2015/02/28

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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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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BNP Paribas Open Day One: The Serena Question

Caroline Wozniacki (©Erik Gudris)

By Erik Gudris

The opening day of action at any big event, especially one like the BNP Paribas Open, is usually focused on wrapping up qualifying rounds, taking in a few first round matches of note and catching up with the top seeds before they start play later in the week. And though the point of the WTA All-Access Hour was to give the media a chance to ask the top eight women’s seeds any question they wanted to, the question that dominated discussion was, and not a surprise, about the health of Serena Williams.

 

All the players wished Williams the best and echoed the sentiment that Williams would recover and likely return to the tour. Caroline Wozniacki, who while in L.A. was able to meet with Williams, expressed confidence that Serena would recover “100%” while Kim Clijsters was candid in saying how the news of Williams’s recovery from a pulmonary embolism and then from hematoma “opened my eyes and has made me aware how aware we need to be about our bodies.” When asked about potential long-term damage to the women’s game with Williams being gone for a long time, Clijsters said, “To me, Serena is the greatest women’s player ever. So for her to be out… it’s very disappointing for the public and the tournaments and everybody. To me personally, I’ve had some of my biggest and funnest matches against Serena and I want to have more of those matches in big tournaments against her, win or lose.”

 

Last year’s semifinalist Sam Stosur, who’s playing doubles this week with French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, acknowledged Williams’s as “the best player of my generation” and her absence as a “loss” but then added, “we’ve (the WTA) still got lots of good players and personalities and different game styles to look to. Obviously she’s a huge name to lose but there are still a lot of other things to look for in women’s tennis.”

Jelena Jankovic (Photo by Erik Gudris)

But the questions weren’t all about Serena. Defending champion Jelena Jankovic smiled and laughed quite a bit at a slew of questions about her ongoing house construction in San Diego. Looking very relaxed, Jankovic simply replied, “It’s a big house. It’s a long process.” When pressed about the reported ten-car garage that’s part of the house and if she actually owns ten cars, Jankovic laughed that question off with a smile and then said “that’s a little too much information.”

 

And with that All-Access day was over. Now it’s time for the women to let their tennis do the talking on the purple courts of Indian Wells.

 

Erik Gudris, moderator of Adjusting The Net, is covering the BNP Paribas Open this week for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on Twitter at @GVTennisNews.

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Tips to Enjoying the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells

By Erik Gudris

(March 7, 2011) The BNP Paribas Open, or as it’s more informally known due to its geographic location as just “Indian Wells,” is definitely a “destination” event in that one attends really to focus on watching world-class tennis and not much else. Not that fine dining, shopping and tourist attractions aren’t nearby, but if you’re looking for a big city vibe, then IW is not for you. But having said all of that, here are some tips for those looking to attend the event that’s been called the “tennis jewel of the desert” for their first time or to maximize their experience from last year.

Do You Really Need a Car?

Some people have asked me if it’s possible to attend IW without access to a car. It’s doable but will take some planning on your part. One can access the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, where the tournament takes place, by a Sunline Transit Bus, either on Line 111 coming from Palm Springs or Cathedral City that will take you to Miles Avenue just behind the stadium or from Indian Wells or La Quinta on Line 70 that will take you up to Washington Avenue. Just be sure to double check all schedules and routes and allow plenty of time.

If traveling by car, you can park near the stadium or the site itself as parking elsewhere and walking is not really an option. Stadium or  “A” lot parking is $25 per day while general parking outside the grounds in the G lot is $10 a day or $90 for the entire event. The “G” lot is only a short walk to the main entrance so it’s by far the better deal especially if you are attending on multiple days. Just note that the “G” lot can fill up early, so if you arrive later in the day or in the evening, you may be directed to the overflow or V lot farther away. Those parking in the V lot can ride a shuttle bus to and from the stadium.

Cars are lined up in the “G” lot on a first in basis, so there’s really no way to secure a spot next to the exit. When you park, be sure to write down the closest letter/number designation for your area, especially if you plan on coming back later at night. I usually take a photo with my cell phone so I know the letter/number and the cars parked next to mine. And if want you to leave on time after the final day or night match of the session, leave early as waiting until match point could have you sitting in your car for up to an hour trying to get out.

What to Eat and What to Wear.

IW provides plenty of food and beverage options but I always try and pack a lunch and snacks for the day along with bringing two large bottles of water. Carrying big water bottles might wear you down but you’ll be amazed how fast you guzzle them dry especially on a hot day. Just remember to adhere to all event guidelines for bringing bags inside. If you prefer buying food onsite, just remember the prices are a tad high, but not nearly U.S. Open-like prices. Be sure to try the barbecue though as I remember that was quite tasty last year.

