2014/10/02

Serena Williams and Roger Federer Both Begin Quest for 18th Major

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(August 27, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – A pair of 17-time major champions made the first step in their mutual quests for an 18th major on Tuesday night. No. 2 seed Roger Federer and No. 1 Serena Williams both took out opponents in straight sets at the US Open.

The 33-year-old Swiss Federer led off the night session with a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) vwin over No. 76 Marinko Matosevic of Australia. With six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan cheering him on in his courtside guest box, Federer pulled off the shot of the night – between the legs shot, facing backwards to the net, which hit his opponent in his lower back.

Federer admitted that Jordan, now 51, was a childhood idol of his. In an interview with ESPN, Jordan said that he knew nothing about tennis and said that Federer is a good athlete and that he played basketball.

“It’s just amazing having Michael here,” Federer said after the match. “Growing up he was my big sporting idol. … Having him here is unbelievably special and the collaboration is unique, so I love it.”

“He was just my hero of all sports,” Federer said in his news conference. “That’s what he was for me growing up. Besides Edberg and Becker being my tennis idols, I had Jordan as my all sports idol. I don’t remember having a Jordan jersey, as such, really. I just remember when I was younger, in Germany it was really big on the German TV stations. I think every Sunday they had unbelievable big NBA highlights. That’s where I saw him doing all his moves. I wasn’t necessarily a Chicago Bulls fan or anything like that. It’s just I was into him, into like the incredible athlete, you know, just being that guy who was carrying basketball at the time. So I guess that’s what inspired me.”

While Federer was entertaining an idol of his with his play, Serena Williams was defeating a player who idolizes her. Williams played almost flawlessly in dispatching 18-year-old fellow American Wild Card Taylor Townsend 6-3, 6-1.

The two-time defending US Open champion, soon-to-be 33-year-old Williams made only 8 unforced errors in a match which lasted less than an hour.

Townsend discussed her appreciation of Williams in press: “I think I appreciate the fact that, number one, she loves the game so much. I think for anyone who’s watched her career progress, we have seen the ups and downs. She’s come through a lot of adversity. I think the most roaring time for me when I was watching her play was when she won that Australian Open, when everyone was completely doubting her, no one said she would win, she was totally out of shape, she was this, that, everything in the book. She literally fought and she beat Sharapova 1-0, 2-0, something ridiculous. But I’ve never seen someone so intense and so, like, driven to win, you know? I gained so much respect for her. Moving forward, I’ve just seen her love the game even more. The older she gets, the more she enjoys being out there and playing. I think her perspective has changed, having fun with what she’s doing. I think the wins are just making it even better.”

“I think it was an interesting match,” Williams said. “I thought she played really well. She started out super strong. She did a good job.”

“I think Taylor is a really great player. I believe she does everything well. She’s one of the few players that can come to the net and volley, as well as she has unbelievable hand speed with her racquet. She’s really unbelievable.”

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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.

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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 .

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Matosevic Gets Home Support in Win over Seppi

Marinko Matosevic

Marinko Matosevic

By Dave Gertler

(January 8, 2014) SYDNEY – Twenty-eight-year-old Australian Marinko Matosevic has had a confident second round win over world No.25 Andreas Seppi in front of an appreciative Grandstand Court crowd, on the 6th day of the Apia International tennis tournament in Sydney.

Matosevic made the most of Seppi’s inconsistent forehand, attacking it frequently, as well as hitting a total of 7 aces in two sets. It was a convincing win for the world No. 56 Matosevic, who broke Seppi once in each set, 6-3, 6-4 in 71 minutes.

Crowd support had been a big factor in his first round win over Florian Mayer, yet Matosevic was underwhelmed by the energy on Grandstand Court today. Candid in press, he said, “The crowd was a little dead today. I played an unbelievable point to break him in the second set.  We had like a 20 shot rally. He came in, I’ve lobbed him, and I had like a few little claps.” After the crucial point he was referring to, Matosevic had raised his hands in the air to energize the crowd.

“I tried to get them going.  I was like, Come on, guys.  It was one of the best points this tournament has ever seen. If that doesn’t get them going, I don’t know what will.” Quickly rescinding this tongue-in-cheek claim, he said, “I was just kidding about the greatest point. It was good a good point, though.”

