2014/12/22

International Premier Tennis League in Manila

By Abigail Hinto

(December 1, 2014) MANILA –  There is no other word to describe it but surreal.  After fitting tennis tournaments to my vacations in order to see live tennis, professional tennis and its superstars have finally come to me.  I’ve seen and covered most of these players before, but seeing them introduced to the Manila crowd to raucous cheers was goose bumps-inducing.  Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova, and Serena Williams, the current best of the world were actually playing on a tennis court in my city.  Not to mention the legends Goran Ivanisevic, Carlos Moya and Patrick Rafter; exactly the players I followed when I first became a fan of the sport.  Even when I finally got the opportunity to travel and watch tennis, I never imagined I would still get the chance to experience seeing my early favorites who are now long retired, play live.

 

I have to admit that I was initially skeptical when the concept of the International Premier Tennis League was introduced, as I would guess most tennis fans were.  Would they really be able to get the players, especially the superstars on board?  Tinkering with the rules seemed sacrilege to the long tradition of the sport.  But then Manila got a franchise when IPTL had to pull out of Bangkok because of political unrest in that city, and I knew no matter what, I was going to be there.

 

Let me now say straight out that all the new rules introduced for the league, made to make the matches faster and therefore more conducive to television, are just secondary to the real tennis being played on court and the team atmosphere displayed.  Yes, it was real tennis.  While some players like Maria Sharapova first seemed undecided whether she would treat the game as exhibition or competition, with nary a shriek heard from her at first, probably the thought of an embarrassing loss against Kristina Mladenovic in her first match for her home team spurred her to increase her level of intensity and turn the match around.  I also didn’t think we would have seen Mladenovic be unable to close out the set after being up two breaks if nerves weren’t involved.  Ana Ivanovic played flawless tennis for her part against Sharapova and displayed her pleasure at her level of play with her trademark fist pumps and “ajdes.”  Andy Murray was crazily retrieving balls all over the court to make-up for his poor level of shot making.  Even the legends were groaning at missed shots and opportunities.  As one hardcore tennis fan who attended the tournament expressed, she was indeed worried at first whether the players would take the matches seriously because she still believes the tournament is just an exhibition.  But she ended up being satisfied with what she saw on court.  Even the players themselves were surprised how everyone was treating the matches seriously.  In the end, they are competitors at heart who want nothing more than to win.  And playing for a team, which they very seldom get to do, increases that desire to be able to help put your team in a winning position.  Stakes may be lower than playing on tour, but wins don’t necessarily mean less.

 

The team competition format also allowed for players to showcase not just their tennis but their personalities as well.  Gael Monfils, to no one’s surprise shone in this kind of format.  The fans embraced his goofiness and showmanship, but also marveled at his shot making.  Mladenovic, who outside serious tennis fans most in the stadium have probably never heard of before continually gained fans as the three days got on.  Treat Huey, who even though was the local boy most Filipinos have never seen play awed the crowd with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga once they finally gelled on the 2nd day.  Goran Ivanisevic will always be willing to please a crowd.  You see these players interacting with each other on the sidelines which you will never see just watching regular tour matches on tv.  There’s Murray and Daniel Nestor who couldn’t stop talking and laughing.  Same for Serena Williams and Daniela Hantuchova.  Ivanovic and Sania Mirza were practically inseparable, and who could ever forget Ivanovic’s absence of dancing skills thanks to Monfils.  Of course, there were the more silent and reticent types, but that’s showing their personalities too.

 

As a team competition, it was no surprise that the team that got on together from the get go won this leg of the league.  The Indian Aces was clearly that team.  Right off the bat, they were huddling during changeovers, cheering loudly for their teammates and just generally showed the most positive team spirit.  The Aces’ players continually acknowledged this fact saying how much they’re having fun together.  Not that the other teams didn’t embrace the team aspect of the competition, but Manila Mavericks for one took time to gel together, probably not helped by having the more introvert players while the Indian Aces had Monfils providing unbridled energy throughout.

 

Eventually, the Manila Mavericks were helped by relentless cheering from the home crowd urging them on until it paid off on the 3rd day when they finally won their last match.  Mark Philippoussis, who subbed in for an injured Carlos Moya set the tone by winning the first set coming from behind against Patrick RafterKirsten Flipkens, the home team’s other female player was showered loudly with support when she finally stepped up to play on the 3rd day.  I didn’t think Andy Murray would have liked to lose all his matches in front of his home team so he was finally able to pull off two wins on the 3rd day.  It was the most electric on that last day and last match as the whole stadium cheered louder and louder for the home team especially as the last set, the men’s singles between Murray and Nick Kyrgios got down to the wire and the last and longest rally of the set finished off the 5-minute shoot-out with a Kyrgios backhand to the net.  It was the fitting end to 3 days of tennis fun and excitement.

