2014/09/02

Andy Murray Moves into Round of 16 of the Sony Open

Andy Murray smiling

(March 23, 2014) Defending champion Andy Murray moved into the round of 16 at the Sony Open on Sunday.

The No. 6 ranked Murray maintained his perfect record against Feliciano Lopez at 9-0 dismissing the Spaniard 6-4, 6-1. Murray who is looking to defend his title from last year and claim his third crown at the Sony Open.

Murray, who just announced a mutual split with his coach Ivan Lendl last week, had his former coach in his box in the stands on Sunday. Murray worked with Lendl for two years and the partnership lead to the Scot winning an Olympic Gold medal in 2012, along with US Open in the same year and Wimbledon in 2013.

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl Agree to Part Ways

“We’re back together again. It was only a four- or five-day split,” Murray joked after the match. “No, it’s a shame he won’t be watching many more of my matches from the stands.”

Murray’s mother Judy and admirer of Lopez’s form has been calling him “Deliciano” for the past few years. Murray led off the match by breaking the Spaniard’s serve and really never had to look back.

“It’s not always that easy to feel comfortable against him because there is not loads of rhythm with the way he plays,” Nurray said of his opponent’s game.

“But I moved well; returned well.  Yeah, it was obviously a more comfortable scoreline than the other day.”

Murray will face Jo-Wilfried Tsonga next after the Frenchman came back for a 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-5 victory over Marcos Baghdatis. He was when two points away from defeat at 5-1 down in the second set tiebreak.

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Andy Murray on Ivan Lendl: “He made a huge difference to my tennis”

Andy Murray smiling

(March 20, 2014) World No. 6 Andy Murray made big news in the world of tennis on Wednesday when he announced on his website that he and Ivan Lendl had split amicably after a two-year coaching relationship which lead to two majors and an Olympic gold medal.

The Miami defending champion Murray was faced with questions about the split during his pre-tournament Sony Open news conference.

“We sat down Saturday evening.  We went and had dinner.  We chatted for an hour about other stuff, and then we chatted about us moving forward.

“That had been planned for a few weeks.  That wasn’t something that happened after Indian Wells.  We planned to sit down when I got to Miami to discuss, you know, sort of moving forward.

“Yeah, it wasn’t going to happen.  Yeah, the best thing to do was just to move on.  You know, it’s a tough one for me because he’s been a big part of my life.  He’s been a big part of my team.  He made a huge difference to my tennis.”

“It was the mental side in dealing with those pressure situations that he was there to help with.”

“That was the biggest influence he had on my game.”

So is the search on for a new coach for the Scot?

“Can’t replace someone like him,” Murray said of Lendl.  “It’s very hard to replace someone like him.  But I would hope that I’ve learnt enough from him and a way to approach those matches and how to deal with those situations better.  Because I have won those matches, so I know how to deal with it better now.

“But, yeah, obviously I would still like to have someone like that in my corner in those situations, because he’s going to help.”

Murray ended his season last year with back surgery and says he’s recovered.  He’s 14-5 record on the year.

Murray will open his title defense against Matthew Ebden.

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Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl Agree to Part Ways

Andy Murray Courtesy of adidas

(March 19, 2014) According to AndyMurray.com, Andy Murray and coach Ivan Lendl have decided to call it quits after two years.

Here is the statement from his website:

Andy Murray and Ivan Lendl announce that they have mutually agreed to end their two year coaching relationship.

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The partnership between Murray and Lendl brought an Olympic Gold Medal, US Open title and Wimbledon Championship.

“Working with Andy over the last two years has been a fantastic experience for me”, said Lendl. “He is a first class guy. Having helped him achieve his goal of winning major titles, I feel like it is time for me to concentrate on some of my own projects moving forward including playing more events around the world which I am really enjoying. I will always be in Andy’s corner and wish him nothing but great success as he too goes into a new phase of his career.”

