2014/04/21

US Juniors Francis Taifoe and Reilly Opelka to Lead Off BNP Paribas Showdown at MSG

Francis Tiafoe

Francis Tiafoe

(February 20, 2014) New York, NY – Two promising American junior players will once again be featured as part of the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden. The match will feature a pair of 16-year-olds when Francis Taifoe takes on Reilly Opelka as part of World Tennis Day on March 3.

 

These juniors will play prior to Andy Murray taking on Novak Djokovic and the Bryan brothers facing the McEnroe brothers in the seventh annual BNP Paribas Showdown.

 

“We are very happy to have Francis and Reilly playing at the BNP Paribas Showdown this year,” said Jerry Solomon, President of StarGames, Inc. “So much of our mission with World Tennis Day is to encourage young players to pick up a racquet, so it’s important to have the opportunity to showcase junior players who are on their way to a future in the pro game. And it provides these young players an invaluable experience to compete in an arena like Madison Square Garden.”

 

Tiafoe is currently the No. 8 ranked junior player in the world. In 2013, he claimed his biggest title when he won the prestigious Orange Bowl, a tournament with a roster of former champions that includes Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and Roger Federer. He also helped the United States win a gold medal in World Junior Tennis, a 14-and-under team competition. Tiafoe trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., which is a USTA Certified Regional Training Center. Tiafoe began training at the center when coming to work with his father, an immigrant from Sierra Leone, who is a custodian there.

 

Opelka hails from Palm Coast, Fla., but now trains at the USTA Regional Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla. He finished 2013 with third round showings at the Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr International Junior Tennis Championships as well as the US Open junior tournament. Opelka stands 6-foot-8.

 

This will be the fourth time juniors have been included in the BNP Paribas Showdown. The previous junior matches have been:

2008: Denis Kudla (15 years old) vs Junior Ore (15)

2009: Sloane Stephens (15) vs Gail Brodsky (17)

2010: Nicole Gibbs (16) vs Sachia Vickery (14)

 

Several of those players have gone on to continued success. Stephens is currently ranked No. 18 in the world and broke onto the pro scene in 2013 with a run to the Australian Open semifinals. Kudla has reached a pair of ATP quarterfinals in his career, and broke into the Top 100 for the first time late 2013. Gibbs has won back-to-back NCAA individual championships while playing at Stanford.

 

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Murray Beats Querrey to Send Great Britain to the Davis Cup Quarterfinals

IMG_9611

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

 

(February 2, 2014) SAN DIEGO – With the Americans’ place in the 2014 Davis Cup World Group on the line, Sam Querrey ran neck and neck with Andy Murray today.  Unfortunately, he only kept pace with the 2-time major champion for two sets. Of those, he won just one. Therein lies the story of the match.  After a valiant effort, Querrey succumbed 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-3 in 2 hours and 54 minutes at Petco Park In San Diego.  Such is the challenge of playing against a member of the modern game’s “Big Four.”

 

“I had some ups and downs definitely,” Querrey said reflecting on the weekend. “Still bummed I lost that first one…but I’m proud of myself for putting it behind me and coming out strong today.” While Querrey was miles more competitive today than he managed to be on Friday versus James Ward, his loss clinched the tie for Great Britain.

 

Andy Murray, all but singlehandedly wiping the negative recent history of British tennis, guaranteed his side their first berth in the World Group quarterfinals for 28 years.  For your reference, Murray is 26 years old.

 

Despite the loss, US captain Jim Courier found positives in his team’s performance.  “We kept our heads together,” he said.  “I was proud of Sam and the way he competed.  I think Donald (Young) got some valuable experience…. Of Course Bob and Mike (Bryan) did that they do so well, which is compete hard and typically get us the win.”

 

Despite the unpredictable way in which the tie ultimately played out: Isner’s injury, Querrey’s flat opening performance and two ruthless displays by Murray, one questionable call may have played a major part in writing the final script, the Americans’ choice of a red clay surface.  Courier defended the choice at every turn throughout the week, pointing to strong prior performances by his squad on the terre battue. For his part at least, Murray was skeptical, “I was surprised they put it on clay, to be honest,” he said, even noting that the surface may have been helped Britain to victory.  “Yeah, obviously, it did have a bearing in the tie, for Sam especially.  I think his best surface is hard courts….I don’t know if they thought I wasn’t going to play because I had problems on clay last year with my back and coming off surgery.  So I don’t know”

 

Oddly enough, the road for the advancing team, Great Britain, on paper at least, becomes presumably easier than that for the losing American squad.  The Brits will play their next World Group tie away versus an Italian team headlined by Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini.  The United States, in falling to the World Group playoffs for the first time since 2010, could potentially face three teams headlined by major champions: (Spain, Serbia and Argentina) or our surging neighbor to the north, Canada, just to stay in the World Group for 2015.

