2014/10/02

Nadal Criticizes Balls in Beijing

 

(October 2, 2014) Back on the court for his first tournament since recovering from a right wrist injury, Rafael Nadal is in his first quarterfinal since winning his ninth French Open in June, beating German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk at the China Open on Thursday 6-3, 6-4.

After the win, the No. 2 seed criticized the balls being used in Beijing.

Critical of some of the balls used on tour in the past, the 14-time major champion was asked about what was wrong with them.

“I don’t know what’s good,” Nadal said with a smile.

“Seriously, no, I think the bounces are not the same all the time. If you throw the ball on the floor, the bounces goes everywhere. Is not a question of winning or losing. I won in Rio with this ball. I won tournaments with this ball.

“It’s just that we’re competing at the top level of our sport, tennis, and the ball is an important thing. There is a lot of good balls around the world. The brand of this ball is a strong brand. So if they have a contract with the ATP, they need to find a solution, change the ball, find another solution, because this ball is not working well.

“I am not talking for me only. That’s the feeling of the players out there on the locker room. Lot of players comes to me and tell me that.

“But is not question of this tournament. I say it in the past. Is more than a year that we are playing with this ball, and the ball is bad.

“Is not ATP Tour world‑class ball.”

“Changing balls every tournament create problems because the feeling of the ball…,” Nadal continued.

“I understand for people who really are not players, probably persons who will read that, sounds strange. But the ball is a big difference. Is a big difference between one ball and another ball.

“This week we are playing with one ball. Next week we are playing with a different ball. At the same time is a different ball and you need to adapt to the new ball in just two days.

“That’s dangerous for the shoulder, dangerous for the elbow. At the end that’s the thing we are talking for a long time on the tour, since I arrived here, and probably before. Seems very difficult to fix that almost ‑ as everything.”

Andy Murray who defeated Pablo Cuevas  6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals, was also asked about Nadal’s comments about the tennis balls, He said:

“I haven’t spoken to him about the ball. I think it’s something that players throughout the year tend to complain about because we have to change balls almost weekly really. That’s hard. If you want to see consistently high‑level tennis, it’s very difficult when you’re changing balls from week to week because they all react differently.

“For example, I had one day to get used to the conditions here. It’s tough. I’m sure if you gave golfers a different ball to play with each week, it would take them time to adjust to that, as well. It’s the same for the tennis players.

“But, yeah, the balls feel different to last week. I don’t have a problem with the balls. It’s just they feel different to last week.”

Nadal will face another qualifier in the next round in Martin Klizan. Klizan advanced when Ernest Gulbis retired from the match with a shoulder injury, trailing 6-2, 3-0.

 

All photos by Natalie Ho.

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Final Push to London Starts in Asia

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

By Abigail Hinto

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Murray Wins First Title Since 2013 Wimbledon

 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

(September 28, 2014) Scot Andy Murray came back from a set down and saved five match points to beat Spain’s Tommy Robredo of Spain 5-7, 7-6 (9), 6-1 Sunday to win the Shenzhen Open.

For the Scotsman, who came into the tournament as a wildcard, he broke a tournament win drought dating back to 2013 Wimbledon, the tennis title he won.

“It’s been a long time since I won a tournament, Murray said. “The way that the match was won doesn’t happen very often. It’s rare to win a match like that. I was very close to losing. It was an emotional week for me. I managed to fight my way through it, win the title, and hopefully I can win another one before the end of the year.”

Murray was down 2-6 in the second set tiebreak before rallying.

“I got lucky, basically, at the end of the second set,” Murray said. “I fought hard, tried my best and thankfully managed to turn it round.”

The Scot is trying to qualify for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, and has moved up to 10th in the ATP Race To London with the addition of 250 points.

“When you finish second in a tournament it’s always great,” Robredo said. “In a match like today that was so close, it’s tough to accept it. But Andy did a great job. He was pushing right till the end and in the end, he deserved it. It was a good experience to learn from. I will keep working and hopefully next time I can win. It was a good week and hopefully next week I can be ready to play as well.”

