2014/10/24

Keys and Levine Book Their Spot into 2012 Australian Open Main Draw

By Erik Gudris

NORCROSS, Georgia – For the players in today’s Men’s and Women’s Finals at the Australian Open Wildcard Playoffs, there was only one goal – win the match and earn the right to walk right into the main draw of next month’s Australian Open.

Madison Keys (Photo by Erik Gudris)

The Women’s Finals featured two young American players, Madison Keys, who won the U.S. Open Wildcard earlier this summer, and Gail Brodsky who is currently ranked No. 229 on the WTA Tour. Keys went in as a slight favorite and her huge serve and powerful groundstrokes allowed her to dictate the tone of the first set. Going up a quick 4-1 on a double break, Keys briefly allowed Brodsky back into the set but managed to serve it out at 6-3.

Brodsky did her best to keep fighting with Keys who often had the last word in some of the longer rallies. Brodsky managed to get two break point chances in the second set at 4-2, but Keys fired off two consecutive aces to hold for a 5-2 lead. But when Keys was serving for it at 5-3, she just let up on her intensity enough to allow Brodsky to break back. Keys resumed her momentum in the next game and on her first match point, she hit a sizzling forehand winner to clinch her wildcard berth into Melbourne with a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Brodsky said afterwards that she didn’t feel that Keys played with any pressure on her. Keys agreed with that thought and spoke about her recent success and how her young age actually helps her when competing, “I’m one of the younger ones still so I’m not really supposed to be winning matches. I’m the underdog when I come into matches so I usually try to play like that but I’m also trying to play more free. That helps me keep it all in perspective.” Keys now plans to travel to Iowa, Boca Raton and then California before heading down under.

 

Jesse Levine (Photo by Erik Gudris)

The Men’s Finals featured a first time meeting between Jesse Levine of Boca Raton, FL and Kennesaw, GA native Robby Ginepri who is working his way back into the sport after injury sidelined him for most of this year. Local fans were hopeful that Ginepri could delight them with a win today, but unfortunately Ginepri had one of those days that all tennis players can relate to in that nothing worked for him on court. Levine played a steady match throughout while Ginepri often saw his shots sail wide or found him making unnecessary errors on what looked like easy winners.

After losing the first two sets in quick succession, Ginepri took an extended bathroom break before the third set to change his clothes and hopefully change the match. Despite Ginepri mixing up his game with some serve and volley, Levine remained consistent while the errors continued to mount for Ginepri. After breaking Ginepri for a 4-1 lead in the third set, Levine stayed the course and earned a convincing 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 victory that assures him a wildcard berth into the main draw of the Australian Open.

“I was in the zone today and was trying to stay with it,” said Levine about his performance. “After that first set, I was thinking can I keep this up? Robby is a really great competitor and he’s in really great shape. Honestly I was hitting the ball as solid as I could hit it and it all worked out for me today.”

Levine has played mostly challengers during 2011, but his recent results including today has him excited for next year. “I had a really good finish to the year and winning the title in Knoxville was a big boost to my confidence. And so getting back into the big leagues again proves all my hard work is paying off. I’m really excited to be back in the big show again. It feels good.”

Erik Gudris writes and moderates Adjustingthenet.com, a tennis news site. Follow him on Twitter @adjustingthenet.

Tennis Panorama News will be media covering next month’s Australian Open in Melbourne from January 16-29, 2012.

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Why Slowed Down Courts are Hurting Tennis

Britain’s Andy Murray returns the ball to Andy Roddick of the U.S. during the Paris Masters tennis tournament, November 10, 2011. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen (FRANCE – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

 

By Tumaini Carayol

Over the last three months, we have watched as Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal have go on the warpath against the various tennis governing bodies. It all started at the US Open when Nadal, Murray and company were put on-court in New York while the conditions were still damp. Following that incident, the pair both threatened strike action as they listed off all the ATP, ITF and USTA’s policies they deemed detrimental to the tour and the players – from the length of the season to the amount of mandatory tournaments, and so on. Interestingly however, neither player mentioned perhaps tennis’ biggest issue in 2011 – surface homogenization and the slowing down of all playing surfaces in sight.