 

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

Murray’s not quite thinking about the next tie just yet.  Still in the midst of recovery, the Dunblane native is still working his way back to playing his best ball.  “I’m proud of the way I’m playing just now because I had to do a lot of work to get back to where I wanted to be,” said Murray. “I’m still not quite there yet, but winning matches of that length and quality so soon after the surgery is good.”

With a tough challenge behind him and Murray’s mood lightening, he added “I’ll have done 13 weeks consecutively without a break of training and I’m playing tournaments to try and get myself back.  I need a break now, so I’ll take some days off after I get home, because I deserve it.”

 

Related articles:

Motivated Murray Dismisses Young

Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

Teams On The Edge

 

 

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Teams On The Edge

Courier and Bryans

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(February 1, 2014) SAN DIEGO – With the Southern California sun finally making an appearance and a partisan crowd finally making their presence both seen and heard, it was clearly a new day in this US vs. Great Britain Davis Cup World Group tie.  Nonetheless, the American team was still haunted by yesterday’s failures at Petco Park in San Diego.

 

For a doubles pairing that had just kept the American side alive in this Davis Cup, the Bryan Brothers were in no mood for celebrating—or even smiling—about their win today, neither was US Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier.  The Bryans raised their record as a team to 21-4 in the competition on the back of a decisive 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory over Dominic Inglot and Colin Fleming. Yet, it was clear from the beginning of their press conference that the twins had other things on their minds.

 

“Always feels bad to let the team down,” Bob said.  He was responding to the first question raised.  While the query was about winning this match following two uncharacteristic, five-set Davis Cup losses a season ago, Bryan’s allusion wasn’t lost on anyone.  Bob was as much referencing the still-stinging memories of their 2013 Davis Cup campaign as he was yesterday’s upset loss by Sam Querrey at the hands of James Ward.

 

The Bryans had little mercy on their opponents today, avenging their teammate’s defeat by drawing 45 forced errors from the British pair in a match that didn’t reach the two-hour mark.  Their only hiccup, a loose game on Bob’s serve in the third set, that cost the USA a straight sets triumph. “I think they just take it to you every time,” said Inglot about his opponents. “They always ask a question of you and they’re never going to give you any free points.” “The match can rush away from you,” Fleming added.  “When we got behind in sets, it can become a blur against them.”

 

As uncharitable as the Bryans were on-court, Courier matched in the pressroom.  When asked about Querrey’s chances of springing an upset of 2-time major champion Andy Murray tomorrow, Courier fired with little hesitation, “He’s going to have to play significantly better than he did yesterday to stand a chance.” The British squad, while realistic, wasn’t taking anything for granted.  When asked about Andy Murray’s chances against a player who had just suffered a disappointing loss, another thinly veiled reference to Querrey, British captain Leon Smith stifled the rumor of a smile breaking out on his face and replied “Very good.  Yeah, very good.”

Vito Ellison is in San Diego, California covering the Davis Cup tie between the USA and Great Britain for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on the site’s twitter @TennisNewsTPN, on his personal twitter @vblacklabel. and visit his site Blacklabeltennis.com.

Related articles:

Motivated Murray Dismisses Young

Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

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Motivated Murray Dismisses Young

Donald Young

Donald Young

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(January 31, 2014) SAN DIEGO – Donald Young and Andy Murray exist on two different planes of the tennis universe; they left the court Saturday afternoon showing just how far apart they are.  Dunblane’s favorite son, a champion on the fast courts of the US Open and Wimbledon, looked quite at home on the slow, by his words “slippery” red clay court in the outfield of Petco Park.  Murray dismissed his less-heralded American opponent 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in just an hour and 38 minutes.

 

The combatants played the first two games on the match on near-even terms, though Murray would end both occasions the victor.  From there, with the exception of some brief signs of life from Young in the third set, the gulf only widened. “I’ve seen [Murray] do that to a lot of guys,” said Young “So I don’t feel quite as bad…it’s just rough.”

 

With Friday’s victory, Murray increased his winning streak in Davis Cup to 17 consecutive singles matches.  Across the net, Young admitted to feeling nerves in his first outing for the USA.  “Everything seemed like it was in hyperspeed,” Young said, “it was tough for me, but I’m happy I got through it.”

