2014/11/01

The US Open Series Begins this Weekend in Atlanta

 

BB&TAtlantaOpen

By Herman Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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Third Final is the Charm for Lleyton Hewitt in Newport

Photo by Ben Solomon

Photo by Ben Solomon

By Dave Gertler

 

(July 13, 2014) NEWPORT – Lleyton Hewitt held off big-serving Ivo Karlovic for his 30th career title at the Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, Rhode Island.

 

The final was a tight affair, with Karlovic’s potent serve-volleying a close match-up with Hewitt’s counter-attacking and ability to return well and chase down shots that other players wouldn’t get to. “I think my passing shots and returns are probably as good as anyone’s out there,” said Hewitt after the match, “They are two massive strengths of my game, and, playing Ivo, who was always gonna serve-volley first and second serves, I knew I was gonna have to do that well.”

 

The match was also the longest of the tournament, at 2 hours and 30 minutes. Hewitt broke early in the first set, capitalizing on Karlovic’s low first-service percentage, and often making the return passing shot look easy. “My service games, I was just trying to play clean tennis as much as possible,” said Hewitt, who would not face a break point in the first set, closing it out with a second break for 6-3, “But obviously from the baseline I was able to adjust to the wind a fair bit better than him.”

 

Karlovic, who served 26 aces to Hewitt’s 5 in the course of the match, would be the first to break in the second set. “He returned really well,” said Karlovic, who served 10 double faults to Hewitt’s 6, “He almost didn’t miss any balls. I didn’t serve as good as normally, because it was a lot of wind, and I didn’t feel it.”

 

Hewitt, having thrilled Newport over the last two years, had the firm support of the crowd going into his third consecutive final. During the second set, in which both players would be broken twice, Karlovic appealed to the crowd for support, singling out one person high in the stands and thanking them for cheering for him. “Even though I didn’t play my best,” said Karlovic, who would win the second set tie-break, taking the match to a deciding sert, “I was fighting, I was trying to turn it around and I was able to do that. I’m a little bit disappointed, but overall it was a good week.”

 

Hewitt faced three break points in the final set, but neither player would get the upper hand until the third-set tie-break, which Hewitt would seal, along with his second title of the year. Hewitt was battling the odds against Karlovic, having only won one of their five career matches, saying he felt, “Obviously relief. It’s an important tournament. It’s not a grand slam, by no means, but for me, I’ve come here the last three years and I’ve put myself on the line and come awfully close the last two years, so it was nice to get rewarded today.”

 

Hewitt was still to add to his achievements by taking the doubles title with Davis Cup partner Chris Guccione 7-5, 6-4 against Rajeev Ram and Jonathan Erlich. “First time I’ve been able to win singles and doubles at the same tournament. It was good to win with Gooch as well. We’ve never won a title together before. We’ve played so many matches in Davis Cup. It was a really important one for us to win and, yeah, pretty pumped about it.”

 

With the win, Hewitt will edge closer to the top 40. “On these grass courts, it’s not easy to turn up every time and play consistently and beat guys,” said Hewitt, “That’s probably something I’m more proud of – the way that I’ve been able to beat some of the best servers in the game, Isner and Karlovic, on these courts. So that still shows that I’m able to match it with the best guys on grass, obviously.”

 

For Karlovic, who now flies to Bogota as the defending champion of the Claro Open hard court ATP 250 event, the final appearance in Newport will take him inside the top 30 for the first time since April 2010.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Newport for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Veterans Hewitt and Karlovic Reach Newport Final

Karlovic !cid_1_3773490110@web124506_mail_ne1_yahoo-001

 

(July 12, 2014) NEWPORT – Lleyton Hewitt has not yet had to face one of the big-serving grass-courters that marked out the draw, but on Sunday, that’s set to change, as his opponent in the Hall of Fame Tennis Championship final, Ivo Karlovic, awaits.

 

Karlovic, who stands at 6’11”, has made it to the Newport final without dropping a single set the whole tournament, and while Hewitt has only dropped one – his first of the tournament against Ryan Harrison on Tuesday – he can’t rely on his own serve in the way his opponent in the final will be able to.

