2014/07/29

Monday Dispatch from Atlanta – Withdrawals Provide Opportunities

BB&TAtlantaOpen

By Herman Wood

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

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

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

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

 

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

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The US Open Series Begins this Weekend in Atlanta

 

BB&TAtlantaOpen

By Herman Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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Nick Kyrgios Saves 9 Match Points in Win over Richard Gasquet

(June 26, 2014) WIMBLEDON – Nineteen year-old Australian, Nick Kyrgios saved nine match points before beating No. 13 Richard Gasquet 3-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-5, 10-8 at Wimbledon on Thursday. For the wild card, he has reached the third round of a major tournament for the first time in his young career. He is the youngest player in the draw.

“It was an unbelievable match out there,” said the Australian.  “My first ever two sets love down, coming back and winning.  It’s an amazing feeling.  So proud of yourself the way you hung in and fought it out.

“I played some unbelievable tennis today.  He was coming up with some really good shots as well.  I think I saved nine match points.  There’s plenty of opportunities he could have taken.  I came out on top, I’m really happy.”

For the young Australian beating Gasquet represents the biggest win of his budding pro career, his first against a top 20 player.

So what was Kyrgios thinking about as he was facing match points against him?

“I was just thinking I just need a big serve every time,” he said.  “That’s what I was thinking.

“You know, a couple times where I missed my first serve.  Obviously the challenge kept me in it.  I was just thinking about going through my routine, coming up with something, going after it, playing aggressive.

The match lasted almost four hours and ended when the Aussie hit his 21st ace of the match.

“My goal is to become the No. 1 player in the world,” Kyrgios said.

Kyrgios will face another youngster in Jiri Vesely in the third round. Vesely took out Frenchman seeded 24, Gael Monfils in five sets 7-6 (3), 6-3, 6-7 (1), 6-7 (3), 6-4.

“He had a massive win today, winning in five sets,” Kyrgios said of his next challenger.  “He’s also young.  He’s on the rise.  He’s got a really aggressive game, big serve.  Big hitter as well.

“I think the grass is suiting him nicely.  Well done to him, as well.”

“He is a very talented player and today he was a beast,” Gasquet said in his post match news conference.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga completed his match suspended by darkness on Wednesday night and broke Sam Querrey’s service in the 25th game of the final set to win the match 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 14-12 at Wimbledon on Thursday.

 

Karen Pestaina at Wimbledon

 

Related article:

“The Journey Starts Today” An Interview with Nick Kyrgios

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Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray Beat the Darkness to Move into Roland Garros Semifinal

Rafael Nadal

(June 4, 2014) Rafael Nadal  and Andy Murray booked their spots in the French Open semifinals on Wednesday.

Nadal rebounded from a first set loss to dismantle fellow Spaniard Davis Ferrer 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 6-1, wining 13 out of the last 14 games for the win.

No. 7 Andy Murray beat not only 23rd seed Gael Monfils of France and the French crowd, but the sunset in a topsy-turvy match 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0 in three hours and 15 minutes, which ended in almost complete darkness.

For Murray this will be his second time in the final four of the French Open when He plays Nadal on Friday. Murray lost to Nadal in the semis in 2011.

Murray dominated the first two sets and then the tide turned on in this cast the wind blew.

“I could see that the wind was not blowing as hard as it used to in the two first sets,” Monfils said of his comeback. “In the second set I was thinking, ‘Well, I hope the wind is gonna calm down.’ This is what happened.”

Monfils’ confidence grew as well as his crown support in the third and fourth sets. The 27-year-old Scot Murray totally dominated the fifth set, keep his opponent to a mere 6 points won in the final set.

“I didn’t win the first game when I was in a position to win it, and then I rushed it,” admitted the Frenchman to media. “I tried my forehand and my shots were out, and then it went very fast.”

For Rafael Nadal, his road to the final 8 was an easy one, not facing one seeded player. Ferrer started out playing aggressively, but came up short on drive and shot execution.

After dropping the first set, the 8-time French Open winner’s game went into overdrive, winning 18 of the next 23 games on the second show court, Suzanne Lenglen before darkness could fall.

“I am rather happy to have been able to turn the situation around,” said Nadal in his post-match interview. “I managed to pull through. Even though it was complicated, I managed to find solutions during the second set.”

“Today I was not good enough for this match,” said Ferrer. “I lost my focus. I was too slow, and I think I didn’t play the game of a Top 10. This is why I’m sad. It’s my attitude, my behavior on the court.”

Nadal will play Andy Murray for a place in the final. Nadal holds a 14-5 head-to-head record against the Scot.

“He can play very well on all the surfaces,” said Nadal in press. “It’s nothing new that he plays very well on clay. It’s not the first time he’s in semi-finals of Roland Garros. He’s a candidate to win Roland Garros.”

