2014/08/01

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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Round of 16 Preview for Hall Of Fame Championships

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By Dave Gertler

 

(July 9, 2014) NEWPORT – ‘I’ve won a lot of matches here the last three, four years,” said John Isner after his 6-3, 7-6 first-round win. “I love this tournament. I hope I can keep moving on in the draw, and hope I can be here for the weekend.”

 

John Isner is the clear favorite and top-dog at this year’s Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport. After making it through a tighter-than-expected first round match against qualifier Wayne Odesnik, the tournament’s top seed and world No.12 Isner will need to get through Austin Krajicek, the 24-year-old American ranked 208, who managed his first ATP tour main draw win when he took out Tim Smyczek in the first round here in Newport.

 

A potentially more interesting matchup would occur in the third round of Isner’s all-American quarter of the draw, where he would potentially face the winner of Jack Sock and Rajeev Ram. 21-year-old Sock, the tournament’s 7th seed, has had a standout year having won 13 ATP-level main draw matches, as well as healthy performances in Challenger events and, perhaps most surprisingly, a Wimbledon Men’s Doubles title a week ago. But to reach the third round, Sock will have to get past grass-master Rajeev Ram, the evergreen 30-year-old from Denver, who won this very title in 2009, and successfully tested his all-court bag of tricks in his first round win against Australia’s Matt Ebden.

 

Should Isner make it to the semifinals, his opponent, one of Lleyton Hewitt, Ante Pavic, Tatsuma Ito or Steve Johnson, will have their work cut out for them against the 6’10” big-serving Isner.

 

Indeed, it’s difficult to observe the sheer speed of Newport’s grass courts, and not sense that the only player capable of stopping Inser from winning his third Hall of Fame title will be one of the other big servers, several of whom are placed in the bottom half of the draw.

Of these three contenders, Ivo Karlovic, at 6’11’ the tournament’s No. 2 seed, is the obvious favorite to face Isner in the final, but may face a challenge from an in-form Sergiy Stakhovsky, who has beaten Roger Federer on grass and may possess the craftiness to neutralise Karlovic’s strong serve-volleying. While this second-rounder will take place last on Center Court, second-billed on Court 2, France’s Adrian Mannarino and Israel’s Dudi Sela’s will decide who gets to play the winner in the third round. Both players born in the ‘80s, ranked in the 90s, and lefties with similar career grass records, this match should go three sets.

 

The biggest threat to Isner in the final, however, might be from the third quarter of the draw, where defending champion Nicolas Mahut is seeded to reach the semifinals, but will have to contend with some dark Australian horses who are enjoying feeding on the Hall of Fame’s grass. Mahut’s second-round encounter with Luke Saville, opening the bill on Center Court, presents a clear opportunity for the 20-year-old Australian, who qualified for, and then reached the second round of, Wimbledon’s main draw. After qualifying in Newport and winning his first round match, Saville now has an 8-3 record on grass in 2014. If Mahut is able to advance to the third round, he may face 26-year-old Australian Sam Groth, who clocked a 143mph serve in his first-round upset win over 5th seed Donald Young, and whose ability to clean up points with deft touch at the net stands him in good stead to make the later stages of a grass court ATP 250.

 

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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Top Seed Isner Advances, Hewitt Guts Out a Win Over Harrison

 

John Isner

John Isner

By Dave Gertler

(July 8, 2014) NEWPORT – Tuesday was always going to be an exciting day at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, with a defending champion, No.1 seed, and a dual grand slam champion in action. All three – Nicolas Mahut, John Isner and Lleyton Hewitt respectively – would advance through their matches to round two, but it was the manner in which, in particular, the latter did, that had the New England tennis enthusiasts on the edge of their seats.

 

Two-time champion John Isner managed a late charge from his first round opponent, qualifier Wayne Odesnik, but would be too strong, taking the match 6-3, 7-6 in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Isner’s second round opponent will be world No.208 Austin Krajicek, who held off Tim Smyczek in their first round match.

 

Lleyton Hewitt in Press

Lleyton Hewitt in Press

While big-servers Isner and Mahut would have relatively comfortable wins, the match-up between Lleyton Hewitt and world No.144 Ryan Harrison would turn out to be a much more even and entertaining one.

