September 4, 2015

WTA All-Access at 2015 Rogers Cup

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By Brodie Widdifield

(August 10, 2015) TORONTO, Canada – The beginning of August always represents one of the most exciting times of the year for Canadian tennis fans with the Rogers Cup tournament getting underway. For players on the WTA, it represents the beginning of the North American hard court swing, and the end of a short but enjoyable post-Wimbledon holiday.

It’s definitely my favourite time of the season,” said Caroline Wozniacki. The Dane has dealt with a back injury this season and stressed the importance of fitness for this difficult yet important part of the season. “The most important thing is to stay healthy.”

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Petra Kvitova has been less lucky with her health, unfortunately. “I spent a few days off in Monaco as a vacation. I was trying to practice a little bit, but unfortunately I was diagnosed with mono.” The Czech emphasized that she was working with her team to properly schedule her practicing in order to conserve energy. “I probably got it during the spring time and I still have a little bit of it. I’m still going to play, but I need to worrying about the practicing, and I’ll try to be ready for the matches.”

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Ana Ivanovic also took some time off, and emphasized switching to hard courts would not be a challenge. “It’s not such a difficult change. A lot of players take time off, which was the case with me. The hardest transition is clay to grass, so I look forward to playing on the hard courts here in the United States and Canada.”

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Romanian Simona Halep was one of the stand out players of 2014, but has found success more difficult to come by in 2015. She seemed excited to get her hard court season under way in Toronto after deciding late to enter the tournament on a wild card. “I need some matches.” However, she enjoyed her time off after Wimbledon and is looking forward to getting back on court. “It was really good. I stayed calm, all four weeks, with my family, with my friends. Now I feel good, I feel confident, and I hope to have good matches here.” “I was a little bit tired after Indian Wells and Miami.”

 

The other hot topic on the lips of reporters and players was the continued success of the world’s best player, Serena Williams. With the season’s first three grand slams in her pocket, she will look to complete what was originally known as “The Grand Slam” – winning all four majors in a calendar year.

Not even Serena Williams herself could say it would be business as usual in New York. “It definitely feels different. Winning the Serena Slam this year took some pressure off.” Even at age 33, the world number 1 has no intentions of slowing down as she enjoys one of the best years of her career. “I feel like every year that goes by I start to love the game more than I did the previous year.”

Other players were genuinely happy for the success of Williams this year. Ana Ivanovic even said she would like to see her win the US Open. “I really hope she can do it. She’s been working really hard, she’s been on top of the game so long so I think she deserves it. We’re so lucky to have someone like her in our sport, and I don’t think she gets enough credit for what she has achieved.”

Simona Halep shared her views. “For me she is the best player in the world. She has a lot of power, and also mental power. I think she can do all four, and win the US Open this year.” But when asked if it was frustrating to constantly have such a dominant player, the Romanian only laughed. “For me it is not. It’s really nice to have a player [like her]. She’s very competitive and she loves to be number one.”

Finally, Garbine Muguruza was perhaps one of the most engaging interviews on the afternoon. Now in the top 8, the Spaniard invites all the attention that comes along with reaching a grand slam final at just 21. “Obviously things are changing, media, people are looking more at what I’m doing, but I’m enjoying it. You have to be ready, you have to be more mature. The good moments go so quickly, and the bad ones are so slow.” She mentioned that she learned a lot from the Wimbledon final, but laughed when asked if she had watched any of the match again. “I just watched the two minute highlights. No more than that.”

Brodie Widdifield is the author of the tennis web site mindtheracket.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MindTheRacket. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News, follow @TennisNewsTPN for updates.

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Serena Williams Rallies to Reach French Open Final

(June 4, 2015) Sick with the flu and moving slowly around a hot center court, Serena Williams came back from a set and a break down to reach the French Open final for the third time defeating 23rd seed Timea Bacsinszky 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 on Thursday.

Down 6-4, 3-2 the world No. 1 won the next 10 straight games to knock out her Swiss opponent and reach her 24th major final.

“I tried everything,” Williams said in an on-court interview after the match. ”I thought if I lose, I will lose with a fight. I tried, I tried. I found the energy. I don’t know where, but I found it. And I won. I hope that on Saturday, I hope”

She’ll face No. 13 Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in Saturday’s final for a chance to win her 20th major title.

Safarova defeated two former Roland Garros champions on the way to the final – defending champion and No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the fourth round, 2008 titlist and seventh seed Ana Ivanovic 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals earlier in the day on Thursday.

Safarova rebounded from a 2-5 first set deficit to win the next five games in a row.

“I started a little bit slower in the match and wasn’t swinging as much as I should. I was a little slow on my feet,” Safarova said to media. “Ana was playing well right away and going for her shots, too, but I slowly started getting into the rhythm, into the game. Then right away I took the set, took the momentum.”

She had to serve for the match twice in the second set to finally close it out.

“In the second set, when I realized I could finally be in the finals, I got a little bit tense there. And the game at 5-4, I was really overthinking and couldn’t really concentrate to be there in that moment.

“But when I lost serve, I shook it off and started to play aggressive again, and I served it out.”

After 12 years on tour, this will be Safarova’s first singles final of a Grand Slam tournament.

 

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Federer Falls to Countryman Wawrinka at French Open

Stan Wawrinka

Stan Wawrinka

(June 2,2015) Stan Wawrinka defeated his Swiss countryman and No 2 seed Roger Federer for the first time at a major on Tuesday to reach his first French Open semifinal with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory. This was only the third time in 199 matches between than that Wawrinka came out with the win.

This is the third straight year that Federer has been knocked out in the quarterfinals or earlier. Federer was unable to break his Davis Cup teammate’s serve.

“I played my best match in a Grand Slam tournament,” said Wawrinka after the match, “and my best match on clay.”

“I know that when I play good tennis, when I play my best tennis, I can play so heavy from both sides that it’s really tough for the opponent to play,” said Wawrinka. “That’s why Roger was struggling today. It’s because I was playing so well.”

Wawrinka will play No. 14 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next.

Tsonga defeated Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3

After the match, the Frenchman wrote on the red clay using his sneaker “Roland, je t’aime,” and got laid down on the court under the writing

This will be Tsonga’s second semifinal at Roland Garros, and his sixth at a major.

 

Earlier in the day, the first women’s semifinal was set up when 2008 French Open winner Ana Ivanovic and Lucie Safarova won their quarterfinal matches.

Ivanovic is back in the semifinals since winning the French Open seven year ago, beating Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-2.

“I don’t know if I should feel very old or very happy,” said the seventh seed.

The 13th seed Safarova, who upset Maria Sharapova on Monday, defeated Garbine Muguruza 7-6 (3), 6-3 to advance to just her second Grand Slam semifinal. Safarova reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year.

 

More to follow……….

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Former French Open Winners Roger Federer and Ana Ivanovic Reach Fourth Round

(May 29, 2015) Former French Open champions Roger Federer  Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic reached the round of 16 in Paris on Friday.

2009 winner, second seed Federer defeated world No. 88 Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 to move into the fourth round of Roland Garros for an 11th straight year.

The match lasted 88 minutes. For Dzumhur, this was his second time in the third round of a major. He is only man from Bosnia/Herzegovina to compete in a major championship.

Federer will face Gael Monfils for a spot in the quarterfinals.

