October 7, 2015

Kerber Straight A’s in Finals, Wins Bank of the West Classic

Kerber winning 2-001


By Curt Janka

(August 9, 2015) STANFORD, California – There are no easy finals in Stanford and this one was no exception. Angelique Kerber was pushed hard to beat Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. Kerber is now a perfect 4-0 in championship matches this year.


There were patches of both sloppy and brilliant play from the players. The first set went back and forth as Kerber won the opening two games, dropped the next three, then closed the set on a 4 game streak. In the hot, breezy conditions, Pliskova struggled to keep her attacking shots inside the court. She got her first break in a game where she mostly hit her returns deep and at Kerber’s feet. But Kerber adjusted and forced Pliskova to go for more corners instead.


Pliskova, whose biggest weapon all week had been her serve, struggled to hold.

“It was definitely off, my serve,” she said. “I didn’t feel it at all. Not the first serve, not even the second serve. That’s probably for me the worst thing. It wasn’t working. I think that’s why I lost today.”


Holding was difficult for both players as the second set featured nine breaks of serve and only three holds. Kerber started to mix a few more drop shots into her shots and while Pliskova was able to get to them, she may have hurt her ankle to do so. She called for the trainer just before serving at 6-5 to have her ankle wrapped.


Asked about the injury she said, “Yes, I did some bad step with the right ankle. And then it was getting a little bit worse because I was running quite a lot today. It was much better after [it was wrapped].”


Pliskova gave credit to Kerber’s defensive abilities. “It was maybe harder than in the last matches for me because you always have to play one more ball than with the normal girls. So that’s why I made maybe more mistakes and that’s why also I was pushing the serve a little bit too much.”


Kerber has worked hard on her fitness, but she believes her commitment to being more aggressive is paying off. “I’m happy that I was going for it and not just pushing the ball back and hoping for the mistakes. I think that was the key in the end for me.


Kerber may be undefeated in finals this year, but that was not the case in 2014. When asked what’s different this year she smiled and said, “It’s coming back. Last year I was like 0-4 and now it’s 4-0. I think right now I have a lot of experience from last year, from all my finals. I’m just trying to go out there and enjoy the final. Every time I reach the final I know, okay I’ve had a great week already, just go out there, try your best and just take it.”

Curt Janka and David Sweet  were covering the Bank of the West Classic.

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Kerber Cruises Past Svitolina to Reach Stanford Final

By Curt Janka

(August 8, 2015) STANFORD, California – Despite going down an early break, Angelique Kerber raced to a lopsided semifinal win over Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-1 at the Bank of the West Classic. Svitolina started out well, but was quickly flustered by Kerber’s defense and variety. Kerber showed all the patience of a veteran and none of the wear expected from her grueling quarterfinal. In contrast, Svitolina showed her youth and frustration at her inability to regain any control of the match.


After being broken in the third game, Kerber got a determined look in her eye, broke right back and never let her opponent regain any momentum. Asked about how she turned the match around, she offered “Actually the first few games were very close. I was trying to be aggressive like I talked before the match with my coach and trying to think about my game plan. At the end it worked very well. And maybe it [getting broken] was a little bit of a wake up call, yeah.”


It wasn’t as high-level as her quarterfinal, but Kerber still managed to hit 18 winners with only 14 unforced errors. Svitolina had more trouble keeping the ball in the court, hitting only 12 winners while racking up 20 unforced errors.


Kerber now faces Karolina Pliskova in the final, a rematch of their final in Birmingham earlier this year. Kerber needed a tiebreaker in the third to win that match and knows she will have another tough match in this final. “I’m looking forward to it,” she said with a smile. “The final in Birmingham was very close. Against Karolina, I know she has a big serve so I must try to return very well tomorrow. And, like I was playing the whole week here, be aggressive, playing my game. But for sure it will be a tough final against Karolina. But I will try to enjoy it.”


Regardless of tomorrow’s result, Kerber will leave Stanford with the kind of confidence that could result in a deep run at The U.S. Open.


