2014/07/31

Monday Dispatch from Atlanta – Withdrawals Provide Opportunities

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By Herman Wood

(July 21, 2014) ATLANTA- Qualifying wrapped up on Monday in Atlanta at the BB&T Open, with the weather finally cooperating. Qualifying dodged rain all weekend, with the second round ending up under the lights last night.  Unfortunately, the qualifying matches today were almost an afterthought with the main draw withdrawals.

Radek Stepanek withdrew due to an injury over the weekend.  He posted on his twitter account “Sad to pull out of the @BBTatlantaopen this week but had fun talking to the media here and signing some autographs :)” along with a picture of a young fan.  Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet also withdrew, leaving the tournament in a bad spot.  Of the 24 players entered in qualifying, seven will make the main draw, apparently with one directly advancing to the second round.

There was some other ball played this afternoon, with Wimbledon doubles champ Jack Sock getting some basketball tips from Atlanta Hawk Demarre Carroll at a hoop set up by the team just off the USTA YouthTennis court.  Turned out Carroll got schooled in a game of HORSE.  Sock returned the favor with a tennis lesson for Carroll on the court afterwards and then had a press conference with his Wimbledon partner, Vasek Pospisil.  The two will be the top seed in the doubles draw.

Young Americans have quite an opportunity with the withdrawals.  Scheduled matches today feature world number 61 Sam Querrey playing number 64 Steve Johnson.  Official opening ceremonies will follow and lead into local Donald Young playing Dudi Sela.  Another local, Robby Ginepri, will team up with Rhyne Harrison to take on the British duo of Ken and Neal Skupski in the opening round of doubles once the singles match concludes.

 

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood.

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The US Open Series Begins this Weekend in Atlanta

 

BB&TAtlantaOpen

By Herman Wood

(July 17, 2014) ATLANTA – Preparation for the US Open is underway.  The BB&T Atlanta Open gets things started on Saturday, July 19th for the men.  Qualifying begins at 10 AM.  The BB&T Atlanta Open is an ATP 250 event, with a 28 player draw, four of which come from the qualifying tournament.  The qualifying field will have 32 players.  The doubles draw is a 16 team field.  Last year’s champ, John Isner, is returning, along with fellow Americans Sam Querrey, Wimbledon doubles champ Jack Sock, and Donald Young.  Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Radek Stepanek, Ivo Karlovic, Ivan Dodig, Lleyton Hewitt, and the other half of the Wimbledon doubles championship team, Vasek Pospisil, are also expected in the tournament.  The tournament aspires to be a mini US Open, with the venue set among the skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta at Atlantic Station.  Atlantic Station is a community within downtown that provides homes for 10,000 people integrated with shopping, restaurants, and retailers that make it a hit with the players.  Besides the attractive venue, players will get a jump on the US Open Series Bonus Challenge, where nearly $40 million in prize money is up for grabs.  This is the third year the tournament has been held at Atlantic Station.

It is a familiar place for Americans, with Isner winning last year, Roddick in 2012, and Fish in 2011.  It has also been comfortable for big man tennis- last year Isner, at 6’10”, overcame Kevin Anderson at 6’8” in three tiebreaks.  Fans in the first couple of rows certainly had to pay attention with the huge serves coming their way.  It is especially familiar for Isner, who competed collegiately just an hour down the road for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, leading the team to a national championship and winning every possible team title in 2007.  He’s usually a fan favorite, with at least a couple of barks from Georgia fans in his favor at each match.  Isner may not be the only recipient of barks; University of Georgia player Austin Smith has accepted a wild card into the main draw. The sophomore from Cumming, Georgia excelled this season as the Bulldogs captured the 2014 SEC Championship. Smith finished with a 35-12 record, and went 9-1 in SEC matches. He has won four USTA Pro Circuit matches. A tournament qualifier in 2011, Smith will be playing his debut ATP main draw match.