 

The slowing down of certain surfaces is hardly a new issue. For the past ten years, Wimbledon and other grass tournaments have all taken steps to reduce the speed of their courts. The ATP and WTA recognized the All England Club’s steps to slow down their treasured grass courts and followed suit, annexing the carpet surface to nothing but a memory of a distant past. None of the organizations have ever given a concrete reason for the dramatic change we have seen over the years and it has been left up to the masses to speculate – many believe it was to dilute the Federer and Williams dominance of the early-mid 2000s and/or in order to promote the defense-based baseline style of play that is all the rage in 2011.

 

This year in Paris, Bercy, the same has happened. In recent years Bercy has always been the anomaly in the ATP tour, with its super-fast indoor courts often producing surprise champions. But after last year saw Robin Soderling crowned as champion, the organizers made the deliberate decision to slow down the surface allegedly based on complaints from players that the courts were too fast. And not just a little bit either. In his pre-tournament news conference, second seeded Andy Murray described the courts as “very, very slow” with Fernando Verdasco later echoing those thoughts. Moreover, it’s also plain for spectators to see, with the ball bouncing high and moving painfully slowly through the Bercy courts.

 

Of course, many will automatically ask what the problem is. Since most of the players are said to have specifically asked for the courts to be slowed down, surely there’s nothing else to discuss, right? Wrong. Instead, the tour is becoming increasingly backwards as the ATP’s own decision to slow down the courts cripple their very sport.

 

First, there are issues from a purely entertainment and traditional point of view. What makes tennis so unique is the variety of surfaces and the way in which the surfaces compare and contrast against each other. It forces players to come up with different game-plans on different surfaces against different players and means that total domination is next to impossible due to the rigors and difficulty of adapting to each and every surface. Even Federer at his very best was routinely beaten by many a player on his least favorite surface. And it comes as no surprise that Novak Djokovic’s spectacular year – arguably one of the best and most consistent seasons in history – has come in 2011 as most major surfaces have become almost identical.

 

But it is far from just an aesthetic and cosmetic problem. Traditionally, clay is by far the most grueling and toughest surface on the body, and the faster surfaces have always provided a heavy contrast to the red dirt – allowing players to shorten points, attack and somewhat protect and preserve the body. The slowing down of the courts has taken this away, with most courts coming glorified clay court. It means that players are having to put their bodies under immense pressure day in and day out and it’s leading to increasingly more injuries. Again, it’s no surprise that after a long and grueling season, this US Open broke the record for most withdrawals and retirements in a single tournament.

 

Thus, that the players specifically demanded the court surface to be changed is where the biggest problem lies. While many are hailing Murray and Nadal’s decision to speak up against the ATP tour and calling for the players to bond together to have a bigger say in the goings-ons of their tour, the problem is that even those players don’t always make the decision that will best-benefit their bodies and their sport. With the grinding baseliner style of play dominating tennis in 2011, when given the choice – as they were here in Bercy – players will naturally pick the decision that will benefit their own games and tennis results over anything else. And backwards the tour goes.

Tumaini Carayol is in Paris/Bercy covering the BNP Parbas Masters  for Tennis Panorama News. He is a  contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his BNP Paribas Masters coverage here and on our twitter account @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal twitter at @FootFault_.

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Pospisil Takes a Firm Step Forward in Valencia

By Tumaini Carayol

VALENCIA, Spain – Of all the juniors in 2011, it has been Milos Raonic who has made the most progress since the beginning of the year and solidified his place as a future star. But Raonic isn’t the only young player to make strides in 2011, and not even the only player from his country to do so. This year has also been the coming-out year for another Canadian born in 1990 called Vasek Pospisil.

 

Age and country is where the similarities between Raonic and Pospisil end, however. While Raonic shot up the rankings out of seemingly nowhere, Pospisil has been a steadily improving work in progress.

 

For most of the year, Pospisil could be found on the challenger circuit, spending most of his time traveling to obscure venues and winning numerous matches for minimal points and prize money. His breakthrough has come in bits and pieces – first when he defeated Chela in Toronto before giving Federer a tight two-setter, then when he qualified for the US Open and emphatically won his first ever Slam main draw, and then when he single-handedly led Canada into the Davis Cup World Group.

 

This week in Valencia has proven to be yet another bold step forward. After qualifying for an ATP 500 event for the first time, the Canadian found some majestic form en-route to a nail biting tight three set victory over 23rd-ranked John Isner on Monday.

 

The victory in itself was impressive, but the manner in which he took the match was even more so. From the very first point, the 21 year-old looked to take the ball on, and it set the tone for the rest of the match, with his forehand dominating proceedings from start to finish. There were moments in the match when his form wavered – but he always found a way through those patches.

