2014/11/24

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

By Erik Gudris

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

Madison Keys (Photo by Erik Gudris)

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

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

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

 

Jesse Levine (Photo by Erik Gudris)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Isner Loses His Grip on Fish in Atlanta Tennis Championships Finals


By Erik Gudris

NORCROSS, Georgia – The venue for  this year’s Atlanta Tennis Championships final may have been different, but the two finalists and the outcome of the match itself could well end up feeling like déjà vu for both Mardy Fish and John Isner who once again battled for three sets in hot conditions before Fish went on to claim his second Atlanta title 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-2 in over two hours. For Fish, it’s the first time in his career he’s defended a title and marks an impressive start to his summer hard court season. But once again Isner comes up short in a final where he had match points, raising questions on how long his newfound confidence and return to form might last.

 

Despite a shaky opening service game that had Isner facing break points against him, Isner recovered and then broke Fish to go up 3-1. Fish looked unsettled and had a hard time dealing with Isner’s big serve which the University of Georgia graduate used to close out the first set 6-3. When an ill-timed drop shot and forehand errors from Fish gave Isner an early break in the second set, it looked like Isner might run away with the match. But after Fish broke back right away, Isner began looking fatigued and several times clutched his right side.

 

Fish started getting a better read on Isner’s serve but Isner managed to compose himself and his game, staying level with Fish until they reached a tiebreak. Early errors from Fish gave Isner a commanding 5-1 lead. Fish held for 5-4 on his serve, but Isner then went up 6-4 during his turn to serve giving him two match points. But during a rally, Isner forced a backhand long allowing Fish to eventually level things to 6-all. Fish then claimed the set when Isner hit a forehand wide on the ad side.

 

Isner, who admitted dealing with an upset stomach afterwards, looked weary and deflated heading into the final set. After dropping serve early, Isner looked spent and sometimes wouldn’t even move for returns. He did manage to get two break points on Fish’s serve at 2-3 but Fish held his ground. When Isner double faulted to give Fish another break, the final was all but done as Fish closed out the match on his serve giving him his sixth career ATP World Tour title.

 

A disappointed Isner in his news conference afterwards admitted he should have won the match and wondered aloud if his dismal record against fellow Americans might have been a factor as well. “The match was in my hands. I was up a set and break. Simple as that. And I did not get it done. I’ve lost five finals in my career. Two to Mardy (Fish), two to Sam (Querrey), one to Andy (Roddick) that I arguably could have won every single match. This is the second one I’ve had match points in. Other ones I’ve been one, two points away. I don’t know what it is. I’d rather see a foreigner in the final. I keep coming up a little short every time I play a friend.”

 

When asked about coming back in the second set tiebreak Fish said he had nothing to lose and that it was a bit of luck plus sticking some returns when he needed to that got him out of the deficit. On defending his title in Atlanta, Fish said, “It feels great to win here again and start off the summer like I did last year. This year, it was a bit different coming in as the top seeded guy. You’re sort of in the position where everyone is looking for you, knows where you are, so it feels great to come through today and all week.” On his immediate goals Fish said he wanted to make the “Masters Cup,” now known as the ATP World Tour Finals and stay in the top 10. “The goal is to do better than last summer, and last summer was better than I had ever done before. I want to stay in the Top 10 for as long as I can and keep bettering my career high ranking and do things I’ve never done before. Today is one of them as I had never defended a title before, so it’s another milestone for me.”

 

Fish now heads to his home of Los Angeles to compete in next week’s Farmers Classic while Isner will next see action at the Legg Mason event in Washington D.C. In the men’s doubles final, American Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Australia’s Matthew Ebden defeated the German team of Matthias Bachinger and Frank Moser 3-6, 7-5, 10-8.

Erik Gudris covered the Atlanta Tennis Championships this past week for Tennis Panorama News. Hs writes and moderates the tennis news site Adjustingthenet.com. 

 

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Fish and Isner Reunite in Atlanta Finals

John Isner

By Erik Gudris

NORCROSS, Georgia – On a blistering afternoon that transitioned into a cooler but muggier evening, John Isner and Mardy Fish fought their way through their semifinal opponents on Saturday to set up a second straight encounter with each other in the finals of the Atlanta Tennis Championships. What makes this return matchup even more intriguing is that both Isner and Fish are playing almost reverse roles in terms of where they were as players a year ago.