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Novak Djokovic Reaches Eighth Straight US Open Semifinal

Djokovic applauds

(September 4, 2014) Novak Djokovic stood toe-to-toe for two sets with Andy Murray until the world No. 1 took charge over the eighth seed in the third set and came through 7-6 (1), 6-7 (1), 6-2, 6-4 to reach his eighth straight US Open semifinal. The match which had many long and intense rallies, lasted three hours and 32 minutes, and finished at 1:17 a.m. on Thursday morning.

When I get to play Andy, at the Grand Slams especially, where we both try to peak with our performances obviously, I know that the matches are going to go the distance,” said the Serb.. “We’re going to have a lot of long rallies and a lot of exchanges. It’s going to be physical but also mental. I get the feeling that if I get to stay with him and kind of, you know, work, work, and, you know, not get too loose and too frustrated with points and not allow him to get into a big lead, I feel like there is a point where I feel I have that edge, you know, maybe physically. That’s where I try to always focus on and, you know, it paid off tonight.”

“I’d say definitely physically he was fresher, but towards the end I tried to hang in as best I could in the fourth set,” Murray said. “But, yeah, he was definitely — well, he appeared fresher than me. Whether he was or not I don’t know, but maybe he does a better job of hiding it than me. The pace of my serve slowed significantly towards the end of the third set.”

Murray, who underwent back surgery late last year, has not reached a Grand Slam semifinal all year, nor any other tournament.

“I’m obviously disappointed,” Murray said of the loss. ”It’s extremely late. You know, I’m tired. I don’t feel particularly proud right now. I feel disappointed. But, yeah, I think there was some good tennis. I obviously haven’t, you know, analyzed the match or had time to think about it yet, but I think there was some good tennis there. You know, hopefully I can build on that.”

 

Djokovic will play Kei Nishikori in the final four. Nishikori beat Stan Wawrinka in five sets.

 

“Well, I haven’t played Kei in a while,” Djokovic said. “He’s very, very good player, obviously. I think he’s playing best tennis of his life in the last 12 months. He started working with Michael Chang and he changed a few things in his game. He serves very efficiently. Obviously he’s very, very fast, maybe one of the fastest on the tour player. Great backhand, great forehand, all-around player. He won today against Stan, who is playing some great tennis. To be able to come back after winning against Raonic 2:30 a.m., again five sets, five sets, it’s pretty impressive. I give him credit for that. We both had some long matches in quarters, but I’m sure Uniqlo family will be happy to see us play against each other. (Both men wear UNIQLO clothing) You know, the better will win.”

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Top Seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic Win: Eugenie Bouchard Beaten by the Heat

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard

(September 1, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – The US Open top seeds had straight set victories on Labor Day Monday. Novak Djokovic, was a 6-1, 7-5, 6-4 winner over No. 22 seeds Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany, and Serena Williams defeated No. 50 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia 6-3, 6-3.

For the Serb Djokovic it’s his 8th straight US Open quarterfinal he’s reached and his 22nd major tournament overall.

“I’m very glad obviously that I had so many consecutive quarterfinals of Grand Slams,” said the Serb. “It says that I do value these tournaments the most and try to always perform my best tennis in them. Obviously motivates me for the future to continue that streak, of course.”

Djokovic will meet two-time major champion Andy Murray in the quarterfinals. Murray beat No. 9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 7-5, 6-4.

For Serena Williams the two-time defending US Open champion, this will be her first Grand Slam quarterfinal this year.

“I never thought it would be so exciting,” Williams said smiling. “Yeah! It feels good. Obviously I don’t want this to end. But I’m just happy that I’m able to be performing a little better at the end of the year.”

Williams has a perfect 5-0 record against her next opponent Flavia Pennetta.

“Of course, she’s better than me, but if I still believe I can beat her, maybe if she doesn’t have a good day I can do that,” Pennetta said. If I get in the court and just play and try to don’t take 6-Love 6-Love, I gonna take 6-Love 6-Love.”

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard was beaten by the heat during her fourth round match-up against Ekaterina Makarova. The Canadian said that she felt dizzy and her vision was blurry as she was bothered by the New York City heat and humidity. She took two medical time outs.

