2014/10/24

Semifinal Saturday in Cincinnati: My Men’s and Women’s Preview/Picks

By Kevin Ware

(August 16, 2013) MASON. Ohio – The women’s quarterfinal matches were solid, but the men stole the spotlight in a spectacular day at the Western and Southern Open.  John Isner beat Novak Djokovic for the second time at a Masters 1000 event during the day session, while the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry thrilled fans in the evening session. It was a great day of tennis by any measure.

Now we must turn our attention to “Semifinal Saturday”, and some great matches that will decide who will vie for the championships on Sunday. The women’s semifinals feature 3 Slam champions, and a former No. 1. The men’s semifinals feature 3 Slam champions and our best US hope for the Top 10.

All are worthy of their spots in the semis, but there can only be two finalists. Let’s dissect the match-ups to see if we can determine who will make it to the finals on Sunday.

ATP

[7] Juan Martin Del Potro vs John Isner

Head-to-Head: Del Potro leads 4-0

Isner notched one of the biggest victories of his career in the quarterfinals by beating world No. 1 Djokovic in 3 tough sets. His reward is a rematch with Del Potro, his nemesis from the Citi Open in D.C. Isner lost that match in 3 sets, but was also running on fumes after back-to-back weeks of play. He’s feeling fresher in Cincy, and also feels like his game is finally coming together.

For his part, Del Potro has played well this week in fits and starts, beating Nikolay Davydenko in two tight sets, Feliciano Lopez in three sets, and Dmitry Tursunov in three sets. Good play was followed by lethargic play, which could set him up for a fall against a surging Isner.  Match-ups matter, however, and history matters. Most of Del Potro’s wins over Isner have been comfortable. And that might help him with focus and intensity.

Given Isner’s great play against Djokovic, this match could go either way. But all serves being equal, I’d give the edge to Del Potro for his more potent ground game.

[4] Rafael Nadal vs [6] Tomas Berdych

Head-to-Head: Nadal leads 14-3

Nadal hasn’t lost to Berdych since 2006, which is incredible given Berdych’s solid assent into the top 10. He’s beaten the Czech on clay, hard court, and grass during this period, and has only lost a handful of sets. This isn’t to say that the match will be an easy one, because it won’t. Berdych has a big game.  And when he’s on top of it, his shots are untouchable.

The problem with Berdych is that he usually can’t sustain that level, whether it be nerves or pressure from his opponent. Nadal quickly seizes these moments and capitalizes on the opportunities given.  Also, when you compare their respective quarterfinals, Berdych’s match against Murray wasn’t great, and Nadal’s against Federer was an instant classic. So which player is better prepared for this semifinal? I’d say the man from Mallorca.

WTA

[1] Serena Williams vs [5] Li Na

Head-to-Head: Williams leads 7-1

It’s not easy to know whether Serena is serious when she makes comments like “It will be a really tough match because she has such a good game and she does everything so well.” In this case, however, odds are pretty good that she means it. The impressive head-to-head record doesn’t take into account the fact that the matches have been very tight with most of the sets decided by a single break of serve.

Li Na has had an extra day rest due to the withdrawal of Aga Radwanska from the tournament. This could work for her in terms of being the fresher player, or it might affect her timing and rhythm. The more likely scenario is that the day off won’t really matter, and that her performance will be based on whether or not she makes her shots. For Serena, it’s all about motivation. She’d like to win Cincinnati and finally add it to her CV, but the ultimate goal is a US Open title defense starting in less than two weeks. Either way, it will be a tight match in two sets.

[2] Victoria Azarenka vs [14] Jelena Jankovic

Head-to-Head: Azarenka leads 4-3

Neither woman is playing their best tennis this week, but both have played “well enough” to make it this far in the tournament. Jelena knocked out Roberta Vinci in straight sets, while Vika knocked out Caroline Wozniacki, also in straight sets. They haven’t played one another since 2012 Sydney, which Vika won in a fairly routine victory. I expect this match to be closer than that 4 and 2 score line, and likely little more complicated for Vika because Jelena excels in frustrating her opponents. Will frustration be enough to knock Vika off her game for a victory? Probably not.

