May 5, 2016

Australia Takes On U. S. in Davis Cup This Weekend in Kooyong

U. S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier

U. S. Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier

(March 1, 2016) The United States will take on Australia in the Davis Cup World Group First Round this weekend at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in Kooyong, Australia, from March 4-6 on a temporary grass court. The club was the former home to the Australian Open from 1972- 1987. The U.S. has met Australia more times than any other nation in Davis Cup play. The U.S. leads the head-to-head series 25-20.

Former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, who retired at this year’s Australian Open will be making his debut as Australia’s Davis Cup captain. Hewitt has named world No. 20 Bernard Tomic, world No. 27 Nick Kyrgios, world No. 77 Sam Groth, and doubles specialist John Peers to team Australia.

Tomic holds a 15-3 singles record in Davis Cup competition, Kyrgios is 3-3 and Groth is 2-1 in singles and 1-2 in doubles. Peers is making his Davis Cup debut.

United States Davis Cup Captain Jim Courier has chosen top-ranked American and world No. 11 John Isner, world No. 24 Jack Sock, and 16-time major doubles champions Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan to the U.S. Davis Cup Team. Isner is 8-9 singles in Davis Cup competition. Sock made his debut on the U.S. team last year in the World Group Playoff, where he won both of his singles matches, becoming the first American since John McEnroe in 1978 to win two live rubbers in a Davis Cup debut. Bob and Mike Bryan are a dominant 23-4 in Davis Cup doubles together and are the all-time winningest U.S. Davis Cup doubles team in history.

Both teams held a pre-draw news conference on Tuesday, the draw will be made on Thursday.

Kyrgios was absent from the news conference due to a virus said Captain Hewitt who told him to rest: “Nick has a virus. At the moment, he is taking it easy and trying to get over that 100% to be ready to go. I didn’t want him around the other boys if he is a bit infectious. It is more of a precaution. He will be ready.

“Nick has played a lot of matches, as well as Bernie. They are coming in confident with their ball striking and it is about these guys doing the small things to feel comfortable on the grass courts. Come match day, I am backing both of these boys.”

 

“I am lucky with both of these guys (Kyrgios and Tomic),” Hewitt said. “Both of their games suit grass with big serves and good returns. The reason both boys are approaching career-high rankings right now is because of their serves. That will be a big point this weekend because the U.S. team serves well, too. It will come down to a few points here or there, just like any grass-court five-set match, but I am glad our boys have won quite a few matches in the last month.”

Tomic is back from just having played the final of Acapulco over the weekend.

“It was tough to play a final then fly here,” Tomic admitted. It was tough to get here, but I am happy to be here. The hit today was good and now on grass, I need to get as ready as I can.

“It is tough to say if I will be 100% by Friday, but there will not be a lot of rallies. There will be quick points. I am serving really well and playing very confidently. I just played one of my biggest tournaments and I am very happy with the way I am playing and will be ready for the show on Friday”

On making the transition to being a captain from a player, Hewitt said: “I have adjusted pretty smoothly. This week has been all about getting these boys on the practice courts and working out drills. It has been good this week, especially with doubles, and learning what times to say something and other times not to say so much. I have been a good hitting partner.”

U.S. Captain Courier reacted to Hewitt’s comments about Australia being the underdog: “It doesn’t matter one bit. We are the away team and we travelled to get here. The crowd will be behind them. We are here to play whether it is as an underdog or overdog. None of that matters, which I wish it did. We have to go to battle and play.

“We have to get through the first tie, but our draw is more favorable this year than it has been,” said Courier in discussing the outlook for the U. S. in Davis Cup competition this year. “Second round matchups are not easy, but it is easier than some other teams for us. But, you cannot look past anyone in Davis Cup and we have learned that the hard way. You have to put one foot in front of the other and this will be a tough tie for us.”

“Jack (Sock) had a great debut as a Davis Cup player in Uzbekistan last year and that is big part of why he is here. We have a lot of confidence in what he brings to the table and he is getting valuable experience here. We have some younger players that have had good success in the juniors that is translating to the pros. It is nice to feel that energy coming up below our best players.”

“Every point is huge,” said Isner. “I have been playing Davis Cup for quite a bit, but not nearly as long as the Bryans. Jack is a bit newer at this. There is certainly pressure on every player that is competing this weekend and we know that. I don’t think there is any extra pressure on me by any means.

I am preparing for the team that has been submitted. It can change come Thursday, but as of right now, I am prepared for all of them.”

Sock discussed the challenge of taking on Tomic and Kygios this weekend.

On facing Bernard Tomic, Sock said: “We are good friends. We have spent some time together in our careers. However, in any setting on the court, we go out there and you put that aside and compete. Afterwards, you are still pretty good friends, but when it is on the court, that doesn’t really enter your mind.

He has always been a good player. He is consistently staying more professional and working on the things he needs to do and that is why his results are showing.”

As for Kyrgios: “Similar to Bernie, I am friends with Nick, but when you step on the court, it is about the tennis and playing each other.

“When you are off the court, you can still be friends. When you are out there playing, that is the only thing that matters—especially this weekend when you are representing your country. It gives me all the more reason to go out there and compete as hard as I can.”

The winner of this tie moves into the World Group Quarterfinal, July 15-17, and will play either Croatia or Belgium. The tie will air on Tennis Channel in the United States.