“I was feeling very light headed and dizzy on the court,” said Bouchard. “You know, just seeing things a little blurry. You know, feeling well physically on the court is very important to me, so when I don’t feel that — I just generally didn’t feel good.”

Makarova, the 17th seed from Russia beat Bouchard 7-6 (2), 6-4, ending the Canadian’s streak of reaching at least the semifinals of each major in 2014.

“I definitely felt a lot of outside expectations and pressure to win matches. I felt more like it’s normal if I win and it’s a bit more of a disaster when I lose,” Bouchard said. “But that’s something that I need to block out.”

“I remember as a junior a few times in Australia when it was hot I felt this way. Last year here actually in the second round I felt it a little bit. You know, once in a while I get a little bit light headed. That’s what happens.”

Makarova said: “Today was really tough condition definitely. So humid, and sometimes I think because of that the game was going like up and down. Against Bouchard it’s always tough because she’s running good. She’s also really — like physically she’s hard. So I think it was really good match, and I’m really happy that in the end of the first and the second set I was a little bit more aggressive.”

In round of 16 men’s matches on Monday night, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka beat No. 16 Tommy Robredo 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7), 6-2, No. 5 Milos Raonic fell to  No. 10 Kei Nishikori 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-4, in a match which ended at 2:26 a.m. Tuesday, equaling the latest finish in US Open history.

Two-time US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka rallied past qualifier 145th-ranked Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

“I didn’t have a lot of data on her or, you know, much of an idea,” Azarenka said. “I think she played exceptionally well today. I’m not sure if I would have watched the matches before that would help me a lot, I think because I felt like not knowing much she still played on a really high level and pretty consistent through the whole match. She gave a fight, and she wasn’t afraid to go big on the important moments. I was a little bit surprised that she’s not that tall, and she hits the ball and unleashes her forehand with so much power. So that was quite surprising. But, you know, I think she’s a young player. She has a good future if she keeps going this way.”

 

Next for Azarenka will be Makarova. The Belarusian evaluated her next challenger.

“I think she’s a very tough opponent because she’s very consistent. You know, she reads the game really well. We had some tough matches in the past. I think she’s not afraid to play against top players. She handled herself well against, you know, big names in Grand Slams. She’s definitely playing well. I’m looking forward to that match.”

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Murray Puts Cramps Behind Him in Thursday’s win at the US Open

Andy Murray smiling

(August, 28, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – Eighth seed Andy Murray left the cramps he had earlier in the week in the heat behind him as beat Matthias Bachinger in the cool, breezy evening of the night session in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

“It was extremely windy today,” Murray said. “That was the hardest part about the conditions. Yeah, just very, very breezy. Difficult to play sort of close to the lines or anything like that. But I hit the ball well considering, served better, and obviously I moved a bit better today, as well.”

Murray’s opponent in the next round will be against Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia, who rook out 31st seed Fernando Verdasco.

“He’s had a couple big wins in the slams this year,” Murray said. “He beat Ferrer at Wimbledon and obviously today against Verdasco. I’ve never played him before. I don’t know his game that well, but I’ve seen him play a little bit. He hits the ball pretty flat. Likes to go for his shots a lot. This court’s fairly quick, so that will probably help him, as well. But I’ll watch a little bit of video tomorrow evening, try to understand his game a bit better.”

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Dutch Treat for a Cramping Murray

Andy Murray 8202013

(August 25, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – Andy Murray gutted his way into the second round of the US Open on Monday. The eighth seeded Scot, suffering from cramps defeated Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3, 7-6 (6), 1-6, 7-5.

The cramps which began in the back of his left shoulder began in the third set unexpectedly on a warm but not oppressively hot, nor humid day.

