2014/09/22

Novak Djokovic in His Own Words

Novak Djokovic

(September 9, 2013) Novak Djokovic’s post-match news conference following his loss to Rafael Nadal in the US Open final.

An interview with: NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Monday, September 9, 2013
From USOpen.org
Q. I can’t remember seeing a player play as well as you did in the third set and yet not win the set. How hard was that to take? NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Yeah, it was disappointing that I dropped the third set, even though I felt like especially in first four, five games I was the one who was, you know, dictating the play. But it’s all my fault, you know. I made some unforced errors in the crucial moments with forehands and dropped the serve twice when I should not have. You know, next thing you know, all of a sudden it’s two sets to one for him. Then he started playing much, much better after that, and, you know, I obviously could not recover after that loss.Q. How disappointing is that loss?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, it is. It’s US Open final, and Grand Slam finals are I mean, in the end of the day I have to be satisfied with the final, even though I would have loved to win this match tonight. But it was obvious that in the important moments he played better tennis, and that’s why he deserved to win. I congratulate him, and I move on.

Q. The three break points you had at 4-all, was it just hard kind of mentally and emotionally to get past that?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, it’s like it was a momentum change out there from Love 40, 4 All third set, he started playing really good. He served well few points. I didn’t do anything I felt wrong in these few points. He didn’t make a mistake. He served well. He came to the net. As I said, you know, all the credit to him. I had my momentum from midway second set to end of the third where I was supposed to, you know, use and realize the opportunities that were presented to me, and I didn’t do it. I didn’t deserve to win in the end.

Q. Obviously you’re disappointed in losing. Just wonder if you could appreciate the high level of tennis that was played out there. Obviously the fans loved it. Just some great shots. Can you grasp that, or is the loss too much right now?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I just right now I just came from the court, so it’s of course I do appreciate the occasion playing against Nadal in the finals of one of the best tournaments and most important tournaments in the world. So I’m aware of that. But obviously I just feel disappointed for losing. It’s all sport. You know, tomorrow is a new day.

Q. Is it right to think you may be missing just a little bit of confidence?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I don’t know. I mean, I was playing well throughout the whole two weeks, and I can be happy because it was different from the hard court tournaments prior to US Open. I felt more mentally present and was going for my shots, so at least that’s a positive that I can take from this tournament.

Q. You just came off the court, as you said. You won six slams yourself. When you think about 13 for Rafa, can you kind of give me an assessment of what you feel like that stands for in the history of the game and maybe appreciation as an opponent?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, 13 Grand Slams for a guy who is 27 years old is incredible. I mean, whatever he achieved so far in his career is something that everybody should respect, no question about it. I mean, I was saying before, he’s definitely one of the best tennis players ever to play the game, I mean, looking at his achievements and his age, at this moment, you know. He still has a lot of years to play, so that’s all I can say.

Q. We could all see how physically demanding this match was for both of you. But could you describe the mental challenge of staying focused and staying positive against a player like Nadal and in a match with so many swings of momentum?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Difficult conditions. Obviously there was one side where you had wind in the back and it was easier to play. But still, it was the same for both me and my opponent today. It’s a physical match, and we both knew coming into this final that we are gonna have to be fresh and ready to play long rallies. On the other hand, it’s finals of a Grand Slam, so I think just that fact tells you enough of how mental this match is in the end of the day, you know, because it’s a huge challenge but also motivation for both me and him.

Q. Did you feel focused from the first ball today?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I was trying to. I mean, I wasn’t playing at a top of the level that I know how to play throughout the whole match, because credit to my opponent, he was making me run. You know, I had my ups and downs, but this is all sport. It’s something that is expected, you know, because it’s a huge occasion. There is a lot of tension, a lot of expectations, and it’s normal to have ups and downs. But, you know, you use this as experience. You know, it’s another match, another tournament for me, and hopefully I can take the best out of it.

Q. Rafa was asked after the semifinal if he looked forward to the prospect of facing you in the final, and he said no. He elaborated, frankly, I wish I would play a player who would be easier. He said, let’s be honest. Do you feel the same way when you are presented with that opportunity to play him on that stage, or do you feel this is an opportunity to play one of the best players of all time at the height of his game and see where it takes you in your game?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: It is a challenge you have to accept, like it or not. That’s my view. I mean, I try always to take one match at a time with that positive kind of mindset, you know, keep myself in the present moment, and, you know, of course I follow all the top players, how they do throughout the tournament. But, you know, my main focus is on my next opponent. That’s what I prepare for. It was likely that I’m going to play him in the finals because he was a favorite in the opposite side of the draw. But still you never know. It’s a Grand Slam. All the players, not just me and him, are very much motivated and inspired to play their best here. In the end of the day, we played against each other, and, you know, the better player won. That’s all it is.

Q. Could you tell me about just the experience, incredibly long rallies in the second set, and if you have memories of it in relation to other points in your career?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I mean, I played especially against Rafa on different surfaces and different occasions points like this where you just feel that there is the last drop of energy that you need to use in order to win the point. Sometimes I was winning those points; sometimes him. It’s what we do when we play against each other, always pushing each other to the limit. That’s the beauty of our matches and our rivalry, I guess, in the end.

Q. If you look back at your Grand Slam season, what is the dominating feeling?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I mean, I wish I won at least one title more, considering the fact I played two finals. All the matches I lost, even the French Open. I had that match. I lost it again in semis. Overall, it was again very successful Grand Slam year for me. That’s something that I always try to have in the back of my mind, you know, to set my own shape for the biggest ones, for major tournaments. That’s where I want to play my best in. As I said, I wish there was another title, but it is what it is.

Q. Three years ago you sit here and you lost last time against Nadal Grand Slam on a hard court. I will cite your words. This was so frustrating a little bit. He’s getting better each time you play him. He’s mentally so strong and dedicated to the sport. After you achieved one of the amazing year in the tennis history, you move to No. 1. How do you think this time you can turn around again this frustration to extra motivation for next year?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have to (smiling). It’s part of my life. I mean, many times you fall as an athlete, and, you know, you have to learn the lesson and keep on going, keep on fighting, keep on improving. That’s what we are here for. I’m still 26, and I believe best time for my career is about to come. I feel that. I believe that. As long as I believe it, the fire of the love towards the game is inside of me. And as long as that’s present, as long as I feel it, I’m going to play this sport with all my heart, as I did in last 10 years.

Q. Could you say anything at all about the No. 1 ranking, which is going to be pretty difficult, number of points you’re defending and the number of points isn’t.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC: What can I say? He won so much this year. I’m still No. 1 of the world in the rankings, but year to year he’s far, far ahead, and he has much more chances to end up as No. 1. Look, you know, there is still tournaments to go. So we’ll see. I just try to prepare myself for China.

Rafael Nadal in His Own Words

Rafael Nadal Wins Lucky 13th Major with US Open Victory

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Serena, Djokovic, Federer, Sharapova, Murray, Azarenka in Notes and Quotes From Saturday’s Pre-Australian Open News Conferences

 

(January 12, 2013) A look at some of the questions and answers from the Saturday news conferences before the Australian Open begins. They include Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Roger Federer, Sam Stosur, Maria Sharapova and Andy Murray.

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Novak Djokovic

Q.  What are your thoughts on the Australians, like Bernard Tomic?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I believe their chances are always good.  Lleyton, especially, who has so much experience playing in Grand Slams, he was the former No. 1 in the world, Grand Slam winner, played finals in Australia.

Last year before the Australian Open, everybody thought that he won’t be able to hold on physically best‑of‑five, but he managed to come to the fourth round where I played a tough four‑setter against him.

He’s proving everybody wrong.  He’s a great competitor and somebody that a lot of players have a lot of respect for.  I’m sure in front of his crowd he’s going to be extra motivated to do well.

On the other hand, Bernard, playing against him in Perth, watching him play the last few weeks, he improved a lot.  Also he likes playing in front of his home crowd.

So their chances are always good.  Just a matter of the day and how well the opponent plays also.  Of course, the crowd support is always welcomed.