 

A matchup against Murray would have been tough enough under neutral circumstances, but the World No. 6 has some extra motivation coming into this year’s event. “I’ve never started a year in Davis Cup when you could actually win the competition, so this year it’s obviously a little bit different,” Murray pointed out. “I mean, every time I’ve played Davis Cup, I’ve enjoyed it; I’ve played well…it’s not like when I’ve played I just haven’t been motivated. It’s a different mindset, coming in and being in the main competition and being able to actually win it. I’m excited this year.”

 

Murray is giving Great Britain his complete commitment to winning, at minimum, this tie at least versus the Americans.  In addition to the two singles matches, Murray is scheduled to suit up alongside Colin Fleming in the doubles tomorrow.  The British pair will take on fifteen-time major champions Bob and Mike Bryan.

 

Young will have to wait until Sunday for his shot at Davis Cup redemption.  There will be no less pressure though, he could be tapped to play a decisive fifth rubber versus James Ward. For his part, Young is looking forward to the challenge. “I’ll never have this problem again, this feeling of the first time.  I’m looking forward to Sunday if need be,” Young said.  “If I’m needed, I’m definitely looking forward to playing and I’ll feel a lot better and a lot more confident….”

Vito Ellison is in San Diego, California covering the Davis Cup tie between the USA and Great Britain for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on the site’s twitter @TennisNewsTPN, on his personal twitter @vblacklabel. and visit his site Blacklabeltennis.com.

Related articles:

Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

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Tennis News & Net Notes

Rafael Nadal

Tennis News & Net Notes for January 29, 2014

Rafael Nadal is scheduled for a medical exam on Monday.

Roger Federer to play Davis Cup against Serbia this weekend

Andy Murray held a media conference call about his participation in the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.

Andy Murray took to twitter to hold an impromptu Q & A session with fans.

Update on Juan Martin del Potro‘s visit to the Mayo Clinic. He has been prescribed a physical therapy program.

A Danish website says that Caroline Wozniacki has parted ways with her coach Thomas Hogstedt after just 2 tourneys working with him.

World No. 11 Milos Raonic, has pulled out of this weekend’s World Group tie against Japan due to an ankle injury he suffered at the Australian Open.

“Unfortunately I am pulling out of Davis Cup this week. I came to Tokyo believing my ankle would recover but it is not at a level where I feel I can compete or help my team,” said Raonic. “This decision was very difficult to make but I believe in the players on our team and that they can get us the win. With a team scenario the most important part this week is to come out with a team win and I believe this is the best way to do it.”

 

US Names Keys, Riske, McHale and Davis to Fed Cup Team

Ivan Lendl Holds Court with the Media on Powershares Series Tennis Conference Call

The U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships announced today that 2013 Champion, Kei Nishikori, will return to Memphis to defend his 2013 title.

Syracuse University announced on Wednesday that former pro and women’s tennis coach Luke Jensen has stepped down to pursue other opportunities. Jensen was hired back in August 2006.

Nominations announced for Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group and World Group II ties

On Tuesday two-time champion Vera Zvonareva advanced at Pattaya Open with her the first win of her comeback after an 18-month absence due to injury. She lost on Wednesday.

Har-Tru Sports will be a domestic sponsor of the U.S. vs. Great Britain Davis Cup by BNP Paribas First Round tie this weekend.

The ITF announced that Steve Ayles will become ITF Executive Commercial Consultant for Asia-Pacific. Ayles has held senior positions in sport for over 17 years, including his most recent position as Director of Commercial for Tennis Australia.

College Matchday to Highlight 22 NCAA Division I Matches in 2014

Results and Schedules:

OPEN GDF SUEZ
Paris, France
January 27-February 2, 2014
$710,000/Premier
Hard/Indoors

Results – Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Singles – Second Round

(1) Maria Sharapova (RUS) d. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 60 61
(4) Angelique Kerber (GER) d. Klara Zakopalova (CZE) 62 75
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d. (7) Carla Suárez Navarro (ESP) 62 36 63

Singles – First Round
(WC) Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. (5) Simona Halep (ROU) 76(1) 64
Elina Svitolina (UKR) d. (6) Roberta Vinci (ITA) 63 06 75
(8) Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) d. Mona Barthel (GER) 63 46 62
(Q) Galina Voskoboeva (KAZ) d. Stefanie Voegele (SUI) 57 75 76(3)

Doubles – Quarterfinals
(1) Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) d. (WC) Cornet/Garcia (FRA/FRA) 36 64 105 (Match TB)