 

Karlovic led the tournament ace count with 44, going into his semifinal match against Australian Sam Groth, who was coming in second at 42, and he would add 9 more to that count during a match in which he broke Groth once in each set, winning it 6-4, 6-4 – the first time this tournament Karlovic has played a match without a tie-break. The match was predictably chess-like; “Wasn’t a lot of rallies out there,” said Groth after the match, “You’re not gonna get many chances on his serve. He came up with a couple of winners to break me in the first set and then all of a sudden the pressure’s back on me.”

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After 21-year-old American Jack Sock’s upset victory over compatriot and No.1 seed John Isner in yesterday’s quarterfinal, 33-year-old Hewitt proved a much tougher challenge for Sock, who was broken four times by Hewitt, eventually going down 6-1, 6-2. “I felt like his biggest weapon was obviously his first serve and his forehand,” said Hewitt, “And I was able to nullify those right from the start. Then he was sort of searching for answers. He was trying to go out of his comfort zone to try and change up and win points other ways, which I felt was playing into my hands.”

 

This will be the 33-year-old Australian’s third consecutive final at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championship, and while 35-year-old Karlovic has never been to a final in Newport, Rhode Island, he has now reached four finals on grass, and has won two. Hewitt, on the other hand, won 7 consecutive finals on grass, stretching back to 2000 where he beat Pete Sampras at Queen’s Club, all the way to 2010 when he beat Roger Federer in Halle.

 

When Hewitt walks onto Center Court at Newport on Sunday – the younger of the two oldest finalists there ever – he takes into the match a losing 1-4 record, the only win coming on clay in 2009.

 

While Karlovic’s confidence, focus and potency on serve seems to have grown throughout the tournament, Newport’s spectators at the Hall of Fame have been given daily reminders as to why the former world No. 1’s style of play still gives him a chance to take out his 30th ATP title on Sunday, even against an in-form Karlovic, but as Hewitt said of his preparation for the final, “There’s not a lot I can do until I get out there and play. I’m not gonna find 7-foot guys to come and serve at me.”

 

Hewitt will also be contesting the doubles final on Sunday with Davis Cup partner Chris Guccione. The last player to win both singles and doubles titles at an ATP tournament was last year’s Hall of Fame champion, Nicolas Mahut.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Newport for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

 

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Groth Takes Out Defending Newport Champ Mahut

Black and white Groth-001

By Dave Gertler

 

(July, 10, 2014) NEWPORT – Lleyton Hewitt has made the final in Newport two years running, and is scheduled to play his quarterfinal match on Thursday, but the biggest story of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Wednesday was lesser-known Australian, Sam Groth. After defeating reigning champion Nicolas Mahut in straight sets in front of a packed Center Court stadium, Sam Groth has won through to his first ATP tournament semifinal, and will also break into the top 100 for the first time, achieving a lifelong career goal.

 

“I really had nothing to lose,” said the big serving 26-year-old, “I had a hell of a lot to gain. First time in a semifinal, first time probably in the top 100, first time direct entry into a grand slam. I went out there confident, and I really wanted to do all those things. I thought I played really well.”

 

Groth managed to break Mahut early in the first and second sets, using his remarkable serve – known as the fastest on tour – to hold his way through to a straight-sets upset victory over the former world No. 37, 6-3, 6-4.

 

“People have always thought of me as just a serve,” said Groth, who cracked a 146mph ace to seal the first set, “But I don’t think you get to top 100 being just a serve. My serve probably has gotten better, I’m hitting my spots better, and I think I’m volleying better than I ever have. I’m making it tough for guys to break me and I think that builds a lot of pressure.”

 

Closing out the match was hard, said Groth. Once gaining the break in the second set, “For the first time in the match,” said Groth, “Everything became a little bit real, and everything came to the front of my head, and I had a couple of shaky games there.”

 

Mahut admitted to being fatigued from a busy grass season, but gave full credit to Groth, saying, “I was not feeling great, but the thing is him, he played well. To win, I have to play my best tennis, and that’s not the case today, so I just have to congratulate him. He was just too good for me today.”

