2015/01/25

Notes and Quotes from the 2015 Australian Open Pre-Tournament News Conferences

(January 17, 2015) Ana Ivanovic, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Sam Stosur, Serena Williams, Grigor Dimitrov, Simona Halep, Andy Murray, Lleyton Hewitt and Petra Kvitova met the media on Saturday for Australian Open pre-tournament interviews at Melbourne Park.

A few “notes and quotes” from the Saturday media conferences:

 

Ivanovic in press2

Ana Ivanovic

Mentality coming into the tourney as a top-five player:
“To be honest, I try not to think too much about the rankings. I definitely thought about it towards the end of the last year. I really tried to make that push and finish in top five. At the moment I really want to focus on my game, what to do out there on the court, to enjoy every match because I know if I do that, the results take care of themselves, and rankings speak for themselves. This is my main focus for this season.”

Ivanovic spoke about what makes the Australian Open special:
“I think each Grand Slam, it’s very specific and very individual in the atmosphere and the feel about it. Here I really feel people get excited about tennis. You know, they love sport. They love to cheer. They get loud. That’s exciting. There’s lots of kids always out here that come and support us. Obviously it’s their summer holidays so people are a little bit more relaxed, I feel. But it is very exciting. Since I don’t have a tournament at home, this is like second home for me.”

“It takes time for certain things to fall into place. Last year I really felt I made big steps towards winning more matches, beating top players. These kinds of things you sort of have to have in place in order to do well at the big events. I feel like I’m ready for next step. Also I feel comfortable in my team. I feel I can communicate with them more. Last year at some points it was not the case. Then also US Open was just a fresh start with new team, with new coach. So it takes time to get used to. Now I feel I can communicate with them more and they can help me.”

Asked to pick the fittest woman on tour:
I mean, there is lots of girls who are getting fitter and fitter. Caroline (Wozniacki) ran a marathon. I don’t think I can do that, to be honest (laughter). Radwanska, she’s a type of player that does lot of running on court. It really depends what you consider, you know, because there are some girls who maybe hit harder, have more power, but then those girls that have very high endurance.

Federer in press

Roger Federer

Q. Novak Djokovic had a crack at the Aussie accent. Can you do anything?
ROGER FEDERER: No, I’m not very good at that. I’ll let him do that (laughter).
Q. No g’day, mate?
ROGER FEDERER: I can do that, but not on command.

How he feels coming into Melbourne this year compared to last year?
“Clearly things are more calm this year, I guess, coming in. Last year, you know, having the new racquet, having gotten through the back issues, having gone through the off-season, you know, feeling good but still not quite sure because I needed matches to see how it was going to cope. I came here also with Stefan Edberg helping me out. You know, there was many changes that took place in the six months leading into, I guess, the Australian Open, whereas this time around I’ve played so well. Also was able to win Brisbane last week. Makes me feel more secure, I guess, this year coming into the Aussie Open.

Asked about how close he is to his career-best form?
“Well, I mean, I would hope that over the years I’ve always improved. I think I’m serving more consistent and stronger than I ever have. That’s my opinion. I definitely think the racquet has helped me with that as well, a little bit. But, you know, my concentration I do believe is there, better than it’s ever been, at least I hope it is, because I feel over time you always want to improve. I think my backhand is working better than it has in the past as well. The question is confidence, forehand, movement. But clearly when I was winning almost everything, everything was so gold that nobody was even questioning anything. Maybe if there were different opponents, different times, it would have changed. But for that particular time, I was playing exactly the way I needed to. I had to adjust my game a little bit over the years. I feel I’m playing very well. If it’s the best ever, I’m not quite sure. But I’m definitely very pleased how things have gone now the last six months.”

Asked if fitness has become more of a priority moving forward in his career over the years?
“Hmm, I wouldn’t quite say that. It’s changed just because you’re more careful not to get injured. So sometimes less is more. Quality is more important than quantity. Whereas when you’re younger, you got to put in the hours, you got to put in the work. Doesn’t matter if you’re tired, all these things, you just got to get through it, you know, get match tough, go through the grind. Eventually you have experience, you know what you need to get ready for a tournament, in the off-season what you need to do. So clearly I’ve, you know, made mistakes and made right decisions over the years. You try to put them all together, assemble all those pieces, make it work for the off-season. I mean, I definitely work a bit different. But at the end of the day I really believe in good quality practices now rather than too much. Yeah, I mean, I am 33, so things are a bit different today than they were 10 years ago.”

On whether he will play Davis Cup this year:
“I probably also will decide that once the Australian Open is over. I’ve been talking, you know. Clearly it’s hard to get out from the chair after finally winning Davis Cup. It was always a goal of mine, for Swiss tennis, the guys on my team, for myself, after playing for 15 years. Yeah, I’m just talking to the captain right now, see what the plan is for him, for me, for everybody. After that, I guess I just need a little bit more time. Probably make a call after the Australian Open.”

Sharapova gets ready to serve

Maria Sharapova

Q. Do you consider yourself the woman to beat for the title here?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’m sure I’m one of them, definitely. I mean, I’m No. 2 in the world. I’ve had a great season last year, winning a Grand Slam. I think there are a lot of players that have an opportunity to win this tournament, and I’m certainly one of them.

