2014/09/02

Donald Young Reaches Citi Open Quarterfinals

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Donald Young photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

By Dave Gertler

(July 31, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – Donald Young has bounced back from a four-match losing streak to find redemption at the Citi Open this week, where today’s win over Denis Istomin places him in his second ATP quarterfinal of 2014.

“I had to fight some nerves, and it’s tough to play an opponent who you can visually see was not on top of his game,” said Young of Istomin who appeared exhausted at times throughout the match, “I asked him at the end. He said he was a little tired.”

The 25-year-old American broke his opponent late in the first set, before consolidating the break – and the set – with a love service game, taking the opener 6-3.

Aforementioned losing streak aside, Young has found himself on a mid-career upswing in the last 12 months, and has raised his ranking from outside the top 150 to where it is now at No.73, mostly through wins at Challenger level.

Along with his second-round win against Julien Benneteau yesterday, today’s win against Istomin means Young now has an even 7-7 win/loss record against top-50 players in 2014, a sure sign he himself is heading in that direction.

“It’s been three years since I’ve been in the top 50,” said Young, “It took me a while to get my head together. Next time I get there – which I think I will – I want to stay and be consistent, at least for a good part of the rest of my career.”

Istomin swung the momentum in his favor in the second set, capitalizing on an early break and holding the advantage for 6-3, but with the Grandstand One crowd well and truly behind him, Young outlasted Istomin in the decider, proving more physically equipped than his opponent to gain the advantage in the majority of their long baseline duels.

Closing out the match, however, required a different approach. Young said his strategy on this crucial 5-3 service game was to, “Put some good first serves in, be aggressive, move forward. When I move forward, the nerves don’t have a chance to kick in, ‘cause it’s so instinctive.”

Now enjoying his sixth career appearance in Rock Creek Park, the 6-foot former junior world No.1 from Georgia is hoping to outdo his 2011 run to the Citi Open semi-final, but to reach that stage in 2014, he’ll need to turn the tables on his next opponent, Kevin Anderson, who has beaten Young the last five times they’ve played.

It was a good day for American men at the Citi Open, with Young, as well as Steve Johnson getting through to the quarter-finals, Johnson taking out 9th seed Ivo Karlovic in three sets and two hours.

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Rafael Nadal Makes Quick Work of Denis Istomin

Nadal 321 press-001

(March 24, 2014) Rafael Nadal may have received a warning for slow play, but he made quick work of disposing of Denis Istomin 6-1, 6-0 in 59 minutes to reach the fourth round of the Sony Open on Monday.

“I played a very complete match,” the world No. 1 said.  “Talking about the things that you can do well in the tennis court, today I think I did the most ‑‑ not every one because not match is perfect, but I did a lot of things very well.  No mistakes, serving with good percentage, and playing a lot of winners.

“My movements were better than what I did last event events.  That’s a very important thing for me.  I am happy to be in that fourth round, winning not against an easy opponent like Istomin, a tough one, that way.  It’s impossible win with that result if I don’t play well.”

Next for Spaniard is Italian Fabio Fognini.

“He’s an opponent, very uncomfortable opponent,” Nadal said.  “He’s an opponent that is playing great.  He has an amazing talent.  Great forehand, great backhand, especially the forehand, but he’s able to hit winners from every part of the court.

“So he’s an opponent sometimes that can be unpredictable, and is difficult to play against these kind of players ‑ especially when they are playing well and Fognini is playing well.

“I need to try to let him play with ‑‑ if he wants to play, try to find the winners, and I need to try to let him play from not easy positions.  If he’s playing with comfortable positions will be very difficult for me.”

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Andy Murray and Stanislas Wawrinka Move into US Open Quarterfinals

Murray 88

(September 3, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – No. 3 seed Andy Murray and No. 9 seed Stanislas Wawrinka overcame rough starts to advance to the quarterfinals on Tuesday night at the US Open.

Defending champion Murray stopped No. 65 Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 on a windy Tuesday night while Wawrinka hit 14 aces in a a 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (6), 6-2 win  over No. 5 Tomas Berdych. Scot Murray and Swiss Wawrinka will face off against each other for a spot in the semifinals of Flushing Meadows.