 

The competition will probably continue to have its critics, but I for one was converted.  That IPTL was able to bring all these tennis superstars to my country already makes it a winner in my book.  But the overall experience just solidified that fact.  I talked to several people, hardcore fans, casual fans, people who have never watched a tennis match in their life and they all came out of the experience with nothing but positive words to say, all saying that they will definitely be back next year to watch some more.  For the casual fan, it was like watching tennis on steroids with the faster paced play.  For the non-tennis fan who was greatly entertained, it was a marvel seeing how gorgeous all of the players looked.  I asked another non-tennis fan whether she will watch tennis on TV if she chances upon it and she said that she already did the following day.  Most of these people just got complimentary tickets, but their enjoyment showed that next time, they will already be willing to pay for the experience.  And if the aim of the IPTL is to grow the fan base of the sport, in areas that are rarely or never served by the professional tours, then so far, it seems to have achieved its goal.  A day after, and everyone is suffering from IPTL hangover.

 

Will IPTL supplant the tours?  Most probably not.  It’s still an exhibition in the mind of players and fans.  Will it eventually be part of tennis’ history especially with some of its innovations as Carlos Moya says it could be?  Too hard to tell after the first leg.  I feel its success is highly dependent on the commitment it gets from the biggest superstars of tennis.  It has managed that so far, will it continue to do so in the future?  Is there a place for it in the current tennis landscape as founder Mahesh Bhupathi says it does as he summed up the Manila experience?  Why not?  We all got to see Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova play mixed doubles together to disastrous results all with smiles on their faces, the biggest cherry on top of this wonderful cake.  And that alone should make the fans demand for the continued existence of the IPTL.

 

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Serena Williams Pulls Out of China Open with Left Knee Injury, Puts Singapore Participation in Doubt

Serena Williams

(October 3, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA - Serena Williams has pulled out of her quarterfinal match against Sam Stosur at the China Open Friday, with a left knee injury.

 

Williams said she started to feel the pain in her knee this week and almost didn’t take the court Thursday, in her match against Lucie Safarova.  She had her left knee taped but eventually won in three sets, 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.  “Well, it throbs just sitting, standing,” according to Williams.  “I felt it mostly serving because I’m landing on my left knee.  That was really killer for me.”  She feels she probably made it worse playing on but is still to have her knee checked.

 

Williams now plans to go to Europe to see her doctor and have all the tests done there.  Asked whether her participation at the season-ending BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore is in doubt, Serena replied, “I can’t answer that.  If I feel this way for Singapore, I don’t think it’s smart for me to play.  Other than that, I’m just going to see how it goes.”

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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The Solidly Mercurial Halep

By Abigail Hinto

 

(October 2, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA – For sports, where it’s about definitive results, where a win is a win, we do manage to talk a lot about beauty.  And tennis is no exception.  Simona Halep, with her fluid strokes plays a more aesthetically pleasing game compared to her opponent Thursday, Andrea Petkovic who has more mechanical looking strokes.  But was it Halep’s beautiful game that beat Petkovic?

 

Halep has steadily risen in the rankings since last year with consistent results week in week out, winning several tournaments along the way and getting deep into grand slams.  To reach the top of the rankings in tennis, where Halep is now as the No. 2 ranked player in the world, playing well consistently is the name of the game.

 

However, Halep’s match against Petkovic was the opposite of consistent.  One game Halep was playing flawlessly, dictating points and hitting winners all over the court, the next game, out of nowhere, she could no longer find the court with any of her strokes.  Flawless game to break, error-strewn game to get broken back.  Meanwhile, Petkovic with her mechanical, steady groundstrokes was the more consistent of the two throughout the match.  Unfortunately for Petkovic, it was in the two crucial tiebreaks where her game fell apart while Halep managed to steady herself to eventually win 7-6 (4), 5-7, 7-6 (1).

 

So how does one reconcile Halep’s erratic game with her consistent results?  The beauty of tennis is the presence of important points.  Those pressure situations where as is often the case, the best comes out on top.   And that’s what both Halep and Petkovic showed in this match.  The better player, the player who ended up winning, was the one who played the two tiebreakers solidly.  And in the end, the mercurial Halep managed to reign in her game in time, in those two pressure situations, to get the win.  Something she has been doing consistently for over a year now.