 

He eventually ended up in a third-set tiebreak with Isner, and though most tend to immediately concede defeat when faced with a tiebreak with the 6’ 10” American, Pospisil simply committed himself even more, blasting four winners in the first five points before eventually finding himself up three match points. Once again, the Canadian wavered, but also once again, he refused to let it affect him, holding tight onto his serve before eventually finding an Isner second serve and punishing it to advance into the second round.

 

Will Pospisil ever be a world-beating top player? Maybe; maybe not. At this point it is unlikely, but still hard to tell. However, considering how much hype and time is given to the likes of Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov – all talented but temperamental, inconsistent and with the mental strength of a brick – it’s just nice to see a young player with talent and his head firmly screwed on.

 

After all, in tennis that’s all you need.

Tumaini Carayol is covering the Valencia Open  for Tennis Panorama News. He is a  contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his Valencia coverage here and on our twitter account @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal twitter at @FootFault_.

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A Look at WTA Comebacks

Serena Williams of the U.S. celebrates winning a point against Russia’s Vera Zvonareva during the women’s singles final at the 2010 Wimbledon tennis championships in London in this July 3, 2010 file photo. Williams has pulled out of the French Open because she has not fully recovered from health issues, organisers said on May 12, 2011. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/Files (BRITAIN – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

 

By Jack Cunniff

When Serena Williams takes the court at the 2011 Eastbourne tournament this week, she will be returning to competitive tennis for the first time in almost a full year (Wimbledon 2010).  How successful will Williams be after being away from the sport due to injury and illness?

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of women’s Grand Slam champions take an extended leave from the tour, whether due to injury, retirement, or just a break from the game.  Take a look at how they fared after their prolonged absences.

Get other tennis facts and trivia at @JRCunniff

Tracy Austin
Last Event: Eastbourne, June 1983
Length of absence: Austin was absent for most of 9 years, with two stalled comeback attempts during that period. She played two singles events in 1984, and two singles events in 1989). Her 1988-89 comeback was derailed by injuries sustained in an auto accident.
Return event: Indian Wells, February 1993, at age 30. Defeated World No. 12 K. Maleeva en route to 3R.
Highlights of comeback: Made it back to No. 78 in the world, playing 14 events while back on tour for 18 months.  She retired after Eastbourne in 1994.

 

Jennifer Capriati
Last Event: US Open, August 1993
Length of absence: Capriati spent more than 2 years on sabbatical, playing only one event (1994 Philadelphia) during her time away.
Return event: Essen, Germany, February 1996, a month before her 20th birthday.  Advanced to QF before losing to No. 12 Novotna in the QF.
Highlights of comeback: It took a few years for Capriati to recapture her top form, but she won three Grand Slam titles (2001-02 Australian Open, 2001 French Open) and achieved the No. 1 ranking.

 

Kim Clijsters
Last Event: Warsaw, April 2007
Length of absence: Clijsters retired for 2+ years, giving birth to daughter Jada during her time away.
Return event: Cincinnati, August 2009, at age 26.  Defeated three Top Twenty players before losing to World No. 1 Safina in the QF.
Highlights of comeback: Clijsters has won three Grand Slam singles titles since her return (2009 US Open, 2010 US Open, 2011 Australian Open), becoming the first mother to win a major event since Evonne Goolagong (Wimbledon 1980).  She has won seven titles in her still-active comeback, and regained the No. 1 ranking.

 

Lindsay Davenport
Last Event: Beijing, September 2006
Length of absence: Davenport took a one-year break to have her first child, son Jagger
Return event: Bali, September 2007, at age 31.  Won the title, defeating  No. 3 Jankovic en route.
Highlights of comeback: While Lindsay won four minor titles in her year back on tour, she struggled with injuries (one retirement, two withdrawals).  Her final singles appearance was the 2008 US Open.

 

Steffi Graf
Last Event: French Open, June 1997
Length of absence: Graf was sidelined for more than eight months with a knee injury.
Return event: Hannover, February 1998, at age 28.  Lost in QF to Appelmans.
Highlights of comeback: Graf played only two events before taking another three months off due to her injury.  She returned again in June 1998 for her final year on tour, highlighted by a French Open title and Wimbledon RU in 1999.

