2015/03/31

Atlantic Station is a winner for fans at BB&T Atlanta Open

John and Robert Frierson at BB&T Atlanta Open

By Herman Wood

ATLANTA, Georgia – Atlantic Station is a hopping place! The first semifinal has been completed, with Gilles Muller over Go Soeda 6-4, 6-3 and Ebden/Harrison over Fleming/Hutchins 6-3, 6-3. The stadium has emptied into Atlantic Station, where folks are shopping, eating, drinking, and generally having a great time. Kids are shooting hoops at the Atlanta Hawks tent, playing tennis at the 10 under courts and playing tennis at Publix family zone. John Frierson was taking the opportunity to teach tennis to his son Robert on the 10 and under courts. He was looking forward to the showdown tonight. Olympic folks are here with interactive booths for adults and kids to try their skills in various Olympic events.

Michael Koenig and Jack Hendry

Michael Koenig and Jack Hendry tried their skills at basketball, Paralympic style! The event had them set up in wheelchairs trying to shoot baskets. They found the going significantly tougher than their typical basketball games, but several baskets were made. Their parents were having dinner at a restaurant somewhere at Atlantic Station while they had all kinds of fun! I asked if they were rooting for anyone in particular tonight. “Roddick!” Not for the Georgia boy John Isner? “No, Roddick is the best American.” I’m sure some Georgia Bulldog fans will have something to say about that. I expect a lot of barking!

Eduardo and Andrea Baetti, with Ricardo and Alejandra Hein

Eduardo and Andrea Baetti, with Ricardo and Alejandra Hein, took in the first semifinal match today. Eduardo was sporting a Georgia hat. They didn’t have tickets for the night session but were planning lots of fun at Atlantic Station. He was definitely pulling for John Isner.

The official shirt vendor for the tourney pulled off a major coup overnight. They were able to work with John Isner and his foundation to have T-shirts printed out that say “Team Isner” in Georgia red and black. A portion of sales will go to Isner’s foundation. Sales were moving very briskly as they were already sold out of size large before the afternoon session was done.

 


Everyone seemed to be having a great time and we’re all very happy to be at Atlantic Station. It seems the players weren’t the only ones serving aces.

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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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Meet Amber Lynn Smith – Super Tennis Fan, Super Roddick Fan

By Herman Wood

ATLANTA, Georgia -Fans of any sport can be rabid. If you go to LSU for a football game dressed in opposition colors, you’ll be taunted with chants of “Tiger Bait”. In Athens, Georgia, home of the Bulldogs, you’ll be barked at. Duke basketball fans are famous for their imaginative cheers. Tennis fans? If the NCAA Collegiate Tournament is held in Athens, there is some barking and there’s a certain collegiate coach who famously held fans at bay from atop a car with a wooden racquet back in the day, though that’s another story. Professional tennis fans are usually a laid back lot (unless it’s Davis Cup!) They clap politely for any good shot and sigh with disappointment at near misses. Ask who they’re cheering for and you’re likely to get a shrug.


Then there’s Amber Lynn Smith. Amber is a typical college student, hoping to become a teacher, drinking lots of milk. Milk? I really don’t know if she drinks milk or not, but it has a lot to do with her being a tennis super fan. When she was ten, she got interested in the game because of friends, but took a special interest in Andy Roddick. In fact, she fell in love with tennis because of his passion for the game. She wanted to hit the ball as hard as he did, so she wanted to be a better athlete. There was one of the milk promotional pictures at her school, so she asked for it at the end of the school year and it was given to her. It’s huge and covers one wall of her room. She got another poster and put it up in her locker at school.

She was able to make it to Roddick’s first match in the BB&T Atlanta Open and had a chance to meet him. We’ve all heard of the spoiled athletes who won’t take the time for a kid, much less an adult. It makes them hard to cheer for. That wasn’t the case here. Roddick couldn’t have been more gracious. He noticed Amber. She was wearing a shirt she had made with a super “R” and “Roddick” above the logo. On the back, it says “Forget those other superheros…” He complimented her on the shirt and took time to take a quick picture before his press conference. She had to wait around because they didn’t realize the picture didn’t take the first time until after. Roddick was more than happy to pose again and to spend a few minutes talking with her and to autograph her shirt.


Amber hopes to become a teacher, and I expect she’ll be a very good one, especially if she brings the same passion to her chosen profession. She also hopes to one day be able to teach tennis to children so they can start at a younger age than she did. She thinks the current under 10 initiative would have helped her greatly. She feels if children start at a younger age, they’ll grow up healthier.

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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Blake finds new motivation to win

By Sam Crenshaw, Special to Tennis Panorama News

ATLANTA, Georgia – James Blake will be the first to admit that his first round victory at the BB&T Atlanta Open was match that he was supposed to lose. The 32 year-old tour veteran out lasted 20 year old Ryan Harrison for a 3 set win that delighted the crowd at the Atlantic Station venue.

On paper it didn’t seem close..Harrison is 20 years old, ranked 43rd and bound for London for the 2012 Olympics. Blake, at 32, has seen his ranking slip out of the top 100 to 110. “I starting to play guys who grew up watching me”, said a smiling Blake after the match.

Blake is not considered a threat to win ATP titles, but he remains a crowd favorite and on this night he showed that his wisdom, remaining skills and even couple of friendly bounces off the top of the net can result in victory..

Health has been an issue for James, who talked about his knee surgery back in November. He looked to be moving well. His serve was not as crisp as his fans would remember. That is due to a shoulder injury that he continues to play through..

But after the match he told me about his new inspiration to play good tennis, the recent birth of his daughter. Blake said” This is the first match that I have won since she was born. Tonight her daddy is a winner.”

