2014/07/31

John Isner Defends Atlanta Open Title

 

(July 27, 2014) John Isner won his ninth ATP World Tour title on Sunday by defeating Dudi Sela of Israel 6-3, 6-4 to win the Atlanta Open for the second straight year. It was the American’s fourth Atlanta final in five years.

“The field is so tough at this event,” Isner said. “I’m so happy to win this. I consider myself fortunate that this event is even here. It’s a big advantage for me to play in Georgia and to have a lot of support.”

“Isner went for his shots and played more freely,” Sela said. “With his return game, he just went for it.”

In doubles action, Wimbledon champions Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil reman a perfect 10-0 as a doubles team, capturing the title with a 6-3, 5-7 10-5 over Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey.

“[Johnson and Querrey] played well, but we felt like we were playing better than they were even after losing the second set, said the Canadian Pospisil. “We just had to stay calm in the [Match Tie-break] and go point by point.”

“We’re trying to make the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals,” said Sock. That’s one of our goals this year on the side, aside from improving our singles rankings.”

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Isner to Meet Sela in Atlanta Open Final

John Isner

John Isner

By Herman Wood

(July 26, 2014) ATLANTA – Young American Jack Sock took on veteran John Isner on Saturday at the BB&T Open in the first singles semifinal.  Hotlanta certainly was up to the nickname.  Conditions were compared to this year’s Australian Open, when players were understandably concerned.  The difference?  In Atlanta, the humidity combined with the heat makes it more difficult for the body to cool itself.  Despite the conditions, both men came out in dark colored tops.  Isner said, “It’s not easy conditions at all playing, doing anything.  Heat like that is tough.  I don’t know how the fans endure it.”  Despite conditions, Isner started off on the right foot, unlike yesterday.  He was striking winners off his forehand and backhand, though his first serve was off and he only had three aces for the first set while serving 48% on that delivery.  Sock looked better able to handle the conditions early in the match, moving better with his head up and working for points while Isner was content to let some balls go.  Isner has been accused of playing “possum” a bit in matches, but the two men train together, so that was not in the cards today.  (In the southeastern United States, possum refers to a marsupial whose primary method of defense is to play dead until an opportune moment, at which time they either wander off or show impressive teeth and a willingness to fight.)

 

As expected, rallies were mostly short, one or two strokes after a return.  The first deuce point occurred at four games apiece, with Isner serving.  On Isner’s very next service game, Sock seemed to fully get his teeth into Isner’s deliveries and forced him to rally.  With an untimely double fault, Isner handed Sock his first break point opportunity.  With a second serve coming, Sock got the return back into play and correctly anticipated Isner’s inside out forehand and just missed a pass off the tape that might have made all the difference and he clearly knew it.  Isner took full advantage and held with a blistering forehand and 128 MPH ace.  Serving at 5-6, perhaps Sock wasn’t able to clear the thoughts of the missed opportunity and missed his next three serves, the first two a double fault.  His fourth serve was punished by Isner for an easy winner.  Isner was certainly feeling it, as he challenged on the third point of the game on a ball that was solidly on the line.  The challenge may have given Sock some time to settle himself, as he took that point and the next two to get to 40-30.  Isner toughened and Sock got a bit loose.  Combined, that let to nine deuces before the matter of the twelfth game and ultimately the first set could be settled.  Sock chose the more difficult down the line forehand on a short ball and clipped the tape.  Isner sealed the first set on his third try with a Sock backhand error, 7-5, on a ball that did not seem that difficult.

 

Sock settled in despite early pressure from Isner in the first few games of the second set.  Certainly, he showed maturity beyond his young age, keeping his wits about him and continuing with good fight through two games all.  On Sock’s serve, at 2-3, Isner made a challenge on a ball called out right in front of Sock.  It turned out to be a wise challenge, as review showed the ball good.  The chair awarded the point to Isner.  Sock argued that the call by the linesman affected his play on the ball and that the point should be replayed.  It was very tough to tell when the call came, though it did appear that Sock had a play and chose not to play the ball and the linesman made the call late.  Sock struggled with himself throughout the game.  He told the chair umpire “You ruin matches, you know that.”  To his credit, Sock worked through the game and held to get to three all.