Q.  You had almost a perfect year in 2011.  One of the things you did a lot is win the first set.  Last year it seems in important matches you might have lost the first set.  Is that something you’re aware of?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Thanks for the information.  I haven’t paid too much attention on that (laughter).

But, yeah, I maybe noticed in the last season I was coming back from being down more often than I did in 2011.  Maybe that’s something that I was aware of.

But there’s nothing in particular that I have changed, except maybe just a little bit slower start.  But I’m always obviously trying to start strong from the first point.  So if it doesn’t happen sometimes, it’s by accident.

Q.  After you won here in 2008, you played three years very consistently, No. 3 in the world.  Was there anything that changed during those three years that allowed you to win the Davis Cup, have the great 2011, settle into the role as the world’s best player?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, there were a few particular moments that I would say were turning points.  Probably Wimbledon 2010, since that tournament I started playing much better, more confident.  The first six months of 2010, was going through a lot of health issues.  Wasn’t able to do so many great results.  I lost a lot of confidence, but managed to come back.

Davis Cup title came in the right moment.  I believe that title, that feeling of sharing one of the biggest titles in our sport with my team for our country, in our country, was one of the best feelings I experienced as a tennis player on the court.

That was a great confidence boost and helped me to, afterwards, believe in myself, in my abilities on the court more.  When I started that winning streaks in Australia, winning the second Grand Slam trophy in 2011, when you get such a great start of the year, then things are a bit easier, you know, mentally for continuation of the season.

Q.  What do you know about Belgium?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  It’s a beautiful country (laughter).

Q.  Are you a beer drinker?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I am not a beer drinker.  But I’ve heard you have the best beer.  I would lie if I didn’t try, so I tried your beer.  It’s very good.  And you have great tennis players, obviously.  Especially women’s, Justine Henin and Clijsters, the champions.  Best in the world.

I think you have four or five guys that are around 30 to 50 in the world at this moment.  It’s going to be tricky.  Davis Cup is a very unique competition.  You play for your country.  There is a different feeling to it.  Also you are in a team competition, so it doesn’t depend only from you, your result, what you do on the court.  You also have to play well in order to get selected to play the matches, singles, doubles.  It’s going to be interesting.

Q.  You’re going for three in a row here in Melbourne, which hasn’t been done in the Open era.  Why do you think that is difficult to do that here?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  That’s a good question.  From my personal experience, I like playing here because it’s after probably five, six, seven weeks of break with no official tournament.  So you get time to recover, regroup, recharge your batteries mentally, physically, try to get ready for the new season with four, five weeks of good practice.  You come here fresh.  You’re motivated and inspired to play some good tennis.

In my case, has been working well.  This is my most successful Grand Slam.  But this Grand Slam is also known for a lot of surprises, players who have been reaching the final stages who are not expected to, especially in the last six, seven years.

We’ll see.  We’ll see.  The Australian Open always brings something interesting.

Q.  How do you feel about Rafa not being here this year?  Is it disappointing for the tournament?  Given that marathon you played last year, is it a bit of a relief for you?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, it is definitely a loss for the tournament, for tennis, for sport in general not to have Rafa playing still on the court.  It’s been, what, seven months since he’s played his last official match.

I mean, I know him really well.  We grew up together in a way.  He’s a year older than me.  So I know that he’s a great competitor, somebody that never gives up, fights till the last moment.  And he loves this sport.  I’m sure if he felt he was ready enough to play this tournament, best‑of‑five in the Australian summer that can be brutal and difficult to play, then he would come.  He probably felt he needs more time to recover.  I wish him a speedy recovery.

Q.  You say there’s been surprises here.  In the majors for the last three or four years there’s been four guys, now three guys.  Do you see that continuing this year or can you see that monopoly being broken a little bit?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, I think we cannot predict anything.  It’s individual sport, so it only depends from you.  Anybody can have what Nadal has at this moment.  That’s why you have to be so committed and professional for daily routines.  Small details matter for long‑term, the preparations you do, the practice, the recovery.  If you are injured, you’re off the tour.  Your ranking is going down.

It’s probably expected that the three of us, and Nadal of course, would still be main candidates to win all the major titles.  But, you know, I wouldn’t underestimate Del Potro, Tsonga, Ferrer, Berdych, anybody who is in top 10.  I’m sure there’s new young players coming up like Tomic, Dimitrov, Raonic.

I don’t think it’s nice for me to predict that us three will be champions of all Grand Slams this year.

Q.  Have you noticed a change in Andy Murray’s demeanor since the Olympics and New York?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  He has a shorter haircut (smiling).

Q.  You’re one of the players known for taking a longer time between points than average.  What are your thoughts on how the time is going to be enforced by the ATP and how it’s going to affect your playing style?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, I guess Nadal and myself, we’re right up there mentioned in that topic as the players who would be always in danger of the time violation because of the time we are taking between the points.

It is the way it is.  I don’t complain.  I cannot have any complaints when I take more than 20 seconds between the points.  If the chair umpire comes to me and said, Listen, you should be a little bit more careful about it.  If I do it again, he gives me warning, I can’t complain about it.

It’s within the rules and I will respect it.

 

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Serena Williams

 

Q.  Are you in the best condition of your life and playing the best tennis of your life or do you think you’ve played better elsewhere?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  I can’t answer that.  I get asked that all the time.  But I feel like I’m just in the moment right now.  For this moment, I’m playing well.  I really hope I can keep it up and continue to play well.

Q.  Would that be winning every slam this year?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  That’s an incredible goal.  It hasn’t been done since the ’80s.  I don’t know if I can do it.  Maybe someone else can.  We’ll see.

But it’s tough to say.

Q.  What do you feel like inside when you’re playing out of your mind like you have been in the last little while?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  I feel really calm actually.  I feel really calm and really relaxed.  I feel really good.  I don’t feel like I’m panicking.  I don’t feel like I’m doing anything over the top.  I think for me that’s a key.

Q.  You entered the mixed doubles here last year with Andy Roddick and didn’t get to play.  One of the few Grand Slam titles you are missing.  Are you planning on doing that again this year?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  Yeah, we’ll see.  I’m playing doubles this year.  I don’t think I’m up to playing three events.  I love hanging out at the tennis, but probably not that much.  So I’m just going to stick to the singles and doubles this year.

I did have a partner, but my doubles partner wanted to play with me.  Can’t say no to my doubles partner.

Q.  How do you see that with you and Venus this year?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  We love playing doubles.  We’ll definitely probably play most of the slams.  I don’t know.  We play it by ear.  We just like to go out there and have fun and play.

We don’t have really big goals, now that I think about it.  We just have fun.

Q.  How confident are you in Venus’s form?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  I feel like she’s playing great.  For me she’s my least favorite opponent on the tour.  That’s not because she’s my sister, but because she’s playing a lot like me.  It’s not so fun to play that.

Q.  Do you like being such a favorite for tournaments?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  You know, I’ve been a favorite so many times and I’ve been the ultimate underdog several times.  I like being the underdog a little bit.  You don’t have any pressure.  Being the favorite is fun, too, because then you feel like you’re the one to beat.

If it came down to it, I would prefer to be the underdog.

Q.  People have been comparing you lately to Andre (Agassi) in terms of coming into your best tennis a little later on in life, feeling an appreciation for it because of things you’ve been through.  Is that fair?  Do you agree with that?

SERENA WILLIAMS:  Yeah, you know, I love Andre.  He’s a great guy.  I think our careers have some similarities, maybe just a little bit.  I was playing fabulous a decade ago, as well, as he was in his career.

Uhm, it’s not a bad person to be compared to.  He’s someone that definitely is historic and a great American tennis player.

 

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Victoria Azarenka

Q.  Do you feel any more pressure being defending champion?

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  Uhm, no, not really, because I’m not here to defend, I’m here to win, to play tennis.  That’s how I look at it.

You know, it’s my position, my mentality going into and starting the tournament.

Q.  Do you see Serena as being the player to beat?

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  Yeah, I think so.  You know, everybody try to beat the top players.  Every time I go on the court, you feel the same way.  Everybody want to take your position, be the No. 1 player in the world.

