2014/10/25

Approach Shots – Judy Murray Q & A Part Two

 

JudyMurray

 

(September 18, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – During the US Open, Great Britain’s Fed Cup Captain Judy Murray, mother of ATP players Andy Murray and Jamie Murray, sat down to do an interview with Tennis Panorama News.

In part two of our Q & A, the former top Scottish women’s tennis player spoke about the current women’s tour and some of her proudest moments.

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: What are your thoughts on the women’s tour? Do you think there is more depth or is it just Serena(Williams) and everyone else?

Judy Murray: When Serena is at the top of her game is very, very tough to beat because she’s just so strong and she’s just fabulous to watch when she’s playing well and I love watching her when she’s on top of her game. And just behind her is obviously (Victoria) Azarenka and (Maria) Sharapova. So the top three are very much power players – there’s not a huge amount of variety there. You don’t see too much, not too many drops shots or changes of pace, it’s really all about the power.

Then there’s sort of a pack of players behind that that are all very solid. The players that I miss are the (Amelie) Mauresmo’s and the (Justine) Henin’s. I like watching (Sara) Errani and (Flavia) Pennetta. I like watching the Italian’s creativity and variety.

I think you know, you need personalities. I think that’s the thing you kind of feel that tennis, is just to try and create more personalities out of the players so fans can start to identify with them as people. And I think that I think Serena is a huge personality and I think Sharapova probably is as well, but we need try and get that with more of them. I guess it’s up to the WTA tour to find a way to be able to do that so that fans can really identify them and want to come out and watch and support.

It’s tough on the women’s tour – this year I’ve noticed it’s more difficult getting into a lot of the tournaments. A lot a tournaments that have been lost and maybe the sponsors withdrawing, so they’re not so many options open to the girls on the calendar. I think that the last three weeks on the women’s tour (during the summer) from New Haven, Toronto and Cincinnati. I think cutoffs of the main draw were 40? It’s very, very tough. The girls are having to pay out a lot of money every week to travel.

KP: No secondary tournaments going on.

JM: That’s right. There used to be a lot more so. It’s not just at that time of the year, it’s just very noticeable just lately. There’s not so much choice now.

If the women’s tour calendar is losing tournaments because it’s harder to get sponsors, then you have to look at why is that. Why are sponsors not coming forward, are they not getting crowds? Why are they not getting crowds? Not getting TV showing it. Why are they not getting TV showing it? You need to ask those questions and find out what people want and the tour. The WTA has to find ways to help players to market themselves better so that people do want to come and watch women in the same way they want to watch the men. I think the events that are mixed, where they have both at the same time, have been fantastic. There is huge, huge buzz about those tournaments. May be they need to have more of those if that’s possible, but if it isn’t….

I have this theory that if it’s more women who come and watch women’s sports, so you need to create an army of tennis fans from women to come along and support women’s sport.  It’s like I went to watch the British Women’s Open golf a few weeks ago and I had the same feeling there. You know, that there were not a lot of young people, girls watching that. There were a lot of older people that and I was thinking, golf was one of those sports that women are more likely to take up when they’re older than when they’re younger. That’s a challenge to golf.

I do think that tennis needs to ask itself questions about why, and I’m sure they are, asking questions about why they’ve lost so many tournaments and how they can make the calendar more busy. But also it needs to be a bit smarter, I think in terms of where tournaments are placed so that you could have a run of three tournaments without having to travel from one side of the world to the other. I think that makes a lot of sense because the expenses for the players are getting bigger and bigger all the time and especially if you’ve got someone travelling with you and you probably need two rooms and two flights, food every week.

Or maybe finding ways where they can help the girls to supplement their income. I don’t necessarily mean the top ones ‘cause they don’t need it. The other girls you know, some more pro-ams or little exho matches before tournaments start and things where sponsor might need to have some of the girls play with their clients. You see things like that at Indian Wells. I always think, you know that’s one of few venues that do that sort of thing really well.

And for the doubles guys, because of Jamie, it’s a great help to go off and do a few of them. It helps to pay for your hotel bill for a week, but they probably need some help in trying to encourage people to put more of that on for the women’s side.

 

KP: What have been your proudest moments in tennis?

JM: There’s been absolutely loads.

I think when I first started coaching, I was just a volunteer coach at the club, I had been doing it for a few years. Our high school team at Dunblane High School won the Scottish schools championship, the boys team and that was my first success in coaching and I can remember being very emotional when they won that because it was just great. It’s your local town, just something that you helped out and these kids have managed to win this big thing.

But anytime when the boys (Andy and Jamie) have played together, on Davis Cup teams for Great Britain, watching them play together and that’s a huge thing, seeing both of your children, side by side. Any time they play together – I think the Olympics and Davis cup are very special. In 2008 here (US Open) Andy was in the singles final and Jamie was in the mixed doubles final, that was a great time. And obviously the two Wimbledon wins – Andy winning the singles and Jamie winning his mixed doubles. They were huge. The Olympics, US Open last year.

I have proud moments that have nothing to do with the tennis – they’re good kids. They do good things. They’re good with people and they’re still very normal through everything that’s happened.

 

In the part three, the final part of the interview, Murray discusses tennis and twitter, and her sweet tooth.

Related articles:

Approach Shots – Judy Murray Q & A Part One

Share

Approach Shots – Judy Murray Q & A Part One

 

JudyMurray

(September 17, 2013) NEW YORK, NY – During the US Open, Great Britain’s Fed Cup Captain Judy Murray, mother of ATP players Andy Murray and Jamie Murray sat down to do an interview with Tennis Panorama News.

