October 4, 2015

Rafael Nadal wins Argentina Open to Move Up to Fifth Place on All-time Open Era Titles List

(March 1, 2015) Rafael Nadal won his first title since 2014 Roland Garros to claim his first Argentina Open trophy with a 6-4, 6-1 win over friend and doubles partner this week, Argentine Juan Monaco in Buenos Aires.

World No. 4 Nadal claimed his 46th clay court tournament victory, just three titles behind the record of 49, held by tennis hall of famer, Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas, who was in the stadium watching the match.

It’s also Nadal’s 65th ATP trophy for his career moving past Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg at 64 for sole possession of fifth place on the All-time Open Era list. This is the Spaniard’s first title in Buenos Aires title, in his first tournament appearance in Argentina in 10 years.

The match was delayed for two hours to begin with then delayed again after 1-1 in the first set.

Nadal broke Monaco’s serve in the seventh game of the first set and served out the set for 6-4. Nadal strolled out to a two break lead in the second set to go up 4-0 and never looked back.

“All titles are special, but I’m really happy because I have not been a champion for a long time,” Nadal said. “Against [Monaco], I played my best of the week. That is great news for me because I’m trying to gain more confidence.”

“It was a difficult week at first, but then I took confidence and I think I’m slowly returning to my best,” said Monaco. “That’s why I leave here happy.”


Rafael Nadal Reaches Argentina Open Final

Rafael Nadal

(February 28, 2015) Rafael Nadal defeated Carlos Berlocq on Saturday 7-6 (7), 6-2 to reach the final of Argentina Open, where he’ll face Juan Monaco. Should Nadal win the title, he will tie Guillermo Vilas for the most Open era clay court titles with 46. This will be Nadal’s first final of 2015.

World No. 4 Nadal came close to losing the first set against the Argentine Carlos Berlocq, when the Spaniard fell behind 1-6 in the first set tiebreak. The 14-time major champion won eight of the next nine points to shut down the set.

“Evidently, when you recover five points (in a row) as well as playing well you have to have some luck, you can’t do it without luck. Carlos was playing bravely and serving well,” Nadal said to media.

“In the end I managed to be more dynamic and aggressive and place my shots well.”

Earlier in the week, Monaco was Nadal’s doubles partner and close friend, but on Sunday he will be his opponent for the title. The Argentine will be looking for his second title at the Argentina Open, he knocked out Nicolas Almagro of Spain 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4 in 2 hours and 28 minutes.

“I’m happy for Pico, who had long since reached a final,” said Nadal to media. “It’s a joy to play this decisive match against a friend and for me it is also very important to play my first final of the year here in Buenos Aires, a place where I feel the affection of the people.


Singles – Semi-Finals
[1] R. Nadal (ESP) d C. Berlocq (ARG) 76(7) 62
J. Monaco (ARG) d N. Almagro (ESP) 63 67(6) 64

Doubles – Semi-Finals
J. Nieminen (FIN) / A. Sa (BRA) d [WC] F. Delbonis (ARG) / A. Molteni (ARG) 26 62 10-6
P. Andujar (ESP) / O. Marach (AUT) d C. Berlocq (ARG) / D. Schwartzman (ARG) 63 62


DOUBLES FINAL – J. Nieminen (FIN) / A. Sa (BRA) vs P. Andujar (ESP) / O. Marach (AUT)
Not Before 2:00 pm
SINGLES FINAL – [1] R. Nadal (ESP) vs J. Monaco (ARG)


Rafael Nadal Wins Rio Equaling Guillermo Vilas on Open Era List with 62 Titles


Nadal waves and smiles

(February 23, 2014) Rafael Nadal won his 62nd title defeating Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 7-6 (3) to win the Rio Open title.

With the title Nadal equals Hall of Famer Guillermo Vilas with 62 titles, tied for 7th on the Open era title leaders list. This puts the Spaniard two titles behind Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras.

Nadal is now 16-1 on the year, his lone defeat coming in the final of the Australian Open to Stanislas Wawrinka, where Nadal sustained a back injury. Rio was his first tournament since the Australian Open final.

“Clearly, it was important for me to get back and win after what happened in the final in Australia,” Nadal said.

In the semifinals against countryman Pablo Andujar, Nadal saved two match point to advance to the final.

“Yesterday was a tough match,” Nadal said. “Pablo played a great match, playing very aggressive. I played too short yesterday and I gave him the chance to have control of the point from inside. I’m not very happy with the way I played yesterday, but I think today I was able to play with a little bit more calm, play a little bit longer and go a little bit more for the points. I played a more solid match today.”

