2015/03/05

Rafael Nadal Stunned by Tomas Berdych at Australian Open

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(January 27, 2015) 2009 Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal is out of the Australian Open in the quarterfinals. , No. 7 Tomas Berdych defeated the No. 3 player in the world 6-2, 6-0, 7-6 (5) on his fourth match point on Tuesday in Melbourne. Berdych has now reached his fifth career slam semifinal.

Coming into the match Berdych had lost 17 straight matches to Nadal.

The Czech was dominant in the first two sets, dishing out a second set bagel to the Spaniard. It was only the third time that Nadal lost a 6-0 set in a major. He lost 6-0 sets to Andy Roddick at the 2004 US Open in the second round and to Roger Federer in the 2006 Wimbledon final.

Berdych hit 41 winners to 21 unforced errors versus Nadal with 24 winners and 26 unforced errors.

The 14-time major champion was playing in just his seventh tournament since the French Open last June. Nadal had been sidelined with a wrist injury and then appendix surgery in November.

Nadal saved two match points in the 12th game of the final set. Berdych led 5-2 in the tiebreaker and Nadal rallied to get back on serve at 4-5. Berdych ended the match on the fourth match point as Nadal hit a return of serve into the net.

“As I said when I got here, it is always tough to come back from injuries,” said Nadal. “I am feeling OK, but it was not my day. Quarterfinals here is not bad for me.”

“I’m feeling ok. Just was not my day. It was a day that my opponent played better than me.”

“You can’t make the big difference of level during matches when you are coming back from injury.”

“You have to play well to play against a guy like Berdych. He’s a top player and today he played better than me.”

“As I said before, Tomas is ranked No. 5, No. 6 of the word, No. 7, I don’t know. He’s a top player. We cannot expect the things that — all the challenges that he put me on court today because he’s a top player. You have to play well to win against a player like Tomas. I didn’t play my best today. He played better than me and that’s it. That’s the sport. Sometimes, almost every time, is simple: the player who plays better, the player who is able to maintain the better rhythm, the better concentration, play with less mistakes, is the player who has more success. And today this player has been Tomas.”

“I start pretty well,” Berdych said. “I start with the plan that I set up before the match, and then it turns that it was the right one. I was able to keep going with the same plan all the way through the match. Even though that it was the first two sets kind of looks easy, you know, but you’re playing Rafa and you know what kind of opponent he is and you have to be ready for anything. So, you know, that’s why I keep myself really focused and was keep going all the way till the end and trying to make my chances. Even though he just changed a couple of things – he gets better in the third set – but still I was able to finish it and close it up in three sets.”

 

Andy Murray dashed the dreams of young Australian Nick Kyrgios on Tuesday night, winning 6-3 7-6 (5), 6-3 to reach the semifinals of the Australian Open.

In the round of 16, Kyrgios knocked out Andreas Seppi, the man who upset Roger Federer in the third round.

“It was a really good experience,” said Kyrgios. “That was my first Aussie Open Grand Slam match playing on Rod Laver, so that was really cool. But he was way too good for me tonight. There are some things I can take from that match and get better at. Yeah, he was just way too good for me.”

“Trying to win against Nick, which was tough ’cause he has an exceptional serve and makes it very difficult for you when he’s serving,” said Murray. “And, like I said on the court afterwards, it was very tricky conditions, as well. So I was quite happy with the way I handled everything tonight.”

“I think, you know, for me tonight it was a tricky one to judge, to say how well I played, because I found the conditions difficult tonight. So I tried to use the conditions to my advantage and played a slightly different style than what I had been in the other matches. I would say the match against Dimitrov was a very high level. It was a clean match. Both of us were striking the ball well. And, yeah, I made improvements with each of the matches. But then tonight, you know, I just tried to play the best with what the conditions were allowing you to do, and I think I did that quite well.”

Murray, a three-time losing finalist will next play Tomas Berdych.

“He’s a big guy,” Murray said of Berdych. “He strikes the ball very well. Yeah, he serves well. Yeah, he’s fairly calm on the court. I think he manages emotions fairly well. And, yeah, he’s obviously played extremely well this tournament so far. Just by looking at the results, he’s had some good wins and played well in Doha. He’ll be coming into the match with confidence.”

 

 

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Notes and Quotes from Day 3 of the 2015 Australian Open

 

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(January 21, 2015) A few of the more off-beat questions and answers from Day 3 news conferences at the Australian Open.

 

Lots has been made about some of the hairstyles of the guys on tour. Have you noticed any of those on court?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Actually, no. I mean, there has been talk that I’m not going to play in the cap anymore. But in the conditions like that I just have to. It’s important to keep yourself fresh and just try to go through the heat and the sun and not playing with your hair. Let’s leave it for the football players.

 

For the soccer players?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Yeah, soccer players.

 

Congratulations on your engagement, even if it’s old.

TOMAS BERDYCH: Thank you.

 

Can I ask how you popped the question, proposed?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, it was simple, as you normally do. We had a good time. It was in holidays after the season. Actually, it was funny. I had some plan how to do it, but like three days we get pretty bad weather, so it’s almost impossible to do that. Then it was nice, and they help us to make a nice setup. It was like after the dinner on the beach.

 

Obviously this is a big step for you in your personal life. A guy like Novak has had big changes in his life, too. How important is it for you to maintain that balance, having the strong personal lives off the court? How much does that help you on the court?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, I think both things goes quite well together. I feel good about it to have a good personal life, and then combine it with my tennis life as well. Because I know that whatever is happening in tennis or around my career, and then I can come back home or wherever I am, I can talk with my partner about basically everything. We can talk about the other things, which is great, that I can just completely switch off from the tennis. That’s basically the best way how you can relax. Like everybody is asking, What do you do for relax? You don’t have to go anywhere or do any special things. It’s just that you don’t have to think about again, forehand, backhand and stuff like that. So you just talk about different stuff. That’s the best thing. Then once you step back on the tennis side, then you are absolutely focus for whatever you do. That’s it. So for me, I think it’s a great combination.

 

Does your fiancee have any input on your outfits?

TOMAS BERDYCH: No, no, no. Honestly, no, because the designer team is quite big and strong and they are already coming up with the ideas. Basically the whole line or the whole year is already almost preset, so I already knew what’s going to be going on through the whole year. Well, it’s going to be interesting. There is going to be — or even me and my input is just like slightly. It’s good about small details and most likely how is the fit and fabric and stuff like that. That’s how it works so far.

 

It was hot out there today. Think you were the only person without any head gear on. Does the heat bother you at all?

RICHARD GASQUET: Yeah, it was hot on the court, but the Aussie fan was nice with me, so it was a great atmosphere on the court. So even if it was hot, the court is great. So it was a lot of fun to play today on the court.

 

 

You talked about how coming back feels like a second career. Do you feel after today you’re making the most of this chance?

VIKTOR TROICKI: Trying to. I would use any chance that I get. I’m enjoying playing tennis and having fun on the court. I missed it a lot and that gives me a lot of joy on the court and a lot of motivation. Trying to use any chance, any match, any tournament. It’s going well. (Smiling.)

 

You obviously had some good wins since you came back. Was today, because it’s in a slam, was that the best win you’ve had so far?

VIKTOR TROICKI: No, I wouldn’t say. It was a good win. Definitely Leonardo played great. He improved a lot. But I think I had better wins than this. This one was important since it was a Grand Slam and I had a long run. Yeah, it was a good win, but not the best.