Curt Janka and David Sweet are covering the Bank of the West Classic. Follow their updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN

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Pliskova Powers Past Lepchenko at Bank of the West Classic


Pliskova in press

By Curt Janka

(August 8, 2015) STANFORD, California – Karolina Pliskova swung freely into her fifth final of the year, beating Varvara Lepchenko 6-2, 7-5. Most of the match boiled down to serves and return of serves. Pliskova continued her week of good serving with 72% of her first serves landing in while Lepchenko only managed 57%. Pliskova returned better as well, landing 72% of her returns in compared to the 56% Lepchenko struggled to get back in play.


Asked about what she did well today, Pliskova said “I think I served a little bit better. I don’t mean with the aces, but with the percentage of the first serve. She was really struggling with the return.”


The win puts Pliskova in her fifth final of the year, the most of any player on tour. Bigger still, she will advance to the Top 10 in the rankings for the first time on Monday. What does she think about being there? “I don’t really feel like I’m in the top 10,” she laughed. Mathematically, she was going to be there regardless of how she did at this event. She continued, “I know I belong there now, especially when I make the finals. I’m really happy to be in the Top 10, but I’m not going to think about it because it’s not my last goal. It was for a few years, but I don’t want to be satisfied with that. I want to be ready for the US Open and get a good result there.” She is also in the running to qualify for the year-end event in Singapore and hopes to be there.

Pliskova fistpump

Pliskova awaits the winner of the semifinal between Angelique Kerber and Elina Svitolina. Pliskova has won both of her previous encounters with Svitolina, but trails Kerber 2-3 head-to-head. Regardless of her opponent and the result, she has had a good week and will carry confidence to the US Open. “I’m feeling great now after I won three matches here and didn’t lose a set yet. Couldn’t be a better start to the hard court season.”

Curt Janka and David Sweet are covering the Bank of the West Classic. Follow their updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN


Kerber Edges Radwanska in Thriller at Bank of the West Classic


By Curt Janka

(August 7, 2015) STANFORD, California – All the cats. All the mice. Angelique Kerber needed every shot in her arsenal to overcome the craft and guile of Agnieszka Radwanska 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Up an early break in the first set, Radwanska appeared to have all the answers. Frustration read across Kerber’s face, but she played each point more determined than the last. The result was a display of variety and quality shot making from both players.


Both players utilized drop shots, lobs, angles and deep groundstrokes to move each other around the court and beyond.


I think we covered every part of the court,” Radwanska said. “So much angles from both sides… I don’t remember when I was ever running that much.”


Overall, Radwanska seemed happy with her play but regretted not taking advantage of the chances she had. “I think it was a great match. I think what I didn’t do is just finish the games well. I was 30-Love up a few times. She was just better today.”


Early on, Kerber was not sure she was the better player. “There were so many points where she was hitting the ball unbelievably and made the shots. I don’t even know how she played the balls. I was just standing there like, ‘Okay, we’re done, Aga.’ I couldn’t do anything. And then I said to myself, ‘Just forget that ball, focus on the next one, stay in the moment and try to keep fighting.’ And I’m happy I won the match. At the end I think we should both win.”


The players were both rewarded with loud applause from the fans.


Kerber advances to the semifinals. She will play Elina Svitolina who has won their last two encounters. Kerber admitted it will be another tough match. “Tomorrow is a new day and a new opponent, so I have to be ready for her, too.”


Curt Janka is covering the Bank of the West Classic this week. Follow his updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN and his personal twitter @CurtJanka.

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Svitolina Rallies to Beat Riske at Bank of the West Classic


By Curt Janka

(August 7, 2015) STANFORD, CaliforniaElina Svitolina waited until late in the second set to elevate her play to defeat Alison Riske 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. There were many breaks of serve and the two were quite even up until Riske was serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set. That’s when Svitolina seemed to find a new gear and went on to win 9 of the final 10 games.


“I was trying to push myself to stick to the baseline,” Svitolina explained. “It didn’t work against her so for me it was important to try to react fast and try to open the angles. Just pushing the ball you can’t win at this level. That’s why when I was 4-5 down, I said to myself ‘Come on and just hit the ball, wait for your chance and open the court.’ And that’s what brought me success today.”