Istomin who was making his debut in a Grand Slam fourth round, initially gave Murray problems. The highlight of the evening for the Usbek was when he hit a between-the-legs shot as Murray was close to leveling the match at a  set apiece.

“Started well,” Berdych said. “I made the first set, but then I would say, yeah, Stan starts to play very well and very solid and many things doesn’t work from my game that I would like to.

“You know, when the opponent is that solid like Stan was playing today, then, it’s not enough.”

“That’s for sure my best year,” Wawrinka said. “Today I was playing really good tennis. As I said before the tournament, I think I play my best tennis ever. I had one or two first round. Tough mentally, especially to get the confidence back. But today I was really confident with my game, and I was playing really good. I think my best match against Tomas. It’s never easy to play him, but I did a good job. I was feeling really better than him.”

“This year is confidence, for sure,” the Swiss explained. “I had tough beginning of the year, but in the same time was really positive for me because I was playing great tennis. I had some tough loss, but I was still working out. I think the title in Portugal against David Ferrer in the final helped me a lot with my confidence to pass the next level. Since then, I’m feeling really good on the court.”

Wawrinka was asked about being the last Swiss player remaining and about his countryman Roger Federer’s upset loss the night before.

“It’s a different situation, for sure,” the Swiss said. “I’m really happy with me for myself with the year, what I’m doing right now, but I will prefer to have him still playing in the tournament, you know. I watched his match yesterday and it was not that good. I was sad for him, because he’s a good friend and I like when he’s winning Grand Slam titles. I hope he will come back stronger.

On playing Wawrinka in the quarterfinals Murray said: “I’ll need to play a good match. He’s improved I think this year quite a bit. Some of the things he didn’t do so well before he’s improved. So he has less weaknesses. You know, he’s more experienced now. You know, he has a very good backhand. He serves well. You know, he’s solid up at the net. He makes a lot of returns. He makes it very tricky for you. He’s a top player. It will be a very tough match for me.”

Murray leads in the head-to-head record against Wawrinka 8-5. They are 1-1 when playing each other at the US Open.

 

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Federer Dominates Istomin in Second Round of the BNP Paribas Open

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(March 9, 2013) Roger Federer  began defense of his BNP Paribas Open title by defeating Russia’s Denis Istomin  6-2, 6-3 in the second tound on Saturday. Federer is going for his fifth Indian Wells title.

The Swiss was dominant with his serve, winning 96 percent of his first serve points, losing only lost just four points on serve, all in the first set in the 58 minute match.

“It felt good from the start and was able to maintain that level of play,” Federer said to media.  “I never thought he got into the match, you know, at all.  That gives you obviously even more confidence.”

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Six Semifinals

Haas d Isner semifinal (1 of 5)

Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Six Semifinals

By Kevin Ware

Day Six Semifinal Results

[4] Tommy Haas (GER) d [2] John Isner (USA) 6-3, 6-4

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) d [3] Sam Querrey (USA) 6-4, 6-2

Match Notes

Semifinal #1

After watching Tommy Haas and John Isner the past few rounds, I had an uneasy feeling about Isner’s chances against the resurgent German in the first semifinal.  Isner needed to start aggressively, serve well, and keep the points short. Haas needed to challenge the Isner second serve, take his chances, and work the big man over with baseline play.  The Haas strategy proved to be the winning one, as he took out the No. 2 seed in straight sets.

When asked about his success in seeing the Isner serve, Haas said, “I mean, that’s the key against somebody like John, obviously. I think early on in the beginning he didn’t hit his first serves in so I tried to jump on the second, tried to make something happen, get it back in play, and then take my chances in the rally.” That’s exactly what he did; getting balls back into play and making the big man hit the proverbial “one more shot”.

“You have to play aggressive and play the type of tennis that you want to play.  It can be tricky, but I did see his serve really well today and that obviously helps.”

