2014/04/21

McEnroe Wins Nashville PowerShares and Clinches the Season Title

By Brad Hunter

(March 13, 2014) NASHVILLE – It makes cosmic sense John McEnroe clinched the PowerShares title in “Music City,” on Wednesday night. He loves his guitar playing and is married to rocker goddess Patty Smyth.  He’s also in amazing shape, and glides around the court like a current ATP Tour professional.  McEnroe defeated Pat Cash in the final set 6-3 after beating Jimmy Connors 6-4 in the semi-final. It was the first time in the last 12 years that McEnroe had played against Connors.  This event also gave the former greats of the game a chance to advocate tennis in an area where there is no professional tennis.  When asked about the current state of tennis in America before the matches, McEnroe said “…it’s a game that takes a long time to learn and it’s expensive. We’ve got to give more kids an opportunity… get into schools more, high schools, grammar schools…”

The evening started with Ivan Lendl facing off against Pat Cash.  From the get-go, Cash displayed a showman’s affection towards the crowd: tapping balls (and double-tapping after fans threw them back) into the crowd for fans to keep, giving a kid sitting courtside one of his checkered bandanas, taking his shirt off after a lady yelled “take your shirt off!” He also moved around the baseline and up to his favorite area of the court, the net, with agility reminiscent of his days on tour.  Lendl threw up numerous high lobs, and Cash hit most of them for winners with jumping, acrobatic overhead smashes.  Lendl, in fine form, also had fun with the crowd, but in his own way… confrontation with a smirk.  One man in the crowd was heckling him early on the set, and he stopped play to ask the man if he was drunk, and then asked him which lady he was sitting with was his date. (One of them looked like his wife, and the other looked like his daughter)… After the man replied something saucy, Lendl asked him to come down to the court.  The man wouldn’t oblige so Lendl said “I can’t help it if he has no balls!” The crowd seemed to enjoy the exchange and laughed… the heckler made no more comments to Lendl. The men stayed on serve until 5-all, when Lendl played an error filled game and double faulted to give Cash the break.  Cash had been dominant on his serve until he served for the set, and he proceeded to drop serve and send them into a tiebreaker.  Lendl had one match point which Cash saved with a high kicker service winner to Lendl’s backhand, and then Cash won the set 9-7 in the tiebreaker.

The second semi-final set pitted John McEnroe against longtime rival on and off the court, Jimmy Connors.  While McEnroe moved around the court like the old days, Connors kept his movement more controlled.  Connors has had 3 hip surgeries, but his footwork looked amazing and his feet kept moving during points.  This was Connors’ first match stop in the PowerShares Series tour and he said before the match “time to come back and hit a few, this is my first public appearance in about 3 years or so.”  McEnroe and Connors had quite a few long rallies, John seemingly happy rallying with Nadal-like topspin from the back court, and Jimmy comically huffing and puffing between points.  Connors also played in long pants “like Bill Tilden” which became a running gag during the match.  At one point someone shouted “I don’t need no shorts!” to Connors, which made him crack up laughing and prompted McEnroe to roll his own shorts up like they were daisy dukes.  Connors responded by putting two tennis balls up to eyes as if he were horrified by the sight of McEnroe’s exposed thighs.  Towards the end of the set, McEnroe increased the pressure on Connors and his own forays to the net and won the set at 6-4.

The final featured the two resident serve and volleyers, Cash and McEnroe.  McEnroe, while clearly having fun, also had his serious game face on and broke Cash early for a 2-0 lead. Cash was able to earn some break points down 2-3 in the set, but McEnroe saved them and served out the match to win 6-3.  There were a few calls in the set that McEnroe playfully objected to, but he did not display any of his true trademark tantrums.  “I played some good tennis most of the time and I’ve played some really tough competition” he told Jimmy Arias after the final.

Brad Hunter was in Nashville covering the Powershares Series Tennis. Follow his personal Twitter @BradHunter.

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Jimmy Connors Ready for PowerShares Series Stops in Nashville and Charlotte

JimmyConnors
By Brad Hunter

NASHVILLE – Jimmy Connors will be making his 2014 debut in the PowerShares Series in Nashville, TN on Wednesday, March 12th.  Connors last played the PowerShares Series in 2012.  For the stop in Nashville, Connors will be joined by Pat Cash, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl.  To get ready for the event, PowerShares held a conference call with Connors and the media on Friday, March 7th.  Connors did play some of his junior tennis in the Nashville and Memphis area, but he has never played a professional or exhibition match in Nashville.

When asked about his current form heading into the event, Connors said, “The first thing I try to do is keep it inside the lines, keep the ball in play, try to have the same strokes and the same work ethic that I always did, even though it’s not quite as long as the old days. I still get the same pleasure going out and working for whatever I do, 45 minutes or an hour, getting a good sweat, putting forth that kind of effort as I did 30, 40 years ago.”

Connors said PowerShares gives the fans a chance to revisit the glory days of their tennis fandom and shows the club player a brand of tennis that is attainable for their own games. “To watch a Nastase, a McEnroe, Borg, even leading up to the Sampras, Courier, and Andy now, to see guys like that play, the kind of tennis they play, they feel they still can muster up that kind of energy to hit a shot like that once in a while, go back and say, Geez, I saw Borg or whoever hit that shot one time, and look at me, I can do that.”

