2014/07/28

Taylor Townsend Striving for Top 50

 

Townsend1

(March 6, 2014) INDIAN WELLS, California – Just a year ago a 16-year-old Taylor Townsend made her pro debut at the BNP Paribas Open knocking off top 100 player Lucie Hradecka. A year later the young American, another wildcard and a year wiser, Townsend tops No. 49 Karin Knapp 7-6(1), 6-1, Back in January Knapp extended Maria Sharapova to the brink at the Australian Open.

The match was not a clean one, both combatants combined for 53 unforced errors. “ Neither of us had a rythym on serve,” Townsend said in regard to the back and forth first set. I was just trying to stay solid on my returns, just trying to make her play every single ball.

The former Junior No. 1 said the biggest improvement has been her focus.

“I’m happy with my progress, as far as where I’ve been going, what I’ve been doing. I’ve been doing a lot of hard work, a lot of hours, both on and off the court.

“I’m happy with my progress over the last couple of months.”

“My mental game has gotten a lot better. My coaches and I have been stressing being very mentally tough and learning the game, learning how things work,” Townsend said. “We’ve been stressing that a lot, watching a lot of matches and trying to understand how to play when pressure hits, how to play when you’re up, how to play when you’re down. Things like that.”

Townsend’s focus was tested, just before her news conference when she followed her favorite player Roger Federer into the interview room – as he was leaving, she was entering.

“I tried not to look,” she said with a laugh. “Focus, Taylor focus! That’s what I’ve been working on. Focus please. I played it off well.”

Townsend’s goals for 2014 are to make the top 50 in singles and in doubles. “I’m pretty far away in singles (No. 337), in doubles I’m 189 so that’s not hard. You can have a few good tournaments, here and there and that can shoot up easily. Off the court I’m just continuing to work on myself.

A big test comes for Townsend in the second round when she plays the Italian veteran Flavia Pennetta, the 20th seed at the BNP Paribas Open.

Share

Knapp Sacks Riske: Italy Advances in Fed Cup Over USA

DSCN0663

By Steve Fogleman

(February 9, 2014) Karin Knapp followed up on her win over Christina McHale yesterday with a clinching 6-3, 7-5 victory today over Alison Riske in the first round of the 2014 Fed Cup season in Cleveland, Ohio. The Italians defeated the American team in all three live rubbers.

Knapp did had some trouble closing it out over Riske, who was a last-minute replacement for Madison Keys in an effort by Captain Mary Joe Fernandez to get some momentum for the US. Riske acquitted herself well. She elevated her game in the second set, and after drawing even with the Italian, she was broken at 5-5 in the next game. Knapp served it out from here.

Overall, the match was more competitive than it might appear.

“It’s not easy because she came back. I got a little bit nervous. I got a little bit of emotion.”

Knapp told the press that the team made a pact to jump in the Cleveland snow if they won the tie.

“After this, we will all put the jacket on, the scarf on and we will jump in the snow!”, she said.

No word on when and where that photo opportunity will occur, but the snowy tundra of Cleveland Public Square is conveniently located between the venue and the Fed Cup hotel.

The snow didn’t stop the crowd from arriving to cheer on the US team, but it did slow them down. There were many empty seats at the start of the tie, but the fans filled in to create a boisterous cheering section by the beginning of the second set. The Public Auditorium was noticeably louder than yesterday.

Riske

Riske

Riske had a “big group of people from Pittsburgh” to join her for the event. She called the tie “an unbelievable experience” and noted the “awesome” support from the fans.

She’ll be in training in the two weeks leading up to Indian Wells.

Madison Keys and Lauren Davis won the inconsequential doubles rubber 6-2, 6-3 over Nastassja Burnett and Alice Matteucci.

Italy will advance to the quarterfinals, while the US will be attempting to simply avoid relegation from the World Group in their next outing.

Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He is in Cleveland, Ohio covering the Fed Cup tie between USA and Italy for Tennis Panorama News.

Related article:

Catching Up with Alison Riske at Fed Cup in Cleveland

sphere

Share

Italy Sweeps USA on Day 1 of Fed Cup to Take 2-0 Lead

DSCN0505

By Steve Fogleman

(February 8, 2014) CLEVELAND – Team Italy blanked the USA on Saturday in Cleveland, Ohio, to take a 2-0 lead in Fed Cup first round action.