As far as clothing goes, wear layers, especially if you plan on attending a night session. The high desert area of California can turn chilly and windy rather quick in early March and temps can drop as low as 40 degrees F at night. And even if a day session has you showing off your well-toned tennis legs in shorts, remember that many of the IW courts have steel bleachers that reflect sunlight and can cause a decent sunburn. Wearing and applying sunblock throughout the day is a must.

What To Do Between Matches.

Many fans love that the practice courts at IW are right in front of the main stadium and this year the event announced they will be posting player’s practice times so you can know in advance when your favorites will be taking the courts. As always, get there early as it’s standing room only and the crowd of onlookers can get five deep rather quick.

The Indian Wells Tennis Garden has plenty of places to sit outside where you can watch the stadium match on several jumbo tennis monitors while walking to the shopping pavilions or while having a bite on the dining concourse which is my favorite as it allows you to keep up with the matches while doing some people watching as well. Also remember that throughout each day, special events are held including tennis chats and interviews, sometimes hosted by famed tennis writer Bud Collins, fashion shows, prize giveaways and of course player autographs sessions. Just be sure to check the website or daily program for times and locations.

Indian Wells attracts the very best players in the world while at the same time maintaining a very relaxed atmosphere that makes you feel like you are at a smaller event. Here’s hoping you have a great time in the desert!

For more information, visit the event’s website — http://www.bnpparibasopen.com The tournament will take place from March 7- 20.

 

Erik Gudris writes and moderates Adjustingthenet.com, a popular tennis news and commentary website. He will be covering the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, CA for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on Twitter @adjustingthenet

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Kuznetsova Loses Then Finds Her Nerve to Win Mercury Insurance Open Title by Erik Gudris

Kuznetsova Loses Then Finds Her Nerve to Win Mercury Insurance Open Title
by Erik Gudris

Not too many people at the start of this week’s
Mercury Insurance Open in Carlsbad,
California expected much from
Svetlana Kuznetsova who came in as an unseeded player. But as she navigated her
way past several top 20 players on her way to the finals, the feeling was the
title was Kuznetsova’s to win so long as she held her nerve and kept finding
the range on her fearsome forehand. Today in the finals against Agnieszka
Radwanska, it indeed was all up to the Russian as she dictated play for most of
the match. But as expected, when it came down to closing out the match,
Kuznetsova had to battle her nerves just when it seemed victory was inevitable.

In the first set, Kuznetsova continued her hard-hitting form and found
opportunities early into the Radwanska service games as the Russian broke twice
to go up 4-1 early. Kuznetsova served for the set at 5-2 but had a letdown and
gave her service game away at love to let Radwanska back into the set before
Kuznetsova finally closed out the set 6-4 by hitting a forehand winner behind
Radwanska. Kuznetsova continued her steady play in the second set and despite Radwanska’s
best efforts to stay in the rallies, Kuznetsova used her power game at will
while Radwanska’s forays into net were often met with a quick passing shot from
the Russian. Kuznetsova broke again and served for the match at 5-4.

And then that’s when the nerves set in. Kuznetsova’s shots started finding the
net and she soon gave the break back to level things at 5-5. Both players then
held to enter the tiebreak and it was there that Kuznetsova jumped out to 4-0
lead and seemed poised to close it out. Eventually she had 6-3, but Kuznetsova
double faulted then hit two more shaky groundstrokes to give Radwanska a second
chance at 6-6. Radwanska had her own nervy serves as well but finally managed
to put one in that led to Radwanska hitting a short forehand that Kuznetsova
couldn’t chase down giving Radwanska the set.

With many in the crowd rooting for Radwanska and yelling out their support in
Polish, it seemed like the momentum was with the 21-year-old from Krakow. After she went up an early break at 2-1 in the
third set, all seemed lost for Kuznetsova. But it was the Russian who looked calmer
and focused on court as she started stepping in to attack Radwanska’s second
serve and firing off winners at will. Kuznetsova broke back and from there it
was like the second set never happened. Up 5-3, Kuznetsova stepped up to the
line again to serve it out and this time did so with ease as she hit a forehand
winner in the deuce court to take the match 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-3.

Ecstatic with winning her first final of the year, the always candid Kuznetsova
admitted she choked away the second set. “I don’t know why it happened but
here I couldn’t make the ball. I’m happy today that I could play that bad at
the end of the second set and I could start all over in the third set.”
She then added with a laugh, “It’s funny for me now after I win the match
but if I lost that third set I would be like, “Oh my God. Should I finish
playing tennis? It was a disaster. But I will do everything now so it will not
happen again.”

Radwanska herself said Kuznetsova was the better player today but that she had
her own chances to take the match but didn’t. “She (Kuznetsova) played
better and was more consistent and still fighting to the end. I had break
points but I didn’t use them.”

Erik Gudris is the editor of Adjusting the Net and was covering the Mercury Insurance Open for Global Village Tennis News as media. Follow him on twitter @AdjustingTheNet .