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Third Seed Muguruza Ousted, Azarenka Advances at Australian Open

(January 23, 2016) Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza became the latest upset victim among the top women’s seeds at the Australian Open on Saturday. The third seed lost 6-3, 6-2 lost to world No. 48 Barbora Strycova.

“Clearly not my best, for sure,” said the Spaniard who made 32 unforced errors in the third round match. “I think today is a very bad day, you know, at the office.”

“I just couldn’t find the court, my shots. Yeah. Didn’t really find my game.”.

For the Czech Strycova, she’s reached the fourth round only once before in her career – when she earned a place in the 2014 Wimbledon quarterfinals.

“I will enjoy myself first because I beat No. 3 in the world,” she said.

“What went well? I think everything. No, I was serving very well, and the plan was like to play my game, mix it a little bit, but to play deep.

“And it’s not easy against Garbine, because she plays fast and also very deep. Today I think she didn’t have the best day and I felt good on court, and that’s why I think I won today. That I felt pretty well in hitting the ball so good.”

Next for the Czech will be two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka, who defeated 18-year-old qualifier Naomi Osaka 6-1, 6-1.

“I will go to that match with confident,” Strycova said. “I don’t know. I have to play my best tennis and to mix it and try to somehow win and focus on every point.

“But Victoria is very, very good. I saw her hitting some balls yesterday and she’s hitting the ball very well. But we don’t know how it goes. She is 1-All in the first set.

“If I play her, I will just enjoy myself and try to do my best and like I did today.”

Azarenka hit 24 winners against Osaka who came into the main draw as a qualifier.

“It wasn’t easy for sure, especially when you don’t know who you play.”

“She’s a little unpredictable and she surprised me with her game.”
The bottom half of the women’s draw has been decimated with upsets leaving No. 7 Angelique Kerber as the highest-ranked player left.

No. 47 Johanna Konta, who upset No. 8 Venus Williams in the first round, continued her run in Melbourne. She became the first British woman to reach the fourth round of the Australian Open since1987, with her 6-2, 6-2 win over Denisa Allertova 6-2, 6-2.

The Sydney-born Konta became a British citizen in 2012. She’ll face No. 21-seeded Ekaterina Makarova who knocked out No. 9 seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-2 . Makarova reached the semifinals last year.

Konta defeated Makarova in their only meeting last year.

“I mean, again, like I always say, you know, new day, new match,” Konta said. “The only thing I can go into the match with is I know she’s left handed, and I have obviously seen her on the other end of the court.

“But in terms of circumstances and scenarios, we are at a completely different venue, different surface, different time of the year.

“So I’m really just going to focus on, again, things on my end and see where the match takes me.”

On the men’s side Milos Raonic continues to advance under the radar. The Canadian defeated Viktor Troicki 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the fourth round.

He dedicated his win to the victims of a shooting incident at La Loche Community School in Saskatchewan in which four people were killed.

“Unfortunately in Saskatchewan in a very small community there was a shooting at a high school, so I want to take a moment and give thoughts to that community. Today’s victory was for that community, and a quick recovery and all of Canada, and I’m sure the world is behind you.”

No. 10 seed John Isner pounded 44 aces past 18th seed Feliciano Lopez to avenge a loss to the Spaniard back in 2012, with a 6-7(8), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4 win.

“It’s a big win,” Isner said. “It’s a very tough opponent, especially for me, the way he plays. It certainly has given me trouble before in the past.

“Also been a little while since I’ve been in the Round of 16 at this tournament. It feels great. I’m very relieved to get through, want to keep on going.”

The victory puts the American in the round of 16 for just the second time in Melbourne. He also achieved that milestone in 2010.

“I’m proud of the fact that I was able to, especially in the third and fourth sets, play some very good tennis. Really I went out there and I had a game plan and executed it very well in the third and fourth sets.

“Not in the first two sets, which is why I was frustrated out there at times. A lot of things I focused on about this match. I did some of them very well. I’m proud of that. You know, I was very well-prepared, so it’s a good feeling to get through.”

He’ll play No. 8 seed David Ferrer for a chance to reach the quarterfinals.

“My last match in 2015 he beat me, as well, in Paris,” Isner said of Ferrer. I’ve got to play aggressive. I mean, he’s going to want to get on top of that baseline and move me around all day. He’s not going to get tired. We all know that.”

 

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Fila Signs John Isner to a Multi-year Deal

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(January 5, 2016) FILA has signed an endorsement agreement with No. 1 ranked American man tennis player, John Isner.

“We are proud to have American tennis star John Isner join our strong lineup of ambassadors,” said Jon Epstein, President of FILA North America. “His ability on-court, his pursuit of excellence and his passion for the game make him an excellent representative for the FILA® brand. We are thrilled to align with a world-class athlete like John and we look forward to this collaborative relationship.”

Isner, 30, is the No. 11 ranked player on the ATP World Tour and is currently the highest-ranked American male tennis player for the fourth straight season. He turned pro in 2007 and has amassed 10 ATP singles titles and three doubles titles. John achieved a career-high ranking of No. 9 in 2012. Isner is known for having one of the fastest and most powerful serves in the game. He currently ranks 10th for the most aces in the history of the ATP. Isner also played the longest match in tennis history, at Wimbledon in 2010.

“FILA® has such a celebrated heritage in tennis and I am excited to begin my partnership with the brand,” said Isner. “I have long admired and respected FILA and it’s an honor to join the legends of the game who have worn FILA® on-court.”