Nadal who has a perfect record playing in Brazil winning three different tournaments – Rio, Costa do Sauipe and Sao Paulo.

“I leave with the sensation that Brazil is something special for me,” he said.

“In a 500 tournament, you don’t have a chance to play a lot of these in the calendar. The first edition of a big tournament like Rio, it’s a very important city in the world, and after coming back from injury, it always makes the victory a little more special.”

“He was playing more solid than I watched him play yesterday,” said Dolgopolov. “The stats were pretty impressive from him. As usual, he was spinning his forehand, making a lot of trouble to hit flat and I couldn’t really get used to his serve much – only at the end of the match – but I’m quite happy with the week.”


Dear Guillermo Vilas, My Father Thanks You and I Thank You


By Karen Pestaina

(AUGUST 23, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – It is rare that I write anything personal on this website. I’ve been working in media since I was in High School and as primarily a broadcast journalist, being objective in reporting is my job. I’ve worked in places from ballparks to war zones so I take being media very seriously. I see my role of that of a journalist as that of a public servant in which I report facts and not opinion. I always tell people to read as much as they can from all types of sources to form their own truths. As they say – don’t believe everything you read.

This is one day I can’t be objective. Last Saturday, I was about to make my way out the door to cover the New Haven Open. About two blocks later, my mother called me to tell me that my father had died twenty minutes earlier. My father had been ill for a long time, almost two years, I’d been expecting it. But even though I expected that the day when the horrible news would come, I was still in shock when it actually happened.

I’ve been a tennis fan all of my life and the love of the sport was instilled in me by my father – a physician who would never play golf, but tennis on Wednesdays. My father hated golf and turned on golf if he wanted to take a nap. I must confess, I have done the same thing. My love for tennis came in earnest when as a child my father took me to the Men’s Finals of the 1977 US Open which was the last one played at Forest Hills. It was my first live tennis match.

Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas upset American Jimmy Connors in four sets. The one thing I remember from that match was Vilas being picked up and carried around by fans on the court as though he were some sort of hero. I remember thinking, if this happens at the end of every match this is some exciting sport. I did not know what the significance of this match was, I just know that it was exciting to watch. Needless to say that after this match I became a huge tennis fan. My father was a huge Vilas fan before this, not so much about his tennis or his work ethic but about his personality. How many players today write books of poetry as he did.

Let me tell you about my father, all of his life he was a loyal subject of the British Empire, despite becoming a citizen of the United States a few years after I was born. I was the first American in my family. He always said to others that he spoke “the King’s English” and not the Queen’s because when he was born a King was on the throne. My father kept his British accent until the day he died despite having lived in the US for 50 years.

Being the American Brit as he was, he rarely showed any emotion. The only time I ever saw him come close to crying was when my oldest brother died as a teenager. He ruled our household like a monarchy, sometimes like a benevolent dictator, but he was always up for a debate on any subject in the book. He had an IQ higher than Marion Bartoli, but he rarely ever spoke about it. It was not his way to brag or boast – about anything. He was a firm believer in Judeo-Christian values which meant being humble.

Having grown up in a British territory my father loved three sports – Cricket, football (soccer) and tennis. He came to love baseball, basketball and football when he emigrated to the US but that never altered his love for the big three – Cricket, football and tennis.

After my first visit to the US Open, it became a family ritual to attend the US Open every year. We always would attend the first few days of the tournament in order to see all of the players. Back then in the late 70’s and early 80’s not as many people attended the early rounds, so more times than not, we would sit in the sponsor’s seats to watch some of the matches. In those days those seats were left unfilled in the early rounds of the tournament.

In those days my father would take myself, my second brother and a sister to the matches, and one thing we were forced to do was to watch at least one match which featured a British player. I remember one time that a match with a British player was taking place at the same time as a Bjorn Borg match! My sister, who was a huge Borg fan was furious, but there was nothing she could do, we all had to be together as a family – end of discussion.

One year when one of my Aunts came to visit for the US Open, we went up to the ticket booth to buy “day of” tickets. A British player that made it into the main draw (I don’t remember the name of the player) heard my Aunt speaking in her British accent and asked us if we would like his extra tickets. Of course she took them and we sat in what was the equivalent of the player friend’s box then and cheered him on, sadly he lost that day.