 

Q. You have a shot at the No. 1 position. Is it still a big motivation for you to be back as No. 1 in the world or is winning Grand Slams at this time of your career more important?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, that was a question that was nice not having to answer in December (smiling). Yeah, I mean, look, obviously No. 1 is a ranking that every single player wants to grab and works so hard for. There’s a lot of players that have an opportunity to get there, and I’m one of them. I am, of course, determined to do that. But by doing that you need to win more matches than the person that’s in the first place. So that’s the goal.

 

How much has fitness changed in the last 10 years compared to when you came up at Wimbledon? Has the tour grown in leaps and bounds as far as the physicality?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Uhm, definitely. I think you see a lot more people added to the team as far as a fitness coach. I mean, you didn’t see that 10 years ago as much. You know, I have a fitness coach. He doesn’t travel with me full schedule. It’s a pretty limited schedule. He’s always with me during the training weeks away from the tournaments. Never feel there’s too much you can do during a tournament week as far as really setting up a base. It’s more about recovery and getting ready. But the physical aspect of the sport has become, I think, very, very important. It’s always been, but I think it’s become more important than ever.

We’ve started to see on the women’s side these former champions coming in. What do you make from that, from your point of view?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I think from experience-wise, there’s no better person that can help you in certain situations as a coach, as a motivator, as someone that just has been there, done that. I think it’s great to see. I think it’s always nice when you’ve been through a career and you have the opportunity or you have the desire to share it with other players, to share your knowledge and experience. I think it’s great.

You were talking about being happy to be in one place.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: That was in November. I played two matches for IPTL in November. Actually had a great experience, a great time. For an event that had its first year, I thought it was very well-organized, very professional. I think it was great to see tennis being brought into markets which have never seen professional sport like that before, and stars. I think their excitement was unreal. I mean, I felt like a rockstar literally, to put my feet on the ground the day after. It was really fun to see the excitement that people had. The format was fun. It was fast. A lot of the players took it very seriously. I mean, I came in after not practicing for many weeks. I was like, Okay, I’m going to take it easy. Some of the doubles players were really into it, which was great to see. So, yeah, I think personally I would never do the whole tour. It’s quite long. But I think to the girls that did, and guys, you see some were injured at the end of it, which is quite unfortunate. But to go out and to play a few matches in a market that’s never seen high-quality tennis before, very open to it.

What is the best game you remember here in the Australian Open?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I’ve had a lot. My best game? Obviously, the one that sticks out is my victory. Winning a championships is a big moment, especially a Grand Slam. It was my third Grand Slam in my career. I thought throughout the two whole weeks, it was some of the best tennis that I played. I had one of the toughest draws in a Grand Slam. I actually thought the final wasn’t my best match throughout the tournament. But overall I came through a lot of challenges. Yeah, it’s tough to choose.

 

 

 

Nadal ao

Rafael Nadal

Is a question of everything to be ready, to feel yourself confident, to feel yourself that you are 100% competitive. Always you need to play more matches than four or five in seven months. That’s a thing that everybody knows. At the same time you feel in better shape physically when you are play matches, when you have confidence about your movements. Even if you practice a lot, then the competition is different. The stress of the competition is different than the practices, no? So is a question of time and work. I am working big-time.

I am doing lot of practice and doing the things that we believe we have to do to recover our level. Is true that having a Grand Slam that early in the season after injury like this not the ideal thing. But here we are. I worked a lot since 10th of December. I worked a lot last couple of weeks in Abu Dhabi and Doha, then here this week. I am with calm and happy the way I did the things. Then I need to play better than what I am doing. I think that thing is sure. But I know to play better, I need to win matches. I need to spend hours on court competing. The only way to make that happen is to be on the tour. So I am on the tour, and that’s the only way I can come back to my best level.

Every time is different. Every feeling is different. Every time you come back, you have the doubts, you have the feeling that you are far away from your best. But at the same time you know the only thing you can do is play with the right attitude and try to have the right schedule to play matches, to play weeks in a row. It’s the only way to find the positive feelings and the confidence back. When you have put all the things together, it make your game better again. That’s what I am doing. I am trying to do the calendar that will be better for me. Playing here, then playing on clay, that helps me physically, in terms of tennis, too. That’s all, no? Difficult to say more things. The only thing I can say is I need to play better, yes. But the only way to play better is to win matches.

In the end is difficult to say 50%, 55%, 20%. Doesn’t matter. This kind of thing is impossible. Is not mathematics. You never know when you are 100%. The only thing is I know I need to work, spend time on court, play matches. When that happens during few months, I know in terms of being competitive, in terms of rhythm, I will be ready again, no? But if I am able to win matches in a row before these few months, I’m going to be ready earlier, no? That’s what happened in 2013. But I started on clay, tournaments that give me the chance to play more matches, 250 tournaments. This time a little bit different. At the same time the only way is winning matches and spend time on court.

Q. You said Brazil is a lucky place for you. How do you feel about the Rio Open? Too much play, too many people with Carnival?
I hope not to have too much time for Carnival (smiling). Well, no. I have been in Brazil a couple of times. 2005 was the first tournament victory of a big season. 2013 was a special one, because after a lot of months without winning, without competing, I had a chance to win the title there. Helped me for the confidence for what happened later, no? Last year was important one, but was different situation. This year is a little bit like before, no? Going to be the first tournament on clay after a long time ago. I hope will be a good moment for me to have the full confidence back.