 

Justine Henin
Last Event: Berlin, May 2008
Length of absence: Henin retired for 18 months, despite being the world No. 1 and the current holder of two major championships (2007 French and US Opens).
Return event: Brisbane, January 2010, at age 27.  Lost in F to Clijsters.
Highlights of comeback: Henin won two titles and advanced to the 2010 Australian Open finals, before injuring her elbow after a fall at Wimbledon.  She made one more appearance after Wimbledon (2011 Australian Open, 3R) before retiring for a second time.

 

Martina Hingis
Last Event: Filderstadt, October 2002
Length of absence: Hingis spent more than three years retired before making full-time return. Although she played one event in January 2005.
Return event: Gold Coast, January 2006, at age 25.  Lost in SF to Pennetta
Highlights of comeback: Hingis won three events, including 2006 Italian Open, and reached three Grand Slam QFs and No. 6 ranking in her return.  She retired again in September 2007 after a positive drug test result, which she denied but refused to fight.

 

Martina Navratilova
Last Event: Virginia Slims Championships, November 1994
Length of absence: Navratilova was retired for almost 10 years in singles, although she continued to play o tour in doubles during part that time.
Return event: Amelia Island, April 2004 at age 47.  Lost 1R to Sequera.
Highlights of comeback: Navratilova played only five events in April through June of 2004 and won only two matches, but the highlight of her comeback was a 1R win at Wimbledon, making her the oldest player to win a main tour singles match in the Open era.

 

Monica Seles
Last Event: Hamburg, April 1993
Length of absence: Seles was gone from the game for more than two years, after a tragic courtside stabbing during a match in Hamburg.
Return event: Canadian Open, August 1995, at age 21.  Won the event, beating two Top Ten players en route, and followed with a run to the US Open finals.
Highlights of comeback: Seles won 21 more singles titles, including one major event (1996 Australian Open).  Injuries finally ended her career after the 2003 French Open.

 

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The Year of Andrea Petkovic?

 

Tennis Channel's Cari Champion interviews Andrea Petkovic at 2011 Sony Ericsson Open

By Tumaini Carayol

STUTTGART – So far, 2011 has been a year filled with great highs and new progress for Germany’s Andrea Petkovic. In January, the 23 year-old wowed spectators at the Australian Open as she demolished 2008 champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round to move into the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.

 

As if to prove that her Australian Open run was no fluke, Petkovic replicated that blistering form at the second biggest tournament so far in 2011, storming into the semi-finals and taking the scalps of current number one and former number one Caroline Wozniacki and Jelena Jankovic back-to-back en-route.

 

Though a favorite amongst die-hard fans for far longer, Miami also happened to be the place where Petkovic was transformed from a fairly unknown player into a superstar. As her success continued throughout the week, more and more reporters took notice of her stellar performances and charismatic personality off-court. She quickly became the story of the tournament as her trademark ‘Petko Dance’ grabbed US and European headlines alike and propelled her into the new.

 

Following her 3-6 6-2 6-2 first round win over Tamira Paszek in Stuttgart, Petkovic sat down to address her newfound fame.

 

“I felt the pressure, the expectations rising from the audience, from the media. But I think I handled it well in Fed Cup”

 

“Now the only new problem was to redo it in a normal tournament situation only two days later.”

 

When asked whether she felt like a superstar, she giggled.

 

“No, I don’t feel like a superstar. In my town Darmstadt, when I walks through the city nobody ever talks to me, only one guy and he always tells me ‘you parked wrong” she laughed.

 

“I’m still normal. I’m not Paris Hilton.”

 

Petkovic is set to play Jelena Jankovic in the second round on Wednesday.

Tumaini Carayol is in Suttgart covering the Porsche Tennis  Grand Prix  for Tennis Panorama News. He is a  contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his Stuttgart coverage here and on our twitter account @GVTennisNews. Follow him on twitter at @FootFault_.

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Tuesday in Stuttgart

By Tumaini Carayol

STUTTGART- Sam Stosur, Julia Goerges and Sabine Lisicki all moved into the second round of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart on Tuesday with straight sets victories.

 

It was far from plain sailing for Stosur, who after speeding to an early lead against Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez, was quickly pegged back to 5-5 by Martinez Sanchez. However, last year’s finalist hung on to take the first set and eased through the second with the loss of only two games.

 

“I am pretty pleased with that, I have been practicing well on clay and it’s good to get a win.” She said afterwards.