 

Groth will now face another big server, Ivo Karlovic, in the semifinal on Saturday, after Karlovic held off Israel’s Dudi Sela 7-6, 7-5 on Center Court. “It’s tough to play against Ivo on all surfaces,” said Sela, “If he hits a good percentage of the first serve, you have no chance, nobody (does). I held my serve pretty good, and I tried to play well in the tie break, but in the beginning, I had an easy mistake that I made and I let him run away.”

 

Karlovic agreed that his potent serve-volley strategy on grass is a tough to match, saying, “I feel like if I lose my game on my serve, it is always because I do it; because I do double faults, because I do easy volley. I don’t feel like it’s the other guy ever.” The semifinal match-up between Karlovic and Groth, both possessing potent serve-volleying games, is set to be a tight affair. Karlovic professed that, “He also is going to hit a lot of aces. So, there will be also a couple of tiebreaks, so it can always go either way.”

 

The 35-year-old Croatian, who will appear in his first semifinal in Newport, opened up to press after his match, talking about what it’s like being a professional tennis player as well as the father of a young daughter. “It isn’t easy always to go, to leave her at home. I would like to be a lot more home now, but this is what I do, this is where I earn my money, and I do it for her also. But after this, I will go a little bit home, and that’s it.”

 

The tournament’s biggest names, top seed John Isner and multiple grand slam winner Lleyton Hewitt, will both take the court tomorrow in their separate quarterfinals against up-and-coming American men, in what promises to be an equally exciting order of play. Hewitt, the spearhead of what has been a strong tournament for Australians in Newport, will take on American Steve Johnson, while Jack Sock will try to usurp his training partner, No. 1 seed John Isner, who is gunning for his third title on the Newport grass courts.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Newport for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

 

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John Isner Leads Top Seeds into Newport Quarterfinals

John Isner

John Isner

By Dave Gertler

(July 9, 2014) NEWPORT – Day Three of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, saw solid performances from top seeds, and expected results from the tournament’s big servers and grass court specialists.

 

The only minor upset of the day was Israel’s Dudi Sela ousting his higher-ranked opponent, No .8 seed Adrian Mannarino, in straight sets. Sela had a strong serving day, winning 82% of points on his first serve and converting five of six break points against the Frenchman. Sela, one of the shorter players on tour, will now face the tallest, Ivo Karlovic, whose 18 aces was too much for serve-and-volleyer Sergiy Stakhovsky to handle, the Croatian winning 7-5, 7-6.

 

The tournament’s top four seeds also won through to the quarterfinals in straight sets. Defending champion Nicolas Mahut beat Australia’s Luke Saville in an hour, 10 minutes, out-serving the 20-year-old Australian qualifier, breaking him on four occasions. “It was a tough match,” said Mahut, “He’s a good player on grass. This kind of surface you have to be really focused on your serve and take the opportunity. It was much better than yesterday and I hope tomorrow will be even better.”

 

His serving will need to stay solid in his quarterfinal match against Australian Sam Groth, who although still outside the top 100, is one win away from reaching that milestone after another solid serving performance saw him through his match against Malek Jaziri. Groth’s ace count against the Tunisian was remarkably high at 24, ominous for his next opponent, who said, “He’s serving huge, he’s a very, very powerful player. So if I had to play against him I will have to be really concentrate on my serve, and then wait for something, maybe a double fault once, try a good return and waiting for the small opportunities I will have. But the first thing is to keep my serve, I’ll be really focused on that.”

 

Tournament top dog John Isner required less time and less aces against fellow American Austin Krajicek, defeating him on Center Court 6-3, 6-3 in just over an hour. “It was a pretty clean match,” said Isner, “I guess I got up early in both sets, and for me, that helps so much. I feel like I play pretty well when I’m playing ahead, especially on this surface too. It was a good match, very happy with it.”

 

Isner’s quarterfinal opponent was decided in a match between Rajeev Ram and Jack Sock, 21-year-old Sock coming through on top. Sock and Isner, both good friends, are looking forward to the quarterfinal. “He and I practice a lot and have become pretty good friends,” said Sock of Isner, “We obviously know each other pretty well now. We both know each other’s games pretty well so it should be whoever can execute better, I guess.”