Connors also fielded a question about the current intense rivalries of yesteryear compared to the cordial nature of the current men’s game.  “It would be very hard to believe that if Mack ever beat me in the finals of a major event that he’d come over and give me a hug.  I just don’t see that happening.”

Last year, Connors was let go of his coaching duties with Maria Sharapova after 1 match. He also worked with Andy Roddick in the past.  When asked if he would ever consider coaching again he responded with a humorous “no” and then explained “I say that laughingly.  I shouldn’t say that so quickly.  I would prefer to get a young kid that’s eager and willing to listen, has had no success.  That would be the ultimate, I guess.  As much as I enjoyed being with Andy, traveling around, he was a major champion.  When you hit that height ‑ Maria also ‑ things change, things are different, attitudes are different.  As much as you want it, it’s still a different way of thinking.  So for me to say it, I would rather find somebody young that’s moldable would probably be the best way to say it.”

Connors concluded the call with some thoughts about Nashville native and oft-sidelined ATP pro player Brian Baker, “But to stick to it like he did, to want to go through all that, still want to go out and play, man, oh, man, I’d like to find a 14‑year‑old about like that, that’s willing to do all that, and also listens.  Boy, oh, boy, that would be something. I hope he finds nothing but success in anything he does.  He’s not going to walk away from any fight, no matter what.  That’s pretty special there.”

Brad Hunter will be in Nashville covering the Powershares Series Tennis event for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal Twitter @BradHunter.

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Kei Nishikori Repeats as Memphis Champion

 

nishikori memphis

(February 16, 2014) Kei Nishikori repeated as the champion at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis, stopping Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (0) on Sunday. For the No. 16 ranked player, this was his first career title defense. He is the first repeat winner since Tommy Haas won in 2006 and 2007.

“It’s amazing to defend a title for the first time, especially here,” Nishikori said. “I had a great memory from last year and I’m playing great.”

“I get a lot of confidence from keeping my ranking in the Top 20. It’s going to take some time to get to Top 10, Top 5, but I think I’m getting close.”

“He’s really fast,” Karlovic said. “He hits winners from any position on the court. That’s his game. He returned really well.”

“It was a good week for me. I’m really happy with the way I played. I hope I will continue like this and by the end of the year get into the Top 40.”

Nishikori was given a wild-card into this tournament, which this year was downgraded to 250 event, it was a 500 point event a year ago when he won.

This is Nishikori’s sixth ATP title.

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Russell Tops Smyczek in Memphis

Tim Smyczek

By Brad Hunter

MEMPHIS – The first Wednesday match on stadium court  was between two Americans playing for a spot in the quarterfinals, Tim Smyczek and Michael Russell.  In the previous round, Smyczek had defeated the up-and-coming Australian Nick Kyrgios 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3.  Kyrgios was coming off his splashy debut at the Australian Open this year, where he made the 2nd round and then lost an exciting 5-set match against Benoit Paire after being up 2 sets to love.  

 

Smyczek most recently had made the semi-finals in the Maui challenger event.  Michael Russell defeated the No. 7 seed Michal Pryzysiezny in the first round, 3-6, 6-3. 6-1.  

From the get go, Russell assumed dominance in the rallies and in the match and moved to a 4-1 lead in the first set.  Russell continually extended points with his defense and hit the ball with steady intensity.  Another thing I noticed about Russell was his habit of thanking the ballkids for giving him balls.  Smyczek looked out of sorts early, making several off balance groundstroke errors where the balls he hit flew many feet beyond the baseline.  It appeared that Smyczek was struggling to focus or struggling with his rhythm and he wasn’t able to keep up with Russell’s heavy hitting.  Russell won the first set 6-2, winning 86% of his first serve points and 2 of his 3 break points.  

The second set saw a refocused Smyczek, and he began finding success against Russell by attacking short balls and following them in to knock off volley winners.  Smyczek dug deep in the second set and looked like he was trying his hardest to focus: a couple of times during the second set, Smyczek spoke to the chair umpire about the noise coming from the stadium entry way, saying once “you can hear a pin drop”.  Smyczek and Russell had their longest baseline exchange of the match on break point against Smyczek’s serve at 5 games all, with Russell winning the point on a perfect topspin lob that left Smyczek staring (and the crowd cheering).

Russell lost his serve when he served for the match up 6-5, after losing his first 2 match points with forehand errors.  At this point in the match, in the tiebreak, things looked like they were starting to go Smyczek’s way, and he built a 4-1 lead.  Russell came back to to win 6 of the next 7 points and the match, final score 6-2. 7-6(5).  Michael Russell moves on to play the winner of Lleyton Hewitt (who was in attendance for most of the first set of this match) and Marcos Baghdatis in the quarterfinals.