In part one of our Q & A, the former top Scottish women’s tennis player spoke about her introduction to tennis and coaching, Fed Cup, women coaches and those women coming up the ranks of British tennis.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: How did you get involved in tennis?

Judy Murray: I started playing tennis when I was about 10. Back in those days, when racquets were wooden and balls were heavy, the courts were all just one size. It was actually quite tough to start tennis younger than that unless you were quite big because the equipment was heavy.

My Mom and Dad both played, they played for the county, played a lot down at the local club. When I was big enough, I started to join in. I just learned from playing with my parents.

 

KP: With your sons, did they naturally want to play because you played?

JM: Probably, we lived about 300 meters from the tennis courts and when they were very small, we didn’t have much money and I didn’t have a car. I went round to our local club and did some work just as a volunteer and started working with some of the older juniors because I was still playing at a good level. I was the Scottish No. 1 for quite a number of years.

I started working as a volunteer coach when they were very small and some of the kids that I started working with, they started to get quite good and that is when I realized that my initial coaching qualification that I had done when I was a student wasn’t really helping me to help them particularly, so I was just teaching them from a tactical base, which was based on my own playing experience. In my day you didn’t have coaches. You learned how to play the game by playing the game.

I upgraded my qualification when Jamie and Andy were six and seven and then a couple of years later I upgraded it again, because I realized  that a lot of the kids I was working with, were becoming pretty good at the Scottish level and I wanted to help them to be the best that they could be. And I realized that my knowledge of playing the game was all about playing the game, it wasn’t too much about teaching them from a technical base, so I wanted to learn about that. I haven’t up graded my qualification since then. That was the highest level of coaching qualification at the time in Britain. It was a year-long course that was a big thing for me to take on when the boys were quite young, the workshops were all down south.

Also what I remember about that course is that there was a lot of information but not enough about how to actually use the information. And what I have learned in my 20 years or so of coaching is that it doesn’t matter how much information you’ve got if you are not able to communicate it effectively and in the right way with the kids or the adults in front of you, you are not going to get the job done. I think a lot of it comes down to how well you communicate, how much you can enthuse the kids by the way you behave with them. I keep saying kids because I’m so used to working with juniors but now I’ve started working more on the women’s side, but it’s the same thing – you need to have a good rapport. You need to have some fun. You need to get your point across. The other thing is that the better you know your player as a person, the more chance you have at doing a good job with them because understand what makes them tick and what makes them react badly and you’ve started at the best way to get them to do things.

KP: Speaking of working with different players, how challenging is it to be the Fed Cup Captain?

JM: That’s quite a challenge. It’s certainly was a challenge the first year because I had never worked on the women’s side before. I’d worked with juniors and obviously on the men’s side. But working with girls is quite different than working with boys and working with women is quite different from working with girls. Had to learn a lot about that but like throughout my coaching career, I speak to people. I speak to people who have been there and done it before and have lots of experience and then you form your own opinion. You form you own view or philosophy. So I picked a lot of people’s brains. It’s mostly men on the women’s tour, mostly male coaches.

 

KP: Why do you think there are so few female coaches?

JM: I think there is not a great career pathway for female coaches. I think it doesn’t matter whether you work in clubs or whether you are working with better level players. I think it’s you know, that natural thing is for women to get married probably in their twenties and have their kids and then the life of a coach is actually very difficult because if you are coaching in a club for example or a domestic program, your busiest times are going to be after four o’clock and on weekends. So you’re working in the evenings and on weekends, if you’ve got family it’s very difficult. I think if you get to the stage where you want to work with a full-time player then you need to be prepared to be on the road for probably about 30 weeks of the year and that’s very tough as well.

But I think there are one or two things which come into play too. It’s tough to make a living in the game unless you are probably 70, ranked 70 and above. And really anyone ranked below that, it’s tough to have to pay for a coach and a coach’s expenses on the road with you and your own expenses too. Most girls, I think will try to pick a coach who can also work as a sparring partner, and that tends to lend itself more to males who play at a decent level and who can fill that kind of dual role. I think that has something to do with it as well.

Of course there is nothing wrong with having male coaches, but I think we could do with having more females because I do think that female coaches understand the needs and feelings of girls a lot better than guys do and I’ve been saying this for some time now. In our country we need to get more little girls playing tennis and taking up tennis. Tennis has become very attractive now since Wimbledon and since the success of Laura (Robson) and Heather (Watson), very young and exciting prospects and they’re great role models for young girls and for women’s tennis. But once we get little girls into tennis, we need to make sure they are having a lot of fun, doing what they are doing. We need to have a lot more female coaches working with little girls, for exactly the same reasons – to ensure we can retain them in the sport because little girls tend to generally be not as competitive, not as boisterous as boys and can be put off by being in a mixed group or being with a male coach who finds it easier to deal with the boys, because the boys kind of do all the competitive things because they enjoy doing that sort of thing. Building a stronger female coaching workforce in our country is important to us to retain more girls in the game.

KP: Beyond Heather and Laura, who are the women coming up behind then in Great Britain?

JM: Some of the girls have started to do quite well pushing themselves up the rankings. Johanna Konta was at a career-best ranking at 112 before the US Open, I think she’ll drop a little bit. She won a 25 and a 100K back-to-back during the summer which was very good progress for her. So she’s moving in the tight direction. She’s 22 now.