 

Perhaps the game energized Isner, as he showed no signs of playing possum or “lollygagging around” as he kept the pressure on Sock, with extremely high kicking second serves that Sock had lots of trouble returning mixed in with a few more aces on first serve deliveries.  On Sock’s service games, Isner was clearly trying to attack with frequent approaches and crushed forehands.  The strategy led to some impressive shots as well as shanks, one of which may have stopped traffic on nearby Interstate 75.  The crushed forehands from Isner looked to do damage to anything they hit.  Isner stepped up his serve to hold to get to 5-4.  The game went for three straight service winners, only to be interrupted by an Isner miss on the only ball Sock got in play in the whole game.  Isner closed the game with an ace.  Sock stepped in to serve, down 4-5, to stay in the match.  After more impressive shanks by Isner, Sock let a thirty love lead evaporate on a poor attempt at a slice back hand and floating forehand winner by Isner.  Isner stepped up again and committed to the rally and Sock missed to give Isner a match point.  Sock saved it with aggressive play, leading to an overhead to get back to deuce.  Unfortunately for Sock, he double faulted immediately to give Isner another match point.  Sock played bravely, nailing a ball onto the left baseline that Isner challenged unsuccessfully.  If out, it would have ended the match.  Sock could not manage to rally on the subsequent deuce, missing a forehand to give Isner a match point. Sock finally donated a double fault to hand the match to Isner, 7-5, 6-4.  He will either face Dudi Sela or Benjamin Becker in the finals on Sunday.

 

When asked about his possible opponent on Sunday, Isner expressed no preference.  He mentioned that “They said on TV I was 2-0 against Becker, though I can’t remember the two times I’ve played him.  He’s another college product.  He went four years at Baylor.  That would be kind of cool, two four year college guys.  Dudi, I remember I played him in Delray Beach this year.  I beat him 7-6 in the third.  Although he is slight of stature, he doesn’t mind playing guys with big serves.  He beat Querrey.  He beat Pospisil.  He’s just an extremely talented player that can do so much with the ball.  I don’t know who to favor.”

 

 

 

Before an appreciative packed house at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, Israeli Dudi Sela took on German Benjamin Becker over three tough sets for a chance to play local favorite John Isner  With the first two sets virtual mirror images, with each man winning a set 6-3, the match came down to a tight third set.  With Becker giving him only one opportunity to break, Sela took full advantage to get to 4-2.  Becker had five opportunities to break at that time, but had not cashed in.    Both men could feel the pressure, but Becker stepped up with a forehand winner to finally break right back.  Sela was far from done, hitting his picture perfect backhand for winners at crucial times and breaking again to allow him to serve for the final, 5-3.  Sela went for his shots and earned his first match point with a nice forehand retrieve that Becker shanked.  On the very first match point, Sela seized the opportunity with a blistering forehand that was too much for Becker.  It will be only his second final.  He has experience playing big servers like Isner.  He eliminated Pospisil and Querrey earlier in the Atlanta tournament.  In Columbia, he played Ivo Karlovic and used a chair to shake his hand after the match.

Sela really appreciated the support.  “This atmosphere is great!  I love Atlanta.”  Somehow, even with a well educated Atlanta tennis crowd, I expect former Georgia Bulldog John Isner will be feeling a bit more love.  The last time they played, it took Isner a third set tiebreak to overcome Sela.  The local support may be all the edge Isner needs.