 

Can you describe coming back last fall, playing qualifiers again, playing challengers, how tough that was? Was it humbling?

VIKTOR TROICKI: It was different. Very different. Playing small challengers, starting from the quallies, it was — it gave me some memories back when I was starting actually. I knew I’ve done it once, so why not do it again? I had a lot of support from everyone close to me, and my coaches were with me. I wanted to give my best and to get back to the top as soon as I could. I think I did a good job with that, so I’m pleased with that.

 

Did you ever question during the time away if you would come back or if you could return?

VIKTOR TROICKI: I never was thinking about quitting, but after I had some time off and I didn’t play tennis, I started missing it. Yeah, I started practicing hard, harder than ever before probably. I had some doubts, of course. I didn’t know how it was going to go and if I will come back. In the practice it looked good, playing against the good guys and everything. But in the matches, not having a match for a year, it was kind of — didn’t know how to feel. That first match in Gstaad gave me a lot of confidence. I’m thankful to the tournament of Gstaad where they gave me a wildcard to play in the main draw and beating Dominic Thiem first match after a year gave me a lot of confidence for my comeback. Also, I won my next match, so reached quarters in the first tournament, and that was — I knew I could get back fast, and that gave me a lot of confidence.

 

Who were you practicing with in the year you were out?

VIKTOR TROICKI: In the start, as I said, I didn’t practice at all. But afterwards, Novak probably the most. I traveled to some places where he was playing the tournaments. Obviously I could not play during the tournament on site, but before the tournament I was using any chance that I could to play with anyone. Also in Monte-Carlo where I spend most of the time because I live there. There’s a lot of players there, so I used any chance. Also back home in Belgrade when I was there, there is obviously a lot of young players. For me, since I couldn’t attend any — since I couldn’t be at any site, at any event, it was hard to get good players. But any chance that I could get, you know, I used it. That gave me a good practice. So I used any chances.

 

You’ve had some time to reflect on what happened. Do you still have any resentment about the way your case was handled?

VIKTOR TROICKI: You know what? Sometimes I see it in newspapers and some headlines it says that I refused to give a blood test. I never refused. That’s what hurts me. I want everyone to know that I never refused anything. I just asked for permission and I was allowed by the doctor that day not to give a blood test. I gave urine and I have blood test the next day. It hurts me. I know that I’m innocent and I didn’t do anything wrong. That hurts me obviously. And I’m being punished for following the wrong instructions. The instructions that I was given were wrong. That hurts me. I’m paying a penalty for someone else’s bad instruction, but it was my fault that I didn’t do it that day. At the end, I’m a player who needs to obey the rules. She was giving me instructions, wrong instructions, and she was not punished at all. So that’s what hurts me. I’m over it. I mean, that’s in the past. Trying to focus for the future. But it will always be a mark and I will always remember it as a bad memory.

 

One more question about the past. When you said you didn’t practice at all at first after the ban, why was that?

VIKTOR TROICKI: Because I had fun.

 

Okay. It wasn’t because you thought you might not come back?

VIKTOR TROICKI: No, no. It wasn’t that. Well, I started doing some things that I couldn’t do before while I was playing tournaments all the time. I just wanted to enjoy a bit. I skied a lot. I was month and a half spending on the mountain skiing. I was hanging out with my friends, family, traveling to some places. Novak was nice taking me to some places. Then I just had fun. I didn’t want to play tennis in the start because it was just a lot of negative thoughts. I just want to relax and enjoy. I never thought of giving up. It even made me more angrier and gave me more motivation to get back even better than I was. To all my team, actually. That’s why I was working even harder and better than ever. That work is paying off now.

 

The skiing and traveling wasn’t more fun than playing tennis?

VIKTOR TROICKI: Well, I needed some time off. Let’s put it that way, after when it happened. But after some time not doing something that you love, that ever since you are a kid I dreamed about playing tennis and professionally, and my goal was to play big stadium, big tournament, playing against the top guys, being a top guy. When you are forbidden to do something that you love, you start missing it a lot. You want to get back and be there again and be even better and prove to the world that you can be there again. That’s what was pushing me. Gave me a lot of motivation to get back.

 

You painted the lines there in that game that you saved a couple of match points. You were gutting it out. Can you tell us about your thought process.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I thought my thought process through the match to that point was pretty negative. I think I was dwelling too much on my mistakes, what I was doing wrong, not really being in the present, something that I’m really usually good at. At that point when you’re behind and you feel like you’re making a lot of errors, you don’t feel like you have a good rhythm out there, I just really tried to take it a point at a time, think positively, and change my thought process a little bit. When other things aren’t working, maybe the mental side of things will help you out. I think in the end maybe that’s what did.

 

You then had a service game where you easily held after having some trouble with that. Was that because you continued with that positive frame of mind?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, unlike the previous 30 service games, I actually served smart and did the right thing, I thought. I wasn’t trying to go for a line, for big first serve, when I didn’t have a good rhythm. They were good serves, but they weren’t over 180 kilometers. They were good placement serves, out of reach. Yeah, not too many rallies in that game.

 

Why do you think your mindset maybe drifted off track from where you’re usually able to keep something unusual happening that you thought led it astray?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I thought I did everything I needed to to have a good, solid first set. I was up 30-Love on the first service game, new balls, a few sloppy errors, all of a sudden your opponent gets a bit more confidence and thinks she has a chance to win. All of a sudden she’s out of the tournament. Then in her mind, Well, wait, I’m not out yet. Little by little it’s a combination of, you know, you kind of going the wrong direction and her starting to play, you know, quite well.

 

Did you know anything about her before the match?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, not too much actually, no.

 

You do a fair amount of fist pumping when you play. Is that sort of an important part of getting you mentally in the game, just a part of your process? What is that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know how to answer, What is that? It’s something that I’ve done since I was quite young. I think I’ve always been a very intense and aggressive player. Yeah, I actually don’t think I did that as much as I maybe usually do. I think I was a bit more subtle about things today.

 

When you saved the two match points, did you sense that Alexandra lost the belief that she could win it?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I was down two breaks in the third. I mean, the only belief I had was just try to get into the rallies. She served some really good games out there where I didn’t have much chances. When I did, I thought I could put a little more thought into her mind, get those first serves back. I think that was really important. You know, I think she became a little bit more tentative in that last game. Of course, based on experience, you lift yourself up both mentally and physically.

 

Going forward in the tournament, what are the positives that can come out of surviving a scare like that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just the fact that you did pull through and that you’re giving yourself a chance to keep going. You know, as I say, you never know how you’re going to feel until you go out on the court and compete and play. No matter how you prepare, what you did, once you get out there, everything starts from scratch. It was a tough day, but I pulled through. I guess at this point that’s what matters. Certainly gives me a lot amount of confidence that I didn’t play my best tennis and was able to come through. Sometimes that’s good.

 

You’re one of the toughest mental players in the game. What do you think the key is to your mental toughness and fighting spirit? Where does that come from?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I don’t know, but I like winning more than I like losing. I’m sure that goes for many people. But, you know, no matter how things go within a match, that’s why I said I didn’t feel that I was positive enough, even though I was making a few more errors than I would have liked. And I wasn’t making enough first serves. But I was thinking about it too much instead of just like being in the present, saying, Hey, go up to the line; do what you do; do what you’ve done thousands of times. I’m good at that and I’ll continue to be good at that. But some days are just a little off. Today was one of them.