Tara Moore is the same age as Heather Watson and she is very, very talented and she has started to show some good signs of progress. She still needs to work at being able to put good performances in on a consistent basis, and so much of that being able to perform consistently well is down to how emotionally stable you can be for longer periods of time and that always doesn’t come quickly to every player. I think sometimes you have to let them grow into themselves a bit. But she has a huge amount of potential – a very, very skillful player. I think that if she can get herself together I think she can go places over the next couple of years.

And we have Sam(antha) Murray who was playing in the qualies here (US Open). She was at a US college on a scholarship and she has started to push herself up the rankings. Very hard worker, good all-court game, plays good doubles as well, big first serve.

Elena Baltacha had a surgery on her foot in the off season last year, so she’s just playing again full-time, but she has produced good performances as well. It won’t be long before she’s back at her best. Beyond that we are starting to look at the juniors.

We have three very good juniors born in 1998.  Maia Lumsden who won the 14s Orange Bowl in December, Gabby (Gabriella) Taylor who trains in Spain and Jazzy Plews who also trains in Spain. All have been ranked within the top ten at the end of last year in the 14s. So they are all in a good place as well.

But certainly, from my point of view we need to use this opportunity now where tennis is the kind of buzz word among sports in Britain just now. We need to use the opportunity to get more girls playing and to develop a stronger female coaching workforce to retain more of them in the early stages, and then to educate more coaches to be able to do a better job through all the development stages. There’s quite a big job to be done but there’s a huge opportunity at the moment. I will always argue that more better coaches, produce more better players. We need to, in my opinion, to invest in our coaching workforce.

 

In part two of our interview, Murray talks about the women’s tour and some of her proudest moments.

Share

Serena Williams Dominates in Opening Match at Wimbledon

SerenaWilliamsFaceoff11 - Copy

(June 25, 2013) Serena Williams began the defense of her Wimbledon crown in dominating style by conquering Luxembourg’s Mandy Minella 6-1, 6-3 in a first round match on Tuesday on Centre Court.

Williams did not lose a point on her serve in the first set which captured in 19 minutes. The 92nd ranked Minella took a 2-0 lead to open the second set when Williams double faulted on a break point.

Williams stormed back by winning the next four games and broke serve to seal the match. Williams has extended her career-best winning streak to 32

She’s now 68-8 at Wimbledon.

The world No. 1 assessed her play:

“I feel like I was a little rusty for some reason today.  I don’t feel like I played my best.  I felt really upset when I lost my serve in the second set.

“With that being said, I think Mandy played really well.  I thought she was really mixing up her shots, mixing up her game.  It wasn’t an easy match for me.  I’m a little excited I was able to play a tough match and to get through it.”

Kimiko Date-Krumm ©Tennis Panorama

Kimiko Date-Krumm ©Tennis Panorama

The 42-year-old veteran Kimiko Date-Krumm demolished 18-year-old German qualifier Carina Witthoeft 6-0, 6-2.

Date-Krumm retired at 25 but made a comeback at 37 in 2008

“When I come back, I’m enjoying very much, even I’m losing,” said the Japanese tennis player.  “Of course, after losing, always very disappointed.  But still I’m enjoying very much.

“I have a lot of passion.  I like challenge because not easy for my age.”

Date-Krumm is the second oldest player to win a match at Wimbledon. Martina Navratilova was 47 when she won a first round match in 2004.

Sixth seed Li Na had an easy time with Michaella Krajicek winning 6-1, 6-1.

In a battle of young up and comers, USA’s Madison Keys defeated Great Britain’s Heather Watson 6-3, 7-5.

For Keys it was her first win at the All England Club.

“I was definitely pretty nervous at the beginning,” Keys said.  “Once I started playing the match a little bit, getting into it, felt a lot better.

“After winning my first one, feel really good about it.”

 

Share

Vesnina Stuns Ivanovic in Eastbourne

Elena Vesnina

Elena Vesnina

By Ros Satar

 

(June 17, 2013) EASTBOURNE, England –

 

Elena Vesnina def. Ana Ivanovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-3

Elena Vesnina overcame the seventh seed Ana Ivanovic in the first match on Centre Court as the women had to regroup and restart when rain halted the beginning of their match.

 

Ivanovic certainly started well, racing to the first set, but soon after she started to struggle with key aspects of her game – the ball toss and also crucially her first serve deserted her long enough to give Vesnina an all important break.

 

The loss of the second set seemed to deflate the Serb, as she handed over a break at the start of the deciding set on a double fault.

 

The wind was occasionally gusting, sometimes perhaps guiding the odd ball on its way out, and it certainly seemed for a while that the South Stand side was the problem side for both.

 

For a while it looked like Vesnina would defeat herself after delivering a shocker of a game with three double-faults and a lot of frazzled yelling.

 

Somehow, the Russian regrouped, edging ahead before a long, tortuous Ivanovic service game where even the umpire lost where she was.

 

Three match points later – Ivanovic was left to consider what she would need to do ahead of the start of Wimbledon next week.

 

“I think on grass it’s very hard to get rhythm,” she said.

“It’s something that I want to build towards and now hopefully have another few good days of practice before Wimbledon.”

 

 

Heather Watson

Heather Watson

Heather Watson def. Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-4

 

British No. 2 Heather Watson delivered some home cheer in the sunshine, defeating Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-4.

 

Watson gave the crowd a few reasons to utter a collective sigh while serving out the match, having to claw her way back to match point after being a break point down.

 

It just needed the one match point to set Heather on her way in this tournament, putting aside the disappointment of an early exit at the French Open, and only a couple of rounds in Birmingham.

 

“I felt very motivated this week,” she said.

“I was mentally up for this match.”

 

There is still some room, she feels, for improvement saying that she had felt she had not made a lot of returns and could have a higher first serve percentage.