Christina McHale played a horrendous first set, ceding second serves to Karin Knapp. Knapp’s powerful backhand threatened to make the match a runaway for the Italian. McHale settled down in the second and broke twice to level the score at 6-4.

The ultimate result was a big bang for Italy with a victory by Karin Knapp in three sets, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1. McHale ran her Fed Cup career record to 5-3 with the loss.

After the match, McHale admitted that “by giving her that lead she really relaxed and started playing much better.”

The Italian team was especially loud and supportive. Karin Knapp acknowledged that she feeds off of them and predicted that they would feed off of her win.

“We are not a lot, but we are loud. They helped me”, she said.  “They gave me confidence”.

“If I get the point, maybe Camila goes on the court a little relaxed.”

Maybe you’re right, Karin Knapp.

As predicted by Knapp, Camila Giorgi did come out relaxed…and focused.

Giorgi thrashed Madison Keys 6-2, 6-1, notching a victory for the Italian in her first Fed Cup rubber. Keys seemed to be confused and having one of those days, and she was unable to hold serve on a regular basis.

Giorgi said it did help her composure knowing that her nation was already on the board before she hit her first ball in a Fed Cup.

Keys summed it up best. “She was playing amazingly. I can only control so many things. Great job to her today”, she said.

The Americans are now in danger of losing a fourth straight tie to the Italian team dating back ten years. They’re 0-10 in ties where they’ve started with a pair of singles losses.

But US Captain Mary Joe Fernandez has every reason to believe that this team, at least on paper, should have a realistic shot at pulling a sweep of their own tomorrow. I agree.

Steve Fogleman is Editor of TennisEastCoast.com, a Mid-Atlantic based tennis website. He is in Cleveland, Ohio covering the Fed Cup tie between USA and Italy for Tennis Panorama News.

 

Video Bonus:
Fed Cup Cleveland: Better Than the Winter Olympics

 

Share

Extreme Heat has Players Talking at Australian Open

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

 

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 16, 2014) MELBOURNE – With players being treated for the heat throughout the morning and early afternoon at the Australian Open, the Extreme Heat Policy came into effect at about 2.50pm on Thursday. According to official statements, the conditions were not considered dangerous until this stage, but Maria Sharapova thinks the threshold point could be better explained to the tennis players.

 

The Extreme Heat Policy, in short, ensures that when humidity, temperature and wind speed reach a certain point, no new matches are to commence until further notice and that all sets already in progress must be completed in the same conditions in which they started. Thereafter, matches on outdoor courts will be suspended and the roof may be closed on major arenas.

 

On Thursday, Maria Sharapova and Karin Knapp had already begun their third, deciding set in the blistering heat when the policy was implemented. This meant the roof could not be closed until the conclusion of that set, however, in their case this would mean the end of the match.

 

Some of the players expressed their thoughts on the policy and made suggestions as to how they believed it could better serve the best interests of the athletes who carry the sport.

 

A light-headed Varvara Lepchenko had spent a full hour after her match lying down, trying to recover from the ordeal.

 

“The first thing I did was have an ice bath and I also drank a lot of water with salt. I just lay down in the locker room for the past hour and I just physically couldn’t get up,” Varvara said shakily.

 

“I’m feeling still a little bit weak and I just feel like I wanna sit down all the time and lay down.

 

“I think they definitely should have just not started the matches in the first place and the same goes a couple of days ago… I think they should’ve started the matches after the temperature cooled down a little bit because this is just too much.

 

“When the game kept going, I had many things in my mind. First of all, that I had a good chance and then I started feeling like that and I didn’t know how my body could recover from it during the match. The other thing I started thinking was, what if I’m just gonna drop right now. Then it’s going to take me even longer to recover from something like that.

 

“Obviously it’s very dangerous if somebody has a condition to the heart or anything like that. Being in this temperature’s almost like going to (a) sauna and it’s not good.

 

“It happened to me, for the first time in my life, that I was playing under these conditions… at first, I didn’t understand what was going on. But then my legs and my arms just started to get heavier and I couldn’t focus. And at one point I started feeling dizzier and dizzier.

 

“At 5-1, I started feeling a little bit weak but I thought that I was just feeling tired and I tried to push myself.. In the second set I couldn’t focus on my returns, I couldn’t see the ball… everything started going so fast like I felt like the time in between the points. I started feeling really hot on the top of my head and then at one point I completely lost it.