 

There’s been a change in one of the ITF rules about players who can play for Fed Cup or Davis Cup. Now a player can only play for one country. For example, if for any reason you wanted to play for the United States, you can’t because you represented Russia before. What’s your opinion on that kind of rule? Do you think players should be able to play for whatever country they want to?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven’t heard of that rule. I’m not sure. I don’t have any plans of playing for another country at this point. I’m very happy playing for Russia, as I have for my whole career. That’s the way I see the rest of my career going.

 

What goes through your mind when your back is against the wall?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it’s not the easiest position to be in because you feel like things are just kind of getting out of your control. Usually I’m a type of player that is aggressive, the one that’s doing something out there, not really waiting for another person’s mistake. You know, until the very end I still try to dictate’, I still try to find my way. But, yeah, your back is against the wall, I guess.

 

You play either Diyas or Schmiedlova next. Neither of those are probably well-known to you. What are your thoughts about having a first week of unfamiliar faces?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I guess that’s the way the draw shaped up. I have faced players I haven’t played in a long time, or like today someone I haven’t played before either of the girls coming up in my next match. It’s always tricky. No doubt about that. It’s unusual after being on the tour for many years. Yet there are always girls coming up that are rising, doing well. Diyas is a top-32 seed now with some of her results last year. Don’t know too much about the other girl. Depending on that result – I’m sure my coach is out there watching a bit – we’ll talk a little bit. But I don’t think the focus is really on the other side. I think especially after today’s match, I really just want to focus on what I have to do.

 

Do you ever watch things yourself, pull up YouTube?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, we usually do a little bit of that, especially if I’m unfamiliar with a girl I’m facing against, or sometimes a few highlights of matches I’ve played against players. I don’t watch too much. But, yeah, it’s nice to have. YouTube is a good source.

 

Do you ever watch your own videos?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I really dislike doing that. I’m not a fan. But it’s quite educational, at least that’s what the coaches tell me. But, yeah, it’s good once in a while. It’s nice to see something from a different perspective because, I’m quite a stubborn individual. You see something from your own eyes on the court, but sometimes your coach, or this little camera on top shows you a different picture. It’s nice to see that painting because sometimes it comes out completely different.

 

Why don’t you like watching yourself?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know. Sometimes I just feel like I have better things to do.

 

Who do you think is dressing the best on court this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I quite like my outfit, so…

 

But others?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven’t seen all the outfits yet. Maybe I’ll check on Getty, yeah.

 

 

You’ve been playing quite well in the exhibition matches recently, but how much more satisfaction do you get from putting together a match like that here at a Grand Slam?

ANDY MURRAY: Well, it depends. I mean, some exhibition events are different to others. You know, a lot of the events I played at the beginning of the year — everyone’s wanting to get matches at this stage. You don’t want to come in having not sort of played competitive matches. Yeah, I felt like the players I played in Abu Dhabi and at the Hopman Cup. Everyone wants to win those matches. They’re not sort of gimme matches. I felt like I was playing well coming in. I feel like I started the tournament pretty well. First round was tricky. I didn’t know my opponent well. Today was better.

 

There’s been a lot of talk about ITF rule changes regarding Davis Cup participation; getting stricter about one player being able to play for one country in their career. Do you think someone like Bedene should be able to play for Britain when he becomes a citizen?

ANDY MURRAY: I don’t know. It’s not really my area. Yeah, I mean, I heard they changed the rules a little bit and that you can only play for one nation.

 

As it is now, if you ever played for anybody, that’s it.

ANDY MURRAY: That’s it, yeah, which I think is fine. But I believe he had all of his paperwork and stuff in before the rule change, so I’m not sure exactly what’s happening with his situation. But, yeah, that’s not really my area to say what’s right and wrong, though.

 

Do you think you’ve proven a point today, you and Amelie, given Marinko’s comments?

ANDY MURRAY: No. I get on well with Marinko. I spoke to him a little bit about what he said. He didn’t mean any harm. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion on anything. If he wants to get coached by a man, that’s absolutely fine. I have absolutely no issue with it at all. I still think he’s a good guy. I get on well with him. I wasn’t trying to prove a point at all when I was playing Marinko today. I was trying to win the match.

 

You’re a guy that likes to watch a lot of other sports and has opinions on other sports. I wonder if our cricketers would envy you with a 10-nil victory ratio against Australians. Where does all that come from?

ANDY MURRAY: I don’t know, to be honest. That’s not loads. Obviously, I played loads against like French players, a lot more than that. But, yeah, I don’t know exactly why. I think, like I said on the court, there’s obviously going to be a lot more challenging matches I think over the next few years when all the young guys keep improving and are getting better. So, yeah, I’ll struggle to keep on to a perfect record against Aussies, I would say, in the coming years. But, yeah, I have played well against them in the past.

 

Do you watch cricket, the Ashes?

ANDY MURRAY: I do from time to time. I obviously can’t watch the whole tests. But, yeah, I watch bits and pieces when it’s on. But normally, yeah, I’m training. It’s one of those things. I don’t know if anyone here sits and watches like the whole five days or not. You kind of see bits and pieces.

 

Is part of the thrill of being in Australia being two weeks ahead on what’s happening on Neighbours?

ANDY MURRAY: I’ve never watched Neighbours in my life, here or back home (smiling).

Q. Were you surprised about the first set of Bolelli, who never won a set versus you? Are you also surprised he never beat a top-10 player in 33 matches, and now 34?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I thought he played two really good sets against me in Davis Cup, so I felt like he was really, you know, imposing his strength at the baseline. I could sense there that he had a good forehand; committed, you know, on the return; solid backhand with the option to hit the slice. I wasn’t that surprised, to be honest, you know. I was just surprised how well, how consistently he was doing that, and especially how well he was serving actually. But then again, conditions were fast, which made it easier to serve well and harder to return. Maybe the break, I shouldn’t be broken, but he was really playing very well from the baseline. I guess in these conditions sometimes a break can be a set. That’s when I was under pressure for a while in the second set, but I’m happy I fought my way out of it.

 

Q. How is your finger and how is the blister?

ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know if it’s a blister. I don’t know what that thing is. It’s the weirdest thing. I don’t know. I feel it on the tip of my finger. Just felt really odd starting after the break, and for three, four games, it was the funniest feeling I have. I feel like it’s numb and swollen. So, I don’t know, I just wanted to have a chat with the…

 

Q. When you touched it, it was weird?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I don’t know what it was. I still don’t know. I just wanted to have a chat with the — what is his name — the physio just see what we can do. I know there is nothing we could do. I knew we couldn’t tape it up because then it would be even bigger and more weird. I just said, I hope it doesn’t get worse or stay like this. Actually it went away, but now I feel again. I don’t know what the feeling is.

 

Q. Might be a bee sting, you were saying?

ROGER FEDERER: I was thinking it could be that.

 

Q. Physio didn’t know what it was?

ROGER FEDERER: No. You can’t see anything (laughter). But it is definitely swollen and it’s funny. I don’t know what it is. As long as it’s not getting bad, it’s okay.

 

Q. You didn’t like the cameraman when he came too close. You said, Do you need to come that close?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, the guy is like in my ear. No I don’t like it because I think there’s a bit of privacy. In that space I’m just discussing the options of what we can do, and you feel like the guy is sneaking up on you. It’s not the best feeling, yeah. So I asked him if he needed to be that close. He clearly didn’t, because he backed off (smiling).

 

Russia has become one of the main organizers of sports events. It’s also a country that’s involved in all sorts of political problems. Do you think professional athletes should go to any country a federation sends them to, or do they have a personal responsibility playing in countries that are involved in war or human rights violations?

ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know. I mean, in tennis we can do whatever, I guess. It’s up to us where we want to go. We don’t get sent by the federation or anybody. It’s our call if you want to do it or not. Then whatever your beliefs are, it’s going to get you there or not.

 

Have you ever considered boycotting an event for political reasons?

ROGER FEDERER: I’ve never been in a position like this, to be honest.

 

You haven’t played in Russia since 2002. Is that a coincidence?

ROGER FEDERER: It’s not a coincidence. It’s just because it didn’t fit in my schedule.

 

Can I ask you a question about age?

ROGER FEDERER: I’d love to talk about that (laughter).

 

Do we lay too much emphasis on it? Do you feel like you’re the same guy in the same body as you were a couple years ago, or do you actually feel you have to adjust a little bit because you are no longer the youngest?

ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, I feel fine. I don’t feel any different to let’s say four years ago. I really don’t. You maybe pay attention a bit more and listen to the signs of your body a bit more. By now I know my body even better. Clearly as the years go by I guess you also want to try out new things. But that’s not really necessarily always down to age. It’s simple just to say, Okay, you did that because such and such. But actually it was just to make it different, make it fresh, make it new, try something else. That may be whatever the decision it was, but clearly you have to listen to your body. I think the mind also becomes important. How badly do you want to be out there? How badly do you want to play and win? Why are you still doing it? Are you doing it for the right reasons? I think that becomes, in my opinion, more important than the whole body talk that everybody puts emphasis on.

 

I know you’re a fan of a lot of sports. What do you think of rugby? Who would you be supporting in this year’s Rugby World Cup?

ROGER FEDERER: I’ll be supporting South Africa, of course. Yeah, I honestly don’t see it very often. I don’t know why. I don’t know where we are in the world when it’s happening, why I keep missing it. I was talking to somebody, maybe some — I don’t remember. But I see cricket frequently. When we go to the States and we follow the American sports over there. In Europe it’s more of the football, soccer, all that. With rugby, for some reason I don’t see it enough. But I’ll be supporting South Africa.

Do you choose to, on your days off, attend some of these sports? While in America, do you go see the L.A. Kings?

ROGER FEDERER: I’ve been to the Heat and the Lakers. Never been to a cricket game or a rugby game. Never been in Formula One. When we’re in town or they’re in town, there’s no other event happening. It’s the same for us. Yeah, I mean, Moto GP I’ve gone to see. There’s clearly many things I would like to do. I went to an Arsenal game during the World Tour Finals now. That was good fun. I try to, but it’s not always that simple, you know.

 

What are your thoughts on how Mandela used the South Africa rugby team to change the course of history in South Africa?

ROGER FEDERER: I think it’s wonderful how he brought the country together. It was a big, big moment in sports for everybody, more so for the people in South Africa. It was an amazing moment.

 

With Li Na not playing this year, do you feel more attention, more people watching you back home in China?

PENG SHUAI: I didn’t really watch this because the tennis now in China for sure is more popular than before because more tournament, more player on the tour. I think she make two Grand Slam, and also before like start from 17, 18, first with the Olympic go, then get more and more the good result in China. And also, you know, like the marketing, more popular, more tournament in China. For sure is more people watch tennis now. Yeah.

 

Do you think it’s important for Chinese players to continue to do well in order for the sport to get bigger in China?

PENG SHUAI: I think tennis is really good sport and also good for, how you say, like also be professional and to play, have fun. Because young kids or old people, they all can play and then they have fun. If more people watch, play for sure have a lot more player. I think everybody is want to improve, get better result. Is not only like a girl, for sure. Maybe future have a boy. I think everybody ask, are looking for this. And then, yeah, I wish I can get more better, but I don’t know, yeah.

 

 

Q. Would you mind talking about what men’s rivalry has been sort of the most impressionable on you, whether it’s coming up or now, in men’s tennis?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Whew, I don’t know. Personally for me, I haven’t felt that there’s a rivalry at the moment to play against one player over and over again. I mean, obviously, so to speak, the younger generation, the younger guys are really pushing through and winning rounds. If you can call that a rivalry, maybe that’s the way it is. But, you know, so far in a way it’s early in the tournament to say that. In general, the year just began. Let it unfold a little bit before we jump into any conclusion.

 

Q. What about for you when you were younger? Were you a tennis fan growing up when you were a kid?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Well, I’m not that young anymore if you think about it, but definitely growing up of course I had idols. I’ve looked up to a lot of players, following their success, their path. But I think now all that is behind me. I’m doing my own personality in my own way. So I think that’s good.

 

Q. Within yourself, do you think you’re ready to win a slam or do you think you might have a little ways to go?GRIGOR DIMITROV: If you ask me, of course I’d say yes. But that’s something that I definitely need to show I think throughout all the matches and be even more consistent. If I’m ready? Yeah, I think I’m ready. But before you get to the final or something like that, you need to go through quite a few players that are the top right now and playing their greatest tennis. I think the game has evolved so much in the past years that instead of getting easier, it’s getting harder. I think you have a lot of guys, they have more experience, they’re older, they’re fitter. You have that on the radar. But in the same time, you know, I’ve worked throughout my career so far to position myself in those kind of matches. I’m out there to win those ones, so I think I’m aiming higher.

 

Q. Maria scored an incredible come-from-behind win today. Can I ask you what makes her so tough?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: I think days like that defines who you are. It’s simple.

 

Q. And the definition of Maria is just…

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Well, I think I should be the last person to sort of judge that, but I think you can’t name one thing in particular with her. I think she’s been fighting throughout all those years, through everything that is in her way, jumped all the hurdles and all the obstacles. By far the greatest fighter ever.

 

 

 

How much did the crowd help you in the tough moments?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, I thought the crowd was massive today. They got behind me a lot at some really key moments. They got a bit carried away with some things. That’s going to happen. It was a lot of fun as well. I was interacting with the crowd. At stages they were telling me where he was going to serve. They obviously think it’s pretty easy out there. No, it was a lot of fun.

 

The atmosphere on Rod Laver compared to a show court is a lot different. Do you have a preference either way?

NICK KYRGIOS: No, I don’t mind. I guess when you play on a show court you know it’s going to get a bit more rowdy, a bit more out of control I think. I’ve never actually played on Rod apart from my junior final against Thanasi. The crowd was pretty empty for that. Yeah, I’ve never experienced that, so I can’t give you that answer.

 

Do you feel the crowd is giving the Australian players an advantage?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, they’re getting behind us. I think it’s tough right now when you have Groth versus Kokkinakis, who to go for. But, yeah, I think they’re helping the Aussies a lot.

 

Did you put in a request for a show court or…

NICK KYRGIOS: No, I didn’t put a request for any court. I just saw I was on Show Court 3. It’s a good court. I’m not going to complain. It’s a Grand Slam. Yeah, it was a really good court.

 

What do we take from your hair? What does it tell us about your personality? Tell us a little bit about your eyebrow, too.

NICK KYRGIOS: I don’t know. I guess it’s just youth. You know, you’re not going to see Roger or Novak doing things like this. I don’t know. Just doing it.

 

It’s a bit of fun for you, too?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, I guess. I got sort of known for having some lines in my hair at some stage last year. It’s my last Grand Slam as a teenager. I don’t think I’ll be doing this stuff when I’m 20.

 

Are you someone who looks ahead in the draw?