 

Isner faced off against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller who pushed the tall American to three sets last year in Atlanta. A big serving affair that saw neither man broken in the first two sets, Isner claimed the first set 7-5 when Muller doubled faulted on set point. Isner let a chance to break Muller late in the second set slip away and when it went into the tiebreak, it was Isner who blinked first by dropping his service points allowing Muller to run away with the second set tiebreak. After going off court to change his clothes, Isner appeared more relaxed and on Muller’s first service game in the third set, Isner hit two big returns that allowed him to break Muller for the first time in the match. Deflated, Muller dropped serve again in the fourth game and that allowed Isner to serve out the match with ease 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-1.

 

After his match, Isner talked about his newfound confidence that’s allowed him to earn a string of victories since claiming the title in Newport a few weeks ago. “Like anybody else I play my best when I’m confident and I move my best when I’m confident. I’m not the fastest guy, but I’ve been moving very well this week and that comes just from having a clear mind out there and making the right decisions. I’ve been waiting for this feeling for about five months now and now that I have it I don’t want to let it go.”

 

Mardy Fish

The night match featured Fish against rising young American star Ryan Harrison. Although a tight contest was expected, it was Fish who gave Harrison a lesson in all-court offense. Fish returned Harrison’s big serve with ease and never allowed Harrison a chance to either dictate from the baseline or get much going up at net. After Fish ran away with the first set 6-2, Harrison finally started hitting a few more winners and got his first ace late in the match. But it wasn’t enough to deter Fish in using his all-court game at will as he served out the match in just over an hour 6-2, 6-4.

 

Fish is 2-1 lifetime against Isner but Isner won their last meeting earlier this spring in Madrid. When Fish was asked later about playing Isner again in the Atlanta final and if he would change anything from last year he said, “Obviously he showed last year he’s a tough out and no one’s beaten yet here so he’ll be tough to beat and I hope to have a good plan against him.”

 

Probably the most intriguing aspect to Sunday’s final is that last year it was Fish, fresh off winning the title in Newport, who came into Atlanta ranked No. 42 in the world and then used his win in Atlanta as a springboard to not only a successful hard court season but then into this year reaching the top ten for the first time as well as becoming the top ranking U.S. player. The recent improvements in Isner’s play, including his recent win in Newport, was not lost on Fish when asked about it. “Yeah it is pretty similar but hopefully the result won’t be like mine (in Atlanta) last year. Winning breeds winning and it’s contagious and when you win you want to win more. And he’s in a good position. He doesn’t have hardly anything to defend as far as the player that he is. It’s only upside for him this summer and I hope he does apart from tomorrow.”

 

Before the men’s singles final, the men’s doubles final will feature the German team of Matthias Bachinger and Frank Moser versus the team of American Alex Bogomolov Jr. and Australian Matthew Ebden.

Erik Gudris writes and moderates the tennis news site Adjustingthenet.com. Follow him all week on Twitter at @GVTennisNews

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Harrison Enters ATP Top 100 and Atlanta Semis With Thrilling Three Set Win

 

By Erik Gudris

NORCROSS, Georgia – Quarterfinals day at the Atlanta Tennis Championships saw a few surprises in who advanced into the semifinals and how they got there. Even though rain threatened to derail what looked like an easy straight sets win for the top seed Mardy Fish, it was the last match of the evening that provided real drama for fans of young American Ryan Harrison

 

Gilles Muller kicked off the afternoon with a surprise upset of No. 2 seed Kevin Anderson with a 7-6(3), 7-6(3) victory. After that, last year’s finalist John Isner cruised over Yen-Hsun Lu 6-1, 6-2 in just under an hour in a match that saw Isner completely overwhelm his opponent.

 

Afterwards, Isner talked about one of his main motivations this summer being a coveted seeded spot at the U.S. Open. “That’s my immediate goal and an attainable one to be seeded at the Open. Last two Slams I fell out of the seeded spots where as I think the last five or six I was seeded. I don’t want to play a guy like Rafa (Nadal) again first round. I’m on the right track for sure.”