When I wasn’t No. 1, I was feeling the same way.  You get more excited.  The job gets tougher for us, but also it’s more exciting this way.

Q.  You didn’t get a chance to play Serena in Brisbane.  Maybe it would have been a chance to try out your game against her before the Open started.

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  You know, I kind of let go of that situation.  There is no point to be disappointed or kind of have really any emotions about it anymore because that what happen.  There is nothing I could do possibly to make it happen.  I just really let it go.

I think I did a very good choice, by the way.  I’m feeling good right now.  So the only thing that I feel is that I made the right decision.

Q.  What did the win last year do for you mentally, how you approach things?

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  Well, it gave me a lot more self‑belief.  I always thought of myself as a really good player.  That mental edge to kind of make the difference, you know, it definitely helped to bring a lot of inner confidence in yourself, knowing that you can do it.

That feeling that I had was incredible.  Since then, I want to feel it again.  This is what motivates me even more every day.  It’s amazing, when you achieve your dream, your goal, how much more motivated I was after that.

That’s really something incredible for me to feel.

Q.  Is your injury a hundred percent better now?

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  Yes.

Q.  No problems at all?

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  No.  I mean, it’s healing.  I don’t feel any pain when I play.  I still have to tape it, but there is no problem.

Q.  You’ve been one of the better doubles players, top singles players in the WTA for a while.  You haven’t played doubles much lately.  Is that something you’re planning on doing in 2013?

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  Probably not.  I felt like I did really good decision to stop playing doubles, to have my main focus not only on the court but off court to try to have the best recovery, the best preparation for my singles.

But I love playing doubles, especially play with Maria Kirilenko.  We have so much fun.  She’s probably one of the best partners I ever have.  Playing mixed doubles is also really fun.  I definitely enjoyed the Olympic Games this year.

Maybe right before I retire or next Olympic Games (laughter).

Q.  You won the first‑ever gold in mixed…

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  I guess I’m a mixed doubles players.

Q.  Do you think you’d ever try to go that for here?

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  Maybe.  I actually wanted to play at the US Open with Kei Nishikori.  He wanted to play.  My knee wasn’t very good from Montréal, so I didn’t want to put any more pressure.

But I was really looking forward to play that.  So maybe this year I’ll play with somebody.

Q.  How do you feel having the No. 1 ranking next to your name?  Some recently haven’t dealt with it very well.

VICTORIA AZARENKA:  I think to maintain the level is probably harder than it is to get there because you have to be consistent, you know.  It’s really difficult to maintain the same form throughout the years.  You always going to have some up and downs.

But I felt, you know, really good that I stayed pretty much consistent throughout the whole year.  That what kept me with the ranking.

I always try to look into improving my game, improve myself as a player, too, because results come always first for me.  Trophies and the ranking is something that follows up that.  So that’s not my main focus, what the ranking is.  But it’s definitely not something you’re going to complain about (smiling).

 

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Roger Federer

 

Q.  If you had gone into Wimbledon not playing the two weeks before, would you have been as confident?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yes.  I’ve done it many different ways.  I’ve taken chances after Wimbledon only playing one event leading into the US Open, risking a first round loss.  Very often I did go on and play well because I was well prepared.

Here it’s the same thing.  I purposely didn’t play a lead up tournament that I’d be fresh for the beginning, hopefully going deep into the tournament.  That’s the goal obviously.

Yeah, like you mentioned, I think it’s nice sometimes doing it slightly different than every year the same thing.  Otherwise it feels like a déjà vu and that’s not always a good thing.

 

Q.  You get asked this at the start of every season, but do you still love the game as much as you did five, six years ago?

ROGER FEDERER:  It’s hard to remember back how it was when I was sitting here six years ago.  But, yeah, I’ve enjoyed myself.  I think it’s always a bit of a test for me going into the practice season.  Am I hungry and motivated to wake up, go on the practice courts for hours?  There was not one problem.

For me, that was good news.  I was eager to improve my game, change it up a bit from all the tournaments I played this last few years now, to go on the practice court and try to improve my game there.  I also go into the gym and get stronger again.

I enjoyed it.  I think as long as that’s the case, that means I love it very much so.  Today I take much more pleasure out of doing the gym work than I ever have.  I used to honestly not really like it at all until I was maybe 22, 24 maybe at times.  Today things for me make sense.  I know why I’m doing them.  I know they’re necessary.  Sometimes it’s not the thing you want to do every day of the year, but I know it’s only a handful of weeks, then obviously you give everything you have.

 

Q.  Your focus is obviously on your first round opponent.  A lot of people have been talking about the potential matchup with Bernard Tomic.  How have you seen his progression, his hopes for this year?

ROGER FEDERER:  I mean, obviously you would think he’s definitely going to go up in the rankings than down after last year’s season, which was a bit of a rollercoaster for him.

I didn’t see anything at the Hopman Cup.  I saw, yeah, 30 minutes maybe in Sydney.  I don’t know what I can tell you, but I’m sure he plays similar to when he was playing well last year.

He’s a good player.  We know how talented he is, what he can do.  It’s obviously tricky playing him in Australia.  He usually plays his best over here.  Even the pressure you might think it’s a problem.  That’s what people usually say.  But I always say it’s best to be playing at home.  You have confidence that you believe you can upset top guys.  I’m sure he believes in that, as well.  He’s also got his work cut out, you know, in the first few rounds.  He will be making a mistake about thinking about me in the third round because he also has to get there.

 

Q.  Is he a player you can see jumping into the top 10 in the next 12 months?

ROGER FEDERER:  I think we should go step by step, see how it goes.  Let’s speak in a year’s time.  Everybody wants to jump from   what’s his ranking 60   to 10 in a year.  It’s hard to do.  10 is a big ask.  Don’t forget how tough the top 10 players are right now.

Yeah, let’s go step by step.

 

Q.  This is going to be your 53rd slam in a row.

ROGER FEDERER:  Still here (smiling).

 

Q.  Wayne is at 56.  What does the record of 56 mean?

ROGER FEDERER:  I know he played a ton in a row.  I used to ball boy him, then I played doubles with him.  Obviously he’s a good friend of mine.  Something I’d like to share with him.

Then again, if I’m ready to play, I hope I can make it, I was thinking back how many times I’ve played already in the main draw of a slam.  It’s been a lot.  For many years I also came here for qualifying, back in ’99, for the juniors ’98.  I go back 15, 16 years already I’ve been coming here every single year.  A few times also for Davis Cup.

Longevity has always been something that’s been important to me.  I’ve planned the season accordingly this year again, that I will not miss the majors because of injury.  But then again sometimes you get hit with an unlucky injury just shortly before a slam.  There’s obviously nothing you can do about it.  The best of five, the rule in tennis, it takes to get deep in a tournament, there’s no easy ways.

I’m excited that I’ve played so many in a row and I hope I can keep the streak alive and see where it stops.  We’ll see how it goes.

 

Q.  He said he was surprised.  Are you surprised?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yeah, I am, too.  It’s not something you really plan.  You play when you’re ready.  If you’re not, you’re not.  When I was coming along, guys would not go to Australia.  Like Moya wouldn’t play Wimbledon because he just thought, I’d rather take that time to get off and get ready for some more clay after Wimbledon.  It was normal.

I came through that period of times a well.  But I felt my game suited all the service surfaces, so I thought, Might as well go to all the different tournaments.  Next thing you know, we’re here talking about it.  It wasn’t something that was planned in any way.

 

Q.  At the end of every year we say last year can’t possibly be better than the year that just finished.  How do you think 2013 can outdo 2012?

ROGER FEDERER:  Well, it’s difficult.  There’s no Olympic Games.  There’s an opportunity less there.  But I’m hoping for another good year.  They’re all different in many ways because this last one was very emotional.  Obviously getting back to world No. 1 was a major goal of mine for last year.

