2014/04/17

Canada Dominates Serbia to Win Fed Cup Tie

Bouchard 2 9 3

By Brodie Elgin

(February 9, 2014) On Saturday, Canada took a commanding lead in their Davis Cup tie as Aleksandra Wozniak toughed out an emotional win over Vesna Dolonc, and Eugenie Bouchard routed Jovana Jaksic in front of an ecstatic Canadian crowd in Montreal. Sunday featured the reverse singles, meaning both team’s top ranked players would face off to start the day, giving Bouchard the opportunity to sweep the Serbians as she took on Dolonc at the Claude Robillard Sports Complex.

 

The Canadian stormed out of the gate once again, taking the first set emphatically, 6-0, and in just 18 minutes. Despite some better serving from the Serbian and needing to save break points early in the second set, Bouchard stayed composed and went on to win 6-0, 6-3 in just 50 minutes. “I played two solid matches this weekend and I am happy that I was able to help the team win,” the 19th ranked Canadian said after her victory. “I love playing for my country, I am very patriotic.”

 

The win for Canada sees them advance to the World Group playoffs in April, where a win would see them advance to the 2015 Fed Cup World Group which consists of only eight elite teams from across the world. The win represents another massive victory for tennis in Canada after the men advanced to the Davis Cup semifinals in 2013.

 

“We are doing good things in Fed Cup because everyone is working together,” said Canadian Fed Cup captain Sylvain Bruneau. “We are very motivated to get to World Group I with the eight best countries in the world. That’s where we want to be, that’s our goal.”

The growing success of Canadian tennis was a common theme of the weekend, as the entire tie was broadcast nationally on the country’s largest television sports channel, Sportsnet. “I hope the popularity of tennis gets bigger in Canada, and if I’m part of that, well that makes me happy,” Bouchard said.

 

The draw for the World Group I and World Group II Fed Cup playoffs will be held Tuesday, February 11th in London.

 

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Favorite Canada Lead by Bouchard Take 2-0 Advantage over Serbia in Fed Cup World Group 2 Play

 

Aleksandra Wozniack

Aleksandra Wozniack

By Brodie Elgin

(February 8, 2014) It has been an exciting time for Canada in the past several years. From the break out of Milos Raonic as the first Canadian to win an ATP title and reach the top 10, to the Canadian team’s success in Davis Cup and the emergence of Vasek Pospisil all the way to Eugenie Bouchard‘s semifinal run in the Australian Open – the first Canadian women to advance to the final four of a major tournament in 30 years. After the Canadian team failed to advance past the first round of Davis Cup in Tokyo, the women took center stage as they got under way against Serbia in Fed Cup at in Montreal.

 

The Canadian team looked to be heavy favorites to advance out of the World Group II as Serbia’s top three ranked players, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic, and Bojana Jovanovski were all absent. Serbia called upon Vesna Dolonc in the first rubber to take on the previously top ranked Canadian Aleksandra Wozniak in front of a large crowd at the Claud Robillard Sports Complex.

 

Before the match, the crowd appeared ready to cheer on the Canadians, but were quickly stifled as the Serbian raced out to a 5-1 lead. Wozniak, who is still returning from a series of serious injuries, looked a step slow and failed to properly impose herself in the match.

 

However, things quickly changed as the Canadian found her feet and started to find more consistent depth that caused problems for Dolonc. The Serbian did not make matters easier for herself, as she double faulted four times in two service games, including once on break point, and Wozniak fought all the way back, winning six straight games and taking the first set 7-5.

 

A disheveled Dolonc left the court with her coach’s arm around her in an attempt to regain her composure, and it worked as she broke in her first return game, and took the second set decisively, 6-2.

 

The beginning of the third set featured some of the best tennis of the match, as both players raised their level and fought out several long games on serve. But it would eventually be Wozniak who would break in the middle of the set and hold on, taking her first match point and the match, 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

 

“It was an emotional win for me. I wanted so badly to get back on the Fed Cup team,” said Wozniak, who was brought to tears after her hard fought win. “It was a tough match with a lot of long points, so I had to stay focused. The crowd was amazing and really helped me get through. It’s special to play at home.”

 

Eugenie Bouchard'

Eugenie Bouchard’

Next up was young star Eugenie Bouchard, now ranked at a career high number 19, versus 20 year-old  Jovana Jaksic, ranked 149. Clad in red and featuring a fake Canadian flag tattoo on her right cheek, Bouchard turned the match into an exhibition as she routed the Serbian 6-1, 6-0.

 

The 19 year-old showed off not only why she managed to make the Australian Open semifinals, but why so many are hyping her game for the future. She mixed in plenty of effective net play and her forehand was particularly dominant as she hit 16 winners and won 85% of points behind her first serve en route to a 50 minute victory that puts Canada in a commanding position.