Doubles – First Round
(3) Groenefeld/Peschke (GER/CZE) d. Hradecka/Krajicek (CZE/NED) 46 61 119 (Match TB)
Husarova/Rosolska (SVK/POL) d. Voracova/Zahlavova Strycova (CZE/CZE) 06 62 108 (Match TB)

Order Of Play – Thursday, January 30, 2014
Court Central (from 11.00hrs)

1. Elina Svitolina vs. Galina Voskoboeva
2. Yvonne Meusburger vs. Kirsten Flipkens (NB 13.00hrs)
3. Kristina Mladenovic vs. Andrea Petkovic
4. Karin Knapp vs. Sara Errani
5. Babos/Mladenovic vs. Husarova/Rosolska (NB 19.00hrs)
6. Alizé Cornet vs. Petra Kvitova (NB 21.00hrs)

Court 1 (from 13.00hrs)
1. Dushevina/Parra Santonja vs. Niculescu/Zakopalova
2. Jans-Ignacik/Olaru vs. Groenefeld/Peschke

PTT PATTAYA OPEN
Pattaya City, Thailand
January 27-February 2, 2014
$250,000/International
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Singles – Second Round
(3) Sorana Cirstea (ROU) d. Alison Riske (USA) 63 64
(4) Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) d. (WC) Vera Zvonareva (RUS) 60 62
Karolina Pliskova (CZE) d. (Q) Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) 46 63 64

Doubles – First Round
(3) Kudryavtseva/Rodionova (RUS/AUS) d. Kania/Solovyeva (POL/RUS) 75 64
(4) Peng/Zhang (CHN/CHN) d. Aoyama/Dulgheru (JPN/ROU) 63 63
Daniilidou/Krunic (GRE/SRB) d. Lertpitaksinchai/Plipuech (THA/THA) 46 62 119 (Match TB)
Chuang/Kumkhum (TPE/THA) d. (WC) Wongteanchai/Wongteanchai (THA/THA) 61 63
Savchuk/Tanasugarn (UKR/THA) d. Chan/Xu (TPE/CHN) 76(5) 75

Order Of Play - Thursday, January 30, 2014
Court 1 (from 15.00hrs)
1. Tadeja Majeric vs. Kimiko Date-Krumm
2. Elena Vesnina vs. Nicha Lertpitaksinchai
3. Alexandra Dulgheru vs. Peng Shuai

Court 2 (from 15.00hrs)
1. Lertcheewakarn/Zvonareva vs. Daniilidou/Krunic
2. Chuang/Kumkhum vs. Hlavackova/Medina Garrigues
3. Date-Krumm/Tomljanovic vs. Kudryavtseva/Rodionova

 

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“On The Call” with Andy Murray and the BNP Paribas Showdown at MSG

Murray BNP paribas

(January 29, 2014) Andy Murray discussed his upcoming match against Novak Djokovic in the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden scheduled for Monday, March 3 on a media conference call. The event which is part of World Tennis Day also features a doubles match featuring John and Patrick McEnroe as they take on the best doubles team of all-time and current World No. 1 Bob and Mike Bryan.

Here is a rough transcript of the conference call:

Q: Andy, there is another big event happening here in New York – do you have any predictions on the Superbowl?

 

Andy Murray (AM): I don’t follow American football hugely, but if I get the chance to I will try and watch the game.   I think I read on Twitter that Floyd Mayweather had bet $10 million dollars on the Denver Broncos to win, which is quite amazing.  I’ll go with them as maybe he knows something we all don’t.

 

Q: Are you looking forward to the event at Madison Square Garden?

 

AM: Yeah, it should be a great event. I’ve heard from the guys that played there before that it is an amazing atmosphere. When I went to look around they were in the middle of refurbishments but it looked liked it was going to be unbelievable so it should be a fun place to play!

 

Q: Andy, you had a very memorable 2012 U.S. Open against Novak (Djokovic). Would you characterize that as your greatest match with him ever?

 

AM: I guess from my side, yeah I would say that. I mean we’ve played in quite a few big ones over the past few years, we’ve played a couple of great matches in Australia as well, but I mean from my side that was my first grand slam for me, and the way that the match went as well where I was up two sets-to-love and then he came back and then to come through winning that, it was probably my best one against him.

 

Q: Can you just talk about the benefit for players at your level and Novak for playing an exhibition like this?