“I think, No. 1, it’s an interesting matchup, Cuevas and Gaël,” Federer said. “I think both look really good on clay, feel comfortable on clay. I felt Cuevas was really strong in Istanbul and also in Rome. Gaël, I played him in some tougher conditions, I guess, for me potentially. Davis Cup was rough, you know. Monaco was so early in the clay court season it was always going to be tough, even though I wasn’t hitting ball so bad, but still not quite understanding how passive or aggressive I needed to play. I thought he played a good, solid match, and me, too. It came down to a few points. It was a pity for me not to get through that one. He’s played me tough, you know, throughout my career, I thought. Especially the last four, five years now. He’s been tougher for me to play against. We have played against each other here on a few occasions as well. Semis, quarters, some of my big years here. So clearly I’d love to play against him, as well. Pablo is also a great guy. I will watch that clearly with a lot of interest.”

Supported by the French crowd, Monfils rallied past Pablo Cuevas 4-6, 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to reach the fourth round. Monfils now is 10-3 in five set matches at Roland Garros, tied for the record in wins with former player Harold Solomon.

Asked about playing Federer next, he said:

“Honestly, I don’t know. Is like, I just play my game. You know, somehow sometime, because some matches Roger kill me. Somehow I just maybe find a couple stuff, you know, in my game, to put him in trouble and to actually move him — I think Roger is very comfortable on couple of shots or couple, you know, area that I try to manage to put him out of this comfort zone. And then also I try, you know, to find a rhythm also with Roger that I’m happy with, because Roger always wants to dictate the match the way he wants, the way he make you wait or speed up the match, the way he will select his shot. And me, I really try to change out of him, and sometime Roger get pissed a little bit. And also, whether I will — and I know he will respect it, but when he’s good — actually, when I saw it the most it was in US Open, you know, Roger was very unhappy when the crowd is not behind him. And that will help me a lot, for sure,” Monfils said smiling.

 

Defending champion Sharapova is into the second week of the French Open reaching the fourth round after beating Samantha Stosur of Australia 6-3, 6-4. Next she takes on Lucie Safarova.

 

After challenges in the first two rounds, Ana Ivanovic moved quickly past Croatian Donna Vekic 6-0, 6-3 to reach the second week of the tournament in 53 minutes.

The Serb who won the French Open title in 2008 talked about her growing confidence.

“The first two matches I really felt like I had kind of a slow start, and I spoke to my coach, to Mats about it, and to my team and everything. This is something I really wanted to change today. I was happy I did that, because it’s not easy playing late and then playing first. Also today conditions were a little bit heavier, it was colder in the morning. I was really happy I was able to change that.”

“After first two matches, I really started to get a little bit of feeling and groove, and yesterday I had easy day, she said. “Today I really had strict game plan. I had an idea what I wanted to do, and obviously confidence from first two matches helped me in today’s performance, too. I really knew I was working hard for few weeks now, and I spoke about it even last few weeks. You know, when you know you are working the right direction, it always gets results. Today I did some things better than I did in my first two matches, which I was happy about.”

She’ll play No. 9 seed Ekaterina Makarova next. Makarova defeated Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-4.

Stan Wawrinka moved into the fourth round of Paris with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over American Steve Johnson in 89 minutes. He’ll play Gilles Simon, who beat fellow Frenchman Nicholas in five sets.

Frenchwoman Alize Cornet advanced reach the fourth round of her home major for the first time match with a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

Cornet celebrated the victory as though she had won the tournament.

“At last, I’m into the second week at Roland,” Cornet said. “I’ve been waiting for this for 11 years.”

“The crowd was amazing, once more, today. It really helped me getting through tough time on the court. Mirjana was playing very aggressive, and I was playing with all my heart. The crowd being behind me like this was helping me a lot, giving me a lot of energy to keep going, not to let go. Yeah, I owe them a lot today, because I think I went over my limits. And the fact that it was in Roland Garros was definitely a big help for me today. It’s a pleasure to play here on the center court especially because I love this court. So I’m really glad.”

More good news for the home country as Richard Gasquet completed his match halted due to darkness 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 over Carlos Berlocq and advance to the third round.

The 20th seed will play 15th-seeded Kevin Anderson for a place in the 4th round.

Also advancing were No. 13 Lucie Safarova and No. 19 Elina Svitolina.

 

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For the Good of the Sport

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(March 18, 2015) The women’s side of the draw flipped on its head once more as the young up and coming pack started to fall away after some famous wins this week. Gone was Caroline Garcia, who felled Ana Ivanovic, while Jelena Jankovic hit one more for the oldies when she dispatched Belinda Bencic to book her place in the quarter-final.

 

But perhaps the biggest surprise was Lesia Tsurenko defeating Genie Bouchard, whose come-back had been going quite swimmingly until that point. And she’s going to be one to watch as she faces the 2010 champion Jankovic next. The Serbian is playing some really solid tennis at the moment, perhaps buoyed by a great win over the very hard-hitting Madison Keys, but she can also come undone fairly spectacularly when she’s up against a player she has not played before. We could expect all kinds of potential tantrums on court, but it still will have been her best result for quite some time.

 

Serena Williams finally ended the great run of Acapulco and Monterrey champion Timea Bacsinszky, and while she admitted she could almost see the trophy in her hands (the first American to win it since her victory in 2001) she acknowledged that she had still a way to go.

 

She said: “I think it will be really good. It’s a good surface for her. I feel like she can definitely come out here, and when we play, play really well. Hopefully I can start playing better. “

 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

But maybe, and perhaps disappointingly, the focus at the start of the day was more on the news that Wayne Odesnik had been caught again on a doping charge, despite protesting his innocence. He was caught in two samples, and in light of his two year ban in 2010-2011 for being caught with a growth hormone and medical materials in his possession, he was banned for 15 years, and thus announced his retirement from the sport.

 

Needless to say there are not many offering to give him a handshake for his “achievements” (if a world ranking of No. 77 and no titles are to be celebrated).

 

Andy Murray tweeted “Good riddance” and called into question, quite reasonably, if one had been caught once, why would you do it again?

 

He said: “He’s been linked to a number of people that have been involved in doping presently and in the past and surrounded himself with those people, so I can’t say I’m surprised.   To have three separate issues is ridiculous. It’s good that he’s off the tour now.”

 

 

Rafael Nadal was a touch surprised to hear the news but broadly agreed, saying: “I really don’t know about him, so it’s difficult to say one or another thing. But obviously when that happens twice, you don’t deserve to be on the tour.”

 

Quarter-final action continues on Thursday.

 

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

 

 

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Upstarts and Upsets in the second week at Indian Wells

Caroline Wozniacki

Caroline Wozniacki

(March 16, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – As the women’s draw started to fill the brackets for the last of the round of 16, we saw some of the old guard fall foul to the up-and-comers.

First in (and indeed out) was Caroline Wozniacki who met her end to Belinda Bencic. The last time the pair played was in Istanbul last year. Wozniacki was at the start of a tear through the tournaments after an upsetting summer with the collapse of her impending nuptials to Irish golfer Rory McIlroy, and it was the making of the latter half of her tennis year.

However in the way was Bencic who was battered off court that day 6-0, 6-0 in just 44 minutes. In fairness the Swiss had hardly been on a roll since the start of the year, winning just one match in Dubai but she could at least gleefully poke fun at her Istanbul outing.