NICK KYRGIOS: Not usually, but it’s hard when social media these days when guys are saying, Kyrgios, Federer fourth round when the draw just came out. It’s hard not to look ahead, but I think especially for me, this tournament I wasn’t looking too far ahead. I knew that I had a big task ahead of me with Delbonis. I’m really happy that I’m getting through.

 

Any thoughts on that potential matchup?

NICK KYRGIOS: Not at this stage, no.

 

How much does it do for your confidence, beating a player that you regard so highly?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, I’m feeling really confident now, especially I played a good clay-courter first round. I thought he played really well. Obviously physically backing up after five sets as well, I can take massive confidence out of that. Ivo today, I thought he had the best year of his life last year. He got to top 20 at some stage. He’s 25 now. He’s playing some good tennis. With that serve, he can obviously beat a lot of players. I think he beat Djokovic a couple weeks ago. I knew he was going to be tough. That gives me massive confidence.

 

How much attention do you pay to what’s going on in the media?

NICK KYRGIOS: A lot. It’s hard to not read that stuff. I mean, there should be a lot of expectation on Australians playing their home Grand Slam. We all know there’s a lot of expectation on us. It’s fair enough. We should be performing at Grand Slams. Yeah, I’m just happy I got through.

 

Was there one rivalry when you were younger growing up that you really watched that you liked to watch as a fan, I guess?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to go past Federer and Nadal. I mean, they haven’t played each other in a long time, but every time they were in the same section or anything like that, they’re definitely thinking about it. I think it’s the greatest rivalry of all time. That’s the generation I was watching when I was a kid. I mean, I still am a kid. It’s happened pretty quick.

 

As you get older, do you think your bravado and showmanship on court…

NICK KYRGIOS: Are you asking me if I’m going to mature?

 

Pat Rafter said you were still a bit too emotional on court.

NICK KYRGIOS: Uhm, geez, I don’t know. I don’t know what to say to that. He has his own opinion, I guess.

 

 

During the warmup Genie’s Army was going crazy. You had a big smile on your face. How much enjoyment do you get from them being present?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: It’s really fun. I think they brought a lot of energy tonight. I think they played well. They were aggressive, showed their presence at good moments. It just makes it more fun. I think the rest of the crowd appreciates it as well. They kind of laugh and get into it. During the warmup they were also playing the Taylor Swift song Shake It Off. That’s why I was smiling. I almost wanted to sing, but I told myself not to.

 

Did you follow Sharapova at all today? A chance you might see her down the road. Did you see it was pretty tight?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I didn’t. I mean, I know like what happened, but I was like warming up and doing my things. But, yeah, I mean, that’s far off in the future. So I just have a match on Friday and that’s all I’m concerned about.

 

Does the surprise you someone 25 years old, 150, can hold two match points against Sharapova? Does that surprise you?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: No. We’re at a Grand Slam. Every player can perform well. It’s just if they bring their game on that day and maybe someone else is not play as well that day. I mean, there are a lot of good players out there. This stuff happens all the time. Doesn’t surprise me.

 

Sleeping until 1:00 p.m., can I ask how many hours of sleep that was?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: That was like between 12 and 13 hours of sleep.

 

This may be the first time in your professional career that you are going to face a player whose coach has coached you and may know you better than other coaches. If you were Nathalie Tauziat, what would you tell Caroline Garcia about you?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don’t think I’m going to answer that. She’s amazing; you’re going to get killed. No, I’m kidding. Yeah, that’s true. I worked with Nathalie a little bit. I guess that’s how the tennis world is. It’s a small world. Kind of musical chairs in terms of coaching. I’m sure it won’t be the last time in my career. Yeah, but it won’t really bother me. I’m not playing against the coach, I’m playing against the player. I’m not going to worry about it. I’m still friendly with Nathalie, so it’s all good.

 

Last week there was a story that the Hong Kong Tennis Association were fined by the WTA because of what happened in Hong Kong. The reason was they felt they damaged your reputation. Did you feel the incident damaged your reputation?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don’t think so. You know, I didn’t make any mistake in any way. I never entered the tournament, so I can’t withdraw from a tournament if I’ve never entered it. It’s just unfortunate what happened, but I think the WTA is good in terms of they want to protect their players, protect their own image. I think what they did is fine.

 

You seemed to have a little trouble with the twirl.

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: With the what?

 

Twirl.

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: It was very unexpected. I mean, yeah, I don’t know. An old guy asking you to twirl, it was funny.

 

I guess Serena did it.

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Well, Serena is good at her twirls. She does them all the time.

 

Serena was telling us this year, it’s the year of the back in terms of dresses. Are you going to get on that bandwagon?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Maybe I should. I mean, she must know like what’s coming up in fashion and stuff. Maybe I should cut a hole in my top tonight and show off my back like Serena.

 

You said after your first-round match you didn’t know a whole lot about Tim. How much did you learn in the last couple days? Were you surprised by the way he played in the end?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I saw him play some videos. I checked some videos. Well, I think he played well, but is true that what he did at the end of the fifth is just amazing. Congratulate. I say on the court, but I want to say here, too. Very few players can do that after four hours something of match, 5-All, Love-30. So just will say thanks to him because he’s a great example what he did today.

 

What was your reaction? Were you surprised?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, sure. At the end should not be surprising, but is surprise. That’s not positive thing. But is good. Is great. Is very difficult to make it and he did, so just congratulate.

 

After the third set, what was happening in your mind and body? Did you feel at this moment that you can still turn this around?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, no. I felt very tired. I felt, I don’t know. At the end of the first set, I start to feel my body very bad, very tired. I don’t know. I was worrying crazy. Then when I was serving for the third, almost throw up. So was terrible feeling, no? I suffered too much on court for three hours and a half. I was suffering a lot. Too much. You know, was not funny today the way that the match was. Obviously is a very positive thing that finally have the chance to win, but, yeah, I hope to recover myself.

 

Any explanation of what went wrong?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I just go out. But is true that the weather was different today than the last couple of weeks. Very humid. I am sweating a lot always when it’s humid. But, I don’t know, long time without competition, with tough conditions, but at the end happened something more. Is obvious, no? I practiced a lot. Should not be that tired after 40 minutes. That’s obvious, no? Something happened, and I feel lucky to have the chance to finish the match, and then to find a way to win. So very positive for me. As I say the other day, all the moments I spend on court are important. Is not positive be like this, but in general you know important to win these kind of matches. That’s give me the possibility to play again, and I going to try to make better the next day.

 

The suffering that you had on the court today, is that one of the toughest wins you’ve ever pulled off?

RAFAEL NADAL: In terms of feeling bad on the court, yes. Probably yes. I was close to not continue because I felt that I was very dizzy. I felt that I can lose little bit the – I don’t know how to say – can fall down. So is true that after the third, fourth, and fifth, I tried to play much more aggressive, without running, no running anymore, and try to go for the winners and play little bit better, play little bit more relax. In terms of physically, at the end of the match I started to felt little bit better.

 

What do you feel about your ability to dig down and come through? Do you think that is a talent that you have?

RAFAEL NADAL: All during my career is obvious that I was able to find solutions for tough moments. I was able to win matches where I was in trouble. Sure, is an ability, but you know I worked very hard during all my career to resist, to try to be strong mentally. Is obvious that all the practices when I was a kid, all the moments that I suffered, helps.

 

If someone at the final of the challenger in Napa said, Don’t worry, in a few months you’ll be the attention of world media in a fabulous Australian Open match against one of the great players of our era, what would you say?