 

22-year-old Harrison opened strongly, breaking twice in the first set for 6-1. “I was trying to play a bit too clean tennis,” said Hewitt post-match, “and sort of just over-hitting the first set and I just lost my rhythm a little bit. After the first couple of games, Ryan played a lot better as well. He hit his spots on his serve, hit his forehand a lot better.”

 

In the second set, Hewitt appeared to be experiencing shoulder pain, but after treatment during a medical timeout, was able to stay in touch with Harrison and eventually take the set 7-5. “So at the start of the second set, I was really just trying to hang with him more than anything, and make him play a lot of balls.”

Newport on edges of seat-001

By the start of set three, it was clear to the Newport crowd that they were being treated to an exceptionally high-quality grass tennis match, and were showing their appreciation to the Australian as much as their local prospect. “Considering I was playing an American, it seemed like a lot of them were going for me, which is nice,” said Hewitt, who has reached the final in Newport the last two years, “I guess they appreciate me coming back as well, after losing in two finals as well.”

 

The final set included a total of five breaks of serve, Hewitt ultimately the victor 6-4. After being on court for 2 hours and 10 minutes, Hewitt said of his gritty win, “I just tried to win ugly more than anything, and just get balls back in play.”

 

Harrison, who is unfortunately known for drawing tough first-round opponents in big tournaments, was unable to contain his emotion at one point, breaking his racquet on the grass, and receiving a code violation. Said Hewitt of his up-and-coming opponent, “I think he’s just frustrated because he’s a lot better player than where his ranking’s at at the moment, and he’s probably been in this situation where he’s had opportunities to beat better players and hasn’t been able to close it out. I knew that going into the match and that’s why in the end, I just tried to hang with him, hang with him and then hopefully put some pressure and some doubt into his mind.”

 

Hewitt’s will take the court against his round 2 opponent, Croatia’s Ante Pavic, on Center Court, Wednesday.

 

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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Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic Move into Wimbledon Quarterfinals

 

 

(June 30, 2014) WIMBLEDON -Top seed Novak Djokovic and third seed Andy Murray are getting closer to a semifinal clash as both men reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals on Monday at the All England Club.

Defending champion Murray reached his seventh straight Wimbledon quarterfinal after beating Kevin Anderson of South Africa 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (6) under a closed roof on Centre Court, after a rain delay in the second set forced the roof to be shut.

For the Scot Murray it’s his 17 straight match win at the All England club dating back to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The Serb Djokovic beat France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the 11th consecutive time with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (5) win.

“I was just happy that I won the match,” Murray said.  “I was a bit disappointed with how I started under the roof.  The beginning, like I said, I was a little bit tentative.  Apart from that, that sort of three or four games when we came back out, I played well.

“I created many chances, gave him a few opportunities.  That’s what you need to do on grass court tennis.  You don’t always break.  But if you keep putting them under enough pressure, you’re going to get through in the end.”

“I knew I was going to get tested, you know, at some stage,” the Scot added.  “And, yeah, today I was pushed, especially in the middle part of that second set, then obviously later on in the third there were some tight moments.

“But I handled them fairly well.  It was a good match.”

“I think he was moving great,” Anderson said of Murray’s play.  “That’s a big part of his game.  I think especially on the grass I think that’s a big contributor to why he’s had so much success on this surface.”

Murray will face No. 11. Grigor Dimitrov in his quarterfinal. Dimitrov defeated Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 7-6 (6), 6-2.

“It’s a step up because it’s one round further, and the guys that are in the quarterfinals are going to be playing top tennis,” Murray said about his encounter with the Bulgarian.  “He obviously won Queen’s a couple weeks ago.  He likes the grass courts.

“Yeah, it’s a big opportunity for him, as well, playing on the Centre Court, the courts at Wimbledon for the first time.

“Yeah, it’s a great opportunity for him.  Hopefully we can play a good match.”

 

“I’m happy that I’m in the quarterfinal match,” Dimitrov said.  “Just going to give credit to myself for that.  But my job isn’t over yet.

“So I’m excited to get on the court tomorrow.  Just go through my regular routines, through all the gears, you know, come on Wednesday.”

 

“I’m just going to play my game,” Dimitrov added.  “I’m not going to step back.  I just want to come out with my big game and play my aggressive tennis.”