RESULTS – WEDNESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2014

Singles – Second Round
[1] [WC] K Nishikori (JPN) d B Becker (GER) 64 64
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) d R Harrison (USA) 63 26 62
M Russell (USA) d T Smyczek (USA) 62 76(5)
J Sock (USA) d J Vesely (CZE) 62 61

Singles – First Round
[Q] D Kudla (USA) d D Young (USA) 61 61

Doubles – First Round
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) d [WC] D O’hare (IRL) / J Salisbury (GBR) 64 63
[3] S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) d M Ebden (AUS) / R Ram (USA) 62 64
R Junaid (AUS) / P Marx (GER) d [Alt] A Mannarino (FRA) / M Russell (USA) 75 63
T Gabashvili (RUS) / M Kukushkin (KAZ) d M Matosevic (AUS) / F Moser (GER) 75 26 10-6

SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 13 FEBRUARY 2014

STADIUM start 11:00 am
[3] S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) vs R Junaid (AUS) / P Marx (GER)
[8] M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs [Q] A Kuznetsov (USA)
[Q] D Kudla (USA) vs [4] Y Lu (TPE)
[WC] R Harrison (USA) / S Querrey (USA) vs F Cermak (CZE) / M Elgin (RUS)
7:00 pm
[3] L Hewitt (AUS) vs [WC] M Baghdatis (CYP)
I Karlovic (CRO) vs [2] F Lopez (ESP)

GRANDSTAND start 5:00 pm
Not before 5:00 pm
Possible Court Change – T Gabashvili (RUS) / M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs [2] E Butorac (USA) / R Klaasen (RSA)

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Ivo Karlovic, Marcos Baghdatis, Ryan Harrison and a Scrappy Jack Sock Move into Memphis Second Round

Jack Sock

Jack Sock

By Brad Hunter

(February, 11, 2014) MEMPHIS – Tuesday at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships started with Matthew Ebden doing battle against Ivo Karlovic as the first match on stadium court.  When Ebden was his most effective against Karlovic, he was keeping his shots deep to Karlovic’s backhand and then following short balls in to knock off volley winners.  Unfortunately for Ebden, Karlovic played a similar game but did it more often and more effectively.  Of course it doesn’t hurt Karlovic that he has one of the biggest and most ace-producing serves on tour, and he struck 14 aces today to 3 double faults. One thing I find interesting about Karlovic’s serve: it doesn’t “look” like he’s hitting hard enough to produce a 134-mph serve, and then I would look at the radar gun reading on the scoreboard and sure enough, it would read in the 130’s.  Ebden reminds me a bit of Lleyton Hewitt, the way he stalks the baseline and rallies with controlled pace and depth and then looks to move in to the net on short balls (Hewitt was in attendance for the some of the first set).  In the first set Karlovic and Ebden were even at 5-all, but Ebden lost his serve with an ill-timed double fault which allowed Karlovic to serve out the set.  In the second set, Karlovic looked more comfortable and he began employing his forehand to stroke return winners and baseline winners and control most of the rallies.  He also used his slice backhand to extend points and approach the net, and he played the most aggressive tennis, taking the set 6-4 and the match.

The next match on stadium court was between last-minute wildcard Marcos Baghdatis and qualifier Rajeev Ram.  I had watched most of the last set of Ram’s match yesterday, and expected to see him attack the net as much as possible against Baghdatis because the tactic had helped him win that previous match.  For the most part today, every time Ram came to net, Baghdatis was able to come up with whatever passing shot was needed.  Baghdatis looked focused the entire match, racing out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, and playing his best version of creative and aggressive baseline tennis.  Ram’s baseline game plan was not rooted in trying to hit clean winners; he was hitting probing shots, mixing up spins and depth, working his way into rallies.  Baghdatis rarely looked uncomfortable, and he used his ability to end points to dominate the match. Baghdatis won the match 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 15 minutes and next faces Hewitt.

Jack Sock and Adrian Mannarino both received direct entry into the Memphis draw, so this was the first singles match for either man.  Sock played doubles with Donald Young yesterday, and they lost to Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen in 2 tight sets.  Sock started well, using his forehand to dominate rallies and finish points and he earned a break which he held until he served for the first set up 5-4.  Mannarino took this opportunity to dig himself in and use his flat double handed backhand to run Sock around and he broke to make it 5-all.  At this point, with Sock muttering to himself, it looked like Mannarino would be able to seize the momentum, but he played a loose game and Sock broke him back to take a 6-5 lead.  Mannarino flung his racquet to the ground and broke it, then smirked and picked his racquet back up and then threw it to the ground again, this time bouncing it over the net and not too far from the ball kids.  Had he hit someone, I think we would’ve seen an immediate default a la Nalbandian in that Queen’s final… But, luckily he didn’t hit anyone.  (Later on in the match Sock received a code violation warning for language and he said to the chair “that guy almost killed somebody with his racquet!”) The crowd wasn’t having it, one lady yelling “watch the kids!”, and they got behind Sock much more as he served out the set 7-5.  I expected the 2nd set to fly by, but it did not fly the way I expected (I thought Mannarino would be emotionally spent and disappointed and phone it in.) Mannarino responded by playing his best creative tennis, a mix of deep backhand drives and sneak volley attacks, and he won the set 6-1 (he also won 11 of 11 first serve points). In the third set, Sock began using his forehand again to dominate rallies and finish points and he raced out to a 5-2 lead.  But Mannarino wasn’t done, and with a mix of good defensive tennis and Sock’s nerves, he was able to level the set at 5-all.  At this point in the match, both men we cheering themselves on, muttering to themselves and playing the best tennis of the match.  Sock yelled “come on” about a winner he hit, and when it appeared that Mannarino was protesting about him yelling,  Sock said “you weren’t anywhere near the ball dude.” Mannarino smiled in response.  The two men played until 5-all in the tiebreaker, and Sock took the last 2 points and the match to move on to play Jiri Vesely.  After the tension and emotion of the match, I was curious about the handshake Mannarino and Sock would exchange- it was quick.