Matosevic’s quarterfinal opponent was decided on an outside court between qualifier Sergiy Stakhovsky and French 6th seed Julien Benneteau, on a day featuring mostly men’s matches here at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre. Stakhovsky was dialed into the form that has now seen him win five consecutive matches in Sydney, taking the match 6-3, 6-2.

Needing only to get past world No.99 Stakhovsky to reach a likely semifinal against defending champion Bernard Tomic, Matosevic said, “I don’t really look forward.  I’ve done that before.  Every tennis player has looked ahead and then you lose. So I’m just concentrating, you know, like the old cliché, one match at a time.  As soon as you think ahead, that’s when you lose.”

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

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Djokovic Win Streak up to 20: Faces Last Man to Beat Him – Querrey Next

Novak Djokovic at BNP Paribas Open players' party

 

(March 12, 2013) Novak Djokovic‘s win streak has hit 20 dating back to October 2012 with his 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory over Grigor Dimitrov to reach the round of 16 at the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday in Indian Wells, California.

The World No. 1 was forced to come back from a 2-5 deficit in the first set when Dimitrov’s serve began to fail. The Bulgarian hit 6 double faults including 4 in one game.

Djokovic moves on to play Sam Querrey, the last man to beat him back on October 31. Querrey beat Marinko Matosevic 7-6 (5), 6-7 (7), 7-5.

“It’s been a long time, Djokovic said. “It’s been a few months and I played a few tournaments since then.  So, you know, I don’t think it’s going to affect me negatively in a psychological way.

“I won four, five times against him.  Yes, he has won the last encounter indoors.  Different circumstances and conditions.  So we’ll see, you know.

“I mean, we’ll play in front of his crowd and he has a big serve and big game and he can come up with the goods when needed.  He loves to play also on a big stage.  We’ll see, you know.

“I don’t know if we’re going to play day or night match, and that’s going to also make a little difference.

“During the night it’s a bit slower, so we’ll see how that goes.  I will need to definitely start better than I have done today, and try to step into the court a little bit more.”

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“It was tough,” Querrey said of the match versus Matosevic.  “Last couple of weeks those are the matches that I lost.  It feels great to get through it.

“You know, there was four breaks to start the third set there, and, you know, I was glad I just battled through it.  I didn’t feel I played unbelievable, but I just stuck around, stuck around, got a break at 5‑All, and then closed it out with some good serves.

“So I was really happy, and I feel like I can only play better than that in my next round.”

Querrey spoke about playing Djokovic next; “I’m just going to hopefully play well, hopefully be aggressive, hopefully on those break points, deuce points, you know, have some balls go my way.

“I’m going to try and just enjoy it out there.”

“He does everything really well:  Unbelievable forehand; unbelievable backhand; moves around the court great; returns great.  It’s tough to pick on something.

“I might have to go outside of my comfort zone a little bit and do things I don’t like to do, and hopefully it will pay off for me.

With John Isner’s early loss, Querrey will become the top-ranked American man when the next rankings come out.

“It means a lot,” Querrey said.  It’s a great feeling.  I feel like I have worked hard to earn it.  Everyone seems like they’ve got their shot with Andy and Mardy and James and John, and so I feel like it’s my turn now.

“But, you know, those guys are right on my heels and we will keep pushing each other.  I know they want it, too.  Hopefully we will just keep pushing each other and we can all keep moving up the rankings.”

Djokovic has a 4-1 record against Querrey.

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Three

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John Isner

By Kevin Ware

(February 14, 2013) SAN JOSE – Here are some more courtside impressions from an eventful Day Three at the SAP Open.  It was mixed bag of fun matches and dramatic wins.  But let’s start with the sad and unsettling loss by Donald Young.