Unfortunately for both players, Halep has pulled out of the China Open with a hip injury.  Her next opponent, Ana Ivanovic moves on to the semifinals.

“It was a tough match against Andrea today, and I had to fight a lot,” Halep said in a statement. “I’m happy I was able to win and finish the match in the right way, but I have a hip injury and it would be risky for me to play again tomorrow.”

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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Petra Kvitova win sets up Third Round Clash with Venus Williams in Beijing

 

By Abigail Hinto

(October 1, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA – A confident and in-form Petra Kvitova raced to an easy 6-4, 6-2 victory on Wednesday at the China Open over China’s new No. 1 player Peng Shuai.

 

Following her title run in Wuhan the last week, the third seed Kvitova acknowledges she’s more confident now after suffering an early loss at the US Open.  Working hard following that US Open defeat and knowing she has to fight for her spot at the season-ending Singapore event Kvitova is back to playing the type of tennis that brought her a second Wimbledon title.  “I feel well on the court.  I know that I can play good tennis because of last week, [in] Wuhan.  I think my confidence is a little bit higher than after US Open,” acknowledged Kvitova.  And now that she has secured her spot, she’s feeling more relaxed on court.

 

And a relaxed and confident Kvitova is trouble for everyone.  How will Venus Williams, Kvitova’s next opponent, who has also been playing well this season, handle Kvitova this time around?  Admittedly one of the best matches of the year was their third round clash at Wimbledon where Kvitova was two points away from losing the match. She went on to win the match and her second Wimbledon title.

Will we see a repeat of that match in another third round meeting here at the China Open?  It’s always been a tight battle between these two players who seemingly match up well against each other.  “I’m looking forward to it,” says Kvitova.  “I think that she’s serving still very well.  She’s moving well, as well.  She’s playing fast.  We’ll see.”

 

“I think that every match what we played with Venus was really great fight until the end. I played her in Doha, 7‑6 in the third. Wimbledon 7‑5 in the third. It’s always great. I’m looking forward for it.”

 

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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Li Na’s Retirement Ceremony in Around the Grounds Beijing Photo Gallery

(September 30, 2014) BEIJING – Photos by Natalie Ho from around the grounds to the main interview room on Tuesday of the China Open including Li Na’s retirement ceremony.

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Final Push to London Starts in Asia

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

By Abigail Hinto

(September 30, 2014) BEIJING, CHINA – It’s a tight race to the season-ending World Tour Finals in London with 3 more slots remaining (Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic are almost guaranteed in as grand slam champions and are 4th and 5th in the race respectively) and 6 players with a little over 500 race points separating No. 6 Kei Nishikori to No. 11 Grigor Dimotrov.  This week, with Tokyo and Beijing offering 500 points to the winner, could boost a player’s chances of qualifying to the prestigious season-ending event.  And here at the China Open, three of those players are fighting for their spot.

 

Monday night, Dimitrov started his campaign to qualify for the first time to the World Tour Finals with a 3-set victory over Fernando Verdasco.  He faces Pablo Andujar next, a good draw for him in a very loaded field.

 

Tuesday afternoon, Tomas Berdych took his step to once again be part of the 8-player field in London with a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez.  Berdych only needed to be solid and steady against a poorly playing Lopez.  Lopez especially had trouble with his serve throwing in double faults in all service games that he was broken.  Twice he double faulted in games when he was down break point.  Berdych has not been playing well in a while, so a solid win plus a win in doubles too, could help him recover his form from earlier in the season when he reached the semis of the Australian Open and won his ninth title in Rotterdam.

 

Another player finding his form is Andy Murray.  He started his Asian swing a week earlier than the other two winning the inaugural title at the Shenzhen Open, his first after his back surgery, where he managed to get through some tough matches.  Murray would like to continue his winning ways to qualify for the 7th straight year for the World Tour Finals held in his home country.  He eked out another tough match Tuesday night against Jerzy Janowicz winning in 3 sets 6-7(9), 6-4, 6-2 in 2 hours and 28 minutes.

 

So who out of these three will make it to London?

 

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who already has qualified for the year-end championship, demolished Guillermo García-López 6-2, 6-1 in his opening match.