 

“I was aware of his qualities, especially on this surface,” Djokvic said of his match with Tsonga.  “He looked, before the match, very determined to play his best and very focused.

“I think I did really well from the start to the end, especially in the third set where I thought he elevated his level of game and he started serving very high percentage first serve, very strong, all angles.

“It was difficult to get the return back in play, but managed to save a couple break points, crucial ones, get myself in the tiebreak and wait for the opportunity to be presented.

“We both served very well in the tiebreak, and the only opportunity I had was on second serve on 6-5, and I used it.  I went for the shot.

“Yeah, I’m just glad that I didn’t allow him to go into the fourth set, because he started to use obviously the crowd support.  And, you know, I knew that he’s going to do that because he’s the kind of player that feeds off the energy, so it was very important for me to get this done in straight sets.”

Djokovic will play Marin Cilic for a place in the semifinals.

“I will try to stick to the kind of a game plan that I had against Marin in the previous occasions,” Djokovic said.

“I am aware of the fact, as well, that since he started working with Goran Ivanesevic that he has improved, especially in his service department, where for his height I thought that he didn’t use his full potential up to now work with Goran, where it’s evident that it works well for him.

“Especially on the grass it serves as a great weapon.  He won here in straight sets against Chardy and Berdych and some very good players.

“So it says enough about his quality play in this tournament.”

Stan Wawrinka was finally able to complete his third round match on Monday. Rain on Saturday delayed his chance to play.

The No. 1 Swiss will face 19th seed Feliciano Lopez in the fourth round. Lopez dismissed the last American man in the singles draw, Ninth seed John Isner, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (6), 7-6 (3), 7-5, despite the American hitting 52 aces.

“Tough match to play,” Lopez said.

“As I said before, I knew it’s going to be like this.  I knew we going to play a lot of tiebreaks, so this is the match I was excepting to play.

“Luckily I made it.  I’m very happy to went through.  It was a very difficult one for me today.”

With Isner beaten and Madison Keys withdrawing from the tournament with an injury, it’s the first time since 1911 that no Americans have reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon.

Asked about this fact, Isner said, “Didn’t know that. Don’t really care either.”

Keys was forced to pull out of the tournament with a left adductor injury.

On the women’s side of the draw, the conqueror of Serena Williams has been knocked out of Wimbledon.

Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard, the 13th seed defeated Alize Cornet 7-6 (5), 7-5 to reach the quarterfinals.

“I think we played some good tennis today, “Bouchard said.  “You know, we had some tough points.  She has good wheels.  So I had to really try and finish off the point.

“You know, I think it made for some really tough, physical points.  So that’s definitely the most physical match I’ve played I think this tournament.

“But I’m proud that I really, really fought till the end.  She’s a good fighter, too.  We were really just battling.”

“This is what I’ve worked so hard for, to be in the quarters at Wimbledon,” Bouchard said. “But I want to go another step. I want to keep going.”

Bouchard will play the winner of the fourth round match between Maria Sharapova and Angelique Kerber.

Bouchard spoke briefly about playing both of these women:

“I think she’s a great player,” Bouchard said of Sharapova.  “She, you know, tries to be aggressive like I try to be aggressive as well.  So I think, you know, I’m going to go in and try to battle and go for my shots.  We had a tough match recently at the French Open.  But that’s the past.  So it’s a new match.  If I were to play her, I would just be very excited and really try to go for it.”

“Kerber I played at the French as well.  I played both opponents recently.  Of course with her she’s a lefty so you keep that in mind with tactics.  I played well last time against her because I was really trying to go for it.  Whenever I had an opening, I would really go for it.  I would keep my basic game against both players.”

Three players from the Cazech Republic are among the women’s quarterfinalists – 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Lucie Safarova and unseeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Zahlavova Strycova, who beat No. 2 Li Na, defeated No. 16 Caroline Wozniacki 6-2, 7-5 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Back in April 2013, she completed serving a a six-month doping ban after testing positive for the stimulant sibutramine.

“I can’t believe it for right now,” Zahlavova Strycova sid about the win and reaching the quarterfinals.  “It’s great.  I mean, it was a tough match obviously, and I had to make a fifth match point.

“I’m really, really happy that I could win today.”

She spoke about the six month ban to press: “First of all, I didn’t wanted to play again because I felt like it’s a little bit unfair.  Everything was kind of against.