Q. Which aspect of your game are you happiest about as you’re returning to form? Which part is going well for you at the moment?
RAFAEL NADAL: Nothing (smiling). No, I am not serving bad. My serve is working more or less well. I need to be a little bit more dynamic on court with my movements. I am a player who find the confidence when I am able to defend well, when I am able to hit the ball knowing that the ball going to go in most of the times. So that’s when I feel myself strong. As I say before, no, to make that happen, you need to do that on the competition. For example, last week in Doha I did a very good thing in the first set, played very good first set. But then, you know, I lose the intensity on my game, I lose the rhythm, something that normally never happen to me when I am competing two weeks in a row. That is something you need when you didn’t play for a long time. I don’t know about in which part of my game I’m more happy. But I really know what I have to do to be happy with my game. My game is always good when my movements are good, when I am able to have control of the point with my forehand, and always hitting good backhands. But the forehand need to be aggressive, need to create space with my forehand. That’s the way that I need to play to have my chances back on being competitive against everybody.

Asked about who is the favorite for the tournament?
You know the same like me who is the favorite for the tournament. I think everybody thinks the same names. Novak finished the season great. He is a fantastic player. He’s in his favorite surface. Roger is the same story. Had a great season last year. He finished well. Plays in his favorite surface, or one of his favorites, grass and here. And Andy I think is playing well. We’ll see. The rest always are there. There is a few more players that always going to have the chances. But between these three names, it’s a big chance.
No, I don’t consider myself one of the favorites here. Last year, yes. This year is a different story. Would be lying if I say I feel that I am ready to win today. I don’t feel myself ready to win the tournament here today. If I am here in a press conference in one week, maybe I will say another thing because will have the feeling that I will play few matches, and if I’m able to win that couple of matches, then probably I will have little bit more rhythm, I will have more confidence. But in theory, playing four, five matches in seven months, you cannot be a favorite of a tournament that is not clay, is on hard. Is another thing. In terms of being favorites, the other names are more favorites than me at this time.

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

On playing in her home country.
“I guess it depends which way you want to look at it. It’s definitely different to playing outside of Australia, playing the other Grand Slams. But it’s not necessarily more difficult. It’s not easier. It’s just different. I think it’s a matter of, yeah, handling everything that’s going on. Obviously I know there’s probably more attention on me here than anywhere else. But, yeah, it’s okay. It’s just different.”

“I’ve been pretty pleased with the way my matches have gone. Obviously I would have liked to have won a couple more. But I think overall the way I’ve been playing in those matches has been pretty good. There’s always things to work on and improve. But I think considering it’s the first few matches of the year, I’ve been pretty happy with it. So I guess going into this first round on Tuesday, I got to be ready and do it all over again. I’ve got a couple more days to fine tune anything I want to get a little bit better before that match.”

Q. How do you feel about your first-round opponent and your part of the draw?
SAMANTHA STOSUR: To be honest, I don’t know much about my part of the draw. Playing Monica (Niculescu), she’s a very different player to a lot of different players on the tour. She likes to slice the ball a lot, slice the forehand even. She’ll serve and volley a little bit, she’ll come into the net. She’s very fast, moves well. She’s very creative and more crafty than maybe most of the other players out there. It’s certainly something that I need to know certain balls are going to come back a lot differently to playing anyone that I’ve played so far this year. I think it’s going to be a lot about concentrating hard and knowing that it’s going to be some funky stuff going on out there, and what I’m going to try to do to combat that.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

On her Australian Open preparation:
“It’s okay. I’m not very happy with it, but I’m never really happy about my practice or preparation. So maybe that’s a good sign. Yeah, I’m just still every day going out there, working really hard.

I definitely feel better now than I did a couple weeks ago. But I still want to improve some things. I feel like I should be doing some things better. But every day I can see something coming through, so… There’s a little light at the end of the tunnel.
“I absolutely hate running, but I do it because I hate the way I look if I don’t run (smiling).”

Asked about the absence of her hitting partner Sascha Bajin:
I keep forgetting to tweet about it. He’s away on injury reserve right now. He texts me almost every day. Like, I wish I were better. What are you doing? Who is there? I’m like, Gosh, leave me alone already. He sends me videos. Yeah, he’s super bummed out. We all are, so…
Yeah, he just got injured. There’s been a lot of stories on how he hurt himself. I’m not sure which one I should tell today. I jumped on his back and broke it (laughter).

I’m working with Jonathan now, forgot his last name. We started together in Florida so I could get used to him, kind of get used to each other. So that has been good.

Asked about her first round opponent:
I don’t know who I play. I never look at the draw. I guess her name is Alison. I always try to keep really focused, yeah.
Well, on a first round, no one wants to lose. So I think a lot of the top players, that’s when they’re looked at the most. People are like, What are you doing? What are they doing? What’s new? Especially at the Australian Open, it’s the very first one of the year. Did they do anything different in the off-season? That’s when the pressure is on, cameras are on, everyone is looking. For me, I get really nervous every single match, especially first-round matches, so…

Q. For Alison (Van Uytvanck), it’s the first main draw here at the Australian Open. What do you remember from your first main draw here?
SERENA WILLIAMS: It was my first main draw and my first Grand Slam, was Australia. I just remember I knew I wanted to win. I wanted to keep doing well. I had to play Venus in the second round. I remember that was a real bummer for me.