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

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Rafael Nadal Returns with a Win in Beijing

 

By Abigail Hinto

(September 30, 2014) BEIJING – What rust?  Rafael Nadal didn’t show any rust in his first singles match back to the competition after being sidelined with a right wrist injury for three months.  In a comfortable 6-4, 6-0 win over Richard Gasquet.

Nadal was playing aggressively off both his forehand and backhand, hitting winners all over the court.  Once Gasquet was pushed off the court with Nadal dictating play, and there was nothing more the Frenchman could do to get back in to the point.  His only other option was to be as aggressive as Nadal, which he managed to do well in the first set earning him a couple of break points but which unfortunately for him, he was unable to convert especially in the crucial tenth game as Nadal saved the break point with an ace while serving for the set.

 

The second set saw Gasquet’s frustration boil over as he started making more errors with overly aggressive play while Nadal was as steady as rock both offensively and defensively.

 

There were no signs of the wrist injury from Nadal, “the wrist is much, much better,” according to Nadal.  “Is almost recovered hundred percent.  I cannot say ‘hundred percent’ because when you have some feelings on it when you warm up at the beginning, it’s not hundred percent.  But let’s say 90 something percent.  The most important thing is the wrist is not limiting me to play my tennis, to hit the normal backhand.”

 

Overall, Rafael Nadal is happy to be back on court playing again.  “I have to be happy the way that I played, no?  Three months without a match, winning against a player who is a good player like Richard, is a very positive comeback for me.”

 

“More important than win, lose, is spend time on court.  And winning, I have another chance to play another match after tomorrow, no?”

 

“That’s the key for me today:  spend time on court, play matches.  At least I going to play two matches minimum here.  That’s a positive thing.  I’m going to try my best to play three.”

 

Next up for Nadal is Peter Gojowczyk who took him to three sets earlier this year in Doha in their only meeting so far.

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

Photos by Natalie Ho.

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Serena Williams Escapes A Bagel Set to Win Opening Round in Beijing

Serena Williams in press

(September 29, 2014) No. 1 Serena Williams escaped a bagel set against her by Spanish qualifier Silvia Soler-Espinosa when she trailed 0-5 in the first set but then reeled off 13 of the next 15 games to win her first round match at the China Open on Monday 7-5, 6-2.

The holder of 18 major titles lost her serve three times in the first 15 minutes of the match to trail 5-0.

“I just didn’t want to lose ‑‑ I didn’t want to lose 6‑Love,” Williams said. “I just started fighting. I was like, Just let me at least try to break here.”

The last player to dish out 6-0 set against the 33-year-old was another Spaniard, Anabel Medina Garrigues, in Madrid last year. Williams won that match 6-3, 0-6, 7-5.

Williams who was forced to retire last week in Wuhan against Alize Cornet due to dizziness, said that she’s better this week.

“I felt good today,” Williams said. “I definitely feel like I was over it.

“This week I’ve been okay. I wasn’t sure if I was going to play or not. You know, I just started hitting a couple days ago, taking it day by day. Finally I decided I’m here, I may as well see what happens. Here I am.”

 

CHINA OPEN 2014 – BEIJING
USD 5,427,105
27 SEP – 5 OCT 2014

RESULTS – SEPTEMBER 29, 2014
Singles – First Round
[1] S Williams (USA) d [Q] S Soler-Espinosa (ESP) 75 62
[9] A Ivanovic (SRB) d [Q] B Bencic (SUI) 62 61
A Cornet (FRA) d [10] J Jankovic (SRB) 75 36 64
[13] L Safarova (CZE) d C Giorgi (ITA) 76(3) 64
[14] F Pennetta (ITA) d C McHale (USA) 76(3) 64
[Q] T Pironkova (BUL) d [WC] M Kirilenko (RUS) 64 61
[Q] M Barthel (GER) d [Q] B Mattek-Sands (USA) 46 61 64
L Davis (USA) d [Q] Y Xu (CHN) 63 63
S Peng (CHN) d [WC] K Zhang (CHN) 64 61
C Garcia (FRA) d S Zhang (CHN) 61 64

Doubles – Second Round
[2] C Black (ZIM) / S Mirza (IND) d C Dellacqua (AUS) / L Raymond (USA) w/o (Dellacqua: lower leg injury)

Doubles – First Round
[7] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP) d C McHale (USA) / C Scheepers (RSA) 62 62
[Alt] M Barthel (GER) / M Minella (LUX) d [WC] B Mattek-Sands (USA) / S Zheng (CHN) 76(7) 63
[WC] S Halep (ROU) / I Olaru (ROU) d O Kalashnikova (GEO) / K Koukalova (CZE) 64 76(4)