The last day match on stadium court was Ryan Harrison versus Bjorn Phau. Phau was coming off his run to the semifinals in Zagreb last week, and a 135 place jump up in the world rankings. Harrison has recently been playing challengers with mixed results since his campaign in Australia.  Harrison played a solid, focused match and Phau never seemed to be able to find anything to continually hurt him.  Harrison used his speed and defense to extend points and dominated rallies with his heavy, spinny forehand. They had several fun points where both of them played that blend of dinky, carvy short court tennis most often associated with doubles or practice sessions and Harrison usually came out on top of those points too. It was an all around good day for Harrison: he saved all 3 break points held against him and won 86% of his first serves and 60% of his second serves.  He capitalized on 2 of his 5 break points, and won the match 6-3, 6-4 in an hour and 7 minutes.

Brad Hunter is in Memphis covering the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal Twitter @BradHunter.

RESULTS – TUESDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2014

Singles – First Round
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) d [6] S Querrey (USA) 26 64 76(7) – saved 1 M.P.
[8] M Kukushkin (KAZ) d T Gabashvili (RUS) 76(9) 75
B Becker (GER) d L Lacko (SVK) 63 62
R Harrison (USA) d B Phau (GER) 63 64
[WC] M Baghdatis (CYP) d [Q] R Ram (USA) 63 64
[Q] A Kuznetsov (USA) d [Q] D Goffin (BEL) 64 63
J Sock (USA) d A Mannarino (FRA) 75 16 76(5)
I Karlovic (CRO) d M Ebden (AUS) 75 64

Doubles – First Round
F Cermak (CZE) / M Elgin (RUS) d [4] S Groth (AUS) / M Mirnyi (BLR) 62 76(4)
C Guccione (AUS) / L Hewitt (AUS) d T Bednarek (POL) / I Karlovic (CRO) 67(2) 64 10-7

SCHEDULE – WEDNESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2014

STADIUM start 11:00 am
T Smyczek (USA) vs M Russell (USA)
[Q] D Kudla (USA) vs D Young (USA)
J Vesely (CZE) vs J Sock (USA)
Not Before 4:00 pm
R Harrison (USA) vs A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS)
7:00 pm
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs [WC] D O’hare (IRL) / J Salisbury (GBR)
[1] [WC] K Nishikori (JPN) vs B Becker (GER)

GRANDSTAND start 12:00 noon
T Gabashvili (RUS) / M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs M Matosevic (AUS) / F Moser (GER)
[3] S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) vs M Ebden (AUS) / R Ram (USA)
[Alt] A Mannarino (FRA) / M Russell (USA) vs R Junaid (AUS) / P Marx (GER)

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Jiri Vesely Knocks Out Seed Marinko Matosevic to Highlight Day 1 of Memphis Tournament

 

 

Marinko Matosevic

Marinko Matosevic

By Brad Hunter

(February 10, 2014) MEMPHIS – I have not been to the Memphis tournament since 2012, and the tournament has gone through some changes: it was an ATP 500 event combined with a WTA event, and now it’s an ATP 250 event without the WTA event. I do miss the ladies and love combined events, but Memphis has been able to create a more focused atmosphere utilizing these changes and the change in ATP points doesn’t appear to have affected the quality of the draw. The near-to-the-players intimacy of the event is huge: all stadium court and grandstand court seating feels like you’re 15-20 feet away from the action and usually you are but even when it’s further, it still feel closer. If you want to see professional players strolling halls, watching matches, practicing and doing other fun (and often charitable) things AND see world class tennis action, this is the tournament for you.  I am a fan of tennis as well as player, I play 5-6 times per week, so I love that I can study the way the players are moving, how they’re preparing for their shots, what their follow-throughs look like, how they construct points, what mistakes they’re making, etc.

 

First up on stadium court today was a final round of qualifying match between two players who have been playing mostly challengers this year, Denis Kudla and Gastao Elias.  I was curious to see where Kudla’s game was after his recent run through qualifying and into the main draw at the Australian Open.  Both players had loads of break point chances: Kudla went 2 for 12 and Elias went 1 for 7. Double handed backhand to double handed backhand, the two men appeared equal. Elias was hitting his forehand bigger with more depth and spin, but Kudla was able to extend baseline rallies enough to rattle Elias on important points.  Kudla also came up with 5 or 6 stunning passing shots from either way behind the baseline or in extremely defensive positions and flexibility and agility helped him win this match 7-6 (1), 6-4.