Murray, who is returning from back surgery and preparing to defend his title in Miami, said “I’m eternally grateful to Ivan for all his hard work over the past two years, the most successful of my career so far. As a team, we’ve learned a lot and it will definitely be of benefit in the future. I’ll take some time with the team to consider the next steps and how we progress from here”.

Andy will lead Great Britain in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup next month against Italy.

Lendl has recently played exhibitions in Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Nashville, Charlotte and London. He has also been giving clinics in the Canary Islands as well as opening new courts in Bluffton, SC at the Ivan Lendl Junior Tennis Academy.

Under the tutelage of Lendl, Murray captured the Olympic gold in London in 2012 and the U.S. Open title in 2012. Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years in 2013.

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Hall of Fame rings presented to Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Ivan Lendl at World Tennis Day Showdon in London

 

NEWPORT, R.I., March 3, 2014- Tennis fans around the globe celebrated World Tennis Day at a huge array of special events on March 3, and a highlight of it all was the World Tennis Day Showdown in London, featuring Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, and Pat Cash. Between matches, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum hosted a special ceremony to present official Hall of Fame rings to Agassi, Sampras, and Lendl. All three former world No. 1′s have been enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of their tremendous tennis achievements and the Hall of Fame rings are a symbol of this success.

 

 

The rings were presented by Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher Clouser, ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, and Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Hall of Fame’s Enshrinee Nominating Committee.

 

“Andre, Pete, and Ivan have accomplished all that one can dream of in tennis – they are former world No. 1′s, Grand Slam champions, Davis Cup champions, and Hall of Famers,” commented Clouser. “These one-of-a-kind rings are a symbol of all that they have accomplished and their legacy in the sport.”

 

In addition to the rings, the ceremony paid tribute to the Hall of Fame Class of 2014, which was announced earlier in the day. John Barrett, British tennis journalist and historian, and Chantal Vandierendonck, a wheelchair tennis champion and 5-time Paralympic medalist, both of whom were named to the Class of 2014, participated in the ceremony.

 

The personalized rings were introduced in 2011 and are being presented to Hall of Famers at tennis events around the world over the next few years as a special symbol of their Hall of Fame enshrinement. The rings bear a green stone set in gold, to complement the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s brand colors. In addition, the rings are etched with each honoree’s name and the Hall of Fame logo crest. Ivan Lendl, an 8-time Grand Slam tournament champion, was honored with Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2001. Great American tennis rivals Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were enshrined in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

Francesco Ricci Bitti, John Barrett, Andre Agassi, Chris Clouser, Ivan Lendl, Chantal Vandierendonck, Pete Sampras, Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer

 

Photos by Dave Shopland

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Agassi, Sampras, Lendl and Cash Participate in World Tennis Day with London Showdown

 

World Tennis Day – London

By Chris Power

Twitter @scoobschris

(March 3, 2014) LONDON – Monday March 3rd brought us the Second Annual World Tennis Day, with marquee events in Hong Kong, London and New York.  Designed to showcase and promote the sport of tennis from the grassroots to the very top of the professional game, this year, off the back of a successful inaugural event, The World Tennis Day got bigger still.

 

Whether by accident or design, this year’s the star-filled showdowns evoked the theme different eras.  The Hong Kong gathering suggested the future, based as it is in a region where tennis is growing rapidly in popularity.  Li Na from China headlined, a current Grand Slam champion who is leading the explosion in interest, but it seems inevitable that she will merely be the first in a line of legends from the region of Asia.  She was joined by other stars of the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, as well as Tomas Berdych.

 

Meanwhile, the showdown in New York City showcased tennis in the present, with Novak Djokovic and Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray squaring off in Madison Square Garden, as well as the current doubles world number one team, the Bryan brothers, who faced off against the McEnroe brothers in a sibling setpiece.

 

London therefore reminded us of tennis’s past, with rivalries of the 80s and 90s brought back to life in the present day by four unique and iconic players – Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.   Cash and Lendl competed on numerous occasions throughout the 1980s, but perhaps most memorable was the 1987 Wimbledon final, won by Cash in 3 straight sets.  However their overall H2H in their playing days was 5-3 in favour of Lendl, indicating the Czech usually found a way to neutralize the attacking style of Cash, at least away from the grass.