 

Sunday’s matches will include the reverse singles at 11am EST time as Wozniak will now take on Jaksic and Bouchard against Dolonc. If necessary, the doubles will feature Gabriela Dabrowski and Sharon Fichman for Canada against Aleksandra Krunic and Nina Stojanovic for Serbia.

 

All photos by Marc-André Gauthier

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Tennis Canada honors Rene Simpson Collins during Fed Cup tie

(L-R, Valerie Tetreault, Stephanie Dubois, Rene Simpson Collins, Sharon Fichman and Aleksandra Wozniak)

(L-R, Valerie Tetreault, Stephanie Dubois, Rene Simpson Collins, Sharon Fichman and Aleksandra Wozniak)

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin | @earthstroke

(February 8, 2014) MONTREAL – As part of the World Group II Fed Cup tie between Canada and Serbia held in Montreal this weekend, Tennis Canada paid a touching tribute to Rene Simpson Collins, former Fed Cup player and captain, who passed away last October after a relentless one-year fight with cancer.

The Canadian tennis world was deeply saddened in the fall of 2012 when her illness was announced. Multiple words of hope and support were shared by players, journalists and fans, notably through the Inspired By Rene website (http://www.inspiredbyrene.com), where Rene and her husband Jason shared thoughts and news on her on-going battle.

Wozniack patch

Players, as well as staff from both Tennis Canada and the ITF, also found their own way of honoring Simpson Collins on Saturday by wearing patches with the name Rene. It was also announced that a Rene Simpson Collins award will be created and given yearly by Tennis Canada to a player that showed promise, determination, courage, and pride.

Known for her determination, gritty attitude and incomparable fighting spirit, Rene went as high as No. 70 in the world in singles, while her biggest success came in doubles where she won three WTA events and reached a career high ranking of 32. She also took great pride in representing Canada by playing in 24 Fed Cup ties over 11 years and participating in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics both in singles and doubles.

As a Fed Cup captain between 2001 and 2009, Simpson Collins became an inspiration to an entire generation of Canadian tennis players. Stephanie Dubois, who has played numerous Fed Cup events since 2004, had great words for her former captain: ‘Rene was a great leader and a source of inspiration to all of us. We have lost a great part of Canadian tennis, and it was an honor to represent Canada with her as a captain’.

The greatest tribute would certainly come on the court from the Canadian Fed Cup team, who is aiming at reaching the World Group for the first time in twenty years.

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Home Advantage: Top 10 Best Canadian Crowd-Pleasers in Montreal

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By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(August 7, 2013) Montreal – In the wake of possibly the best day, week and year in Canadian tennis history, we look back at the top 10 wildest, craziest and loudest performances of local players at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The victories that led to standing ovations, chants and waves, Montreal-style. The ones no one expected. The ones we all remember.

10. Frédéric Niemeyer, 2009

A seasoned veteran, Frédéric Niemeyer had announced in 2009 that he would retire at the end of the year. When the Rogers Cup draw came out, everyone hoped for him to face Roger Federer, his long-time friend, in the second round as his farewell match in Montréal. After beating Kunitsyn in the first round, Fred played a tight two set match against a classy Federer, who let him enjoy the spotlight. One of those well-deserved feel-good moments we all enjoy.

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard

9. Eugenie Bouchard, 2012

While Eugenie ‘Genie’ Bouchard is now on the brink of becoming one of WTA’s biggest stars, she still was fairly unknown to the casual Canadian fans in early 2012. After winning Junior Wimbledon and the Granby Challenger, she came to the Rogers Cup full of confidence and with all eyes on her. Her first round match on a packed Center Court against Shahar Peer seemed like a tough task, but the Montreal-born blonde kept her composure to win 7-5 in the third, to the delight of the adoring crowd. After a tight two-set loss to Li Na in the second round, everybody knew it was the start of a long love affair between Genie and Montreal.

8. Sébastien Leblanc, 1997

Sébastien Leblanc was best known for his doubles skills: paired with fellow Canadians Sebastien Lareau and Greg Rusedski, he won three consecutive Junior Doubles Grand Slams in 1990 and got up to number 127 in the senior doubles rankings. So when he came out at the 1997 Rogers Cup to face Tim Henman, then ranked 18th in the world, the expectations were low for the 885th ranked Canadian, playing his first ATP match of the year. The first set was decided in a tiebreak, where Leblanc had the lead early and never looked back after a string of unforced errors from Henman. The second set stayed tight until the end, and while the ecstatic applause seemed to get in Tim’s head, he managed to level the match by breaking late in the set. In the third, playing aggressive tennis and rushing to the net, Leblanc broke for a 5-3 lead, and finished the match on a spectacular plunging dropshot volley winner. Leblanc would end up losing easily in the next round and retiring a few months after, but this remains a fuzzy-yellow-ball Cinderella story to be told.

