2015/07/02

On The Call: Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish to Play Doubles at Atlanta Open

 

Mardy FishAndyRoddick

(June 15, 2015) Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish will play doubles together at the BB&T Atlanta Open next month, and Fish is also going play singles. Roddick, retired since 2012 now works in as a sports broadcaster

Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion and former No. 1-ranked player, retired from professional tennis in 2012.

Fish, a former top U.S. player who was ranked in the Top Ten, who has not played since August 2013 was asked about his return to the court and if there are future tournaments beyond Atlanta for him. Fish has been suffering from an anxiety disorder.

“Unfortunately I can only look to Atlanta,” Fish said. “Just with how things have gone in the past few years, how things went in Indian Wells.  I wanted to play Miami.  Still sort of fighting the battle of the anxiety disorder, trying to get a firm grip on how I feel after matches.”
“So just the comfort of knowing how Atlanta is, knowing that we’ve had success there, getting to play doubles with Andy, sort of having friends and family around, it’s a perfect start there,” Fish said. “Then obviously it’s no secret, I’d love to go back to the US Open where sort of it all came crashing down for me in 2012, sort of conquer that place.  By ‘conquer’ I mean just get back out on the court there.  I have a lot of demons from that place.
“But there’s obviously other events, Washington, Cincinnati, that I really love playing as well, that I hope to try to pla

The Atlanta Open, which is a hard-court event, launches the U.S. Open Series beginning on July 27.

 

 

 

 

Transcript of the USTA Media Conference call courtesy of the USTA and ASAPSports

BRENDAN McINTYRE:  Good morning, everyone.  This is Brendan McIntyre, the director of corporate communications for the USTA.  I’d like to welcome everyone to the first conference call of the 2015 Emirates Airline US Open Series.  Today’s call is on behalf of the BB&T Atlanta Open.
Joining us today are Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish, to talk about their summer plans.  J. Wayne Richmond, the general manager of the Emirates Airline US Open Series, and Eddie Gonzalez, the tournament director and chief development officer for the BB&T Atlanta Open.
At this time I’d like to allow Eddie to give a few brief remarks and open up the call.
EDDIE GONZALEZ:  Thank you.
Today is a big day for us because it’s our Media Day.  We’re extremely excited and honored to kick off the Emirates Airline US Open Series with the summer hard courts leading up to eventually the US Open.
Today we announce our player field.  Being the first tournament back in the United States, we really wanted to kind of kick off our opening ceremony and session with a celebration of American tennis.  That’s going to feature a singles exhibition with Andy Roddick as a great former American champion against Francis Tiafoe, a future American champion.  We’re also very excited to Mardy has agreed to come play singles.
Atlanta has a lot of nice history to both players because Mardy has won our tournament twice, Andy won twice, his first ATP Tour event and his last event.
Once we knew we had Andy coming for a single’s exhibition and Mardy’s commitment to play in our main draw singles, I was thinking to myself, Gosh, wouldn’t it be great if those guys would agree to stay and play main draw doubles together.  It probably wasn’t, because less than 24 hours later Andy and Mardy’s team reached out to me and said, What do you think about Andy and Mardy playing doubles together?
So very excited to announce publicly for the first time here that Andy is actually coming out of retirement to play main draw doubles here in Atlanta with his good friend Mardy.  We’ll talk about that today as well as what the rest of their summer plans are.
Before we get to that, J. Wayne is our general manager and wants to say a few words.
J. WAYNE RICHMOND:  Thanks, Eddie.  First, thanks to the press and media to be with us this morning.
Andy and Mardy have always been two of my favorites, I know fan favorites across the U.S., and I think they own the Atlanta event between the two of them.
These two guys have been supporters of the Series since day one.  Andy has been the Series champion twice, in ’05 and ’06.  The only other player to do that has been Nadal.  Mardy did the same in 2011.
We’re just excited to have you two guys back.  We have a great summer ahead.  I look forward to seeing everybody on the road, particularly in Atlanta in a few weeks.
Welcome back, Andy and Mardy.
BRENDAN McINTYRE:  At this time we’re ready to open up the line for Q&A.