 

AM: It depends how you use them and what time of year they come at. I mean obviously in preparation for Indian Wells and Miami which are the two biggest events coming up, I mean to play a match in that atmosphere with that many people, you know is perfect preparation for those events coming up. I haven’t played in loads of exhibition matches over the last few years but it’s not often a chance comes around to play at a venue like that, Madison Square Garden. I am a huge, huge boxing fan and they have had a load of great fights over the years. I love my basketball as well so to play in a place like that where you might not be able to get that chance to do that ever again, where you know most tournaments we will get that opportunity. You know the exhibitions kind of will be great for us as players to play in different arenas and parts of the world, we don’t usually get to.

 

Q: Coming back from back surgery and playing the Australian Open, you are playing really well and then of course you play Roger. How do you feel about your expectations, did you feel you can play that well for a few rounds at the Australian Open?

 

AM: To be honest, I didn’t know, I didn’t really know. I think having not played at that level hurt me a little bit at the beginning of the match with Roger because he was obviously playing some really good tennis over in Australia. And, he started the match very well and at a very high pace. It was something that I almost wasn’t ready for and in a way I started to build into the match as it went on and to feel a little bit better as the match went on. I don’t know how I was going to play. I never had a surgery before. I didn’t know how my body was going to respond exactly. But, for the second tournament back it was good. I wasn’t expecting to play my best tennis but it was a good start. The positive is that my back is feeling good and hopefully that continues throughout the rest of the year.

 

Q: I saw on Twitter today you were tweeting your score evolution soccer match. Are you in San Diego right now? And, how are the preparations for the Davis Cup?

 

AM: Yeah, I got in on Sunday from Melbourne. It’s weird; I’ve never flown back to the States this way from Australia which was quiet strange. It was like an 19 hour time change for a 14 hour flight. So we left 11:00 on Sunday morning and we got back around 6:00 in the morning here, it was weird. I have kind of been struggling a bit with the jetlag. But they have set up a great stadium and stuff over here. I’ve never been to San Diego before. It’s a great city, everything is beautiful, and it’s so nice. The court’s a bit challenging as it’s very slippery and tricky to move on. The venue’s, I mean it’s incredible. It’s a great venue.

 

Q:  Did Ivan (Lendl) ever talk to you about some of the extraordinary matches he has played at Madison Square Garden and second to that, what is the greatest venue you have ever played in?

 

AM: I mean outside of the Slams I would say the Alter finals, I always find the atmosphere of playing indoors it seems like you are able to create … an extra buzz and a little bit more of excitement atmosphere. Like none of the noise kind of gets lost in the open. It all kind of stays inside of the arena. I think when Ivan was playing I mean he obviously played his last year with McEnroe you know they had the tour finals when he was playing and I hadn’t exactly spoken with him at that specific time matches. But I spoke with him about playing there he said it was amazing. Like the atmosphere was great and the event was unbelievable. I spoke to a couple of people about if it will ever go back there and it doesn’t look like it will work financially now-a-days. Ivan said it was a pretty cool place to play.

 

Q: Can you tell us how you feel when you are in New York City?

 

AM: There is so much energy in the city that’s for sure.  It’s a very busy place, there is a lot happening.  There is loads of stuff to do there.   When I was growing up it was my favorite place to play and favorite place to visit.  I love the event, I love the US Open, and I love the night matches and the atmosphere there.  It’s a fun place to go to because there is just so much to do.  As a player, all the big places we play in all across the world it’s a pretty unique atmosphere that you get at the US Open playing in New York.  It should be fun to go back and play at Madison Square Garden.  It’s a cool city and I’ve always enjoyed going there.  The first time I went I was fifteen years old and I’ve enjoyed it all the time.

 

Q: Did you get a chance to watch the final between Stan (Wawrinka) and Rafa (Nadal)?

 

AM: No, I was flying and I didn’t see any of it.

 

Q: What were your impressions in general on Stan’s performance in Melbourne and do you think it’s good for the game for someone like him to break through?

 

AM: I saw some of his match with Djokovic but I didn’t see too much of his matches during the first week.  He had a couple of walk-over’s in the first week and he played a great match with Novak.  I didn’t see the final and I saw a little bit of the semi-final with Berdych (Tomas) which was an unbelievable tight match.  I only heard what happened in the final from people who watched it.   I heard it was quite a tough watch just with everything that was going on.  Weather its good for the game or not that’s up for everyone else to decide.  As a player, when I’m playing I’m trying to win myself and when it’s done I try not to worry too much about it.  I think over the last, however long it’s been, there’s been so few different major winners.  I think, for fans it’s probably a bit more enjoyable to see the events a little bit more open than they have been in the past.  Different faces in the last stages of those events.

 

Q: Do you have any plans for an exhibition in Scotland this year?