Great playing “Pops”.. You did your baby girl proud…

Sam Crenshaw is a 25-year veteran of sports broadcasting. He started his career in Augusta, Ga., working as a sports reporter for WRDW-TV and later worked at WFMY-TV in Greensboro, N.C. He moved to Atlanta in 1997 to become a sports broadcaster at WXIA-TV and is now the weekend sports anchor for WXIA covering amateur and professional sports statewide.

Read his sports blog Sam’s Passing Shots and follow him on twitter @samcrenshawwxia.

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Stringer Stories in Atlanta

Adam Queen from Your Serve Tennis, Photo by Herman Wood for Tennis Panorama.

By Herman Wood

 

ATLANTA, Georgia – At Atlanta’s BB&T Open, players are on a plane far above the recreational, league player or even teaching professional. Yesterday, Jack Sock recorded a 141 mph service ace while playing Alexander Bogomolov. Bogomolov had a few thunder claps of his own (or was that the usual Atlanta summer thunder storm that interrupted the match?). I know they’re bigger, stronger, and certainly better conditioned, but how is it possible to hit a ball 40 mph faster than the average Joe USTA? The racquets are the same, right? They’re using the same string, aren’t they?

I spoke to Adam Queen, stringer from Your Serve Tennis, the official stringer for the tournament to find out. “All the players are particular. They know what works best for them for different courts, balls, and conditions.” Conditions? “Most go up on tension with heat & humidity because the ball tends to fly.” Unlike you or I, professionals don’t need the stringers’ advice. They’ve experimented with different strings, tensions, number of knots and everything else you can imagine. Queen’s job is to meet those specs, unlike in one of his stores, where he’ll talk to a customer to find out what they need. Just like you and I, the pros want quality and consistency, but they want it to a high level. As an example, most players want their racquets done as close to match time as possible. Mardy Fish wants the second racquet he’ll use delivered ten minutes after the match starts! How would that make a difference?

It turns out that strings lose tension with time, not just use. Polyester string can lose thirty percent overnight! Alright, I could get my racquet strung just before my match if I could hit a 140 mph serve!

“That could be kind of tough on your arm if you use the same string the pros do and you’d have to restring for every match.” I asked Queen why it was tough on the arm. “Almost every pro uses polyester. Polyester string loses tension relatively quickly and becomes dead. Professionals’ shoulder, wrist, and elbow are better able to handle the demands of daily play and demanding equipment.” So that’s why my shoulder hurts when I hit with that year old polyester string! “They restring every time out.” That sounds expensive! So what else do they do differently? “Jack Sock strings at 40 pounds. James Blake uses 63 pounds. Both use polyester.” I guess that means I can play like Sock if I string at 40 and like Blake if at 63? Oh, I forgot- I don’t practice for hours on end every day and do physical conditioning for hours on end. What can I do?

“Be willing to experiment. Talk to your stringer. Give polyester a try, but be willing to cut it out after a few weeks even if it doesn’t break.” You think maybe I can hit that 140 mph serve, just once?

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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Questions to be answered in Atlanta

By Sam Crenshaw, Special to Tennis Panorama News

ATLANTA, Georgia – As the curtain goes up on the BB&T Atlanta Open, the questions that come rushing forward seem too numerous to count. First there is a tournament field that includes the top ranked American men’s players in the world, four of which will head back to the All-England Club for the Olympics in two weeks.
The early commitment from Andy Roddick was big for the image of this event. Roddick won his first career ATP title in Atlanta and remains popular despite a recent drop in rankings. A-Rod is looking to ramp up his game before heading back to England.
Mardy Fish is two-time defending champion of this event, and after dealing with health matters in the spring, looks to be ready to go for a three-peat. Fish passed on a spot on the Olympic team and is expected to play at Washington instead. Atlanta will be the most talented field he will face until after the Olympics.
Then there is John Isner. The UGA alum and two-time runner up here is coming to town on the heels of a strong showing at Newport. A great week in front of a supportive crowd could give him the boost he needs headed back to the scene of a disappointing early exit at Wimbledon.

There are still more questions than answers about players like Ryan Harrison. The first time Olympian is coming off a semi-final run at Newport. Donald Young is bound for London too, but is in the throes of a 13 match losing streak. Perhaps playing before the home crowd will help he regain the form that made him a hit at the US Open last year. The more interesting story coming to the Atlanta tournament for me has to be Brian Baker, who at this time last year was ranked No. 752 in the world. The one-time junior phenom is now an overnight sensation at age 27 and ranked 76th in the world. Look for a few folks to drive down from Music City to see Baker play in Hotlanta.

But the biggest question may be the new venue for Atlanta’s ATP event. Atlantic Station is a shopping, entertainment and residential development in the heart of the city. It is an idea that is so fresh and outside of the box that some are wondering how the traditional tennis community will treat it. With over 150 thousand card carrying league tennis players in the metro Atlanta area, this is a city that has long been known for choosing to play rather than watch. Let’s see if they will accept and embrace a new approach to professional tennis, not just for Atlanta but for the entire nation. Instead of Tennis Anyone it time to say Tennis Everyone…Enjoy the tournament Ya’ll !!!!

 

Sam Crenshaw is a 25-year veteran of sports broadcasting. He started his career in Augusta, Ga., working as a sports reporter for WRDW-TV and later worked at WFMY-TV in Greensboro, N.C. He moved to Atlanta in 1997 to become a sports broadcaster at WXIA-TV and is now the weekend sports anchor for WXIA covering amateur and professional sports statewide.

Read his sports blog Sam’s Passing Shots.

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