“The difference was that I won a game!” Bencic joked. “No, I was really happy after the first game I won, obviously, but I think I played more solid today. In Istanbul I had maybe too much respect and I was afraid, nervous. Today I really had a good game plan. I did what I had to do out there. I served well and had some easy points on my serve because of that. It was a solid match.”

Wozniacki had to acknowledge that on the day she had just come across a better player, saying: “Honestly, it was two completely different matches,” Wozniacki told reporters. “She was steady, she took the ball early and she served well, but I just didn’t put three balls in play today. But hats off to her – she took advantage of that and she played well during the important points in the match today.”

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

There was almost another grand old lady of the tour on the ropes as Jelena Jankovic had to fight from a set down to get past the power hitting of Madison Keys 5-7, 6-4, 6-3. As always with Jankovic, humour got the better of her, and why not? She was feeling god, and quite possibly dealt a bloody nose to one of the WTA Rising Stars that felt this had been a winnable match.

Keys smacked Petra Kvitova off the court at the Australian Open, and Jankovic could certainly see why as she explained in her press conference.

“It was like bombs or bullets constantly coming at me for about two‑and‑a‑half hours. I mean, her ball is so strong. It’s such a heavy ball. I think she’s probably, I mean, maybe with Serena. Probably the hardest hitting player out there in this moment.”

At times Jankovic tried to slow the pace down by taking her time to get ready between points, and she joked: “But you would take your time too when those balls are coming at you. What else am I supposed to do?”

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Madison Keys

 

For Keys though, while it was a tough loss she was at least able to find some slight vein of amusement at her tactics against Jankovic who, on her day, can mix up and disrupt play with the best of them, as she assessed her failing backhand.

Ruefully smiling, she said: “Yeah, I’m that person, Oh, I didn’t make it? Let me try it again 37 times.”

She continued: “Because it’s one of those things that as soon as you hit it, That was so dumb; why did I do that? The crosscourt is completely open, yet I try to hit it an inch other the net and I missed it. Again. Let me try it again next point. It’s not smart, for sure. I really wish I could tell you, you know, it’s just because I’m stubborn and I just wanted to make one. If I ever figure it out, you’ll be the first one that I can tell.”

Another seed to fall by the wayside was Ana Ivanovic, who lost for the second time in a row, in as many weeks to Caroline Garcia 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. After a brisk start to the year, Ivanovic has had to deal with a broken toe (from slamming her foot against the shower door) and now an inflamed elbow.

She said: “I have to work because I haven’t been playing lots of matches and so on. I feel like I need to get back in shape. It’s getting better but I feel like there’s a lot of work to be done and then yet I have these niggles here and there that are stopping me.”

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

With Maria Sharapova restoring some sense of order, dispatching one of the trickier names in the draw, Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-3, we close out a day which more or less saw the honours split evenly between the old ladies of the tour and the chasing pack of Rising Stars.

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

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A Sense of Normality in the Desert

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Photos by Curt Janka

 

(March 14, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – Not that we want to gloss over the important or emotional resonance of the return of Serena Williams, but in the 24 hours that followed that match, there was a sense that we were almost back in business.

For the whole week the anticipation leading up to the match everything had been focused on Friday night, but now it felt like we were all back to normal. There were some entertaining tussles – the battle of the fist-pumpers as an older and wiser Ana Ivanovic took on a feisty Yulia Putintseva.

There was the predictable sweep through of defending champion Novak Djokovic as he started his campaign against former Top 10 player Marcos Baghdatis, who seemed to enjoy the kiss-cam antics of TV screen director at the change of ends.

But one match hat stood out was Victoria Azarenka’s albeit straight-forward result and the mouth-watering prospect of a third round clash with Maria Sharapova. Her come-back has been much anticipated and few can forget the almost pitiful site of her struggling to even stand much less run about and swing at a ball this time last year at Indian Wells.

But it’s more than that. Asking her about her earlier come-back during last year’s grass court season, it as clear that she has been so completely frustrated by not being out on court and she admitted that her return had been too early.

She said: “When I came back to Eastbourne I don’t think I was fit enough to play at all. But I wanted to play. It’s been such a long time. It was one of the lessons that I had to learn, that I didn’t prepare well. Preparation is the key to really go out and play and be confident and actually be happy on the court.”

 

The Azarenka we see now seems to be very much happier with the world, after admitting she had gone through some dark times personally in her time off the court.

 

She elaborated: “If you know that you put in work, you feel good, you can enjoy it. Tennis is really my passion. You go in life through some tough moments on and off the court, but in the end of the day you just really need to figure out what you want to do in life and what you enjoy.”

 

When she faces Sharapova in the third round, she will be up against another fighter who had a long haul back from potentially career threatening injuries. In Stuttgart last year she explained how coming back and playing after possibly contemplating the end of her career made every achievement special. There is a sense that Azarenka has reached that same stage of thinking compared to the drive “must work harder” mentality that seemed to weigh her down more last summer.

 

Right now the Belarusian is the one person players must dread in the draw as she continues her climb back up the rankings, and pretty soon she will be back in the upper echelons but she has a sense of gratitude that for now, she has to get there the hard way.

“Every day is beautiful. Every day I think is a blessing, so I just try to approach it that way. Tennis has given me so much to be grateful for that I cannot be, you know, sad that I’m on the court in front of a great crowd in this the big tournament. I cannot be ungrateful.”

 

On Sunday the last of the ATP second round matches will be done, and Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will have their own campaigns underway, and it feels now as though the tournament is really getting started.

 

The only upset, if we could call it that, was the departure of Marin Cilic. The US Open champion played his first match in 2015, losing to Juan Monaco, but his loss opened up the thorny question of his participation in the IPTL exhibition league last year.

 

He maintained, however, it had not been an issue for him, saying: “I played there six, seven matches and didn’t hurt me that much. Then later it took pretty long time to get back and to reheal it. And even if I would know this I would probably skip playing Masters end of the year, Tour Finals. But at that time I didn’t know it’s going to take really that long.”

 

A quarter of his year has been lost, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga has yet to make his return, having been injured during the Davis Cup final, only to show up on the IPTL for the duration of the tour. Even Ana Ivanovic admitted during the pre-tournament press obligations that the winter had been a long haul, although she really seemed to flourish under the format.

 

And yet inevitably we return to Williams. It is almost a relief to see she has been scheduled in the afternoon on Sunday and not just the night matches every time. The conditions are hit and humid and during the day those balls zip about like fluffy day-glo missiles, but in the evening when it is a little cooler, the conditions change. She may have said she feels she has won already just by being here, but she is a born competitor, who needs to get the ‘W’ on the scoresheet come what may. Roll on Sunday.

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

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Venus Williams, Kvitova, Ivanovic and Radwanska suffer early exits in Dubai

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Photos by Nida Alibhai

(February 18, 2015) DUBAI, UAE – Wednesday marked a day of upsets at the Dubai Tennis Championships. Defending champion Venus Williams was beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Lucie Safarova in the third round along with No. 2 Petra Kvitova, fourth seed Ana Ivanovic, fifth seed Agnieszka Radwanska and seventh seed Angelique Kerber.

 

For three-time champion Williams, it snapped her 16-match win-streak, her first loss in Dubai since 2005.

