New Experience with Sharapova and the Hot Shots

Craig Hickman will be covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. Before the tournament got underway, the action was already beginning in South Beach.

By Craig Hickman

Started the day at breakfast with Jarkko Nieminen and Andrea Petkovic, had a short hit with David Ferrer at Crandon Park on Key Biscayne, then toughed through the spring-break traffic to Miami Beach for the Xperia Hot Shots unveiling over at the Doubletree Surfcomber Hotel on Collins Ave.

Well, okay. I saw Nieminen and Petkovic at breakfast, watched Ferrer’s practice session with Fernando Verdasco before the event on Miami Beach. A bit overexcited attending my first Sony Ericsson Open, just seeing the players up close and personal made me feel as though we were all companions.

Maria Sharapova‘s celebrity appearance gave the event some sparkle after DJ Jazzy Jeff’s set and before Dominika Cibulkova, Sorana Cirstea, Alizé Cornet, Sabine Lisicki, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Heather Watson,were introduced as the WTA’s future superstars. The event felt like a big old party. Free flowing liquor at the open bar. Jazzy Jeff’s louder than loud music. Party goers from all walks of life decked out in various stages of undress, the beach only steps away. Paparazzi everywhere.

The turquoise ocean beneath a clear sky beckoned, but I stayed put. Well, not exactly.

Before the event got underway, I stole some moments in the hotel lobby with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who were on the big flat screen next to the bar beating each other up in the BNP Paribas Open final. More folks than I would have imagined stopped to take in a few points en route to their rooms or the beach or the party out back or the bigger party along the entire thoroughfare out front. Miami Beach during spring break is no joke. Back in the lobby, one young woman waiting for the elevator pointed at the battle on the flat screen, looked at her toddler boy and said, “Look. Tennis.” Seems as though as many people stopped to check the tennis score as they did the basketball score before the nice bartender allowed me the remote to change the channel.

Shortly after the event, Sharapova was escorted by security to the black SUV that swept her away while the photographer’s shutters clicked, clicked, clicked.

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

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Bagels and Breadsticks – Belgium Bounces US out of Fed Cup First Round

Kim Clijsters celebrates with teammates (Getty Images)

In only the third time in the history of Fed Cup competition, the United States has been beaten in the first round of Fed Cup. Current Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters led the charge as Belgium took the tie 4-1 in the Quarterfinals of the World Group. Both Clijsters and Yanina Wickmayer won both of their singles rubbers. Bethanie Mattek-Sands put up some opposition in both of her singles matches, taking the first set from Clijsters and extending Wickmayer to 7-6 in the second set.  American Melanie Oudin won a total of six games in two singles losses.

Belgium will host the Czech Republic in one of the Fed Cup semifinals during the weekend of April 16-17. Italy and Russia will face off in the other semifinal.

The US will join the other World Group first round losers, Australia, France, Slovak Republic and the four World Group II first round winners, Germany, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine in the World Group Play-offs April 16-17. Team match-ups will be determined by draw on Wednesday.

Final Results: Belgium defeated United States of America 4-1

Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 61 76(6)

Kim Clijsters (BEL) defeated Melanie Oudin (USA) 60 64

Kim Clijsters (BEL) defeated Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) 67(10) 62 61

Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) defeated Melanie Oudin (USA) 62 60

Liezel Huber/Vania King (USA) defeated Kirsten Flipkens/An-Sophie Mestach (BEL) 63 75

Fed Cup World Group and World Group II Results


Fed Cup:U.S. vs. Belgium – Notes and Quotes and Day 1 Preview

Kim Clijsters and Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Getty Images)

United States vs. Belgium

Fed Cup by BNP Paribas 2011 World Group Quarterfinal

Sportpaleis * Antwerp, Belgium * February 5-6

The United States’ quest to reach the Fed Cup final for the third straight year begins at the 2011 Fed Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Quarterfinal at Belgium. Play begins Saturday at 1:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. ET) on an indoor hard court at the Sportpaleis in Antwerp, Belgium. This is the seventh meeting between these two nations in Fed Cup, with the U.S. owning a 5-1 advantage. Belgium’s only victory came at the 2006 World Group Semifinal in Ostend, Belgium, which is also the only meeting between these two nations contested in Belgium.