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Quarterfinal day at the BB&T Atlanta Open

 

 

John Isner

John Isner

By Herman Wood

(July 25, 2014) ATLANTA – Americans and best buddies Steve Johnson and Sam Querrey got things going on Friday.  Yes, they already played- each other.  On Friday, they took on Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky in doubles.  It was a tight match, with the American pair winning 7-6 (2), 7-5.  On an interesting strategic note, Querrey lined up in front of Johnson with Johnson serving and folded his 6 foot 6 inch frame downward in an attempt to… well, I’m not really sure, but that’s a lot of human being to squeeze under a serve.  In the other doubles quarterfinals, Chris Guccione and John-Patrick Smith broke a nine match win streak for Guccione in a loss to Nicholas Barrientos and Victor Estrella Burgos 7-5, 3-6, and 10-6 in the match tiebreak.  The rest of the quarterfinals were already completed.  Pospisil and Sock will take on the Barrientos -Burgos pair while Querrey and Johnson will take on King and Venus, all for a chance in the finals.  Those matches will be played Saturday.

In singles action, the No. 1 seed, John Isner surprisingly played at 4 PM rather than in the 7 PM featured time slot.  Isner said, “I preferred the 4 PM start.”  By the time he and Matosevic took the court, the stadium resembled an oven.  Matosevic said, “It was really hot.”  We do not call it Hotlanta without a reason.  Isner said “I knew he was struggling out there a little bit and he knew I was struggling out there a little bit.”  “A lot of people tell me I play possum out there.  Sometimes when I’m super tired I play my best tennis. I don’t have enough energy to run side to side.

There’s only one option for me and that’s to sort of play big and play aggressive and just go for it and sometimes it works out.”   Isner started the match on the wrong foot- a foot fault.  Of course that fired him up a little and the very next ball was an ace.  It was a slow start for Isner, as he was immediately broken, though it did not take long to get back on serve.  With a break to get to two all, the two traded holds until Matosevic was serving at 5-6.  Isner challenged him a bit, but it was time for a tiebreak.  Isner is not called “Johnny Tiebreak” without a reason.  He is experienced, calm, and collected in the big moment.

Sure enough, Matosevic handed the set to Isner with his second double fault of the tiebreak.  The other double fault occurred when Matosevic was up a mini break.  In the second set, the two traded service holds until three all, when Isner got a break and that was all he needed.  Up 4 – 3, he held easily, saved himself during Matosevic’s service game and then served it out 7-6 (8), 6-4.  Isner was happy for the early finish to his day.  “I’ll have a little more time.  I can walk the dog.  It kind of puts me at ease.”  He’ll play Jack Sock on Saturday in the semifinals.

Jack Sock

Jack Sock

In the evening match, American Jack Sock got the featured time slot.  He took on Slovakian, Lukas Lacko, in what could be a preview for the Chicago Davis Cup match in September if Sock were to be named to the American squad.  Unfortunately, like Isner, Sock got off on the wrong foot as he was broken on his first service game.  Lacko at one time had a 4-1 lead, but let it slip away.

Sock said “I had a pretty rough start.  He was playing the ball deep and keeping me off the baseline.”

A Lacko double fault at a critical time and an ill-advised strategy that did not include staying away from the Sock forehand let Sock get it back to 4-5 and serving.  The crowd was clearly behind sock, urging him on, but he could not manage another break and so the tie breaker was on.  Each man had his chances, but Sock pulled it out 8-6.

He kept the momentum early in the second, breaking to a 3-1 lead before he let down just a bit.  Lacko took the break back, only to see Sock immediately return the favor at love to get to 4-2.  It was clear that Sock wanted to run away with it, moving quickly, serving to 5-2, with Lacko serving to stay in the match.  Sock had his way in the decisive game, as Lacko’s first serve percentage had fallen off to only forty five percent.  Game, set, match to Sock, 7-6 (8), 6-2.

The Atlanta crowd was very appreciative of the effort and the win.  Sock will take on John Isner on Saturday for a chance at the the final.  They recently played in Newport where Sock beat Isner.  “Newport was pretty ugly for both of us.  We both played some shocking tennis there.  We practice almost everyday at Saddlebrook in Tampa.  I’ll have to use what I know from practice.  These courts suit him pretty well with a high bounce and when there is a seven foot guy serving down on you, it’s not going to be easy.  I’ll go out there and scrap out some points and see what happens.”