FILA has a long history in the world of tennis that continues with endorsements of ATP World Tour and WTA Tour athletes. FILA is a sponsor of the BNP Paribas Open and the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships. In addition to event partnerships, FILA is an official supplier to Junior Tennis Champions Center, Van der Meer Tennis, John Newcombe Tennis Ranch, and the Kim Clijsters Academy in Belgium.

The FILA® brand was established over a century ago by the FILA brothers of Biella, Italy. FILA® is now a leading sport and leisure footwear and apparel brand that is distributed worldwide. FILA has achieved world-class recognition in tennis by marketing high design and style content products that are endorsed by professional athletes from around the world.

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Murray Rallies From Two Sets Down to Win, Hewitt Falls Short in Comeback, Federer Cruises at US Open

(September 3, 2015) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY –
“But, you know, was a great atmosphere out there on that court. “The crowd was really involved. You know, it was nice to be able to turn it into a decent match.”

“Tennis has given me the life that I have, and that’s the best thing. Obviously I’ve had a lot of success. A lot of hard work and dedication and sacrifices. But obviously at the end of the day, you know, tennis has given me this great life.”

No need for a comeback for second seed Roger Federer. He hit 46 winners in demolishing Steve Darcis 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 in the first night session match.

“I think this year is another good year. Doing the right things on the court,” Federer said. “It was pretty on the easier side, you know, so I was able to mix it up, was attacking, was also staying back some. I was pretty much all-out attack as much as I could. Obviously I have to manage that against different players when the scoreline isn’t maybe so one-sided.”

American Jack Sock had to retire against Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium while leading due to cramps. The heat during the day was over 90 degrees.

There are two American men left in the draw- No. 13 John Isner and unseeded Donald Young.

“Isner said: “Well, he’s fine now. I didn’t speak in-depth with him. I imagine he got an IV. I hope so. Those help a lot when your body is completely cramping.

“But it’s tough to see. You see it on TV and you’re helpless at that point, completely. He sweats more than anyone I’ve ever seen.

“It’s not a fitness thing. I think that’s a big, big misconception. He’s in very good shape. He can play 50-ball rallies if he wants to. But he sweats a lot. He loses a lot when he’s sweating.

“It’s all about, in my opinion, putting the right things in your body beforehand. He’s in very good shape. It’s not a fitness thing, if people are saying that. His body was at a deficit of whatever it is, sodium, magnesium, potassium. Whatever it is, in these humid conditions, you have to put all that in your body.

“It’s a huge bummer. No offense to his opponent today, but if Jack’s body held up, he would have won the match, so…

“Huge bummer, especially at his home Grand Slam. He obviously was playing well, too, up until that point. Good thing for Jack is he’s very young. He’s very, very good. So he’s going to have a lot more cracks at this tournament, that’s for sure.”

US Open

Men’s Singles Second Round 

[2] Roger Fefderer (SUI) d. Steve Darcis 6-1 6-2 6-1
[3] Andy Murray (GBR) d. Adrian Mannarino (FRA) 5-7 4-6 6-1 6-3 6-1
[5] Stan Wawrinka (SUI) d. Hyeon Chung (KOR) 76(2) 76(4) 76(6)
[6] Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 7-6(2) 6-1 6-3
[12] Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. Robin Haase (NED) 4-6 6-3 7-6 6-4
[13] John Isner (USA) d. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) 6-3 6-4 6-4
[15] Kevin Anderson (RSA) vs. Austin Krajicek (USA) 6-3 6-4 6-2
[20] Dominic Thiem (AUT) d. Denis Istomin (UZB) 6-4 6-4 1-0 ret.
Jiri Vesely (CZE) d. [21] Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 76(3) 36 36 62 76(4)
[22] Viktor Troicki (SRB) vs. Rajeev Ram (USA) 7-6(10) 6-4 3-6 6-3
Ruben Bemelmans (BEL) d. [28] Jack Sock (USA) 46 46 63 21 ret.
[29] Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Lukas Rosol (CZE) 7-6(4) 6-2 6-2
[30] Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) d. Yoshihito Nishioka (JPN) 6-0 6-3 6-4
[31] Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) d. Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 6-4 6-2 6-7(4) 6-1
Donald Young (USA) d. Aljaz Bedene (GBR) 3-6 6-4 6-4 6-2

Women’s
Singles – Second Round

[20] Victoria Azarenka (BLR) def. Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 7-5, 6-4

[2] Simona Halep (ROU) def. Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) 6-3, 6-4

[22] Samantha Stosur (AUS) def. Evgeniya Rodina (RUS) 6-1, 6-1

[16] Sara Errani (ITA) def. Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 0-6, 6-4, 6-3

Johanna Konta (GBR) def. [9] Garbiñe Muguruza (ESP) 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 6-2

Mona Barthel (GER) def. Olga Govortsova (BLR) 2-6, 6-2, 6-4

Varvara Lepchenko (USA) def. Lesia Tsurenko 7-6(7), 6-2

[18] Andrea Petkovic (GER) def. Elena Vesnina (RUS) 6-3, 7-6(4)

[11] Angelique Kerber (GER) def. Karin Knapp (ITA) 7-5, 6-2

Barbora Strycova (CZE) def. Qiang Wang (CHN) 6-2, 4-6, 7-5

[26] Flavia Pennetta (ITA) def. Monica Niculescu (ROU) 6-1, 6-4

[5] Petra Kvitova (CZE) def. Nicole Gibbs (USA) 6-3, 6-4

[24] Sabine Lisicki (GER) def. Camila Giorgi (ITA) 6-4, 6-0

Shelby Rogers (USA) def. Kurumi Nara (JPN) 6-4, 6-4

[32] Anna Karolina Schmiedlova (SVK) def. Danka Kovinic (MNE) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4

Petra Cetkovska (CZE) def. [4] Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(1)

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Kei Nishikori and Sloane Stephens Take Citi Open Singles Titles

Sloane Stephens close upKei Nishikori

(August 9, 2015) On Sunday, 2014 U.S. Open finalist, second seed Kei Nishikori rallied to stop hard-serving John Isner 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 to claim his first Citi Open title. Sloane Stephens captured the women’s title in Washington, DC with a 6-1, 6-2 dismissal of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova match between unseeded players.