 

Perhaps more compelling still was the matchup between two Americans with diametrically opposing game styles and personalities, in the shape of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.  These hall of famers *were* 90s tennis, though their mutual respect never risked developing into friendship, and their post-retirement relationship has been famously prickly, culminating in uncomfortable scenes at a charity tennis exhibition at Indian Wells a few years back.  They competed in 34 pro matches against each other, with Sampras edging it 20-14, but dominating 4-1 in their Grand Slam finals.  They tended to divide the fan base – the charismatic, extroverted yet more erratic Agassi tended to win over the crowds, but the disciplined, quiet winning machine that was Pete Sampras won over the purists with his classic serve-volley style, poker-faced demeanor and insatiable appetite for success.

 

In their pre-event news conference, the players were relaxed and joking, offering thoughts on playing pro tennis then vs now.

 

Sampras, on playing Agassi: “If I wasn’t on my game, if I wasn’t serving well, I felt like it was going to be a long day for me.”

 

Agassi: “He was the only guy I ever played where I felt like if I actually played my best tennis I actually still could lose.”

 

Pat Cash lamented the general slowing down of playing conditions in this era, feeling that hitting good groundstrokes and particularly good volleys, is just not rewarded anymore.  Lendl felt that the strings as much as court speed were responsible for this change – the amount of spin a player is able to impart on a pass or return makes volleying such a dangerous proposition.  Asked if he had any interest in joining the band of ‘celebrity coaches’, Agassi expounded on his current life being a barrier to the level of commitment required, but didn’t rule it out in the future – though his target would be a player not reaching full potential rather than a top player who already has all the tools he needs.

 

Ivan Lendl struggled to answer the question which player he most enjoyed beating, but eventually settled on Brad Gilbert, to the amusement of the other players on the panel.

 

With a few photo opportunities to round off the press conference, things wrapped up, setting the stage for a fascinating and entertaining evening.

 

Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl got proceedings underway with a super set match – first to 8 games.  Both players showed off the sort of tennis that took them to the top of the game in their heyday.  Cash fired down the big serves and followed up with some deft touches at the net, while Ivan Lendl demonstrated his back-court skills – finding sliced passing shots, delicate lobs, and some chipped backhands to make Cash’s life at the net very difficult.

 

The match was played in good humour, with plenty of banter between the two players and the near capacity crowd to keep it light.  It was a nip-tuck affair until 6 games all, when Lendl threw in a poor service game, with a double fault and some unforced errors to hand Cash the crucial break.  The Australian duly served it out, and remarked after the match how nice it was to play Lendl again.  The Czech reciprocated, and revealed that his charge Andy Murray revealed after Acapulco that he’s feeling the best he has so far since the back surgery, eliciting a cheer from the audience.

 

After a demonstration of wheelchair tennis in the interlude between matches, with World #3 Gordon Reid showing off his impressive skills that look likely to see him to the top of the wheelchair game, it was time for the main event.

 

Agassi and Sampras were introduced to the crowd to a rapturous ovation, and quickly got down to business.  Andre started much the brighter of the two, racing out to a 3-0 lead as Pete struggled with all aspects of his game.  Soon enough, though, the booming Sampras serve, looking none the worse for wear for 12 years off the tour, was firing missiles, and Agassi was struggling to make much of an impression on the return.  However, while Pete’s serve and forehand slowed many flashes of their former excellence, the backhand continually misfired throughout the match, and Andre, never slow to spot a weakness to exploit, began to target that wing with regularity, reaping dividends.

 

Agassi duly served out the first set 6-3, and was beginning to rasp winners off both wings with his trademark style, taking the ball early and thumping it flat over the net out of reach of his opponent.  Pete would need to respond if he had any expectation of winning.   He did raise his game in the second set – the serve held Agassi at bay throughout, but his return game continued to let him down, as Agassi dragged him into baseline exchanges that would end with a flashing winner from the Las Vegan, or a Sampras error.