 

Sock, fresh from winning his second grand slam – a Wimbledon doubles title with Vasek Pospisil, defeating the Bryan brothers in the final – is enjoying the burst of confidence he’s received into his singles game. “No matter what tournament it is, even doubles,” said Sock, “Whenever you win a match, it can only help, and especially the slams. I think that when you can get that run going into to second week of any slam, singles or doubles, and then you end up, like we were, fortunate enough to play on the weekend, second week of a slam, there’s only a few guys left in the locker room. It’s pretty cool, it’s a pretty special feeling. And to be able to be there and then go out on Center Court and play, and be lucky enough to win against the best team, probably, of all time in doubles, it can only help your confidence.”

 

Isner, who has not lost to Sock in four matches, seemed positive about Sock’s future in the game ahead of their first meeting on grass. “We’re both gonna want to win,” said Isner, “We’re good friends; we may even go out to dinner tonight, or even tomorrow night. I’ve gotten especially close to him now that he’s moved to Tampa. We train together, we use the same strength coach, we’re always training together. He’s a good friend of mine and someone who – I think, in a sense, he might look up a little bit to me. I’m certainly much older than him but he’s – in my opinion – got an incredibly bright future. He’s got a lot of weapons in his game, especially with that forehand of his, which is world class. So, he’s only gonna get better.”

 

The winner of Isner/Sock will face – in the semifinal – the winner between Lleyton Hewitt and Steve Johnson, who both graduated comfortably past their round-of-16 opponents, Ante Pavic and Tatsuma Ito, respectively. While Hewitt and Johnson won’t contest their quarterfinal tomorrow, the 33-year-old Aussie won’t be resting entirely. He’s one of five Australians remaining in the doubles draw at the quarterfinal stage. After his match with Pavic, Hewitt revealed, “I only play doubles most of the time to play with guys that I’m going to play Davis Cup for Australia with. That’s the only real reason that I play doubles. We’ve got a Davis Cup tie later in the year and Chris Guccione and I will most probably be playing doubles there, so it’s good to get some more matches.”

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Newport for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his Twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN, follow him on his personal Twitter @davegertler,  read his blog,  and listen to his podcast, Tennis Days .

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Li Na Ousted in First Round of French Open

Li Na photo courtesy of MiamiTennisNews.com

Li Na photo courtesy of MiamiTennisNews.com

(May 27, 2014) In less than 24 hours both reigning Australian Open singles champions find themselves victims of first round losses at the French Open. On Monday it was Stan Wawrinka, on Tuesday No. 2 Li Na fell to French woman Kristina Mladenovic 7-5, 3-6, 6-1.

It is the first time in history that both the men’s and women’s Grand Slam singles champions have lost in the first round of the next major.

Li, the 2011 Roland Garros champion had an error-filled match, 37 unforced miscues in all.

“In my mind I didn’t have any idea how to play the match,” Li told media.

“Nobody says if you’re No. 2 in the world you win all the matches. That’s tennis.”

“I don’t think it is only the bad day,” Li continued. “I think it’s probably about me. Of course the easy thing is to say today was a bad day for me, but it’s not. I’m 100% sure. The problem is me. I don’t think I’m doing well on the court. And also, even during the match, I wasn’t thinking through what I should do, especially, I didn’t follow the game plan, and even when I was standing out on the court, in my mind I didn’t have any idea how to play the match.”

For the 21-year-old Mladenovic, who won the Roland Garros Junior championship in 2009 and is currently ranked 10 in the world, this is the biggest win of her career.

Also early on Tuesday an upset on the men’s side, 11th seen Grigor Dimitrov lost to big-serving Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (4). Dimitrov reached the third round to Paris last year.

“Today he was all over the court,” Dimitrov said in press. “He was just hitting his shots, you know, penetrating every volley, low slice, serving really good.”