ORDER OF PLAY – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
NATIONAL TENNIS STADIUM start 12:30 pm
WTA – E Svitolina (UKR) vs [4] M Sharapova (RUS)

Not Before 2:30 pm
ATP – [1] N Djokovic (SRB) vs G Garcia-Lopez (ESP)
ATP – R Gasquet (FRA) vs [2] R Nadal (ESP)

Not Before 7:45 pm
WTA – [1] S Williams (USA) vs [Q] T Pironkova (BUL)

Not Before 9:00 pm
ATP – [7] E Gulbis (LAT) vs F Fognini (ITA)

LOTUS COURT start 12:30
ATP – [WC] F Lopez (ESP) vs [3] T Berdych (CZE)

Not Before 2:30 pm
WTA – [WC] L Zhu (CHN) vs [2] S Halep (ROU)
WTA – C Garcia (FRA) vs [16] V Williams (USA)

Not Before 6:30 pm
ATP – J Janowicz (POL) vs [6] [WC] A Murray (GBR)

MOON COURT start 12:30
WTA – R Vinci (ITA) vs [5] A Radwanska (POL)
WTA – C Chuang (TPE) / O Govortsova (BLR) vs [5] A Hlavackova (CZE) / S Peng (CHN)
WTA – [8] E Bouchard (CAN) vs S Lisicki (GER)
WTA – R Oprandi (SUI) vs [9] A Ivanovic (SRB)

BRAD DREWETT COURT start 2:00 pm
ATP – [8] J Isner (USA) vs S Giraldo (COL)
ATP – T Robredo (ESP) vs A Seppi (ITA)
ATP – [Q] M Klizan (SVK) vs L Mayer (ARG)

COURT 3 start 12:30
WTA – [15] A Petkovic (GER) vs M Keys (USA)
WTA – [7] A Kerber (GER) vs Z Diyas (KAZ)
WTA – [14] F Pennetta (ITA) vs C Suárez Navarro (ESP)
WTA – K Mladenovic (FRA) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs Y Xu (CHN) / J Zheng (CHN)

COURT 4 start 12:30
WTA – [3] K Peschke (CZE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs J Gajdosova (AUS) / A Tomljanovic (CRO)
WTA – S Kuznetsova (RUS) vs K Nara (JPN)
ATP-After suitable rest – F Lopez (ESP) / M Mirnyi (BLR) vs L Kubot (POL) / R Lindstedt (SWE)
ATP – J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) vs [2] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)

COURT 7 start 12:30
WTA – [12] E Makarova (RUS) vs [Q] P Hercog (SLO)
ATP – [Q] J Brunstrom (SWE) / N Monroe (USA) vs M Cilic (CRO) / S Gonzalez (MEX)
ATP – J Benneteau (FRA) vs P Andujar (ESP)
ATP – [Q] M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs P Cuevas (URU)

COURT 8 start 12:30
ATP – I Karlovic (CRO) vs [Q] P Gojowczyk (GER)

Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP – [3] D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) vs J Rojer (NED) / H Tecau (ROU)
WTA – [Q] M Barthel (GER) vs [13] L Safarova (CZE)

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Doubles for Singles, Nadal Returns to the Court After Wrist Injury

By Abigail Hinto

(September 29, 2014) BEIJING – Rafael Nadal was back on the court on Monday for the first time since injuring his right wrist in July to play a doubles match at the China Open. He partnered with Spanish compatriot Pablo Andujar in his return.

 

The ever enthusiastic crowd of Chinese fans greeted all four singles players, Rafael Nadal and Pablo Andujar versus Tomas Berdych and John Isner, playing their first matches here at the China Open as doubles players with their usual zeal and passion.  Along with the return of Rafael Nadal to competition after being out for 3 months with a wrist injury, a first round doubles match brought out a full and noisy crowd to the Moon Court of the Beijing National Tennis Center with numerous Spanish flags swaying with the cool breeze under a hot sun.

 

Meanwhile, who cares for a team uniform for these singles players when no one bothered to coordinate with their teammates. Andujar, Berdych and Isner were all in white shirts with varying designs with Berdych sporting printed grey and orange shorts.  Nadal, on the other hand was the standout in an aquamarine/teal shirt with orange highlights and grey shorts.