 

The pattern of the second set resembled so many of their matches of old, as both held serve, and the crowd waited for one or the other to betray a moment of weakness.   It took a tiebreak to separate the two, but once there, Agassi ran away with it, racing out to a 5-0 lead, hitting searing winners off both wings but particularly the stunning backhand, and taking the match 63 76(2) on a Sampras double fault.

 

Although the loser of the match, Sampras pronounced himself well satisfied with his efforts, and his enjoyment at being back on court in London was clear.   For his part, Agassi seemed somewhat surprised at how well grooved his ground game proved to be, and thanked the fans for their support of the players, and the World Tennis Day initiative.

 

Posing with commemorative bottles of champagne, the two players took a lap of honour of the court, and handed the baton over to New York City for the last of the World Tennis Day showdowns.

 

For London’s part, the past came back to visit, and it was a welcome visit indeed.  May there be many more.

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Roger Federer Adds Stefan Edberg to Coaching Team

Federer 3

(December 27, 2013) Add Roger Federer to the list of players hiring Hall of Famers as coaches. Andy Murray has Ivan Lendl and Novak Djokovic recently hired Boris Becker. The 17-time major champion Federer is adding childhood hero Stefan Edberg to his coaching team. Severin Luthi will continue to work with the world No. 6 as well.

The Swiss revealed on his Facebook page and website that Edberg “agreed to work with us for at least 10 weeks starting at the Australian Open.”

Federer parted ways with his last coach Paul Annacone in October.

Here is the full announcement from RogerFederer.com

 

I am happy to announce that beginning in Melbourne, Stefan Edberg will join Severin Lüthi on my coaching team. Severin, who has been part of my team for the last 7 years, will do most of the weeks and Stefan has agreed to work with us for at least 10 weeks starting at the Australian Open in Melbourne. Stefan was my childhood hero, and I am really looking forward to spending time and learning from him.

“I’m really excited to be part of Roger’s team and I hope together we can bring out his best tennis,” Stefan Edberg commented.

Severin Lüthi added: “Roger will play a full schedule next year so we both wanted to make sure we had a solid team in place. I want to continue to improve and innovate Roger’s game and I really look forward to be working with Stefan. Like Roger, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Stefan and I am sure he will bring a lot to our team as Roger continues to chase titles in 2014.”

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Tennis Legends Gather At ‘No. 1 Celebration’ To Commemorate 40 Years Of Emirates ATP Rankings

 

From the ATP World Tour – AUGUST 24, 2013 -NEW YORK — ATP World Tour No. 1s past and present gathered to mark the 40th anniversary of the Emirates ATP Rankings at the ‘No. 1 Celebration’, Friday night at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Ilie Nastase, who became the first ATP World No. 1 on 23 August 1973, was present to be honoured on the night, along with successors John Newcombe, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, Marcelo Rios, Carlos Moya, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

The legends each took part in an on-stage Q&A with Justin Gimelstob and Guy Forget, sharing their experiences of reaching the summit of world tennis, before posing for a group photo with the ATP World Tour No. 1 trophy. Each year-end No. 1 received an engraved replica of the trophy.

No. 1 Celebration  Nadal, Federer

“It’s definitely an ultimate goal for any athlete, not just tennis players,” said current World No. 1 Djokovic. “Growing up, in early childhood, you are inspired to show that love and appreciation and passion towards the sport, and of course there is this big drive – waking up every morning, working so hard, developing skills to be No. 1 in the world. Not many players have achieved that and to sit with fellow champions, it’s an incredible feeling… I’m really honoured to be here.”

Watch Highlights Of No. 1 Celebration

Federer, who held the No. 1 ranking for a record 302 weeks, spoke about sharing the stage with the players who inspired him. “It was very important for me to have someone to look up to. Stefan was one of them, so it’s nice to see you here tonight and all the others players… We’ve put such huge effort in the game, and that’s a platform we can enjoy today. So it’s unbelievable. Thanks for being an inspiration Stefan, all of you here today.”