For the 25-year-old Japanese player, this was his 10th career title, while for the American, it was her first trophy on the WTA Tour.

“I didn’t make enough inroads on his first serve,” said three-time Washington finalist Isner of his battle against Nishikori. “If you put a decent amount of first serves in the court, he’s arguably the best in the best in the world from the baseline. It’s tough. I thought he served better in the second and third sets. He’s a great player and a great champion.”

“I’m very happy to win after losing the first set,” said Nishikori. “I came back really well so I’m very happy to win today.

“I fought through (after losing the first set for the third time this week). In the first match I was down 7-6 and came back. It’s not easy but mentally I tried to fight every time and I’m happy to win in the final today.”

Nishikori who is 43-9 on the year will move up to No. 4 in the world with the victory, matching his career high.

“I’ll try to keep going,” Nishikori said. “I’ve been playing well.”

Nishikori will move up from No. 5 to No. 4 in Monday’s rankings, equaling his career best.

In the men’s doubles final, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan won their fourth Citi Open title beating Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 6-4, 6-2 for their 108th career doubles title.

“I think this tournament is really valuable for our confidence, our momentum going into this hard-court summer,” Bob Bryan said. It was nice to get some revenge on a couple of teams we lost to over in Europe. That will help us going into these next three big tournaments and crescendos at the US Open in New York.”

Sloane Stephens

Sloane Stephens

The 22-year-old Stephens, jumped off to a 3-0 lead winning 15 of the first 21 points and never had to look back. This was the first final for the American.

“I just went out there and tried to play the best I could,” Stephens said to media.

“I think I executed my game very well today – it was just a really good day for me.”

“Nothing was given to me. I had to work for everything. It was just nice that all of the hard work and everything I’ve put into it – now I can say that I have a tournament title,”

“It’s great to win this first title – I haven’t even thought about my next goal yet.”

“Last year I was going through a learning process. I learned a lot about myself. And there’s still a lot of room to grow. Sometimes you have to go through the process. To get to this place, to get to this beautiful trophy, I had to go through a lot, but at the end of the day it was definitely worth it.”

Stephens, who was once ranked as high as No. 11 in the world, will move up from No. 35 into the top 30 when the rankings come out on Monday.

The doubles title went to the fourth seeds Belinda Bencic and Kristina Mladenovic over third seeds Lara Arruabarrena and Andreja Klepac, 7-5, 7-6(7).

 

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John Isner Three-peats at Atlanta Open

John Isner

(August 2, 2015) John Isner defeated Marcos Baghdatis 6-3, 6-3 capture his third straight Atlanta Open title on Sunday in 59 minutes. Isner became the eighth active player on the ATP World Tour three-peat a tournament joining active players Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori and Lleyton Hewitt.
“It was a short match against an opponent who wasn’t feeling well, but this week was exactly what I needed, to get matches under my belt,” said the 30-year-old former University of Georgia standout. “It should bode well for me going forward.”

Baghdatis was dealing with an injury which recurred a month ago and he apologized for his performance.
“I didn’t play my best tennis this week but I’m pretty happy with my mental side, I found ways to win,” said the Cypriot. “I played five matches this week…the good thing is that it’s nothing serious.”

“It’s always tough to have a match in (17) hours, especially when your opponent has (22). We are humans, you know, and you want to be able to play a final with the crowd loving it.”

Isner will move up in the rankings to No. 18, while Baghdatis will move to No. 44.

Isner takes the lead in the first week of the US Open Series Bonus Challenge, with the title victory. This year, the Series champions will compete for the chance to win a $4.3 million record paycheck at the US Open — $3.3 million for winning the US Open plus an additional $1 million bonus for also capturing the Emirates Airline US Open Series title. Isner has finished second in the Series’ Bonus Challenge standings each of the last three years. New in 2014 and continuing this year, any player who earns points in three or more Series events will automatically have their bonus points doubled.

 

Americans Bob and Mike Bryan defeated Colin Fleming of Great Britain and Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 4-6, 7-6(2), 10-4 to win the doubles title. It’s their 107th career crown and fourth of the year.

“Bob and I have really enjoyed playing this fantastic event and couldn’t be more thrilled to come away with the trophy,” said Mike Bryan. “Today’s match was a hard fought battle against a really tough team and it came down to the wire. Luckily we were able to play some great tennis toward the end to swing the match in our favor. The Atlanta fans have been awesome all week and helped push us over the line.”