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7. Milos Raonic, 2009

When Milos first stepped on the Montreal courts for the 2009 qualifying draw, he was a tall, lanky, a-bit-awkward giant with a big serve. He surprised everyone by beating Gabashvili and Llodra to qualify, and set up a night match against feisty world No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez in the first round. Only experience separated the two, and “Gonzo” ended up winning after saving a match point in the second set tiebreak, but the rowdy National Bank crowd which got the first taste of Milos-mania. It was the first sign of brilliance from Milos, who actually is now a tall, lanky, a-bit-less-awkward giant with a big serve.

6. Aleksandra Wozniak, 2012

Aleksandra Wozniak is the most successful Quebec player ever to step on a tennis court (being ranked as high as 21), but the Blainville native had never really shone at the Rogers Cup, coming in the 2012 main draw with a 3-9 record. After serious injuries, she was on the way back up in 2012, but a tough draw was ahead of her. After scraping through Daniela Hantuchova in the first round, she upset Jelena Jankovic easily in the second round and beat Christina McHale in the third round before losing to her nemesis Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals. It was a great moment for Aleks who got over her mental block in Montreal, and a great moment for the crowd enjoying their protégé’s long-awaited local success.

5. Simon Larose, 2003

Simon Larose was known on the ATP circuit as a talented but party-oriented fellow. Living up to his reputation, rocking a mohawk tucked under a bandana, he came to the Montreal 2003 Rogers Cup ranked at number 315. While everyone was looking forward to his blockbuster first round against Gustavo Kuerten, nobody expected more than a decent-but-outrageous showing from Larose. Outrageous it was, but decent it wasn’t: playing superb tennis, Larose upset the former number 1 and Grand Slam champion in a tight two-setter, falling on his knees in disbelief after match point. Riding the wave in the next round, he beat Jose Acasuso in a thriller, coming back from 1-3 in the third set, setting up a meeting with legend Andre Agassi in the third round. Despite losing 6-4 6-2 after having a 4-1 lead in the first, Larose had the best tennis week of his life and became a household name in Montreal. The after-tourney party was probably epic.

4. Stephanie Dubois, 2008

Stephanie Dubois is a feisty competitor that fuels on the crowd’s energy. She therefore has created over the years a mutual agreement with Montrealers: the more they cheer, the more she fights, the more they chant, the more she wins. After reaching the third round in 2006 due to a Kim Clijsters retirement, Steph brought the crowd to its feet by repeating the feat two years later. While the match wasn’t memorable, her first round against Govortsova was played in a bizarre environment: after waiting for hours to start the match due to a rain delay, the players came out of the locker room well over 10pm, acclaimed by a very small but raucous crowd, excited to finally see some action. At one point, the stadium fire alarm started ringing for a what seems like forever: while the players were seated waiting for it to stop, a smart supporter yelled ‘Steph is on fireeeeeeeee!’, leading to an overall laughter. Dubois kept the fire going in her second round against Maria Kirilenko, arguably her best win ever, a match which had superb shot making, long rallies and will stay in the books as one of the most inspired Canadian performances in Montreal.

Pospisil

3. The 2013 Crew

Mark the dates: August 5th-6th, 2013. In previous years, the Montreal crowd would get excited when one or two Canadians would sneak into round 2. So when five local players won their first match (and the other lost a close three-setter against a top 15 player), there was an overall sense of excitement on the Stade Uniprix grounds. It all started on Monday night, when newly- minted Canadian Jesse Levine upset Xavier Malisse, while Peter Polansky played an inspired match despite losing to Kei Nishikori in front of a chanting and waving Center Court. It was a sign of things to come, as the long, tedious, overdramatic wins kept on rolling the next day: Filip Peliwo, Frank Dancevic,  Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic all moved through despite being a few points away from defeat. So who will go the furthest down the draw and make this same list in 2033?

2. Sébastien Lareau, 1999

Sébastien Lareau was the proud flag-bearer through a few dry years for Canadian tennis in the late nineties and early noughties, notably in doubles. The Montreal tournament, which he called ‘My Wimbledon’, saw him get the best single wins of his career. In 1999, he came in the tournament ranked at 116. After winning his first round in two sets against Justin Gimelstob, he had a tough task ahead of him in Richard Krajicek, 5th seed and 7th in the world. When the Dutchman won the first set 6-4, everyone thought logic was followed. But the crowd got into the match, probably as intensely as ever, and when Krajicek doublefaulted at 4-6 in the tiebreak, the entire stadium exploded in strong applause and a standing ovation. The magic atmosphere helped Lareau stay on top of the wave, and after missing three match points while serving for the match in the third, a final service winner handed him the biggest match of his career. He lost in three tough sets to eventual winner Thomas Johansson in the next round in another dramatic thriller, but he rekindled the Montreal love for Canadian tennis, which in itself is the best feat of all.