The U.S. has won the Fed Cup a record 17 times and is seeking its first title since 2000. Belgium’s sole Fed Cup title came in 2001. The U.S. reached its second consecutive final last year, where they lost to Italy in San Diego and also faced Italy in the 2009 final in Italy. The U.S. has only lost a first round tie twice (1997 in the Netherlands and 2002 in Raleigh, N.C. versus Austria) and both occurrences came in the team’s first match after winning the title (the U.S. did not compete in the 2001 semifinals after winning the title in 2000), meaning the U.S. Fed Cup has never lost two consecutive ties in the history of the competition.

This is Belgium’ s first appearance in World Group I since a 5-0 loss to the U.S. in the 2007 first round in Delray Beach, Fla. The hosts have won 10 of its last 12 home ties. The U.S. is a modest 7-8 in away matches since Fed Cup adopted the home-away format in 1995, but has only lost once on the road in the first round in five matches.


The opening day of play in the best-of-five match series features each country’s No. 1 singles player against the No. 2 player from the opposing country. The exact order of play (which country’s No. 1 plays first) was determined at the Draw Ceremony on Friday. The second day of competition begins on Sunday with the “reverse singles,” starting with each country’s No. 1 player squaring off followed by the No. 2 players and then the doubles match. Each match is best-of-three-sets.


Saturday, 1:30 p.m. Singles A: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) vs. Yanina Wickmayer (BEL)

Singles B: Melanie Oudin (USA) vs. Kim Clijsters (BEL)

Sunday, 1:30 p.m. Singles C: Mattek-Sands (USA) vs. Clijsters (BEL)

Singles D: Oudin (USA) vs. Wickmayer (BEL)

Doubles: Liezel Huber/Vania King (USA) vs. Kirsten Flipkens/An-Sophie Mestach (BEL)

Captains: Mary Joe Fernandez (USA), Sabine Appleman (BEL)


U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez

On the outcome of today’s draw ceremony: “It really doesn’t matter who plays first. Both Melanie and Bethanie have had that opportunity of leading the team with the first match. It’s a matter of playing your best whenever you play and approaching it the right way.”

On the anticipated daily crowds of 10,000+: “This will be the biggest crowd we have played against the last couple of years. Loudest was for sure was the Czech Republic (2009 semifinals in Brno). This (anticipated 10,000+ daily) is about double the size of what we have had. We expected a battle. It is great for Fed Cup. It is great for both teams. We are gonna pretend they are rooting for us the whole time.”

On doubles: “We have always been real fortunate with our doubles. Liezel (Huber) has been a great supporter (of Fed Cup) and been there every time and has played some critical matches for us. I have always said I want it to come down to the doubles. That’s always my goal. If we win before that it is a bonus, but we like our chances if we get down to the doubles.”

Bethanie Mattek-Sands

On the transition from Australia to Belgium for her and Kim Clijsters: “I was there pretty much there til the end, playing in the mixed doubles in Australia (she reached the semis), so I was home (in Arizona) for literally 30 hours and I had to fly here. It’s a lot of traveling, but I have had a couple of days to get adjusted. She (Kim) has probably taken some time off as well. I think on the tour you are used to playing week to week. I think we’re both in shape, so we’ll be good.”

Melanie Oudin

On playing Kim Clijsters in the second match on Saturday:“ I am really excited that I get to play her. It should be a really good match. I’m gonna give it everything I have. I am a little bit happy that Bethanie is going first. It gives me more time to prepare tomorrow. It should be a really good match and I’m looking forward to it.”

On being the underdog: “Our team has come through before when we’ve been the underdog. Hopefully we can do it again. Belgium is a really tough team.”