 

“It [her stellar claycourt play] just happened over the last few years, something clicked and I got used to playing on clay,”

 

Germany’s Julia Goerges quickly followed suit, fighting back from an early break to overwhelm Holland’s Michaella Krajicek and advance to the second round in her first year of direct entry into her home tournament with a 6-3 6-0.

 

Next up for Goerges is Miami champion Victoria Azarenka. She was excited about the prospect of playing such a highly-ranked player;

 

“I look forward to [playing] Victoria Azarenka. These are the matches we work towards.”

 

Finally, Sabine Lisicki upset world number 27 Dominika Cibulkova with a 7-5 7-6 victory to record her third top thirty victory since Miami.

 

“There were the nerves, and at times my hands shook, But in the tiebreak I played confidently” She said.


Andrea Petkovic defeated qualifier Tamira Paszek in a tough match 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

Quote of the day from Andrea Petkovic: “I am not Paris Hilton”

Stuttgart results and order of play.

Tumaini Carayol is  in Suttgart covering the Porsche Tennis  Grand Prix  for Tennis Panorama News. He is a  contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his Stuttgart coverage here and on our twitter account @GVTennisNews. Follow him on twitter at @FootFault_.

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Photos from WTA All-Access Hour at Family Circle Cup in Charleston

CHARLESTON, SC – Rachel Vinson of  Onthegotennis is  at the Family Circle Cup tournament in Charleston this week reporting for Tennis Panorama News. Here is a gallery of Monday’s photos taken by her which include Caroline Wozniacki, Samantha Stosur, Jelena Jankovic, Shahar Peer, Marion Bartoli, Yanina Wickmayer in addition to photos from around the grounds and practice courts. Follow her twitter coverage on @GVTennisNews and her twitter account @Onthegotennis.

 

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Kourtin’ Karen’s Sony Ericsson Open Week 1

 

15-0

Welcome to Miami

Tennis Panorama News was in Miami this week covering the Sony Ericsson Open. Craig Hickman of Craig Hickman on Tennis and JD Blom were on site covering all the on-court and off-court action.

30-0

Breaking News at WTA All Access

Due to Craig Hickman’s and JD Blom’s skills with the Flemish language they broke the “Clijsters won’t play in Asia” story on twitter first and with a complete translation later in the day.  Heads up to Chris Chase for recognizing this in Yahoo’s tennis blog Busted Racquet. It was interesting to see media outlets report the story without verification or source attribution.

Of  War and Radiation: Kim Clijsters Speaks

 

30-15

Soccer/Football Jinx

Photo courtesy of Onthegotennis.com

Has anyone noticed that most of those players who participated in the charity soccer match for Japan earlier in the week have already lost in Miami?  The list so far includes Andy Murray, Fernando Verdasco, Marcos Baghdatis, Stanislas Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.

30-30

Look out for Falling Seeds

On Saturday alone 10 seeds including Andy Roddick lost in Miami – 6 men  and 4 women.

40-30

Serena Sighting

From Serena Williams‘ twitter account, Williams and Caroline Wozniacki took in a Miami Heat game earlier in the week.

 

Deuce

Losing Streak

Andy Murray (Photo of Onthegotennis.com)

Andy Murray is officially in a slump. He was a second round victim to Alex Bogomolov Jr. This marks his fourth consecutive loss beginning with the final of the Australian Open. Despite the loss, Murray will climb to No. 4 in the world due to Robin Soderling’s third round exit at the Sony Ericsson Open.

Advantage

Doubles Point of the Week!

 

 

Deuce

Swimming with the Fish(es)


Mardy Fish has a sense of humor to volunteer to participate in two photo-ops this week – swimming with the dolphins..

Mardy Fish and Dolphins Cheerleaders (Getty Images)

and posing with the  Miami Dolphins cheerleaders. Good news for Fish – not official yet but a Fish win in the next round, paired with Andy Roddick’s early loss will make Fish the top ranked US male.

 

Advantage

Dance of the Week

Video and photo courtesy of Forty Deuce

Ana Ivanovic has paired up with Andrea Petkovic in doubles this week at the Sony Ericsson Open.  Needless to say Petkovic has shown her how to do the victory dance.

Deuce

Photo-Op of the Week

NBA All-Stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat perfomed the coin toss at Saturday evening’s Rafael Nadal-Kei Nishikori match at the Sony Ericsson Open.

Deuce

Do you wanna ride in my Mercedes boy?