TIM SMYCZEK: I probably wasn’t really thinking about that at the time. The challengers are great for honing your game and really getting some work done. That’s the way I treat them. So, you know, it’s kind of just like an added bonus coming here and playing well. That was really special tonight. It was pretty clear Rafa didn’t have his best stuff. But it just shows the kind of player, the kind of champion he is because, you know, he was sick and not playing well. That was his C or D game. He found a way to win. So hats off to him. That’s why he’s one of the best.

 

You’re proud of your performance? Talk about your performance.

TIM SMYCZEK: Yeah, I mean, very happy with the way I played. I had a good game plan going in. The most important thing I thought was for me to try and stay within myself. I thought I did a pretty good job of that. I didn’t really struggle with nerves too much just because I got nothing to lose. Very happy with the way I served. I was happy that I was able to go for four hours and still feel okay. But, yeah, very happy.

 

At the end you feel a little bit disappointed because at the end you didn’t win?

TIM SMYCZEK: Yeah, I thought I had him for a minute. When he was kind of doubled over I could see he was really hurting. I started to believe that I really, you know, had a chance and could get it done. But he turned it up to another gear. That’s why he’s been one of the best for years and years.

 

Have you ever played a better match? Is that the best level of tennis you’ve hit so far?

TIM SMYCZEK: I think that’s the longest I’ve sustained a level like that. I think throughout my career I’ve had flashes like that. But that’s definitely one of the positives I’ll take from it, you know, being able to sustain that for four and eight/ninths of a set.

 

What was your game plan going in?

TIM SMYCZEK: I kind of studied him. He’s maybe the one that I’ve studied the least out of the top guys just because he does so many things that I’m not capable of. But that being said, I have spent a lot of time watching him. We were going to try and just try and keep him from hitting forehands in his backhand corner because it’s lethal from there. Trying to pin him in his forehand corner, then when I had a chance, to really be forceful with a ball to his backhand.

 

Talk about what happened at 6-5 in the fifth when the spectator shouted. Rafa was serving. You indicated he should take another serve.

TIM SMYCZEK: I couldn’t make out what he said. I don’t know if the guy didn’t know he was tossing the ball or not, but it clearly bothered him. You know, I thought it was the right thing to do.

 

Where is your next match going to be?

TIM SMYCZEK: I’m entered in the Maui challenger next week. I think I might pull out of that one unfortunately. Need a couple days off after that. But assuming I’m healthy and everything, I’ll start up at the Dallas challenger.

 

What I was getting at with the question is you come off 15,000 spectators, several million around the world, and your next will be somewhat fewer. Where is the motivation going to come from?

TIM SMYCZEK: Like I said earlier, the challengers really serve a very specific purpose. It will be on me to go in there and really take care of business, you know, try and pick up points and work on my ranking. So, yeah, it’s definitely not going to be the same as playing a night session on Rod Laver. It’s just part of the deal with being ranked 100 in the world. You’ve got to do it.

 

If you had to point to something, what is the most remarkable point of Nadal’s game?

TIM SMYCZEK: Just his competitiveness. I mean, he was playing terrible. I have to be careful what I say. He was not playing well and he still found a way to just come back and hit another gear that he could tap into. It’s hard to argue with how good his forehand is. It will probably go down as the best lefty forehand of all time.

 

At the point he doubled over, you were up two sets to one. Even when you were racking upsets you weren’t thinking you might do it?

TIM SMYCZEK: Like I said going into the match, I wouldn’t have walked out on the court if I didn’t think I had a prayer. But there was a certain point in the match where I started to really, you know, think it was going to happen.

 

Talk about Rafa’s competitiveness. Is that something as a player that you feel on the other side of the net?

TIM SMYCZEK: At one point, I think it was in the fourth set, I had a service game where he didn’t really move for any of my serves, and I hit a couple aces. I think that kind of struck me as odd. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do that. So I think just, you know, the fact that I was so surprised with him not making moves for balls just goes to show — he’s been on the tour for 10, 11 years, whatever it is. But you almost never see him take a point off. So that was kind of one of the biggest challenges going into the match. I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot free. That puts a lot of pressure on a lot of guys.

 

Did you have any difficulty with the spacing of the court, how big behind the baseline is? Did that ever throw you off?

TIM SMYCZEK: I loved it. It gave me a little room to run. It was a little bit odd. I hit on Laver yesterday. I was flagging balls into the stand. It was a little bit of an adjustment. By the time the match rolled around, I was fine.

 

Do you have Polish roots?

TIM SMYCZEK: I do. I don’t speak Polish, though. Sorry.

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Murray in a Hurry Quickly Advances to Australian Open Third Round

(January 21, 2014) Andy Murray extended his record against Australians to 10-0 by taking down Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the third round of the Australian Open on Wednesday.

“I think he fought hard up until the end,” Murray said. Obviously after a tough start for him, he definitely hung in, you know, went a couple of breaks up in the second set. He came back, you know, made it tight sort of end of the second set. You know, there was a lot of long, close games. Even the third set, as well. I just said to him that he fought well. Yeah, he wished me luck. There’s not loads you say at the net straight after a match. There’s only a few seconds.

Murray, who is friends with Matosevic, commented about playing in front of the partisan Australian crowd.

“It was a fun atmosphere to play today. Even if not everyone was supporting me.”

Commenting on her perfect record against Australians, Murray said “I’m sure I won’t be able to hold on to the record with the fantastic players you’ve coming through”

“I played well today,” the Scot said. “The conditions change the way the court plays significantly. It bounces a lot higher. Using variety, using higher balls, you get a lot of success with that; whereas when it’s very cold you don’t get so much success with it. So when the temperature’s like this, I quite like it.”

The three-time Australian Open finalist won the match in 102 minutes with 21 winners and only 12 unforced errors.

The World No. 6 will play Portugal’s Joao Sousa in the third round. Sousa led 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4, 1-0 when No. 32 seed Martin Klizan retired from the match.

More to follow

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Nadal Speeds Past Youzhny to Advance at Australian Open

 

(January 19, 2015) Rafael Nadal answered any questions about his confidence, form or fitness on Monday in a dominating one hour, fifty-minute victory over Russian Mikhail Youzhny 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday in Rod Laver Arena.

“Very positive result for me,” Nadal said. “I think very good start. Very important, no? Always before the first match you always have the doubts, especially in this situation I’m arriving here. Never easy, but it was an important match for me. Every match is very important for me today. Was a comfortable victory that give me some confidence.”

The Spaniard hit 37 winners in the match with just 15 unforced errors.

Nadal was sidelined at the end of 2014 after his appendix was removed.

“Last year, second half of the year had been tough mentally, tough physically for me,” said the world No. 3.

“Last year was tough year with my back because I had problems here, then in Rio, then in Roland Garros, then I didn’t have more because I didn’t play more,” Nadal said with a smile. But for the moment, for this year, I am feeling well. The back is not limiting me, so that’s important for the moment, no? I know the back is dangerous. I know the back is a thing that you have to take care about. We are trying to do the right things to be safe with that, but there is things you cannot control.”

Nadal will American Tim Smyczek next.

“I don’t know very well,” Nadal admitted. “I talked little bit about. But he’s losing the third. I don’t know what’s going on. But, anyway, for me always, but especially today, all opponents are dangerous. All opponents are going to be difficult, and with the maximum respect for everybody and knowing that anything can happen in every round against anyone. So just going to go on court with the same spirit as today, maximum respect, trying to be very focus, and try to play little bit the same way like I did today. I think I did very positive things. I am trying to improve in the thing that I need to improve a little bit more.”