Another American, Jack Sock, could very well get on a roll at this tournament.  After winning doubles with Pospisil at Wimbledon, he rolled into Newport and eliminated Isner in the Newport Hall of Fame event on grass just a week ago.  Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to keep that momentum and was eliminated by the veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who went on to win the tournament.  Hewitt’s feisty shouts of “C’mon!” have endeared him to the Atlanta fans in past years.  Fresh off his renewed success at Newport, he could very well win Atlanta.  The main draw was just rounded out with the addition of Ryan Harrison and Robby Ginepri.  “We’re ecstatic to welcome back two of our fan favorites in Ryan Harrison and Atlanta metro resident Robby Ginepri,” Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez said. “One of our goals is to highlight American talent and both of these players are great examples of the fine players this country has produced.”  Harrison won the doubles last year, partnering with Matthew Ebden.  Ginepri appears for the fourth time, with a onetime ranking of fifteen.  He is a graduate of Wheeler High School, just a few miles north of Atlantic Station.  He currently resides in Kennesaw, another couple of miles north.

The draw will be finalized over this weekend with the completion of the qualifying tournament.  Promising American junior Francis Tiafoe has accepted his first tournament qualifying wild card. Tiafoe, 16, is a talented young prodigy who rose to No. 2 in the world junior rankings this spring. Georgia Tech’s Nathan Rakitt and Alabama’s Becker O’Shaughnessey have also accepted qualifying wild cards. Rakitt, a Marietta native and All-ACC selectee, is competing again for the second year. O’Shaughnessey of Macon, Ga., led the Crimson Tide in singles wins (22) this season.

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at https://twitter.com/hermanewood.

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Karlovic Advances, Groth Upsets Young at Hall of Fame Tennis Championships

By Dave Gertler

 

(July 7, 2014) NEWPORT – The first day of main-draw action has drawn to a close at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. Day One featured near-perfect playing conditions, huge serving, and a schedule packed with Americans and Australians.

 

Opening proceedings on Center Court was an all-American stand-off between Steve Johnson and wildcard Clay Thompson, playing his first ATP main-draw match. The more experienced Johnson held off his former UCLA college rival with solid serving and ground strokes for a 6-1, 6-2 dominant win in under an hour. “It’s always good to get a win,” Newport’s 6th seed, “Get in, get out and get on with the rest of the tournament. I hope that I can clean out a few things and really get out there the next round and give it my best.” Registering his first Hall of Fame Tennis Championships main draw win, after falling short in qualifying two years ago, the 24-year-old said, “I’ve grown a lot, maturity-wise, and I’ve really learnt how to live on the tour, live on the road, and really just become more of a professional.” In the round of 16, Johnson will face Japan’s Tatsuma Ito, who took out American wildcard Mitchell Krueger in their first round match.

 

Steve Johnson, who is ranked No. 69 in the world, fared better than his No. 70th ranked compatriot, Donald Young, who fought bravely against an onslaught of powerful serving from Australian Sam Groth. Young managed to hold serve, but after conceding a hard-fought first-set tie-break with an ill-timed double fault, was unable to withstand Groth’s all-court prowess in the second set, conceding two breaks, and unable to make a dent on Groth’s serve. “I felt good. I’ve had a pretty good grass court season already,” said Groth, post-match, “In the first set, I wasn’t making a lot of returns, and it took me a little while to get into it, but I played a really good tie-break, and then in the second set, I started to make a lot more balls, get my chip returns down, make him volley up, and I actually thought I played a really good second set, but a pretty good match all round.”

 

Groth’s fastest serve on the day clocked in at 143mph – spectators close to the court were definitely kept on their toes lest they be caught unawares by one of the 6’4” Aussie’s 11 aces, but Groth required his full skill set to upset the American ranked 53 spots above him. “Obviously, it’s great to have a big serve, but it’s coming back a lot more, the game’s slowed down a lot and you can’t just get away with having one shot in your arsenal. So if I’m going to serve-volley, which I’m going to do – especially on this surface – probably close to 100% of the time, you’ve gotta be able to play that volley.”

