tournament director’s girlfriend was sitting on
the other side.
“What do I do now?” I asked.
She did not respond, just got up and walked in the direction of where he balls might
have landed. She eventually came back with balls, even though I wasn’t sure they were the ones we were using. I didn’t care. About 15 minutes had gone by and I was beyond furious. If he couldn’t get defaulted for that there was no way she was going to do
anything. I imagined her thinking that she didn’t want the rage being directed to me to be directed at her.
My opponent was still sitting in the same spot at the service line.
I took the balls and went back to serve. To my surprise, he got up and went back to
return.
The pattern continued. Long points with me winning most of them and outbursts
after every point where he told me how much I had nothing. I would cross over on the other side of the court so I was never closer than 20 feet away from him. I was afraid he was going to take a swing at me if I got within five feet. Finally I closed it out.
Now came the hard part. I would have to come to the net to shake his hand. I know if
I didn’t go to shake his hand that may send him over the edge even more. But I was
scared if I put my hand out he would sucker punch me.
So I thought I might say something to defuse the situation.
So I timed my steps. I got within 10 steps when I decided, well, he did fight hard,
and maybe if I compliment him on that I can get out of this situation without any more problems.
“I said, “You sure fought hard out there,” as I put out my hand. He shook it as he
yelled. “I should have been seeded in this tournament and not faced you in the
semifinals.” Huh?
“I am 16th in the East,” he continued. I had a flashback to my working life and said,
just to be factually correct: “You couldn’t be 16th in the East. My friend Ken Rosewall
was 16th in the East. ‘
It was a Lucille Ball, “slowly I turn moment” moment.
His eyes became flares. “KEN ROSEWALL IS YOUR FRIEND? THAT IS THE
GUY WHO GOT ME ARRESTED!!!”
I realized at that point, it was Berserker.
I quickly grabbed my bag with a dent in the side of it. But Berserker was in hot
pursuit. “I should have kicked his ass when I had the opportunity!” I was in a full sprint at this point. “And if you weren’t running away I would kick yours too.”
I was on the other side of the fence at this point.
I asked the tournament director what time the final would be. She tells me and says,
“Thank you for your patience.”
Luckily, Berserker was still on the other side of the fence, but he was leaning right
against it screaming about how he was going to get me. I heard him scream something about what he would do to me in a rematch.
I had heard enough, and from the safety of the other side of the fence I screamed
back, “You wouldn’t have a chance.” I hustled to my car.
The last thing I heard from him was how I have to learn to be a better winner.

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Davis Cup in Monte Carlo, Day 3: Isner – The New Closer

By Guillaume Willecoq

“Before, it was Andy Roddick the biggest closer of the US team, maybe I can do as well.” For the first time, John Isner clinched a Davis Cup for the US team, after an amazing match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. “I was pissed off to have to admire the way he was playing” said Guy Forget, fair play. The US boy from Greensboro, NC ended Guy Forget’s run as French Captain.  Forget led the French Davis Cup team since 1999. The new captain won’t be named before September. For the US team, they will face Spain again in semifinals, as in 2008, “I assume on clay, laughs Isner, but we will be ready to go!”

4th rubber : John Isner d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 in 3h20

First serve: 66% / 71%

Aces: 16 / 5

Double faults: 4 / 4

Winners: 56 / 43

Forced and unforced errors: 86 / 88

Break points: 2/9 / 1/7

Net points won: 37 / 29

The French team at their news conference :

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: “John has played a huge match. I wasn’t in a great day. John was better than I was. He played better the important points, and played more aggressively… It’s not a surprise he can perform at this level. But I was surprised he could keep this level through the whole tie.”

“Guy was the only captain I knew, and every time he made me like this competition, and tennis even more. He shared his love of the game. It’s the most beautiful thing to me.”

Guy Forget: “The deception is a little easier to accept since it comes from the hands of Jim Courier, a really good guy. Jim was a role model, and his players are just like him. This US team and mine have many values in common.”

“Tonight I have mixed emotions. It’s the end of 14 years as a captain, but my story with story with Davis Cup is longer than that: it started in the USSR in 1983 or 1984. It’s weird it’s over.”

The US team at their new conference :

John Isner: “I believe in myself : if I can play like I play this week I can beat a lot of people in the next Roland-Garros. Beating Gilles and beating Jo are two very good wins, I played very well, if I can keep this level up I’m gonna be tough to beat.”

“Jim definitely helped me in that first tie in Switzerland. I had a very good win against Roger and he helped this week. It’s been a gradual thing for me, my coach back home put the majority of my working, but when I came here, Jim kinds of make me ready. Captain Courier is a guy that I’m very comfortable on the bench, so that helps.”

Jim Courier: “The quality of today’s match was exceptional, I thought better even than on Friday. John is definitely continuing to improve even from the last tie. I think he played better this one. It is impressive.”

“Against Spain, we probably lose it on paper but they don’t play them on paper. We have to play it out there and we have players who are capable and passionate and hungry. We are definitely going to be the underdog once again but we will be ready to play.”

-          The special guests section:

Spotted today at the Monte Carlo Country Club: Novak Djokovic, the World N°1, and his girlfriend curiously at home in Monaco and not in Belgrade to support his teammates against Czech Republic; Ricardo Piatti and Ivan Ljubicic, for the last tournament of Ljubi’s career, next week in Monte Carlo; Eric Winogradsky, former Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s coach ; Alain Boghossian, former soccer player, World champion in 1998 with the French squad; the little group of the Net Heads, trying to make as much noise as the French crowd; and a bonus, Alexandre Vinokourov, the cyclist champion, training with three Astana’s teammates on the roads of Monaco.

End of the week in Monaco for Guillaume and MarieJ. It’s been a pleasure to share with you the coverage of this France / USA tie, in one of the most beautiful places for tennis. We are French, but we were really drawn in by this US team. See you next time and good luck in Spain!

Guillaume Willecoq was at the Monte Carlo Country Club covering the US versus France quarterfinal Davis Cup tie as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Guillaume Willecoq also manages and contributes to the French language tennis website http://www.15-lovetennis.com, follow them on twitter on @15lovetennis.

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