Double the twitter pleasure later on this week as we’ll have reporters from both the Western &
Southern Financial Group
Women’s Open in Cincinnati and the Rogers Cup In Toronto.

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Radwanska Speeds Past Hantuchova to Reach Finals in San Diego by Erik Gudris

Radwanska Speeds Past Hantuchova to Reach Finals in San Diego
by Erik Gudris

If you ever needed a clear example of how best to describe Agnieszka Radwanksa’s game, you couldn’t do any better then by showing highlights of her 6-4, 6-2 win over Daniela Hantuchova in the semifinals of the Mercury Insurance Open. Despite a good fight from Hantuchova, especially at the very end of the second set where she saved seven match points, it was Radwanska and her speedy ability to get every ball that was the main factor tonight. Radwanska now enters her first final of the year and is poised to become a darkhorse favorite for this year’s U.S. Open.

The match rested upon Hantuchova, a steady player with fine net skills, to be able to balance going for winners versus hanging with Radwanska on the baseline. However, in the first set, Hantuchova battled holding her serve in each of her service games while at the same time having to deal with Radwanksa running down apparent winners from each corner and up at net. Hantuchova double faulted to give Radwanska a 5-3 lead allowing her to serve out the set at 6-4. 

The opening game of the second set showed off Radwanska at her best. Hantuchova hit what looked like a perfect drop shot only to see Radwanska race up to net to hit an even better drop shot winner of her own. Both women traded breaks early and for a moment it looked like Hantuchova had found the range on her groundstrokes to hit winners when needed. But her serving, especially her second serve, let the Slovakian down as she lost serve again. Hantuchova would hit decent returns on Radwanska’s service game but they weren’t enough to force the issue as Radwanska cruised to a 5-1 lead. 

But Hantuchova wasn’t done. Serving down 1-5, Hantuchova saved seven match points during an eleven deuce game that saw both women hit outright winners and clever drop shots at key moments to try and outwit the other. Finally, at the end of the almost 20 minute game, Hantuchova hit a 101 mph first serve that started off a baseline rally that ended with Radwanska netted a forehand giving Hantuchova the game and perhaps a personal victory to the cheers and standing ovation from the crowd. But Hantuchova’s moment of glory was short-lived as Radwanska finally closed out the match on her eighth match point when she hit a serve wide to Hantuchova’s forehand that Hantuchova couldn’t handle. 

When asked why she’s been playing well all week, Radwanska said, “I was practicing a lot in Poland before I came here and I’ve been feeling good and everything’s been working so I’m hoping for one more.” 

Radwanska now faces Svetlana Kuznetsova in the finals and although she is 3-6 lifetime versus the Russian, one figures that Kuznetsova will have to overpower the speedy Radwanksa to win the title. Radwanska when asked about her chances against Kuznetsova said, “I have to play a hundred percent of my game because she is just too good to play any worse so I will try.” 

Erik Gudris is reporting for Global Village Tennis News this weekend at the Mercury Insurance Open. In addition to his articles he'll be tweeting live updates, photos and commentary from our twitter account @GVTennisNews. He is the editor of Adjusting The Net. Find him on twitter @AdjustingTheNet.


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Radwanska and Vandeweghe Try To Jump Out As “First Name” Players in San Diego – by Erik Gudris

Radwanska and Vandeweghe Try To Jump Out As “First Name” Players in San Diego
by Erik Gudris

This week, thanks to Global Village Tennis News, I was able to cover thefinal rounds of the Mercury Insurance Open down in Carlsbad, CA. Asidefrom it being a WTA Tour event, it’s been a little different covering atournament from the middle to end instead of starting at day one.Although we are in the final stages where, supposedly, the best actiontakes place, sometimes it feels like I’ve missed out on some the biggerstories earlier this week, like Dinara Safina and Ana Ivanovic stillbeing unable to get a string of wins together in their comebackattempts. But I think yesterday’s action for me proved to be the realstories this week, if nothing else in that it showcased a newcomer and,if you can believe it, a veteran of sorts, who could both findthemselves in the elite tier, not of the top five, but a small group ofplayers that everybody knows on first name basis.

Take for example the impressive run of 18-year-old CoCo Vandeweghe whowent from the qualifying rounds to the quarterfinals, taking outWimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva before losing yesterday to SvetlanaKuznetsova, Vandeweghe, who lives in the San Diego area, received atremendous amount of local support and looks to be a potential new staron the WTA Tour. Vandeweghe, despite her loss, was already lookingforward to her next tournament in Cincinnati after receiving a wildcardentry there for her efforts this week. If she can climb the ranks asquickly as Melanie Oudin remains to be seen, but her game definitely hasthat potential considering she’s almost a foot taller than Oudin andpossesses a lot of raw power on her forehand and serve. Her last namemight give some fans trouble, but with a first name like “CoCo”, theyoung American definitely has first name star status written all overher.