 

Sixth-seeded Scot Andy Murray began his Australian Open with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) win over Indian qualifier and 2009 Australian Open Junior champion Yuki Bhambri in Margaret Court Arena.

“I thought it was a tricky match,” Murray said. “He played very close to the baseline on that court. I feel it’s quicker than Rod Laver and Hisense. He was coming forward a lot. Even when I was hitting good returns, he was changing the direction of the ball very quickly and coming to the net. He played well up at the net. He had good hands, solid volleys and made it tough. I thought I served well the whole match. I served well. I just got caught a few times the first shot after the serve. Could have been a little bit better my first shot after the return. I don’t know if that was something to do with me feeling like the court was a bit quicker. I felt a little bit rushed there. I served very well. That was good.”

Murray had to rally from 1-4 down in the third set.

“He was rushing me. I was saying it was more my movement after the return or after the serve. I was a little bit slow there. Once I got into the rallies I was moving good. But because of the way he was playing, and also maybe just feeling that court was a bit quicker, I thought it was a little bit slow on the first shot of each rally”

Murray is a three-time losing finalist in Melbourne in 2010, 2011 and 2013.

The Scot will play Australian Marinko Matosevic next.

“Well, hopefully I’ll play well,” Murray said “I need to continue serving well. That helps against whoever you’re playing against. Yeah, when you play against a big guy who likes to go for his shots, if you can keep good weight and depth behind your shots, that can frustrate them. I’ll try and use some variety to throw his timing off a little bit. Yeah. Just continue doing what I’ve been doing the last few weeks. I’ve been playing very well in the practices and striking the ball cleanly in the matches. If I keep that up, I’ll keep getting better each round.

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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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Andy Murray Announces Clothing Deal with Under Armour

Murray UnderArmour

(December 30, 2014) Under Armour announced the addition of professional tennis player Andy Murray to its roster of athletes on Tuesday. As part of the 4-year partnership, Murray will wear Under Armour® apparel, footwear, and accessories and will be featured in marketing campaigns, will participate in global training and tennis activations, and will make appearances for the brand beginning in January 2015.

“I am very honored and excited to be joining Team Under Armour and to help them tell their story globally,” said Murray on his website. “They are committed to providing innovative apparel, accessories, and footwear, with an unmatched focus on training and performance.”

“Signing Andy is really a special moment for the brand, as we continue to elevate and diversify our athlete roster and expand our international presence,” said Ryan Kuehl, Under Armour’s Senior Category Director, Global Golf and Tennis.  “Andy’s remarkable character, competitive spirit and unmatched ability make him the perfect fit for our family.”

Murray’s manager, Matt Gentry, added, “Andy is very committed and focused when it comes to training and preparation, so the new partnership with Under Armour is an exciting and ideal match.  Athlete performance and product innovation are the brand’s core pillars, which will have strong benefits for Andy and the team in 2015 and beyond.”

Murray joins an Under Armour which includes athletes Lindsey Vonn, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Stephen Curry, Jordan Spieth and fellow tennis player Sloane Stephens.

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International Premier Tennis League in Manila

By Abigail Hinto

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Federer and Nishikori reign supreme in Group B at ATP World Tour Finals

Roger Federer photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Roger Federer photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Chalkdust Chronicles: Federer and Nishikori reign supreme in Group B at ATP World Tour Finals

(November 13, 2014) LONDON – Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori qualified from Group B to advance to the knockout stages of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

 

The Japanese player had to wait for his confirmation, but his win over alternate David Ferrer pushed Federer into the semi-finals. Nishikori was scheduled to face Milos Raonic, who was 0-2 already in the competition, but despite practicing earlier, he pulled out with a quad injury a couple of hours before the match was due to start.

The Canadian explained: “It was just something I sustained during my last match. Through extensive sort of research with the doctor’s team here, we found that I have a slight tear on the vastus medialis on my quad.”

 

On medical advice he was told that taking to the court could mean putting himself out of action for a considerable amount of time.

 

“Losing six to eight weeks of solely rehab sort of means you lose 12 weeks of getting back into shape and everything, those are definitely significant factors in my decision. At some points I didn’t want to accept it and listen to it. But it is what it is. I, alongside my team, all the staff with the ATP, made the best decision I believe.”

 

So it was left to David Ferrer to step in with the scenarios changing, and for the first time the crowd were treated to a three-set match as the Spaniard took advantage of a lapse in Nishikori’s level to edge the first set, but an early break at the start of the second sent the momentum back Nishikori’s way, as he ran away with it in the third set claiming th amtch 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

 

“It’s never easy playing against David because he’s very consistent from the baseline,” said Nishikori. “If I want to win, I have to do something to break his tennis. From the second set, I was more aggressive. The final set was almost perfect.”

The final match alas did not live up to its promise, as Roger Federer blasted Andy Murray off the court 6-0, 6-1. After holding his first game, Federer went on a tear to win 10 games in a row before the battered Brit finally got a game on the board, only for Federer to wrap up the set in less than an hour.

 

After the match Federer said: “I think if there’s a slight difference of the level from the baseline, hard to get out of it. We’ve seen it all week. The serve doesn’t have that much impact. I didn’t even necessarily serve so well. But you got to play the right way here, use the court to your advantage as much as you can.

 

He continued: “But I had the upper hand from the baseline, which hasn’t always happened against him. But I definitely was able to play on my terms. For me, things went very well. I was able to put Andy under pressure very often, and I think the match couldn’t have gone any better for me really.”

 

 

Coming straight into his post-match news conference Murray admitted: “He played exceptionally well. I can say I’m disappointed with my level tonight. But if I played well, he probably still would have won anyway. He was striking the ball very, very clean. Made very few mistakes. Was hitting the ball off the middle of the racquet on serve, returns.”

 

Murray is on best-man duty for best friend Ross Hutchins next week and has just 14 days before the start of the International Premier Tennis League, where he will be playing in a series of exhibition events, before playing in the Mubadala World Tennis Championships and the Hopman Cup ahead of the start of the season.

 

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Murray on the board as errors do in Raonic

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

Chalkdust Chronicles: Murray on the board as errors do in Raonic

 

(November 11, 2014) LONDON – Andy Murray thrived with a raucous evening crowd to get his first win on the board at the Barclays ATP world Tour Finals, with a straight sets win over Milos Raonic 6-3, 7-5.

 

After a day of one-sided matches, and even the match-up between Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori earlier in the day not living up to its potential, it was down to Murray to address his head to head deficit over Raonic, who played pretty solidly in Paris before heading here.

 

Murray started with some very solid returning and was hitting with much more purpose than we saw in his first match against Nishikori, and was perhaps pressuring Raonic into rushing his shots. Certainly the Canadian was having a tougher time reigning in his first serve, and the flood of errors, especially on the forehand side over the match by far outweighed some sharp winners.

 

Raonic had little choice but to offer a frank assessment on his form, acknowledging that his first serve, a key foundation to his game, was not up to scratch.

 

“Whatever the reason is, I have 24 hours to solve it if I want to have any hope. There’s no way around that.”

 

He continued: “I’ve been too passive on the court. I’ve been trying to beat the two guys playing their tennis, and that’s going to work for me.”

 

Murray broke in the first set and kept his nose in front, but just when it seemed that the momentum was firmly with him with an early break at the start of the second, a lazy choice of drop-shot played onto Raonic’s hands to give him enough of an advantage to break straight back.