  • I don’t know what to say anymore regarding the sad and curious case of Donald Young. With each shot he makes, you see the talent that took him to No. 1 in the juniors; yet with each unforced error and pained aftermath, you’re reminded of the reasons that his pro career has hit the proverbial wall. His loss to Michael Russell during the day session was about as ugly as it gets. Neither guy played well, but Donald’s lack of confidence at crunch time was the tipping point.  Every gaze over to his box is filled with agonizing pleas for help that isn’t arriving anytime soon.  It’s tough to watch.  Even though us in the “media” should maintain some semblance of neutrality, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that Donald comes back from the brink.
  • Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic are quite an entertaining doubles team.  Lleyton is the clear leader, but Marinko holds his own pretty well. Best part is they look like they’re having a great time playing together.  We should all be so lucky with our partners, right?!
  • Steve Johnson continued to make the most of his wildcard with a stirring 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 win over Ivo Karlovic. After losing a tough first set by playing a horrible tiebreaker, Johnson stood toe-to-toe with one of the best servers in the game and found a way to break for the second set. In the third set tiebreaker, Karlovic served an ace to go up 6-4 in the tiebreak.  With two match points in hand, Karlovic inexplicably ran off the rails; committing three consecutive unforced errors to give Johnson a match point.  Karlovic followed a strong approach to the net, and all Johnson could do was toss up a high defensive lob.  Out of the blue, Karlovic was struck by a case of “tentative overhead-itis”.  He smashed the ball weakly back to Johnson, who happily thundered a hard and low forehand to Karlovic at the net. The big man could only muster a flubbed volley response.  Game, set, and match to Johnson, who had no business winning that match but did anyway.
  • The night session pitted American John Isner against Canadian Vasek Pospisil.  John is 27 and Vasek is 22, but they both look no older than 14 (plus/minus a year or two).
  • Isner was slow in finding his game for the match, but didn’t blame any of it on his knee.  However, he did admit to having back issues because of his flight.  With all of Nemo’s canceled flights, he lost his upgrade seat and had to fly coach in a window seat to San Jose.  The ATP website lists John’s official height as 6′ 9″.  Just think about that the next time you complain about being in a middle seat! FYI, if John flies coach and no exit rows are available, window seats are his only option to save his knees from the battering they’ll inevitably take with the cart going up and down the aisle.
  • Bay area actress Diane Amos was in attendance tonight at the HP Pavilion to watch the evening session at the SAP Open.  Or as I put it more succinctly in one of my tweets at the start of Isner’s match, ” Random fact: the Pine Sol lady is in the house tonight for the Isner match.”
  • When asked what he did to pay back Sam Querrey  for bailing the US team out of trouble in Davis Cup action after his own 5-set heartbreaker to Thomaz Bellucci, Isner said “I think he took some of my money in cards that night actually, and I didn’t do it on purpose.”

The tournament action heats up on Day Four with a day session featuring young Americans Tim Smyczek and Steve Johnson battling for a spot in the quarterfinals, as well as the anticipated match between Sam Querrey and Lleyton Hewitt.  The night session features the return of the defending champion, Milos Raonic, as he takes on Michael Russell; plus more doubles action with the Bryans.  I will save my Raonic/Russell “tall and small” jokes for after the match…

 

Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open Day Two

 

Ryan Harrison

Ryan Harrison

By Kevin Ware

(February 12, 2013) SAN JOSE, California – One of the great things about watching live tennis in a tournament setting is that you get a better feel for the character of the match and the players.  Here are some courtside impressions from Day Two action at the SAP Open.