 

Watson, who had to take time out to recover from glandular fever, confessed to sometimes still feeling a little tired, but is looking forward to the grass season.

 

“People don’t think grass matches my game,” she said, “but it’s one of my favourite surfaces.”

 

Kyle Edmund def. Kenny De Schepper 6-4, 6-4

 

There was more British celebration when the junior sensation from Queens, Kyle Edmund, won his first round match against big serving qualifier Kenny De Schepper.

 

There are 360 places between him and his opponent today and he was very happy with his win.

 

“It’s nice to be able to know that I can play at that level,” he said, “but my goal is to play at that level and also have a ranking out of it.”

 

Ros Satar is a British Journalist- an IT journalist by day, and a sports journalist in all the gaps in between. She’s covering the AEGON International this week as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN. She is the co-founder of Britwatch Sports (britwatchsports.com). Follow her personal twitter at @rfsatar.

AEGONInternational

AEGON INTERNATIONAL
Eastbourne, England
June 17-22, 2013
Grass/Outdoors

Results – Monday, June 17, 2013
WTA Singles – First Round
(6) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) d. Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) 76(5) 61
Elena Vesnina (RUS) d. (7) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 26 64 63
Marion Bartoli (FRA) d. Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 63 62
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. Christina McHale (USA) 63 64
Heather Watson (GBR) d. Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 63 64

WTA Doubles – First Round
(1) Petrova/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) d. Raymond/Robson (USA/GBR) 46 64 105 (Match TB)
Hsieh/Lucic-Baroni (TPE/CRO) d. (WC) Kvitova/Wickmayer (CZE/BEL) 61 64
Niculescu/Zakopalova (ROU/CZE) d. Babos/Minella (HUN/LUX) 64 63

WTA Singles Qualifying – Final Round
(1) Jamie Hampton (USA) d. Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) 62 61
Yulia Beygelzimer (UKR) d. (3) Jana Cepelova (SVK) 61 76(4)
Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) d. (7) Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 76(5) 36 63
Olga Puchkova (RUS) d. Melanie Oudin (USA) 75 36 64

ATP Singles – First Round
F Verdasco (ESP) d [6] A Dolgopolov (UKR) 16 63 62
[7] A Seppi (ITA) d [Q] G Rufin (FRA) 36 63 64
[8] F Fognini (ITA) d G Zemlja (SLO) 67(6) 62 64
A Ramos (ESP) d [Q] J Blake (USA) 62 64
[Q] R Harrison (USA) d P Mathieu (FRA) 64 26 76(4)
[WC] K Edmund (GBR) d [Q] K De Schepper (FRA) 64 64

ATP Doubles – First Round

M Matkowski (POL) / F Nielsen (DEN) d [2] R Lindstedt (SWE) / D Nestor (CAN) 62 63
[3] L Paes (IND) / R Stepanek (CZE) d I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) 57 76(5) 10-6
M Klizan (SVK) / M Matosevic (AUS) d D Istomin (UZB) / J Monaco (ARG) 36 76(6) 10-2
P Hanley (AUS) / K Skupski (GBR) d T Bednarek (POL) / P Marx (GER) 26 64 10-8    


Order Of Play – Tuesday, June 18, 2013
CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
B Tomic (AUS) vs [WC] J Ward (GBR) – ATP
Not Before 1:00 PM
A Cornet (FRA) vs [2] [WC] N Li (CHN) – WTA
[Q] Y Beygelzimer (UKR) vs L Robson (GBR) – WTA
Not Before 4:00 PM
[5] K Anderson (RSA) vs J Benneteau (FRA) – ATP
[WC] J Delgado (GBR) / J Ward (GBR) vs [4] C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR) – ATP

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
T Paszek (AUT) vs [5] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA
J Nieminen (FIN) vs F Lopez (ESP) – ATP
V Troicki (SRB) vs M Klizan (SVK) – ATP
[1] A Radwanska (POL) vs [Q] J Hampton (USA) – WTA

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
[3] A Kerber (GER) vs S Cirstea (ROU) – WTA
M Niculescu (ROU) vs [4] P Kvitova (CZE) – WTA
[WC] S Stosur (AUS) vs [8] N Petrova (RUS) – WTA
J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS) vs F Fognini (ITA) / A Seppi (ITA) – ATP

COURT 3 start 11:00 am
[WC] J Konta (GBR) vs S Hsieh (TPE) – WTA
[WC] E Baltacha (GBR) vs [Q] K Pliskova (CZE) – WTA
D Istomin (UZB) vs I Dodig (CRO) – ATP
R Stepanek (CZE) vs M Matosevic (AUS) – ATP

COURT4 start 11:00 am
K Zakopalova (CZE) vs L Safarova (CZE) – WTA
D Jurak (CRO) / H Watson (GBR) vs [2] L Huber (USA) / S Mirza (IND) – WTA
[Q] O Puchkova (RUS) vs E Makarova (RUS) – WTA
[4] F Pennetta (ITA) / E Vesnina (RUS) vs C Black (ZIM) / M Erakovic (NZL) – WTA
N Grandin (RSA) / V Uhlirova (CZE) vs O Kalashnikova (GEO) / A Rosolska (POL) – WTA

COURT 5 start 12:00 noon
[1] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) vs J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) – ATP
[WC] K Edmund (GBR) / S Thornley (GBR) vs [PR] E Butorac (USA) / A Ram (ISR) – ATP
H Chan (TPE) / L Safarova (CZE) vs J Husarova (SVK) / V Lepchenko (USA) – WTA

Share

Donna Vekic and Madison Keys head the youngsters’ Charge in Birmingham and Beyond

 

Madison Keys

Madison Keys

By Tumaini Carayol

(June 13, 2013) BIRMINGHAM, UK – Women’s Tennis Association – says who? It’s the kids who are taking over the city of Birmingham. They’re seemingly hiding behind every corner, popping out of every doorway, exploiting every nook and cranny and wreaking havoc on the actual grown women, whose images the tour was named in.