“I can’t worry about it too much,” Murray said. “There’s nothing I can do. This is the shape I’m in for the tournament. I feel or I felt extremely good before the match, and I did train very, very hard to get ready for the tournament. For me it was unexpected, and therefore, quite difficult mentally to deal with, because, like I say, sometimes it can happen one area of your body. But when it starts to kind of go everywhere, you don’t know exactly where it’s going to creep up next. When you stretch one muscle, something else then cramps, too. It was tough. Yeah, like I say, very unexpected, as well, especially after an hour and a half, an hour and 40 minutes. So it’s unlikely, I would say, that it’s down to maybe poor physical condition, because I have trained and played matches. Like in Toronto against Tsonga was longer than that and I felt absolutely fine at the end. I don’t know if it’s something I have done in the last few days that’s been wrong or not, but I need to try and find out why.”
Haase also suffered from some cramping physically and mentally. The Ducthman served for the fourth set a 5-3 and double-faulted on break point to let Murray back into the set. The Scot won the next three games to close the match.

“I could have easily lost that match,” Murray said. “I was very close to losing the match. I don’t think if it would have gone to five sets I would’ve been — I certainly would have been the favorite if it had gone to five sets. I’m happy about that.”

No. 9 seed and Toronto Masters champion Jo-Wilfried Tsonga needed four sets to close out Juan Monaco 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1.

“Never easy against Juan,” said the Frenchman. “He’s a good player. Today, you know, I just did a good job. It’s good for me, because these first round is always tough to go through.”

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Andy Murray Feels Ready

RG Andy Murray practice

(August 23, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – 2012 US Open champion Andy Murray, coming off surgery at the end of 2013, says he’s ready and prepared for the US Open

“For a slam, probably, I mean, any of the ones — I mean, Australian Open last year, Wimbledon last year, you know, would have been the last two. Obviously I missed the French last year. My back was not great during this event last year. Yeah, this year would be the best prepared I have been coming into a slam. I got a great training block over in Miami done, so physically I’m where I would want to be. My body is pain-free, which is good. Yeah, I feel ready.”

“I feel confident,” the Scot said of his chances at Flushing Meadows. “I don’t know whether more or less than the other ones, but physically I’m better prepared than I was for the other slams just because, you know, I got — the Australian Open I was obviously not going to be perfect. I hadn’t played a match for like four months going into it, so, you know, that was kind of normal. But I got my best training block I have had since before Wimbledon last year down in Miami. Trained hard and, yeah, I feel ready. Yeah, because of that, I feel confident and I’m looking forward to the start.

2012 champion Murray will open again Robin Hasse on Monday. He’ll play the second match on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

“I have been here long enough to be used to the conditions and stuff now. I think for some guys that are coming in late, you know, playing on the Wednesday may help, but I have had enough time on the courts now to practice and prepare. So to get underway on Monday is good.”

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Djokovic Upset by Robredo, Murray Survives Isner in Cincinnati

 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

By Dave Gertler

(August 14, 2014) MASON, OHIO – Two of the three Big Four players competing at this year’s Cincinnati Masters played their third-round matches during Thursday’s day sessions. One survived, one didn’t.

 

“The focus is winning right now,” said a composed Andy Murray after his 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-6(2) win over John Isner, “Not so much how I’m hitting the ball or moving or anything like that. Just trying to win. That’s all that’s important just now.”

 

Since winning Wimbledon last year, Murray has seen his rank plunge from No. 2 to No. 9. First struggling with back surgery rehab, and then adjusting to a new coaching situation. He has regained peak physical condition, but collated a mixture of results that has not seen him advance past the semi-finals of any tournament in the last 14 months.

 

“I want to get back to winning events and being in the finals of the big tournaments,” said Murray, “And winning matches like today is a big step for me.” He and his opponent John Isner, last year’s Western & Southern Open runner-up, played for 2 hours and 23 minutes in front of a Grandstand Court that was packed to the rafters.

 

“Sort of like standing room only,” said Isner, who served 21 aces to Murray’s 14, “You could see people on Center Court at the top looking over and watching. It was great. The fans were unbelievable. I thought they were on my side the whole way, and they were.”

 

After losing the first set tiebreak, Murray then broke Isner for the only break of the match, holding on to win the second set. Then, with the sun in his eyes, serving to stay in the match, Murray served two double faults, allowing Isner his first of two match points. “When it’s 6‑5 in the third set,” said Murray, “Ideally you want to try and get some free points when you can. Maybe made a slight mistake trying to do that. Yeah, but I just managed to find a way to get through that game.”