So this year it’s maybe more of a transition year for me, you know, making sure I practice enough, I rest enough, to look at the longevity aspect, the tournaments I enter, that I’m in full force.  That’s really what counts for me.  So every tournament I play, I want to put myself in the position to win it.

I know I won’t win all the tournaments I’ll enter, but it’s important that I enjoy it and I try as hard as I can and put myself deep in the tournaments like I did last year really.  I had very few early losses last year, and I hope I can keep up that good streak I have going.

 

Q.  Perhaps the sport as a whole, not just as an individual, looking at the sport in general, what can tennis do to move on and to improve?

ROGER FEDERER:  There’s always things we can do to improve.  We try to do some subtle changes, I guess, then we do that are more extreme.  I think tennis is seen in a very good way right now from fans and media alike, which is great.  So it seems like it’s a great experience for the fans to come see the sport.

It’s not just a good live TV sport, but it’s also especially great coming to the grounds and seeing it live.  The athleticism, just the whole energy that builds around a big match, night sessions, day sessions, the activity around the sites, always seem as good thing to do.  That’s good.

Then obviously you always have to think ahead for all the slams, the whole ATP Tour, you want to make sure that the game is as good if not obviously better, that’s what you have to aim for anyways five or 10 years from now.

 

Q.  Now that you made the experience of playing in South America, can you explain the enthusiasm you felt there?  Wouldn’t it make sense to have a bigger tournament there that players like you could play every year there?

ROGER FEDERER:  Look, this was obviously very unique because there was a big focus and emphasis on me showing up because they’ve never maybe seen me play live over there.  So the excitement level was sky high, you know.

I was deeply impressed by the atmosphere, by the love for the game, for the appreciation they showed for me showing up.  They made it one of the most fascinating trips of my life to South America.

So, of course, I’d hope to go there more often in the future.  Obviously, this sport has gone extremely global in the last few years, or many years now, the ATP decided way back when.  It looks like it’s only going to happen more often.  The more global it goes, the more grueling it becomes.  Asia having the Masters 1000 there, having the Masters Cup back then, it spreads the world of the tour for us.

I think it will be ready.  At least I think it’s nice to see the top guys and top women going there for exhibition matches.  That’s also a way to showcase tennis and our talents down there.  It seemed they were very happy.

Who knows, maybe exhibition tours like this are going to happen more often in the future if there’s not going to be a tournament there.

Who knows, maybe they’ll get the World Tour Finals eventually.  It’s not easy to get a Masters 1000, it’s not easy to snatch up those sanctions.  Time will tell.  The next five years are obviously key for South America with the World Cup, the Olympics, and the good players South America has such as Del Potro and other players.  I think it’s a good time for South American tennis.

 

Q.  Would you recommend to stage a Masters 1000 in South America?

ROGER FEDERER:  It needs to make sense.  Don’t forget, if you add one, you almost have to take another one away.  Who deserves to have one taken away from them?

It needs to be thought through thoroughly or you just add one.  Then again, maybe other places also deserve one.  I don’t think it’s right now on the agenda.  I think South America are happy the way things are right now, they would like some minor improvements.  That’s all they care about.  They just got Bogota, as well, which I think is a good thing.  But we’ll discuss more about those kind of things in the future, I’m sure.  It’s going to be interesting.

 

Q.  When you look at the people that have a chance to win this tournament, anyone besides yourself, Andy and Novak that are contenders?

ROGER FEDERER:  Yes.  I think many of the top 10 guys have had a very good season.  Look at how great Ferrer’s season was, we know the talents of Tsonga, Berdych won Davis Cup.  Del Potro seems solid.  He seems back as a contender for a slam.  There’s always other guys just outside of the top 10 who I feel can always make a run for it.  Obviously with Rafa not in the draw, that might mean for some of the players they only have to beat one of us, of the top three, maybe none.  Who knows what the draw is going to do to us.

But I think so, that there could be some guys making deep runs at this tournament, yeah.

SamStosurTennisPanorama

Sam Stosur

Q.  After not playing so well, at a certain point, does it start to go the other way, say the hell with it, maybe that helps you play better?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Well, yeah.  I mean, I think for sure I can play better here.  That’s obviously what I’m trying to do this year.  The results so far obviously haven’t been favorable.  I’m hopeful I can turn it around.  Sometimes things in tennis can change very quickly.

I think it’s a matter of keeping at it, keep practicing, doing whatever you can to try to get that good result.

 

Q.  Do you think a lot of people don’t appreciate how well you played in losing your last match?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Look, I’m much happier with the loss in Sydney than what I was in Brisbane.  There were quite a few improvements which I was happy with and which made me able to sleep a bit better that night knowing that I was able to make improvements.

But unfortunately you see that loss on the scoreboard.  Yeah, you don’t watch the match, you just assume it was not so good, it’s another loss, she’s struggling.

But, yeah, I have to say I was happier with that.  I think that’s going to hopefully, yeah, give me something to keep pushing for for this week.

 

Q.  Is there any stress or element playing in Australia for you personally?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Look, I think all the slams are quite similar in their own way.  For sure things are different here.  I wouldn’t say it’s worse or better or anything, it’s just different.

I think this year I do feel better about things.  I don’t feel as probably uptight or stressed or anything like that than last year.  I think last year I didn’t handle it so well.  I do feel better about things at the moment.  I need to try to play a bit better than what I have been.

With all the practice and preparation I’ve been doing these last two weeks and before it, hopefully it’s all going to come together this week for me.

 

Q.  Have you seen the Sam Stosur versus Ovas video?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Yes.

 

Q.  What did you think?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Pretty funny.  Never seen anything like that before.  Thought it was pretty cool.

 

Q.  You’re not near any Ovas in the draw.  Does that disappoint you?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  No.  But to be honest, I haven’t seen the draw.  I have no idea who is near me.  At the end of the day, it is what it is.  I know there’s a lot of Ovas around.

 

 

Q.  Sam, Martina Navratilova came out and said she doesn’t feel that your kick serve and your weapons trouble the other girls on the tour as much.  Maybe the surprise factor has gone out of your game.  What do you think of those statements?  Do you agree with her?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  To be honest, I haven’t read anything that she said.  That’s all new to me.

Look, I think any players who have been around for a long time, other players start to work things out, then start to be able to do things against you that maybe they couldn’t the first few years you were around.

I still think my kick serve is a big weapon of mine.  Still wins me a lot of points.  Maybe you just need to keep working on the element of surprise.

I’m always trying to improve all parts of my game.  It’s not a shot that I’m going to stop using by any means.

 

Q.  How important is it playing in front of the home crowd?  Does it spur you on, make you perform better?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Well, I mean, I do love playing here.  It’s always a nice feeling walking out on court, having the crowd cheering for you between games, whatever it is.

Me and the other Australians I think are very lucky to have a Grand Slam in our home country that we can really soak it all up and all that.  It means you want to do extra well here because you are at home and you know you have all that support.

Yeah, I think it’s a really nice time of the year for all of us to be playing here.

 

Q.  You won a Grand Slam on hard courts a couple years ago.  How different do you think the conditions are here compared to that?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  I think these courts, I mean, they’re definitely different to the US Open.  The balls, all of it put together, is quite different.  Things seem to be a little bit slower, heavier here.

In New York I feel like I can get the bounce off the court, really use that and get the ball jumping out and all that pretty easily, whereas here I feel like I have to work for that a bit harder.  If it’s not hot and sunny, it’s even harder again because the balls can get pretty heavy.

It’s part of how we play on different surfaces all year round.  Another thing you have to try to work out, do other things to make it easier for you out there.

 

 

Q.  (Indiscernible)?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  Not really.  There’s a lot of focus, but it’s not all focus for me.  I try to block all that out.  Like I said before, do what I can do, try to go out there and play as well as what I can play.

Last year I lost first round.  Yeah, it really sucked for a few days watching the rest of the tournament.  I bounced back and still had a pretty good year.  I think that’s one thing I can remember:  If it doesn’t all go well here, it doesn’t mean that everything else is a disaster.

I don’t want that to happen.  I’m going to try my best to have a good result.