 

“I think she played awesome,” said Williams of her conqueror Safarova. “There were a couple of games there that I didn’t even get my racquet on the ball. What can I say to that? I don’t think I played badly, but I couldn’t afford to make any errors today. The errors that I made were really costly, so, you know, credit to her. I wish her the best of luck the rest of the tournament.”

 

“I was firing the ball, serving really well,” Safarova said. “I put the pressure right away from the first point. My lefty serve into her body and mixing the lefty serve with the really flat and fast serves, that seems give her a little trouble.”

 

Second seed Kvitova fell to Carla Suarez Navarro 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

 

“Yeah, everybody can beat everyone in the top,” The Czech said. “And, yeah, maybe it’s nice for the fans that they can see something new and some surprises, but not every time it’s nice for us.”

Radwanska was upset 6-4, 6-2 by Garbine Muguruza after arriving in Dubai struggling with her health.

 

“I think when you’re not playing your best tennis then it’s hard to compete with those kind of players,” said Radwanska. “I think I didn’t serve enough, you know, to win that. I think that was really important part in that match.”

 

Muguruza believes there is always a chance to upset the top players if you work hard and keep your concentration.

 

“I think that nowadays there are so many girls that play so good that the difference between the top players and the other ones are really small,” she said. “So I think that you have a chance if you work and play and be concentrate and do your game, I think you can beat them.”

 

The day was not all about upsets as top seed Simona Halep beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-4, 6-3, third seed Caroline Wozniacki overcame 2014 Dubai finalist Alize Cornet 6-4, 6-0 and Ekaterina Makarova also advanced, beating Zarina Diyas 6-3, 6-4.

DUBAI DUTY FREE TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS – DUBAI, UAE
$ 2,513,000
15-21 FEBRUARY 2015

RESULTS – FEBRUARY 18, 2015
Singles – Third Round
[1] S. Halep (ROU) d T. Pironkova (BUL) 64 63
[13] C. Suárez Navarro (ESP) d [2] P. Kvitova (CZE) 63 46 63
[3] C. Wozniacki (DEN) d [15] A. Cornet (FRA) 64 60
[17] K. Pliskova (CZE) d [4] A. Ivanovic (SRB) 62 46 64
G. Muguruza (ESP) d [5] A. Radwanska (POL) 64 62
[6] E. Makarova (RUS) d Z. Diyas (KAZ) 63 64
[10] [WC] F. Pennetta (ITA) d [7] A. Kerber (GER) 62 36 61
[11] L. Safarova (CZE) d [8] V. Williams (USA) 64 62

Doubles – Second Round
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d [1] S Hsieh (TPE) / S Mirza (IND) 64 46 10-7
[2] E Makarova (RUS) / E Vesnina (RUS) d K Koukalova (CZE) / K Siniakova (CZE) 76(0) 64
A Rodionova (AUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) d [3] M Hingis (SUI) / F Pennetta (ITA) 63 76(2)
M Niculescu (ROU) / A Panova (RUS) d [4] S Peng (CHN) / K Peschke (CZE) 76(8) 76(7)
[6] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP) d J Jankovic (SRB) / A Parra Santonja (ESP) 64 64
[7] C Garcia (FRA) / K Srebotnik (SLO) d M Erakovic (NZL) / H Watson (GBR) 63 64
[8] T Babos (HUN) / K Mladenovic (FRA) d [WC] F Al Nabhani (OMA) / M Barthel (GER) 61 62
J Goerges (GER) / A Groenefeld (GER) d C Dellacqua (AUS) / S Stosur (AUS) 64 62

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2015
CENTRE COURT start 2:00 pm
[11] L. Safarova (CZE) vs [17] K. Pliskova (CZE)
G. Muguruza (ESP) vs [13] C. Suárez Navarro (ESP)

Not Before 7:00 pm
[1] S. Halep (ROU) vs [6] E. Makarova (RUS)
[3] C. Wozniacki (DEN) vs [10] [WC] F. Pennetta (ITA)

COURT 1 start 2:00 pm
[8] T Babos (HUN) / K Mladenovic (FRA) vs M Niculescu (ROU) / A Panova (RUS)
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs J Goerges (GER) / A Groenefeld (GER)

Not Before 6:00 pm
After suitable rest – A Rodionova (AUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) vs [6] G Muguruza (ESP) / C Suárez Navarro (ESP)
After suitable rest – [7] C Garcia (FRA) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs [2] E Makarova (RUS) / E Vesnina (RUS)

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Ana Ivanovic and Seven other Women Upset in First Round of Australian Open

(January 19, 2015) No. 5 Ana Ivanovic, who led the women’s tour with 58 match wins last year, struggled with her serve and hernerves as she became a first round major upset victim on the Opening day of the 2015 Australian Open. The Serb lost to Czech qualifier Lucie Hradecka, who is ranked at No. 142 in the world 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Ivanovic had a positive start to her year in Brisbane, reaching the final and losing to Maria Sharapova.

For Ivanovic, she became the first Top 5 player to lose in the first round of the Australian Open since Jennifer Capriati lost to Marlene Weingartner back in 2003. This is Ivanovic’s worst result in a major since 2011.

“I think the whole match I didn’t really feel like myself out there,” Ivanovic said. “It was really tough for me to find rhythm a little bit. In the third set really felt like she raised her level.”

“There is always nerves in the beginning. I felt like I was maybe lacking a little bit practice this week. I had some issues. But I’m still, you know, I played okay in the beginning. Just I felt second and third set I really dropped my level.”

Ivanovic breezed through the first set in 21 minutes, after that Hradecka picked up her game controlled the baseline rallies putting the Serb on the defense.

“I’m happy,” said the Czech. “I still don’t believe that I am true. So probably in a couple hours I will know that I am in second round in Australian and I beat Ana. Yeah, whole times, it’s two hours after match, and I’m still smiling.

“In the first set I was so nervy. Of course, I have the feeling on the court that the court is so big. I couldn’t hit any balls in the court. When I went outside, I started the serve in second set, I think, Okay, it cannot be the worst. Let’s play every point and let’s see what will happen.”

This is the fourth time in the last six Australian Opens that Ivanovic lost after winning the first set. It’s the 5th time in 41 Grand Slam appearances that she has lost in the first round.

“It’s really disappointing,” said the Serb. “It’s probably the worst thing could happen. But still, the year is young and I really have to now sit and work on few things and just maybe try to have a different approach to this kind of event and try to see what was lacking.”

Ivanovic hit 10 double-faults and made 30 unforced errors. She has reached a mere 2 quarterfinals in her last 27 majors.

Asked about the role that nerves plays in her matches, Ivanovic said; “I think it will always do. I think it does with all the players. Just some people deal with it differently and play with it differently. I’m sure if I got through this round probably it improves. But it was just very, very tough. Like I said, in third set I really felt like she played great.”

Along with Ivanovic, seven other women’s seeds fell on Monday in Melbourne: No. 9  Angelique Kerber out to Irina -Camelia Begu 6-4, 0-6, 6-1, No. 16 Lucie Safarova to Yaroslava Shvedova 6-4, 2-6, 8-6, No. 23 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova out to Yanina Wickmayer 4-6,6-3, 6-3, No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro, defeated by Carina Witthoeft 6-3, 6-1,  No. 27 Svetlana Kuznetsova lost 6-4, 6-2 to Caroline Garcia, No. 28 Sabine Lisicki fell to Kristina Mladenovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, and No. 32 Belinda Bencic was defeated by Julia Goerges 6-2, 6-1.