 

While Murray cited “instinct” as what guided him to a third-set tiebreak, which he would ultimately win to advance to the quarterfinals, fellow Big Four member Novak Djokovic has faltered at the round-of-16 stage of his second consecutive hard court Masters 1000 event. The world No.1, who last bowed out in the third round in Toronto, today lost in straight sets to 16th seed Tommy Robredo.

 

“Just many, many, many things are not clicking these two weeks on hard courts,” said Djokovic, who fought back from being a break down to Robredo in the first set, before losing it in a tiebreak. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s more than obvious I’m not playing even close to what I’m supposed to play.”

 

In the second set, Djokovic was unable to make a dent on Robredo’s serve, winning only four points while receiving. While Djokovic was able to save two match points, serving at 4-5, Robredo would convert at his next opportunity, taking the second set 7-5.

 

“Well, maybe he didn’t play very good the last two matches that he played,” said Robredo after his second career win over a world No.1 – the first was against Lleyton Hewitt in 2003, “But anyway, he’s the world No. 1. He won in Wimbledon. He’s a great player. If you don’t play your best you’re gonna lose for sure. Even if you play your best, sometimes if he’s playing great, you’re gonna lose also.”

 

While Djokovic will head straight to New York to prepare for the US Open, where he is defending finalist, Murray will face either Gael Monfils or Roger Federer, who play their third-round match on Center Court this evening.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Western & Southern Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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After Win Over Djokovic, Tsonga Continues Form with Upset of Murray to Reach Toronto Semis

Tsonga Murray 8814

By Dave Gertler

 

(August 8, 2014) TORONTO – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is returning to the form that has previously delivered him to two semifinals at the Rogers Cup, and on Friday, he exacted revenge on the man who stopped him in his path when he first got there in 2009. After a surprising 6-2, 6-2 win over Novak Djokovic yesterday in Toronto, Tsonga has followed it up with his first win over Andy Murray since the Frenchman’s famous run to the final of the Australian Open in 2008.

 

Firing 17 aces at Murray throughout the match, including three in the first game, Tsonga let his serve do the talking from the outset. “I’m just stronger,” said the world No.15 after his victory, “During practice I worked a lot on my legs, and for sure I’m stronger on my legs. I think it helped me a lot for my serve because I can push a little bit more, so it give me more angle.” His increased leg-strength allowed Tsonga to maintain a first-service speed well above 200km/h throughout the two-hour, 18-minute match on Stadium Court.

 

Tsonga would only lose ten points in total behind his first serve the whole match, Murray realizing early that he would need to return at a high level, saying, “The beginning of the match he served extremely well. He served a lot of aces. You know, I had to play around my return position quite a lot, and I started to get into more service games the second and third set.”

 

After Tsonga sealed the first-set tie-break 7-5 with a booming ace, Murray found himself with the advantage in the second set, holding twice before breaking for 3-2. Although he was immediately broken back to love, the world No.9 would regain his edge, breaking Tsonga to love for a 6-4 margin in the second set.

 

“Tennis and sport really can change a lot from one day to the next,” said Murray, who had enjoyed an eight-match winning streak against Tsonga until today, “You wake up on the wrong side of the bed, which maybe he did in Miami and I played a good match, that can happen. He’s a fantastic athlete,” Murray added, “When his game is on, he’s very tough to beat.”

 

Tsonga would prevail in a 45-minute deciding set of high-quality tennis mixed in with some frustrating errors from both players. Ultimately, he would serve out the final set 6-4, serving three aces and a double fault. “I just stayed focused,” said the 29-year-old Frenchman, who has made the interesting fashion choice this week of tucking in his shirt, “Tried to be a little bit more aggressive because I was a little bit flat after losing the second set. He gave me one or two points he didn’t give me since the start of the second set, and, you know, then I went back and I won it.”

 

Tsonga will play Grigor Dimitrov next his third career Rogers Cup semifinal. Other winning quarterfinals included Roger Federer and Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament on @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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