Dancevic

1. Frank Dancevic, 2007

Everyone agrees that Frank Dancevic is more talented than what his résumé suggests: often injured, the Canadian never really had the chance to blossom into the player he could have been. The best example of this is the 2007 Rogers Cup, where he went on a string of fantastic results, to the delight of the Montreal crowd. Juan Martin Del Potro, Wayne Odesnik and Fernando Verdasco all were honorable victims of Frank’s big serve-and-volley game and all three matches went deep in the third set. The quarterfinal match against none other than Rafael Nadal seemed like just icing on the cake, but Frank had other plans in mind. On this Friday Night, where the entire city had its eyes turned to tennis, Dancevic stormed through the first set, breaking in the last game, to the disbelief of most. With a perfect attacking game and a surprisingly strong backhand, Frank was dreaming of the upset, but the fatigue of the week (and Nadal’s well-known fighting spirit) got in the way, as the last two set went straightforwardly to the Spaniard. It was the first time since 1989 that a Canadian reached the quarterfinals, a feat repeated by Raonic in 2012, but for Dancevic it was ‘the experience of a lifetime’. And we’ll all remember it.

Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his Montreal coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.

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Chef Pierrick Boyer Serving Taste of Tennis Down Under

Pierrick Boyer

(January 4, 2013) The Australian Open is less than two weeks away and with the anticipation of an upcoming major, Melbourne will play host many pre-tournament soirees. One of the very special events will be the Swisse Taste of Tennis – where the culinary world meets the tennis world to raise funds for charity. This is the sister event to the Taste of Tennis in New York which has kicked off the US Open for the past 13 years.

Some of the tennis players scheduled to participate in the event include Lleyton Hewitt, Max Myrni, Tamira Paszek, Ivan Lendl, Lucia Safarova, Casey Dellacqua, Anastasia and Arina Rodionova, Yaraslava Shvedova and Chanelle Scheepers.

Tennis Panorama News caught up with award-winning international pastry chef, Melbourne resident Pierrick Boyer, who will be one of the featured chefs at Taste of Tennis. Boyer has 21 years in the field working with some of the industry’s most internationally renowned chefs.

Boyer has participated in the event four times. “Let’s not forget it’s a charity event and it is one of my favorite events of the year,” Boyer emphasized. “It is fun, there is beautiful food, we talk about sports and there are great people who want to make a difference. I love giving my time for charities, tennis, food and promoting Melbourne.” Boyer is the Head Pastry Chef of Le Petit Gâteau in Melbourne.

“Yes, I am a big (tennis) fan,” Boyer said. “I’ve been to the Indian Wells Tournament, because I lived nearby for five years and, of course, the Australian Open where, luckily, I did some cooking classes for the tennis players. I had the pleasure to meet Aleksandra Wozniak, Arina and Anastasia Rodionova, Gael Monfils and Henri Leconte, Mansour Bahrami, who are fantastic to see on the court. And I used to play years ago,” Boyer said with a smile.

I asked Boyer if he thought there was a similarity between chefs and tennis players, since both have intense training and travel all over the globe. Also many of players seem to be “foodies.”

“I agree,” said Boyer.” We have this in common with some chefs who travel the world and I am lucky I can do this as well, several countries are already scheduled for my desserts making workshops overseas. But the life of a tennis player is hard as well, loads of traveling and that’s a lot of time away from home.”

As far as which tennis players he thinks would be good pastry chefs, he tips Arina Rodionova and Aleksandra Wozniak. “With a bit of practice Arina Rodionova could be because I know she enjoys my pear and almond tart. She had this for her birthday.”

“Aleksandra Wozniak really enjoyed my signature cake, the brownie passion chocolate crunch, at a previous Taste of Tennis event,” Boyer added.

So what inspired him to launch a career in the world of pastry? “At four or five years old, we were living next to a pastry shop at Croissy Sur Seine, near Saint Germain en Laye! And every time my parents were looking for me, I was next door sampling ice creams, cakes, croissants… hahaha.”

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As far as what special dish he will be preparing for Taste of Tennis, he saidIt’s a gluten free, dairy free, very healthy dessert.”

It’s a Coconut Quinoa organic blueberry, raspberry, coconut crumble. Boyer told me to enjoy it with Gold Label 2011 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay.

The Swisse Taste of Tennis takes place on January 10, 2013 at Grand Hyatt Melbourne from 7pm-10pm with an after party at Silk Road Melbourne. Tickets for the event can be purchased at http://www.swisseactivetasteoftennis.com.au

The event benefits the charities Diabetes Australia-Victoria and National Institute of Integrated Medicine (NIIM), which will receive 100% of the proceeds raised.

Follow @tasteoftennisau for more information and follow Pierrick Boyer on twitter @PierrickBoyer or his website http://www.pierrickboyer.com/.