 

Q.  Last year’s result, is that a little bit of a help this year?

SAMANTHA STOSUR:  I wouldn’t say it’s a help (laughter).

Again, it is what it is.  I lost first round last year.  I certainly don’t want to go out first round this year. 

 

Sharapova10042012

Maria Sharapova

 

Q.  How do you feel?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Good.  I’m feeling really good.  Obviously, I would have loved to have gone into Brisbane and play that.  I wish I would have had maybe two, three extra days to be able to practice some more overhead stuff and serve and whatnot.

Yeah, but I came here a little bit earlier than obviously I would have wanted to.  I’ve been able to get a lot of good practice in, playing on center court, be in Melbourne for a little bit.

 

Q.  Can you describe what happened?  Did you wake up with the neck stiff in the morning?  Was that the first time it ever happened that it was bad enough to prevent you from practicing?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  It was something I was feeling a little bit.  Then I woke up I think it was the day before Christmas Eve, it was a Sunday.  I was like, Wow, this is not too good.  Christmas Eve I had to do like a few tests, machines, MRI.  It was just not good enough, certainly not for Korea, Dr. (indiscernible).  If I get anything in that type of area…  He just wanted to make sure that I really took care of that.

 

 

Q.  You’ve gone into Grand Slams a lot of different ways.  Going in this time, does it really matter that you haven’t had match play or does it not matter at all?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I would have loved to come in with a few matches.  But sometimes circumstances don’t allow that, and that’s okay.

To me, I’d rather be going onto the court knowing that I’m healthy.  Yes, I might be a little bit rusty, but I’ll work my way through it.  I’m experienced enough to know the adjustments I have to make in those types of circumstances.  I went to Brisbane.  I certainly would have loved to step on the court and play those matches.

 

Q.  You handled those junior boys okay, no problem?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Hmm.  One of them was really on top of me and then I got really mad.  I think he had eight set points and I ended up winning the set.  I’m not going to tell who it is.  Too embarrassed.  I don’t think he slept well after that one.

Then another one, I think it was Luke Saville, we didn’t actually finish.  The set took too long.

Yeah, it was just nice to be able to have different types of game styles as well.

 

Q.  Joining Twitter sometime this month?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I am.

 

Q.  When is that going to happen?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  It’s a surprise (smiling).

 

Q.  Do you have a user name picked out and everything?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Maybe (smiling).

 

Q.  Can you give us a hint?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I would tell you if I could.

 

Q.  You were pretty active on Facebook.  You’ve grown to like it a lot more now?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  That’s my New Year’s resolution, to be a little more active.  I was getting a little lazy in the last few years.  Certainly the last six months I wanted to step it up.  I’m actually really enjoy doing it.  I like to write.  When I’m taking pictures now, I’m actually thinking of taking pictures for my fans to be able to see what’s going on in my life a little bit.  I think it’s a really nice interaction.  I also like writing, making it fun and interesting, giving a different perspective than what people see of me on a daily basis in my sport.

 

Q.  Is Sugarpova putting it more out there as a saleswoman, a brand partially?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I mostly do it for my fans.  I think I have over nine million fans.  I don’t quite really believe that.  I think Max is probably just pressing the button all the time, all the different computers, all his different devices.

But it’s certainly a great way to reach out to the world.  I mean, when I look at the incredible fan base I have from all around the world, no matter.  I just went to Brazil, I haven’t been there in a few years, just to see the excitement, to see a different fan base.

When people write me letters, they mention their only kind of connection that’s more personal is through my social media.  That’s when I realize it’s so important to me.

 

Q.  Do you ever answer any of those letters?  Nine million people are a lot.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  The letters or the Facebook posts?

 

Q.  The communications.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I don’t write letters back.  Most of them end with, Can you please send me an autograph?  Yeah, my mother and I actually have a whole system where she goes through all the mail and I sign as many as I can back.

 

Q.  What was another New Year’s resolution?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Oh, I don’t know.  You know New Year’s resolutions never come true.  I just hope to keep one, so…

I’m not very good at those.  But this one I’m going to try really hard.

 

Q.  Tennis wise?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Are you asking me for my goals for this year?

 

Q.  Whatever you want to talk about.

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  Yeah, I mean, I certainly have a lot of goals.  The off season was a really good time for me to look back on the previous year, just settle down, have some time off.  I was also thinking about the things I want to work on, goals I want to accomplish.

But those are just step by steps.  I don’t like to talk about my open goals too much.

 

Q.  Because Serena has been playing so great and is considered by many as the favorite to win the tournament, does it take a little bit of the pressure off everyone else and put it pretty much on her shoulders?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think everyone reacts to it a little bit differently.  There’s a reason why everyone’s playing here and everyone’s in the draw.  You can’t worry about somebody else that’s not even close to you in a certain part of the draw.  You have to take it a step at a time.

That’s certainly my goal and my job here.

 

Q.  You’ve had a lot of tight matches with Venus over the years.  What are your thoughts on that matchup?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  First of all, we still have to get to that point and then we can discuss it further.

There’s no doubt that she’s a champion, an experienced one at that.  No matter where she’s ranked, what level she’s at, she’s a tough opponent.

 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

Q.  Has anything changed since last year?

ANDY MURRAY:  Anything changed?

 

Q.  Yes.

ANDY MURRAY:  In what respect?

 

Q.  In the global tennis way.

ANDY MURRAY:  Yeah, I mean, obviously last year was by far my best year on the court.  You know, I had my first Wimbledon final, the Olympics was obviously a great experience, then my first Grand Slam after that.

So, I mean, obviously it was aided as well by Rafa not playing.  But I finished with my highest ranking that I ever finished before.  So there were a lot of firsts for me last year, and that’s pretty important.

I was always saying, once you get to sort of your mid 20s, and I’d been around the same ranking for a few years, it’s important to try and find things to improve on and do things that, you know, you’ve never done or things you haven’t achieved before.

So that was obviously great to have been able to have done those things.  And I’ll try and build on that this year.

 

Q.  Does it feel like there’s a monkey off your back as a Grand Slam winner?

ANDY MURRAY:  I think for most tournaments, yeah, it feels that way.  Not just Grand Slams.  You know, I kind of maybe always felt like I was having to prove something every time I went on the court, you know, ’cause I hadn’t won a slam.  You know, even when you win a Masters Series, people still asked me always about the slams.

So it’s nice just to kind of not have to worry about that anymore.  I think it will help me throughout the rest of the year, as well, on the tour ’cause I just won’t be worrying and thinking about the slams all the time, I can focus on all of the events that I’m entered in.

 

Q.  You’ve been quoted several times as saying you never felt quite so relaxed coming into a Grand Slam.  Could that relaxation almost have a negative effect?  Do you need to be more revved up?

ANDY MURRAY:  I’m very revved up.  That’s not the issue.  I didn’t at any stage say that I was ‘very relaxed.’  I feel more relaxed than I have done the week before a slam.  In the past I think that’s going to kind of be natural.  I felt that way after the US Open and most of the tournaments I played between then and the end of the year.

But, yeah, I mean, I didn’t work hard in Miami, you know, in the off season to come in and just not be focused or too relaxed or anything like that.  I mean, I didn’t train over there for four weeks to come here and put in a really bad performance.

So, you know, I plan on playing well here.

 

Q.  One statistic that people have mentioned is that the first time Grand Slam winners, in the open era, no first time Grand Slam winner has gone on to win their next Grand Slam.  Is that something you’re aware of?  Have you thought about it?  Have you thought how you might deal with that?

ANDY MURRAY:  I wasn’t aware of it.  But, like I’ve been saying the last couple of weeks, I have no idea how I’m going to play here.  I have no idea how I’m going to feel when I go on the court.

I said I feel more relaxed.  But I don’t know the day when I play my first match, I could be unbelievably nervous.  I don’t know what effect it will have on me until I’m put in that situation.

But I also know, you know, how hard these events are a to win.  If I don’t win the Australian Open, I don’t think it will be down to having won the US Open.  It’s down to the level of competition and how tough it is to win these events rather than what happened, you know, four or five months ago.