 

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In All-French Final, Monfils Beats Gasquet for Montpellier Crown

 

(February 9, 2014) Gael Monfils captured his fifth ATP World Tour title in his 21st final, defeating his good friend and defending champion, Richard Gasquet 6-4, 6-4 to win the Open Sud de France in Montpellier for the second time.
“This is unbelievable for me,” Monfils said.”I had some back problems at the beginning of the week and I didn’t know if I was going to be able to play, so to now be with the trophy is pretty crazy.

“I have been elevating my game match after match and I am extremely proud in the way I played today. I really enjoy playing here in Montpellier. I love the atmosphere there is in this arena.”

“It was great to be in final here once again,” Gasquet said. I am extremely disappointed to have lost in the final, but that’s tennis. I need to congratulate Gael because he’s played unbelievable all week.

“I wasn’t able to read his serve, he was serving bullets all match. My only way out was to try to push him to a tie-break and wait for him to start making mistakes. But it didn’t happen.”

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Nadal Win Easy as 1-2-3

Nadal fingers

(January 18, 2014) No. 1 Rafael Nadal dismissed Gael Monfils, topping the Frenchman for the 10th time in 12 tries in a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open. Nadal missed last year’s tournament during his seven-month layoff due to a knee injury.

Nadal won 72% of points on his first serve and  6 for 12 on break points. The Spaniard had only 18 unforced errors to Monfils’ 57 during the match.

Nadal will play Kei Nishikori for a place in the quarterfinals.

Here is Nadal’s post-match news conference:

Q.  Do you think you are unstoppable in the form you performed tonight?
RAFAEL NADAL:  No.  At the end no one is unstoppable.  Tonight I think I played a great match.  Very happy the way that I played against a very tough opponent like Gaël.  So that makes the level that I played tonight better because was against tough opponent.  Good player like Gaël always very difficult to play against.

That’s it.  Just one very good day.  That makes me feel confident, but I am in fourth round.  That’s all.

 

Q.  What are you most happy with in your game right now?
RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, today I think I have to say that I played well from everywhere, no?  I think I played very well with my forehand.  Very good control of the ball.  Good winners.  Movements were great tonight.

Backhand very good I think.  Very good, close backhands.  That give me the opportunity to open the court.  Then with my forehand, when I able to hit that cross backhand.

And then again today for the first day in the tournament, the forehand down the line worked great.  That’s a shot that give me a lot when this shot is working.  So that’s the most important part of my game.  It worked well.

If we can add to that, I didn’t lose serve during the whole match.  That’s another good thing.

 

Q.  Obviously the game today is really physical.  Do you find it more difficult to get over the mental aspects or the physical yourself?
RAFAEL NADAL:  The tougher thing is the injuries, in my opinion, no?  Mental part is very important.  I think what makes the mental part very hard is we play lot of months.  Lot of players are ready to compete well for all months, no, for every month.  That makes the competition very difficult.

That’s let you play at your 100% from January to November if you want to have the chance to be in the top positions of the ranking.

But most important thing is the health.  Then mental part is something that you can control.  Is in your hands be well mentally, be fresh, be with motivation.  But the injuries is something that you cannot control, so that’s tougher thing.

 

Q.  Could you talk about your next matchup.
RAFAEL NADAL:  Yeah, Kei is a great player.  He’s able to play very aggressive, make very easy the very difficult things.  He’s very quick on the movements.  Will be a very tough opponent for me.  I think he had a very good victory today.  He’s playing great.  Will be a tough one.

I need to keep playing the way that I played tonight.

 

Q.  You have played against Kei on all different surfaces.  On which surface do you think Kei would be the toughest to play against?
RAFAEL NADAL:  I think Kei is a really complete player that can play on every surface.  But I think hard is the surface for him.  I think when he’s playing on hard he feels comfortable.  Is it favorite surface, I feel.

But you can ask him (smiling).

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Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Gael Monfils withdraw from tournaments

Venus Williams RG Wilson

Venus Williams

(January 5, 2014) Venus Williams, Sloane Stephens and Gael Monfils have withdrawn from tennis tournaments this week.

Venus Williams who was a losing finalist in Auckland, pulled out of the Hobart International on Sunday.

No. 12 Sloane Stephens is out of Sydney with a left wrist injury she suffered at Hopman Cup

“I was having some pain in my wrist and the doctor recommended I not play this week,” Stephens said via a press release.”This is a difficult decision, but the best decision for me and my team to make. I hope to be back at the Apia International Sydney next year.”

 

Monfils, who fell to Rafael Nadal in the Doha final on Saturday, cited fatigue in pulling out of the Auckland tournament.