 

AM: Yeah, we are looking to try and do one this year at some stage.  I’m not 100% sure it’s going to happen or not.  It’s something we definitely looked in to; I think it would be a good thing for me to do.  There’s no tennis competitions in Scotland, there is a few sort of Futures events.  There are no challengers or ATP events there.  It would be a good thing to try and set up an event or match there later on in the year if we can.  It’s not always easy to get the right venue to make everything work with timing with obviously with the way our tour works.   There aren’t loads of periods in the year where we can do it.  I’m hoping something will get started.

 

Q: Were you surprised when the US Team chose clay as the surface in Davis Cup and what are your thoughts on playing John Isner?

 

AM: I was a little bit surprised with the surface, to be honest.  By having played on the surface I see what they have tried to do.  It’s not like a traditional European clay court that is quite slow and heavy.  The sliding and stuff is different … I move okay on the clay. It’s not something I feel unbelievably uncomfortable on.  It’s not like a traditional clay court – it’s much faster, the balls are quick … there’s not a whole lot of top surface, it’s quite tough to move.  I can see what they were obviously trying to do with the surface.

 

In terms of playing Isner – I haven’t played him for a while. I think the last time I played him it was the US Open a few years ago.  He’s obviously always a tough guy to play just because of the way he plays and they way he serves and holds serve.  It’s always going to be a tough matchup.

 

The annual BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden is scheduled for Monday, March 3, 2014.  The McEnroe vs. Bryan doubles match will be followed by Andy Murray vs. Novak Djokovic. For more information: www.thegarden.com.

The BNP Paribas Showdown is part of the second annual World Tennis Day, a global celebration of tennis that includes Showdown events in Hong Kong and London in addition to New York City. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) and its member nations will host participation events such as clinics and open houses at clubs around the world as part of this day. In 2013, 58 nations held World Tennis Day participation events.

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Cibulkova routs Radwanska to reach Australian Open Final

Dominika Cibulkova

Dominika Cibulkova

(January 23, 2014) MELBOURNE – Dominika Cibulkova has decided that the Australian Open 2014 is a tournament in need of new blood, continuing on her absolutely stellar run at Melbourne Park this year to trounce world No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska in swift fashion, 6-1, 6-2, to secure a place in what will be her debut Grand Slam final.

 

From the moment she placed a single foot on the court to the moment she exited the stadium, Cibulkova was all over each and every point and with a degree of focus and determination seemingly like no other.

 

The Slovakian dictated play in a major way and in barely over half an hour, she had already closed out the first set on a break, 6-1.

 

Radwanska was, all the while, too passive as she failed to match the level of aggression coming from the other side of the net. She found it difficult to keep motivated once down a break in the second as Cibulkova defended any small chance she had at making a comeback on the scoreboard. What was more, was that the Pole only managed to win half of her points on her first serve and an abysmal 13 per cent of points upon her second.

 

The energetic Slovakian did not give Radwanska any time to readjust her game as she powered through the next set, 6-2.

 

Upon the last point whereby Radwanska made an untimely forehand error, Cibulkova fell to her knees, clutching her head in her hands in relief knowing that she had just set up her first Grand Slam final.

 

“​It was not easy when I was up in the second set,” Cibulkova admitted.

 

“The thought started to come that I could win, the result and everything. I have to say, I was 100 per cent ready for it and I was just doing what I had to do. That’s why I won. It wasn’t easy because against her you have to earn every point, you have to do the right thing, and that’s what I did.

 

“Today I was doing everything right. I was going for my shots. I was just doing everything perfect.

 

“I’m the first (Slovakian) female tennis player playing in the final. We are like five or six million, and they are all cheering for me. So, yeah, it’s big.”

 

Extraordinarily quick on her feet, her little legs move speedily to reach low balls, so much so that it seems bizarre that a little woman such as herself could harness such incredible energy levels to outrun her opponents of greater stature.

 

“It’s not about how tall are you. Even if you are tall, it doesn’t mean you are 100 per cent going to make it. It’s just that you have to really want something and just believe in it. There is nothing more important than this.”

 

This semifinal victory instigates a grand final clash with world No. 4 Li Na on Saturday evening.

 

​”She has been in the finals of Grand Slams many times,” Cibulkova said.

 

“She already won a Grand Slam, so she knows how it is. I’m playing in the finals, so that’s something beautiful. It’s like a dream. So I will just go out there and play my best.”

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Roger Federer stops Andy Murray at Australian Open

Federer 2

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 22, 2013) MELBOURNE – 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer moves into the semifinals of Australian Open 2014 after defeating Andy Murray in four sets, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(6-8), 6-3.