 

Karen Pestaina is the woman behind Tennis Panorama News

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Bouchard, Dubois and Wozniack granted Montreal Wild Cards

 

Tennis Canada announced the wild cards for the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank. Three Québecers, Eugenie Bouchard , Stéphanie Dubois and Aleksandra Wozniak  will be part of the main draw of this WTA Premier event.

At 18 years old, Bouchard will be making her second appearance in the main draw of the Rogers Cup and her first in Montréal. She’s been on a winning streak these past weeks, racking up an impressive 19 consecutive wins, winning the Wimbledon junior singles and doubles titles and the Granby National Bank Challenger and reaching the quarters of a WTA tournament for the very first time in Washington.

Dubois, 25 years old, will be taking part in her 11th Rogers Cup. She’s had some magical moments in Montréal, especially in 2006 and 2008 when she reached the third round. Currently ranked 151st, she was 87th in the world at the start of the year—a career high. Dubois, who hails from Laval, has just taken part in the London Olympic Games, representing Canada in doubles with compatriot Aleksandra Wozniak.

Wozniak will be taking part in the Rogers Cup for the 10th time. She started out the season strong, climbing from 105th to 52nd in the world. The 24-year-old from Blainville won the $100 000 Nassau Challenger in March and reached the third round of the French Open. Wozniak is also fresh from the London Olympics, where she lost in the second round to Venus Williams. Wozniak will be trying to get past the second round of the Rogers Cup presented by National Bank for the very first time in her career.

The wild cards for the qualifying tournament were also handed out, and there was a strong Canadian contingent. Françoise Abanda (Montréal, QC), Gabriela Dabrowski (Ottawa, ON), Marianne Jodoin (Varennes, QC), Sonya Molnar (Guelph, ON), Erin Routliffe and Carol Zhao (Richmond Hill, ON) will be playing in the qualifiers along with Sharon Fichman (Toronto, ON) and Marie-Ève Pelletier (Repentigny, QC), who ranked high enough. The qualifications will get underway tomorrow and continue until Monday, as 64 players will face off for eight spots in the main draw.

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‘The Face-Off’ Nets Raonic a Win over Sampras

By Brodie McPhee

TORONTO, Canada – The master versus the prodigy. The past versus the future. A man whose best days are behind him in Pete Sampras, and a man whose best days are still to come in Milos Raonic. Yet both men are alike in more ways than one.

The big serve is an obvious. So is the smooth motion. The classy, well-tempered, soft-spoken demeanor both carry themselves with may not be. While it was a night of fun and laughs, at the end, both men let their tennis speak for itself.

The Air Canada Centre was the scene for the the “Face-Off” exhibition. The night was hosted by Bob and Mike Bryan‘s father, Wayne Bryan. Though he may be the father of two of the greatest doubles players ever, he acted as if he was born for the role and kept the night moving along seamlessly. First up was the doubles, featuring  Pete Sampras, Milos Raonic, Aleksandra Wozniak, Eugenie Bouchard, ex-hockey player Brad May, actor Hayden Christensen, and two local Canadian TV icons. Players substituted out in between games in the mini-match. The highlight was Christensen, who played some tennis in college and held his own against the pros. Even funnier was Wayne Bryan forcing Bouchard and Wozniak to play “handicapped” by holding Raonic and Christensen’s respective hands as they struggled around the court.

After that came the one set match between Wozniak and Bouchard. Wozniak missed 10 months of the season due to wrist problems, but returned strong winning the $50k Vancouver Challenger and playing well in Toronto. Bouchard, 17, and the No. 4 ranked junior, won the junior Wimbledon title and appears to be well on her way as a name to look out for. The two played solid baseline, side to side tennis that showed off their effective forehands and ability to push the ball deep. After a series of breaks at the end of the set, Wozniak took it 6-4.

After a series of contests and games, two young men from Raonic’s hometown, Thornhill, Ontario, came out to sing a song in tribute of Raonic and his job of promoting the sport in Canada. Part way through, Milos wandered out and had a chuckle while they finished their song. Asked after if he had heard it before, Raonic said that around the time of the Miami tournament “guys in the locker room would set it as their ring tone, and then call each other.”

Finally, we came to the main event. Raonic and Sampras went toe to toe in the first set, and it was incredibly close. Raonic’s serve regularly clocked in at over 210km/h and at points beyond 220km/h. After taking his first game, the classic Seinfeld “another game for Milos!” clipped played on the speakers and caught everyone by surprise, including Raonic. While Sampras’ serve wasn’t that, it was still incredibly effective. Early in the set, he backed up a great first serve with a jumping volley winner that left him shaking in disbelief. Overall, Sampras’ touch at the net didn’t look aged one bit and held up well against Raonic’s numerous passing shots. After each man traded holds 6 times, Raonic took the tiebreak behind an early mini-break.

The second set flew by as Raonic took control. Sampras appeared to be tiring (difficult to fault for a 40-year-old) and Milos’ movement looked the best it’s been since suffering a hip injury at Wimbledon this year. Raonic took the second set and the match, 7-6, 6-1.