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John Isner Survives Denis Kudla to Reach Atlanta Open Final

By Herman Wood

(August 1, 2015) ATLANTA, Georgia – John Isner took on rising American Denis Kudla in Saturday’s first semifinal at the Atlanta Open.  Even some fans needed some help with the heat!  At Wimbledon, he reached the round of sixteen.  Kudla, already with five matches behind him due to having to qualify, has been playing very well.  After getting through qualifying, Kudla took out fellow Americans Ryan Harrison and Jack Sock to get to Isner.  If he could get by Isner, it would be his first tour level final.  The men had exchanged holds to three all, when in the last game before a ball change, Kudla stepped way in on a second serve, blocking it back and Isner sailed a very makeable volley.  Kudla consolidated with an easy hold at fifteen.  The court looked extremely hot, though only Isner seemed to be leaving puddles of perspiration with every step.  After another easy hold, Kudla had an opportunity to serve for the set.  Isner wouldn’t go easily, earning a break point with a few Kudla errors.  On his first opportunity, Kudla took the opening set 6-4.

The two-time defending champion Isner seemed to settle into an easier rhythm on his serve early in the second set.  Kudla got a taste of Isner’s power when Isner stepped into some forehand returns and really got a lead in the point.  He earned a break with a missed Kudla forehand of a floating Isner return that Kudla was trying to hit hard enough to win two points with one shot. The break spotted Isner a 3-1 lead which he quickly consolidated to 4-1.  It was a very good thing for Isner’s number one fan, Justin.  Justin is a diminutive young man who supports him vocally at every match.  Isner has met with him many times and is very appreciative of Justin.  Justin had buried his face in a towel since Isner had dropped the opening set.  A second break of Kudla encouraged Justin even more, giving Isner the set 6-2.  With the second break giving him the set, Isner could step out in the lead with each changeover of the deciding third set.

Isner won sixteen of sixteen points on his first serve in the second set.  He started the deciding third set with another easy hold, only losing one point on serve.  Kudla certainly had to hit more balls to hold his serve.  Kudla really couldn’t make headway on Isner’s serve early, with Isner closing out the 3-2 service game with a 113 MPH second serve ace.  Kudla did his part to hold his serve, forcing Isner to rally, certainly not his strength.  It seemed that once Kudla got a lead in his service game, Isner was willing to let games go, not wasting as much effort to fight to stay in the game.

With Kudla serving at 3-4, Isner took a couple of big inside out swings from the ad court to get to thirty all.  Kudla felt the pressure and double faulted to give the advantage and a break point to Isner.  Isner took another huge swing at an inside out forehand and headed for the net.  Kudla found the opening for the pass, getting back to deuce.  Kudla again couldn’t make a first serve and Isner punished the forehand inside out for the winner and deuce again.  Kudla found the formula, making Isner run on the deuce point and finally making his first serve into the Isner backhand, earning an error and four all.

At five all, Isner served a double fault, perhaps feeling a bit of pressure.  The feeling passed quickly, erased with big serves, smashes, and a Kudla error.  Kudla had to hold, serving at 5-6, to get to a tiebreaker.  He felt some pressure, sailing a couple of balls to allow Isner to get even at thirty all.  Isner went big on a second serve offering, though he just missed wide from the deuce court.  With the ensuing game point, Kudla again felt the pressure, double faulting to bring up deuce.  He made the serve, placed well, but couldn’t get the rally going, missing a ground stroke.  Isner earned a second match point and Kudla missed wide.  A challenge was made, though Isner was so comfortable with the call that he shook hands before it was played on the scoreboard.  Match to Isner, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Isner added 25 more aces to his assault on the tournament.  “That 2-1 game in the second set turned the match around.  I took some big cuts, my shots found the court, and I was able to break and it relaxed me a lot from there.”

In the second semifinal, Gillies Muller chose to open serving, not surprisingly since he hasn’t been broken in any of his three matches.  He’s only faced one break point.  It’s easy to see why, with the big lefty hook coming down the T in the deuce court.  Two aces helped him keep the streak alive in the first game.  He really likes this location, saying he hopes they keep it here forever.  Marcos Baghdatis matched him with an easy hold to get going, though without the aces.   After a pair of matching holds, Baghdatis began to make adjustments in his return position, hoping to get a better look at the Muller serve.  It didn’t help much in the outcome of the game, though he managed to hit more effective returns.  Muller caught on at three all or Baghdatis guessed wrong on every Mueller serve.  At times, it looked as if Baghdatis was running away from the Muller serve.  Baghdatis never got a good swing in the seventh game, getting to his serve at 3-4.  Fortunately for him, his play was equal to Muller’s serve and he had an easy hold.  Finally, after another Muller hold, Baghdatis provided an opening.  Muller successfully got more aggressive with a deep slice followed by an angled forehand.  Baghdatis hung his next serve and Muller knocked the cover off it for another winner.  Baghdatis steadied, working back first to thirty all, then 40-30 thanks to a Muller errant return, and then the game with a nifty slice followed by a finishing volley to even the set again, but at five all.  The favor of an opening was returned by Muller at that point, with some loose play and a double fault.  A net cord nearly gave Baghdatis a break point, but the ball rolled back.  Muller managed the hold with four straight points, the last a service winner.

Continuing a theme for the week, it was time for a tiebreaker.  Muller got a mini break, but gave it back with a surprising double fault.  In the ensuing rally off a Baghdatis serve, Muller was able to take advantage of a bit of a mishit and punish an inside out forehand for a winner.  A blast off a Baghdatis second serve secured the first set for Muller 7-6 (4).