In late action on Friday, Sock’s doubles partner Vasek Pospisil was eliminated in a see saw match by Dudi Sela 7-5, 1-6, 6-2. It was a busy night for the trainer, as he was out three times for Pospisil and once for Sela. Pospisil was clearly injured, as the trainer really seemed to be working him over. Despite the injury, he was able to move very well.

Sela took a medical timeout of his own, though he did not appear in pain. Sela was quoted by another media member -Ricky Dimon of Tennis Grand,  as to why he took the timeout; “To do some thinking with myself about what I have to do. To relax.”

 

Sela will take on Benjamin Becker Saturday evening.  Becker ended the run of lucky loser Thiemo de Bakker 6-4, 6-2.

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.

Results for July 25, 2014

Singles – Quarter-finals
[1] J Isner (USA) d [8] M Matosevic (AUS) 76(8) 64
D Sela (ISR) d [4] V Pospisil (CAN) 75 16 62
J Sock (USA) d L Lacko (SVK) 76(6) 62
B Becker (GER) d [LL] T de Bakker (NED) 64 62

Doubles – Quarter-finals
S Johnson (USA) / S Querrey (USA) d [2] S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) 76(2) 75
N Barrientos (COL) / V Estrella Burgos (DOM) d [3] C Guccione (AUS) / J Smith (AUS) 75 36 10-6

Schedule for July 26, 2014

STADIUM start 12:30 pm
K King (USA) / M Venus (NZL) vs S Johnson (USA) / S Querrey (USA)

Not Before 3:00 pm
[1] J Isner (USA) vs J Sock (USA)

Not Before 8:00 pm
D Sela (ISR) vs B Becker (GER)
[1] V Pospisil (CAN) / J Sock (USA) vs N Barrientos (COL) / V Estrella Burgos (DOM)

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John Isner Leads Top Seeds into Newport Quarterfinals

John Isner

John Isner

By Dave Gertler

(July 9, 2014) NEWPORT – Day Three of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, saw solid performances from top seeds, and expected results from the tournament’s big servers and grass court specialists.

 

The only minor upset of the day was Israel’s Dudi Sela ousting his higher-ranked opponent, No .8 seed Adrian Mannarino, in straight sets. Sela had a strong serving day, winning 82% of points on his first serve and converting five of six break points against the Frenchman. Sela, one of the shorter players on tour, will now face the tallest, Ivo Karlovic, whose 18 aces was too much for serve-and-volleyer Sergiy Stakhovsky to handle, the Croatian winning 7-5, 7-6.

 

The tournament’s top four seeds also won through to the quarterfinals in straight sets. Defending champion Nicolas Mahut beat Australia’s Luke Saville in an hour, 10 minutes, out-serving the 20-year-old Australian qualifier, breaking him on four occasions. “It was a tough match,” said Mahut, “He’s a good player on grass. This kind of surface you have to be really focused on your serve and take the opportunity. It was much better than yesterday and I hope tomorrow will be even better.”

 

His serving will need to stay solid in his quarterfinal match against Australian Sam Groth, who although still outside the top 100, is one win away from reaching that milestone after another solid serving performance saw him through his match against Malek Jaziri. Groth’s ace count against the Tunisian was remarkably high at 24, ominous for his next opponent, who said, “He’s serving huge, he’s a very, very powerful player. So if I had to play against him I will have to be really concentrate on my serve, and then wait for something, maybe a double fault once, try a good return and waiting for the small opportunities I will have. But the first thing is to keep my serve, I’ll be really focused on that.”

 

Tournament top dog John Isner required less time and less aces against fellow American Austin Krajicek, defeating him on Center Court 6-3, 6-3 in just over an hour. “It was a pretty clean match,” said Isner, “I guess I got up early in both sets, and for me, that helps so much. I feel like I play pretty well when I’m playing ahead, especially on this surface too. It was a good match, very happy with it.”

 

Isner’s quarterfinal opponent was decided in a match between Rajeev Ram and Jack Sock, 21-year-old Sock coming through on top. Sock and Isner, both good friends, are looking forward to the quarterfinal. “He and I practice a lot and have become pretty good friends,” said Sock of Isner, “We obviously know each other pretty well now. We both know each other’s games pretty well so it should be whoever can execute better, I guess.”