With every glance towards this group of young adolescents, they appear to be multiplying, evolving and becoming increasingly impossible to shun or ignore. Whenever seemingly all up-and-comers are accounted for, a new player smashes through into relevance and demands to be counted. When one youngster crumbles, another stands tall. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, of course; the glorious past has reaped far younger supernovas, far more talented youngsters and in far quicker time. But at a time when the well of everlasting talent appeared to have all but impossibly dried up, this group of fresh, new faces yet to bear the battle scars and wear-and-tear of life on tour are a welcome, or at least necessary quench to this thirst.

A myriad of pretenders have already said their hopeful hellos, before fruitlessly sweeping off into the night. Heather Watson and Laura Robson, supposedly the main event, were brushed aside yesterday on home turf without a set between them. Meanwhile, 20 year-old Ajla Tomljanovic, whose ranking came to a screeching halt just inside the top 200 for the better part of a year before contracting a difficult bout of mononucleosis, continued her glass ceiling-smashing comeback by qualifying and brushing aside defending champion Melanie Oudin before pushing top-seeded Kirsten Flipkens to the brink, in a performance undermined only by her inexperience. Only months into her return, she has already strolled effortlessly back to her career-high ranking with the promise of a deadly assault on the top 100 by year’s end. Others to make brief appearances in Birmingham included the likes of Eugenie Bouchard, Alison Van Uytvanck, Lauren Davis, Jana Cepelova, Elina Svitolina, Timea Babos, Yulia Putintseva and more – the list is mindnumbingly endless.

Today was the turn of former Junior Roland Garros champion and Junior
Wimbledon finalist Kristina Mladenovic to take her final bow. After also arriving at the gates of the top 200 quickly after her junior success, she too found the final transitional hurdle an irritant. 2013, however, has been generous to her, and as she served for the match at 6-5 in the second set against Daniela Hantuchova, things were only improving. Until that point, the young Frenchwoman looked in cruise control, using her devastating serve to supreme effect against an aging Hantuchova. But the Slovak, who appears to be reveling in her role of pantomime villain, devoured yet another child with cruel efficiency.

As of today, only two remain. Interestingly, they are the two youngest top 100-ers in this small army of youngsters, and perhaps the most promising.  Madison Keys was up first. After years of hype and expectations following her first WTA victory at the grand old age of 14, 2013 has been quite the coming-out party for her. Already she has ratcheted up a smattering of impressive results; not least her three different WTA quarterfinals on the pounding hardcourts of Sydney, the anonymous green clay of Charleston and today on the hallowed lawns of Birmingham; possibly hinting at an all-court domination to come.

Against Mona Barthel, Keys chuckled at the difference in rankings and delivered a stone-cold dismissal of her foe, making a mockery of the German’s sixth seeding with a 6-3, 6-2 victory. The result wasn’t exactly met with any surprise, but the manner in which she coolly brushed aside any challenge from the talented German was priceless. Usually, even when playing at the height of their powers, it’s the lower ranked player exerting the most effort as they fight to remain at a level they can only dream of maintaining consistently. However, the roles were reversed and it was Keys who played with such calm irreverence, competing with energy to spare. The American finished off the match with two booming aces – each down the ‘T’ – having faced only one break point in the entire match, sending a Serena-esque message to the rest of the field that screamed: “You can’t beat what
you can’t put your racket on.”

Vekic was next. Even younger than Keys, her ascension through the rankings should prove a valuable lesson to all those who follow in her footsteps. She and her coach, David Felgate, shrugged aside the conventional route of first competing in juniors – and usually acquiring countless dreadful habits in the process. Instead, they headed straight for the futures and challengers. Not the ones around her native Croatia or where she resides in the UK, no. Rather, they targeted the ITFs in the anonymous parts of Eastern Europe and Asia, picking like vultures at the weakest points on offer. It allowed her to play at the level appropriate to her age whilst earning points and finding herself in situations – both on and off the court – actually relevant to her future in the sport.

And here she is in her second tour quarterfinal. Two days ago, she quickly fell down 0-2 to seeded Urszula Radwanska. It was then that, seemingly on a whim, she decided to teach her eighth-seeded opponent a lifelong lesson in pure, unadulterated aggressive tennis. It was a battering, a demolition job so loud and clear that the pole’s ears are likely still  ringing from the sound the balls made as they bounced squarely on every line and passed her by, hopelessly out of reach.

But today was different. Against an irritatingly generic grinder in the American college tennis graduate Maria Sanchez, and on an energy-sapping outside court, Vekic was forced to retreat within herself in order to conquer and advance. She played with far more control and caution, righting the ship by forcing the American into high-paced rallies that simply overwhelmed her underpowered college-groomed game and left her hemorrhaging errors. It hinted at yet another benefit borne out of her enriching experiences on the challenger circuit – a self-awareness far beyond that of the average sixteen year-old junior.