The next match I watched on stadium court was also the first main draw singles match of the tournament, between No. 5 seed Marinko Matosevic and Jiri Vesely.  From the get go, the lefty Vesely was ultra intense and loudly cheering himself on. Matosevic started well and stayed with Vesely early, but once he went down that first break his game unraveled. He began missing from everywhere: forehands, backhands, volleys.  By the time the 2nd set rolled around he was shooting lost looks and smirks and a “what’s the point?” at Mark Woodforde, who was sitting in his player’s box. To further illustrate how much today was not his day, towards the end of the match, on a changeover, Matosevic missed his mouth and squirted his red gel/liquid he was drinking on his bright yellow shirt… Vesely won the match 6-3, 6-2 and moves on to play the winner of Jack Sock and Adrian Mannarino.

Then I moved over to the grandstand court and caught the end of set 3 of another final round of qualifying match between Rajeev Ram and Victor Estrella Burgos.  I sat on the top row so I could also twist around and watch Sam Querrey hit on the adjacent court with the Memphis Grizzlies coach, David Joerger.  Joerger appears to be a solid 4.0 player and held his own with Sam and everyone involved looked like they were having fun.  The noise from that was pretty loud, but it didn’t seem to faze Ram who took the match with his usual mix of clean, aggressive tennis winning 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-4.  As Ram was leaving the court he said “thanks everyone” to the stands and then stopped to sign some autographs and pose for pics with some boys who asked him.

The next match on grandstand was Australian Open doubles finalists Eric Butorac and Raven Klaasen versus Jack Sock and Donald Young. The teams were evenly matched throughout the first set with Klaasen and Butorac struggling a bit with the power coming off the Sock forehand. Sock and Young hit several clean winners from the baseline, but the doubles specialists kept pushing forward and the strategy worked when they needed it to.  Sock and Young found themselves up 4-1 in the first set tiebreaker and looking like they would run away with the set and then Butorac/Klaasen turned the momentum around and won 6 straight points and the set. Butorac and Klaasen closed out the final set 6-4 for the win. Butorac and Klaasen are the No.  2 seeds in the doubles draw, the top seeds are the Bryan brothers.  If they meet in the final it will be a rematch of their recent Australian Open match, where Butorac and Klassen upset the Bryans.

Brad Hunter is in Memphis covering the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal Twitter @BradHunter.

RESULTS – MONDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2014

Singles – First Round
J Vesely (CZE) d [5] M Matosevic (AUS) 63 62
M Russell (USA) d [7] M Przysiezny (POL) 36 63 61
T Smyczek (USA) d [WC] N Kyrgios (AUS) 67(5) 64 63

Doubles – First Round
[2] E Butorac (USA) / R Klaasen (RSA) d J Sock (USA) / D Young (USA) 76(4) 64
[WC] R Harrison (USA) / S Querrey (USA) d B Becker (GER) / Y Lu (TPE) 75 16 10-4

SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 11 FEBRUARY 2014

STADIUM start 11:00 am
M Ebden (AUS) vs I Karlovic (CRO)
[WC] M Baghdatis (CYP) vs [Q] R Ram (USA)
J Sock (USA) vs A Mannarino (FRA)
B Phau (GER) vs R Harrison (USA)
Not Before 7:00 pm
T Bednarek (POL) / I Karlovic (CRO) vs C Guccione (AUS) / L Hewitt (AUS)
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) vs [6] S Querrey (USA)

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
[8] M Kukushkin (KAZ) vs T Gabashvili (RUS)
L Lacko (SVK) vs B Becker (GER)
[Q] A Kuznetsov (USA) vs [Q] D Goffin (BEL)
Not Before 5:00 pm
Possible Court Change – F Cermak (CZE) / M Elgin (RUS) vs [4] S Groth (AUS) / M Mirnyi (BLR)

 

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Memphis Odds and Ends

By Brad Hunter

Jurgen Melzer photo courtesy of Memphis Tennis Facebook page

The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships

WTA  Report

“Hi Honey” and “yes ma’am”… The ladies (and men) who work in the Racquet Club were all so sweet, and mostly southern thus making this visit extra enjoyable

Like Monica… Lucie Hradecka hits huge and double-handed from both sides off the ground, but her most impressive shot was her accurate and offensive return of service which she used to good effect in winning the doubles with partner Hlavackova, for their seconddoubles title of the year

Home away from home… Repeat singles winner Sofia Arvidsson has her own Parking spot, and looks completely relaxed and at home playing in Memphis

Doubles surprise… Melanie Oudin fell early in singles, but when she teamed with Jamie Hampton in the doubles, the Grandstand court was packed

Getting some Momentum in Memphis… Vera Dushevina put together her 1st back-to-back main draw wins of 2012 in singles by reaching the semi-finals, and she and doubles partner Govortsova reached the final

ATP

Crazy forehands… Jack Sock’s forehand is really interesting and wristy and twisty—a windshield wiper forward motion which rivals Ryan Harrison’s forehand in the wristy and twisty department.