  • I arrived at just after Lleyton Hewitt’s dramatic 3-set victory over Blaz Kavcic to find that no one was surprised to see this match go the distance.  Even though he’s one of the older guys on tour, long grinding matches still seem to be Hewitt’s preferred method of advancing through the draw.  His next opponent is Sam Querrey, making his tournament debut after receiving a first-round bye. It will be interesting to see if Sam’s late tournament start against a cagey veteran who’s “into” the tournament has a factor on the match outcome.
  • Though he was suffering from low energy due to illness, Ryan Harrison lost a winnable 3-set match against German veteran, Benjamin Becker.  It wouldn’t have been a particularly spectacular win under the circumstances, but it was doable.  Unfortunately, Ryan couldn’t keep his focus on the important points in the second and third sets the way he had in the first set tiebreak. This was especially true when he got broken at the end of the second set.Illness aside, Ryan is a talented and thoughtful player who can sometimes makes things complicated for himself in his matches. He’s struggled in 2013, and his ranking has dropped from last year’s high of 43.  Because he’s defending a semifinal appearance in last year’s tournament, his ranking is going to take a pretty big hit. Hopefully he can turn things around in Memphis.
    (NOTE:  He’ll be playing doubles with his brother Christian)
  • As I was watching Jack Sock in his match against Marinko Matosevic, I tweeted, “While Ryan Harrison sometimes thinks too much on court, Jack Sock maybe needs to think a bit more…” That about sums up Sock’s match strategy, or lack thereof.  Sock is a big strong guy who hits a heavy ball, but that’s pretty much where it ends. Even when Sock broke Matosevic to serve for the first set, I had the feeling that the veteran Matosevic would find a way to out-think his younger opponent, and capitalize on the nerves of the moment.  That’s exactly how it played out, with Matosevic going on to take the first set tiebreaker before sweeping the second set 6-1.I don’t begrudge the big hitting, because the younger guys on tour definitely need big games in order to be competitive. But they also need to think clearly and give themselves options.  Sock’s not there yet, and I’m not sure that he sees the need for options and nuance.  I also look at Sock’s football player-like build and can’t help but think that maybe if his fitness were improved, it could pay dividends in the development of his game.  He’s young though, so he’s got time to pull those pieces together.  At least, I hope he does.
  • It was a rough day for young Americans, and Ryan Sweeting’s straight-sets loss against last year’s finalist, Denis Istomin, did little to stop the bleeding.  But then again, Sweeting was always going to have a tough time of it since he doesn’t have the weapons needed to trouble Istomin.
  • The world No. 1 Bryan brothers weren’t as dominant over their younger American opponents as one would expect. Jack Sock and Steve Johnson played well with no signs of intimidation at the Bryans credentials as one of the greatest doubles teams ever. But once again, experience and mental toughness won out over big hitting as the Bryans took the match in two tiebreak sets. I hope the young guys are paying attention to these lessons of strategy/mental fortitude!
  • Fernando Verdasco, with coach/dad by his side, seemed to have a decent on-court warm-up prior to the start of the doubles match.  But something must have happened to him between the warm-up and his match.  That would be the only explanation for his flat performance against an inspired Tim Smyczek.  Fernando played without purpose.  Smyczek, on the other hand, played as though his life depended on the win; and it showed.  The difference between the two couldn’t have been starker, with Smyczek looking much more like a higher-ranked player than Verdasco.There might have been an injury with Verdasco, who seemed to pull up on shots as the match progressed.  But it was still a disappointing match for a former Top 10 player who at one time, challenged for Slam titles against the top guys. Disappointing, that is, except for Smyczek.  At least one American young gun made it through!

That’s all for now.
More after Day Three action with Donald Young, John Isner, and Tommy Haas.

Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Berankis Into First ATP Final

By Curt Janka

Los Angeles – Although Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis was playing in his first ATP semifinal, he maintained his composure and elevated level of play to beat Marinko Matosevic 7-5, 6-1. With the win, Berankis reaches his first ATP final and is the first player from his country to do so.

 

Berankis was all smiles after his match. “It’s really amazing,” he said. “I really didn’t think of it before coming here. I mean, every athlete has to think of their best in the tournament, but the finalist? When you come to play qualies it’s difficult to think of the final.”

 

The match started out in a dead lock. The players had split their previous two meetings and through 10 games and neither could make a dent in the other’s serve. Serving at 5-5, Matosevic wavered and Berankis seized the opportunity. With the break in hand, Berankis quickly held to close out the first set.

 

Much like his match against Nicolas Mahut, Berankis started out the second set by grabbing the early break. From that point he never looked back. Matosevic had one look at a break when he got the first two points of the game with Berankis serving at 2-1. The frustration from not capitalizing on that opportunity seemed to break Matosevic as his opponent ran away with the rest of the match.

 

The coach who Berankis has been working with for 13 years, and who he calls a “second father,” flew into town today for the match. The coach left Lithuania yesterday for Washington, where they planned to meet after the tourney. Because things were going so well, they decided to get him on a flight at 6am this morning and he got to the tournament just 30 minutes before today’s match.

 

Berankis will play either Sam Querrey or Rajeev Ram in the final of The Farmers Classic.

 

Asked about his chances in the final, Berankis said “My game is improving every day. I’m feeling great on the court at the moment and looking forward to tomorrow.” He added that he would be looking to attack any second serves he gets.

 

While 2011 saw 10 first-time winners on the ATP tour, this year players attempting to win their first title have gone 0-10 in finals. Berankis hopes to add the title to his list of first this week.

 

Along with the other accomplishments Berankis is stacking up, today’s win puts him in a tie for 2nd on the Emirates US Open Series Bonus Challenge standings with Gilles Muller. The winner of the final will be tied for first with Andy Roddick.

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