For his part, Isner missed on all aspects of his “key to the win”. He started slow, missed some first serves, and found himself caught in baseline rallies he had little chance of winning. Lack of rhythm on his serve was at the top of the list in Isner’s honest assessment about his difficulties in this match.

“Yeah, that’s really what decided the match. I feel like normally I serve better than I did.  And against a guy who is and was playing really well in that match, I need to serve better.”

The serve was just one aspect of Isner’s loss. When Haas drew Isner into baseline rallies, his speed and movement gave him a huge advantage over the taller Isner.  When asked how he felt his ground game held up against Haas, Isner admitted, “It let me down a little bit. This court it stays low and it skids. I would prefer the ball to get up a little bit higher for me.  But still I got a ways to go with just my game and going for my shots, and trusting my shots a little bit more.  I just didn’t have it today.”

With this win, Haas reaches his 25th ATP World Tour final and has a chance to become the first German winner of the SAP Open.

Semifinal #2

Milos Raonic completely dismantled Sam Querrey, breaking the American’s serve in the very first game of the match.  From there, he never looked back as he gave Querrey a comprehensive lesson in “big boy tennis”.

Raonic dominated Querrey with big serving, big forehands, big backhands and, most importantly, solid returning that kept Querrey under continual pressure in his service games.  Every aspect of Raonic’s game was working in the match, and it became clear after a few games that Sam had little chance of stopping the Raonic juggernaut.

It can’t be overstated just how dramatically Raonic’s off-season work on his return game impacts a match like this.  The stats tell much of the story for these two big servers.

Aces: 12 for Raonic, 7 for Querrey
Double Faults: 0 for Raonic, 4 for Querrey
Break Points Saved: 0/0 for Raonic, 6/9 for Querrey

By breaking Querrey early, Raonic put him on notice.  Instead of the 20 aces that he hit in both of his earlier matches, he only got 7 against Raonic.  That’s a ton of free points on which he usually relies that were no longer available.  On top of that, pressing on his serve led to more double faults.  Raonic had, for all practical purposes, taken the Querrey serve out of the equation.

When your weapon is no longer a weapon, and you can’t break your opponent’s serve while defending yours in each service game, the odds of success drop dramatically.

Raonic’s continually improving game is the result of hard work in the off-season, and the confidence it’s given him on court is palpable.  “(I’m) returning well, moving well, getting into position to hit the shot and when I have the opportunity I’m going forward and I’m pretty successful. And I’m serving well.  So sort of everything’s on the right track, in that sense.  Then confidence comes with that. The work’s paying off.”

Sam acknowledged what was painfully obvious to all in attendance.  “He served unbelievable, and I was never even really close to getting a look on his serve. On my serve I wasn’t getting a ton of pop and he was doing a good job of putting the pressure on me.  He returned hard and deep and I felt like I was under pressure the whole time.” “He hit the ball big all around. He was really sharp today.”

To the contrary, Raonic has been sharp for the past three years. Two of his three career titles have come at the SAP Open, and he’s never dropped a set in San Jose.  If he wins this final SAP Open title, he will be the first man to three-peat in the Open Era, and the first since Tony Trabert in the fifties.  Judging by his play so far, this outcome appears likely.

Final Notes/Pick

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) vs [4] Tommy Haas (GER)

Head-to-head: Raonic and Haas have never played.

Keys to the match: Raonic just needs to keep doing what he’s been doing in order to lift the trophy. But in order for Haas to have a chance in this final, he needs to do everything that he did in his semifinal match against Isner, and do it all BETTER!  That’s a formidable task for most players, let alone a guy who’s spotting Raonic twelve years before they even step onto court.

Raonic can pressure Haas in ways that Isner couldn’t.  He serves as big if not bigger than Isner. In addition to the big forehand, he also possesses a stronger backhand. He scrambles well to short balls and isn’t afraid to take the net. To make matters worse, he really likes the court surface and feels that it suits his game nicely.  To say that this is an uphill battle would be the understatement of the day.

The good thing about tennis, however, is that titles aren’t handed out to the winners because it looks good on paper.  Even though Raonic is the overwhelming favorite, he still needs to win the match.  And lest we forget, Isner was the overwhelming favorite over Haas in the semifinals.  His odds aren’t good, but there’s always a chance for the upset.