My father and his family were seriously tennis fanatics – I was too young to remember this but my mother told me when Arthur Ashe took out Jimmy Connors to win the Wimbledon title, my father was on the phone with one of my uncles in London for the entire match! A two-hour plus phone call from New York to London must have cost a fortune. So why did my father do this? Wimbledon was not shown live in 1975 in the US back then. He wanted to witness history in “real time,” even though it meant “watching it” with one of his brothers through the telephone.

My father often discussed his favorite players in tennis history. Above all for him was Rod Laver. My father said that if someone else can win two real grand slams, then they’ll be my favorite player. His second favorite male player or as he would have said, his favorite player of the “modern age,” was Pete Sampras. My father loved the serve and volleyers. In fact although he enjoyed watching Roger Federer play, he felt that the Swiss should come into net more. He also would speak so enthusiastically about Pancho Gonzalez, how when he played it was though he was “fighting to save his life.”

As for the women, my father admired Althea Gibson for her spirit and drive in a world which did not want to accept a black woman playing tennis. He also enjoyed watching Billie Jean King and Chris Evert and had a crush on Evonne Goolagong. Serena Williams may have the most major championships in her family, but Venus won my father’s heart. My Dad used to tell me that she reminded him of Althea Gibson and wished that Venus would come to net as much as Gibson did.

As Wimbledon has many traditions, we had a Wimbledon tradition in our household. Our family would all sit and watch the men’s final on TV. When I was little, the men’s final took place on a Saturday. Due to the power of television contracts over the years, the final was switched to Sunday. With the Sunday men’s finals this would mean that we would have to miss church – and we would never miss church. ONLY for the Wimbledon men’s final would we ever miss church on Sunday.

As we were blessed to have a major in our backyard, the US Open, it meant no family events could be planned during those two weekends within the tournament. Our family friends and extended family knew that none of us would be attending barbeques or parties if it was scheduled during the US Open.

As much as my father loved the game, he did not want it to become anyone’s profession – especially his children’s. At one point I was a decent player as a child and played a few tournaments, not that I wanted to become a pro someday. This was not what my dad wanted. He had higher aspirations for his children and that was the end of my days of competition as a junior. I forgave my father about this years later when I came to understand why he was that way.

Since the late 70’s with the exception of one year when I was beginning graduate school, I’ve attended the US Open. Needless to say I’ve kept up with news of Guillermo Vilas through the years and had the chance to actually meet him and speak with him about 10 years ago at the US Open. When I told my father about it, he was absolutely thrilled.

Although he is old enough to be my father, I’ve had a crush on him ever since I saw him win the US Open. Just ask my husband – it must drive him crazy when I talk about the man who should have been No. 1 in 1977, but he never lets on.

Today when I think of Vilas I think about my  happy childhood and my father teaching me to love the game of tennis. Indirectly I have Vilas to thank for my love of this sport.

I have taught that love of tennis that my father taught me to both my husband and my son and they both are as almost obsessed with the sport as I am. Now my husband and I fight over which one of us will attend the next Davis Cup tie as our son begs us to take him with us.

I guess it is fitting that my father should pass on during the week before the US Open as it was “our time” of year.

As my father had Alzheimer’s for almost the past two years, he “missed” Andy Murray win the Olympic Gold medal for singles, the US Open and more importantly Wimbledon. Despite now being an American, my father, a former British subject who never lost his “Britishness,” would have been so proud of him.

During my father’s wake, I spent hours talking to tennis-obsessed relatives about today’s game. My uncles are also major Venus Williams fans and don’t want to see her retire. Despite my dad’s body in full view being there in his coffin right in front of the room of the funeral home, I held back my emotions like the daughter of a good citizen of the British Empire – stiff upper lip and all that.

During the funeral on Friday, I began to give my testimonial about my dad. My dad was so proud of being able to live his dream of becoming a doctor that I had to speak about his pure love and joy of his profession. He knew he wanted to be a doctor since he was eight years old. It was then that my tears finally flowed for my father. He taught me and my siblings to stand on our own, to fight for what we want in this world, and the importance of social responsibility, regardless of our professions.

How fitting that after the funeral on Friday, my father was buried in a cemetery less than a mile from where I learned to play tennis.

Incidentally, the day that my father died last weekend was Guillermo Vilas’ birthday. My tweet wishing Vilas a happy birthday on the Tennis Panorama News’ twitter account came at the exact time my father was declared dead at 5:37 a.m. Eastern Time.


A tennis journalist friend relayed this to me after he heard about my dad’s passing on Vilas’ birthday: “….truly one of those coincidences that leads us to contemplate providence.”