 

Q.  Is there a little sense of unfinished business here, frustration maybe of last year’s semifinal against Novak, and the two previous finals as well?

ANDY MURRAY:  Obviously I want to try to take the extra step but in all of the Grand Slams, if I can.  I mean, I learnt a lot from last year’s semifinal.  It was a very important match for me in the context of my year.  It was very important.  You know, I’m not frustrated that I got over that loss a lot quicker than I had some of my previous slam losses.

I felt like I played well.  There was something I could really take away from it.  And, yeah, that’s why I was disappointed obviously, but it wasn’t frustration.

 

Q.  You said you learnt a lot.  What else did you learn from that semifinal?

ANDY MURRAY:  I mean, I could go through a huge list of things I learnt.

 

Q.  How about four.

ANDY MURRAY:  It was my first tournament obviously with Ivan.  We chatted a lot before the match with Novak.  When I sat down with him a month beforehand, a month and a half beforehand, you know, we discussed those sort of matches, how I was going to play and perform against guys like Novak, Roger and Rafa, tactics, how I was going to go about the match.  I learnt to win those matches, I have to go out and do what I did that day.

I mean, you guys saw the match.  I don’t need to go into huge detail about it.  The way I went about the whole match was the right way.  Even though I lost it, also the same thing happened at Wimbledon.  I went about the match the right way.  I was just a few points away from being a set and a break up.  I felt that was the main thing that I learnt from it.

I was playing the right way in those matches.  I was taking my chances.  I wasn’t waiting for the guys to miss.  I think that’s why those two matches in particular I got over a lot quicker than the previous slam final losses or slam semi losses.

 

Q.  Do you sense the rivalry with Novak is going to build over the next 12 months?

ANDY MURRAY:  I have no idea.  I mean, I know, like I said, how hard it is to compete at this level and how tough it is to play well in the slams and give yourself a chance to play against those players.

Not worth making any predictions about rivalries or whatever.  But, you know, when I do play against him, it’s a match I enjoy.  They’re incredibly tough, physical matches.  We played quite a few good ones last year in some of the biggest events.  If I get to play Novak here, that would mean it would be in the final.  So obviously that’s what I would like to do.

But I know how hard it is to get to the latter stages of these events.

 

Q.  I remember a few years ago now you and he played doubles together.

ANDY MURRAY:  Had massive hair.

 

Q.  You came into the interview room.  He was quite taken aback by the interest because the Serbian press didn’t travel as much as us.  You were both sort of matey together.  What is the mood like now that you’ve played the big ones together?

ANDY MURRAY:  I mean, we get on well.  Never in any matches have I had any problems with him, in practice.  We’ve never had any issues with each other in the whole time we’ve been on the tour.

I know you see it in boxing.  You find it amazing that after watching guys, you know, punch each other for 12 rounds, they hug each other at the end, they have more respect for each other after that.

I think after the matches we’ve played over the last year or so, you know, they have been incredibly physical, they’ve been tough.  It has been pretty painful at times, some of the matches.  But I think our respect for one another has probably grown over the last 18 months or so.  But we never had any problems with each other.

 

Q.  Can you not be as sociable with each other as you used to be?

ANDY MURRAY:  No.  I mean, I chat with him all the time and with his team when we see each other.  I don’t really speak to him about tennis really ever, which I think is kind of normal.  I wouldn’t ask him like how he feels he’s hitting his forehand or anything like that (smiling).  I discuss other things with him.

That’s the one thing, we probably wouldn’t talk about tennis much.

 

Portions of transcripts from ASAPSports

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Mike Powell’s ‘A Game to Love In Celebration of Tennis’ on Approach Shots

 

Award-winning sports photographer Mike Powell makes his publishing debut with the work A Game to Love In Celebration of Tennis (Abrams April 2011). The book contains 500 images which capture a year in tennis at the majors. Along with the images are the words of many tennis greats including John McEnroe, Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf, Boris Becker, and Rod Laver. Mike Powell’s work has appeared in magazines such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN. Tennis Panorama News caught up with the always-on-the-go 25 year sports photography veteran Mike Powell who answered a few questions about the book and the world of sports photography.

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: What led you into photography?

Mike Powell: I was introduced to photography by my brother, Steve, who started out as a photojournalist and moved into sports. I started working weekends and school holidays at his agency, Allsport photographic, in South London. I don’t think child labor had been banned by then.

My bedroom, when I was 13 years old, was covered in sports photos, not because I was a great sports fan but I just loved great sports photography and luckily Allsport in those days was the best. I was looking around for what to do and knew that I wanted to be out “in the field” so to speak and have a high level of autonomy. The rush of coming back from an event and looking at the work you did on the light table was significant and hard to beat. So At 16 I ditched the idea of further education and started in the darkroom at Allsport and shooting whenever I could.

TPN: You’ve been a sports photographer for 25 years, why a book now? What inspired you to do this?

MP: I’ve been involved in numerous books throughout my career but always as part of a team of photographers. This is my first solo effort.

Lewis Blackwell, the books editor, approached me to do this project. He had done a couple of successful photo books with P.Q. Blackwell a company that creates beautiful photo books and gets publishers for them, they were interested in creating a sports photo book. After much chat I was commissioned two books, A Game to Love and The Greatest Race, a book on the Tour de France that will come out later in 2011.

TPN: How long did the book take to complete?

MP: It was the focus of the year that turned out to be very busy. What with shooting the Winter Olympics and the Tour de France and numerous jobs in between.

I shot all four Grand Slams in 2010. Plus the research, editing, post, match prints, design and printing. It filled much of 2010.
TPN: From reading the book you have a very special bond with tennis, could you talk about it?

MP: I would say that my special bond is with athletes across all sports. I love turning my attention to different sports and digging deep into that sport. My bond with tennis came from growing up and being part of a photo agency that was very close to Wimbledon and saw the work of photographers I respected during a generation of players like Connors, McEnroe, Borg, Becker. I had a brief glimpse of centre court on finals day from the standing section and continued to shoot tennis mainly in the US amongst all the other sports I shot. Going back to Wimbledon and being on Centre court for finals was indeed a highlight in my career. It’s a very special place.

TPN: Out of the four major tournaments, what is your favorite one to shoot and the most challenging one to shoot and why?

MP: As I said earlier, Centre court at Wimbledon is a highlight of the four Slams. However there are pros and cons to every tournament. The red clay at the French, clean advertising free backgrounds at Wimbledon, the light in Melbourne and the night games in front of massive crowds at Flushing are all favorites parts of the tournaments. But if I had the choice to do one event every year it would probably be Wimbledon, although I was spoilt last year with two weeks of non-stop sunshine so that might have influenced my opinion!

TPN: In terms of players, which are your favorites to shoot?

MP: Definitely Nadal and Monfils for the athleticism of them both, the power of Rafa but also the unexpected when Monfils is playing.

TPN: What are the unique challenges of shooting tennis compared to other sports?

MP: Tennis happens in a very confined environment. A tennis court is pretty small. However, all the positives that photographers get excited about from events that happen on a larger or grander scale happen within the tennis stadium. Great and ever changing light, fast action, emotions, turning points and intimacy, more so than almost any other sport. As a photographer on courtside you have to be very aware that you are incredible close to the athletes at time and that there are moments of quiet during the game when the players don’t want to hear from you. Other than that it is similar in many ways to other sports. Timing and an understanding of the sport are crucial.

TPN: Do have a personal favorite photo or photos that you would tell others “this epitomizes my work.”

MP: Yes on both counts and they are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The work that epitomizes my work would probably be the peak action moments, Rafa on the cover or celebrating his victory at Wimbledon pumping both fists and up on his toes. The series on Serena at Wimbledon hitting hard and finally fist pumping and screaming.

My personal favorites are the images that surprised me, quieter more reflects moments or graphic shapes. Rafa from the semi finals at Wimbledon with his arms out and amazing light  (pg 2-3). The hats from above at Roland Garros. The direction post at the Aussie open. Rafa’s taped fingers on the trophies. Small moments from with the height of battle or flavors of the Slam that only looked great on the twentieth time past, when the light was perfect.