Q. We’ve seen Lindsay Davenport and Martina Navratilova, great women champions, now coaching. What is your point of view on that? Would you ever consider bringing in a coach like them?
The only thing I know is I never say never. I never thought I would play this long. So who knows? Anything is possible. Any and everything is possible. I’m a big fan of Martina and especially Lindsay. I think it would be really good to see them on the tour, bringing their expertise and their knowledge back to tennis.
On attempting to win Australian Open title No. 6:
It would be really great. I’ve been going for number six for a number of years now. It would be really special for me. I would be really happy. I want it I think more than anyone else here. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to get it, so I’ll have to fight hard to get it.

Dimitrov waves

Grigor Dimitrov

You’ve been asked a lot about the changing of the guard. But does it feel this season with Nishikori, yourself and Raonic, you’re getting closer to the big guys? Or after your defeat against Roger last week, do you feel the gap is still a little bit there?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Yeah, I mean, I’m not going to lie. It was a tough match that I lost last week. Definitely didn’t perform the way I wanted to. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m discouraged to keep trying and keep believing that any of us is going to make it through, so to speak. I think that’s pretty much it. But the other hand, the year just began. We have already the Australian Open, the first major. Anything can happen out here. It’s a good way to start the year. Hopefully everything goes in a positive note.

Have you set some specific goals for your game for the start of the season? Have you worked on something specific?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: I’ve worked a lot in the off-season. There’s nothing specific that I would like to say because obviously now I’ve had a pretty good 2014. Obviously we knew what was working for us and knew what we needed to focus on. That’s the one thing that we felt that was good. In the same time I’ve put a lot of work in the off-season on and off the court. I think that’s pretty much it. I never wanted to put too many tasks on my paper to say, Okay, in the off-season I need to work on this and that. Just the more you simplify it, the better it is, when you know what’s working for you.

 How important was your performance here last year?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: It was a major thing for me. Definitely gives you a lot of confidence. Gives you like a boost. Next time you come to any other tournament, you felt that you started on a good note. At the same time that confidence gives you, how do you say, to come and play every match better, feel that you can perform on a high level, beat better players. Eventually when I had to come up against better guys, I was able to win, and win quite a few tournaments. I think all that is a good factor. At the same time let’s not forget about the big picture.

Did you replay that tough loss to Rafa much?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: It took me awhile to get over it, especially having a set point in that third set, missing that shot by just like a few inches. Of course it’s something not to forget, but at the same time I think I took it really positive. I took that loss as a win even though it wasn’t the case. It gave me a good start. Eventually I think I was performing at a high level throughout the whole season. I think I finished it on a good note.

Halep fh

Simona Halep

Q. How were you feeling after having to withdraw from Sydney?
I’m feeling good now. I’m almost now like hundred percent recovered. I have two days. I slept very well. I ate very well. So I feel prepared to start this tournament. But still I have time, two days more, to feel like hundred percent.

Q. How different was your off-season? You changed coaches. Was there something you wanted to work on?
SIMONA HALEP: Just improve in my game more and more. I did in my serve very well in the off-season, and as well in my forehand. I’m moving better than last year. I’m working hard every day. I changed because I just wanted to change something, and I did. I think was a great idea for myself. Always I took my decisions and work very well. I think very good decision I had in the past.

Q. You made huge strides since a year ago. What surprised you most about your season, how successful you were?
SIMONA HALEP: I’m not surprised that I had big results last year because two years ago I just started to win some titles. I had more experience than before. I was improving a lot I think in my game. I’m much stronger now than before. My game is complete now, I think. I believe in my game. I think I was a little bit, I can say, surprised with the finals in French Open because I didn’t expect that I can play finals after just one quarterfinals in Grand Slam. But, you know, I had nothing to lose there. Was my favorite tournament, because I won in juniors, and I feel very well there. I was trying everything on court. Everything went in the right way at that tournament. I felt very well. Sometimes is very good to be close to your home because more people can come to watch you and can support you. So was a perfect tournament for me. That’s why I think I played the final. Then I had in Singapore the second big result. I played well, as well, there. I cannot say that I was surprised, but still I was very happy in the end of the year that I did few big results.

Q. After such a great year, do you feel more pressure coming into this year?
SIMONA HALEP: No. It’s better than last year. I can say now I feel no pressure. I have just to play my game during the matches and to see how good I can be, how many results I can do, how many matches I can win. So my goal is again to go to Singapore and to win matches with top players. Just I have no pressure.

Q. Do you feel this year’s Australian Open feels more wide open, like many different players could win?
SIMONA HALEP: Yeah, I can say that all the players from here have a chance to do this. I was thinking a few days ago that even if I am third in the rankings, I have my chance, but is not like I have to be in the semifinals or in the finals. Everyone from top 20 I can say has their own chance to win this title. You saw Pliskova, last week she played very well. Kvitova as well. Everyone can win this title. The tournament is open I think for everyone.

Murray UnderArmour

Andy Murray

Q. Slightly different circumstances to last year coming in here. Talk about how the preparation has gone, how you’re feeling coming into Melbourne.
Yeah, I mean, obviously last year was tough because I prepared fairly well, but mentally it’s quite tough sort of going into your first slam and playing long five-set matches. You don’t necessarily know how your body’s going to respond, so mentally you’re kind of worrying a bit and you’d be apprehensive. That’s not the case this year, which is good. And, yeah, my preparation and training over in Miami and then in Dubai went very well. Practice this week’s been good. So, yeah, looking forward to getting started.