 

The biggest name in action on Day One was the Croatian world No. 32 Ivo Karlovic, one of several big-serving grass court specialists playing in Newport. His first round opponent, 31-year-old American Robby Ginepri managed to force a first set tie-break, but after losing it 7-2, was unable to recover from an early break in the second set, eventually losing the match in just over an hour. “I’ve played really well this year. I was healthy and feeling well so I’m happy about that,” said 35-year-old Karlovic, who a year ago was ranked outside the top 150. “I remember last year when I was here, I was really happy that I was here, that I was able to play again. I’m just, overall, more grateful that I’m still here, that I’m healthy now and that my tennis isn’t over because of illness. If I’m healthy and if my ranking is good, I don’t see a reason why I should stop competing.”

 

Despite the great tennis on display on Day One, Day Two action will be a highlight of the tournament, with three former Newport champions making appearances on Center Court. Defending champion Frenchman Nicolas Mahut will open up his campaign against the draw’s sole Argentine Facundo Arguello, followed by tournament No.1 seed John Isner taking on Wayne Odesnik, who took out Aussie John-Patrick Smith in the final round of qualifying today. Continuing the theme of USA versus Australia, dual grand slam winner Lleyton Hewitt, will begin his campaign to add the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships to his CV after making the final the last two years, but will have to get past a dangerous Ryan Harrison to book his spot in the round of 16.

 

Also impressive on Newport grass today was Rajeev Ram, who has performed impressively at the Hall of Fame since winning it in 2009. He displayed deft touch at the net to out-play Aussie Matthew Ebden 6-2, 7-5, and will now face the winner of the match between Americans Jack Sock and Alex Kuznetsov, who will wrap up Day Two action on Center Court.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Newport for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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BNP Paribas Open announces Wild Cards Which Include Americans Young, Sock, Harrison, Johnson, Duval and Townsend

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INDIAN WELLS, Calif., Feb. 26, 2014 – Former top five players Nadia Petrova and Vera Zvonareva; Americans Donald Young, Jack Sock, Ryan Harrison, Steve Johnson, Rhyne Williams, Coco Vandeweghe, Shelby Rogers, Vicky Duval and Taylor Townsend; and Donna Vekic and Belinda Bencic were granted wildcards into the main draws of the BNP Paribas Open, to be held March 3 – 16 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, it was announced today by Tournament Director Steve Simon.
Russia’s Nadia Petrova has won 13 career WTA single titles and 24 doubles crowns. The former World No. 3 has reached nine Grand Slam quarterfinals, advancing to the semifinals twice. Fellow Russian star and 2009 BNP Paribas Open champion Vera Zvonareva has 12 career WTA singles triumphs and six doubles titles. The former World No. 2 also has two Grand Slam finals appearances.
In addition, nine Americans have been granted wildcards into the main draws including Donald Young, who reached the third round of this year’s Australian Open; 21-year-old Jack Sock, who advanced to the third round of the 2013 U.S. Open; Ryan Harrison, who boasted a career-high ranking of No. 43 in 2012; two-time NCAA Champion from USC Steve Johnson, who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open; Rhyne Williams, who is coming off a quarterfinals appearance at Delray Beach, pushing top-ranked American and World No. 13 John Isner to three sets; Coco Vandeweghe, a two-time ITF singles winner; Shelby Rogers, a four-time singles champion on the ITF circuit; Vicky Duval, who achieved a career-high ranking earlier this year after jumping 528 rankings places since the end of 2011; and 17-year-old Taylor Townsend, who turned professional in 2012 after reaching the top of the junior rankings earlier that year.
Two other international players receiving main draw wildcards are 17-year-old Croatian Donna Vekic, who reached a career-high ranking of No. 62 in 2013 and 16-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, who advanced to the second round of the Australian Open earlier this year.
“This year’s main draw wildcards span from established veterans, to rising American and international stars,” said Simon. “Awarding wildcards to players like Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva, Donald Young, Jack Sock and others, add to the excitement for fans and provide the potential for these deserving athletes to make a run at the BNP Paribas Open.”
Qualifying wildcards were given to Americans Raymond Sarmiento, Stefan Kozlov, Clay Thompson, Irina Falconi, Madison Brengle, Grace Min and Allie Kiick, Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinaxis and the United Kingdom’s Heather Watson.
Sarmiento is a senior-standout at USC and member of two NCAA team championships for the Trojans. Sixteen-year-old Kozlov achieved a career-high ranking in February, after turning pro in 2013. Thompson reached a career-high ranking in 2013. Falconi cracked the WTA top 100 in 2011 and advanced to the second round of this year’s Australian Open. Brengle reached a career-high ranking earlier this year, and has won five ITF singles titles. Min won the 2011 US Open Junior Championship and three ITF titles in 2012, while Kiick also has three ITF singles crowns. Kokkinaxis advanced to the second round at this year’s Australian Open, where he pushed World No. 1 Rafael Nadal to three sets. Watson has one WTA singles title and two doubles titles.
In addition to the aforementioned qualifying wildcards, the winners of each BNP Paribas Challenge, the pre-qualifying event for the tournament, which takes place February 24 – March 1, will also be granted a berth into the 2014 BNP Paribas Open qualifying draw. Women’s qualifying starts March 3 and men’s qualifying begins March 4.
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Murray Beats Querrey to Send Great Britain to the Davis Cup Quarterfinals