As I prepare to cover the US Open as media next week, I do so with a heavy heart, but I never would have been here in the first place if it were not for love of the game my Dad taught me and of course Guillermo Vilas.


(I want to personally thank those who ran the site, the twitter and covered tournaments and events for me in my absence, while I had to deal with my father’s passing – Josh Meiseles, Vito Ellison, Jack Cunniff and especially Junior Williams.)


Federer Survives Fall and Simon to Gain 36th Straight Grand Slam Quarterfinal

Roger Federer

(June 2, 2013) Roger Federer was pushed to five sets on Sunday and had to recover from a fall on the clay, as well as a loss of focus in rallying to defeat Frenchman Gilles Simon, 6-1, 4-6, 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 in the fourth round of the French Open.

“I didn’t hurt myself or anything,” said the Swiss about his fall at 3-2 in the second set in which he appeared to have twisted his ankle while stretching for a backhand.  “But maybe I did lose, you know, that touch of confidence for a little bit, and then I was out of the match there for a bit.

“But, I mean, I think more credit to him, because I wasn’t bothered by the fall in any way, actually.  If anything, mentally, or maybe gave him a mental boost.  Who knows what it was, you know.

“So maybe it was little things like that, but, yes, it was ‑‑ first, it was up to him to figure things out after the first set, and then the beginning of the second was tough for him, as well.”

“And then, well, then he came in on the next two, and then it was up to me again to figure things out.  And I’m happy I found a way and took the right decisions and was able to sort of tidy up my play a little bit, not spray that many unforced errors, even though I don’t think it was that bad.  You’re always going to hit some against Gilles because he does a great job retrieving.

“But, yeah, overall I’m very happy.  Stayed calm under pressure, and it’s always fun being part of matches like this.”

In the middle of the match, Simon won 10 of 13 games to take a two sets to one lead.

“When I was beating him, I got involved in the rhythm.  And I played as quickly as I could so he couldn’t have any rhythm,“ Simon said.

“I saw him fall, but this coincided with the time things were improving for me, because I was good on that particular rally.  And, you know, I had to really push things to make him fall.  But I wasn’t waiting to fall to turn things around.

“And then I don’t know whether it had a serious impact on his game.  All I know is that at that point in the match I was releasing my shots, and I found a simpler pattern with my serve.  I attacked with my serve.  And that proved fruitful.”

Federer put together a run of his own to recover from a two sets to on deficit. The No. 2 seed and 17-time major winner captured 12 of the last 15 games to win the match.

The victory gave the second seed Federer his 36th consecutive quarterfinal at a major tennis event as well as his 900 career victory on the ATP World Tour. Federer is fourth in victories behind Jimmy Connors (1156), Ivan Lendl (1068) and Guillermo Vilas (940).

“It’s been an amazing run, and I’m happy I’m still on it,” Federer said.

“The number is unbelievable.  I probably would have been happy with one at one point in my career, when I was younger and eventually you raise the bar and say, Okay, hopefully I can reach my first semifinals, like in 2003 at Wimbledon.  I went on to win the tournament, and the rest we know.”

It was also Federer’s 58th win in his French Open career, equaling the record shared by Guillermo Vilas and Nicola Pietrangeli.

“I knew 900 was on the line, Federer commented.  “I didn’t know about the Vilas one, but I’m just happy I have been able to win a lot of matches throughout my career, really.  Give myself an opportunity over and over again.  I love this game.”

Federer will play another Frenchman, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in the quarterfinals.

“I’m looking forward to the match against Jo‑Willy,” Federer said.  “I mean, obviously it’s a big challenge playing him here in Paris.  He’s a great friend of mine.  We had a great tour together in South America on a couple of the events, and we know each other well.  I think we’re both looking forward to this match.”


Juan Ignacio Ceballos of ESPN Deportes on Approach Shots

Juan Ignacio Ceballos of ESPN Deportes at US Open

Meet Juan Ignacio Ceballos, the Coordinating Producer for all editions of SportsCenter for ESPN Deportes, ESPN Dos and ESPN Latin America North.

TPN: How did you become a producer, what was the path that led you to ESPN Deportes? Did you always want to work in sports?

JC: I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1973. Lucky me: I was part of the tennis boom in Argentina in late 70s, brought to us by Guillermo Vilas. So I started to play tennis at 6, and fell in love with it since then. Actually, I was a natural born sports fan, and that led to my journalism career.

