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 .


Defending Champ Mahut Feels Like Home in Newport

Maht 1-001

By Dave Gertler


(July 8, 2014) NEWPORT – Day Two of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships promised plenty of top-seed grass court action for the tennis-loving community of Newport, Rhode Island, but it delivered much more than the crowd expected in terms of match quality and edge-of-your-seat drama.


Thirty-two-year-old Nicolas Mahut played his first round match against Argentina’s Facundo Arguello, the only Spanish speaker in an ATP 250 main draw that started with 14 North Americans and 4 Australians, out of 32 players. The French fourth seed, also the defending his 2013 Hall of Fame Tennis Championship title, was largely untroubled by the 21-year-old world No.119. Although Arguello was able to force a first-set tie-break, he was unable to create any break point opportunities in a match that lasted 1 hour, 30 minutes.


Mahut seemed comfortable in the New England surroundings. “Of course, I feel like almost home. I played, I don’t know, maybe ten times (in Newport), and I know everybody here. I have my habits, I go to the same restaurant with a French manager.” The world No. 59 was dominant in the match’s only tie-breaker, only allowing his younger opponent 1 point, saying, “I’m ten years older, so I get more experience. And that helped me in the important moments. Like in the tie-breaker, first set.”


While this predicted result was playing out on Center Court, a minor upset was taking place on Court 2 where Canadian Peter Polansky and Australian Luke Saville were contesting for a spot in the second round to face the winner of Mahut/Arguello. Polansky and Saville, ranked 133 and 184 respectively, started nervously, particularly Polansky, who is yet to win a main draw ATP match this year, and who served three double faults to break himself in the first game. Saville also opened his serving campaign by getting broken, but would soon right the ship, becoming the steadier of the two, and ultimately scoring his first career ATP main draw match, outside of a grand slam.


”I feel like mental toughness is probably the biggest part of my game, my biggest strength,” said Saville, “I think he let (the conditions) affect him a lot more than me today, which I was quite happy to see him get a bit frustrated out there. I’ve been serving well, been getting a lot of free points when my first serve lands. I’ve gotta keep serving well, keep staying mentally tough, keep trying to get to the net, try to get the first big shot in the rally and get him on the defense.”


Saville, who grew up playing on Australian grass, and has a Junior Wimbledon trophy under his belt, is relishing the opportunity his next match, Wednesday’s opening match on Center Court, will bring. “I’ve got a tough match next round against the defending champ Mahut, so I’ll go out there and give it my best crack. I believe I can win out there.”


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 .


Barty and Saville Claim Wimbledon Junior Titles for Australia

Ashleigh Barty of Australia holds the winners trophy after defeating Irina Khromacheva of Russia in their Junior Girl’s final match at the Wimbledon tennis championships in London July 3, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville (BRITAIN – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)


Ashleigh Barty delivered an historic double to Australia joining South Australia’s Luke Saville at the Wimbledon Junior Championships. This is the first time Australia has won both the boys’ and girls’ singles titles in the same year.


Barty started slowly in her match against 16-year-old Russian No.3 seed Irina Kromacheva, trailing 4-1 in the first set before regaining her customary composure to fight back and win the match 7-5 7-6(3).


“I think I was just able to stick in there. I was never going to give up. It’s the final of Junior Wimbledon. I keep trying my guts out for every point. I was able to get a few good points in a row and upset her a little bit,” Barty said.


Barty is also the first indigenous Australian to claim a Wimbledon title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley, and is in regular contact with the former champion. “It’s pretty special. As I say, I talk to Evonne quite a bit. It’s great to share that experience with her, even at the junior level.”


Barty was supported in the stands by her AIS coach Nicole Pratt, AIS Pro Tour squad members – fellow Wimbledon champion Luke Saville, Andrew Whittington and Sean Berman, Tennis Australia CEO Steve Wood and a host of former Australian players, coaches and support staff.


“It was good,” Barty said of her cheer squad. “All us Aussies are pretty close. It was good to get support from them today.


“I didn’t put any expectations on myself coming to the tournament. I just wanted to come here and gain some experience. I was happy to get past the first round, let alone win it. So I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved this week,” Barty continued.


Luke Saville hoisted the boys’ singles trophy on Saturday, the first Australian to do so since Todd Reid in 2003, although fellow AIS scholar Ben Mitchell reached the final in 2010.


“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Saville said after winning in three sets over England’s local hope Liam Broady on a packed Court One.


“After putting the disappointment of the Australian Open loss behind me, to win the final, looking kind of bleak there for a little bit, down a set and a break, but to fight back and win in the third set was nice.


“You know, words can’t describe the feeling. It’s unbelievable. I’m playing a couple of Futures next week in England. I’m hoping to bring this form that I’ve produced here onto the men’s Futures circuit.


“I remember Todd Woodbridge speaking to me. He said the morale of the story is ‘don’t tank, keep fighting to that last point. Even if you lose, give your fellow competitors a message that you’re going to keep on fighting till the last point. Have that never-say-die attitude.’


“I think it’s great. I think Australian junior tennis, although Bernard is not a junior anymore, he made the semis maybe last year or the year before, so I think we’re going in the right direction.