 

The night session saw top seed Mardy Fish up against Somdev Devvarman. Fish couldn’t find his range early on and overhit many shots, racking up 22 unforced errors in the first set alone. But he played steady enough when needed to claim the first set 6-4. Fish cleaned up his act in the second set and leaped out to a 5-0 lead. But as a few drops of rain fell during the last few games, Fish rushed to get off the court, blowing several match points against Devvarman’s serve and then started overhitting again to let Devvarman back in the match at 5-3. Before a brief shower hit the court, Fish did manage to serve out the match 6-4, 6-3.

 

But it was the final quarterfinal match between young American Ryan Harrison and veteran American Rajeev Ram that proved to be the highlight match of the day and the week so far. Ram, with his silky prowess at net claimed the first set 6-4, but his inability to hold serve in the second set along with more assured play from Harrison sawHarrison claim the second set with ease. The final set proved to be a real battle with both men involved in hard rallies on the baseline and delightful exchanges up at net. Serving down a match point,Harrison bombed an ace and then eventually forced a tiebreak. After Ram’s forehand failed him on several points, he allowedHarrison to jump out to a 5-1 lead, Ram fought back to even things at 5-5.Harrison knifed a backhand volley to force a match point at 6-5. The next point saw Ram charge the net but Harrison responded with a backhand pass that clipped the net and sailed past Ram to land in on the baseline, giving Harrison the victory 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (5).

 

Harrison’s hard fought victory Friday night not only earns him his first ever ATP semifinal berth against Mardy Fish tomorrow but also gave the young American some special rewards as well. Along with a special exempt entrance into next week’s Farmers Classic inLos Angeles,Harrison will now crack the ATP top 100 for the first time next week.

Erik Gudris writes and moderates the tennis news site Adjustingthenet.com. Follow him all week on Twitter at @GVTennisNews

Atlanta Tennis Championships – Friday Results, Saturday Order of Play

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Ryan Harrison Struggles to Keep His Cool Down in Atlanta

Ryan Harrison

By Erik Gudris

NORCROSS, Georgia – Even before he stepped on court today, young American Ryan Harrison’s reputation preceded him in both positive and negative ways. On the positive side, he possesses an exciting all-court game that many love to watch. But Harrison’s other reputation as a volatile player who breaks racquets and yells obscenities at linespeople and umpires is one that doesn’t sit well with many fans who are ready to embrace Harrison as not just a breakout American star but also as a possible heir apparent to Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick as the next top U.S. player.

 

Harrison’s second round match at the Atlanta Tennis Championships against veteran Belgian Xavier Malisse had a little bit of everything including a tiebreak, a lengthy rain delay and several moments of hothead behavior from both players that culminated in a testy exchange of words late in the third set. Malisse and Harrison exchanged breaks in the first set leading to a tiebreak that saw Harrison go down a quick 0-4. In frustration, Harrison yelled out something that the umpire thought was an obscenity, leading him to give Harrison a verbal abuse warning. After Malisse went on to win the first set tiebreak, Harrison managed to compose himself in the second set to break Malisse at 3-2 and then hold serve to close out the set 6-4.

 

Early in the third set, dark clouds and persistent lightning suspended the match giving way to an hour and an half rain delay. When play resumed, Harrison dropped serve and dropped kicked his racquet to give Malisse a 3-1 lead and it seemed the veteran might race away with the win. But after Harrison won an extended rally to break back at 2-3, during the changeover, both men got into a testy exchange. Harrison held serve and then at 4-4, Malisse played a loose service game to give Harrison another break. Harrison then had no problem serving out the match 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-4.

 

When asked about the exchange he had with Malisse afterwards, Harrison said, “When I broke him back (in third set) he said some things that I wasn’t too happy with. So I said some things back that I’m sure he wasn’t happy with either. There’s no reason to go into details about it. We’re both competitive and want to win. I’ve known him down in Florida for awhile and we’ve always been fine in the past and I have no resentment towards him.”