 

“I just couldn’t focus on the point. I felt like my arms weighed a ton and I started feeling dizzy and this one last point on her serve, I don’t remember what was the score, I started feeling really dizzy and I just didn’t know how to handle that.

 

Having experienced the hot, heavy air on court herself, Lepchenko had a lot of admiration for Sharapova’s ability to at last claim victory in her brutal three-setter under the scorching Melbourne sun, open roof in the Rod Laver Arena.

 

“Just watching Maria, I thought ‘wow’. She played under the same conditions.

 

“The temperature was rising every minute and every second of the hour.”

 

Sharapova acknowledged the fact that it would be difficult for anyone to pinpoint the exact limit for when conditions should be considered ‘extreme’.

 

“​It’s a tough call,” Sharapova said.

 

“I mean, I think the question I have is that no one really knows what the limit is, not the players. Even the trainers themselves, when you ask them, ‘when will the roof be closed?’ ​No one actually knows what that number is in comparison to humidity or the actual heat. Sometimes you wish you know, because it just depends on, I’m not sure who, a referee or the meteorologist and there are just a lot of questions in the air that maybe should be solved.

 

“I would love to know a bit more detail before, not even before I get on the court but just in general, it’s good to know. I didn’t even know there was no play when I left the court. I mean, I had no idea. But it seems a little strange that the WTA Tour trainers don’t know what that threshold is.

 

“​We have never received any emails or, you know, warnings about the weather or what to do.”

 

The world No. 3 suddenly paused in recollection, with a bittersweet smile.

 

“Actually, I did receive one, I think, while I was in the ice bath a few minutes ago,” Sharapova laughed, “and I was like, that’s a little too late. It was a little late. It was probably when they were stopping the matches like, oh, maybe it’s about time we sent out a warning.”

 

She also thinks time violations handed down for lengthier water breaks, given the circumstances are a tad harsh and that breaks should either be extended or altogether suspended.

 

“I think it should be. For the safety of the players, definitely.

 

“On one hand you’re trying to get as much rest in between points as you can, but then you have an umpire who is giving you a time violation. Then you’re asking yourself whether that’s fair in whatever degree weather that was. So there is that mixed emotion of, okay, I need to get in the shade but then I need to be there when the time is up to be able to serve or return or whatever it is. There is a bit of pressure on the line as well in those conditions. Anywhere else it’s fine, if that’s the speed of the game, that’s absolutely fine. But in these conditions, let it go.”

 

Her main concern was that for a final set decider, in both the men’s and women’s draw, there should be special consideration given when there is no tie-break to put a quick, definitive end to the set.

 

“Everyone knows there is no tiebreaker in the third set. So once you start that set, you’re going to be out there until you’re done. That’s the question I have.

 

“I think in the third set for the women and the fifth set for the men, if you know that there is no tiebreaker, officials can’t just rely on maybe that the set will go fast, the set will be over and we will be off court because we have no tiebreaker in that last set. So that’s what you have to consider.”

 

Agnieszka Radwanska also made a comment about her thoughts on the heat rule after her match and offered insight into what the word of consensus was going around in the locker rooms at the moment.

 

“Today was really, really hard. Even (playing) indoors was ridiculous.

 

“I think everybody’s saying that sometimes it’s even too hot. Some of the girls can’t even talk after the match or practice.”

 

Friday is forecast to be another scorcher, with an expected high of 111 degrees F.

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

Share

Italy Rallies Past US to Move into Fed Cup Semis

errani-vinci

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci

(February 10, 2013) Italy came back from 1-2 down to defeat the United States in Fed Cup 3-2 on Sunday in the first round of the World Group in Rimini, Italy.

 

World No. 1 doubles team Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci sealed the win for Italy in the fifth rubber with a victory over Varvara Lepchenko and Liezel Huber 6-2, 6-2.

 

“Errani and Vinci are the weapon,” said Huber. They are like sisters. They are like best friends. They can almost see each other’s body language and predict something before it has happened. They have a different style than what we are used to and stick to their style. They are great singles players and don’t discount doubles. I enjoy watching them play, just not against me!”

 

The United States led 2-1 after Lepchenko beat world No, 7 Errani 7-5, 6-2 in the first of reverse singles on Sunday.