“So first two months I didn’t want to come back.  Then I missed it.  I missed the feeling of working out, the feeling of winning matches, and being on tour.

“It was tough, but on the other hand, it also brings me some positive things.  Like I say, I am seeing the sport a little bit different now.

“And here I am.”

Last year’s finalist Sabine Lisicki ousted 11th seed Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 to reach the fourth round in a match carried over from Saturday.

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Last U.S. Male Standing, John Isner Wins 19-17 Tiebreaker and Wins in Straight Sets at Wimbledon

 

 

(June 26, 2014) WIMBLEDON – No. 9 John Isner, who is no stranger to long matches at Wimbledon won a 19-17 tiebreaker in the opening set of his win over No. 62 Jarkko Nieminen. It proved to be the second longest tiebreaker in Wimbledon history, second to only Bjorn Borg’s in 1973 won by 20-18.

“That tiebreaker was something else,” said Isner.  “Fortunately I won.”

Isner the lone U.S. man standing won the match 7-6 (17), 7-6 (3), 7-5, hitting 32 aces.

“I knew there was a possibility that I could take the court and be the last American, you know, as soon as I took the court because I was playing later than everyone else, He said.

“I guess it’s better than last year.  We didn’t have anybody past the second round.  At least there’s one guy past the second round.”

Isner is best known for winning the longest match in tennis history, an 11 hour, 5 minute win that ended 70-68 in the fifth set at Wimbledon in 2010 against Nicholas Mahut.

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Federer and Djokovic Set The Stage for Indian Wells Final

Federer DSC_31670463feder practice thursday

Roger Federer

By Kevin Ware

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic Set The Stage for a Mouthwatering Indian Wells Final

 [7] Roger Federer d [28] Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-1

Roger Federer completely overwhelmed Alexandr Dolgopolov in the first men’s semifinal to book his spot in Sunday’s final. Dolgopolov is one of the ATP’s brightest, and most exciting, young prospects: capable of incredible shot-making from anywhere on the court. Against Federer, Dolgopolov missed wildly, and was never able to sink his teeth into the match enough to put Federer under any credible pressure.

Federer was taken to deuce only once in the match, in the seventh game, but snuffed out any hopes for a break with an ace and a service winner. From that point on, it was an uphill battle for his Ukrainian opponent.

“I was ready physically, mentally.  I wasn’t nervous, but I wasn’t sharp enough.  My concentration was going away for maybe one, two points every game. You can’t afford to have that in these matches.”

One of the key problems in his match against Federer was his erratic serve. Against Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, Dolgopolov struggled with his first serve (54%) but still managed to win 90% of those points. Against Federer, his first serve dropped to 39% with a winning percentage of only 67%. And his 12 winners were thoroughly offset by 25 unforced errors.

He struggled at serve, struggled with his ground game, and struggled in his net play. Dolgopolov put it succinctly when he said, “From the start of the match I was just not good enough to compete with him today.”

Federer, on the other hand, continues to play some of the most relaxed and free-swinging tennis he’s played in years; primarily due to the continued pain-free status of his back.

“Yeah, I think I’m just playing more freely overall and with more confidence because I can get to more balls without thinking.  I can wake up in the morning without feeling sore.  I can go to bed not feeling like, I hope I feel better tomorrow.”

Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

[2] Novak Djokovic d [12] John Isner 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-1

For Novak Djokovic, the road to the final was a much tougher affair. After taking a tight first set against Isner, he served for the match twice in the second set: once at 5-4, and again at 6-5. Both times he was broken by combination of nerves, loss of focus, and the aggressive Isner return game.

Once in the second set tiebreak, it was one-way traffic for Isner, who won the tiebreaker with big serving and an equally big ground game to take the match into a deciding set.

However, once Isner was broken in the fourth game of the deciding set – the fourth break of his serve in the match – one got the sense that it was one free gift too many for Djokovic. Unlike his miscues at the end of the second set, Djokovic kept his focus and fought through three deuces to consolidate the break.

To Isner’s credit, he continued to push Djokovic even as his knee bend began to get hampered by slight pain. By no means a “gimme”, Isner made Djokovic produce his best tennis to get through.

A second break of Isner’s serve in the sixth game put the final nail in the coffin for any hope of a comeback. Djokovic served out the match at love.