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In Victory John Isner Surprised By All the Support for Opponent Gael Monfils

862013 16 Isner

(August 29, 2013)  FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – In a tennis atmosphere that could have been Roland Garros instead of Flushing Meadows, 13th seed American John Isner defeated former top ten player Gael Monfils of France 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (4) in the second round of the US Open amongst a crowd in which many of whom were cheering for Monfils.

“I noticed it,” Isner said of the cheering for Monfils in Louis Armstrong Stadium. “You know, he’s a fun loving guy and an exciting guy to watch no matter where he is playing, but honestly it was a little bit surprising. You know, I know the New York fans, they like to see long matches and fifth sets and whatnot, but, you know, it’s not like there was no one cheering for me. I was a little bit disappointed in that, actually. Not going to sugar coat it. It was certainly, if I was playing him in France, it certainly wouldn’t be like that.”

Asked if he had ever played in an atmosphere like this in the US, the 6’ 10” North Carolinian said:”No. I mean, the crowd support, it was a great atmosphere, it was a lot of fun, I’m not saying it wasn’t. You know, I played a similar match when I played Tommy Haas in Paris. I had about five people cheering for me, and those were the five people in my box. So the French people were cheering for the German there I could say something else, but I’m not going to. No, it was fun overall. It was a lot of fun, and when the match finally ended, to be able to soak it in, was a lot of fun.”

At the end of the fourth set tiebreaker, chants of “USA, USA” could be heard.

I certainly had I just had a lot of crowd support on my side,” said Isner. “I had a college buddy of mine I noticed in the crowd, and in the opening point he was hammered. Every time they were chanting “Monfils” I could hear him, his voice is pretty booming, and he didn’t like that too much, Iner said smiling. “But, you know, no, once I got up I guess it was, yeah, 6-4 in the tiebreaker, the USA chant was pretty cool.”

“He (Monfils) enjoys atmospheres more than anyone else in the world. He wants to soak it up and play to the crowd more than anyone, really. That’s just how he is. Like I said, he’s a fun loving guy and enjoys playing matches like that. For me, I didn’t want to get involved in a little hit and giggle thing with him and try and get going back and forth, where I just wanted to stay focused. I didn’t want to keep it I didn’t want it to be too friendly out there even though he’s a very good friend of mine.”

“It was surprising, actually,” Monfils said of the cheers. “It was surprising — but it was good.”

Next hurdle for Isner is Philipp Kohlschrieber. It’s crazy, playing him in the third round just as I did last year at this event,” said Isner. “That match last year was very disappointing for me how it went about. I sort of lost it I lost it in the fifth set there, but he’s extremely solid. He’s been so solid for so long now. He’s made his way through his first matches pretty easy, as well. Going to be a tough match.”

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Wild Card Monfils Stuns Fifth Seed Berdych at Roland Garros

Monfils in DC

(May 27, 2013) Wild card Gael Monfils of France gave his home country some major excitement  at Roland Garros on Monday when he toppled fifth seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the first round  7-6 (8), 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-7 (4), 7-5 on Court Phillipe Chatrier.

The former top ten player and 2008 French Open semifinalist who is coming back from a knee injury lost in the final of the Nice Open this past Saturday.

The world No. 81 Monfils rocketed 26 aces past Berdych and lost his serve only once in the four hour three minute contest. Berdych had 57 unforced errors to Monfils’ 44.

The match which lasted four hours, ended when Berdych hit a backhand long.

“I had one chance in the fifth set, “Berdych said.  “I didn’t make it.  He made one, so he made it.  That’s absolutely what was the difference between us today.”

The Czech has now lost in the first round of a major a total of 10 times, at least once for seven consecutive years.

Monfils will play Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis in the second round.

More to follow…

 

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Montanes Wins Nice Open

 

(May 25, 2013) Albert Montanes of Spain won his sixth ATP Tour title by defeating French wild-card Gael Monfils 6-0, 7-6 (3) for the Nice Open.

“I was not supposed to play here in the first place,” Montanes said. “I was in my home town, 200km from Barcelona, with friends when I found out I was entering the main draw last Saturday night. So it’s pretty incredible that I am here now with the Nice trophy.

“No doubt the fact that I came here with no pressure, just happy to play, taking it day-by-day and match-by-match, helped me win this week.

“I knew I could defeat Gael and today I was very solid the entire match, hitting very deep and playing well in the crucial points.”

“I tried my best today,” Monfils said but I faced a better player than me and I want to congratulate him for his title. I tried different things, but it didn’t work. He was just better than me. I played a lot of matches in the past two weeks and I felt maybe a bit tired physically and mentally.

“Overall, it was a great week for me and I want to thank the sponsors and the tournament for giving me a wild card. I played some really good matches and I hope to be back next year.”

The world No. 82 Montanes will move into the top 50 in next week’s rankings.

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