 

As for the match, both the first and second sets were close with only one break each deciding the winner of the sets.  Andujar was broken in the first set serving 5-6 down, deuce, when Nadal, eager to win the point for his team crossed for a volley, cut it too close and netted the ball.  The second set break came on against Isner’s serve thanks to Andujar’s returning.  No wonder Andujar was chosen by the team to receive Isner’s serve when the first game reached the deciding point. Another good return from Andujar and the break was the Spaniards’.  Nadal then served out the set for 6-4 but not before facing 2 break back points.  A poor return by Berdych off a second serve from Nadal, then another error netting a volley while approaching the net, saw Nadal hold to take the second set.

 

The match was then decided in a match tiebreak which Berdych and Isner ran away with after being down 1-3 with great plays from both players winning 8 consecutive points until eventually winning the match tiebreak 10-4. Final score: 7-5, 4-6, 10-4.

 

A fun, competitive atmosphere for these single players who probably played doubles for match practice but definitely went out there to win.

Nadal begins his quest for the singles title Tuesday, when he faces Richard Gasquet in the opening round.

 

Abigail Hinto and Natalie Ho are in Beijing, China covering the China Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow their twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

Photos by Natalie Ho.

 

 

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Final Thoughts on the China Open

 

By Abigail Hinto

(October 6, 2013) BEIJING –

1.  Should the China Open ATP event switch status with Shanghai?  As it stands now, Beijing is the only WTA Premier Mandatory tournament that isn’t combined with the same-level ATP Masters 1000.   The women are supposed to be the bigger draw here in Beijing, but the tournament often manage to get a big men’s field as an ATP 500, so on the ground, the feeling is that it’s a similar level event.  This year alone, it boasted 6 of the top 10 ATP players.  The venue is China’s National Tennis Center where its center court seats 15,000 spectators, already fit for a Masters 1000.  The event draws a big crowd not only because it’s a combined event, but also because of its position in the calendar where it often falls during a week-long holiday in China.  Therefore the Shanghai tournament the following week suffers in attendance.  No way would people go on leave from work following a week of holiday.  So optics wise, Beijing wins over Shanghai.

 

I also feel the venue for the tournament in Beijing is more accessible to the public than the one in Shanghai.  Shanghai lacks access to public transport while Beijing has a metro stop right in front of the tennis center.

 

However, if the two China tournaments do switch status then the ATP would have a calendar where the bigger 1000 Masters event will come before the smaller ATP 500.  But when has the ATP calendar ever made perfect sense?

 

2.  I keep mentioning this because it cannot be escaped.  I’m talking about Beijing’s unhealthy air quality situation.  Personally, already coming from a very polluted city, Beijing’s haze is something I’ve never seen before.  It’s right there in front of you, you can see it, feel it, smell it too.  The air quality index have shown numbers labeled as “Unhealthy” “Very Unhealthy”, “Hazardous”  I don’t know how players manage to play in this condition, but when asked, they’re very blase about it.

 

Rafael Nadal: “Yesterday and especially today again the pollution is here, so that makes the feeling, you know, not beautiful.  But if you talk about if I feel when I am breathing, no, I don’t feel.”

 

Tomas Berdych: “I think it’s quite used to here.  Probably we not going to get anything more than that.  But that’s how it is.  We are here in Beijing.”

 

Serena Williams: “Well, I’m a California girl, so I can’t help you there.”  And again: “I don’t know why, but I felt nothing.”

 

Novak Djokovic:  “It is what it is.  It’s something that has been the same for last few years that I been coming back here.  The people who are in organization of the tournament, they are trying make us feel at home and do everything possible in order to get a good tournament.  Sometimes you cannot effect the weather.  It’s nature and he’s a higher force.”

 

I guess, you also can’t ask the players to bad-mouth the tournament that’s hosting them.

 

3.  Every time the two tours land in China, comments about the Chinese fans inevitably come up.  Timid Asians?  That’s a falsehood when it comes to Chinese fandom.  They’re as enthusiastic, creative, resourceful as you’ll ever see.  From Djokovic fans, to Nadal fans, to Kvitova fans and Serena fans, they go all out in showing their support for their favorite players.  Banners, face paints, t-shirts, pins, gifts, coordinated cheering they’ve got everything here.  And it brings a lively atmosphere to so many of the matches all around the venue.  But there’s also a downside to it, as when a fan breached security, jumped over a fence and got close to Nadal during one of his practice sessions.

 

The views expressed here are those of the author.  Abigail Hinto was covering the Beijing Open for Tennis Panorama News.

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