 

Sock, fresh from winning his second grand slam – a Wimbledon doubles title with Vasek Pospisil, defeating the Bryan brothers in the final – is enjoying the burst of confidence he’s received into his singles game. “No matter what tournament it is, even doubles,” said Sock, “Whenever you win a match, it can only help, and especially the slams. I think that when you can get that run going into to second week of any slam, singles or doubles, and then you end up, like we were, fortunate enough to play on the weekend, second week of a slam, there’s only a few guys left in the locker room. It’s pretty cool, it’s a pretty special feeling. And to be able to be there and then go out on Center Court and play, and be lucky enough to win against the best team, probably, of all time in doubles, it can only help your confidence.”

 

Isner, who has not lost to Sock in four matches, seemed positive about Sock’s future in the game ahead of their first meeting on grass. “We’re both gonna want to win,” said Isner, “We’re good friends; we may even go out to dinner tonight, or even tomorrow night. I’ve gotten especially close to him now that he’s moved to Tampa. We train together, we use the same strength coach, we’re always training together. He’s a good friend of mine and someone who – I think, in a sense, he might look up a little bit to me. I’m certainly much older than him but he’s – in my opinion – got an incredibly bright future. He’s got a lot of weapons in his game, especially with that forehand of his, which is world class. So, he’s only gonna get better.”

 

The winner of Isner/Sock will face – in the semifinal – the winner between Lleyton Hewitt and Steve Johnson, who both graduated comfortably past their round-of-16 opponents, Ante Pavic and Tatsuma Ito, respectively. While Hewitt and Johnson won’t contest their quarterfinal tomorrow, the 33-year-old Aussie won’t be resting entirely. He’s one of five Australians remaining in the doubles draw at the quarterfinal stage. After his match with Pavic, Hewitt revealed, “I only play doubles most of the time to play with guys that I’m going to play Davis Cup for Australia with. That’s the only real reason that I play doubles. We’ve got a Davis Cup tie later in the year and Chris Guccione and I will most probably be playing doubles there, so it’s good to get some more matches.”

 

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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Anderson Upsets Top Seed Isner, Qualifier Matosevic Reaches Delray Beach Final

South Africa’s Kevin Anderson returns the ball to Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller during the Paris Masters tennis tournament November 7, 2011. REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen (FRANCE – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

 

 

In a match between two of the taller players on the ATP World Tour, top seed 6′ 10″ John Isner fell to 6′ 8″  Kevin Anderson. 7-5, 7-6(4) in a Saturday night semifinal in Delray Beach.

The battle of big servers had Anderson firing 16 aces past Isner  in the one hour and 36 minute match.  The South African is into his third career ATP World Tour singles final.

Qualifier Marinko Matosevic of Australia is into his first career ATP World Tour final after defeating Dudi Sela of Israel 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (7) on Saturday at the Delray Beach International.

Ranked at No. 173 Matosevic needed five match points to complete an almost three hour match.
“I’m very happy but I’m very tired,” Matosevic said. “I was just fighting off cramps. … In the humidity I just sweat a lot and cramp. I cramped after my match on Wednesday, too.”

The Anderson versus Matosevic final on Sunday will be the first time the two players have faced each other in a singles match.


RESULTS – SATURDAY, 3 MARCH, 2012

Singles – Semi-finals
[7] K Anderson (RSA) d [1] J Isner (USA) 75 76(4)
[Q] M Matosevic (AUS) d D Sela (ISR) 57 64 76(7)

Doubles – Semi-finals
[3] C Fleming (GBR) / R Hutchins (GBR) d M Elgin (RUS) / D Istomin (UZB) 76(6) 64
M Mertinak (SVK) / A Sa (BRA) d I Karlovic (CRO) / F Moser (GER) 64 64

SCHEDULE – SUNDAY, 4 MARCH, 2012

STADIUM start 1:00 pm
M Mertinak (SVK) / A Sa (BRA) vs [3] C Fleming (GBR) / R Hutchins (GBR)

Not Before 3:00 PM
[7] K Anderson (RSA) vs [Q] M Matosevic (AUS)

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Sony Ericsson Open – The Excitement Starts Here and Now

By Craig Hickman

Tours, draw ceremonies, and qualifying matches filled up most of the day at the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open.