On a lighter note, a self-deprecating Roddick said, “It is an honour to be the worst player in the room.” Fellow American Courier added, “It’s a great honour to be here among friends. I dreamed of being in this arena, and to be part of this group is mind-blowing.”

Year-End No. 1s  McEnroe, Djokovic

The evening, part of the broader ATP Heritage programme, also included a tribute to former ATP Executive Chairman and President Brad Drewett, who passed away in May following a battle with Motor Neurone Disease. Drewett founded the ATP Heritage programme earlier this year.

“Brad cherished the history of the ATP and men’s professional tennis in general,” said Mark Young, CEO ATP Americas. “Tonight’s celebration is a reflection of that. It was his vision to see all the No. 1 players gathered together as we honoured their achievements.”

The ATP Heritage programme, with the support of its founding partner Rolex, will continue to serve as a platform to celebrate the rich history of the ATP and the remarkable achievements of the world’s greatest players throughout history.

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

Roger Federer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Federer Downs Dodig to Move into Round of 16; Nadal Through on Walkover

Roger Federer

(March 11, 2013) It was ATP World Tour win number 890 for BNP Paribas Open defending champion Roger Federer when he defeated Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-3, 6-1 on Monday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The Swiss joins elite company with Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Guillermo Vilas, the only other men to have won at least 890 matches in their careers.

Federer appeared to tweak his back near the end of the match and he spoke about it to media.

“But it’s not the first time it’s happened in my career,” the Swiss said “so, I don’t know, I know how to deal with it.  I’m walking fine.  I have a day off tomorrow.  Everything is all right”

Federer notes that he’d be surprised if it kept him from playing his next match against the winner of Lleyton Hewitt versus Stan Wawwrinka.

Before Monday’s play, an earthquake struck at 9:55 a.m. near Indian Wells.

“Well, the one in New York I was in the car so I didn’t feel it, and then here today was literally the first time I ever felt one,  “ Federer said.  “For the first few seconds I wasn’t sure what was happening.

“I ran outside.  I was at the house and I didn’t know how long it was going to last, if it was going to get worse from there, or if the worst was already past.

“Thank God family wasn’t in the house.  They were outside somewhere.  It was a very strange feeling to have, because you see the windows shaking and you look up and realize you’re under a structure.  It was quite scary for a second there.”

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal who received a walkover into the round of 16, when Leonardo Mayer withdrew was startled when the earthquake hit.

“I was very scared,” he said.

“I was on the massage table preparing for my warmup.  I think the massage table moves even worse more.”

Nadal said his legs were wobbling while he was experiencing his first earthquake and it took him  “probably a half-second” to realize what was actually happening.

On Sunday Nadal hit with tournament owner Larry Ellison, the co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corp. and one of the richest men in the world.

“Yeah, is great, no?,” said Nadal who was asked about the hit.  “I played with him last year.  I had the chance to play again yesterday a little bit with him.  Always it’s a really honor.

“He’s improving a lot.  His backhand improve especially a lot from last year, so that’s great.  He changed to Babolat racquet, so…

“It means a lot for me,” the Spaniard said about playing with Ellison, “and especially for the tennis, have somebody like Larry who is supporting like this our sport.  I think is very important.  He’s great, one of the most important person of the world.  He loves tennis and support one of the best tournaments of the world.”

Ernests Gulbis by Maria Noble

Nadal will face Ernests Gulbis in the round of 16. Gulbis moved past Andreas Seppi  5‑7, 6‑3, 6‑4.

Gulis who is 0-4  against the 11-time major  champion, says he can beat him.

“I believe that I can win,” Gulbis said. “Yeah, I said it already.”

“It doesn’t ‑‑ okay, it matters if I win or not, but I want to play as much as matches as possible against these top guys.