Q.  Andy and Mardy, could you talk about why you wanted to do this.  I remember last year you had talked about hoping to try to do this sort of thing maybe at the US Open.  I’m wondering whether that’s in the plans for later this summer.
ANDY RODDICK:  Yeah, we did want to play the Open last year, but it was my fault.  I didn’t know the rules.  I’m getting back into the drug testing pool.  So I kind of got Mardy all excited about it and couldn’t actually do it.
I think this is something we wanted to do.  Obviously with Mardy’s comeback, it’s been a pretty amazing story.  The fact that he’s going to pursue that even more this summer is really exciting.
We’ve been friends for a long time.  We kind of just wanted to play together one last time.  I wanted to play with my friend and kind of share in his comeback a little bit.
I don’t think we’re going to play in the US Open.  I have some personal stuff coming up later this year that I won’t be able to play.
Once we knew that, Atlanta seemed like the obvious choice.  We both had success there.  We both love that tournament.  I’m just jumped.  I hope I don’t embarrass myself out there.  I’m real excited.
I wasn’t a very good doubles player when I was actually good at tennis.  Mardy is going to have to do the heavy lifting.

Q.  You two have had a relationship in the juniors.  You played one another 13 times in the pro ranks.  How exciting is this to be doing this US Open Series together?  Andy, could you share your favorite story about Mardy.  Mardy, if you could share your favorite story about Andy, that would be great.
ANDY RODDICK:  Oh, God.  I’ll let you lead, Mardy, so I know what to respond with.
MARDY FISH:  I could go a lot of different ways with that one (laughter).
First of all, yeah, I echo Andy’s sentiment.  We’re really excited to play.  Like he said, we’ve been friends forever, since we were 12, playing each other.  Where was that, Altamonte Springs, Sanlando Park, was maybe the first time we played when we were 11 or 12.  Your dad thought I was cheating you.
ANDY RODDICK:  You probably were (laughter).
MARDY FISH:  I wasn’t.  Your dad yelled at me because he thought I was cheating, but I wasn’t.  You ended up beating me 7‑6, 7‑6.  First time we ever played in a real match.
No, we’ve got a long history.  We’re excited to do it there again in Atlanta.
I’m training probably harder than Andy is now because of the singles stuff.  But I’m on him to hopefully get back and at least start practicing a little bit more.
But we’re super excited.
ANDY RODDICK:  Yeah, that’s one of my favorite stories, too.  I remember it differently because I do know that Mardy was definitely cheating.  The yelling by my father was warranted (laughter).
But, yeah, we’re just excited.  I mean, I think the priority is on Mardy playing singles.  We’re going to have some fun with the doubles.  For a moment in time there, three or four years ago, Mardy could win on tour with anybody in doubles.  He’s one of the best doubles players I’ve ever seen.
I’m looking forward to it.  I plan on losing five pounds by the Atlanta tournament, then gaining 10 pounds back right away.

Q.  Andy, I assume that part of the personal reasons towards the end of the year is impending fatherhood.  Am I right there?
ANDY RODDICK:  Yeah.  A lot of naps.  I’m planning on taking a lot of naps this fall.

Q.  Can you talk a little bit about kind of your expectations, your apprehensions, and whichever sex this child is, would you like them to be playing professional tennis?
ANDY RODDICK:  I don’t know.  The question might be about 20 years premature.
You ask around, and everyone has some advice.  Mardy is a new father.  His son Beckett is just the best.  Thank goodness he looks like his mother.
You can have expectations, but I’m not going to know what it’s all going to be like until the baby’s actually here.
We’re just really excited.  We feel very lucky.

Q.  Mardy, can you chime in on that a little bit, too, as to athletics in your kid’s future.
MARDY FISH:  He’s going to be an athlete.  He’s going to be either a golfer or baseball player.  He’s going to be lefty.  He has no choice.

Q.  He has no choice?
MARDY FISH:  No (laughter).

Q.  You’re seeing signs already of athletic ability, I assume?
MARDY FISH:  When he picks up his plastic golf club, he picks it up lefty.  I get so excited.  But then he grabs it with his right hand and he whacks it with his right hand and I get bummed.
So we’ll see.