One of the enduring and undeniably true critiques of this new, upcoming generation – one that can be heard frantically whispered with every new youngster’s success – is the one-dimensionality of almost each and every one of them. The sophisticated layers previously required to be a top player – the hybrid between defense and offence, variety and simplicity – are nowhere to be seen. Instead, they fit far too snugly into the boxes of playing styles. Some are underpowered retrievers, others are immobile attackers and few can pull off a remotely passable impersonation of any other style of play. But, at least for now, this group of youngsters who have ascended almost simultaneously onto the tour, overwhelming us by their pure numbers and stealing our attention both this week, before and beyond, are
surely here to stay. And we will be watching.

Tumaini Carayol covering the AEGON Classic in Birmingham for Tennis Panorama News. He is a contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his tournament updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

AEGON CLASSIC
Birmingham, England
June 10-16, 2013
$235,000/International
Grass/Outdoors

Results - Thursday, June 13, 2013
Singles – Third Round
(16) Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. (1) Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) 76(5) 62
(3) Sorana Cirstea (ROU) d. (13) Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) 61 16 61
(5) Sabine Lisicki (GER) d. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 75 26 64
Madison Keys (USA) d. (6) Mona Barthel (GER) 63 62
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) d. (12) Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) 36 76(6) 64
(15) Francesca Schiavone (ITA) d. Marina Erakovic (NZL) 76(3) 63
Donna Vekic (CRO) d. (Q) Maria Sanchez (USA) 46 62 62
(Q) Alison Riske (USA) d. (Q) Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) 61 62

Doubles – Quarterfinals
Black/Erakovic (ZIM/NZL) d. (2) Chan/Huber (TPE/USA) 26 63 107 (Match TB)

Doubles – First Round
(1) Kops-Jones/Spears (USA/USA) d. Castaño/Daniilidou (COL/GRE) 61 61
(4) Hantuchova/Hsieh (SVK/TPE) d. Jurak/Tanasugarn (CRO/THA) 36 61 102 (Match TB)
Date-Krumm/Parra Santonja (JPN/ESP) d. Aoyama/Moulton-Levy (JPN/USA) 61 75
Barthel/Mladenovic (GER/FRA) d. Dushevina/Watson (RUS/GBR) w/o (Watson: mid back injury)

Order Of Play – Friday, June 14, 2013
Ann Jones Centre Court (from 11.00hrs)
1. Sorana Cirstea vs. Donna Vekic
2. Daniela Hantuchova vs. Francesca Schiavone
3. Magdalena Rybarikova vs. Madison Keys
4. Sabine Lisicki vs. Alison Riske

Court 1 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Kops-Jones/Spears vs. Barthel/Mladenovic
2. Barty/Dellacqua vs. Kudryavtseva/Rodionova
3. Date-Krumm/Parra Santonja vs. Hantuchova/Hsieh (NB 16.30hrs; after suitable rest)

Share

Heather Watson and Laura Robson Bite the Bullet in Birmingham

 

By Tumaini Carayol

(June 12, 2013) BIRMINGHAM, UK – Kicking off the day’s play on Wednesday at the AEGON Classic was the pride and joy of Britain, Heather Watson and Laura Robson, back to back.

Considering the later slots are usually reserved for the feature players, the tournament’s decision to place the pair first and second on was certainly an interesting one. it perhaps told of their certainly that both women would advance to the next round, allowing them the home-court advantage of optimum recovery time and the greatest chance of completing their matches should the rains have opened up and swallowed them whole.

Their faith was not rewarded.

First came Watson, who happily triumphed on Tuesday, recording her first victory since Memphis in February after a well-publicized bout of mononucleosis left her debilitated and eventually forced her from the tennis
courts and into her bed.

She could not repeat the trick, however, falling 6-4 6-3 to Alla Kudryavtseva in an eerily identical score to her first ever victory.

She was understandably disappointed afterwards.

“I definitely didn’t play well today,” she said. “I made a lot of unforced errors and my serve was really awful but she was a much tougher opponent today.”

“She was good off the baseline and she returned well. At the end of the day, you’ve got to go and win it and she did but, me, I wasn’t pleased with my game today.”

“It was frustrating because I played well in my first match and I thought it was going to get even better today but it was the total opposite. I felt fine today. I just think I was a bit slow to the ball and slow thinking, which comes from not playing. I just need to get used to that. I thought today was a good opportunity and I feel like I’ve let it go. If I want to get back then I need to find a way even when I’m not playing so well.”

Next came seventh-seeded Laura Robson, who also coincidentally found herself against one of her first grasscourt foes in Daniela Hantuchova. The pair had faced each other at Wimbledon in 2009 – the year after a 14-year old Robson triumphed in the junior event.

Despite the tricky draw, Robson was certainly favored against her aging opponent. In fact, given the Brit’s rising reputation for peaking against the best and finding herself below top form against the rest, in many ways it could be considered a helpful draw beforehand.

Helpful it was not, however. Two lethargic starts to both sets was enough to send her packing as she lost her serve in her first service game each time and failed to retrieve them.

“I definitely could’ve moved up to the ball a bit more,” she said afterwards. “It is definitely something I could work on a bit more, but I thought Daniela played very well today.

“I just have to keep practicing and stay confident and keep focusing.”

And with that, the two home favorites bit the dust. Luckily for the Birmingham faithful, however, they still have one home favorite left after Donna Vekic‘s scintillating exhibition of attacking tennis yesterday was only bettered by the post-match revelation that she resides in England and converses in a mostly-English accent. Expect the 16 year-old Croatian Londoner to continually pick up the slack left by the real Brits both this week and in years to come.