 

Handling his emotions on court when things are going well and going not so well seems to be the biggest challenge for Harrison right now. “It’s just the way my mind is wired. I like it when it gets intense. So when it gets competitive like that when someone says something to you, the ultimate goal is to go out and win and have the last laugh there. I had a couple of tough service games there late in the third set. Wasn’t a break point but the good thing about it was I was fired up and ready to play. So when I had something negative happen I let it go by and when I had something positive I tried to fuel it to get me going. So that’s something I need to work on more for future matches.”

 

Now into the quarterfinals, Harrison will next face another veteran, American Rajeev Ram. If Harrison can keep his cool, not only physically as another scorching day is expected weather wise, but also emotionally, is something U.S. tennis fans will be keeping a close eye on not only for this week, but for many months to come.

Erik Gudris writes and moderates the tennis news site Adjustingthenet.com. Follow him all week on Twitter at @GVTennisNews

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Hometown Hero Isner Survives Opener Against Blake in Atlanta

John Isner

By Erik Gudris

NORCROSS, Georgia – Before the Atlanta Tennis Championships started, defending champion Mardy Fish quipped that local favorite John Isner had four hometown events based on his growing up in North Carolina, going to school in Georgia and training full time in Florida. Today’s action down at the Racquet of The South saw several local favorites in action, but it was Isner match against a resurgent James Blake that had Isner drawing on all the home court support he could get.

Atlanta’s Donald Young teamed up with Ryan Harrison in doubles as they took on the German pairing of Matthias Bachinger and Frank Moser. Despite coming from behind in the first two sets, in large part based on the skillful net play of Harrison, Young and Harrison lost momentum late in the match and a slew of errors early on from Harrison in the match tie-break saw the German team finally win 4-6, 7-6, 10-6, giving Young a sooner than expected exit from his hometown tourney. Another local hopeful, Robby Ginepri, who’s returning to the ATP tour after an extended break due to injury, couldn’t keep his comeback going as he lost to Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller 7-6 (6) 2-6, 6-2.

James Blake

But the main event was Isner taking on his ATC doubles partner Blake in a long duel that lasted almost three hours. After winning the first set in a tiebreak, Isner jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second set before Blake broke back to level things and eventually force another tiebreak that he went on to win. The third set saw both men stay even with each other early until the 4-3 game when Blake started turning defense into offense, coming up with stunning winners on the dead run. Isner, despite looking tired, managed to serve himself out of trouble when facing break points against him. Eventually Isner finally broke Blake to go up 6-5 in the final set. Blake, knowing he had a tremendous chance to close out the tiring Isner, swatted his racquet against the ground several times as Isner’s serves sailed by him. Blake hit one more return long to give Isner the match 7-6 (8), 6-7 (3), 7-5.

During his on-court interview when asked about the copious amounts of fluids he drank all match said, “I was dying. I went through nine shirts this match and I was down to my last one. It was disgusting.” He later admitted to being a little bit more lucky than Blake this evening but he will probably hope for a match that requires less effort when he takes on Yen-Hsun Lu in the next round.

Erik Gudris writes and moderates the tennis news site Adjustingthenet.com. Follow him all week on Twitter at @GVTennisNews

 

Atlanta Tennis Championships – Wednesday Results, Thursday Order of Play

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BNP Paribas Open Day 5: Americans Continue Winning Streak in the Desert.

By Eric Gudris

Ryan Sweeting

It’s a misleading to say that the first Sunday of the BNP Paribas Open is when the tournament really begins as the event has been going strong for almost a week now. But this is the time when the big names, especially on the men’s side finally start to play their opening singles matches while on the women’s side, exciting matchups start to fall into place as the quarterfinals beckon.

If there’s been a trend or developing story this first week, it has to be that of the young Americans who picked probably the best place outside of the U.S. Open to not only play some good ball but also earn some much needed respect after the lengthy debate so far on “what’s wrong with American tennis.”  Ryan Sweeting, fresh off his three set win over Juan Monaco, was mobbed by autograph seekers during his practice session today hoping to get a signature and even a photograph with Sweeting who was likely unheard of by most fans a week ago. The other Ryan, Ryan Harrison to be exact, continued the streak of upsets by American players on Stadium 2 with a 6-4, 7-6 victory over No. 22 seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez that saw Harrison get into a heated exchange with the umpire after she made Harrison replay the point on a challenge he won when Garcia just tipped the ball with his racquet. Harrison will now face  Milos Raonic match and though many wanted to see Fish keep the American streak going, the prospect of a Harrison/Raonic encounter is likely what most fans want to see.