Q.  Mardy, with the singles comeback, how far down the road are you looking?  How much do you think you’d like to do, or you’re not really thinking about that just yet?
MARDY FISH:  Unfortunately I can only look to Atlanta, just with how things have gone in the past few years, how things went in Indian Wells.  I wanted to play Miami.  Still sort of fighting the battle of the anxiety disorder, trying to get a firm grip on how I feel after matches.  The part that helps me is all the different reps and things like that that you get.
I used to struggle with sleep.  Once you go to sleep at night so many times, you get better and better at it, you get more confident with it.  It’s hard for me to do the matches because there’s not very many, and there’s only so many situations I can kind of put myself in.
Indian Wells, in the first place, was a great place for me to start because it’s just a drive away.  My whole family could be there.
Atlanta is probably second easiest to that, considering how sort of comfortable the tournament is.  Conditions‑wise it will be a challenge as far as the weather and things.  But that’s stuff I grew up in and used to thrive in conditions like that on the court.
So just the comfort of knowing how Atlanta is, knowing that we’ve had success there, getting to play doubles with Andy, sort of having friends and family around, it’s a perfect start there.
Then obviously it’s no secret, I’d love to go back to the US Open where sort of it all came crashing down for me in 2012, sort of conquer that place.  By ‘conquer’ I mean just get back out on the court there.  I have a lot of demons from that place.
But there’s obviously other events, Washington, Cincinnati, that I really love playing as well, that I hope to try to play.
But it all starts in Atlanta for me.

Q.  This is a question you guys are probably tired of answering.  Curious to hear both your thoughts on the future of men’s tennis in America.
ANDY RODDICK:  I’ve actually never heard that question before (laughter).
MARDY FISH:  I can start a little bit because I’m out at Carson at our West Coast base for the USTA.  I’m out here quite a bit.  I’ve hit a lot with a lot of those guys.
We got a lot of young players coming up.  By ‘young’ I mean obviously Jack, who is 22 years old, but some of these guys are 17.  No.1 junior in the world right now, Taylor Fritz, has a big future.  There’s quite a lot of young guys that really can play.
I think age‑wise underneath those young Aussies that are coming up in Kyrgios, some of those kids, Tomic, who are 22 and 21 years old, 20, we have some 16, 17, 18‑year‑olds who can play, apart from Jack.
These guys, what you don’t understand, too, Donald Young, Sam Querrey to a certain extent, Sam is only 27 years old.  It sounds old, and he’s been out here for a long time, but it’s still really young.  He’s got a lot of time if he can figure out and rekindle a lot of the stuff that he did early in his career.
There’s a lot of guys age‑wise just underneath those Aussies that everyone is talking about that are really good players that you’ll hear a lot from in the next couple years.
ANDY RODDICK:  I think probably for the first time in a while, we can say we’re cumulatively as a tennis community in the States, there seems to be some really legitimate, authentic excitement.  Not just around one or two guys, but around a handful, five or six.  That’s the recipe.
When Mardy and I were coming up, we trained with six or seven guys.  Normally two come out of that and are top‑10 players.  That’s what you need.
I love the way that Jack has taken ownership over his ability.  It seems like there’s a sense of belief.  Getting that first‑round draw at the French Open against Grigor, going out and beating him in straight sets I thought was a huge mental step that now should pay itself forward.  Now it’s just a matter of playing like he did at Roland Garros and doing that every week.  That’s how you become one of the best players in the world.  He certainly has the tools.
I just learned at the beginning of this phone call the Monday night exhibition I’m playing against Frances Tiafoe, which literally scares the shit out of me.  Trust me, I went worse than, Oh, God!
I’m excited to see it.  The easiest way to kind of know what you’re dealing with is to see it firsthand.  I’m excited about it.
These guys are good.  I’m pumped about it.  I think there is some sense of optimism.  Let’s not compare them to the long shadow of American tennis; let’s let them make their own way.