Photo courtesy of Onthegotennis.com

Kudos to Onthegotennis.com who caught Roger Federer driving to the Sony Ericsson Open in a Mercedes.  Mercedes is one of Federer’s sponsors.

Advantage

Parties and Events of the Week

Tennis Family Unites To Raise Funds for Japan Disaster Relief




Sony Ericsson Open Players Party – Welcome to the Oscars

New Experience with Sharapova and the Hot Shots

GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser with Novak Djokovic

Slideshow: GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser


Game, Set, Match, Videos and Photo Galleries!


JD Blom and Craig Hickman were all over the Sony Ericsson Open  from the matches to the “Party Patrol” events this past week. Here are links to videos and photo galleries. Also check out the live tweeting of the red carpet events they covered thorughout the week– here

Articles with Videos:

Videos – GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser with Novak Djokovic

Video – Roger Federer Practice Session at the Sony Ericsson Open

Video – Andy Roddick Practice Session at the Sony Ericsson Open


 

Photo Galleries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rafael Nadal Practice Session Photos at the Sony Ericsson Open

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All Photos © JD Blom for Tennis Panorama News.

 

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Maria Sharapova Enjoys ‘That Latin Flavor’

All Photos © JD Blom for Tennis Panorama News.
Article by Craig Hickman

 

Thursday night, I attended by first-ever night session on Stadium Court at the Sony Ericsson Open. Outside of the Slams, this is among my favorite tournaments. I’ve always considered it the fifth Slam, even though recently, I’ve heard Indian Wells referred to as such. What I love about this slam is the high-energy crowds that come out at support Central and South American players. When JD asked me what the biggest tournament in South America actually was, I drew a blank. In my mind, this is it.

Which is why I ought to have gotten out to Court 1 a lot earlier and watched the compelling drama unfold between Paul Capdeville of Chile and Frederico Gil of Portugal. By the time I arrived, the match was at a few points shy of the final set tiebreak, which Capdeville let 4-1 and 6-3, only have the match stolen from him by the tencacious “Fred” (his fans where chanting his name after almost every point) who struck two outrageous passing shots to save two of the four match, deflating the Argentine who was gutted after the match.

 

Back on Stadium Court, Maria Sharapova played her first match in Miami match in three years. After she cruised to victory 6-3, 6-2 over Croatia’s Petra Martic, I was the only writer, along with five photographers, who showed up for her news conference. Because it was late and she appeared to be a bit insulted by the empty room, joking that more children showed , I kept my one-on-one with the former No. 1 and face of the WTA succinct.

Craig Hickman for Tennis Panorama News: How are you feeling?

Maria Sharapova: Good. Great.

TPN: When was the last time you played in Miami?

MS: Three years ago.

TPN: That’s what I thought. How does it feel to be back?

MS: Way too long.

Feels really good. This is one of my favorite events. It’s crazy that I’ve missed it this many years because of injuries. So I’m just so happy to get back on that court today and just I love playing in front of the crowd. They’re so enthusiastic. They love their sports and have that Latin flavor about them. You know, it’s fun.

TPN: How is your shoulder?

MS: Doing good. Yeah, stable.

TPN: Are you healed?

MS: Healed? Tough to say an athlete is healed, but, yeah, I’m doing really well. Thank you.

TPN: You are pretty popular in Asia. Can you talk a little bit about how you felt when you heard about the Japan earthquake?

MS: Yeah, it was a tragedy. You know, you still see all the coverage in the papers and on video. It’s crazy to think that something like that could just happen so quickly and destroy so many lives, so many emotions.

Japan is one of my favorite places to visit, to go to. I’ve had incredible memories ever since I think I was maybe 13, 14 years old my first time I went there. I love so many things about it. I love the people. I love the food. I love the culture. I mean, I have been to so many different parts of it, as well, I’ve got to experience. I mean, you go to a different town, people live differently. It’s so unique there. I draw so much inspiration all my life from there and from those people. It’s devastating to know what they’re going through. Yeah, but I hope that it doesn’t continue and become worse.

TPN: Where do you see yourself in the game right now?

MS: Um, you know, I see myself building from what I can. You know, my goal this year is to consistently stay healthy and just really build on you know, last week I got to the semifinals. I was really happy, because I hadn’t played a tournament in a while. So just, you know, play a lot more tournament in a while. So just, you know, play a lot more tournaments, you know, play a lot more matches, and I feel like my form will get to where I want it to be when I do that.

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog He is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News.

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