Q. Who do you see as your biggest threat in this tournament?
Well, I mean, there’s a lot of top players here. I mean, obviously Stan’s the defending champion, will be confident with that. A new experience, as well. It will be interesting to see how he handles that. But he’s obviously finished the end of last year with the Davis Cup and winning Chennai last week. So I’m sure he’ll be confident. And then, yeah, all of the obvious suspects, same names. Then if you add some of the younger guys that have been coming through the last year or so, you know, with Nishikori, Dimitrov, Raonic, these guys. Also you don’t know, a lot of guys can make big improvements in the off-season if they have five or six weeks’ training to work on things and get physically stronger. So it will be an interesting tournament. The Australian Open normally throws up a few surprises. It will be fun to watch.

Q. Is it easy to get used to the changes that have happened in your team during the off-season, being without Danny? Is it feeling weird for you or…
ANDY MURRAY: No, it hasn’t been weird. It’s been, in my opinion, positive. When things aren’t working well, there’s not a positive atmosphere, it’s not good for anybody. So when that changes and everyone’s working together, that makes things better. So the last two months for me so far have been very, very good.

Yeah, well, obviously very tough draw. Very difficult draw. It’s very hard to comment on it. If you have to play all of those players, obviously it’s going to be extremely difficult to come through that. I’m aware of that. That’s fine. But, yeah, often in these events, you know, there is upsets. And then, yeah, you just have to wait and see who you’re playing in each round because it doesn’t always work out as simply as that. You know, I’m sure Rafa just now, if you said to him, Give me a semifinal spot, he’d be very happy with that coming off a tough injury. But, yeah, it will be interesting to see how it goes. But definitely with the names you mentioned, it’s very challenging.

Q. What do you think of the young Aussie talent?
Yeah, a lot of very good young men. I don’t know on the women’s side. I haven’t seen as much of the young women. But I know on the men’s side, it’s very, very strong. There’s obviously Kyrgios and Kokkinakis, guys like Jordan Thompson, very good as well. They have a bunch of guys ranked between 100 and 200 in the world. Also the guy that Kyle Edmund played today I think is also pretty young from Australia, too. Yeah, they have a lot of talent, a lot of potential. I think the Aussies are going to have a good time the next 10 or so years watching all of them play.

Lleyton Hewitt

How do you rate your chances heading in, I suppose?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Oh, I just take it one match at a time obviously. Just try and focus on my first-round opponent, what I need to do to try to get through that match. Played him a couple times before in Davis Cup over five sets, so at least I’m well-prepared for what to expect out there. Obviously just try and get my body as close to 100% by Tuesday. Hopefully go out there and execute what I need to do.

 

Being a competitor, do you go into this thinking you have a genuine chance to win? Is that dream still alive?

LLEYTON HEWITT: When you start the tournament, that dream’s still there for everyone, the 128 of us that are in the draw. Nothing changes in that aspect. Over the years I think I pride myself on not looking too far ahead anyway. Even when I was No. 1 in the world, I always played every match on its merits, gave the utmost respect to my opponents, who I had to play. I’ve said it so many times: it’s a matter of trying to get through the first week of a Grand Slam. Doesn’t matter how you do it, but you have to try to find a way of getting through that, put yourself in a position in the second week. Yeah, anything can happen in Grand Slams. Over five sets, obviously, guys can get injured. There’s a lot of ups and downs over two weeks.

What do you think of the other young Aussie chances? Pretty good talent coming through.

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, obviously Nick has a pretty good section of the draw I think that he’s in. Bernie is in a pretty good section, as well. Bernie has been playing well the last couple weeks. Obviously took someone like Nishikori to play extremely well – he’s a quality player – to beat him in Brisbane. Gilles Muller, 6-6, could have gone either way in Sydney in that match he lost. Obviously Nick would have liked some more matches under his belt coming in. If he can get his teeth into the tournament, I don’t think that’s a big worry for Nick. Thanasi has a tougher first round against Gulbis. He’s got a fighting chance in it, though, for sure Thanasi has improved a lot over the last year.

Is this the most excited you’ve been in your time of the youngsters coming through?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Yeah, I guess it’s probably a few more in a group coming through than I’ve ever seen in my time. Probably happened a bit before I actually started. You had the guys, the Woodies, Stolz, Philippoussis, Rafter, Fromberg, so many guys coming through at that stage. For a while, I guess I was the only one and we didn’t have a lot of juniors, we sort of struggled to make that transition from really good junior players in the Grand Slams to making it onto the senior tour.

 

 Andy Murray was saying he thinks the tournament is wide open. There’s a lot of talk that the top four are more challenged than previous years. Do you feel that’s the case?

LLEYTON HEWITT: Possibly. It’s still hard. Obviously Andy Murray is not in the top four in the rankings at the moment. I think guys still see him as one of those big threats as the top four anyway. Obviously there’s Raonic, Dimitrov coming up, putting pressure on. Nishikori. Cilic won a Grand Slam now. These kind of guys. I still think the core is going to be those top three or four guys. Over five sets, it’s still extremely tough to beat two or three of those guys back-to-back at the end of these tournaments.

Petra Kvitova

You must be delighted with your preparations coming into the Australian Open with the win in Sydney?