Overall the points were generally short, but when stretched, the inventiveness of both men kicked in as they hustled, created openings and hit some incredibly well angled passing shots from all corners of the court.

After the match, Sampras had nothing but praise for the humbled youngster. “I’ve seen a lot of serves in my day, but this kids serve is bigger than big”. Despite describing Raonic as having “all the tools” to succeed, he also stressed patience as the Canadian No. 1 continues to mature. “Don’t expect him to win Wimbledon next year. It’s going to take some time. He can do it but let’s be patient here. Let’s not put too much pressure on the kid.”

Before the match, Raonic still seemed starstruck. “I think I’ve watched him play a couple thousand hours more than he’s watched me,” said the Canadian before the match. After a breakout year also damaged by injury, it was a dream come true to be able to play against his idol in the first tennis match ever hosted at the Air Canada Centre. “It’s been a whirlwind, from the highest to the lowest, but you guys make this night special, and hopefully there’s many more to come.”

Raonic will now travel to Barcelona with coach Galo Blanco where he will put in weeks of conditioning in order to prepare for the January Australian hard court swing, and Canada’s World Group Davis Cup tie in Vancouver against France.

Brodie McPhee is the author of the tennis web site Mind the Racket. He was in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto covering the ‘Face-Off’ for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @MindTheRacket.

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Lisicki, Falconi and Vandeweghe Talk Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Coco Vandeweghe interviewed by ESPN's Brad Golder             (Photo by Bob Spears)

MIDLAND, Mich., February 7, 2011 – The longest-running women’s tournament on the USTA Pro Circuit returns to the tennis scene on Tuesday with a field of fast-rising stars seeking their share of $100,000 in prize money.

Of the 40 women’s events on the American circuit, only the Dow Corning Tennis Classic awards its singles champion a check for $15,200 and 140 ranking points on the WTA Tour.

Now hosting the event for a 23rd time, the 2009 ‘Best Tennis Town’ of Midland is welcoming three former Top 25 players, 11 Americans and 18 players under the age of 22 this week.

Two-time singles finalist Lucie Hradecka, 2009 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Sabine Lisicki and up-and-coming Americans Irina Falconi and CoCo Vandeweghe kicked off the 2011 event by meeting with media at the Midland Community Tennis Center on Monday. They were joined by Tom Gullikson, the USTA’s lead national coach for women’s tennis.

Hradecka’s fast-and-flat playing style suits her well on the quick indoor courts of Midland. After winning the 2009 Dow Corning Tennis Classic singles title, the Czech captured the tournament’s doubles title with Laura Granville in 2010 and fell in last year’s singles final to Elena Baltacha.

With titanic serves and two-handed groundstrokes, Hradecka has already won 16 ITF singles, 29 ITF doubles and nine WTA doubles titles. Though she’s earned her fair share of trophies elsewhere, the 25-year-old Hradecka holds a special place in her heart for Midland.

“I love this tournament,” said Hradecka. “I love the people here and I stay here with a great family. Everybody here is so friendly and the tournament does its best for the players.”

If there’s one player in Midland who may be able to match Hradecka’s power, it’s Lisicki. She owns the women’s world record for the fastest serve at just over 130 miles-per-hour.

But after reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals and breaking into the Top 25 in 2009, Lisicki suffered a string of injuries. She twisted her left ankle 11 months ago in Indian Wells, Calif., leaving her in crutches for six weeks and off the tour for more than four months.

“I basically lost all the muscles in my left leg,” said the 21-year-old Lisicki. “To have the whole body working the way you want it to work is quite a big deal. It takes time. It’s not about who can play the best tennis anymore because you have to be fit, you have to be strong and you have to be fast.”

Like many of her peers in Midland this week, Lisicki’s next stop on the tennis tour is tentatively the WTA event in Memphis, where qualifying play begins on Friday. That overlaps with the Dow Corning Tennis Classic quarterfinals, making a tennis player’s life anything but easy to predict.

“A year ago, I did not have problems making my schedule because when you’re in the Top 30, you’re getting in everywhere and you can pick and choose,” said Lisicki, now ranked No. 186.

“It’s tough when you’re ranked between 100 and 200 because you don’t know where you’re going to get in. I’m in the main draw here and the qualies in Memphis so if I get far here, I cannot play there. That makes it tough for us to book our flights, which makes it more expensive. It’s like a big circle.”

Standing six inches shorter than Lisicki, the 5’4” Falconi may not appear to be the ideal indoor-court player. But with a steady mix of speed, slice and spin, she is quickly making a name for herself in women’s tennis.

As a varsity tennis player at Georgia Tech, Falconi finished the 2010 collegiate season ranked No. 1 in the nation before joining the WTA Tour last July.