Tumaini Carayol covering the AEGON Classic in Birmingham for Tennis Panorama News. He is a contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his tournament updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

AEGON CLASSIC
Birmingham, England
June 10-16, 2013
$235,000/International
Grass/Outdoors

Results - Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Singles – Second Round
(1) Kirsten Flipkens (BEL) d. (Q) Ajla Tomljanovic (CRO) 46 64 75
Marina Erakovic (NZL) d. (2) Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 76(6) 36 60
(3) Sorana Cirstea (ROU) d. Tsvetana Pironkova (BUL) 64 64
(5) Sabine Lisicki (GER) d. Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) 64 62
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) d. (7) Laura Robson (GBR) 63 64
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) d. (9) Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 64 60
(12) Kristina Mladenovic (FRA) d. (WC) Johanna Konta (GBR) 64 61
(13) Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) d. Andrea Hlavackova (CZE) 46 61 64
(Q) Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) d. (14) Heather Watson (GBR) 64 63
(15) Francesca Schiavone (ITA) d. (Q) Nadiya Kichenok (UKR) 76(4) 62
(16) Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. Mathilde Johansson (FRA) 75 67(4) 64
(Q) Maria Sanchez (USA) d. (Q) Alison Van Uytvanck (BEL) 76(3) 63

Order Of Play – Thursday, June 13, 2013
Ann Jones Centre Court (from 11.00hrs)
1. Daniela Hantuchova vs. Kristina Mladenovic
2. Sorana Cirstea vs. Bojana Jovanovski
3. Francesca Schiavone vs. Marina Erakovic
4. Sabine Lisicki vs. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni
5. Black/Erakovic vs. Chan/Huber

Court 1 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Madison Keys vs. Mona Barthel
2. Maria Sanchez vs. Donna Vekic
3. Kirsten Flipkens vs. Magdalena Rybarikova
4. Alla Kudryavtseva vs. Alison Riske

Court 3 (from 11.00hrs)
1. Date-Krumm/Parra Santonja vs. Aoyama/Moulton-Levy
2. Kops-Jones/Spears vs. Castaño/Daniilidou
3. Barthel/Mladenovic vs. Dushevina/Watson
4. Jurak/Tanasugarn vs. Hantuchova/Hsieh

Share

Heather Watson Back From Glandular Fever, Loses First Match But Not Fighting Spirit

Heather Watson

By Ros Satar

(May 29, 2013) PARIS – As much as she put up a spirited defense, in her first match back after illness, Britain’s Heather Watson bowed out in the first round to Switzerland’s Stefanie Voegele 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Watson looked to be hitting cleanly through the ball but the first break came quickly for Voegele.

Watson seemed afflicted with a lack of first serves and even though at times she returned to the depth and pace of shot from her earlier games, it was not consistent enough to stop the first set going to the Swiss.

The second set started with three successive breaks before Watson settled into a more aggressive routine as Voegele’s serve deserted her.

Watson was the more dominant on Voegele’s weaker second serves, breaking her in her last two service games to take the second set.

Voegele took a break at that point, and on the restart, the momentum swung back towards the Swiss, breaking Watson in the first game.

Watson had her chances to level with Voegele serving at 4-3 but as the three break points came and went, so did Watson’s chance of being the sole British singles’ survivor.

A convincing hold to love sealed the set for Voegele.

At her post match news conference, Watson said: “I thought I had a good draw and a good chance to get through to the next round.

“I knew it was going to be tough my first match back.  But still I’m super disappointed I lost.”

Watson said she did not feel as fit as she should be, but seemed to be more troubled with a recurrence of an elbow issue during the match, which ironically helped her, more than hindering her.

“I hit a serve in the beginning of the second set, and I felt my elbow hurting a bit, so I kind of took a bit off.

“I think that did me good.

“I made a few more first serves and ended up winning that set.”

Watson took time out of the tour to recover from glandular fever, finding out she was getting over the illness after a round of frustrating early tournament losses.

But thankfully, unless she feels faint or anything out of the ordinary, she is now just focused on getting back on track, building up slowly.

It is not just the physical side to contend with, though, reflecting on a couple of areas for improvement on the comeback trail.

She explained: “It’s being ready for the next shot and getting ready.

“I’ll just kind of hit a serve and just kind of stand there and expect it to come back to me.

“Also just focus, point in, point out, just the whole way through a match.

“I lost that a bit today.”

Watson is not done here yet, though.

She partners Ukranian Irina Buryachok in the women’s doubles and Britain’s Jonny Marray in the mixed doubles.

One thing is for sure – Watson has not lost that fighting spirit; she just needs the sharpness to come at the right time for the next slam.

Share

Tim Henman and Heather Watson to Team Up for Exhibition Doubles before Aegon Classic

Tim Henman and Heather Watson announce a one-off doubles match to mark the start of the Aegon Classic in June

(April 10, 2013) British No. 2, Heather Watson, and tennis legend Tim Henman were in Birmingham today to announce an exciting one-off tennis match that will take place to mark the opening of the new Centre Court at the UK’s all-female tennis tournament, the Aegon Classic on Sunday 9 June.

 

Hanging out the kit in anticipation, Heather and Tim revealed that they will play a unique doubles match against Greg Rusedski and his mystery partner to celebrate the opening of the new Centre Court at the Edgbaston Priory Club where the tournament is held in June.

 

The exhibition match will be the first to be played on the brand new sunken centre court at Edgbaston Priory Club before the Aegon Classic gets into full swing.

 

Heather, who has also been confirmed to compete in the tournament this year, said: “It’s fantastic to be competing on home turf at this year’s Aegon Classic but now I’m also really excited to play with Tim – it’ll be good fun and a great chance for me to get a feel of the new court. I am yet to find out who Greg’s doubles partner will be but I’m ready for the challenge.”