As the second set opened still without threat of service break, Muller began to play more from inside the court with Baghdatis playing from behind the court.  Perhaps he pressed a bit much, finally giving Baghdatis a look at a break point thanks to a double fault.  On a second serve, Muller hit the top of the net and it sailed long, making it a double double fault and finally a break of Muller’s serve in the tournament.  Baghdatis had served first, giving him a two love lead in the set.

At 4-1, Baghdatis forced Muller to make more effort to hold his service game, nearly standing OTP (outside the perimeter, I-285, which circles the city and roughly defines Atlanta) to make returns.  This gave him time to read the Muller serve better and do more damage with returns.  In doing so, he appeared to be in a dance off with several lines people.  Muller managed the hold anyway, keeping it to one break, 4-2.  A subsequent easy hold by Baghdatis took him to 5-2 with Muller to serve.  Muller’s error rate was up significantly for the second set.  In that critical game, Muller stayed focused and held at love.  It looked as if Baghdatis was conserving his energy to serve the set out and have enough in the tank for the deciding third.  Baghdatis closed the second set with a net cord that proved too much for Muller to handle.  The match headed to a third set, even with a 7-6 set to Muller and a 6-3 set to Baghdatis.  It appeared that Baghdatis had the momentum.

Muller opened with another easy hold and appeared to take the momentum away from Baghdatis, also making him work hard from behind to hold and even the deciding set at one game apiece.  Muller got loose with his serve, however, double faulting away another game to give Baghdatis an early break and 2-1 lead.  Baghdatis consolidated, to take a 3-1 lead.  He was still returning from at least the front row.  Muller felt the return pressure, double faulting to open his next service game.  He did wise up to the tactic, starting to follow his serve forward and hitting drop shots that Baghdatis had no chance to track down from out in Atlantic Station.  It was enough to keep him on serve and within one break through 3-4.  It turned out to be critical, as Baghdatis got a bit tentative on his next service game and Muller was able to get a very patient break to get things even again at four.  With a hold, he could put pressure on Baghdatis to have to hold to stay in the match.  Baghdatis showed his determination on the first point of Mullers 4-4 service game, tracking down big shot after big shot, even sliding down before finally flicking a forehand winner.  Muller steadied, getting finer with placement of his serve, forcing weak returns and hitting a 125 MPH ace, finally holding due to a Baghdatis missed return.

Now with the pressure squarely on his shoulders, serving at 4-5 to stay in the match, Baghdatis stepped to the line.  The pressure didn’t affect his stroke- making consecutive drop shots for a 30 love lead.  Combined with an ace and service winner, Baghdatis had an easy hold to 5-5.  It appeared Muller could stay ahead with a routine hold, but a few forehand errors into the bottom of the net and Baghdatis had a break point.  Muller found his forehand again and held on.  After another double fault, he gave Baghdatis a break point looking at a second serve.  An errant forehand, this time wide, and Muller was broken.  Baghdatis would serve for the match.

Muller worked to get an opening in the game, chasing down a drop shot, and running Baghdatis.  Baghdatis felt the pressure, double faulting to give Muller three break points.  The first was saved by some great geometry from Baghdatis, with an angled drop shot, but Muller got the break on the very next point with an open court winner.

Returning to the tournament theme, it was time for a tie breaker.  Baghdatis got a mini break with the first point and made it hold up with an ace for 3-0 that Muller futiley challenged.  The mini break held up all the way to the Baghdatis serving 5-4.  On that point, Muller hit a high bouncing second serve earning an error from Muller.  The final point was another service return error and Baghdatis again kissed the court, headed for the finals and John Isner.  If he manages the win tomorrow, a kiss of the court would be most unwise- it could lead to a nasty burn!

When asked about his strategy of moving so far back for the return, Baghdatis said, “I gave it a try early in the second set and it confused his targets.  The key to tomorrow is messing up his game and finding a way to win.”  Isner is 5-0 against Baghdatis.

Some fine tennis was played, though the sold out crowd never really seemed to get going.  They were appreciative of fine play, especially from Baghdatis skidding about the court and running down balls hit into Atlantic Station.  It was cooler with the sun down, so heat wasn’t as much of a problem for the players or the crowd.  This could prove to be a big factor for tomorrow’s final, with a forecast temperature of 91 degrees and very little wind at match start time.

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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Isner and Bryan Brothers Advance at Atlanta Open

John Isner

John Isner

By Herman Wood

(July 30, 2015) ATLANTA, Georgia – If you’re wondering, yes, it’s still hot in Atlanta!  A few showers interrupted play on Thursday, and are not helping much with the heat, breaking the rhythm of matches and sending spectators scurrying.  Fortunately, they didn’t last long, didn’t wet the courts very much and play stayed on schedule.  In the first stadium match, No. 1 seed, American John Isner took on Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.  Stepanek did get an early break, with Isner’s rhythm a bit off from the interruptions and help from Hawkeye.  Isner got it back and with the match at five all, had a break point in hand looking at a Stepanek second serve.  Stepanek was equal to the task and the match proceeded to the requisite Isner tiebreak.  The breaker was not close, however, with Isner earning mini-breaks and the ball in his hand at 6-3.  The expected ace was punctuated by a fist pumping YES!  Isner had 33 for the match, compared to 3 for Stepanek.  Isner displayed some very nice touch after motoring to pick up Stepanek droppers, making accurate placements in the open court for winners.  The crowd was very appreciative of Isner’s effort as well as the aces.  Stepanek managed an early break anyway to go up 3-2, then consolidated with a hold for 4-3, even forcing Isner to fight off another break point.  The crowd got some serious entertainment with an exchange of drop shots initiated by Stepanek, leading first to a Stepanek lob directly over Isner, a tall order of itself.  Isner made the effort, but sent his return in the clouds.  When it finally came down, it wasn’t exactly an easy shot for Stepanek to finish the point and Isner was able to track down the overhead for a forehand winner.    The crowd let both men know how they felt!