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By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

 

(February 2, 2014) SAN DIEGO – With the Americans’ place in the 2014 Davis Cup World Group on the line, Sam Querrey ran neck and neck with Andy Murray today.  Unfortunately, he only kept pace with the 2-time major champion for two sets. Of those, he won just one. Therein lies the story of the match.  After a valiant effort, Querrey succumbed 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 6-1, 6-3 in 2 hours and 54 minutes at Petco Park In San Diego.  Such is the challenge of playing against a member of the modern game’s “Big Four.”

 

“I had some ups and downs definitely,” Querrey said reflecting on the weekend. “Still bummed I lost that first one…but I’m proud of myself for putting it behind me and coming out strong today.” While Querrey was miles more competitive today than he managed to be on Friday versus James Ward, his loss clinched the tie for Great Britain.

 

Andy Murray, all but singlehandedly wiping the negative recent history of British tennis, guaranteed his side their first berth in the World Group quarterfinals for 28 years.  For your reference, Murray is 26 years old.

 

Despite the loss, US captain Jim Courier found positives in his team’s performance.  “We kept our heads together,” he said.  “I was proud of Sam and the way he competed.  I think Donald (Young) got some valuable experience…. Of Course Bob and Mike (Bryan) did that they do so well, which is compete hard and typically get us the win.”

 

Despite the unpredictable way in which the tie ultimately played out: Isner’s injury, Querrey’s flat opening performance and two ruthless displays by Murray, one questionable call may have played a major part in writing the final script, the Americans’ choice of a red clay surface.  Courier defended the choice at every turn throughout the week, pointing to strong prior performances by his squad on the terre battue. For his part at least, Murray was skeptical, “I was surprised they put it on clay, to be honest,” he said, even noting that the surface may have been helped Britain to victory.  “Yeah, obviously, it did have a bearing in the tie, for Sam especially.  I think his best surface is hard courts….I don’t know if they thought I wasn’t going to play because I had problems on clay last year with my back and coming off surgery.  So I don’t know”

 

Oddly enough, the road for the advancing team, Great Britain, on paper at least, becomes presumably easier than that for the losing American squad.  The Brits will play their next World Group tie away versus an Italian team headlined by Andreas Seppi and Fabio Fognini.  The United States, in falling to the World Group playoffs for the first time since 2010, could potentially face three teams headlined by major champions: (Spain, Serbia and Argentina) or our surging neighbor to the north, Canada, just to stay in the World Group for 2015.