Not bad but bounced anyway… Andy Roddick is a great competitor so he probably did not pencil in a “W” before he stepped on court with Xavier Malisse, even though he had won their only/previous 9 meetings… and Andy played some aggressive, solid tennis… but Malisse returned like a doubles specialist and came up with the magic shots when it mattered—thus bouncing the biggest crowd draw of the tournament in the 1st round

Doubles out, singles in… 2011 US Open doubles champions Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschener were glares, missed shots and self-criticizing yelps in their 1st round loss in Memphis to Benneteau/Rochus but Jurgen played like it was Roland Garros 2010 in winning his 1st title in Memphis

A sensible argyle… Radek Stepanek wore a not crazy shirt… and no one talked about his wardrobe… until now

Gulbis gives good interview… Amanda Le May caught  up with Ernie before his Raonic match

Brad and Sam, Sam and John… Sam Querrey and his backhand (Brad’s influence already?) looked pretty good winning his first back-to-back singles matches of 2012 and reaching the doubles semis with Isner.

 

Brad Hunter was in Memphis last week covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama  Follow his personal twitter account @BradHunter.

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Americans Isner, Querrey and Harrison Advance in Memphis

Americans Sweeting, Querrey, Isner and Harrison Advance in Singles; Benneteau/Rochus Take Out 2011 US Open Champs Petzschner/Melzer

By Brad Hunter

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (February 21, 2012) – On Court 1 at The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships on Tuesday, Frenchman, 30-year old Julien Benneteau teamed with (his fourth different doubles partner in four tournaments played in 2012) Belgian 31-year old Olivier Rochus (himself teaming with his fifth different doubles partner in 5 tournaments) to beat 2011 US Open champions and #2 seeds 27-year old German Philipp Petzschner and 30-year old Austrian Jurgen Melzer  6-1, 3-6, 10-5.  The atmosphere for the intimate Court 1 was intense, and the crowd was animated throughout.  Both teams traded steely glances towards each other, exasperation for missing shots, and some interesting bits of questioning line calls and the chair umpire.  Late in the 1st set, Melzer asked the chair how the lineswoman could possibly make lines calls “because she is wearing sunglasses inside!”  The close quarters on Court 1 heightened the fun of the experience, and there was a palpable buzz running through the crowd most of the match.

Later on Center Court, 24-year old American Ryan Sweeting defeated veteran American, 32-year old James Blake 6-0, 6-2.  Six-foot-five Sweeting, ranked 78, moved well throughout the match, and his crisp hitting and defense forced Blake, ranked 61, into many errors.  Blake, playing in his first tournament of 2012, looked deflated for a good portion of the match, perhaps partly because of some rust in his own game.  Sweeting played an impressive mix of defense and high percentage tennis, and capitalized on most short ball and mid-court opportunities he found during the baseline rallies.

Next up on Center Court, was 24-year old American Sam Querrey against 28-year old Colombian, Alejandro Falla.  Querrey, ranked 99, recently hired Brad Gilbert as his coach, and Gilbert was in Memphis watching his new charge tough out a 3-set win over the scrappy Falla.  Falla, ranked 60, consistently attacked Querrey’s backhand throughout the match and built himself a solid lead by taking the first set 6-2.  It took Querrey some time before he got his forehand clicking but he recovered to take the final 2 sets 6-3 and 6-4.  This was a good win for Sam, who has struggled at the start the year and has not won 2 matches in row in 2012- he plays the winner of Robbie Ginepri and Kevin Anderson in his next match.

 

Behind "THE BASELINE"

The first night match pitted 26-year old American and top seed John Isner versus the dangerous 28-year old Gilles Muller from Luxembourg.  From the beginning, the crowd was vocally behind the 13th ranked Isner and he made things even more interesting for spectators sitting behind the baseline to the left of the chair because several of his balls went flying renegade into the crowd.  It happened at least 7 or 8 times, and a man sitting behind “THE baseline” center service line responded by waving a white towel.  Isner even walked up to the behind THE baseline crowd after a changeover to apologize and laugh with them.   Muller, ranked 69, also sent a few balls into the crowd.  Both men, known for their fierce serves, played themselves into 2 tiebreakers.  Isner, who hit 26 aces, ran away with the first tiebreak 7-1 by playing aggressive tennis and attacking short balls and moving forward to the net.  Muller fought well in the second set, saving 5 of 5 break points, but eventually fell in the tiebreak 4-7.  Isner, who combined with his doubles match has won 4 straight tiebreak sets in Memphis, got a loud reception from the crowd for winning the match and next plays Donald Young.