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Notes and Quotes from the 2015 Australian Open Pre-Tournament News Conferences

(January 17, 2015) Ana Ivanovic, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Sam Stosur, Serena Williams, Grigor Dimitrov, Simona Halep, Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt and Petra Kvitova met the media on Saturday for Australian Open pre-tournament interviews at Melbourne Park.

A few “notes and quotes” from the Saturday media conferences:

 

Ivanovic in press2

Ana Ivanovic

Mentality coming into the tourney as a top-five player:
“To be honest, I try not to think too much about the rankings. I definitely thought about it towards the end of the last year. I really tried to make that push and finish in top five. At the moment I really want to focus on my game, what to do out there on the court, to enjoy every match because I know if I do that, the results take care of themselves, and rankings speak for themselves. This is my main focus for this season.”

Ivanovic spoke about what makes the Australian Open special:
“I think each Grand Slam, it’s very specific and very individual in the atmosphere and the feel about it. Here I really feel people get excited about tennis. You know, they love sport. They love to cheer. They get loud. That’s exciting. There’s lots of kids always out here that come and support us. Obviously it’s their summer holidays so people are a little bit more relaxed, I feel. But it is very exciting. Since I don’t have a tournament at home, this is like second home for me.”

“It takes time for certain things to fall into place. Last year I really felt I made big steps towards winning more matches, beating top players. These kinds of things you sort of have to have in place in order to do well at the big events. I feel like I’m ready for next step. Also I feel comfortable in my team. I feel I can communicate with them more. Last year at some points it was not the case. Then also US Open was just a fresh start with new team, with new coach. So it takes time to get used to. Now I feel I can communicate with them more and they can help me.”

Asked to pick the fittest woman on tour:
I mean, there is lots of girls who are getting fitter and fitter. Caroline (Wozniacki) ran a marathon. I don’t think I can do that, to be honest (laughter). Radwanska, she’s a type of player that does lot of running on court. It really depends what you consider, you know, because there are some girls who maybe hit harder, have more power, but then those girls that have very high endurance.

Federer in press

Roger Federer

Q. Novak Djokovic had a crack at the Aussie accent. Can you do anything?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I’m not very good at that. I’ll let him do that (laughter).
Q. No g’day, mate?
ROGER FEDERER: I can do that, but not on command.

How he feels coming into Melbourne this year compared to last year?
“Clearly things are more calm this year, I guess, coming in. Last year, you know, having the new racquet, having gotten through the back issues, having gone through the off-season, you know, feeling good but still not quite sure because I needed matches to see how it was going to cope. I came here also with Stefan Edberg helping me out. You know, there was many changes that took place in the six months leading into, I guess, the Australian Open, whereas this time around I’ve played so well. Also was able to win Brisbane last week. Makes me feel more secure, I guess, this year coming into the Aussie Open.

Asked about how close he is to his career-best form?
“Well, I mean, I would hope that over the years I’ve always improved. I think I’m serving more consistent and stronger than I ever have. That’s my opinion. I definitely think the racquet has helped me with that as well, a little bit. But, you know, my concentration I do believe is there, better than it’s ever been, at least I hope it is, because I feel over time you always want to improve. I think my backhand is working better than it has in the past as well. The question is confidence, forehand, movement. But clearly when I was winning almost everything, everything was so gold that nobody was even questioning anything. Maybe if there were different opponents, different times, it would have changed. But for that particular time, I was playing exactly the way I needed to. I had to adjust my game a little bit over the years. I feel I’m playing very well. If it’s the best ever, I’m not quite sure. But I’m definitely very pleased how things have gone now the last six months.”

Asked if fitness has become more of a priority moving forward in his career over the years?
“Hmm, I wouldn’t quite say that. It’s changed just because you’re more careful not to get injured. So sometimes less is more. Quality is more important than quantity. Whereas when you’re younger, you got to put in the hours, you got to put in the work. Doesn’t matter if you’re tired, all these things, you just got to get through it, you know, get match tough, go through the grind. Eventually you have experience, you know what you need to get ready for a tournament, in the off-season what you need to do. So clearly I’ve, you know, made mistakes and made right decisions over the years. You try to put them all together, assemble all those pieces, make it work for the off-season. I mean, I definitely work a bit different. But at the end of the day I really believe in good quality practices now rather than too much. Yeah, I mean, I am 33, so things are a bit different today than they were 10 years ago.”

On whether he will play Davis Cup this year:
“I probably also will decide that once the Australian Open is over. I’ve been talking, you know. Clearly it’s hard to get out from the chair after finally winning Davis Cup. It was always a goal of mine, for Swiss tennis, the guys on my team, for myself, after playing for 15 years. Yeah, I’m just talking to the captain right now, see what the plan is for him, for me, for everybody. After that, I guess I just need a little bit more time. Probably make a call after the Australian Open.”

Sharapova gets ready to serve

Maria Sharapova

Q. Do you consider yourself the woman to beat for the title here?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m sure I’m one of them, definitely. I mean, I’m No. 2 in the world. I’ve had a great season last year, winning a Grand Slam. I think there are a lot of players that have an opportunity to win this tournament, and I’m certainly one of them.

 

Q. You have a shot at the No. 1 position. Is it still a big motivation for you to be back as No. 1 in the world or is winning Grand Slams at this time of your career more important?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that was a question that was nice not having to answer in December (smiling). Yeah, I mean, look, obviously No. 1 is a ranking that every single player wants to grab and works so hard for. There’s a lot of players that have an opportunity to get there, and I’m one of them. I am, of course, determined to do that. But by doing that you need to win more matches than the person that’s in the first place. So that’s the goal.

 

How much has fitness changed in the last 10 years compared to when you came up at Wimbledon? Has the tour grown in leaps and bounds as far as the physicality?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, definitely. I think you see a lot more people added to the team as far as a fitness coach. I mean, you didn’t see that 10 years ago as much. You know, I have a fitness coach. He doesn’t travel with me full schedule. It’s a pretty limited schedule. He’s always with me during the training weeks away from the tournaments. Never feel there’s too much you can do during a tournament week as far as really setting up a base. It’s more about recovery and getting ready. But the physical aspect of the sport has become, I think, very, very important. It’s always been, but I think it’s become more important than ever.

We’ve started to see on the women’s side these former champions coming in. What do you make from that, from your point of view?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think from experience-wise, there’s no better person that can help you in certain situations as a coach, as a motivator, as someone that just has been there, done that. I think it’s great to see. I think it’s always nice when you’ve been through a career and you have the opportunity or you have the desire to share it with other players, to share your knowledge and experience. I think it’s great.

You were talking about being happy to be in one place.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: That was in November. I played two matches for IPTL in November. Actually had a great experience, a great time. For an event that had its first year, I thought it was very well-organized, very professional. I think it was great to see tennis being brought into markets which have never seen professional sport like that before, and stars. I think their excitement was unreal. I mean, I felt like a rockstar literally, to put my feet on the ground the day after. It was really fun to see the excitement that people had. The format was fun. It was fast. A lot of the players took it very seriously. I mean, I came in after not practicing for many weeks. I was like, Okay, I’m going to take it easy. Some of the doubles players were really into it, which was great to see. So, yeah, I think personally I would never do the whole tour. It’s quite long. But I think to the girls that did, and guys, you see some were injured at the end of it, which is quite unfortunate. But to go out and to play a few matches in a market that’s never seen high-quality tennis before, very open to it.