Isner was understandably disappointed after fighting so hard to get back into the match only to let it slip away in the third. “Yeah, you know, it’s always disappointing when you lose, no matter the situation.  You lose first round, it’s disappointing; end of the tournament, it’s still disappointing.”

In spite of the loss, he was heartened by his great week after a sustained post-Aussie injury layoff. “I didn’t hit a ball for a full month after Australia, so, you know, it’s encouraging in that I played well this week.  I certainly did.”

Novak was clearly relieved to get by an opponent with a serve that can take much of the game out of his hands.

“Yeah, it’s never easy to play John who is if not “the” best, but definitely the top three best servers in the game.  He’s the tallest guy next to Karlovic we have in sport.  He has a great technique.”

“Twice I had chance to finish it out (the second set) and I played two bad games and he played an incredible tiebreaker.  And, you know, when you get to the tiebreaker with John Isner, whoever you are, you’re not a favorite (smiling).”

In Federer, he faces a familiar foe for Sunday’s final, and realizes that it will be a tough match; especially after a February loss to Roger in the Dubai semifinals.

“Whenever we play each other it’s always a huge challenge for both of us, and very few points can decide the winner. I do not expect anything less tomorrow.  I just hope for myself that I will be able to perform on a high level, because I’m going to need to do that in order to get a chance to win against him.”

Men’s Final
Roger Federer v Novak Djokovic
H2H: Federer leads 17-15
Last match: Federer d Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 (Dubai)

Women’s Final
Aga Radwanska v Flavia Pennetta
H2H: Radwanska leads 4-2
Last match: Pennetta d Radwanska 6-4, 611 (Dubai)

 

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Djokovic dominates Benneteau and Isner Edges Gulbis for BNP Paribas Open Rematch

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

By Kevin Ware

[2] Novak Djokovic defeats Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-3

Benneteau played solid tennis to make it through to the quarters, but the odds were stacked against him in this match-up. With a head-to-head record of 1-5, and that one victory coming back in 2006, chances were slim that he’d be able to mount a sufficient challenge to the current World No. 2.

As expected, the first set was over in just 28 minutes and featured two breaks of the Benneteau serve. This wasn’t surprising with a first serve percentage 54%, and a second serve win percentage is 17%. As his struggles on serve mounted, Benneteau pressed on his groundstrokes, which only made matters worse.

In the end, Benneteau’s 10 winners to 32 unforced errors tell the final tale of this match. He served poorly and, as a result, had to go for too much in his shots against Djokovic. For his part, Djokovic played a clean and straightforward match. He hit 17 winners to 12 unforced errors, won 93% of his first serves, 6 of 8 net approaches, and 4 of 15 break points against the Frenchman.

This was a comprehensive win by all measures. It was also a more consistent performance from Djokovic, who has had issues with keeping his focus after jumping out to early leads.  It was something he touched on in his post-match remarks.

“I felt like I was very focused on the court from the start, and it’s what I was looking for.  First few matches I played good tennis but I had some ups and downs. Today was very stable from the first to the last point.”

When asked about the possibility of playing Isner in the semifinals, his two previous losses to Big John in Masters Series readily came to mind.

“I played John here a few years ago and I remember that match.  7-6 in the third, and also lost to him very close one in Cincinnati last year.”

“It’s very challenging because he doesn’t miss his serve too much, so you have to kind of be able to hold your composure, you know, from the first to the last point and be ready to play three tiebreaks.  That’s all.”

Isner fh

John Isner

[12] John Isner defeats [20] Ernests Gulbis 7-6(4) 7-6(3)

A John Isner win in two tiebreak sets is expected. An Isner win over Ernest Gulbis in two tiebreak sets by pressuring his opponent’s ground game is not. But that’s what happened in their BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal match.

Both players held serve through the first set leading up to the tiebreak. Leading 3-2 in the tiebreaker, Gulbis found himself on the losing end of a protracted rally with Isner. Rattled by the losing exchange, he gave up the next point on his serve after the change of ends. That’s all Isner needed to close out the first set tiebreak 7-4.

Isner surprisingly stumbled at the start of the second set by dropping his first service game at love, giving up the crucial early break. When asked about it after the match, he admitted to a little bit of a “checkout” after winning the first set. “I did.  I didn’t play a great service game at all to start the second set.”