PETRA KVITOVA: Yeah, for sure. I’m very glad how everything went. I’m glad to have a title in the beginning of this new year. Yeah, I’m glad that I have matches under my belt and I can be well-prepared for the Melbourne which is starting pretty soon and I’m excited.

How did your winter go? Anything you looked at or worked on? Are you feeling good about your game in general?

PETRA KVITOVA: I’m very happy that I have a new fitness coach and physiotherapist in the same person. It’s Alex. I’m just really glad that he’s part of my team. It’s something really special. I know that he’s experienced so well. He knew exactly what we have to do, so that’s great. I’m just glad that we did everything what we could in the off-season to prepare myself for the new season. I tried to be a little bit quicker, fitter, to be in the shots on the time. Normal routine, practicing, practicing, practicing.

Who do you see as the biggest threats in this tournament?

PETRA KVITOVA: I think it’s a lot of great players playing. I know Maria won Brisbane. Serena is always one of the favorites. Simona played really well in Shenzhen. It’s a lot of great players who really can play the best tennis here.

What were you most pleased with in Shenzhen and Sydney with your game?

PETRA KVITOVA: I think that my serve was work very well. I think it was one of the keys of the matches which I played. So that’s really nice because we work on that every day probably. I think that my fitness improved, as well, so I’m just glad for it. I just need to be used to everything what I did, show it on the court with the typical shots and with the rallies.

Having lost first round here, does that make you come back to this tournament thinking it’s exciting that you have no points to defend or remembering what happened last year and being worried about that?

PETRA KVITOVA: I would like to forget about the last year. Unfortunately it’s impossible. On the other side I know I can do only better. So that’s the good thing. I’m excited to play, of course. It’s a Grand Slam. It’s what I love to play. I just will do everything what I can to be just better than the last year because it was very disappointing. It wasn’t really nice time for me. So just will do everything what I can.

What do you like most about the Australian Open?

PETRA KVITOVA: I like the people here. I mean, it’s just beautiful to see the friendly faces, the smile. I mean, the weather, of course, when it’s not really hot, hot, that’s nice. The crowd is always amazing. I love hard courts, as well. So I’m just glad that everything is very nice here.

Anything different in the hard courts between here and the US Open?

PETRA KVITOVA: I think so. I never played well in the US Open, so I think that’s a little bit slower over there than here. Of course, the weather is different. There is more humid than here, what is better for me as well.

 Li Na said she thinks you’re the woman to beat this tournament. What do you say to that and how do you feel about that?

PETRA KVITOVA: It’s nice of her, of course. I don’t feel really favorite of the tournament. I’m just come here and try to be focusing on the match after match if it’s possible, of course. I think it’s a lot of great players, how I said. I don’t think really it’s like one big, big favorite of the tournament. So we’ll see.

 

 

 

Share

Defending Brisbane Champ Hewitt Ousted, Sharapova Opens with Dominating win

Sam Groth

Sam Groth

(January 6, 2015) Sam Groth beat defending champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-3, 6-2 in a night match, while top seed Maria Sharapova dismantled qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova 6-0, 6-1 on Tuesday at the Brisbane International.

 

RESULTS – JANUARY 06, 2015

ATP

Singles – First Round
[Q] L Kubot (POL) d [5] K Anderson (RSA) 76(3) 64
[7] A Dolgopolov (UKR) d C Berlocq (ARG) 62 63
[WC] J Millman (AUS) d [Q] R Williams (USA) 63 61
J Nieminen (FIN) d [Q] D Kudla (USA) 46 61 64
M Klizan (SVK) d [PR] J Melzer (AUT) 67(5) 76(6) 61
S Groth (AUS) d L Hewitt (AUS) 63 62
M Kukushkin (KAZ) d [Q] M Copil (ROU) 64 46 64
S Johnson (USA) d M Matosevic (AUS) 26 76(0) 75

Doubles – First Round
[3] R Lindstedt (SWE) / M Matkowski (POL) d M Fyrstenberg (POL) / S Gonzalez (MEX) 62 63
M Raonic (CAN) / B Tomic (AUS) d P Herbert (FRA) / N Mahut (FRA) 64 20 ret. Herbert (lower back)
[WC] G Dimitrov (BUL) / T Kokkinakis (AUS) d J Chardy (FRA) / L Kubot (POL) 63 36 10-8
WTA

Singles – Second Round
[1] M Sharapova (RUS) d [Q] Y Shvedova (KAZ) 60 61
[3] A Kerber (GER) d [Q] D Gavrilova (RUS) 63 75
E Svitolina (UKR) d [WC] A Tomljanovic (CRO) 63 62
V Lepchenko (USA) d M Keys (USA) 64 64

Doubles – First Round
[1] S Hsieh (TPE) / S Mirza (IND) d J Gajdosova (AUS) / A Tomljanovic (CRO) 75 63
A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Panova (RUS) d [2] R Kops-Jones (USA) / A Spears (USA) 62 46 10-3
[4] C Garcia (FRA) / K Srebotnik (SLO) d A Petkovic (GER) / M Rybarikova (SVK) 62 36 10-8
A Rodionova (AUS) / A Rodionova (AUS) d [WC] M Lucic-Baroni (CRO) / L Raymond (USA) 76(3) 63
J Jankovic (SRB) / A Parra Santonja (ESP) d I Olaru (ROU) / S Zhang (CHN) 75 62
M Hingis (SUI) / S Lisicki (GER) d [WC] D Gavrilova (RUS) / S Sanders (AUS) 62 62