 

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

Murray’s not quite thinking about the next tie just yet.  Still in the midst of recovery, the Dunblane native is still working his way back to playing his best ball.  “I’m proud of the way I’m playing just now because I had to do a lot of work to get back to where I wanted to be,” said Murray. “I’m still not quite there yet, but winning matches of that length and quality so soon after the surgery is good.”

With a tough challenge behind him and Murray’s mood lightening, he added “I’ll have done 13 weeks consecutively without a break of training and I’m playing tournaments to try and get myself back.  I need a break now, so I’ll take some days off after I get home, because I deserve it.”

 

Related articles:

Motivated Murray Dismisses Young

Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

Teams On The Edge

 

 

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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.

Related articles:

Motivated Murray Dismisses Young

Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

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Motivated Murray Dismisses Young

Donald Young

Donald Young

By Vito Ellison, Special to Tennis Panorama News

(January 31, 2014) SAN DIEGO – Donald Young and Andy Murray exist on two different planes of the tennis universe; they left the court Saturday afternoon showing just how far apart they are.  Dunblane’s favorite son, a champion on the fast courts of the US Open and Wimbledon, looked quite at home on the slow, by his words “slippery” red clay court in the outfield of Petco Park.  Murray dismissed his less-heralded American opponent 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 in just an hour and 38 minutes.

 

The combatants played the first two games on the match on near-even terms, though Murray would end both occasions the victor.  From there, with the exception of some brief signs of life from Young in the third set, the gulf only widened. “I’ve seen [Murray] do that to a lot of guys,” said Young “So I don’t feel quite as bad…it’s just rough.”

 

With Friday’s victory, Murray increased his winning streak in Davis Cup to 17 consecutive singles matches.  Across the net, Young admitted to feeling nerves in his first outing for the USA.  “Everything seemed like it was in hyperspeed,” Young said, “it was tough for me, but I’m happy I got through it.”

 

A matchup against Murray would have been tough enough under neutral circumstances, but the World No. 6 has some extra motivation coming into this year’s event. “I’ve never started a year in Davis Cup when you could actually win the competition, so this year it’s obviously a little bit different,” Murray pointed out. “I mean, every time I’ve played Davis Cup, I’ve enjoyed it; I’ve played well…it’s not like when I’ve played I just haven’t been motivated. It’s a different mindset, coming in and being in the main competition and being able to actually win it. I’m excited this year.”

 

Murray is giving Great Britain his complete commitment to winning, at minimum, this tie at least versus the Americans.  In addition to the two singles matches, Murray is scheduled to suit up alongside Colin Fleming in the doubles tomorrow.  The British pair will take on fifteen-time major champions Bob and Mike Bryan.

 

Young will have to wait until Sunday for his shot at Davis Cup redemption.  There will be no less pressure though, he could be tapped to play a decisive fifth rubber versus James Ward. For his part, Young is looking forward to the challenge. “I’ll never have this problem again, this feeling of the first time.  I’m looking forward to Sunday if need be,” Young said.  “If I’m needed, I’m definitely looking forward to playing and I’ll feel a lot better and a lot more confident….”

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 articles:

Expectations, Or The Lack Thereof; Ward Upsets Querrey

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Three

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John Isner

By Kevin Ware

(February 14, 2013) SAN JOSE – Here are some more courtside impressions from an eventful Day Three at the SAP Open.  It was mixed bag of fun matches and dramatic wins.  But let’s start with the sad and unsettling loss by Donald Young.