 

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Philipp Kohlschreiber Wins Düsseldorf Open

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(May 24, 2014) DUSSELDORF – In Saturday’s final at the Düsseldorf Open, top-seed Philipp Kohlschreiber and the tournament’s number seven Ivo Karlovic clashed for the fourth time on the ATP World Tour. The German advanced to his first final of the season after gaining back-to-back wins on Friday against Mate Delic and Denis Istomin. Düsseldorf debutante Karlovic reached his first clay court final in seven years through a straight set victory over Jiri Vesely yesterday.

The Croat led the head-to-head series between the two 2-1. All of the previous meetings took place on hard courts, with six of the eight sets the pair has played against each other have been decided in a tie-break. Kohlschreiber looked confident to avoid such type of a scenario today. The 30-year-old broke Karlovic’s service in the third as well as the fifth game through good returns and a couple of great passing shots. After only 27minutes, Kohlschreiber served the first set out in the eighth game.

In the seventh game of the second set, the German converted his third break point out of three but this time the 6’ 11” giant from Croatia broke immediately back and took the set into an expected tie-break. However, Kohlschreiber remained the dominant player on court and finally took the tie-break 7-4 winning 6-2, 7-6 in 72 minutes to gain his fifth ATP World Tour title.

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“In the first set I returned pretty well and so I was able to neutralize his service. Ivo had to work hard for his points, which he is maybe not used to,” Kohlschreiber analyzed afterwards.

“Ivo seemed to have some physical problems with his back but I think that this fact did not influence the quality of his services. I was just able to read his service pretty well today. Of course I also had some luck when I speculated for the right side during my return games,” the winner admitted and added that he will go to Paris by car today and drive on his own.

“I haven’t had a close look at the Roland Garros draw yet but I think that I’ll be seeded within the top 30, which means that you’ll get a top 8 player in the third round. To reach the second week at a Grand Slam is a great success and this will be my goal for this year in Paris as well,”

Kohlschreiber talked about his ambitions for his first major of the season, as he was forced to withdraw from the Australian Open at the beginning of the year.

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In the doubles final Martin Emmrich, who won last year’s title in Düsseldorf together with Andre Begemann, and Christopher Kas faced the tournament’s third-seeded pair of Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky. After their victory in Oeiras earlier this year, the US-American-Mexican combination took their second title of the season in Düsseldorf winning 7-5, 4-6, 10-3 after one hour and 34 minutes. It was their seventh victory as a team and so far the tandem has never lost a final.

Dietloff von Arnim

Dietloff von Arnim

“We had eight great days here with interesting matches in pleasant temperatures. In general we had better weather compared to last year. Players from 32 nations competed in the tournament and we had no injuries as well as no withdrawals, which is a positive aspect. Between 25,000 and 29,000 spectators attended the event, which means that we met our target. Our TV-partner Eurosport as well as the ATP are satisfied with our organization and gave us a very positive feedback,” tournament director Dietloff von Arnim said earlier in the day.

“Nevertheless, we have to say that we are still looking for a title sponsor to rely on our plans for 2015. We had first discussions with two interested parties and we are confident to present a partner for the next three years, so that we can also see tennis in Düsseldorf during this period,” von Arnim concluded.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Future Circuit.  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

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Roger Federer Returns to Sony Open with a Win Over Ivo Karlovic

Federer on court-001

(March 21, 2014) Roger Federer returned to the Sony Open on a winning note beating hard-serving, 6-foot-11 Ivo Karlovic 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Friday. Federer missed playing last year’s event in Key Biscayne and was entertained by a video tribute on the stadium scoreboard.

 

With a giggle and a laugh, the 17-time major champion told the crowd that it looked like a farewell video. “I miss one year, and you make me feel guilty,” he said.

 

Federer committed a mere 3 unforced errors during the match. In addition he won 49 of his 52 service points.

 

“I think I was able to play a very clean match on my service games throughout, make sure I had a lot of first serves in, make sure I stayed aggressive from the baseline, had an opportunity,” Federer said.

“I think it worked really well, hardly any unforced errors, I was playing with margin, was able to move Ivo around, and I was able to maintain that throughout the match, which was key.