Stepanek seemed to have a little steam out of his game, double faulting twice to even the set at four.  An encouraged Isner promptly needed five points to fire four aces and barking ensued.  Isner is a University of Georgia graduate and has been a crowd favorite in years past.  Georgia fans bark at the exploits of their teams to encourage them.  The crowed also started up a USA chant to further encourage the Davis Cup stalwart.  Perhaps the rival Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fans wanted to show their support but couldn’t stomach a “woof”.  Stepanek, serving, down 4-5, had to save a set point with his shaky serve, though Isner might have been a little jacked up and sailed a few long to help him out.  After an exchange of holds, it was time for another tiebreak.  (This was a theme tonight.)  The king of tiebreaks did have to put in a bit of extra tennis, closing out Stepanek in the breaker 9-7.  Match to Isner, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7).  Isner said after the match “Had the crowd on my side, helped so, so much.”  He’ll take on Ricardas Berankis in the next round on Saturday.

In the finale, number one doubles seeds Bob and Mike Bryan took on Treat Huey and Steve Johnson.  Johnson had already played a singles match in the worst of the afternoon’s heat, losing to Ricardas Berankis 6-4, 6-2.  It showed a bit early, though he really turned it around after getting loose again.  The Bryans ran out to a very workmanlike 5-1 lead in the first set.  Johnson showed some very nice geometry, angling groundstrokes and volleys, but Huey let him down with a few poor volleys.  Johnson put his foot on the gas pedal, blasting away on returns and passes, at more than one point splitting the Bryans.  The Bryans tried to be offensive from the baseline, earning break points but were not able to convert, allowing Huey/Johnson to break their way all the back to 4-5 with Johnson serving.  It seemed momentum had completely swung, with the Bryans bouncing balls in front of them at the net and not being their usual aggressive selves.  After holds, the match proceeded to the evening theme:  tiebreak.

The Bryans seemed to be able to pick on Huey at the net with blasts that would have been painful had they not been deflected.  They were effective in earning a mini-break and momentum, though Huey did get the mini-break back, momentum seemed to never leave the Bryans again.  They continued to pick on Huey and took the first set 7-6 (7-5 in the tie break).

The second set featured amazing shot making and tennis that looked more like the Harlem Globetrotters had changed sports.  Mike Bryan whiffed a volley and it appeared that Bob volleyed it back without looking.  Huey and Johnson were so stunned the ball was soon in their side of the net.  The crowd enjoyed it, though the Bryans seemed a bit apologetic.  Later in the set Huey and Johnson had both brothers scrambling madly.  One of the Bryans ended up in a heap in the corner after a ferocious get and screeching slide.  It did earn them a point, but it cost someone some skin!

At four all, Huey’s volleys again got loose, allowing a service break.  Bob Bryan had the opportunity to serve it out with the crowed loudly encouraging the team, but they couldn’t get it done. Johnson and Huey fought hard to even the set at five all.  After a family meeting, Mike Bryan took his turn to serve, trying to get to the seven point set tiebreaker.  Johnson fired some bullets at Bob Bryan at the net, with Bryan able to block one, though the second was too good on one amazing point.  The ball sounded like a shot coming off both mens’ racquets.

Following the theme for the night, the tiebreak for the second set was on.  Huey/Johnson earned mini-breaks, but the Bryans got them right back and finished off the tie break and the match, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).  The Bryans clearly relish having the opportunity to control the outcome of the match and have the ball on their racquet when it matters most.  It’s hard to argue that they aren’t the greatest doubles team of all time.  They’ll play the winner of Chris Eubanks/Donald Young and Austin Krajicek/Nicholas Monroe in the next round.

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.

RESULTS – THURSDAY, 30 JULY 2015

Singles – Second Round
[1] J. Isner (USA) d [PR] R. Stepanek (CZE) 76(3) 76(7)
[Q] D. Kudla (USA) d [3] J. Sock (USA) 76(6) 63
R. Berankis (LTU) d [6] S. Johnson (USA) 64 62
D. Sela (ISR) d [8] B. Becker (GER) 75 63

Doubles – Quarter-finals
[1] B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d T. Huey (PHI) / S. Johnson (USA) 76(5) 76(4)
C. Fleming (GBR) / G. Muller (LUX) d M. Baghdatis (CYP) / M. Jaziri (TUN) 76(8) 62

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The Road to the US Open Begins This Weekend at the BB&T Atlanta Open

BB&TAtlantaOpen

By Herman Wood

(July 24, 2015)ATLANTA, Georgia – The road to the US Open starts in Atlanta with the BB&T Atlanta Open this weekend with qualifying.  The BB&T is a ATP World Tour 250 event, with a 28 player singles and 16 player doubles draw.  Total prize money this year is $585,870.00.  The venue is set in downtown Atlanta, amongst the sky scrapers and shopping of Atlantic Station.  Two time champion and former University of Georgia all-time leader in singles and doubles wins, John Isner returns in search of a historic three-peat.