Q.  We’re right in the swing of the grass season.  What do you think of the extra week that they’ve put now between the French Open and Wimbledon, whether you think that’s something that would have benefited you in your playing days, and how it will change the results we’ll see at Wimbledon down the road.
ANDY RODDICK:  I mean, it’s absolutely something that needed to happen.  Let me start this opinion with the fact that I’m extremely biased because grass was probably my favorite surface.
But you see guys that can make a living playing three tournaments a year away from the clay courts.  They can literally schedule February through September on clay, give or take a couple mandatory events.  Then to have one or two events in the lead‑up to the biggest tournament on earth as far as tradition I thought was a little ridiculous.
Frankly, it put a lot of pressure on guys that were trying to play well on grass because you knew you had one warmup event.  If that didn’t go well, you’re kind of searching for it in the middle of a Grand Slam.
I think this change was a long time coming.  I was one of the guys throwing a fit about it when I was playing.  I think it’s a no‑brainer, but I’m really glad that it’s there and it’s the way it should be.
Frankly, everybody is celebrating getting two or three weeks before Wimbledon.  There’s two or three months of clay court stuff before the French Open, so I still think there’s some work to be done.

Q.  My question is about coaching.  I know your brother coaches.  Do you have any interest in coaching college tennis in the near future or working with some of the young Americans like Taylor Fritz and others?
MARDY FISH:  Andy.
ANDY RODDICK:  (Indiscernible.)
MARDY FISH:  For free, too.
ANDY RODDICK:  Yeah, for free.
You know what, I don’t know if I’d be interested in college tennis.  My brother has done such a good job, but it’s such a foreign place for me.  I never played college tennis.  I don’t know that I can relate to it.
I know where he goes, the parts of the world he goes to to recruit.  It’s a hustle.  Frankly, it’s more of a commitment than I’m willing to put forward maybe ever again.
I have worked with some of the young USTA guys.  They’ve sent guys in for three or four days.  I’ve always been available for those guys.  I’m just glad that I’m getting taken up on it.
I think you don’t go through a career in U.S. tennis and not want to pay it forward and see the success of the next generation.  I’m happy to be involved in that in some way if I can going forward.
MARDY FISH:  Yeah, it’s funny, I owe a lot to the USTA sort of for my second career, if you will, after 2009.  They allowed sort of an old, broken‑down player that wasn’t working as hard as maybe he could have, didn’t reach the potential maybe he could have, and they still let me take a coach with me in David Nainkin and share him with Sam Querrey.  I always remember that.  Obviously it paid off for me and hopefully for them.  But I always feel indebted to them because of that.
I always enjoy helping, asking questions about how guys are doing when I’m on the court practicing with them.  It’s a lot of fun to sort of give some of the knowledge that you’ve learned over the years.

Q.  I’m in Germany, in Halle.  Tommy Haas is making yet another comeback here at age 37.  I’m wondering what you make of that?  Andy, you announced your retirement on your 30th birthday.  What do you think of somebody playing that deep into their life, fairly unchartered waters?
ANDY RODDICK:  I know Mardy has practiced with Tommy a lot pretty much always.  Since they both live in L.A., they’ve seen a lot of each other on the tennis court.
Tommy Haas knows how to play tennis.  He has such a high tennis IQ.  He’s been 2 in the world, and he still kind of wants to get out there and do it again.
It’s not the choice that I made.  I’m very comfortable with my choice.  But I have a lot of admiration for guys like Tommy, guys like Hewitt that are still out there, Mardy wanting to get back into the mix.  I certainly couldn’t respect it more.
MARDY FISH:  Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen Tommy obviously up close, like Andy said.  I practice with him quite a lot.  He’s had a lot of troubles with his injuries, his body and stuff.
But he’s really sort of shown a whole ‘nother step in the process of still wanting to play professional tennis, in this specific instance where he had a pretty bad shoulder injury for it’s now been quite a while.  Obviously he had surgery on it.  The rehab process has been so long.
There’s not many guys at all that would put in the time and the work that he does at his age, especially with the career he’s had, what he’s accomplished already.
Obviously he loves the game more than most.  He loves the work and the travel and all that stuff.  You have to just to continue to do what he does.
You know, I’m sure there’s some milestones that he’d love to get to, some goals he wants to get to.  There’s not very many guys that have won 600 matches.  Obviously, Andy knows how hard that is.
I think he’s made 35 or 25 or whatever, has 500 or so match wins.  That’s an incredible career there.  Once he gets to 600, which he certainly can over maybe the next year or so, it will be interesting to watch that.  He’s an awesome guy.