But it was some “older” Americans facing each other in a second round encounter that ended up being the match of the day, if nothing more for the sake of nostalgia. Despite displaying flashes of the game that got him to No. 4 in the world, James Blake couldn’t summon enough of it to get past friend and fellow Davis Cup teammate Andy Roddick who won 6-3, 7-5. The question now for Blake, who is currently ranked 158 in the world, is how he will fare the rest of the year, especially if he’s unable to get wildcards into big events. For Roddick, the win over Blake sets up another battle with another American as he faces John Isner in the next round.

Kim Clijsters won in three sets over Italy’s Sara Errani despite the reigning U.S. and Australian Open champion hitting more errors than winners in the match. Clijsters later said she’s been dealing with some nagging shoulder pain but thinks she can manage it through the rest of the spring hardcourt season. The end of the day session saw Roger Federer win 7-5, 7-6 (4) over Igor Andreev in a tight match that saw the Russian test Federer quite a bit throughout the match. Federer will now face Juan Ignacio Chela next.

Can the American winning streak continue? And which one of the big names on both the men’s and women’s side will prevail in the finals next Sunday. Stay Tuned!

 

Erik Gudris writes and moderates the tennis news and commentary site Adjustingthenet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adjustingthenet

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BNP Paribas Open Day Four: Practice and the “Will” to Win.

By Eric Gudris

For fans coming into the first Saturday of the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the decision many had to make was what to skip instead of what to see. With so many matches on court and so many players on the practice courts, it would be easy to waste time making up on one’s mind.

Francesca Schiavone

And it’s not like fans couldn’t catch some competitive action on the practice courts. I walked by Francesca Schiavone and Dominika Cibulkova playing a tough practice set in front of a packed viewing gallery while on another court a few yards away, Jurgen Melzer, not wearing his trademark backwards baseball cap, had a good hit with Victor Troicki. Around the corner, young American Sloane Stephens was warming up for her match against Caroline Wozniacki who also practiced nearby. Stephens, known for her motivational texts on her Twitter account, wore a t-shirt that had “I Will” written in big letters. But it was Wozniacki who let her tennis have the final say with a comfortable 6-3, 6-2 win later in the day. It may not have been Stephens’ day today, but she is a player to watch in the next few years.

Sloane Stephens

“I Will” might have been the mantra for American qualifier Donald Young who produced an unexpected victory over No. 5 seed Andy Murray 7-6, 6-4. Though Murray admitted he didn’t serve or move well in the match, it was Young who impressed the vocal crowd with a more focused style of play that saw him hang with Murray in baseline rallies but then go for winners at the right time. Young later said he never felt in complete control of the match until the final point was done and admitted to feeling some nerves throughout. When asked what made the difference in this match as opposed to other close ones he’s lost before. Young said, “I’ve been working hard physically. Wasn’t like last couple of matches that I felt like I had to go for a couple shots because I couldn’t keep it going if the point went any longer, and the nerves got the best of me. They almost did today, but I held them off.” Despite getting some much deserved praise today for his first back-to back ATP Tour wins since 2008, Young will be tested to prove his win over Murray wasn’t a fluke when he takes on Tommy Robredo in the next round.

Rafael Nadal (Photo by Enrique Fernandez 2010)

Finally, the first Saturday also means the arrival of the TV crews and the focus on big names on the big courts. Juan Martin Del Potro continued his comeback with a three set 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over defending champion Ivan Ljubicic. Though many fans will be thrilled that “Delpo’s” comeback appears to be in full flight, one has to feel for Ljubicic being knocked out in the second round where just one year ago he won his biggest title ever. The final day match on Stadium 1 featured World No. 1 Rafael Nadal who probably still remembers his loss to Ljubicic in last year’s semifinals. Nadal got off to a good start this year with an easy 6-0, 6-2 win over Rik de Voest in a match that I’m sure De Voest would have preferred to have taken place on the practice courts outside the stadium and not inside under the bright lights and televised for all the world to see. But even with the mild workout tonight, it’s a sure bet Nadal will be back on those same practice courts tomorrow where fans will get a close look at the No. 1 as he focuses on winning his third BNP Paribas Open title.