Pick: Raonic for the win in straight sets.

Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

All photos by David Sweet

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five

John Isner-2

Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five

by Kevin Ware

Day Five Quarterfinal Results

[4] T Haas (GER) d [WC] Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 6-2

[2] J Isner (USA) d [8] Xavier Malisse (BEL) 7-6(8), 6-2

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) d [6] Denis Istomin (UZB) 7-6(0), 6-3

[3] Sam Querrey (USA) d Alejandro Falla (COL) 6-3, 4-6, 7-5

Match Notes

Steve Johnson bemoaned his lack of aggression in losing to Tommy Haas in the first quarterfinal of the day, feeling that he let Haas take control too often at key moments.  For his part, Haas is feeling good and grateful to be playing some of his best tennis towards the end of his career.  He’s especially happy to be able to do so in front of his 2 year-old who’s here in San Jose with dad.  “I know she probably won’t remember watching me play today, but maybe I can continue on playing and she’ll get to be around a couple of these tournaments and see me play competitively at a high level.”

John Isner didn’t play his best tennis in his quarterfinal match against Xavier Malisse, but he raised his level when needed to get by an opponent who was more than capable of a big upset. This was especially true in the first set tiebreaker after Isner dug a 0-3 hole with a mini-break on the first point.  The tide turned with a monstrous return on a Malisse serve to level at 5-all. He closed out the tiebreak with some mad scrambling on the baseline before flicking one final running forehand winner that was netted by the Belgian. First set to Isner.  Malisse’s level dropped off quickly in the second set.  Isner, with the first set in his back pocket, kept up the pressure on the slumping Malisse to close out an uneventful second set for the win.

The quarterfinal match between Milos Raonic and Denis Istomin turned out to be almost a carbon copy of their match in last year’s SAP Open final. Both men held serve easily and played to their strengths for most of the first set, with Istomin looking to be the stronger from the back court.  But once again, the tiebreaker was the deciding factor with Raonic sweeping all seven points for the first set.  After that, Istomin’s resolve slipped and Raonic’s confidence soared, and it was only a matter of time until Raonic closed it out.

Sam Querrey‘s win over Alejandro Falla was easily the best match of the day! It looked to be on track for a routine straight sets win by Querrey after a 6-3 first set.  No one told that to Falla, however, as the Colombian left scrambled with even more intensity in the second set.  In tennis, anything can happen when you make your opponent hit “one more shot”, and that was the case for Falla. Querrey’s level dropped, and a few key misses gave the set to Falla.  The tension was high for both guys in the third set, with neither giving an inch until the eighth game when Falla broke Querrey for 4-all, then held serve for a 5-4 lead.

A straight-sets victory was a distant memory with Querry playing loose shots on the deuce court to find himself at match point, 30-40. A crucial 133mph ace out wide to Falla’s backhand saved the point, and lit the fire under Sam that he needed to hold serve, break Falla for a 6-5 lead, then serve out the match.   That’s not to say that Falla didn’t have his chances, because he did.  Two netted shots for a game point at 5-all could easily have put the pressure back on Querrey’s serve to stay in the match. But it was not meant to be for Falla, and a chance for a huge upset.

Semifinal Notes/Picks

[4] T Haas (GER) vs [2] J Isner (USA)

Head-to-head: Isner leads 3-1

Quick Keys to the match: Isner needs to start aggressive and keep Haas from feeling like he has a chance.  He must serve well to blunt Haas’ return opportunities, and keep the points short by coming forward as he’s done in other matches.  For Haas, if he can get a handle on the Isner serve and make this a running match, he will have the edge for Isner.

Pick: Sticking with Isner for the win.

[1] M Raonic (CAN) vs [3] S Querrey (USA)

Head-to-head: Querrey leads 2-0

Quick Keys to the match: Raonic is going to come out firing on all cylinders with high intensity.  Conversely, drops in his intensity level have been Querrey’s main issue in both of his previous matches. For Querrey to win this match against the two-time defending champion, there can be no drops.  He has to maintain focus, serve well, and stay strong on the baseline.  If Raonic can maintain focus and intensity from first point to last, something that Querrey typically can’t do, he’ll have the edge.