 

Continuing on with his more recently favored net play on court, Federer broke ahead to a 3-1 lead in the first. He read play well, making good calls on when to leave balls which were to fall just long of the baseline, and took the first set in just half an hour.

 

Federer executed 54 winners throughout the match, many being a forehand winner shooting behind and out of arm’s reach of his Scottish opponent.

 

Murray’s unforced errors accumulated to an unforgivable 46 and he only won about half of his points upon second service. For the first two sets, Murray also missed a number of passing shots and his movement appeared relatively stiff. He did not quite seem his usual self on court and most definitely was not the Murray we remember from last year’s grand final.

 

Murray put this down to his ongoing recovery from back surgery and from not having had as many matches under his belt in the lead up to the Grand Slam. He was, on the contrary, proud to have come as far as he has, especially given the circumstances. But he denied his movement was in any way restricted on the night by his back issues.

 

“My back was okay,” Murray said after the match.

 

“​I don’t know how many players have come back from surgery and won the first Grand Slam back in their second tournament. Very unlikely to happen. I just need to use this as a stepping stone to getting better and be happy that I’ve gotten through five matches. The last two were particularly tough. I’m playing at a decent level fairly quickly again. Hopefully I’ll be back playing my best tennis soon.”

 

During the third set, there was a somewhat controversial point whereby the ball appeared to have double-bounced upon the slow-motion replay on the big screens in the stadium much to Murray’s frustration.

 

“​I hope it was played the right way,” Federer said, reflecting on the point.

 

“If it wasn’t, I’m sorry, but it’s an umpire’s call. I’ve been burnt by these calls before. I can’t remember the score, but clearly it was a big one. I think I ended up breaking him in the game.”

 

Fueled by the minor dispute with the umpire, Murray rose to the occasion of the Swiss’ second serve at break point to to level the score 5-5. The men worked their way into a nail-biting tie-break and Murray’s efforts saw him to protect two critical match points from Federer and he heightened his aggression to take the match to a fourth.

 

Murray had much more difficulty holding serve in the last set. Federer took advantage of his fizzling service energy to break ahead and served out the match.

 

​”I could sense that, you know, he was struggling… but then again, you don’t know how serious it is. Is he just doing it now and he’s going to be okay later when it matters. I’ve been in these positions before. For me, it was just a matter of staying calm and forgetting about it a little bit because, you know, the match was great until that point when I couldn’t get it done really.

 

“The transition game, from defense to offense, I definitely sensed that today. I am back physically. I’m explosive out there. I’m not afraid to go for balls.”

 

This victory grants Federer his 34th Grand Slam semifinal and 15th consecutive Australian Open semifinal appearance, all the while raising his match win streak at Melbourne Park to an incredible 73 matches.

 

“What I really love is (that) another Swiss is in the semis as well. It’s the first time in history, so that’s a big deal. I was really happy for Stan last night because he’s been putting in an amazing effort for the last few years and didn’t always get compensated. That’s the big news for me. I didn’t think about it all the time when I was playing, but it was definitely inspiring tennis by him last night. For me, it’s a dream run as well and I hope I can keep it up against Rafa.”

 

Federer is striving to become the second man in tennis history to clinch five Australian Open singles titles in their career. But first, he must overcome his Spanish rival in the semifinals – the world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Roger Federer Beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to Reach Australian Open Quarterfinals

Federer 3

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 20, 2014) MELBOURNE – Without having dropped even a single set on his road to the quarterfinals, Roger Federer has set up yet another clash with old rival Andy Murray this Wednesday after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, on Monday night.

 

The crowd roared in anticipation of the first true high-profile match of the tournament. From the get-go, Federer was focused in the moment, reading the motion of the ball and setting up opportunities to approach the net for cross-court winner volleys. The serve and volley tactics, reminiscent of his earlier days in the field, became a theme of his service games and saw him to hold each and every one of his serves.

 

Tsonga began attacking Federer’s backhand which was perhaps not at its strongest that evening. But with the exception of seizing a couple of break point opportunities here and there, Tsonga did not come close to backing up such chances at crucial moments or breaking ahead to a comfortable position on the scoreboard.

 

The former world No. 1 exhibited elegant shot-making of astounding precision and it was refreshing to watch him mix in the occasional net play rather than remain baseline bound for which he has become known in more recent times.

 

While Tsonga hit some breathtaking winners, he was shockingly inconsistent, claiming only about half of the points upon his second serve, and he failed to play anywhere near aggressively enough to pose any threat to the great Roger Federer.