Erik Gudris, writer and moderator of Adjustingthenet.com is covering the BNP Paribas Open this week for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on Twitter @gvtennisnews.

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BNP Paribas Open Day Three: The Phenomenals.

By Erik Gudris

With the early talk at this year’s BNP Paribas Open focusing on the “big three” of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, it’s easy to forget about the next generation of tennis stars who aren’t that far away from potentially from being part of the top ten or even the top three, depending on how their games progress in the next few years. And already in 2011, we have three young men in the ATP Tour who have received a lot of attention and hype, some of it deserved and some of it not, each one being an ambassador for their country’s future Grand Slam hopes. Two from nations with a long history of tennis success that could be in peril of a long drought and one from a nation known more for sports victories on a slicker surface than grass.

Possibly the biggest star so far this year, even with the combined accomplishments of the “big three” is Milos Raonic. After coming through qualifying to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open followed by a title in San Jose and then reaching the finals in Memphis, Raonic comes into Indian Wells as a must-see player for fans who’ve only seen him on T.V. Raonic took on Marsel Ilhan of Turkey on Friday  and though the Canadian only served 46% first serves in the match, the “Maple Leaf Missile” managed a few rocket serves, including one at 148 mph that stunned the crowd. What impressed me most about Raonic was his movement and his backhand, especially when he hits down the line as a way to end the point outright. It was a shot he wasn’t afraid to go for and I thought about how I would like to see him go toe to toe with Djokovic in a baseline rally. Raonic pulled out a 6-2, 7-6 win but admitted he wasn’t playing his best tennis today. “I didn’t serve that well today, but I feel compared to Memphis and San Jose I’m playing another level from the baseline. I feel like it just gives me a lot more comfort that I’m improving that aspect and hopefully the serve will be back tomorrow for the doubles.”

The warm reception Raonic got at the start of the match proves the Canadian has become something of an adopted American for U.S. fans to cheer for. Not that they haven’t stopped cheering for Ryan Harrison of Shreveport, Louisiana who increased his own phenom status with a run to the second round of the U.S. Open last year, a run that was halted by a loss to Sergiy Stakhovsky in a five set match that Harrison had control of and that Harrison says still fuels him to improve his game. Harrison, unlike Raonic, has had a rough start to the year and his three set come from behind win over France’s Jeremy Chardy 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 today showed that Harrison may have a potential winning all-court game, but unlike Raonic, Harrison is still on a steep learning curve, especially on big points or when serving out a match like today when Harrison was up 5-0 in the third set but allowed Chardy three more games than was necessary. When asked what his strengths and weaknesses are in his game, Harrison cited his variety of shots as both. ”Sometimes I get to a point where I do get confused and I don’t know what to do in any given point. An experienced tour player will have something that they know what they want to do. You see Fed, he’s gonna hit that serve and look for a forehand. Everyone has their thing and I’m still trying to figure out what my thing is on big points.”

Someone who definitely appears to be figuring a lot of things out is Bernard Tomic, the 18 year old from Australia who managed his own three set victory over India’s Rohan Bopanna 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. Tomic, since winning two junior Grand Slam titles has earned both praise and scorn for his almost too casual playing style and his own perceived arrogance with regards to working his way up the ranks in qualifying at big events or even playing in Challengers. Watching Tomic for the first time live today, I never felt Tomic was ever emotionally invested for most of the match. After losing the first set, Tomic spent most of the time during points talking to himself and focusing more on studying close marks on the lines than running for shots that he could have reached if he put in enough effort. Somehow Tomic picked up his play enough to win the second set tiebreak 7-1 and then held onto to a break of serve in the third set to win the match. A lot of people compare Tomic’s defensive style of play to Andy Murray’s game, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near that level yet. I’m not ready to write off Tomic just yet, but he definitely needs an attitude adjustment soon.