On playing at the event, Tim Henman said: “I’ve heard great things about the new centre court, so I’m really honoured to be playing at the Grand Opening. Though Greg, Heather and I will be amongst the first to play on the new court, it’s the matches that will follow that I’m most excited about. The Aegon Classic attracts some of the world’s top female tennis players, including Heather of course, and I can’t wait to see who will be battling it out on centre court for this year’s title.”

 

The new centre court is part of a £5 million investment by the LTA into the Edgbaston Priory Club to provide a world class tournament venue for the players. The new facilities also include a six court indoor tennis centre and four new outside grass courts.

 

Lawrence Robertson, Commercial Director at the LTA said; “We’re delighted to be able to mark the opening of the new Centre Court at The Edgbaston Priory Club by welcoming three of Britain’s great champions. Both Tim and Greg have served British Tennis so well over the years and we’re delighted that our newest champion, Heather, is joining them to mark this historic moment in the Tournament’s long history. It should prove to be a great day.”

 

Offering a chance to see first rate tennis, the Aegon Classic is one the of the UK’s major warm-up tournaments ahead of The Championships, Wimbledon. The  tournament is returning to Birmingham’s Edgbaston Priory Club from the 9th to the 16th June.

 

2013 is the first year that the Aegon Classic will be partnering with local children’s cancer charity, Help Harry Help Others (HHHO). After the announcement, Tim and Heather joined Adam Rickitt, CEO at HHHO, and Tilly Sweet, a young girl helped by the charity, for a game of mixed doubles in Brindley Place.

For more information, please visit www.aegonclassic.co.uk

Share

British Tennis is Completely Different From 10 Years Ago, Says Keothavong

 

 

By Barbara Galiza

(March 2, 2013) FLORIANOPOLIS, Brazil –With the recent successes of Andy Murray, Laura Robson and Heather Watson, it’s safe to say tennis in Britain is in a great phase. Londoner Anne Keothavong, professional since 2001, says things have come a long way in terms of support for the players.

 

“When I was Laura and Heather’s age, I didn’t have what they have. I had to travel by myself. We didn’t have a national tennis center. Now, 18-year-old players, and juniors, have coaches and a team that accompanies them on tour. With the access you get, there’s no excuse for players today”, said Keothavong on the recent change. “They’re very well supported. Being British, we are in a very lucky position. They are definitely investing more. It’s completely different now than it was 10 years ago.”

 

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), responsible for tennis in the country, and private sponsors, such as AEGON, aid the players on tour. The profit made from Wimbledon is directed to the LTA and invested in the future generation. Last year, nearly 30 million pounds from that money was used on player development and encouraging people to take up the sport.

 

“Sport in general is in a good phase in Britain. In the Olympics, it was amazing to see the whole country coming together and supporting the athletes. Whenever I had the time, I would go and watch other events, outside the tennis”, said the Brit, who played doubles and singles on the London 2012 games. “Andy (Murray) is doing very well under the pressure. Hopefully what he’s done will inspire the new generation.”

 

After making the top 50 in 2009, Keothavong is currently ranked 183th in the world.

 

“My ranking right now is not where I’d like to be, I’ve had a lot of injuries”, said the 29 year-old after losing the first round in Florianópolis to the seventh seed Kristina Mladenovic, 6/3 6/4.

Barbara Galiza is a journalist from Rio de Janeiro and was covering the WTA tennis tournament in  Florianópolis, Brazil as media in  for Tennis Panorama. She likes tennis and writing. Sometimes she blogs, most of the time she tweets. – @fiercetennis
Share

Radwanska Rolls into Australian Open Round of 16

AndyRoddickFaceOff5

By Jaclyn Stacey

 

(January 18, 2013) MELBOURNE PARK,  Australia – Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska won through to the fourth round of the Australian Open defeating Britain’s Heather Watson 6-3, 6-1 in one hour and 24 minutes on day five at the Open.

 

The Pole has won 12 straight matches in 2013 after claiming the titles in Auckland and Sydney before winning her first three rounds at the Australian Open. She has also yet to drop a set this season.

 

Radwanska broke Watson in the fifth and seventh games of the first set to take a 5-2 lead. She was then broken by Watson while attempting to serve out the set and only managed to seal it 6-3 when she again broke Watson in the next game.

 

Watson was holding her own against Radwanska but the Pole played a great defensive game, continuously getting the ball back in play and wearing down her opponent into making the error.

 

After receiving medical treatment on a bleeding finger between sets, Radwanska stepped it up in the second set, allowing her opponent just one game on her way to victory 6-3 6-1.

 

“I think I was really solid from the beginning, trying to be focused. Especially in the beginning of the first set I was really tight, and I think that game when I was serving when it was 2-1, I think it was really important game.”

 

“I think then I start to play better, and of course in the second set I was trying to, you know, to start good as well and not to lose my focus.”

 

Radwanska puts her excellent form down to confidence and good preparation over the off season.

 

“Of course, I was practicing hard in the offseason, a lot of fitness. But just feeling good on court.  I’m very confident from the beginning and just happy that I can play really my best tennis from the beginning of the year.”

 

Radwanska will be looking to move past the quarterfinals of the Australian Open for the first time and will play Ana Ivanovic who triumphed in the all Serbian encounter on Hisense Arena 7-5, 6-3.

 

Jaclyn Stacey is a Melbourne based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open tournament as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Follow her Australian Open updates on @TennisNewsTPN. Follow her personal twitter @JackattackAU.

Share