 

“In the first set, I had to get my body started,“ said Lepchenko. “I had a long match yesterday, so I was a bit up and down in the beginning. Once my body warmed up, I was playing better and better in the second set and got pumped and got going.”

 

Vinci rallied for Italy topping Jamie Hampton 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to send the tie into a fifth rubber.

“I had a tough match yesterday, so I had to regroup and do my best for the team,” Hampton. ”First set, I made a lot of errors and started off like yesterday. I got back together in the second set and thought I had a hold of the match, but I made a lot of errors.”

 

 

Italy will next host defending champion Czech Republic in the Fed Cup semifinals, a rematch of last year’s semifinal. The other semifinal has Slovakia at Russia.

 

Next the United States will play in the World Group Playoff, April 20-21, to remain in contention for the Fed Cup World Group l in 2014 and to try and stave off relegation to World Group II next year. The United States’ opponent will be drawn on Wednesday, February 13, at 10 a.m. GMT at the ITF offices in London.

 

The U.S., who will be seeded will play one of the four winners of the World Group II First Round (Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, or Germany). The host site for Switzerland or Sweden will be determined by a coin toss on Wednesday. The U.S. would host Spain or Germany.

Share

Fed Cup Rookie Lepchenko Keeps Team USA’s Hopes Alive in Fed Cup

Lepchenko

 

(February 9, 2013) United States Fed Cup rookie world No. No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko kept US hopes alive against Italy by defeating.  No. 16 Roberta Vinci  2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the second singles rubber on Saturday to even the first round tie at 1-1. The match, which lasted for two hours and 17 minutes marked the first time the two women had ever faced off against each other.

Italy’s Sara Errani ranked No. 7 defeated Jamie Hampton 6-2, 6-1 in the first rubber.

“Even though this was my first Fed Cup match, I wasn’t that nervous because I had the experience in the Olympics,” said Lepchenko. “I was very nervous there, so I didn’t want to let my emotions get to me here in Fed Cup. I thought of this as a first match in a tournament and I just needed to get into it. In the second set, I was in it.”

 

“I was really proud of the way Varvara approached the match and how disciplined she was,” said US Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “Even when she was down, she competed really well. In Fed Cup, things get complicated and there is always tension. It probably wasn’t easy for her playing for the first time in Fed Cup without a home crowd, but she did a great job blocking it out. She kept fighting and kept believing. Varvara has a great game and can play anyone. She can make anyone feel uncomfortable and she did that today. She played her heart out.”

 

 

“It has been amazing to be a part of a team this week,” Lepchenko added.” I have so much support from all of them. I feel like I can’t let them down. I played more for them today than for myself.”

 

Lepchenko led 5-1 in the third set, but the momentum shifted, and the third set was even at 5-5. Lepchenko then broke Vinci and held serve to win the final set, 7-5 on her third try serving for the match. This was Lepchenko’s best career win since beating then-world No. 13 Dominika Cibulkova in the second round of the WTA event in Montreal last year. This was also her best win on clay since upsetting then-world No. 12 Francesca Schiavone en route to the fourth round of the 2012 French Open.

 

 

“I am really proud of the way I handled myself today,” Lepchenko said. “I have had many people cheering against me in many tournaments throughout the year, so this time, I was happy to see my team cheering for me. They really helped me.”

 

The US is 1-1 against Italy going into day 2 play on Sunday. Since the Fed Cup World Group format was instituted in 1995, the U.S. is 8-4 when tied 1-1 with the opposing country. The U.S. is 8-10 when playing on the road and 4-13 when losing the first singles rubber.

Sunday’s schedule – in the first singles match of the day, Varvara Lepchenko and Sara Errani, the No. 1 players from each team, will square off in the third singles rubber followed by Jamie Hampton versus Roberta Vinci. The doubles rubber will close the tie it will feature Melanie Oudin and Liezel Huber for the US against Karin Knapp and Fed Cup rookie Nastassja Burnett for Italy.

 

“We are still in this tie and it is fantastic,“ said Fernandez. “I told the girls that the goal was to win any three matches any which way. We have one, so we are looking for two tomorrow. Varvara will play Sara, who won today, so that will be very tough. Sara has great clay-court variety and is a strong Top 10 player. Jamie will go out there against Vinci and give it her all. I’m excited.”

 

Tennis Channel will provide television coverage of the second day of play beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.