It’s easy to get on Tomic’s case for his on-court attitude as both Raonic and Harrison today displayed flashes of anger either at calls or their own missed shots that one could chalk to youth rather than experience. Plus with each of these young men being called “the next great champion” by their own tennis federations and their nation’s media, how they handle that part of the sport could be just as important as what they do on-court.

Raonic is two years older than Harrison and Tomic and who’s to argue that in the next two years the young American and Australian won’t have their own breakout moment at a big event. And by then there could even be another young player we’ve barely heard of that will be the talk of the tour. But at least for this week at Indian Wells, all three of the “phenomenals.” are focused on being in the second round just as the “big three” will be this weekend.

Erik Gudris, writer and moderator of Adjustingthenet.com is covering the BNP Paribas Open this week for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on Twitter @gvtennisnews

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BNP Paribas Open Day Two: Del Potro – Don’t You Forget About Me.

By Erik Gudris

Trying to cover an event like the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells is a little bit like going on vacation. Although you try to enjoy the first day, your head is still stressing over getting there, getting settled, making sure you have everything, making sure your room at the hotel is actually there, and so on. So the second day is really when you can finally take a breath and gets a sense of what’s going on.

 

And down here at Indian Wells there’s a lot going on. Even though most of the big names weren’t in action today, plenty of intriguing matches were on deck to get fans excited or at least more acquainted with some players they could be hearing a lot more of in the future. My first match of the morning was with rising Serbian star Bojana Jovanovski taking on Urszula Radwanksa (Agnieska’s younger sister) in a see-saw battle that pitted Jovanovski’s power against Radwanska’s defense and better touch. Some fans who had never seen the young Serb play commented that if she could reign in her power, she could be formidable and I agree. I really liked how she attacked Radwanksa’s serve, standing well into the baseline like the Williams Sisters do.  But neither her power nor clawing back from being down three match points was enough for Jovanovski as she lost in three tough sets 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6).

The rest of the afternoon had me bouncing from a Roger Federer media conference where the three-time champion of the Indian Wells event expressed in his silky smooth yet very confident way that he really wants to be the top man of the ATP Tour again to another intriguing match between young Dutch star Robin Haase, who was sporting his own Fed-like headband versus the German veteran Rainer Schuettler whose experience and ability to handle Haase’s big forehand saw him through with a 7-6(4), 7-5 win.

 

But if there was a marquee match today, it had to be the return of Juan Martin Del Potro to the main stadium where he faced off against the always tricky Radek Stepanek, a man Del Potro had never beaten. Despite some poor serving in the first set, Del Potro found the range on his atomic forehand and some stellar touch at net to give him a convincing 6-4, 6-0 win.

 

In his media conference afterwards, it was Del Potro’s memories of his last match against Stepanek at the 2009 Paris Masters where the Argentine retired with an abdominal strain down 0-4 in the first set that Del Potro said was the first instance of him feeling any problems with his wrist. “I felt it at that moment (Paris) and then I took a rest before London and then I had a very good rest before Australian Open and came to Australia. And then I feel the pain on my wrist so then I play that tournament and then I tell them I need to see a doctor.” When asked about his form now, Del Potro expressed a cautious yet optimistic outlook. “I know I am playing better than two months ago. But I need time to play better and better and especially to beat top ten players. I still feel sometimes sensation on my wrist especially in humid weather so I have many things to fight but I am glad so far.”

 

Delpo then credited his coaches and family with helping him to keep positive during his time away. “It was important. For the life, the real life and now I am back to playing every match, every tournament in the stadiums with the crowds and the other players. I like this life.”

 

With his win today and the overwhelming reaction it got worldwide from fans, it’s obvious tennis likes having Del Potro back in “the life”. And even though he may not consider himself a favorite to win Indian Wells, who knows what might happen in the next ten days? Which is why his theme song this week could just be David Cook’s remake of the classic 80’s hit “Don’t You Forget About Me.”

 

We certainly haven’t Delpo. Welcome back.

 

Erik Gudris, writer and moderator of Adjustingthenet.com is covering the BNP Paribas Open this week for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on Twitter @gvtennisnews

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