The top players won’t often let an opponent back in a match like she experienced today. So what can she work on to get better? Svitolina offered, “I need to practice more on my serve. I need to find the confidence. Sometimes it can be really good and dangerous for my opponent. I need to work more on my serve to have it for every match, not just a few games.”

With the win, Svitolina advances to the semifinals of The Bank of the West Classic. She awaits the winner of the quarterfinal between Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska. Svitolina said she will watch some of the encounter. “I’m sure it will be a good match because they are both trying very hard for each ball. They are really tough opponents and I think it will be a really interesting match.”


Curt Janka is covering the Bank of the West Classic this week. Follow his updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN and his personal twitter @CurtJanka.



















“Nobody beats me 5 times,” Lepchenko Upsets Wozniacki at Stanford

Varvara Lepchenko

Varvara Lepchenko

By Curt Janka

(August 6, 2015) STANFORD, CaliforniaVarvara Lepchenko played steady to beat top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki at the Bank of the West Classic 6-4, 6-2 despite a number of brief rain delays. Neither player exhibited much emotion on court, as Wozniacki appeared slowed by a leg taped heavily from the knee down. The win is Lepchenko’s third over a Top 5 player, but only her first over Wozniacki who held a 4-0 record over the qualifier.


“Nobody beats me 5 times,” Lepchenko finally cracked a smile in her on-court interview.


Asked if her leg was her main problem tonight, Wozniacki said “Physically, I wasn’t feeling 100 percent. It wasn’t pretty out there, that’s for sure. At the end of the day she played better. Hats off to her.” The injury did not seem to worry her too much, however, as she explained “Hopefully, a few days and I’ll be okay.”


Lepchenko, who battled illness early in the season, has worked hard to get back in good condition. “The very first day after Wimbledon I started my physical conditioning,” she said. “I worked pretty hard to get myself to this point. I think I’m in better condition now than at the beginning of the season.”


Both players remarked on how quick the court is playing here, but Wozniacki thought that might help her for her next event. “Now, hopefully everything will feel slow in Toronto.” At least she found a silver lining amidst tonight’s scattered showers.


Curt Janka is covering the Bank of the West Classic this week. Follow his updates on twitter at @TennisNewsTPN and his personal twitter @CurtJanka.


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Varvara Lepchenko

Varvara Lepchenko



Melanie Oudin and Nicole Gibbs to Meet in Carson Final


CARSON, July 19, 2014 – Melanie Oudin and Nicole Gibbs survived sluggish first-set losses to advance to Sunday’s singles final of the USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic being played at the USTA Training Center – West at StubHub Center.


Both players called the first game of the second set the turning point in their matches.


The No. 4-seeded Oudin dropped the first set to unseeded American Sanaz Marand, but came back to win 10 games in a row at one point to roll, 2-6, 6-0, 6-1, over the former University of North Carolina lefthander.


“I was trying to step in and take the ball early but I just could not find my timing,” said Oudin, 22, who went back out on a practice court with her coach for 20 minutes after the match. “I had never faced her before or even practiced with her. She has a really heavy forehand so I started playing her backhand in the second set.


The defending champion and No. 2-seeded Gibbs also dropped the first set against 18-year-old New Yorker Louisa Chirico, and had a bit of a tougher time closing her out, 1-6, 6-2, 6-4. It was the third time the two had squared off this year and each time it has gone three sets. Just last week at the Sacramento Challenger, Chirico eliminated Gibbs in the second round.


“She came out very strong and won like the first nine points of the match,” said Gibbs, 21. “She was the aggressor and wasn’t making any errors. It was a little bit of an intimidating start. But I started to make some more balls and force the issue with her.


“The first game of the second set I just felt more energized,” Gibbs added.


Oudin and Gibbs have never met as pros, but Gibbs did recall the first and only time the two had played each other at the Carson International Spring Championships when they were juniors.


“I must have been 13 and she was 14, and it was right over there on that exact court,” said Gibbs, pointing to Court 4, which serves as the featured court. “She just destroyed me. It was back when she was winning everything. Hopefully it will be a different result.”