What is the best game you remember here in the Australian Open?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’ve had a lot. My best game? Obviously, the one that sticks out is my victory. Winning a championships is a big moment, especially a Grand Slam. It was my third Grand Slam in my career. I thought throughout the two whole weeks, it was some of the best tennis that I played. I had one of the toughest draws in a Grand Slam. I actually thought the final wasn’t my best match throughout the tournament. But overall I came through a lot of challenges. Yeah, it’s tough to choose.

 

 

 

Nadal ao

Rafael Nadal

Is a question of everything to be ready, to feel yourself confident, to feel yourself that you are 100% competitive. Always you need to play more matches than four or five in seven months. That’s a thing that everybody knows. At the same time you feel in better shape physically when you are play matches, when you have confidence about your movements. Even if you practice a lot, then the competition is different. The stress of the competition is different than the practices, no? So is a question of time and work. I am working big-time.

I am doing lot of practice and doing the things that we believe we have to do to recover our level. Is true that having a Grand Slam that early in the season after injury like this not the ideal thing. But here we are. I worked a lot since 10th of December. I worked a lot last couple of weeks in Abu Dhabi and Doha, then here this week. I am with calm and happy the way I did the things. Then I need to play better than what I am doing. I think that thing is sure. But I know to play better, I need to win matches. I need to spend hours on court competing. The only way to make that happen is to be on the tour. So I am on the tour, and that’s the only way I can come back to my best level.

Every time is different. Every feeling is different. Every time you come back, you have the doubts, you have the feeling that you are far away from your best. But at the same time you know the only thing you can do is play with the right attitude and try to have the right schedule to play matches, to play weeks in a row. It’s the only way to find the positive feelings and the confidence back. When you have put all the things together, it make your game better again. That’s what I am doing. I am trying to do the calendar that will be better for me. Playing here, then playing on clay, that helps me physically, in terms of tennis, too. That’s all, no? Difficult to say more things. The only thing I can say is I need to play better, yes. But the only way to play better is to win matches.

In the end is difficult to say 50%, 55%, 20%. Doesn’t matter. This kind of thing is impossible. Is not mathematics. You never know when you are 100%. The only thing is I know I need to work, spend time on court, play matches. When that happens during few months, I know in terms of being competitive, in terms of rhythm, I will be ready again, no? But if I am able to win matches in a row before these few months, I’m going to be ready earlier, no? That’s what happened in 2013. But I started on clay, tournaments that give me the chance to play more matches, 250 tournaments. This time a little bit different. At the same time the only way is winning matches and spend time on court.

Q. You said Brazil is a lucky place for you. How do you feel about the Rio Open? Too much play, too many people with Carnival?
I hope not to have too much time for Carnival (smiling). Well, no. I have been in Brazil a couple of times. 2005 was the first tournament victory of a big season. 2013 was a special one, because after a lot of months without winning, without competing, I had a chance to win the title there. Helped me for the confidence for what happened later, no? Last year was important one, but was different situation. This year is a little bit like before, no? Going to be the first tournament on clay after a long time ago. I hope will be a good moment for me to have the full confidence back.

Q. Which aspect of your game are you happiest about as you’re returning to form? Which part is going well for you at the moment?
RAFAEL NADAL: Nothing (smiling). No, I am not serving bad. My serve is working more or less well. I need to be a little bit more dynamic on court with my movements. I am a player who find the confidence when I am able to defend well, when I am able to hit the ball knowing that the ball going to go in most of the times. So that’s when I feel myself strong. As I say before, no, to make that happen, you need to do that on the competition. For example, last week in Doha I did a very good thing in the first set, played very good first set. But then, you know, I lose the intensity on my game, I lose the rhythm, something that normally never happen to me when I am competing two weeks in a row. That is something you need when you didn’t play for a long time. I don’t know about in which part of my game I’m more happy. But I really know what I have to do to be happy with my game. My game is always good when my movements are good, when I am able to have control of the point with my forehand, and always hitting good backhands. But the forehand need to be aggressive, need to create space with my forehand. That’s the way that I need to play to have my chances back on being competitive against everybody.

Asked about who is the favorite for the tournament?
You know the same like me who is the favorite for the tournament. I think everybody thinks the same names. Novak finished the season great. He is a fantastic player. He’s in his favorite surface. Roger is the same story. Had a great season last year. He finished well. Plays in his favorite surface, or one of his favorites, grass and here. And Andy I think is playing well. We’ll see. The rest always are there. There is a few more players that always going to have the chances. But between these three names, it’s a big chance.
No, I don’t consider myself one of the favorites here. Last year, yes. This year is a different story. Would be lying if I say I feel that I am ready to win today. I don’t feel myself ready to win the tournament here today. If I am here in a press conference in one week, maybe I will say another thing because will have the feeling that I will play few matches, and if I’m able to win that couple of matches, then probably I will have little bit more rhythm, I will have more confidence. But in theory, playing four, five matches in seven months, you cannot be a favorite of a tournament that is not clay, is on hard. Is another thing. In terms of being favorites, the other names are more favorites than me at this time.

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

On playing in her home country.
“I guess it depends which way you want to look at it. It’s definitely different to playing outside of Australia, playing the other Grand Slams. But it’s not necessarily more difficult. It’s not easier. It’s just different. I think it’s a matter of, yeah, handling everything that’s going on. Obviously I know there’s probably more attention on me here than anywhere else. But, yeah, it’s okay. It’s just different.”

“I’ve been pretty pleased with the way my matches have gone. Obviously I would have liked to have won a couple more. But I think overall the way I’ve been playing in those matches has been pretty good. There’s always things to work on and improve. But I think considering it’s the first few matches of the year, I’ve been pretty happy with it. So I guess going into this first round on Tuesday, I got to be ready and do it all over again. I’ve got a couple more days to fine tune anything I want to get a little bit better before that match.”

Q. How do you feel about your first-round opponent and your part of the draw?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: To be honest, I don’t know much about my part of the draw. Playing Monica (Niculescu), she’s a very different player to a lot of different players on the tour. She likes to slice the ball a lot, slice the forehand even. She’ll serve and volley a little bit, she’ll come into the net. She’s very fast, moves well. She’s very creative and more crafty than maybe most of the other players out there. It’s certainly something that I need to know certain balls are going to come back a lot differently to playing anyone that I’ve played so far this year. I think it’s going to be a lot about concentrating hard and knowing that it’s going to be some funky stuff going on out there, and what I’m going to try to do to combat that.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

On her Australian Open preparation:
“It’s okay. I’m not very happy with it, but I’m never really happy about my practice or preparation. So maybe that’s a good sign. Yeah, I’m just still every day going out there, working really hard.

I definitely feel better now than I did a couple weeks ago. But I still want to improve some things. I feel like I should be doing some things better. But every day I can see something coming through, so… There’s a little light at the end of the tunnel.
“I absolutely hate running, but I do it because I hate the way I look if I don’t run (smiling).”