ORDER OF PLAY – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 07, 2015
PAT RAFTER ARENA start 11:00 am
WTA – [LL] A Kudryavtseva (RUS) vs K Pliskova (CZE)

Not Before 12:30 pm
ATP – S Johnson (USA) vs [2] K Nishikori (JPN)
ATP – [4] G Dimitrov (BUL) vs J Chardy (FRA)

Not Before 7:00 pm
ATP – [WC] T Kokkinakis (AUS) vs B Tomic (AUS)

Not Before 8:00 pm
WTA – [WC] J Gajdosova (AUS) vs [2] A Ivanovic (SRB)

SHOW COURT 1 start 11:00 am
ATP – M Klizan (SVK) vs [7] A Dolgopolov (UKR)

Not Before 1:00 pm
WTA – M Lucic-Baroni (CRO) vs [7] C Suárez Navarro (ESP)
WTA – K Kanepi (EST) vs [Q] M Brengle (USA)

Not Before 3:30 pm
ATP – C Guccione (AUS) / L Hewitt (AUS) vs A Dolgopolov (UKR) / K Nishikori (JPN)
WTA – M Hingis (SUI) / S Lisicki (GER) vs A Kudryavtseva (RUS) / A Panova (RUS)

SHOW COURT 2 start 1:00 pm
WTA – M Krajicek (NED) / K Pliskova (CZE) vs [3] H Chan (TPE) / K Peschke (CZE)

Not Before 3:00 pm
ATP – [4] E Butorac (USA) / S Groth (AUS) vs S Johnson (USA) / S Querrey (USA)
WTA – [1] S Hsieh (TPE) / S Mirza (IND) vs A Rodionova (AUS) / A Rodionova (AUS)

Share

Aussies Bounced Out of Cincinnati

Sam Stosur

Sam Stosur

By Dave Gertler

(August 13, 2014) MASON, OHIO – The last three Australians left in the singles draw at the Cincinnati Masters all played their second-round matches on Wednesday, with Sam Stosur and Marinko Matosevic both bowing out to their American opponents in straight sets. Lleyton Hewitt also succumbed to the grinding baseline play of Italian Fabio Fognini.

 

Stosur and Serena Williams added another encounter to their storied rivalry, the Aussie receiving warm support from the crowd as she battled to stay in both sets, at times out-hitting her world No.1 opponent. In a match lasting almost two hours, where neither player dropped their serve, and Williams needed to come from behind in both tie-breaks to eventually win through to the next round. “She was up in both of the breakers,” said Williams, “I think it was just a great match, to be honest. She served unbelievable, and I was like, I can’t lose serve because she’s just serving great.”

 

Both players brought their big serves to the table, particularly Serena, who served 12 aces. “Really good quality match,” said Stosur, “I’m really pleased with the way I played. I’m disappointed when you have those couple of set points and don’t go through and at least win that set to take it into three. But I gave myself every chance to try and get through that one.  She came up with some really great stuff when it really counted.”

 

While Stosur was facing last year’s women’s runner up, Marinko Matosevic had to contend with the men’s runner up from last year, in a slightly less competitive 3-6, 6-7 loss to the American John Isner. That left Lleyton Hewitt in a familiar position as the last Australian in the singles draw.

LleytonHewittHOF

Hewitt would drop the first set against Fognini 6-1, before going up a break in the second set, a lead that he would ultimately relinquish, allowing Fognini back into the second set, which he won 6-4. “The second set I fought hard, I was up a break in the second set but couldn’t consolidate,” said Hewitt. The 33-year-old Australian served 9 double faults, saying, “I just didn’t hit my serve well today, especially early on,” said Hewitt, “He makes you play a lot of balls as well. He’s a confidence player, and when he’s hitting ball well, he’s tough to beat. He moves well, as well.”

 

Serena Williams’ next opponent will be Flavia Pennetta, while Isner faces No.8 seed Andy Murray. Fabio Fognini will face Yen-Hsun Lu, who had an upset victory over 4th seed Tomas Berdych. Also through to the round of 16, Roger Federer, who beat Canadian Vasek Pospisil 7-6, 5-7, 6-2 in 2 hours for his 300th win at a Masters Series 1000 event.

 

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

Share

Raonic Set to Take on Hewitt in Round of 16 match at Citi Open

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

 

By Dave Gertler

(July 31, 2014) WASHINGTON, DC – Last year’s Citi Open in Washington, D.C. played a crucial role in the lead-up to what would be Milos Raonic’s first appearance in a Masters 1000 final. At the time, he was still ranked outside the top 10, had never made it past the round of 16 at a major, and promptly bowed out to Australian journeyman Marinko Matosevic in the second round.

 

“I didn’t play well here last year,” said Raonic of his reasoning for returning to this year’s event, “And I really would not have wanted to start off Montreal that way. So I think even though I had a poor result last year, it helped me a lot with the result in Montreal. I think it’s a positive for me to come and play here.”

 

The Montenegro-born Canadian earned his first single-figure ranking in March and, given his transposition to a higher echelon of men’s tennis this year, is now within striking distance of the top 5, especially considering the rest of the year will play out on his favorite surface – hard courts – and in his home continent of North America.