But to his credit, Isner kept his head down and worked to slowly chip away at Gulbis’ game (and confidence) before getting the break back when his Latvian opponent failed miserably to serve out the set at 5-4. After that, a second set tiebreak and eventual win was all but assured.

It was a surprisingly nervy performance from the rising Gulbis: a player with a ton of talent and bravado to match. Isner only hit 13 aces in the match, so he wasn’t aced off the court. He had chances to get into Isner’s service games when he got the ball back in play, but failed to win the key points in rallies.

Isner sensed Gulbis’ issues while also noting how his own game loosened up after dropping that first game. “I had chances to pull back even in that second set prior to that 5-4 game too, but I just stayed with it.”

“Once the second set started to get going, I started to see the ball better and I started to make more progress on his serve.  At the same time, he got ‑ in my opinion, I think he got a little bit looser, as well, started making some more mistakes.”

With this win, Isner is projected to re-renter the Top 10. It also marks his fifth appearance in an ATP Masters Series semifinal.

Men’s Semifinals

[7[ Roger Federer versus [28] Alexandr Dolgopolov
H2H: Federer leads 1-0 (Ret)

[2] Novak Djokovic versus [12] John Isner
H2H: Djokovic leads 4-2

Kevin Ware is in Indian Wells covering theBNP Paribas Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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US Men’s Clay Court Championship Announces Entry List

 

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(February 26, 2014) HOUSTON – Four former champions are on the initial entry list of 21 players for the 2014 Fayez Sarofim & Co. US Men’s Clay Court Championship that will be held April 7-13. It will mark the 80th tournament that River Oaks Country Club has hosted.

Defending champion John Isner of the United States will be joined by former champions Juan Monaco (2012), Lleyton Hewitt (2009) and Ivo Karlovic (2007) in the tournament.

Isner, at No. 13, is the top ranked of all entrants, and is one of three Top 20 players in the field, joined by Spaniards Tommy Robredo (No. 16) and Nicolas Almagro (No. 17). Robredo and Almagro, the 2013 runner-up, are two of only four active players on the ATP with more than 200 career match wins on clay.

“We are very pleased to see the caliber of players on our initial entry list,” said Tournament Director Van Barry. “This field really has everything we could ask for – an international flavor, players with high rankings, players who have had success here and players who are well-liked by our fans. We are very excited to have all these guys come to River Oaks and are looking forward to a great week with them as we celebrate the 80th tournament in the Club’s history.”

The initial entry list of 21 includes players from 13 countries. Three more players will be granted wild cards into the field, while four will be added through a qualifying tournament held April 5-7. Below is the initial entry list (Feb. 24 ranking in parentheses):

Nicolas Almagro – Spain (17)
Benjamin Becker – Germany (90)
Alex Bogomolov, Jr. – Russia (93)
Pablo Cuevas – Uruguay (197*)
Somdev Devvarman – India (78)
Matthew Ebden – Australia (62)
Alejandro Falla – Colombia (79)
Daniel Gimeno-Traver – Spain (85)
Santiago Giraldo – Colombia (58)
Alejandro Gonzalez – Colombia (76)
Lleyton Hewitt – Australia (42)
John Isner – United States (13)
Ivo Karlovic – Croatia (55)
Bradley Klahn – United States (65)
Feliciano Lopez – Spain (37)
Juan Monaco – Argentina (43)
Sam Querrey – United States (56)
Tommy Robredo – Spain (16)
Janko Tipsarevic – Serbia (70)
Fernando Verdasco – Spain (32)
Donald Young – United States (91)
*Entry based on injury protected ranking

Two of the top doubles teams on the ATP World Tour have also committed to play the 2014 tournament. Bob and Mike Bryan, the twin-brother tandem that has won four titles at the US Men’s Clay Court Championship, and the Spanish duo of Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero, champions at the 2013 ATP World Tour Finals, have both been entered into the doubles draw.

In 2014, River Oaks Country Club will celebrate hosting a tournament for the 80th time since its inauguration in 1931. The upcoming tournament will also mark the 104th staging of the US Men’s Clay Court Championship.

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Top Seeds Advance in Melbourne Despite Extreme Heat Conditions

Nadal

(January 14, 2014) On a day which saw soaring temperatures, the Australian Open saw top seeds advance on day two of the tennis’ first major of the year. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer,  Juan Martin Del Potro, Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka  moved into the second round despite temperatures which went over 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit).