  • I don’t know what to say anymore regarding the sad and curious case of Donald Young. With each shot he makes, you see the talent that took him to No. 1 in the juniors; yet with each unforced error and pained aftermath, you’re reminded of the reasons that his pro career has hit the proverbial wall. His loss to Michael Russell during the day session was about as ugly as it gets. Neither guy played well, but Donald’s lack of confidence at crunch time was the tipping point.  Every gaze over to his box is filled with agonizing pleas for help that isn’t arriving anytime soon.  It’s tough to watch.  Even though us in the “media” should maintain some semblance of neutrality, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that Donald comes back from the brink.
  • Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic are quite an entertaining doubles team.  Lleyton is the clear leader, but Marinko holds his own pretty well. Best part is they look like they’re having a great time playing together.  We should all be so lucky with our partners, right?!
  • Steve Johnson continued to make the most of his wildcard with a stirring 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 win over Ivo Karlovic. After losing a tough first set by playing a horrible tiebreaker, Johnson stood toe-to-toe with one of the best servers in the game and found a way to break for the second set. In the third set tiebreaker, Karlovic served an ace to go up 6-4 in the tiebreak.  With two match points in hand, Karlovic inexplicably ran off the rails; committing three consecutive unforced errors to give Johnson a match point.  Karlovic followed a strong approach to the net, and all Johnson could do was toss up a high defensive lob.  Out of the blue, Karlovic was struck by a case of “tentative overhead-itis”.  He smashed the ball weakly back to Johnson, who happily thundered a hard and low forehand to Karlovic at the net. The big man could only muster a flubbed volley response.  Game, set, and match to Johnson, who had no business winning that match but did anyway.
  • The night session pitted American John Isner against Canadian Vasek Pospisil.  John is 27 and Vasek is 22, but they both look no older than 14 (plus/minus a year or two).
  • Isner was slow in finding his game for the match, but didn’t blame any of it on his knee.  However, he did admit to having back issues because of his flight.  With all of Nemo’s canceled flights, he lost his upgrade seat and had to fly coach in a window seat to San Jose.  The ATP website lists John’s official height as 6′ 9″.  Just think about that the next time you complain about being in a middle seat! FYI, if John flies coach and no exit rows are available, window seats are his only option to save his knees from the battering they’ll inevitably take with the cart going up and down the aisle.
  • Bay area actress Diane Amos was in attendance tonight at the HP Pavilion to watch the evening session at the SAP Open.  Or as I put it more succinctly in one of my tweets at the start of Isner’s match, ” Random fact: the Pine Sol lady is in the house tonight for the Isner match.”
  • When asked what he did to pay back Sam Querrey  for bailing the US team out of trouble in Davis Cup action after his own 5-set heartbreaker to Thomaz Bellucci, Isner said “I think he took some of my money in cards that night actually, and I didn’t do it on purpose.”

The tournament action heats up on Day Four with a day session featuring young Americans Tim Smyczek and Steve Johnson battling for a spot in the quarterfinals, as well as the anticipated match between Sam Querrey and Lleyton Hewitt.  The night session features the return of the defending champion, Milos Raonic, as he takes on Michael Russell; plus more doubles action with the Bryans.  I will save my Raonic/Russell “tall and small” jokes for after the match…

 

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.

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open Day Two

 

Ryan Harrison

Ryan Harrison

By Kevin Ware

(February 12, 2013) SAN JOSE, California – One of the great things about watching live tennis in a tournament setting is that you get a better feel for the character of the match and the players.  Here are some courtside impressions from Day Two action at the SAP Open.