“The biggest difference is that out here, you’re trying to get each other’s lunch money,” said Falconi. “In college, you knew the next day that there was another match or another practice, and your scholarship was still going to be there.”

In just seven months as a pro, Falconi has qualified at the US Open and the Australian Open and risen to No. 156 in the world. With no ranking points to defend through Wimbledon, the only direction she’ll be going anytime soon is up.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised, for sure,” said Falconi. “At the end of the year, I had to get my ranking up to guarantee a spot in Australia. It was really exciting for my coach and I to go through the steps of planning a trip like that. Being able to qualify in Australia was unbelievable. I like to think that it’s just going up from here.”

Vandeweghe is the latest athletic apple to fall from her family tree. She is following in the footsteps of her mother Tauna, a two-time Olympian, and her uncle Kiki, a former NBA All Star and the current General Manager of the Denver Nuggets.

But while few know what it’s like to live up to that kind of pressure, the 103rd-ranked Vandeweghe is happy to have company in a class of promising young American players. She is joined in Midland by three other Americans just outside the Top 100: No. 108 Christina McHale, No. 115 Alison Riske and No. 133 Jamie Hampton.

“American tennis is always going to be in the tennis world,” said Vandeweghe. “For me to be a part of the next group of Americans in the top tier is a great honor.”

Gullikson, who coaches Vandeweghe, is excited to be in town for what he believes will be an entertaining event. While the snow falls outside the tennis center, Gullikson foresees fast-paced ball-bashing inside.

“On quick courts like these, you’re going to see some big serving, some finishing at the net and girls playing defense,” said Gullikson, “because if the ball is sitting up, there girls can all rock it pretty good. I think you’re going to see an exciting brand of all-court, all-around tennis.”

Main draw play begins on Tuesday with four doubles and five singles matches, highlighted by Hradecka taking on Hampton in the feature match at 7 p.m. on Stadium Court. Following that contest, three ex-college players will take center stage when Elizabeth Lumpkin (UCLA) and Story Tweedie-Yates (Stanford) face Oregon alum Courtney Nagle and Sarah Borwell of Great Britain.

The day session is highlighted by the Midland singles debuts of Lisicki, Falconi and McHale. No. 1 seed Varvara Lepchenko will also be in action.

Dow High teammates Daniella Patton and Kelli Close are back in the doubles draw for the second straight year. They open their 2011 campaign against Gabriela Dabrowski and Whitney Jones on Stadium Court at about 4 p.m.

Before the main draw commences, the qualifying competition with conclude on Tuesday at 10 a.m. as four women try to win their way into the Dow Corning Tennis Classic. Among those in contention are 1998 Midland champion Alexandra Stevenson and U.S. Fed Cup veterans Mashona Washington, Ahsha Rolle and Alexa Glatch.

Admission to the Dow Corning Tennis Classic is free until the 7 p.m. feature session. General admission tickets to see Hradecka vs. Hampton and Lumpkin/Tweedie-Yates vs. Nagle/Borwell cost $12 for adults and $8 for children.

By Joshua Rey

Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Midland Community Tennis Center

Midland, Mich.

Purse: $100,000

Surface: Hard-Indoor

Monday, February 7 – RESULTS


Qualifying Singles – Second round

Alexandra Mueller (United States) def. [1] Beatrice Capra (United States) 7-6(3), 6-3

[6] Mashona Washington (United States) def. [WC] Diana Ospina (United States) 0-6, 6-3, 6-4

[2] Ahsha Rolle (United States) def. Story Tweedie-Yates (United States) 6-2, 6-1

[7] Lena Litvak (United States) def. Anna Livadaru (Germany) 4-6, 6-0, 6-2

[3] Marina Erakovic (New Zealand) def. Whitney Jones (United States) 6-0, 6-0

[5] Alexandra Stevenson (United States) def. Robin Anderson (United States) 6-3, 6-2

[4] Alexa Glatch (United States) def. Katie Ruckert (United States) 7-6(3), 6-0

[8] Amanda Fink (United States) def. Jan Abaza (United States) 6-2, 6-2

Tuesday, February 8 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at 10 a.m.

Qualifying – Alexandra Mueller (United States) vs. [6] Mashona Washington (United States)

[1] Varvara Lepchenko (United States) vs. Anna Tatishvili (Georgia)

[WC] Shelby Rogers (United States) vs. Sabine Lisicki (Germany)

Stadium Court – not before 4 p.m.

[WC] Kelli Close (United States) and Daniella Patton (Dominican Republic) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) and Whitney Jones (United States)

Stadium Court – starting at 7 p.m.

Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) vs. Jamie Hampton (United States)

Elizabeth Lumpkin and Story Tweedie-Yates (United States) vs. [2] Sarah Borwell (Great Britain) and Courtney Nagle (United States)

Court 5 – starting at 10 a.m.