 

“After spending four months of playing tennis where I’m adjusting to figure out the surface,” said Raonic about his transition to the hard courts of the Emirates US Open Series, “It’s a surface I come to and I don’t have to worry about – ‘OK, in this situation, I gotta hit this shot’ – I have that stuff sort of ingrained in myself naturally.”

 

In his first match in D.C. last night, Raonic served 16 aces against Jack Sock on his way to a straight-sets win over the American. In a match characterized by the consistency that has helped the Canadian to five career ATP 250 titles, the 23-year-old Canadian served an even eight aces in both sets, and only allowed his opponent three points in each of the tie-breaks they played.

 

In their third round match tonight, Raonic will face a significant obstacle in the form of Lleyton Hewitt, who as well as winning their only meeting so far, is also the tournament’s last remaining former champion. A lot has changed since their 2012 meeting at the Australian Open, including Raonic reaching the semi-final of the most recent slam.

 

While the No.2 seed seems to have shifted his focus towards winning majors, he has not made the final of any tournament since September 2013, something Hewitt has done twice, winning both times and bringing his overall career tally to 30. While Hewitt’s slam-winning days are arguably behind him, the Canadian is focused on his own upward career trajectory, and the opportunity to go deeper in the next slam. “I can do much better than I did at Wimbledon,” said Raonic, “And that doesn’t put me far away from giving myself an opportunity to win that tournament.”

 

In other men’s round of 16 matches at the Citi Open today, Vasek Pospisil takes on top seed Tomas Berdych while American Donald Young plays Denis Istomin.

 

Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Citi Open 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 .

Share

The US Open Series Begins this Weekend in Atlanta

 

BB&TAtlantaOpen

By Herman Wood

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

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

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

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

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

Share

Third Final is the Charm for Lleyton Hewitt in Newport

Photo by Ben Solomon

Photo by Ben Solomon

By Dave Gertler

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Share

Veterans Hewitt and Karlovic Reach Newport Final

Karlovic !cid_1_3773490110@web124506_mail_ne1_yahoo-001

 

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

 

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

 

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

!cid_2_3773490110@web124506_mail_ne1_yahoo-001

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Share

Jack Sock Knocks Out Top Seed John Isner at Newport

 

Isner and Sock photo by Ben Solomon

Isner and Sock photo by Ben Solomon

 

By Dave Gertler

 

(July 11, 2014) NEWPORT – The second set of singles quarterfinals were played at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Friday in Newport, which will celebrate its 60th year by adding a new name to its list of champions. After Nicolas Mahut was taken out by Sam Groth in the first of yesterday’s quarterfinals, by the time the last quarterfinal was played, the only former  champion left in the draw was also eliminated from the tournament.

 

By beating American No.1 John Isner, promising young talent Jack Sock has made his first ever ATP tour semifinal, where he will face Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, who is looking to add to his tally of 29 career ATP titles. “He wasn’t on his A-game today,” said Sock of isner, “I was able to just scrap out a few returns, and lucky enough to get through.”

 

Earlier in the day, top-ranked Australian Lleyton Hewitt had a comfortable win over America’s Steve Johnson, beating him 6-4, 6-4 by playing solid tennis throughout. Johnson’s game was explosive at times, but he conceded points at crucial moments through unforced errors, and despite leading 3-1 in the second set, wasn’t able to win another game until serving to stay in the match at 3-5.

 

Hewitt is very comfortable on grass – of his 29 career titles, a healthy seven of them have been on this surface. After having made the final at Newport the last two years, the scene is set for Hewitt to perhaps go for third time lucky, as his family, who have been in Newport all week, would like to see. They wouldn’t be his only supporters in the crowd; Hewitt’s dynamic style of play and passionate displays of emotion on court have won the Rhode Island crowd’s support over the years.

 

“I still feel like I’m one of the fitter guys out there on the tour, no matter that I am over 30,” said Hewitt, after his singles quarterfinal and before playing his doubles semifinal later in the day, which he won with Australian partner Chris Guccione. “I’ve always done the right things, but it’s probably more important now to always do the right things after every match and prepare properly for the next match.”

 

He will need to be at the top of his physical game to beat 21-year-old Sock, who answered to the media as he iced his elbow ‘preventatively’. “Obviously, I’ll be playing a legend that’s still out there playing,” said Sock, “For him, it’s pretty unbelievable that he was No.1 that many years ago and still playing, still playing at a high level, so it’ll be tough.”

 

Before Hewitt and Sock take the court, the other semifinal will be contested between two of the game’s biggest men, and, biggest servers. Combining with Lleyton Hewitt, Sam Groth completes the first pair of Australians to reach a semifinal at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championship since Jason Stoltenberg and Wayne Arthurs did it way back in 2000. Both Groth and Hewitt will be hoping to go one better than their predecessors, who both lost their separate semifinal matches. The only other occasion where there have been a pair of Australians in Newport singles semifinals was in 1988 (Brad Drewett, Wally Masur).

 

“Tomorrow’s more about Sam holding his nerve in the semifinal,” said Hewitt, who has played Groth’s semifinal opponent Ivo Karlovic five times, only beating him once. Like Jack Sock, 26-year-old Sam Groth will be playing his first ATP-level semifinal when he takes the court against the 6’11” Croatian tomorrow. All four players are competing for prize money drawn from the tournament’s total financial commitment of $539,730.

 

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 .

Share

Groth Takes Out Defending Newport Champ Mahut

Black and white Groth-001

By Dave Gertler

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Share

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 .

Share