 

Murray was starting to rush a little and if anything Raonic was beginning to find that serve of his, banging down a couple of aces to threaten taking it to a tie-break or even a third set.

 

Twice Murray had to dig himself out of a 0-30 but again the Canadian was beginning to get carried away, going for too much, with Murray rewarded with another break.

 

Not that it was plain sailing at 6-5 for the Brit, with Raonic saving a match-point but Murray made no mistake at the second as yet another Raonic error gave Murray the match, but not before a cheeky little challenge by the Canadian before the inevitable.

After the match Murray said: “I obviously played better tonight. I hit the ball a lot cleaner than I did on Sunday from the beginning of the match. So that was pleasing. [I] started to try and use as much variation as possible on my second serve. So served more serves into his forehand. I wouldn’t serve like two or three serves to the same spot in a row. I would just try and use as much variation as I could so that he couldn’t be in as much of a rhythm.”

 

In a little bit of spice, Federer will have to qualify out of his third and final round robin match. He needed Murray to grind out a win in three sets to have guaranteed his place in the last four.

 

“For me it depends on the winner of the Nishikori/Raonic match. If Kei wins, then I need to beat Roger, it depends on the scoreline of that match with Kei and Raonic. If Raonic wins, then I know that all I need to do is win the match against Roger and I’ll be through.’

 

He concluded: ‘Hopefully I can get through the group and keep going. If not, playing against Roger is a good way for me to finish the year, as well.”

 

The final round-robin matches for Group B will be played on Thursday.

 

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Notes and Quotes from Day 1 of the ATP World Tour Finals

Singles+Official+Portrait

Photo by www.red-photographic.com

(November 9, 2014) LONDON – Notes and quotes from the Day 1  news conferences of the ATP World Tour Finals, which included Roger Federer, Kei Nishikori, Andy Murray and Milos Raonic.

 

Roger Federer

On the possibility of ending 2014 year with the No. 1 ranking:

“I have a small shot at world No. 1 after winning Shanghai. I mean, I’m happy it’s this way. But I think it’s highly unlikely it’s going to happen. If it does, obviously it’s great.

“But for me personally, it doesn’t really matter if it happened at the end of the year or any other week during the year, as long as you could get back to world No. 1 for one more time. I think that would be very special because I’ve been there and I know how much it would mean, because winning a tournament is a one‑week thing or a two‑week thing, but getting back to world No. 1 is an entirely different animal.

“I’ll try to get there, but obviously Novak is going to dictate as well what’s going to happen here.”

 

Asked about the greater rivalry of his career – Nadal or Djokovic:

“I feel a special connection towards Rafa just because we did, I don’t want to say come up together somewhat on the tour, but we did have a very strong, intense rivalry for many years, starting 2004 maybe. Especially we played each other that many times in finals of slams, which hasn’t been the case with the other players as much.

“I know Novak, the matches and the rivalry is nice. I really enjoy playing against him. It’s very evenly matched, you know. But I played him more often probably in semis than in finals most likely. I don’t know if that’s true, but that’s kind of how it felt like.

“Because me and Rafa were always 1 and 2 or 2 and 1 for so long. Murray and Djokovic always ended up in our semis for so long. So there was actually more opportunities to play those guys than Rafa, quite honestly, because getting to the finals is difficult.

“But then also I always like to look back and see who were my tougher players when I was coming up. In the beginning I struggled against the likes of Henman, Nalbandian, Hewitt, Roddick. So for me those were really interesting players to play against. I was lucky enough that Andre Agassi played as long as he did because I got to play him also, I think almost 15 times.”

 

Evaluating his win over Raonic:

“I think I played really well for probably one and a half sets. It was good to get off to a good start like I did against him at Cincinnati, and Wimbledon, I broke first game and sort of never looked back. I think when I had breakpoint in the second set, he was able to save that. When I was trying to hit a lob and he smashed it home, after that it became complicated. I don’t know why.

“I had a couple of games where I was up 40‑Love, and both times he came back and got into the game, which was probably my mistake. But it made me uncomfortable. I started to play a bit more passive. He started to become a bit more offensive. I actually think he was the better player from that moment on and deserved the set more than I did.

“Thankfully he didn’t play quite so well, like he did in Paris maybe. He gave me a few shots here and there, especially at the beginning of the breaker. I think those were crucial.

“I was happy to bring it home because it was very close at the end of the second.”

 

 

Milos Raonic

 

“But it’s obviously disappointing, very disappointing actually, the way I finished that second set off. “

 

“It took me more a set to find my way into the match because of playing Roger, not because of being here for the first time.”

 

“Every time you play Roger, the crowd’s on his side, even if he’s playing a local favorite. It’s hard for people to cheer against Roger.

“I’ve played him a few times. I’ve played home favorites on big courts also a few times, and in Davis Cup, many different situations. So it wasn’t any type of an issue.”

 

“I get pretty angry when I lose, so…

I’m going to have to learn how to slap myself out of it.”

 

Andy Murray

On his loss to Nishikori:

“I didn’t serve well enough today. I would say that was the biggest difference in the match. And when you’re not serving well, obviously on your own service games you want to be looking to dictate the points. When you’re returning, you kind of dictate when you have the opportunity. You don’t always have the chance if someone’s serving well.

“And, yeah, I didn’t serve well enough. He was able to dictate a lot of points, especially behind my second serve. That was, yeah, statistically the part of the match ‑‑ yeah, I mean, that was the part of the match where he had the upper hand. That was the difference. “

 

“It’s still obviously disappointing to lose the first match. And, yeah, I would have liked to have done better.”

 

“Obviously now I need to win my next two matches more than likely, and win them well if I want to go through. That’s going to be tricky because Milos obviously played fantastic last week in Paris, and Roger always plays well at this event.

 

“So I’m definitely going to have to play better if I want to get through.”

 

On the surface at the O2 Arena: “It’s quite lively, to be honest. It can be hard to control the ball that can bounce pretty high up on the serve, on the kick serve. Yeah, it’s quicker than the other courts.

 

“It’s definitely quicker than Valencia and Paris, I would say that. I don’t know exactly why that is, because the balls are the same and it’s the same court, I believe, manufacturer. I don’t know if it’s to do with just how big the stadium is, and it does get warm in there. I’m not sure. But, yeah, it’s quite lively.”

 

#458693032 / gettyimages.com

 Kei Nishikori

Asked about his confidence in his first–ever win over Murray:

“For sure I was different than these couple matches we played because this year I was, you know, much better player than before and more aggressive, you know, have bigger result this year.

 

“So that’s why I try not to think, you know, I can’t beat these guys, because I’ve been beating those top‑10 guys already. You know, this is even first time for me to play to a Final.

 

“But we’ve been playing a lot these players, and I was a little bit tight in the beginning, but, you know, I start feeling little more confidence in especially second set. I was very, very, you know, solid player.”

 

 

About playing in the O2 Arena:

“The court is same as Paris, so I was little bit used to, you know, playing this surface. But the stadium is huge. You know, I try not to look up too much because there was too many people on the top. Try to stay focus.

“Maybe when I walk into the stadium, I was nervous, but same time I was really excited to play with this crowd.

You know, I was thinking, you know, very honored to be here. You know, first time to be top‑eight player. I was really happy that I played good tennis on this situation.”

 

“There is, you know, still a long way to going to final and to win it. Play one match at a time and hope I can win couple matches here and go to semifinal.”

 

“I see Li Na and Srichaphan, I was looking up to them. I felt a lot of motivation from them.”

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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