In addition to the heat, the tournament was beset by retirements, not linked to the heat – six in all which included top American John Isner (ankle) the 13th seed, 12 seed Tommy Haas (shoulder) and 21st seed Philipp Kohlschreiber who withdrew before play, Radek Stepanek (neck).

Nadal was only on the court for a set up 6-4 when his opponent Australian Bernard Tomic retired with a groin injury.

“I know how tough is this situation, I had the same a few years ago at this tournament,” Nadal said. “Since the beginning, I saw a little bit he had some problems on the leg.”

“It was sad,” Tomic said.  It’s unfortunate.  You know, this opportunity I had to play against Rafa was huge for me.  Could have used a lot of it.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t compete.  It was very difficult for me to say sorry to the crowd.  I don’t think they quite knew what was wrong with me.”

Federer began his record 57th consecutive major tournament with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Australian wild-card James Duckworth.

Just over a week after beating Federer in Brisbane, Former Lleyton Hewitt fell in his home slam in five grueling sets to No. 24-seeded Andreas Seppi of Italy

Men’s seeds advancing included No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 11 Milos Raonic, No. 16 Kei Nishikori, No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 31 Fernando Verdasco.

On the women’s side No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanzka, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 11 Simona Halep,  No. 13 Sloane Stephens, No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro, and No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova.

In the women’s upset of the day, No. 19 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova fell  6-3, 6-3 to Elina Svitolina.

Related Articles:

Players React to the Heat at the Australian Open

Nishikori Wins Five-Set Test Under Scorching Heat in Melbourne

Dimitrov Recovers form to best Klahn at Australian Open

One-on-One with American Tennis Player Tim Smyczek

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Catching up with David Ferrer and John Isner

Catching up with David Ferrer and John Isner by James A. Crabtree

John Isner and David Ferrer meet fans at the Prince Hub at the Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne

John Isner (L) and David Ferrer (R) meet fans at the Prince Hub at the Crown Entertainment Complex in Melbourne

(January 12, 2014) MELBOURNE – During a hectic schedule prior to their 2014 Australian Open campaigns I had the chance to catch up with world No. 3 David Ferrer and American No. 1 John Isner for an informal Q & A at the Prince Hub Tennis Live Site, with a focus away from the court.

 

Who do you travel with?

David Ferrer: I travel with my team and coach and girlfriend. I spend the time waiting for planes watching movies and reading.

John Isner: I travel with my team, my brother also. He can be tough to travel with, he can cause some trouble. I’d like to travel with my dog Miguel I don’t see him often but I can’t live without him, he’s a cocker spaniel.

 

Name your favorite Actor, Actress and Movie

DF: My best Actress would be Julia Roberts and actor would be Robert De Niro. And I would not see ever myself acting after my career (laughs).

JI: Favorite movie has gotta be Saving Private Ryan. Favourite actress would be Megan Fox although she is a little out of the scene at the moment now, isn’t she?

 

Favorite place to play?

DF: Of course I love being in Spain but I love the grand slams because they are special.

JI:The tournaments which are close to home and close to where I went to school are great for the support but I do love the grand slams also.

 

Which family members have been most important to you during your journey?

DF: My whole family.  Everyone.

JI: Gotta be my mom.

 

You are both pretty good at tennis, but what are you bad at?

DF: Playing at other sports like football. I play but I am not good. The best out of the tennis players is Rafael Nadal. Feliciano Lopez is the most funny guy.

JI: I suck at soccer. I’ve got confidence with basketball.

 

What would you be doing if you were not playing tennis, and where do you see yourself in ten years?

DF: Still something about tennis I believe. Everything is tennis, tennis is everything.

JI: I don’t think I will be involved too much in tennis in ten years. One of my biggest achievements was starting my own charity, raising money for the cancer hospital that treated my mother. I would like to do more with that.

James Crabtree is a journalist living in Melbourne. Follow him on twitter @JamesACrabtree

 

Australian Open Hub David Ferrer 1 Australian Open Hub Final 1 Australian Open Hub Final 2 Australian Open Hub John Isner & David Ferrer 1 Australian Open Hub John Isner & David Ferrer 2 Australian Open Hub John Isner 1

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