Asked about the absence of her hitting partner Sascha Bajin:
I keep forgetting to tweet about it. He’s away on injury reserve right now. He texts me almost every day. Like, I wish I were better. What are you doing? Who is there? I’m like, Gosh, leave me alone already. He sends me videos. Yeah, he’s super bummed out. We all are, so…
Yeah, he just got injured. There’s been a lot of stories on how he hurt himself. I’m not sure which one I should tell today. I jumped on his back and broke it (laughter).

I’m working with Jonathan now, forgot his last name. We started together in Florida so I could get used to him, kind of get used to each other. So that has been good.

Asked about her first round opponent:
I don’t know who I play. I never look at the draw. I guess her name is Alison. I always try to keep really focused, yeah.
Well, on a first round, no one wants to lose. So I think a lot of the top players, that’s when they’re looked at the most. People are like, What are you doing? What are they doing? What’s new? Especially at the Australian Open, it’s the very first one of the year. Did they do anything different in the off-season? That’s when the pressure is on, cameras are on, everyone is looking. For me, I get really nervous every single match, especially first-round matches, so…

Q. For Alison (Van Uytvanck), it’s the first main draw here at the Australian Open. What do you remember from your first main draw here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was my first main draw and my first Grand Slam, was Australia. I just remember I knew I wanted to win. I wanted to keep doing well. I had to play Venus in the second round. I remember that was a real bummer for me.

Q. We’ve seen Lindsay Davenport and Martina Navratilova, great women champions, now coaching. What is your point of view on that? Would you ever consider bringing in a coach like them?
The only thing I know is I never say never. I never thought I would play this long. So who knows? Anything is possible. Any and everything is possible. I’m a big fan of Martina and especially Lindsay. I think it would be really good to see them on the tour, bringing their expertise and their knowledge back to tennis.
On attempting to win Australian Open title No. 6:
It would be really great. I’ve been going for number six for a number of years now. It would be really special for me. I would be really happy. I want it I think more than anyone else here. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to get it, so I’ll have to fight hard to get it.

Dimitrov waves

Grigor Dimitrov

You’ve been asked a lot about the changing of the guard. But does it feel this season with Nishikori, yourself and Raonic, you’re getting closer to the big guys? Or after your defeat against Roger last week, do you feel the gap is still a little bit there?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Yeah, I mean, I’m not going to lie. It was a tough match that I lost last week. Definitely didn’t perform the way I wanted to. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m discouraged to keep trying and keep believing that any of us is going to make it through, so to speak. I think that’s pretty much it. But the other hand, the year just began. We have already the Australian Open, the first major. Anything can happen out here. It’s a good way to start the year. Hopefully everything goes in a positive note.

Have you set some specific goals for your game for the start of the season? Have you worked on something specific?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: I’ve worked a lot in the off-season. There’s nothing specific that I would like to say because obviously now I’ve had a pretty good 2014. Obviously we knew what was working for us and knew what we needed to focus on. That’s the one thing that we felt that was good. In the same time I’ve put a lot of work in the off-season on and off the court. I think that’s pretty much it. I never wanted to put too many tasks on my paper to say, Okay, in the off-season I need to work on this and that. Just the more you simplify it, the better it is, when you know what’s working for you.

 How important was your performance here last year?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: It was a major thing for me. Definitely gives you a lot of confidence. Gives you like a boost. Next time you come to any other tournament, you felt that you started on a good note. At the same time that confidence gives you, how do you say, to come and play every match better, feel that you can perform on a high level, beat better players. Eventually when I had to come up against better guys, I was able to win, and win quite a few tournaments. I think all that is a good factor. At the same time let’s not forget about the big picture.

Did you replay that tough loss to Rafa much?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: It took me awhile to get over it, especially having a set point in that third set, missing that shot by just like a few inches. Of course it’s something not to forget, but at the same time I think I took it really positive. I took that loss as a win even though it wasn’t the case. It gave me a good start. Eventually I think I was performing at a high level throughout the whole season. I think I finished it on a good note.

Halep fh

Simona Halep

Q. How were you feeling after having to withdraw from Sydney?
I’m feeling good now. I’m almost now like hundred percent recovered. I have two days. I slept very well. I ate very well. So I feel prepared to start this tournament. But still I have time, two days more, to feel like hundred percent.

Q. How different was your off-season? You changed coaches. Was there something you wanted to work on?
SIMONA HALEP: Just improve in my game more and more. I did in my serve very well in the off-season, and as well in my forehand. I’m moving better than last year. I’m working hard every day. I changed because I just wanted to change something, and I did. I think was a great idea for myself. Always I took my decisions and work very well. I think very good decision I had in the past.

Q. You made huge strides since a year ago. What surprised you most about your season, how successful you were?
SIMONA HALEP: I’m not surprised that I had big results last year because two years ago I just started to win some titles. I had more experience than before. I was improving a lot I think in my game. I’m much stronger now than before. My game is complete now, I think. I believe in my game. I think I was a little bit, I can say, surprised with the finals in French Open because I didn’t expect that I can play finals after just one quarterfinals in Grand Slam. But, you know, I had nothing to lose there. Was my favorite tournament, because I won in juniors, and I feel very well there. I was trying everything on court. Everything went in the right way at that tournament. I felt very well. Sometimes is very good to be close to your home because more people can come to watch you and can support you. So was a perfect tournament for me. That’s why I think I played the final. Then I had in Singapore the second big result. I played well, as well, there. I cannot say that I was surprised, but still I was very happy in the end of the year that I did few big results.

Q. After such a great year, do you feel more pressure coming into this year?
SIMONA HALEP: No. It’s better than last year. I can say now I feel no pressure. I have just to play my game during the matches and to see how good I can be, how many results I can do, how many matches I can win. So my goal is again to go to Singapore and to win matches with top players. Just I have no pressure.

Q. Do you feel this year’s Australian Open feels more wide open, like many different players could win?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, I can say that all the players from here have a chance to do this. I was thinking a few days ago that even if I am third in the rankings, I have my chance, but is not like I have to be in the semifinals or in the finals. Everyone from top 20 I can say has their own chance to win this title. You saw Pliskova, last week she played very well. Kvitova as well. Everyone can win this title. The tournament is open I think for everyone.

Murray UnderArmour

Andy Murray

Q. Slightly different circumstances to last year coming in here. Talk about how the preparation has gone, how you’re feeling coming into Melbourne.
Yeah, I mean, obviously last year was tough because I prepared fairly well, but mentally it’s quite tough sort of going into your first slam and playing long five-set matches. You don’t necessarily know how your body’s going to respond, so mentally you’re kind of worrying a bit and you’d be apprehensive. That’s not the case this year, which is good. And, yeah, my preparation and training over in Miami and then in Dubai went very well. Practice this week’s been good. So, yeah, looking forward to getting started.

Q. Who do you see as your biggest threat in this tournament?
Well, I mean, there’s a lot of top players here. I mean, obviously Stan’s the defending champion, will be confident with that. A new experience, as well. It will be interesting to see how he handles that. But he’s obviously finished the end of last year with the Davis Cup and winning Chennai last week. So I’m sure he’ll be confident. And then, yeah, all of the obvious suspects, same names. Then if you add some of the younger guys that have been coming through the last year or so, you know, with Nishikori, Dimitrov, Raonic, these guys. Also you don’t know, a lot of guys can make big improvements in the off-season if they have five or six weeks’ training to work on things and get physically stronger. So it will be an interesting tournament. The Australian Open normally throws up a few surprises. It will be fun to watch.