Pick: Sticking with Raonic for the win.

Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

All photos by David Sweet

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An Olympic View from Court 1, Third Round

By Ros Satar

WIMBLEDON – It’s not quite the AELTC, is it?

It’s all very familiar but very different.

Where once was the comfortably subtle dark green and purple livery adorning the iconic front of Centre Court, there are angular and lively 2012 shapes and colors.

The Olympic tennis is being hosted at the All England Club, where just three and a half weeks ago, tennis fans saw an emotional Andy Murray let down his guard after Roger Federer won a record-equaling seventh title.

There are some things that are reassuringly the same.  The stoic sighs of the fans on Court 1 who take their seats in the rain.  The queues for food and drink (and yes you CAN get the SW19 drink of choice, but due to sponsorship and licensing, it cannot be referred to by a trade name)!

 

Roger Federer (Switzerland) def Denis Istomin (Uzbekistan) 7-5, 6-3

On Court 1, as the rain was spitting down, the players were brought out, including a reluctant looking Roger Federer, who was facing Denis Istomin, in the third round.

No sooner than they had sat down, the rain came down heavier, so off they went.

Play got underway around 45 minutes later, and although both players seemed to need time to find their range, Federer was soon away with a break, but did not have it all his own way, as Istomin clawed his way back, before another rain delay came.

As the resumption, Federer got the late break he wanted, taking the first set.  The second set started in much the same way, with Federer breaking Istomin in his first game.

This time there was no clawing back, although Istomin had played very well, and at times Federer had not looked as convincing as he did in the opening rounds of The Championships a few weeks ago.

 

Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) def Nadia Petrova (Russia) 7-6(6), 6-4

As the sun shone down, finally, on Court 1, these ladies slugged away at each other from the baseline.

Neither were giving ground, although every now and again Petrova would throw out a hefty kick serve which left Azarenka all at sea.

Petrova had the edge on Azarenka in the first set tiebreak, and it was only after saving the first set point against her that Azarenka suddenly stepped up a gear, fighting back and eventually winning the tiebreak.

Although Azarenka started the second set with the momentum with her, she was broken before the first change of ends, although Petrova made heavy work of consolidating the break.

Azarenka got the better of Petrova with a single break, and although Petrova challenged on match point, it was to no avail.

 

Maria Sharapova (Russia) def Sabine Lisicki (Germany) 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-3

It was almost a month ago to the day that Sabine Lisicki put paid to Maria Sharapova’s run to a consecutive Wimbledon final.

And it was like nothing had changed.

Neither was giving any leeway until the eighth game, when Lisicki stepped up her play and broke Sharapova.

However, a costly double fault sent her on the way to being broken straight back, to love.

The first set went to a see-saw tie break with Lisicki being let back in to the tiebreak that saw Sharapova edged out for the first set.

A single break margin saw Sharapova level the match and take things into a decider.

The third set started with two breaks of serve until things proceeded with serve as the clouds rolled in over the setting sun, and the light was fading.

Sharapova had the all-important break to lead 5-3 and serve out for the match.

David Ferrer and Kei Nishikori had been scheduled to finish up the day’s action but had been moved to Court 14, and then moved again to Centre Court to finish the action.

All in all, there are enough things familiar and heaven knows it was nice to spend some time in the sun, after such a rain-soaked Wimbledon.

But the volunteers sometimes enthusiastically let people in at non-change of ends pauses in matches, the ball boys and girls are maybe not as strictly drilled, and the numbers lines judges also seem to be pared down.

But for the most part the fans are reveling in a couple of weeks of extra tennis at SW19 and turn a bit of a blind eye to the different colors.

Ros Satar is a British Journalist- an IT Journalist by day, a Sports journalist part-time and her match observations can be found at the Chalkdust Chronicles (chalkdustchronicles.blogspot.com). Follow her on twitter at @rfsatar.

 

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