Meanwhile, with the absence of the Williams sisters or even MariaSharapova, this week’s event has allowed other players to shine thatotherwise tend to get lost in the draw sheets of the major events.Agnieszka Radwanska, long one of the most consistent players on tour, isfinding herself more often in the later rounds of tournaments thisyear. Casual fans that have seen Radwanska play maybe once or twiceprobably expect her to retrieve every ball and not much else. Latelythough, Radwanska continues to show very nice touch and an instinct toclose off points with volley winners at the net. A lot of people likecomparing her to Martina Hingis but when asked herself about thatcomparison, Radwanska, and I think rightly so, doesn’t get it. Radwanskacertainly exhibits Hingis-like qualities but Radwanska’s game is muchmore suited to dealing with the constant bludgeoning many WTA playersgive the ball these days. It’s only Radwanska’s touch that gives her anextra card to play so to speak in tight matches.

Radwanska proved last week in Stanford in her three set loss to MariaSharapova that she can hold her own against the “one-name” players ontour who dominate Grand Slam events and the media’s attention. IfRadwanksa can use her all her talents to find herself in the finalstages of this year’s U.S. Open, she herself could find enter “firstname” status if only for her nickname alone – Aggie.

Erik Gudris is reporting for Global Village Tennis News this weekend at the Mercury Insurance Open. In addition to his articles he'll be tweeting live updates, photos and commentary from our twitter account @GVTennisNews. He is the editor of Adjusting The Net. Find him on twitter @AdjustingTheNet.
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Kuznetsova Shows Grand Slam Form in Beating Pennetta in San Diego by Erik Gudris

Kuznetsova Shows Grand Slam Form in Beating Pennetta in San DiegoBy Erik Gudris

Showing some of the same form that won her two Grand Slam titles, Svetlana Kuznetsova entered her first final of the year after defeating Italy's Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-0 in the semifinals of the Mercury Insurance Open. After struggling most of the week, Kuznetsova put on an impressive display especially on her favored forehand side where she was able to hit seemingly winner after winner at will. 

The first set saw both Kuznetsova and Pennetta test each others groundstrokes and service games as they traded early breaks. Pennetta kept up with Kuznetsova's pace in early rallies, but her backhand let her down in key moments specifically when down a break point, Pennetta let a backhand sail wide to give Kuznetsova a 5-3 lead. But the Russian couldn't serve it out dropping her own serve in the next game but finally closed out the first set by breaking Pennetta again when another Pennetta backhand sailed long.

Kuznetsova, who had been missing forehands earlier in the first set, found her range on her favorite weapon in the second set and never looked back. After securing another early break to go up 2-0, Kuznetsova amped up the depth and pace of her shots which Pennetta couldn't handle. The Russian then started hitting forehand winners at will. A forehand return winner gave Kuznetsova a double break lead at 4-0 and two more forehand winners in a row on her next service game gave her a 5-0 lead. At this point, Pennetta was just trying to avoid a bagel set and when facing her first match point against her, Pennetta served an ace and then raised her arms in triumph. Pennetta saved another match point when Kuznetsova netted a return but it wasn't enough as Kuznetsova finally closed out the match on her third match point. 

Kuznetsova, despite getting to her first final this year, still sees room for improvement. "I'm playing better yes but I'm very far from the place I want to be." When asked how she felt when she fell out of the top 20 for the first time since 2003, she talked about how she didn't panic when others around her did. "I was like don't worry I'm working on it. I couldn't change it at that moment. I couldn't rush out and play more tournaments to earn ranking points. I just want to be better and be strong. I don't want to be number 12 or 15 that's not my goal. I want to be higher and know I can do it." 

Kuznetsova didn't express a preference for whom she might face in tomorrow's final which could either be Daniela Hantuchova or Agnieszka Radwanksa who face each other in the other semifinal later tonight. But considering that Kuznetsova's 7-4 lifetime versus Hantuchova and 6-3 lifetime against Radwanska (and remember Kuznetsova won her last title in Beijing over the Polish No. 1) along with the resurgent form she's displaying, Kuznetsova will go into Sunday's final a heavy favorite.
Pennetta, who earned a dismal 44% first serve percentage, blamed her poor
serving for the majority of her problems today. "She was always getting into the
court on the first ball and I was always running and running. It's not my
favorite shot (the serve) of course but when I'm a little bit nervous and when I
know have to play really well then I start to get nervous and then I cannot put
one in."

Erik Gudris is reporting for Global Village Tennis News this weekend at the Mercury
Insurance Open. In addition to his articles he'll be tweeting live updates, photos and
commentary from our twitter account @GVTennisNews. He is the editor of Adjusting The Net. Find him on twitter @AdjustingTheNet.
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