Gibbs said she not only looks up to Oudin because of her successful pro career, which includes a US Open quarterfinal appearance at age 17, a US Open mixed doubles title, one WTA singles title and a career-high WTA ranking of 31 back in 2010, but because of her 5-foot-6 height. “I have a ton of respect for her,” Gibbs said. “She’s definitely someone I’ve looked up to, for one reason because of her stature,” Gibbs said. “A lot of people think tennis is only for tall girls and big hitters.”


The top-seeded doubles team of Olivia Rogowska of Austria and Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands captured the doubles title and will split the $2,786 for their 7-6 (4), 6-1, victory over the young U.S. pairing of Samantha Crawford and Sachia Vickery, who split $1,053.


Tomorrow’s singles final will take place at 10 a.m.


Singles Final: No. 4 seed Melanie Oudin vs. No. 2 seed Nicole Gibbs


This tournament is being streamed live on www.procircuit.usta.com.


The USTA Pro Circuit event in Carson is taking the place for a women’s tournament in Yakima, Wash., that was faced with a fire in mid-May. The fire destroyed the host site’s clubhouse and impacted some of the adjoining tennis courts.


Admission is free and open to the public all week. For additional information about the USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic, visit www.usta.com/carson.


USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic

A USTA Pro Circuit Event

Saturday, July 19

USTA Training Center – West at StubHub Center

Carson, Calif.

Purse: $50,000

Surface: Hard-Outdoor


Saturday, July 19 – RESULTS

Singles – Semifinals

(4) Melanie Oudin (USA) def. Sanaz Marand (USA), 2-6, 6-0, 6-1

(2) Nicole Gibbs (USA) def. Louisa Chirico (USA) 1-6, 6-2, 6-4


Doubles Final

(1) Olivia Rogowska (AUS)/Michaella Krajicek (NED) def. Samantha Crawford (USA)/Sachia Vickery (USA) 7-6 (4), 6-1


Pro Tennis Returns to Carson Next Week

Nicole Gibbs by Dave Kenas / For the USTA

Nicole Gibbs by Dave Kenas / For the USTA

CARSON, July 10, 2014 – The USTA announced that the USTA Training Center – West at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., will host the USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic next week.


The USTA Pro Circuit event is taking the place for a women’s tournament in Yakima, Wash., that was faced with a fire in mid-May. The fire destroyed the host site’s clubhouse and impacted some of the adjoining tennis courts.


The field for the USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic will feature 32 singles players and 16 doubles teams. The main draw will be held from Tuesday, July 15, to Sunday, July 20. The qualifying tournament will be held from Sunday, July 13, to Tuesday, July 15. This tournament will be streamed live on www.procircuit.usta.com.


Carson is the second of three consecutive women’s hard-court tournaments thatmake up the USTA Pro Circuit’s US Open Wild Card Challenge, which will award amen’s and women’s wild card into the 2014 US Open. The American woman who earns the most WTA ranking points at two of the three USTA Pro Circuit hard-court events in Sacramento, Calif., Carson, and Lexington, Ky., will receive a USTA wild card to compete in the main draw of the US Open, which will be held Sunday, Aug. 25, to Monday, Sept. 8. Only players who did not receive direct entry into the US Open are eligible for the wild cards.


World No. 127 Olivia Rogowska, of Australia, will be the top seed in Carson. Notable American players expected to compete include:


  • Former world No. 31 Melanie Oudin, the 2009 US Open quarterfinalist and 2010 US Open mixed doubles champion
  • Nicole Gibbs, the 2012 and 2013 NCAA singles champion for Stanford
  • Madison Brengle, who holds five USTA Pro Circuit singles titles and five doubles titles
  • Shelby Rogers, who earned a wild card into the 2013 US Open and French Open by winning USTA wild card challenges that utilize the USTA Pro Circuit
  • Sachia Vickery, who earned a wild card into the 2014 Australian Open and the 2013 US Open (as the USTA Girls’ 18s singles champion)
  • Samantha Crawford, the 2012 US Open girls’ singles champion
  • Former Top 10 junior Louisa Chirico, a girls’ singles semifinalist at the French Open and Wimbledon in 2013
  • Maria Sanchez, the formerly No. 1-ranked college tennis player and a former All-American for USC