“Like this I could focus a bit on returning while then holding serve, which is important against Ivo.”

“I’m very relieved and happy to be through,” Federer told media.

 

So what’s it like to play the big-serving Karlovic?

“Physically it’s super easy,” Federer said.  “There are no long rallies.  It’s just like more penalty shootout like in soccer.  I don’t want to say you pick sides, but it’s about quick reaction, not getting frustrated and feeling that the returner is the one who has got less pressure.

“I quite like it.  I enjoy it.  It’s just uncomfortable at times when it comes to the crunch of the sets and you have break points and you know like this is probably your only chance in the set or you know that probably next four or five games you won’t see any more break points, or even for the rest of the match.

“So it just can be quite difficult or overwhelming.  But if you’re in the right mindset mentally, it can also be enjoyable.  That’s how I approach the match, anyway.”

Federer last won the Key Biscayne tournament in 2006

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A Healthy and Happy Federer Returns to the Top 5 in Miami

fed iw

(March 20, 2014) After a 2013 which saw him end the year at No. 6 dealing with back problems, and then fall to No. 8 at the end of January, Roger Federer is on his way back up. He’s currently No. 5 after falling in the BNP Paribas Open final last Sunday to Novak Djokovic in three sets.

In his pre-tournament news conference at the Sony Open on Thursday, Federer spoke about his resurgence since the beginning of 2014.

“It’s nice, but I’m more happy to be healthy again, and I’m playing good tennis,” said the Swiss No. 2.  “That then leads the ranking into the right direction.

“Yeah, I have been playing well now for the last seven tournaments.  Started at the end of last year, and now I feel I found a good level, a good form.  But as you know, you have to keep on working and keep on trying hard.

“It always resets.  Every tournament it starts from scratch.  I don’t get like the old wildcard into the semis or anything like that.  Doesn’t exist.  I have to put in the hard work and hope I’m going to have another successful tournament here in Miami.”

Even world No. 2 Novak Djokovic commented on Federer’s level this year:

“I think he’s playing in a high level this year.  He’s back to his normal level, you know, the level that he had for seven, eight years while he was so dominant in men’s tennis.  Obviously last season he was not as good for his standards.

“You know, but this year he started strong.  He won the title in Dubai and played semis of Australian Open.  I can feel that he’s striking the ball very cleanly.  He’s very confident on the court and he has improved his backhand I think.”

So how much better can Federer get this year?

The Swiss answered: “Well, I just think the confidence is going to make the difference maybe at this point, because my body is there.  Clearly will always be helpful to put in a training block where you are training very hard, can improve your potential a little bit, where your stamina is better, where your confidence and your endurance and explosivity is there.  You name it.  Your strength overall.

“I think at the end it comes down to confidence with most of the players.”

Federer and wife Mirka are expecting a child later this year, they are already the parents of twin girls born in July of 2009. Federer was pressed by a couple of members of the media to give the due date of the birth.

“Only my wife knows, I told you.  If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you,” Federer replied with a smile.

Federer will play his first match against Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic during Friday’s day session at the Sony Open.

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Kei Nishikori Repeats as Memphis Champion

 

nishikori memphis

(February 16, 2014) Kei Nishikori repeated as the champion at the U.S. National Indoor Tennis Championships in Memphis, stopping Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 6-4, 7-6 (0) on Sunday. For the No. 16 ranked player, this was his first career title defense. He is the first repeat winner since Tommy Haas won in 2006 and 2007.

“It’s amazing to defend a title for the first time, especially here,” Nishikori said. “I had a great memory from last year and I’m playing great.”

“I get a lot of confidence from keeping my ranking in the Top 20. It’s going to take some time to get to Top 10, Top 5, but I think I’m getting close.”

“He’s really fast,” Karlovic said. “He hits winners from any position on the court. That’s his game. He returned really well.”

“It was a good week for me. I’m really happy with the way I played. I hope I will continue like this and by the end of the year get into the Top 40.”

Nishikori was given a wild-card into this tournament, which this year was downgraded to 250 event, it was a 500 point event a year ago when he won.

This is Nishikori’s sixth ATP title.

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