The final match of the evening featured 2 wildcard American teenagers: 19-year old Ryan Harrison and 19-year old Jack Sock.  Both men appeared nervous to start, but it was the more experienced Harrison who saved all 3 of his break points during the 1st set.  Harrison, ranked 73 and off a semifinal run in San Jose last week, played a steadier more high percentage style of baseline tennis to take the 1st set 6-3.  Sock, ranked 306, began the match hitting more flat and powerfully than Harrison and with more errors, but adjusted his game in the 2nd set.  Harrison also appeared to go on a mental walkabout, losing 2 service games and the set 2-6.  The 3rd set brought out the best tennis of the match.  Sock, attacking short balls and utilizing his crisp volleying skills, looked like the stronger player early in the 3rd.  But Harrison played some good defense, and turned the match in his favor by doing what I’ve been seeing a lot of this week: he played some solid defense and prolonged points against the more go-for-broke style of tennis Sock was playing.  The low margins eventually were Sock’s undoing, and he lost the break and the set 4-6 to Harrison.  Both men are the same age, but Harrison’s got a bit more experience playing tour matches, and he used this confidence to good effect in winning this match.

Brad Hunter is covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama News this week. Follow his reports here and live updates on our twitter account @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal twitter account @BradHunter.

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Dushevina beats Qualifier Hampton, Hampton teams up with Oudin for Doubles Win in Memphis

Vera Dushevina beats Qualifier Jamie Hampton.  Hampton later teams with Melanie Oudin for a Doubles Win in Memphis

By Brad Hunter

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (February 21, 2012) – Twenty-two year old American qualifier Jamie Hampton, who defeated defending 2011 Memphis champion Magdalena Rybarikova in the first round Sunday evening, lost her second round match on Tuesday on the Grandstand court at The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships.

Hampton, ranked 104, started strongly against 25-year old Russian Vera Dushevina by hitting powerful, aggressive groundstrokes and building herself a 4-2 first set lead.  At this point in the match Dushevina, ranked 89, used her defense and higher percentage topspin shots to force the Hampton power game to start missing.  Many rallies saw Hampton gain the court positioning advantage and then miss her put-away shots.

When Hampton started missing she became audibly and visibly agitated and Dushevina’s ability to prolong points ultimately proved too much for Hampton.  She was able to push back against Vera when she was down 1-5 in the second set, but Dushevina closed the win out at 6-4, 6-3.  The last point of the match saw a Dushevina passing shot angle bounce near the line – surely a call Hampton would’ve asked for a shot spot on had that been available.  Hampton angry, laughed and let out an exasperated plea to the chair, to no avail, as the chair was already saying “Game, Set, Match, Dushevina”.  Even with the loss, Hampton showed a powerful and aggressive baseline game which should carry her far in the WTA .

Dushevina showed impressive mental fortitude, getting agitated herself many times during the match but reeling it back in, and looks to be a strong threat for a title in Memphis (she’s also in the doubles draw with Olga Govortsova).  Later in the afternoon, Hampton teamed with Melanie Oudin (who lost today to spectacled Stephanie Foretz Gacon) for a 6-1, 6-0 doubles win against the team of Stefanie Mikesz and Mariya Slupska.

Brad Hunter is covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama News this week. Follow his reports here and live on our twitter account @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal twitter account @BradHunter.

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Tough Day in Memphis for Young Americans Sloane Stephens, Lauren Davis, Madison Keys and Alexa Glatch

By Brad Hunter

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (February 20, 2012) – The first match I sat down to watch at The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships was the Court 1, first round WTA match between 17-year old American Lauren Davis and 25-year old American Varvara  Lepchenko.  Davis was awarded a wildcard into the event, and Lepchenko was fresh off a Round of 16 run in Doha where she beat Alexandra Wozniak and Julia Goerges before falling to Agnieska Radwanska.  Lepchenko, ranked 90, started quickly by powering her way to a 2-0 lead, blasting groundstroke winners and mixing in touch angle volleys and paralyzing Davis’ game.  Lefty Varvara , who plays a bit like Petra Kvitova , can seemingly hit clean groundstroke winners from all over the court, off both sides and from many court positions.  She was a bit agitated from the start though, taking looks at the line judges for calling two foot faults on her early and quickly getting angry at herself for making errors.  Davis, ranked 221, began hitting her topspin forehand deeper into the court, and using her flatter backhand to pounce on short balls.   Davis, who trains at the Evert Academy, is a good competitor, and showed this by sneaking in to knock off volleys on important points and building herself a 5-2 1st set lead.  A frustrated Lepchenko took the opportunity to call her coach out for a quick chat and it helped her calm herself and win the last 5 games of the set to take it 7-5.  Lepchenko kept her edge the rest of the match, taking the 2nd set and the match 6-3.  Her play was patchy at times, possibly due to some fatigue from making the trip from Doha but her more powerful ground strokes and ability to consistently end points from midcourt and the net was too solid for quick, sparky Davis.

Before the end on the Davis/Lepchenko match on Court 1, 25-year old Russian Vera Dushevina and 17-year old American Madison Keys started their match on the adjacent Grandstand court.  Keys, ranked 256 and a wildcard entrant who also trains at Evert Academy, is one of the most talked about young Americans after her splashy US Open performance last year.  Dushevina, ranked 89, who famously gave Venus a 1st round 3-set scare in US Open in 2009, used her experience to take the match 6-2, 7-5.

Another American wildcard entrant into this event, 18-year old American Sloane Stephens, started strongly on the Grandstand court against 23-year old New Zealander Marina Erakovic, winning the 1st set 6-4 by hitting an array of backhand winners.  Sloane, ranked 86, and known for her powerful forehand and run to the 3rd round of the US Open last year never looked settled.  She lost 12 of the last 13 games and the match to 54th ranked Erakovic.