 

“Don’t think I got broken today. That, against a great player. So I’m extremely happy with how things went for me tonight. I was able to play my game, offensive, mix it up, come to the net,” Federer said.

 

“I was good at net. I was consistent. I was solid. I was quick. I had the right mindset. I think the plan definitely worked out well for me tonight.

 

“I definitely felt like momentum was on my side, no doubt. I started the match well.”

 

This rising momentum worked against the Frenchman as the crowd often began to applaud a would-be-winner of Tsonga’s only to disband into a thrill of cheers as Federer would somehow manage to hit the ball back over the net.

 

Federer, however, identified some aspects of his game he could indeed improve on moving forward.

“I had some missed opportunities midway through the second set. I think I twice had 0-30, so I thought I could have done a bit better. But Jo did well to hang around and serve well when he had to.”

 

Reaching the quarterfinal round at the Australian Open for the eleventh year straight, the Swiss will contest Murray for a position in the semifinals. Federer is eagerly awaiting the challenge.

 

​”I think we’re both coming into this match with a good feeling. We’re both coming into this match, though, with some doubts slightly. I don’t know how he’s feeling. I haven’t seen him play much, to be quite honest.

 

“​It will be interesting because we both had an interesting year last year with some ups and downs. It’s a good start to the season for both of us already.”

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray Win Tough Challenges to Advance in Melbourne

Nadal fingers

(January 20, 2014) No. 1 Rafael Nadal and No. 4 Andy Murray survived challenges from opponents to move into the Australian Open quarterfinals on Monday.

Nadal beat a tough Kei Nishikori 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3).  Nadal survived a fall in the first set in which he broke his shoelace and had to get shoes from his locker, two breaks of serve in the final set and being called for time violation.

“We need referees who understand the game,” said Nadal in regard to his time violation.  “The rules cannot go against the good show.  That’s all.

“If you are playing with 40 degrees, you cannot expect to have 20 seconds recover, 25 seconds recover.  If you are playing crazy rallies, you cannot have 25 seconds recover because then you will not have more rallies because the players cannot have it.  So that goes against the fans, against the show.

“But I repeat:  nothing against the rules.  I accept the rules.  Sometimes I am wrong.  Sometimes I am too slow and I accept that.  I respect the decision of the referee even if I am not happy for that, because was not the right moment to do it, in my opinion, before an advise.  But she did.  That’s all.

“I going to try to go quicker for the future.  But is important to have people on the chair that really understand the game and people who manage this sport who understand the game, and that’s it.

“Because, if not, every time with Hawk Eye, the referee just start watching the watch, 25 seconds, then warning, so then we don’t need any more referees.  We only need lines.  That’s fine.

“Because if not, the referees don’t need to do all the rules.  That is my feeling.  We are making the referees worse than before with all the things that we are making for them easier.”

Nadal praised his opponent who gave him all he could handle for over three hours.

“Kei played fantastic match, in my opinion,” said Nadal.  “Just a few mistakes in some moments that was tough ones.  But for the rest, he played very aggressive, he went for the shots.  He came on court with determination to take the ball very early and go for the winners.

“He really had the right feelings to do it.  So just was a tough match, a very important win.  Very happy.”

Murray 88

Andy Murray failed to capitalize on four match points in the third set before dismissing lucky loser Stephane Robert of France 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

In a rare show of frustration, Murray smashed his racquet after the third set.

“Sometimes it’s necessary,’ Murray said with a smile.  “I had I think three match points.  I put a lot of hard work into that third set.  I maybe lost concentration when I served for it.

“In the tiebreak I didn’t lose concentration.  I just missed a couple of shots, one just wide on a forehand I hit clean, just missed.

“Then losing that set was frustrating because it obviously means you’re out there another 30, 40 minutes at least, when I would preferably had been in the locker room.

“My racquet bit the dust.  Unfortunate for it.  But, yeah, I was glad I managed to start well in the fourth.”

 

Despite Roger Federer’s fall in the rankings to No. 6, Murray expects a tough contest.

“I mean, four, five years ago he was losing like three matches a year.  I mean, it was ridiculous, you know, his record across all of the slams and on the regular tour.  I mean, you could count them on your hand how many matches he was losing during the year.

“I’d say the last couple years he’s lost a little bit more.  I think last year you could see at periods he was struggling with his back.  And if he’s fully fit, I’ve said all along, he’s always going to be there or thereabouts in the majors, and he’ll give himself opportunities to win more because he’s that good.”

For Murray, this is his first major tournament since back surgery in the Fall.

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