“Sooner or later I’m going to win something, you know, it’s gonna give me extra confidence, and then just to keep it there, you know.  I need to win the guys who are ranked 20 to, I don’t know, to 100 easier than I did let’s say today, and then I need to have enough shots against the big guys.”

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BNP Paribas Showdown Debuts in Hong Kong with Wozniacki, Radwanska, McEnroe and Lendl

Wozniacki Radwanska at BNP Paribas Showdown Hong Kong

By Natalie Ho

(March 4, 2013) HONG KONG – The BNP Paribas Showdown exhibition matches held at Madison Square Garden has a new sister event this year, held 13 time zones away in Hong Kong. While Hong Kong has the same amount of sky scrapers to match the Big Apple, Hong Kong’s tennis development is a long way behind, especially after losing the city’s men’s tour event some years ago. It is therefore to local tennis lovers’ great delight that a star-studded lineup had been confirmed to play the BNP Paribas Showdown Hong Kong that is part of a marathon of tennis events held across the world today to celebrate World Tennis Day.

 

World Tennis Day is an ambitious ITF grassroots campaign aimed at popularizing tennis. The main event here in Hong Kong was the exhibition between John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl, followed by Agniezka Radwanska taking on Caroline Wozniacki. Still sidelined Li Na was originally slated to play, but World No. 4  Radwanska is an equaly matched replacement in rankings. The two close friends Waozniacki and Radwanska said in the pre-match news conference that they hadn’t had a chance to see the city. Shame that the media couldn’t get in their favorite shopping question!

 

As for the matches, they were fun, lighthearted, and an opportunity for the players to try some flashy shot making.  Old rivals Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe met on court again after 17 years, with Lendl leading their head-t0-head record 21-15. This time it was McEnroe who won the pro set match 8-5. As usual he’s good money for any exhibitions, throwing his famous tantrums, questioning line calls, complaining about bad ball bounces that got the crowd into the match. Lendl responded in kind and the two together showed off some volleys, passes, dropshots and huge forehands that earned oohs and ahhhs from the audience.

Radwanska versus Wozniacki had more intense rallies but the mood was equally flamboyant. The good friends were uninhibited when it came to trying out fancy shots. A long groundstrokes and volley exchange in practice mode drew huge applause, and the ladies offered great entertainment with their exchange, dancing and inviting an former Hong Kong  player to play. In the final game Wozniacki requested coaching from her dad. It turned out to be futile as Radwanska closed it out 6-4, 6-4.

 

Again it was all smiles at the post-match news conference. McEnroe joked that this was the most memorable match in his rivalry with Lendl, who said he hoped his pupil  Andy Murray didn’t watch this match as it was 3:30am in California. The ladies were happy to be in Hong Kong despite their short stay. So that wrapped up the Hong Kong leg of World Tennis Day’s BNP Paribas Showdown, only to be continued immediately with the activities in New York City!

This is an exhibition but it’s still interesting to hear what the ladies had to say about playing friends on court as this pretty much happens week in, week out. To this Wozniacki said, “once you’re on court it’s a fight, and you fight for your life basically, and then when you’re off the court you’re friends agains and probably an hour or two after the match you just want to cool down, but then it’s a toss.”

 

Radwanska agreed, “We’re good friends because I think we can separate our private life and tennis and when we go on court, we both focus and we both want to win and then we shake hands and we’re friends again. We’ve been friends for 15 years!”

 

Naturally there were a lot of questions for Lendl about coaching strategies for Andy Murray. In typical Lendl manner he kept it tight-lipped. “My job is to coach Andy not to assess him in public. If I have something we need to work on, or I think Andy needs to work on, we do that. I never discuss it with anyone other than Andy.”

 

World Tennis Day is about helping tennis reach a bigger audience so as to ultimately benefit the sport. On trying to find the next big thing in America, McEnroe said, “Everyone in America, as well as many other countries, are looking for that next great player and the more that the game becomes accessible to youngsters and hopefully sexy in the way for kids to want to play in America. I can’t speak for every country, but it’s not that affordable.”

 

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