Taking the Grandstand court in the next match, was 22-year old American qualifier Alexa Glatch and 22-year old Ukranian Lesia Tsurenko.  Glatch, ranked 186, looked like the clear favorite to win, using her qualifying momentum, heavy forehand and versatile backhand slice to build a 6-2, 5-3 lead.  Many times, between points, Lesia was breathing heavy and loudly and grabbing her midsection.  Whatever her ailment was, Lesia, ranked 125, found a better level to her game and began playing an aggressive all-court game to overwhelm Glatch and steal the match.  Lesia even fought off a match point on the 2nd set tiebreak.

Although a tough day for Stephens, Keys, Glatch and Davis, all four ladies are still around in the Memphis tourney and will be back on the court playing doubles tomorrow.  Keys and Davis team up to play Erakoviv and Pervak and Stephens and Glatch team up to play fellow Americans Jamie Hampton (who took out defending champion Rybarikova yesterday in the first round) and Melanie Oudin (who plays Foretz Gacon in the first round on Tuesday).  Also seen scouting the American gals, Lead National Coach of Women’s Tennis, Tom Gullikson.

Brad Hunter is in Memphis covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama News.

Upset of the day on the men’s side – Croatia’s Ivan Dodig ousted No. 8 seed Bernard Tomic of Australia 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (8) on Monday. Dodig saved two match points on the way to victory.

“I was really happy after the match because I’ve been losing tight, tight matches,” Dodig said. “This is going to give me more confidence.”

RESULTS – MONDAY, 20 FEBRUARY, 2012

Women’s Singles – First Round
(Q) Camila Giorgi (ITA) d. (1) Nadia Petrova (RUS) 64 62
(3) Lucie Hradecka (CZE) d. Anna Tatishvili (GEO) 63 61
(4) Marina Erakovic (NZL) d. Sloane Stephens (USA) 46 60 61
Michaella Krajicek (NED) d. (6) Elena Baltacha (GBR) 62 61
Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) d. Heather Watson (GBR) 62 63
Vera Dushevina (RUS) d. (WC) Madison Keys (USA) 62 75
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) d. (WC) Lauren Davis (USA) 75 63
Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) d. (Q) Alexa Glatch (USA) 26 76(5) 62 (saved 2mp)

Doubles – First Round
(1) Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) d. Pavlovic/Rodina (FRA/RUS) 60 63
(2) Dushevina/Govortsova (RUS/BLR) d. Dolonts/Foretz Gacon (RUS/FRA) 46 62 108 (Match TB)
(4) Krajicek/Tatishvili (NED/GEO) d. Kondratieva/Lefèvre (RUS/FRA) 62 60
Watson/Woehr (GBR/GER) d. Brianti/Parmentier (ITA/FRA) 63 61
Lee-Waters/Moulton-Levy (USA/USA) d. (WC) Hibberd/Welcher (AUS/USA) 60 60
Men’s Singles – First Round
I Dodig (CRO) d [8] B Tomic (AUS) 57 64 76(8) – saved 2 M.P.
D Young (USA) d G Dimitrov (BUL) 76(4) 46 76(6)

Doubles – First Round
J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA) d [4] S Gonzalez (MEX) / C Kas (GER) 76(1) 76(2)
SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 21 FEBRUARY, 2012

STADIUM start 10:00 am
[WC] M Oudin (USA) vs S Foretz Gacon (FRA) – WTA
R Marino (CAN) vs [2] K Pervak (KAZ) – WTA
J Blake (USA) vs R Sweeting (USA) – ATP
[WC] S Querrey (USA) vs A Falla (COL) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
[1] J Isner (USA) vs G Muller (LUX) – ATP
[WC] R Harrison (USA) vs [WC] J Sock (USA) – ATP

GRANDSTAND start 10:00 am
[Q] R Kendrick (USA) vs S Stakhovsky (UKR) – ATP
[7] J Larsson (SWE) vs V Lepchenko (USA) – WTA
V Dushevina (RUS) vs [Q] J Hampton (USA) – WTA
[5] P Parmentier (FRA) vs A Hlavackova (CZE) – WTA
O Govortsova (BLR) vs M Krajicek (NED) – WTA
S Arvidsson (SWE) / J Larsson (SWE) vs [3] L Dekmeijere (LAT) / N Petrova (RUS) – WTA

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
[4] M Erakovic (NZL) vs E Rodina (RUS) – WTA
J Benneteau (FRA) / O Rochus (BEL) vs [2] J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER) – ATP
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) / L Kubot (POL) vs S Lipsky (USA) / R Ram (USA) – ATP
T Huey (PHI) / X Malisse (BEL) vs [3] F Cermak (CZE) / F Polasek (SVK) – ATP
M Erakovic (NZL) / K Pervak (KAZ) vs [WC] L Davis (USA) / M Keys (USA) – WTA
A Glatch (USA) / S Stephens (USA) vs J Hampton (USA) / M Oudin (USA) – WTA

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