Players receiving main draw wild cards include:

  • Kristie Ahn, who completed her senior season at Stanford this past year, earning a final No. 4 ranking in the ITA rankings and receiving multiple All-American honors in both singles and doubles throughout her collegiate career. Ahn was a finalist at a USTA Pro Circuit event in Carson in 2010 before heading to Stanford.
  • Jamie Loeb, who recently completed her freshman season for the University of North Carolina, where she was the top-ranked college tennis player for most of the year
  • Chanelle Van Nguyen, a UCLA standout
  • Chiara Scholl, a four-time USTA Pro Circuit singles and doubles champion


The USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic will host a special Kids’ Day event on Saturday, July 19, from 8:30 am to 9:45 am. Kids of all ages and abilities are encouraged to attend the clinic. It will be held in conjunction with the Southern California Tennis Association and RAMP Tennis.


Carson has a strong history of hosting USTA Pro Circuit events. In 2005, the USTA Player Development staff ran its first-ever $50,000 event in Carson when Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. and the men’s event was unable to take place in Louisiana. Since then, the USTA Player Development staff has hosted both men’s and/or women’s events from 2007-2011 with a number of standout players competing during those years.


Admission is free and open to the public. For additional information about the USTA Player Development Women’s $50,000 Classic, visit www.usta.com/carson.


Teams On The Edge

Courier and Bryans

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

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


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


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


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


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

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

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Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

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Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

James Ward

James Ward

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(January 31, 2014) SAN DIEGO – “Yeah, from London, Arsenal fan, see myself as a pretty normal bloke,” that’s how James Ward described himself to the assembled press following what was a rather abnormal moment in his career.  On a temporary red clay court constructed in the outfield of a baseball field, 175th ranked James Ward stunned No. 49 Sam Querrey 1-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in 3 hours and 10 minutes at Petco Park in San Diego.


Querrey opened the match in ominous form.  Although he only served 52% in the frame, he stormed to a 6-1 lead in 26 minutes.  This US Davis Cup team’s alpha male was doing the expected versus a presumably outmatched opponent and without much help from his most vaunted weapon.  Asked about moving on from that first set in his post match presser, Ward deadpanned “I thought I couldn’t play much worse than I did in the first set anyway.”


With Ward unable to inflict much scoreboard pressure early, he waited for his chances, fully knowing that the situation should ultimately reward him with a few. “They’re one rubber down,” Ward noted. “He’s expected to beat me on paper.  He’s not in an easy position.” After splitting the first six games of the second set though, it looked as if Querrey were about to re-establish his authority on the match. Ward engineered an unlikely comeback from 0-40 down on his serve to hold for 4-3 on serve.  The set went to a tiebreak and it was in that pressure cooker that the big-serving Californian first lost his grip on the match.


Sam Querrey

Sam Querrey

It was a topsy turvy affair for the next two sets, Querrey opening the 3rd set strongly, riding newfound momentum to a 6-3 win, backed up by a 4-2 lead in the 4th.  From there, with the expectations shifted back to Querrey, the American, up two sets to one, with a break in the fourth, would only win one more game.  “You know, I think he started to gain some momentum and get some reads on my serve,” Querrey said reflecting on the match.  “You know, kudos to him for making some big shots in the latter part of the match.”


The crowd, which had largely been out of the matches all afternoon, in part thanks to Andy Murray’s suffocating victory over Donald Young in the first rubber, began desperately cheering for Querrey to right the ship, but to no avail.  The American No. 1 found himself in a fifth set, a place where he had a 2-7 record; in Davis Cup where he had a 4-6 record.  He wouldn’t improve any of those numbers tonight and his loss leaves the Americans with yet another stat line to try to reverse, 0-2.  The Americans are down 0-2 to Great Britain and will begin trying to take the long road back, starting with the Bryan Brothers tomorrow.  With Murray up next for Querrey, it’ll be the American’s turn to play with no expectations.


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

Related article:

Motivated Murray Dismisses Young