Qualifying – [2] Ahsha Rolle (United States) vs. [7] Lena Litvak (United States)

Irina Falconi (United States) vs. Katie O’Brien (Great Britain)

Christina McHale (United States) vs. Anastasia Pivovarova (Russia)

Court 3 – starting at 10 a.m.

Qualifying – [4] Alexa Glatch (United States) vs. [8] Amanda Fink (United States)

Qualifying – [3] Marina Erakovic (New Zealand) vs. [5] Alexandra Stevenson (United States)

Christina Fusano and Sanaz Marand (United States) vs. [3] Ksenia Pervak (Russia) and Ipek Senoglu (Turkey)

Brittany Augustine and Alexandra Mueller (United States) vs. Irina Falconi and Alison Riske (United States)

ABOUT THE USTA PRO CIRCUIT:

With more than 90 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The USTA launched its Pro Circuit 32 years ago to provide players with the opportunity to gain professional ranking points, and it has since grown to become the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, offering more than $3 million in prize money. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed in cities nationwide. Among those who have played at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic are seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin, former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova, reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and 2011 Australian Open runner-up Na Li.

USTA Pro Circuit Press Release

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Dow Corning Tennis Classic – Sunday Results

Dow Corning Tennis Classic
Midland Community Tennis Center
Midland, Mich.
Purse: $100,000
Surface: Hard-Indoor

Sunday, February 6 – RESULTS

Qualifying Singles – First round
[1] Beatrice Capra (United States) def. Sanaz Marand (United States) 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(8)
Alexandra Mueller (United States) def. Dominika Dieskova (Slovakia) 6-1, 6-1
[WC] Diana Ospina (United States) def. Federica Grazioso (Italy) 6-2, 6-4
[6] Mashona Washington (United States) def. Ester Goldfeld (United States) 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
[2] Ahsha Rolle (United States) def. Nicole Robinson (United States) 6-1, 6-3
Story Tweedie-Yates (United States) def. Nika Kukharchuk (Russia) 6-3, 5-7, 6-1
Anna Livadaru (Germany) def. Brittany Lashway (United States) 6-2, 6-0
[7] Lena Litvak (United States) def. Brooke Austin (United States) 6-1, 6-2
[3] Marina Erakovic (New Zealand) def. Lauren Herring (United States) 6-1, 6-2
Whitney Jones (United States) def. [WC] Ekaterina Zhukoven (Russia) 6-2, 6-0
Robin Anderson (United States) def. Elizabeth Lumpkin (United States) 6-4, 6-0
[5] Alexandra Stevenson (United States) def. Caitlin Whoriskey (United States) 7-6(0), 6-0
[4] Alexa Glatch (United States) def. Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) 6-4, 6-4
Katie Ruckert (United States) def. Kyle McPhillips (United States) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
Jan Abaza (United States) def. [WC] Daniella Patton (Dominican Republic) 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1
[8] Amanda Fink (United States) def. Anastasia Kharchenko (Ukraine) 6-2, 6-0

Monday, February 7 – SCHEDULE

Court 5 – starting at 10 a.m.
[4] Alexa Glatch (United States) vs. Katie Ruckert (United States)
Robin Anderson (United States) vs. [5] Alexandra Stevenson (United States)
[2] Ahsha Rolle (United States) vs. Story Tweedie-Yates (United States)

Court 3 – starting at 10 a.m.
Jan Abaza (United States) vs. [8] Amanda Fink (United States)
[1] Beatrice Capra (United States) vs. Alexandra Mueller (United States)
Anna Livadaru (Germany) vs. [7] Lena Litvak (United States)

Court 1 – starting at 10 a.m.
[3] Marina Erakovic (New Zealand) vs. Whitney Jones (United States)

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Dow Corning Tennis Classic to Feature a Wealth of Promising Women’s Tennis Talent

The 2011 Dow Corning Tennis Classic begins today with qualifying play running February 6-7 and main draw matches being held February 8-13. This year marks the 23rd installment of the event in Midland, Mich. It is the oldest of the 40 women’s tournaments on the USTA Pro Circuit, and the only one that boasts $100,000 in prize money.

The Dow Corning Tennis Classic will feature a field of the WTA’s brightest up-and-coming players. Rising Americans Christina McHale, Alison Riske, Coco Vandeweghe, Irina Falconi and Jamie Hampton highlight the entry list. They are joined by three members of the Canadian Fed Cup team competing in Serbia this weekend: Aleksandra Wozniak, Rebecca Marino and Stephanie Dubois. Wozniak is one of three former Top-25 players in the draw, along with Sorana Cirstea and Sabine Lisicki. Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Katie O’Brien will be seeking a second straight Dow Corning title for Great Britain.

At the moment, 17 of the 28 players entered in the main draw are 21 years old or younger, with four qualifiers yet to be determined.

For more information on the tournament: http://www.dowcorningtennisclassic.com


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