Share

US Fed Cup Team Takes on Italy This Weekend in Rimini

Fed Cup logo

(February 8, 2013) The United States will take on Italy in the Fed Cup World Group First Round this weekend. Play begins Saturday at 3:00 p.m. local time on an indoor clay court at the 105 Stadium in Rimini, Italy.

The US team goes into the tie with the pressure of being huge underdogs. “There is always pressure,” said said US Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “This comes with the sport and team competition, you aren’t just out there for yourself. The Italians are the favorites and they have a wonderful record, but we have been in this situation many times before. All of the players have different styles on both teams and we have to make the adjustments as they come.

“I am expecting to do well. If we win, it won’t be a surprise. We are going in with a very positive attitude and will take each match as it comes and fight our hearts out to do our best. We know the capabilities of both sides and this will bring out the best in both teams. It will be an interesting tie.”

 

World No. 64 Jamie Hampton, who will be making her live Fed Cup singles debut will open the tie against world No. 7 Sara Errani. Hampton and Errani have met once on the WTA Tour—in the first round of the US Open Series event in Cincinnati in 2010, where Errani won the meeting 6-4, 6-2. Hampton enters Fed Cup with an appearance in the third round of the 2013 Australian Open and a semifinal showing at the WTA event in Auckland, New Zealand, the week prior. Errani will be playing in her eleventh Fed Cup singles match (6-4 record), but just her fifth live singles rubber. She is 1-3 in live singles rubbers.

 

“I am excited to make my Fed Cup debut in a live singles match,” said Hampton. “Errani is a great clay court player and is having a lot of success. The match will start off level, so I’ll go out there and give it my all. It should be a good start.”

 

“Errani, as we all know, plays the best on clay and moves very well,“ said US Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez. “Through the years, the Americans have really developed on clay and like playing on clay. Everyone on my team has enjoyed practicing on it this week. They have had good results on it, as well. Unlike ten years ago, where everyone was very apprehensive about clay, we are looking forward to it and we like the challenge.”

 

The second singles rubber will see world No. 21 Varvara Lepchenko face off against world No. 16 Roberta Vinci. Like Hampton, Lepchenko will also be making her Fed Cup debut. Lepchenko reached the fourth round of the French Open last year, her career-best Grand Slam singles result, and reached the doubles semifinals at the 2013 Australian Open. Lepchenko has been living in the U.S. since 2001 after receiving political asylum. She officially changed her nationality in 2007 to play for the U.S and became an official U.S. citizen in September 2011. Vinci holds a 1-3 record in Fed Cup singles matches and has never won a live singles match (0-3 record). Vinci is also a doubles specialist and currently ranked No. 1 in doubles after winning the 2013 Australian Open doubles title with Errani, who is currently ranked No. 2 in doubles. Lepchenko and Vinci have never faced each other on the WTA Tour.

In this tie, the United States makes its return to the World Group after starting its 2012 Fed Cup campaign in World Group II for the first time ever. The match will mark the 12th matchup between the U.S. and Italy in Fed Cup competition. The two countries last met in the 2010 Fed Cup final in San Diego and also faced each other in the 2009 final in Reggio Calabria, Italy, both won by the Italians. The U.S., however, leads the overall series, 9-2. The U.S. last won against Italy in the 2003 World Group quarterfinal in Washington D.C. The winner of this tie will advance to the semifinals, held April 20-21.

 

This will be the fifth year as U.S. captain for Mary Joe Fernandez. Fernandez led the U.S. to consecutive Fed Cup finals appearances in her first two years as captain (2009 and 2010), where the team faced Italy both times. She was the first U.S. captain to accomplish that feat since Marty Riessen in 1986-87. Fernandez holds a 6-4 record as U.S. Fed Cup captain.

The order of play for the weekend:

DAY/LOCAL TIME MATCH PAIRING

Saturday, 3:00 p.m. Singles A: Jamie Hampton (USA) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)

Singles B: Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs. Roberta Vinci (ITA)

Sunday, 1:30 p.m. Singles C: Varvara Lepchenko (USA) vs. Sara Errani (ITA)

Singles D: Jamie Hampton (USA) vs. Roberta Vinci (ITA)

Doubles: Liezel Huber/Melanie Oudin (USA) vs. Karin Knapp/ Nastassja Burnett (ITA)

Television viewers in the United States will be able to watch the tie live on Tennis Channel beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET on Saturday and 7:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.

 

Share