TPN: What advice would you give to aspiring sports photographers?

MP: Shoot, shoot and shoot some more.

Develop your own eye. I see a lot of very repetitive images in sports. Try and look at what you are shooting in new ways. This is very hard but just slight changes can keep things fresh. Force yourself to put down long lenses and try to make a picture on a short lens. That way you force yourself to see and interpret the usual in a way you haven’t before.
TPN: What have been some of the major changes in sports photography since you began you career?

MP: This is where I start sounding like an old timer.

Technology in photography has made the bar a lot lower. There are a lot more sports photographers capable of shooting good hard action pictures that not so long ago would have been very difficult and even award winners. When I was shooting action on long manual focus lenses and making sure my exposure was perfect on low iso slide film it was technically very challenging.

What this has done though is open up what’s possible with the equipment. Just because you can outshoot a guy from 10 years ago blindfolded doesn’t mean you can be lazy now. Now, standing out means having your own opinion and making it show through your work, more so now than ever your own eye is even more important.
TPN: What do you think is the future of sports photography?

MP: Like the current trend in photography and across almost every creative realm, technology will have an enormous influence. Cameras now are improving at far more rapid rate than during the film era, this will allow photographers almost continual shooting or just skipping the individual frames and shoot high speed motion with the quality of a still. This is not far away, maybe even here, just not applied yet.

I also see the role and creative offerings of TV and photographers, specifically at events, become closer and closer.

This then brings in another change, more lawyers, access to sport and athletes is already highly controlled. TV pays for the rights of access and broadcast. The stills world has taken on some of these ideas from TV but in the interest of still being considered a news source rather than an event packager has not completely taken on the TV model. I see this being an area of continuing debate with pressure being applied more and more for sports/teams/athletes etc having exclusive deals with specific agencies and photographers.

I hope with the continued corporatization of sport and all the peripheries there will still be a place for guys like me to shoot a book like this.

 

A Game to Love is not just a book of tennis photographs, it’s a piece of art. Its 500 images are a “Tennis Louvre” in a book in terms of  photography. A must buy not only for tennis fans but for lovers of superb photography that celebrate and elevate sport.

A Game To Love In Celebration of Tennis is published by Abrams.

To view the galleries for A Game To Loveclick here.

A Game to Love is available where books are sold including Amazon.com.

 

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Jamaica’s Dustin Brown Continuing a Career season

Dustin Brown

Born to a Jamaican Father and  German mother in Celle Germany, the current world ranked No. 113 reached a career high 98 in singles in late July. He’s racked up some solid wins this season over very highly ranked players including Sam Querrey and Marco Chiudinelli.

Dustin Brown first played tennis at the age of five while living in Germany and moved to Jamaica at the age of 12. He grew up admiring  Marat Safin. The hard-hitting serve and volleying Jamaican is in New Haven playing the Pilot Pen tournament this week.

As of Sunday Brown reached the main draw by winning three qualifying matches in less than 24 hours. He’ll be playing Czech Jan Hajek in his first round match on Monday.

Global Village Tennis News briefly spoke to Brown to discuss his “career” year and what it took to move up the ATP World Tour rankings and about what are his current goals.

MP3 file

Download | Duration: 00:01:49

On Itunes:

http://itunes.apple.com/lv/podcast/global-village-tennis-news/id348199009#

To learn more about Dustin Brown please visit ATPWorldTour.com.

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Doubles Talk: The Education of Liezel Huber By Megan Fernandez

©Enrique Fernandez for Global Village Tennis News


Doubles Talk: The Education of Liezel Huber

By Megan Fernandez


This week, Liezel Huber is in Cincinnati hunting for her fifth doubles title of 2010, a stretch during which she led the U.S. to the Fed Cup final and usually stayed ahead of Venus and Serena Williams in the world doubles rankings–all while playing with seven different partners and, by her own admission, not playing her best. After winning her quarterfinal match Friday night after 10 pm with partner Nadia Petrova, the world’s number-one doubles player discussed her “unimaginable” year with Global Village Tennis News before calling it a night.

GVTN: How have you handled playing with so many different partners this year?

LH: I still find myself in awe. If you had told me at the end of last year that this would be my 2010, I would have said you were joking. There is so much that has happened in my life this year, and not just switching doubles partners. But I believe that the tough times make you stronger. Maybe I haven’t played my best tennis this year or won as many titles as I have in the past, but I’m really proud of myself for making the best of a bad situation.

Why did you split with Cara Black, your longtime partner?

I need to work on my game. You get really spoiled when you play with one partner. It’s easy to blame that person. Cara and I had a great partnership for three years, and won so many titles. Who would have thought, two girls from Africa? We formed a great friendship. But all good things come to an end, and it just wasn’t meant to be anymore. I’m not looking for one partner.

What do you want to improve?

Really, I would like to mold my game all around, not just be more in the baseline or at the net. Cara is a good net player, and her game complemented me because I could stay back. Now, we’re working on being more aggressive doubles players, being more versatile, going up the line when I want to, having more variety on my volleys.

But you’re number one already!

It’s not about being number one. It’s about being a better player. I’m not defined by being number one. I’m a tennis player who happened to achieve that ranking. It’s not what I associate myself with. I just want to be a better player, like everybody here. Playing with different people every week, I can focus on what I need to do myself. It’s really a challenge playing with someone with whom I might not have a relationship– or maybe we don’t speak the same language, or she plays the baseline and I’ve got to be the net player. But hey, I think you get better when a challenge is handed for you.

You must be in demand. Do you get a lot of requests to play?

I’ve been very fortunate that people come to me and want to play with me. I’m pretty friendly with everyone on the tour, and I’m on the Player’s Council, so that makes me very approachable. I really feel like we have a big family here. There isn’t a person who can’t ask me for doubles. I have had players outside of the top 100 ask me to play, and there are some young ones that don’t even have a ranking that I have promised to play with. I’ve just been very fortunate that I’ve never had to skip a tournament because I didn’t have a partner.

You’ve played a few times with Nadia Petrova.

Yeah, I really enjoy playing with her. We’re going to play here, Montreal, and the US Open.

Can you convince Lindsay Davenport to play more doubles?

I’m telling her she should play at least one more tournament this year because then she’ll have a ranking. But there aren’t many tournaments left in the States.

Venus and Serena are taking doubles very seriously. How does this affect you?

It’s great for the game, and it’s great for me because there’s a focus. Now people say, “Wow, you took the ranking away from the Williams Sisters—that’s pretty awesome.” They are great ambassadors for the game and are also on the Players Council, so I have a relationship with them beyond competing. I hope that they stay healthy and we can play. We’ve had some tough matches, like at the French Open.

What are you expectations for Fed Cup?

I love the team. When the Bryan Brothers would say they lived for Davis Cup, I would think, “How can you say that? It’s only one or two weeks a year.” But now I understand that passion. I am so proud of what we have built. We’ve had a B team all along, and we’ve made it this far, and last year we made it to the finals, too. It’s what I’m living for this year. It’s going to be my highlight of the year, if we can bring that trophy home.

Will you be playing?

I’m one of the doubles players. I still believe in my ability, and that they are the singles players on the team. I believe Mary Joe has confidence in me to put me in the doubles. I truly expect to play.

With one of the Williams sisters?

Yes.

Do you have a preference?

Oh, no.

Megan Fernandez is covering  both the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters and Women’s Open for Global Village Tennis News. She’ll also be posting updates, commentary and photos on our twitter account – @GVTennisNews .

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Meet The Wimbledon Poet – Matt Harvey

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Meet The Wimbledon Poet – Matt Harvey
By Karen Pestaina

For the first time in its storied history, Wimbledon has hired an official poet to capture “the flavour and fervour of the world’s leading tennis tournament.”

A lifelong tennis fan, Matt Harvey is known by British audiences for his Radio 4 Saturday Live broadcasts. As “The Championships Poet” for 2010 he’ll be writing a poem-a-day on all things Wimbledon. Along with the daily poems he’ll have a daily audio podcast, a blog and will interact with fans via twitter (@WimbledonPoet ).