Q.  What was the most important lesson you learned in learning how to play on grass?
ANDY RODDICK:  Basically the way grass court tennis gets covered is a little bit of a misnomer.  I think they think people who serve big are automatically going to do well.  I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.  We hear a lot about movement on clay, a lot about movement on hard courts.  That rhetoric goes away once the grass court season comes.
I think it’s a huge talent to be able to move the right way on grass.  You see guys slipping and falling; they look uncomfortable.  I think that’s one part of it that gets completely undersold.
Also the quick twitch movement the guys that are slow and methodical don’t traditionally do well on grass, the points are quicker, quicker reactions.  I think that’s another thing that gets a little bit undersold.
MARDY FISH:  Yeah, I’d also say over the course of Andy and I’s careers, we came out in 2000, 2001 kind of era.  I think the courts have changed sort of the way you play grass court tennis once, twice, maybe three times over the course of the last 15, 16 years.
The courts have gotten better, slower.  The grass has gotten better.  The balls have gotten heavier and slower.  It brings a ton of different ways that you can play on grass.  That’s changed quite a bit.
I remember in 2003 to maybe 2006 or ‘7 I used to serve and volley on every first serve.  Lately, last time I went, 2011 might have been the last time I went, I hardly ever served and volleyed because you couldn’t because it was too slow.  Guys are too quick on returning and stuff like that.  It’s changed quite a bit.
BRENDAN McINTYRE:  Thank you, everybody, for getting on today’s call.  A special big thanks to Andy and Mardy for the early wakeup call.  We’re all looking forward to the start of the 2015 Emirates Airline US Open Series, and the BB&T Atlanta Open to kick it off.  This year we’ll be able to see the Emirates Airline US Open Series on ESPN and ESPN‑2 with more than 70 hours of live national coverage, and ESPN‑3 which will feature nearly 500 hours of weekday coverage.  Thank you for taking the call.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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The US Open Series Begins this Weekend in Atlanta

 

BB&TAtlantaOpen

By Herman Wood

(July 17, 2014) ATLANTA – Preparation for the US Open is underway.  The BB&T Atlanta Open gets things started on Saturday, July 19th for the men.  Qualifying begins at 10 AM.  The BB&T Atlanta Open is an ATP 250 event, with a 28 player draw, four of which come from the qualifying tournament.  The qualifying field will have 32 players.  The doubles draw is a 16 team field.  Last year’s champ, John Isner, is returning, along with fellow Americans Sam Querrey, Wimbledon doubles champ Jack Sock, and Donald Young.  Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Radek Stepanek, Ivo Karlovic, Ivan Dodig, Lleyton Hewitt, and the other half of the Wimbledon doubles championship team, Vasek Pospisil, are also expected in the tournament.  The tournament aspires to be a mini US Open, with the venue set among the skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta at Atlantic Station.  Atlantic Station is a community within downtown that provides homes for 10,000 people integrated with shopping, restaurants, and retailers that make it a hit with the players.  Besides the attractive venue, players will get a jump on the US Open Series Bonus Challenge, where nearly $40 million in prize money is up for grabs.  This is the third year the tournament has been held at Atlantic Station.

It is a familiar place for Americans, with Isner winning last year, Roddick in 2012, and Fish in 2011.  It has also been comfortable for big man tennis- last year Isner, at 6’10”, overcame Kevin Anderson at 6’8” in three tiebreaks.  Fans in the first couple of rows certainly had to pay attention with the huge serves coming their way.  It is especially familiar for Isner, who competed collegiately just an hour down the road for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, leading the team to a national championship and winning every possible team title in 2007.  He’s usually a fan favorite, with at least a couple of barks from Georgia fans in his favor at each match.  Isner may not be the only recipient of barks; University of Georgia player Austin Smith has accepted a wild card into the main draw. The sophomore from Cumming, Georgia excelled this season as the Bulldogs captured the 2014 SEC Championship. Smith finished with a 35-12 record, and went 9-1 in SEC matches. He has won four USTA Pro Circuit matches. A tournament qualifier in 2011, Smith will be playing his debut ATP main draw match.