Q. Is it easy to get used to the changes that have happened in your team during the off-season, being without Danny? Is it feeling weird for you or…
ANDY MURRAY: No, it hasn’t been weird. It’s been, in my opinion, positive. When things aren’t working well, there’s not a positive atmosphere, it’s not good for anybody. So when that changes and everyone’s working together, that makes things better. So the last two months for me so far have been very, very good.

Yeah, well, obviously very tough draw. Very difficult draw. It’s very hard to comment on it. If you have to play all of those players, obviously it’s going to be extremely difficult to come through that. I’m aware of that. That’s fine. But, yeah, often in these events, you know, there is upsets. And then, yeah, you just have to wait and see who you’re playing in each round because it doesn’t always work out as simply as that. You know, I’m sure Rafa just now, if you said to him, Give me a semifinal spot, he’d be very happy with that coming off a tough injury. But, yeah, it will be interesting to see how it goes. But definitely with the names you mentioned, it’s very challenging.

Q. What do you think of the young Aussie talent?
Yeah, a lot of very good young men. I don’t know on the women’s side. I haven’t seen as much of the young women. But I know on the men’s side, it’s very, very strong. There’s obviously Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, guys like Jordan Thompson, very good as well. They have a bunch of guys ranked between 100 and 200 in the world. Also the guy that Kyle Edmund played today I think is also pretty young from Australia, too. Yeah, they have a lot of talent, a lot of potential. I think the Aussies are going to have a good time the next 10 or so years watching all of them play.

Lleyton Hewitt

How do you rate your chances heading in, I suppose?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I just take it one match at a time obviously. Just try and focus on my first-round opponent, what I need to do to try to get through that match. Played him a couple times before in Davis Cup over five sets, so at least I’m well-prepared for what to expect out there. Obviously just try and get my body as close to 100% by Tuesday. Hopefully go out there and execute what I need to do.

 

Being a competitor, do you go into this thinking you have a genuine chance to win? Is that dream still alive?

LLEYTON HEWITT: When you start the tournament, that dream’s still there for everyone, the 128 of us that are in the draw. Nothing changes in that aspect. Over the years I think I pride myself on not looking too far ahead anyway. Even when I was No. 1 in the world, I always played every match on its merits, gave the utmost respect to my opponents, who I had to play. I’ve said it so many times: it’s a matter of trying to get through the first week of a Grand Slam. Doesn’t matter how you do it, but you have to try to find a way of getting through that, put yourself in a position in the second week. Yeah, anything can happen in Grand Slams. Over five sets, obviously, guys can get injured. There’s a lot of ups and downs over two weeks.

What do you think of the other young Aussie chances? Pretty good talent coming through.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, obviously Nick has a pretty good section of the draw I think that he’s in. Bernie is in a pretty good section, as well. Bernie has been playing well the last couple weeks. Obviously took someone like Nishikori to play extremely well – he’s a quality player – to beat him in Brisbane. Gilles Muller, 6-6, could have gone either way in Sydney in that match he lost. Obviously Nick would have liked some more matches under his belt coming in. If he can get his teeth into the tournament, I don’t think that’s a big worry for Nick. Thanasi has a tougher first round against Gulbis. He’s got a fighting chance in it, though, for sure Thanasi has improved a lot over the last year.

Is this the most excited you’ve been in your time of the youngsters coming through?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I guess it’s probably a few more in a group coming through than I’ve ever seen in my time. Probably happened a bit before I actually started. You had the guys, the Woodies, Stolz, Philippoussis, Rafter, Fromberg, so many guys coming through at that stage. For a while, I guess I was the only one and we didn’t have a lot of juniors, we sort of struggled to make that transition from really good junior players in the Grand Slams to making it onto the senior tour.

 

 Andy Murray was saying he thinks the tournament is wide open. There’s a lot of talk that the top four are more challenged than previous years. Do you feel that’s the case?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Possibly. It’s still hard. Obviously Andy Murray is not in the top four in the rankings at the moment. I think guys still see him as one of those big threats as the top four anyway. Obviously there’s Raonic, Dimitrov coming up, putting pressure on. Nishikori. Cilic won a Grand Slam now. These kind of guys. I still think the core is going to be those top three or four guys. Over five sets, it’s still extremely tough to beat two or three of those guys back-to-back at the end of these tournaments.

Petra Kvitova

You must be delighted with your preparations coming into the Australian Open with the win in Sydney?

PETRA KVITOVA: Yeah, for sure. I’m very glad how everything went. I’m glad to have a title in the beginning of this new year. Yeah, I’m glad that I have matches under my belt and I can be well-prepared for the Melbourne which is starting pretty soon and I’m excited.

How did your winter go? Anything you looked at or worked on? Are you feeling good about your game in general?

PETRA KVITOVA: I’m very happy that I have a new fitness coach and physiotherapist in the same person. It’s Alex. I’m just really glad that he’s part of my team. It’s something really special. I know that he’s experienced so well. He knew exactly what we have to do, so that’s great. I’m just glad that we did everything what we could in the off-season to prepare myself for the new season. I tried to be a little bit quicker, fitter, to be in the shots on the time. Normal routine, practicing, practicing, practicing.

Who do you see as the biggest threats in this tournament?

PETRA KVITOVA: I think it’s a lot of great players playing. I know Maria won Brisbane. Serena is always one of the favorites. Simona played really well in Shenzhen. It’s a lot of great players who really can play the best tennis here.

What were you most pleased with in Shenzhen and Sydney with your game?

PETRA KVITOVA: I think that my serve was work very well. I think it was one of the keys of the matches which I played. So that’s really nice because we work on that every day probably. I think that my fitness improved, as well, so I’m just glad for it. I just need to be used to everything what I did, show it on the court with the typical shots and with the rallies.

Having lost first round here, does that make you come back to this tournament thinking it’s exciting that you have no points to defend or remembering what happened last year and being worried about that?

PETRA KVITOVA: I would like to forget about the last year. Unfortunately it’s impossible. On the other side I know I can do only better. So that’s the good thing. I’m excited to play, of course. It’s a Grand Slam. It’s what I love to play. I just will do everything what I can to be just better than the last year because it was very disappointing. It wasn’t really nice time for me. So just will do everything what I can.

What do you like most about the Australian Open?

PETRA KVITOVA: I like the people here. I mean, it’s just beautiful to see the friendly faces, the smile. I mean, the weather, of course, when it’s not really hot, hot, that’s nice. The crowd is always amazing. I love hard courts, as well. So I’m just glad that everything is very nice here.

Anything different in the hard courts between here and the US Open?

PETRA KVITOVA: I think so. I never played well in the US Open, so I think that’s a little bit slower over there than here. Of course, the weather is different. There is more humid than here, what is better for me as well.

 Li Na said she thinks you’re the woman to beat this tournament. What do you say to that and how do you feel about that?

PETRA KVITOVA: It’s nice of her, of course. I don’t feel really favorite of the tournament. I’m just come here and try to be focusing on the match after match if it’s possible, of course. I think it’s a lot of great players, how I said. I don’t think really it’s like one big, big favorite of the tournament. So we’ll see.

 

 

 

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