At 10:00 am, I toured the 34-acre site guided by tournament director Adam Barrett and Media and Public Relations Director Sam Henderson. Tracking down minor facilities issues (“Why is the Head Tent Closed?”) while walking a small group of media around the exquisitely designed and built set of facilities, it was clear that the Sony Ericsson Open has its eye on a bigger future. Adding another television court, hardwiring expanded workrooms for faster connectivity, and including a high-end VIP restaurant which will feature four celebrity chefs over the next week, the event will remain the premiere event outside of the Grand Slams.

At approximately 11:45, the women’s draw was unveiled. Samantha Stosur chose the chips with the 32 seeded players whose names were taped on a giant draw board threatening to blow off the easel. “Right now, it’s all just a bunch of names,” she said of her place in the 128-line draw. The No. 4 seed and Roland Garros finalist will face the winner of Zheng Jie and Xperia Hot Shot Sorana Cirstea in the second round.

 

The men’s draw followed with Jurgen Melzer doing the choosing. “The first thing I look at is where is Juan Martín del Potro in the draw,” said the No. 10 seed. “He’s in Robin Soderling‘s section so that’s going to be a nice little section. I think everybody says you play one match at a time, but we’re human so sometimes we do look ahead. If you’re confident you don’t care who you play, but if you’re not, you want to know what’s coming.” What’s coming for Melzer is his doubles partner Philipp Petzschner of Germany or Florent Serra of France.

Next, I jumped around and the grounds and darted in and out of several qualifying matches.


American wildcard and birthday girl Sloane Stephens had to rally from a set down to advance to the second round of qualifying. She beat the No. 4 seed Evgeniya Rodina of Russia 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. For a place in the main draw she’ll face Aussie Sophie Ferguson who upset No. 13 Alberta Brianti of Italy 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.


The No. 4 seed in the men’s qualifying draw fared no better. Milwaukee native Tim Smyczek picked about Israel’s Dudi Sela 6-1, 6-4. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said after the match. Had me fooled. Though only 5′ 9″, the 23-year-old hits a big serve, has no weakness on either wing, and plays the net with aplomb. Perhaps his best asset on the court is his positive attitude. He played every point as though it were the last and never let an error cost more than one point. Smyczek will have a tough match against Olivier Rochus of Belgium who beat Flavio Cipola of Italy 6-3, 6-2.

 

American Ryan Sweeting also advanced in straight sets. Even though he yelled out to his box that his backhand was the worst it’s ever been, you wouldn’t have known it. Not the way he dismantled Juan Sebastian Cabal 7-6(4), 6-2. The Colombian became so frustrated he double faulted twice to lose the match. Sweeting will play Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic for a spot in the main draw.

Coming off the biggest win of his career with an upset of Andy Murray at the BNP Paribas Open, Donald Young was back to the business of qualifying for another major event. Against the wily veteran in Arnaud Clement, Young was out of sorts out the gate, dropping the first 10 points of the match with a listless performance and cantankerous disposition. But the young American who has seemed burdened by big expectations shook off a lopsided first set and turned the match around. “I didn’t play my game in the first set. I started to keep more balls in play and kept fighting,” said Young. He took pace off his shots, forcing Clement to create his own pace, and that change in tactics forced the Frenchman to make more errors. “If I keep playing my game, the way I played in the last two sets, I can get through.” He’ll have to fight past Frank Dancevic of Canada who can produce good tennis on North American hardcourts.

 

Americans Lauren Davis, Irina Falconi, Jamie Hampton, Christina McHale, Robert Kendrick, Michael Russell also advanced.

Tomorrow, matches from the women’s main draw begin on the Grandstand, Court 1 and Court 2. Find the full schedule here.

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

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