Another American, Jack Sock, could very well get on a roll at this tournament.  After winning doubles with Pospisil at Wimbledon, he rolled into Newport and eliminated Isner in the Newport Hall of Fame event on grass just a week ago.  Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to keep that momentum and was eliminated by the veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who went on to win the tournament.  Hewitt’s feisty shouts of “C’mon!” have endeared him to the Atlanta fans in past years.  Fresh off his renewed success at Newport, he could very well win Atlanta.  The main draw was just rounded out with the addition of Ryan Harrison and Robby Ginepri.  “We’re ecstatic to welcome back two of our fan favorites in Ryan Harrison and Atlanta metro resident Robby Ginepri,” Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez said. “One of our goals is to highlight American talent and both of these players are great examples of the fine players this country has produced.”  Harrison won the doubles last year, partnering with Matthew Ebden.  Ginepri appears for the fourth time, with a onetime ranking of fifteen.  He is a graduate of Wheeler High School, just a few miles north of Atlantic Station.  He currently resides in Kennesaw, another couple of miles north.

The draw will be finalized over this weekend with the completion of the qualifying tournament.  Promising American junior Francis Tiafoe has accepted his first tournament qualifying wild card. Tiafoe, 16, is a talented young prodigy who rose to No. 2 in the world junior rankings this spring. Georgia Tech’s Nathan Rakitt and Alabama’s Becker O’Shaughnessey have also accepted qualifying wild cards. Rakitt, a Marietta native and All-ACC selectee, is competing again for the second year. O’Shaughnessey of Macon, Ga., led the Crimson Tide in singles wins (22) this season.

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood.

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Atlantic Station is a winner for fans at BB&T Atlanta Open

John and Robert Frierson at BB&T Atlanta Open

By Herman Wood

ATLANTA, Georgia – Atlantic Station is a hopping place! The first semifinal has been completed, with Gilles Muller over Go Soeda 6-4, 6-3 and Ebden/Harrison over Fleming/Hutchins 6-3, 6-3. The stadium has emptied into Atlantic Station, where folks are shopping, eating, drinking, and generally having a great time. Kids are shooting hoops at the Atlanta Hawks tent, playing tennis at the 10 under courts and playing tennis at Publix family zone. John Frierson was taking the opportunity to teach tennis to his son Robert on the 10 and under courts. He was looking forward to the showdown tonight. Olympic folks are here with interactive booths for adults and kids to try their skills in various Olympic events.

Michael Koenig and Jack Hendry

Michael Koenig and Jack Hendry tried their skills at basketball, Paralympic style! The event had them set up in wheelchairs trying to shoot baskets. They found the going significantly tougher than their typical basketball games, but several baskets were made. Their parents were having dinner at a restaurant somewhere at Atlantic Station while they had all kinds of fun! I asked if they were rooting for anyone in particular tonight. “Roddick!” Not for the Georgia boy John Isner? “No, Roddick is the best American.” I’m sure some Georgia Bulldog fans will have something to say about that. I expect a lot of barking!

Eduardo and Andrea Baetti, with Ricardo and Alejandra Hein

Eduardo and Andrea Baetti, with Ricardo and Alejandra Hein, took in the first semifinal match today. Eduardo was sporting a Georgia hat. They didn’t have tickets for the night session but were planning lots of fun at Atlantic Station. He was definitely pulling for John Isner.

The official shirt vendor for the tourney pulled off a major coup overnight. They were able to work with John Isner and his foundation to have T-shirts printed out that say “Team Isner” in Georgia red and black. A portion of sales will go to Isner’s foundation. Sales were moving very briskly as they were already sold out of size large before the afternoon session was done.

 


Everyone seemed to be having a great time and we’re all very happy to be at Atlantic Station. It seems the players weren’t the only ones serving aces.

#

 

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood

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Meet Amber Lynn Smith – Super Tennis Fan, Super Roddick Fan

By Herman Wood

ATLANTA, Georgia -Fans of any sport can be rabid. If you go to LSU for a football game dressed in opposition colors, you’ll be taunted with chants of “Tiger Bait”. In Athens, Georgia, home of the Bulldogs, you’ll be barked at. Duke basketball fans are famous for their imaginative cheers. Tennis fans? If the NCAA Collegiate Tournament is held in Athens, there is some barking and there’s a certain collegiate coach who famously held fans at bay from atop a car with a wooden racquet back in the day, though that’s another story. Professional tennis fans are usually a laid back lot (unless it’s Davis Cup!) They clap politely for any good shot and sigh with disappointment at near misses. Ask who they’re cheering for and you’re likely to get a shrug.