WimbledonPoet I caught up with the very busy Mr. Harvey to ask a few questions in regard to his new appointment:

Karen Pestaina: How did you get your start in writing poetry?

Matt Harvey: I’ve written poetry since I was a teenager, secretly to begin with. I began to perform in public in my twenties, self-publishing chapbooks which I sold at gigs. I went full-time as a ‘writer-performer’ in my late thirties. In my early forties I had my first ‘proper’ book (The Hole in the Sum of my Parts) published. Definitely a late developer.

KP: Which poets influenced you growing up and who are your favorites now?

MH: Growing up I loved Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Mervyn Peake – a little older the ‘Liverpool Poets’, Roger McGough, Brian Patten, Adrian Henri.  Then it was into anthologies and reading e e cummings, Edna St Vincent Millay, Betjeman, Stevie Smith, Auden and Borges.

These days I love John Hegley, all the above, Roethke, only recently discovered Shel Silverstein, can you believe it?

KP: What was the process that led you to becoming the poet of “the Championships.”

MH: The All England Lawn Tennis Club had previously had Championship Artists –all painters of one kind or another – but this year they decided to try something different and invite a poet. To this end they consulted The Poetry Trust, active in the promotion of poetry in the UK, who recommended me. A seed was sown, then a few days later someone at Wimbledon heard me on BBC radio. A month or so after that I was invited to Wimbledon to talk about the form a poetry residency might take. And here I am.

KP: How difficult do you think it will be to write a poem a day? How will you approach it? Will you walk the grounds, stay in the media areas?

MH: How difficult? Somewhere between ‘quite’ and ‘very’, though some days I’m sure it’ll be ‘extremely’. People have asked if I ever suffer ‘writer’s block’ and the answer is no, but I frequently experience ‘good writer’s block’.

I’ll definitely walk the grounds rather than stay in the media areas. By the way, I should say, before anyone gets too jealous (mild jealousy is, however, appropriate) that I don’t have access to the show courts – Centre Court and Courts 1 and 2 – but otherwise can roam freely. A free range poet. I shall be writing about the place and the people as much if not more than the tennis. Poems about ball boys and girls, umpires, grass, strawberries, oohs and aahs, the queues, the roof, what proximity to people at the peak of physical fitness and beauty does to middle aged English people, well, men.

KP: Do you think other major championships (Australian Open, Roland Garros and the US Open) should employ a poet?

MH: I wouldn’t presume to know what such august institutions should do – but I’m all for the employment of poets in public places. From a poet’s perspective it’s an excellent idea.

KP: How do you think tennis fans will react to your poems?

MH: I have no idea. Well, I expect many to be indifferent, some maybe intrigued, irritated, amused, bored. Perhaps some, frustrated by my rank inability to evoke the essence of their beautiful game, may be inspired to write their own poetry. I’ve been taken aback by the interest generated by my appointment – when visual artists were invited there was a lot less fuss. Still, I’m not complaining – it’s nice to be sought after by the world media once in a while.

KP: Do you have any advice for future tennis poets?

Having barely begun my first ever tennis residency I’d hesitate to offer advice. In fact if there are any tennis poets out there with advice to offer me it’d be gratefully received. But I’m not sure there is such a thing as a ‘tennis poet’. There are just poets, and sometimes one of us gets lucky and is paid to write about tennis and associated phenomena. I’m thrilled just to be going there, getting to watch the world’s best players in such a splendid setting.

About Matt Harvey

Matt Harvey is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live program and for two years wrote the Desktop Poetry slot in the Guardian. He is the creator of Empath Man on Radio 4, the contemporary superhero who fights crime through his advanced listening skills.

His latest book of poems The Hole in the Sum of my Parts – published by and available from The Poetry Trust – is in its 4th imprint. His next book Where Earwigs Dare will be published by Green Books in October 2010. He will present a new series, The Wondermentalist Cabaret, on BBC Radio 4 in early 2011.

Matt Harvey’s web site is www.mattharvey.co.uk.
Follow him on twitter at www.twitter.com/WimbledonPoet
Follow the Championships at www.Wimbledon.org
Read more about The Poetry Trust – www.thepoetrytrust.org

Grandest of Slams
By Matt Harvey

Excuse me. I’m sorry. I speak as an Englishman
For the game of lawn tennis there’s no better symbol than
Wimbledon

The place where the game’s flame was sparked and then kindled in
Where so many spines have sat straight and then tingled in
Wimbledon

Where strawberries and cream have traditionally been sampled in
Kids’ eyes have lit up and their cheeks have been dimpled in
Wimbledon

Where tough tennis cookies have cracked and then crumbled in
Top seeds have stumbled, have tumbled, been humbled in
Wimbledon

Where home-grown heroes’ hopes have swelled up and then dwindled in
Wimbledon

The Grand Slams’ best of breed, it’s the whizz it’s the biz
The temple where physics expresses its fizz
There’s one word for tennis and that one word is
Wimbledon

© Matt Harvey, The Championships Poet 2010

Related article:

Wimbledon appoints Championships Poet


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“The Court Jester” – Mansour Bahrami

Mansour Bahrami – The Court Jester

Ana Ivanovic is not the only tennis pro who learned to play the game in an empty swimming pool. Meet Mansour Bahrami who is probably one of the most talented tennis “legends” you may not know. He first learned tennis in Iran in an swimming pool using a broom handle as a racquet.  In his book The Court Jester – My story by Mansour Bahrami (2009, AuthorHouse, English translation by Nigel Forrest) Bahrami examines his life from childhood to the present day as a favorite on the Legends circuit.

Bahrami, born in 1956, played on the ATP tour from the mid-seventies through the nineties attaining career high rankings of 192 in singles and 31 in doubles. Bahrami, along with his doubles partner Eric Winogradsky reached the doubles final of Roland Garros in 1989.

I first had the pleasure of seeing him play during the US Open many years ago during the Legends doubles events before it changed to its current World Team Tennis format. He both impresses and delights audiences with his athletic ability, trick shots, showmanship and genuine love for the game. I recently spoke with him on the phone from his Paris home about the book.

The inspiration to write The Court Jester came from former pro and former coach of Roger Federer – Peter Lundgren. During the course of a three-hour car ride with Lundgren, Bahrami told his life story. Lundgren urged him to put down on paper saying – “it’s not a life, it’s an adventure story.”

Bahrami who was born in Iran, was on the cusp of entering the ATP circuit top tier level in the 1970’s when political turmoil exploded in his country. The Shah was deposed and with the Ayatollah Khomeini ruling Iran, tennis was banned throughout the country. Despite many barriers he was still able to achieve his dream of becoming a professional tennis player competing with the likes of “Borg. McEnroe, Connors and the rest..”

“Came the revolution and then we couldn’t play (tennis) anymore.” So Bahrami left Iran for France for the opportunity to play professional tennis again. “When I came to France for three and a half months not being able to play because with an Iranian passport I could not go anywhere. I started on the ATP Tour after 30 years old.”

His family still remains in Iran. He calls the state of tennis in Iran “terrible”  and feels the government is not doing much for sport in general, especially tennis. “Tennis is at the bottom of all the sports. The president of the federation was telling me that they have budget of 40 thousand dollars year.”

So who are Bahrami’s favorite players to watch in today’s game? “Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and (Jo-Wilfred) Tsonga.”

The book is an autobiography, historical novel, and adventure story all rolled into one. Along with engaging stories about how he overcame all of his challenges in life, the chapters focusing on being on the tour with Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Guillermo Vilas are priceless and not to be missed.

The Court Jester is available at AuthorHouse.com and Amazon.com. He also has a fan page on FaceBook.

Bahrami continues to play a very full schedule, which includes Legends events at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and many other smaller events around the globe. He intends to keep playing tennis as long as he is able to perform. If you have a chance to see him play or rather, “perform,” do not pass up on the opportunity – he is a magical showman on court whom everyone will enjoy, tennis fan or not.

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