Arguably the best doubles team of all time, Bob and Mike Bryan make their debut in the BB&T.  They got their first tour win in an Atlanta event in 1998.  Defending doubles champ and singles semifinalist Jack Sock, along with doubles partner Vasek Pospisil, are looking to take another step in their development.  The doubles draw could be very interesting if a showdown between the Bryan brothers and “Popsock” materializes.  It was only a year ago that Pospisil/Sock denied the Bryans the Wimbledon 2014 title.

Marco Baghdatis is already turning heads in the ATL.  As he dropped off his racquets for stringing by the Prince Team at the Serious Tennis tent with Deana Buzzy Mitchell, he was reportedly, “very sweet and winked at me!”  That kind of behavior is sure to make him a fan favorite with at least half of the crowd.  Americans Steve Johnson, Tim Symzek, and Donald Young are also looking to make a statement.   In what could be a big story line, two time champion Mardy Fish is returning to the tour in this tournament.  He has struggled with health issues almost since the last tournament win in Atlanta.  He’ll also be teaming up with another former Atlanta champion, Andy Roddick.  Roddick will not play in the singles main draw, but is playing an exhibition match against another young American, 17 year old Frances Tiafoe on Monday night.  Tiafoe created a stir in the qualifying last year and has been granted a wild card into the main draw.  Other crowd favorites returning include Dudi Sela, last year’s finalist, 2013 finalist Kevin Anderson, and 2012 finalist Giles Muller.  The draw will also include 4 players from a 32 draw qualifying tournament to be played this weekend.

2015 French Open Boys’ champion Tommy Paul and this year’s Wild Card Challenge winner Trent Bryde have accepted two wild card spots into that BB&T Atlanta Open qualifying tournament.  Paul is the No. 5-ranked American junior. Bryde had to make his way through 5 matches in the Wild Card Challenge.  Georgia Tech also is providing a wild card to sophomore Christopher Eubanks.  Eubanks was named all Atlantic Coast Conference as a freshman last spring and finished ranked number 47 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

Ticket sales have been on a record pace according to Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez.  Atlanta has always been a tennis town, with the largest local doubles league in the United States.  There will be several special events that are part of the tournament scene, including the above mentioned exhibition with Roddick, a kids weekend with special ticket promotions during the qualifying tournament, a Commodores concert, College Night, another concert featuring LoCash, Ladies Day, USTA member appreciation day, and a Family Zone presented by Prince at Atlantic Station where kids can play tennis.

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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American Jack Sock Knocks Out 10th Seed Grigor Dimitrov at Roland Garros on ‘Favorite Surface’

Jack Sock

(May 26, 2015) Grigor Dimitrov became the highest men’s seed to take a tumble at Roland Garros on Tuesday. The 10th seeded Bulgarian fell to Jack Sock of the United States 7-6, (7), 6-2, 6-3 in the first round.

The last American man to lift the singles trophy at Roland Garros was Andre Agassi in 1999. Since then the U.S. men have not had much success on the red clay.

Twenty-two-year-old Sock who won a title last month in Houston on green clay calls clay: “my favorite surface.”

“This just suits my game very well,” Sock said. “Like I said, serve, forehand, I think it really complements those shots well for me. Serve is able to get up, forehand gets up, and it slows it down a little bit where I’m able to take my time and kind of maneuver the ball around. Movement is another big part of my game. I feel like on the clay get to a lot of balls, I can touch a lot of balls in the balls, which sometimes can frustrate guys when you get to one extra. Sometimes that can change a match.”

 

As for American men and their feeling about red clay, Sock said: “I hope as a whole for American tennis we can do well and we can get wins and kind of push to be somewhat where we were bunch of years ago when we had some of the American guys winning and doing well. But, yeah, as a whole we’re all pushing each other and trying to do very well. Each of us individually is also focusing on ourselves. I think when one of us does well it pushes the others to do well as well. I think that’s everyone’s mindset.”
Sock who began his 2015 season late due to a torn hips muscle, dealt with the illness of his older brother who had a lung infection.

“He’s doing much better now,” Sock said. “He’s got full I guess health back. He’s started working again. He teaches tennis back home in Kansas City with the coach I worked with growing up. Just the little things, strength and mobility, shoulder, he’s just had to do a lot of work to get back. He’s getting there and close to 100%.”

“It’s been a lot outside of tennis for me, a lot of stuff going on. It’s motivated me in a lot of ways to see a family member, and especially my brother — you know, I’m very close with him. To see him go through what he did… And I was in the hospital every day with him after I had surgery, so just back-to-back things that were very unfortunate. To see him battle and get through that when he was very close to not making, it was more inspirational I think than anything. Like people I think know in Indian Wells, when I started the year, I was out there and he was with me. I was playing for him, him and my family. Just doing the best I could for them and trying to make them proud. It’s kind of carried over every week.”

Sock’s countryman John Isner was winner on Tuesday as well. He beat Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-2, 6-3. Isner isn’t afraid of the red dirt either.

“A lot is said about clay and how it’s a defensive surface,” Isner said. “It’s sort of I would say a misconception. I think clay is a very good attacking surface. A guy like Rafa(el Nadal), yeah, he plays great defense, but knocks the cover off the ball. He is greatest clay-court player of all-time. Me, on top of that, I’m a completely different animal than anyone. My serve is going to play no matter what the surface is and going to keep me in the match. So I’m comfortable on clay. I’ve played pretty well over here in Europe, which is nice. You know, I’ve had some bad European swings before, too. So feeling pretty good right now.”

 

 

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