Then there’s Amber Lynn Smith. Amber is a typical college student, hoping to become a teacher, drinking lots of milk. Milk? I really don’t know if she drinks milk or not, but it has a lot to do with her being a tennis super fan. When she was ten, she got interested in the game because of friends, but took a special interest in Andy Roddick. In fact, she fell in love with tennis because of his passion for the game. She wanted to hit the ball as hard as he did, so she wanted to be a better athlete. There was one of the milk promotional pictures at her school, so she asked for it at the end of the school year and it was given to her. It’s huge and covers one wall of her room. She got another poster and put it up in her locker at school.

She was able to make it to Roddick’s first match in the BB&T Atlanta Open and had a chance to meet him. We’ve all heard of the spoiled athletes who won’t take the time for a kid, much less an adult. It makes them hard to cheer for. That wasn’t the case here. Roddick couldn’t have been more gracious. He noticed Amber. She was wearing a shirt she had made with a super “R” and “Roddick” above the logo. On the back, it says “Forget those other superheros…” He complimented her on the shirt and took time to take a quick picture before his press conference. She had to wait around because they didn’t realize the picture didn’t take the first time until after. Roddick was more than happy to pose again and to spend a few minutes talking with her and to autograph her shirt.


Amber hopes to become a teacher, and I expect she’ll be a very good one, especially if she brings the same passion to her chosen profession. She also hopes to one day be able to teach tennis to children so they can start at a younger age than she did. She thinks the current under 10 initiative would have helped her greatly. She feels if children start at a younger age, they’ll grow up healthier.

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood

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Blake finds new motivation to win

By Sam Crenshaw, Special to Tennis Panorama News

ATLANTA, Georgia – James Blake will be the first to admit that his first round victory at the BB&T Atlanta Open was match that he was supposed to lose. The 32 year-old tour veteran out lasted 20 year old Ryan Harrison for a 3 set win that delighted the crowd at the Atlantic Station venue.

On paper it didn’t seem close..Harrison is 20 years old, ranked 43rd and bound for London for the 2012 Olympics. Blake, at 32, has seen his ranking slip out of the top 100 to 110. “I starting to play guys who grew up watching me”, said a smiling Blake after the match.

Blake is not considered a threat to win ATP titles, but he remains a crowd favorite and on this night he showed that his wisdom, remaining skills and even couple of friendly bounces off the top of the net can result in victory..

Health has been an issue for James, who talked about his knee surgery back in November. He looked to be moving well. His serve was not as crisp as his fans would remember. That is due to a shoulder injury that he continues to play through..

But after the match he told me about his new inspiration to play good tennis, the recent birth of his daughter. Blake said” This is the first match that I have won since she was born. Tonight her daddy is a winner.”

Great playing “Pops”.. You did your baby girl proud…

Sam Crenshaw is a 25-year veteran of sports broadcasting. He started his career in Augusta, Ga., working as a sports reporter for WRDW-TV and later worked at WFMY-TV in Greensboro, N.C. He moved to Atlanta in 1997 to become a sports broadcaster at WXIA-TV and is now the weekend sports anchor for WXIA covering amateur and professional sports statewide.

Read his sports blog Sam’s Passing Shots and follow him on twitter @samcrenshawwxia.

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Stringer Stories in Atlanta

Adam Queen from Your Serve Tennis, Photo by Herman Wood for Tennis Panorama.

By Herman Wood

 

ATLANTA, Georgia – At Atlanta’s BB&T Open, players are on a plane far above the recreational, league player or even teaching professional. Yesterday, Jack Sock recorded a 141 mph service ace while playing Alexander Bogomolov. Bogomolov had a few thunder claps of his own (or was that the usual Atlanta summer thunder storm that interrupted the match?). I know they’re bigger, stronger, and certainly better conditioned, but how is it possible to hit a ball 40 mph faster than the average Joe USTA? The racquets are the same, right? They’re using the same string, aren’t they?