From  United States Tennis Association Public Relations


Kourtin’ Karen’s Tennis News Scoreboard – Week Ending January 9, 2011


Walking on air water – the 2011 tennis season has begun!


Back on the bottom

Fresh off of serving a shortened suspension for HGH possession,  Wayne Odesnik  will compete this week in a USTA Pro Circuit Futures event, the $10,000 Plantation Open in Plantation, Florida.


Planning Ahead

The WTA has announced the 2012 and 2013 calendars 2012_WTA_Calendar 2013_WTA_Calendar


Marital Mishaps

Stan Wawrinka announced his separation from his wife on twitter this week : “I would like to announce my separation with my wife Ilham Vuilloud. Our main concern now is to look after the best interests and….. education of our daughter Alexia.”

During Thursday’s loss to Andrea Petkovic in Brisbane, Jarmila Groth and her husband Sam were heard cursing at each other during an on -court coaching session. Mrs. Groth’s coach was absent so her husband filled in.  Mrs. Groth was later apologetic and blamed the outburst on the intensity of the match.


Break point- flu in the desert

Rafael Nadal was battling the flu last week in Doha Qatar and was ousted in the semifinals by Nikolay Davydenko. Nadal intends to delay his travel to Melbourne until he gets over his illness. Despite the flu, he and his partner Marc Lopez won the doubles title at the Qatar Open.


In the News this week

Racquet swapping – Maria Sharapova is now with Head, Caroline Wozniacki with Yonex and Ernests Gulbis with Wilson.

Kei Nishkori has signed a five-year sponsorship agreement with a leading Japanese apparel retailer – UNIQLO.

Andy Murray is negotiations for renewing deals with Highland Spring water and the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Former No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo has been named joint director of the WTA Paris Open.

Wilson Racquet Sports Rolls Out Social Media for the Australian Open.

Fed Cup Nominations for Asia/Oceania Zone Group I and II, and Americas Zone Group I announced

2011-12 USTA Board of Directors Takes Office

Expanded and Re-Formatted Champions Series Tennis Circuit to Debut in the Fall



With all the injures during Hopman Cup which forced retirements and team withdrawals, a special exhibition match was held with US team Bethanie Mattek -Sands and John Isner facing off against French team Nicolas Mahut and Kristina Mladenovic. Highlight of the quickly organized match – Nicolas Mahut wearing his partner’s dress and Mattek Sands’ socks.

The Hopman Cup was also the scene for a rematch of the combatants in the  longest match in tennis history- John Isner needed just 90 minutes to defeat Nicholas Mahut 6-3, 7-6.


“Tweeners” of the Week

Laura Robson

Nicolas Mahut

Another week another between-the-legs shot, this week there were at least three of them – Roger Federer in Doha, Laura Robson and Nicolas Mahut at Hopman Cup.



Out of the Australian Open: Juan Carlos Ferrero, Laura Robson, Paul-Henri Mathieu.


A double pleasure is waiting for you….

In a spoof of the old Doublemint Gum spots, the Bryan Brothers are featured in a new ESPN “It’s Not Crazy It’s Sports” promotional campaign.


Outfits of the week

From Hopman Cup this week-Bethanie Mattek-Sands wearing what appear to be  pajama pants and Nicolas Mahut in a Lacoste tennis dress.

Game, Set, Match and Champions This Week:

John Isner and Bethanie Mattek-Sands took home the Hopman Cup for the USA.

Greta Arn of  Hungary took Auckland by storm, leveling Maria Sharapova along the way.

Petra Kvitova Czeched out the trophy in Brisbane.

Roger Federer captured the Qatar crown.

Another Swiss in the winner’s circle this week as Stanislas Wawrinka wins his second Chennai title.

Not only was Robin Soderling victorious in Brisbane, but his tournament win has moved him to No. 4 in the rankings leapfrogging Andy Murray.

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