From 1992 thru 2000 I worked for newspapers Clarin and Página 12 in Argentina. I also wrote for El Gráfico, the most renowned sports magazine in Latin America. I covered Grand Slam tournaments and Davis Cup. And then in late 2000 I jumped to TV, when ESPN launched its first SportsCenter version in Latin America. I kept traveling to Grand Slams as a news producer.

In 2004 I moved to México City, to help launch SportsCenter for ESPN Deportes, the new Spanish speaking ESPN network for the US and never went back to my country. Now I’m Coordinating Producer of all editions of SportsCenter for three networks: ESPN Deportes (US), Latin America North (México, Central America and the Caribbean) and ESPN Dos (same territory). I oversee our daily radio show ESPN Radio Fórmula. I’m also involved in the Spanish speaking version of E:60 (which debuted on July 19th ).  I supervise content for our ESPN The Magazine Mexico monthly publication.

Tennis? I saw Franco Squillari, Mariano Zabaleta, Mariano Puerta, Guillermo Cañas, Gaston Gaudio, Juan Ignacio Chela, David Nalbandian, Guillermo Coria grow up. I wrote their stories back then, and witnessed their success.

Now I write an Insider column in The Mag México and ESPN Deportes La Revista in the US, and I have a blog on ESPNDeportes.com.

Sadly, I can’t travel that much.  But I have a blast each season when I leave my Coordinating Producer duties and become a field producer during the ATP/WTA tournament in Acapulco. Best week of the year, by far.


TPN: How different is it being a producer for tennis versus other sports?

JC: From my perspective, tennis is a very good sport to work as a journalist/producer. You can have nice access to players for one-on-one interviews or special features. Very different to, let’s say, soccer. This year in Acapulco, for example, we got the chance to shoot a piece of Milos Raonic doing jet-ski with his girlfriend. We did exclusive photo sessions with WTA players for our magazine. And so on. But the challenge is the same for any coverage in every sport: to find good content. Original, entertaining, compelling.

TPN: Does ESPN Deportes have a “philosophy” when it comes to covering tennis? Does it differ from ESPN’s philosophy?

JC: Our main focus is on Latin American players along with the stars of the game. Tennis is huge in South America, especially in Argentina. ESPN Latam telecasts down there rate better than all other sports except soccer. We have on-site coverage in all four Grand Slams and some other tournaments during the year. But in United States tennis is not that popular into the US Hispanic population. It is behind soccer, boxing, baseball, football, basketball. So we focus our content on the best ones: (Roger) Federer, (Rafael) Nadal, (Novak) Djokovic, Williams sisters. And we look for good stories to tell.

TPN: You are on Twitter. How important do you think Twitter is to Spanish speaking tennis fans and to tennis fans in general?

JC: Twitter exploded a bit later in Latin America than in the US. But now it is huge. For tennis fans, it is a new way to be in touch with the game: latest scores, news, and lot of opinion and analysis. I think it’s the same for Spanish speaking fans as for the rest of the world. Twitter also allows you the get access to the players. Read what they say. Watch what they do. It is fun. It is great. Let’s see: (Juan Martin) Del Potro has 343 thousand followers. More than (Novak) Djokovic. (David) Nalbandian and (Juan) Monaco are near two hundred thousand each. More than Caro(line) Wozniacki. And Delpo (Juan Martin Del Potro), Nalbi (Nalbandian) and Pico (Juan Monaco) tweet in Spanish! That is big. Who follows them? Spanish speaking tennis fans, for sure. So Twitter is especially engaging for our stars and our fans. It also shows you how massive this sport is in our region.

TPN: What do you see for the future in terms of tennis coverage?

JC: New technologies brought the concept of new media in journalism. Instant access to news and information. Easier ways to shoot and deliver. New platforms other than TV and newspapers. Our readers/viewers/users are hungrier than ever to get more and more, as fast as you can. Even the athlete now delivers without any filter. It’s great for tennis: you can choose online which court do you want to watch in Grand Slams; you can have journos, players, coaches analyzing matches on Twitter; you can know what players are thinking or doing, if they decide to share. But the foundation remains the same: only if you put a great performance, people will watch. And if you tell it like it is, write it like it is… if you explain, report, analyze, in an entertaining and engaging way, your work will be valuable. But now you have more than a mic or a piece of paper to express yourself. Tennis fans know it, and demand you to be good not only in front of a camera or typing with your keyboard, but also telling them what’s going on in 140 characters.

Read Ceballos’ columns on ESPN Deportes: http://espndeportes.espn.go.com/blogs/index?name=juan_ignacio_ceballos&cc=3888 and follow him on twitter at @juaniceballos http://twitter.com/juaniceballos