“I think we have a good environment in Australian tennis right now,” Saville said.


“This is a great effort by Ash and Luke,” Tennis Australia’s Director of Tennis, Craig Tiley said.


“Playing in a Junior Grand Slam final is a significant accomplishment and both should be very proud of their success. These younger players continue to make us excited about the future of Australian tennis. Congratulations to them and our coaching staff on a very successful Wimbledon championships.”


All Australians competing at the Junior Championships are members of the AIS Pro Tour program supporting the transition of junior players into senior ranks. Athletes are given world class coaching, physical and medical support.


Bernard Tomic, Carsten Ball, Sally Peers and Sophie Ferguson Awarded Australian Open Wildcards

Bernard Tomic,Carsten Ball, Sally Peers and Sophie Ferguson have been granted the final wildcards into the main draw of Australian Open 2011.

Eighteen-year-old Tomic put his precocious talent on display this week, winning three tough rounds to qualify for the Medibank Sydney International.

Tomic, ranked world No. 209, defeated the No.101 Russian Igor Kunitsyn in the first round and went on to win in straight sets over two top 100 players – No.2 seed and world No.60 Michael Berrer from Germany, and finally the fifth seed Lukasz Kubot, ranked No.72.

Carsten Ball achieved some solid results during 2010, including winning a Challenger in Lexington, reaching the final in Dallas and the semis in both Aptos and Tiburon. Ball qualified for Wimbledon and won first rounds at both the French Open and US Open. He and regular doubles partner Chris Guccione also won their first ATP doubles title in Newport.

Ball has become a Davis Cup regular, winning six of the eight matches he’s played since making his debut in 2008.

“These [wildcards] are always difficult decisions,” Tennis Australia’s head of men’s tennis Todd  Woodbridge said today.

“We wanted to see players achieve some results, and Carsten has certainly done that throughout the year.

“Bernard is a talent but cannot be rewarded with a wildcard on that along, nor should he ever expect that. He has not had much tennis and he missed the AO Play-off so the pressure was on him to perform, particularly after he did not play well in Brisbane.

“He had not done enough. He needed to produce something in Sydney and he has done that with three good wins. His tennis has now earned this wildcard.”

Davis Cup captain Pat Rafter added “In making these decisions we are also looking at creating a culture that will help us build a strong Davis Cup team.”

“I want to see a real work ethic, attitude and sense of camaraderie that reflects our proud tennis history. That’s always stood out as being a point of difference with the Aussie players.”

Nineteen year-old Victorian Sally Peers enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2010, qualifying and winning through to the second round at the US Open, where she made a memorable centre court debut against Kim Clijsters. Peers also won gold with Anastasia Rodionova in doubles at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

Sophie Ferguson (NSW) reached a career-high ranking of 119 in June after an impressive run at Roland Garros, qualifying for the main draw and winning in the first round before falling to No.17 seed and eventual champion Francesca Schiavone. Ferguson was runner-up at two ITF events, at Fort Walton (USA) and Biarritz (FRA), and qualified for WTA events in Ponte Vedra Beach and Charleston in the US, and Birmingham in the UK.

“Congratulations to both Sally and Sophie on their Australian Open wildcards,” Tennis Australia’s head of women’s tennis Craig Morris said today.

“They are both well deserved. Sally has had a great year, with the highlight qualifying for the US Open and her first round win, as well having the chance to represent Australia and win gold in Delhi.

“Sophie has really improved throughout 2010 and I hope this will be a springboard into the top 100 in 2011.”

The following players have been awarded wildcards into Australian Open qualifying:

Winner of Optus 18s Australian Championships:

Sean Berman                                             Isabella Holland

Winner of Australian Open Junior Championships 2010:

Tiago Fernandes                                       Irina Khromacheva

Discretionary – men’s draw:

Chris Guccione , Matt Reid , James Lemke , Luke Saville, Ben Mitchell , James Duckworth and Maverick Banes.

Discretionary – women’s draw:

Jessica Moore, Sophie Letcher,Tammi Patterson , Viktorija Rajicic and Monika Wejnert.

The men’s qualifying draw will be done after 6pm on Tuesday 11 January, and the women’s draw will be completed after 4pm on Wednesday 12 January. Both draws and schedules will be available on www.australianopen.com. Qualifying commences at 10:00am on Wednesday 12 January and matches will be streamed live on www.australianopen.com/live.

Australian Open wildcards have been allocated as follows:

Reciprocal US:   Ryan Harrison (USA)                 Lauren Davies (USA)

Reciprocal French: Benoit Paire (FRA)                 Virginie Razzano (FRA)

Asia Pacific:          Somdev Devvarman (IND)      Kei-chen Chang (TPE)

AO Play-off winners: Marinko Matosevic (Vic)       Olivia Rogowska (Vic)


Peter Luczak, Jelena Dokic, Matt Ebden, Alicia Molik, Carsten Ball, Sally Peers, Bernard Tomic, Sophie Ferguson

Australian Open 2011, presented by Kia Motors in association with ANZ, Jacob’s Creek and Rolex, will take place at Melbourne Park, Melbourne, from 17 to 30 January.