  • I arrived at just after Lleyton Hewitt’s dramatic 3-set victory over Blaz Kavcic to find that no one was surprised to see this match go the distance.  Even though he’s one of the older guys on tour, long grinding matches still seem to be Hewitt’s preferred method of advancing through the draw.  His next opponent is Sam Querrey, making his tournament debut after receiving a first-round bye. It will be interesting to see if Sam’s late tournament start against a cagey veteran who’s “into” the tournament has a factor on the match outcome.
  • Though he was suffering from low energy due to illness, Ryan Harrison lost a winnable 3-set match against German veteran, Benjamin Becker.  It wouldn’t have been a particularly spectacular win under the circumstances, but it was doable.  Unfortunately, Ryan couldn’t keep his focus on the important points in the second and third sets the way he had in the first set tiebreak. This was especially true when he got broken at the end of the second set.Illness aside, Ryan is a talented and thoughtful player who can sometimes makes things complicated for himself in his matches. He’s struggled in 2013, and his ranking has dropped from last year’s high of 43.  Because he’s defending a semifinal appearance in last year’s tournament, his ranking is going to take a pretty big hit. Hopefully he can turn things around in Memphis.
    (NOTE:  He’ll be playing doubles with his brother Christian)
  • As I was watching Jack Sock in his match against Marinko Matosevic, I tweeted, “While Ryan Harrison sometimes thinks too much on court, Jack Sock maybe needs to think a bit more…” That about sums up Sock’s match strategy, or lack thereof.  Sock is a big strong guy who hits a heavy ball, but that’s pretty much where it ends. Even when Sock broke Matosevic to serve for the first set, I had the feeling that the veteran Matosevic would find a way to out-think his younger opponent, and capitalize on the nerves of the moment.  That’s exactly how it played out, with Matosevic going on to take the first set tiebreaker before sweeping the second set 6-1.I don’t begrudge the big hitting, because the younger guys on tour definitely need big games in order to be competitive. But they also need to think clearly and give themselves options.  Sock’s not there yet, and I’m not sure that he sees the need for options and nuance.  I also look at Sock’s football player-like build and can’t help but think that maybe if his fitness were improved, it could pay dividends in the development of his game.  He’s young though, so he’s got time to pull those pieces together.  At least, I hope he does.
  • It was a rough day for young Americans, and Ryan Sweeting’s straight-sets loss against last year’s finalist, Denis Istomin, did little to stop the bleeding.  But then again, Sweeting was always going to have a tough time of it since he doesn’t have the weapons needed to trouble Istomin.
  • The world No. 1 Bryan brothers weren’t as dominant over their younger American opponents as one would expect. Jack Sock and Steve Johnson played well with no signs of intimidation at the Bryans credentials as one of the greatest doubles teams ever. But once again, experience and mental toughness won out over big hitting as the Bryans took the match in two tiebreak sets. I hope the young guys are paying attention to these lessons of strategy/mental fortitude!
  • Fernando Verdasco, with coach/dad by his side, seemed to have a decent on-court warm-up prior to the start of the doubles match.  But something must have happened to him between the warm-up and his match.  That would be the only explanation for his flat performance against an inspired Tim Smyczek.  Fernando played without purpose.  Smyczek, on the other hand, played as though his life depended on the win; and it showed.  The difference between the two couldn’t have been starker, with Smyczek looking much more like a higher-ranked player than Verdasco.There might have been an injury with Verdasco, who seemed to pull up on shots as the match progressed.  But it was still a disappointing match for a former Top 10 player who at one time, challenged for Slam titles against the top guys. Disappointing, that is, except for Smyczek.  At least one American young gun made it through!

That’s all for now.
More after Day Three action with Donald Young, John Isner, and Tommy Haas.

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.

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Thirteen American Men Accepted Into Australian Open Qualies

James Blake

James Blake

(December 18, 2012) Thirteen American men have been accepted into the Qualifying draw of the 2013 Australian Open. They include James Blake, Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla, Alex Kuznetsov, Wayne, Rajeev Ram, Tennys Sandgren, Tim Smyczek, Ryan Sweeting, Michael Yani and Donald Young.

 

Rhyne Williams also was accepted into qualifying, but Williams claimed a wild card entry into the main draw by winning the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff last weekend. Bradley Klahn and Daniel Kosakowski are the second and third listed alternates, respectively.

 

The 2013 Australian Open qualifying tournament begins on January 7 in Melbourne.

 

The USTA reports that Jesse Levine is listed as an American on the Australian Open qualifying acceptance list, but will be representing Canada in Melbourne.

 

The Australian Open women’s qualifying acceptance list will be announced at a later date.

 

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