I spoke to Adam Queen, stringer from Your Serve Tennis, the official stringer for the tournament to find out. “All the players are particular. They know what works best for them for different courts, balls, and conditions.” Conditions? “Most go up on tension with heat & humidity because the ball tends to fly.” Unlike you or I, professionals don’t need the stringers’ advice. They’ve experimented with different strings, tensions, number of knots and everything else you can imagine. Queen’s job is to meet those specs, unlike in one of his stores, where he’ll talk to a customer to find out what they need. Just like you and I, the pros want quality and consistency, but they want it to a high level. As an example, most players want their racquets done as close to match time as possible. Mardy Fish wants the second racquet he’ll use delivered ten minutes after the match starts! How would that make a difference?

It turns out that strings lose tension with time, not just use. Polyester string can lose thirty percent overnight! Alright, I could get my racquet strung just before my match if I could hit a 140 mph serve!

“That could be kind of tough on your arm if you use the same string the pros do and you’d have to restring for every match.” I asked Queen why it was tough on the arm. “Almost every pro uses polyester. Polyester string loses tension relatively quickly and becomes dead. Professionals’ shoulder, wrist, and elbow are better able to handle the demands of daily play and demanding equipment.” So that’s why my shoulder hurts when I hit with that year old polyester string! “They restring every time out.” That sounds expensive! So what else do they do differently? “Jack Sock strings at 40 pounds. James Blake uses 63 pounds. Both use polyester.” I guess that means I can play like Sock if I string at 40 and like Blake if at 63? Oh, I forgot- I don’t practice for hours on end every day and do physical conditioning for hours on end. What can I do?

“Be willing to experiment. Talk to your stringer. Give polyester a try, but be willing to cut it out after a few weeks even if it doesn’t break.” You think maybe I can hit that 140 mph serve, just once?

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood

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Questions to be answered in Atlanta

By Sam Crenshaw, Special to Tennis Panorama News

ATLANTA, Georgia – As the curtain goes up on the BB&T Atlanta Open, the questions that come rushing forward seem too numerous to count. First there is a tournament field that includes the top ranked American men’s players in the world, four of which will head back to the All-England Club for the Olympics in two weeks.
The early commitment from Andy Roddick was big for the image of this event. Roddick won his first career ATP title in Atlanta and remains popular despite a recent drop in rankings. A-Rod is looking to ramp up his game before heading back to England.
Mardy Fish is two-time defending champion of this event, and after dealing with health matters in the spring, looks to be ready to go for a three-peat. Fish passed on a spot on the Olympic team and is expected to play at Washington instead. Atlanta will be the most talented field he will face until after the Olympics.
Then there is John Isner. The UGA alum and two-time runner up here is coming to town on the heels of a strong showing at Newport. A great week in front of a supportive crowd could give him the boost he needs headed back to the scene of a disappointing early exit at Wimbledon.

There are still more questions than answers about players like Ryan Harrison. The first time Olympian is coming off a semi-final run at Newport. Donald Young is bound for London too, but is in the throes of a 13 match losing streak. Perhaps playing before the home crowd will help he regain the form that made him a hit at the US Open last year. The more interesting story coming to the Atlanta tournament for me has to be Brian Baker, who at this time last year was ranked No. 752 in the world. The one-time junior phenom is now an overnight sensation at age 27 and ranked 76th in the world. Look for a few folks to drive down from Music City to see Baker play in Hotlanta.

But the biggest question may be the new venue for Atlanta’s ATP event. Atlantic Station is a shopping, entertainment and residential development in the heart of the city. It is an idea that is so fresh and outside of the box that some are wondering how the traditional tennis community will treat it. With over 150 thousand card carrying league tennis players in the metro Atlanta area, this is a city that has long been known for choosing to play rather than watch. Let’s see if they will accept and embrace a new approach to professional tennis, not just for Atlanta but for the entire nation. Instead of Tennis Anyone it time to say Tennis Everyone…Enjoy the tournament Ya’ll !!!!

 

Sam Crenshaw is a 25-year veteran of sports broadcasting. He started his career in Augusta, Ga., working as a sports reporter for WRDW-TV and later worked at WFMY-TV in Greensboro, N.C. He moved to Atlanta in 1997 to become a sports broadcaster at WXIA-TV and is now the weekend sports anchor for WXIA covering amateur and professional sports statewide.

Read his sports blog Sam’s Passing Shots.

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