Semifinal Picks:

ATP – Del Potro, Nadal

WTA – Williams, Azarenka

Kevin Ware is covering the Western & Southern Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Third Time Not a Charm as Dimitrov Loses Again to Nadal

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By Kevin Ware

(August 15, 2013) MASON, Ohio – Grigor Dimitrov lost a tightly-contested match to Rafael Nadal  6-2, 5-7, 6-2 Thursday night  at the Western and Southern Open. The loss was his third straight to Nadal after losses in Monte Carlo (’13) and Rotterdam (’09). It would be great if we could say that he’s getting closer to solving the Nadal puzzle, but there’s still a ways to go before that happens.

All three previous matches have gone the distance (three sets), and all have followed the same pattern of Dimitrov mounting a second set comeback only to lose in the third. This latest loss in Cincinnati even included two breaks of serve in each of the sets he lost; this on a night when he was serving at a respectable 73% overall on the night.

What will it take for Dimitrov to overcome the man of steel from Mallorca?

I had a chance to chat with Dimitrov  immediately following the match, and was able to ask him about his physical condition (after a couple of injury scares during the match), his strategy going into this match, and what he thinks is needed in order to turn this pattern of defeats into a first win.

How are you feeling physically? You were grabbing at your chest sometimes during the match.

I thought I pulled a muscle in the second set on one return. So I was just struggling a little bit. But I went through the pain and had a good second set which was actually pretty good. Yeah, physically I’m not too bad anymore and I’m happy for that. It’s a positive thing.

Is it hard on your body running from side to side, covering as much court as Nadal makes you defend?

You know where he’s going to play, but the ball comes really fast. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, you just gotta go to the ball and get it back in the court. I think he has one of the best forehands. I mean, obviously it was just an unbelievable first set from him. Not much I can say about that. Definitely congrats and well, life goes on. Work even harder, and look forward to playing him again.

It looked like your game plan was to slice to Nadal’s forehand to keep the ball low, and attack his backhand. Did you feel you were successful in doing so?

I tried I think a lot of things in the first set but obviously it didn’t really work. He was making absolutely every single shot. I was just trying to find/see where I could find the gap, and there you go. I found the gap in the second set and had this momentum that I grabbed it. And he came out of the block pretty good in the third set so I couldn’t really do much. And even if I was serving 74% it wasn’t enough. I definitely will sit down with my coach and discuss that.

Was the effort that it took out of you to take the second set the difference in the third set? Was it hard to maintain that same level?

He started putting even more balls into the court. He was waiting for me to attack him. And here and there, I missed a few shots and that was the breaks. Even though the score was 6-2 almost every game was 30-40 or deuce or something like that. So the margin was pretty small. And at that level it just takes one or two points.

Given the loss, were you happy with how you played?

I wouldn’t say happy. One thing I’m happy physically. I feel quite alright and I’m still feeling good which is very positive to me. Last time I played him for two hours I was cramping a little bit. So that’s a positive thing. But other than that, of course. Playing against a guy like him, a Top 10 player in general, is always a pleasure. I always enjoy the battles. But I’m looking forward to really starting to give them even a harder time.

What do you think is the difference, that small delta you need to take a match like this?

I’ve done it once, I just need to find the same formula in the same way I’ve been preparing for consistency on and off the court and throughout all the weeks. It’s never easy to travel and come to the week playing then next week playing again. So if you have that good level, and after you raise up your low level, then when matches like this come you will definitely be more ready.

Are you going to take a few days off?

I say maybe one day is gonna be enough, and then looking forward to getting to the (US) Open.

Kevin Ware is covering the Western & Southern Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Nadal Continues His Winning Ways against Becker in Cincy Opener

Rafael Nadal

By Kevin Ware

(August 15, 2013) MASON, Ohio – Rafael Nadal handily dispatched Benjamin Becker in Wednesday’s first match of the evening at the Western and Southern Open. It was his first since winning the Rogers Cup title in Montreal on Sunday.

Nadal didn’t play his best, but on this night and against this opponent, it wasn’t needed. His “B” game was more than enough to keep the 100th-ranked Becker frustrated by excessive topspin, scrambling to stay in points, and struggling to hold serve.

Neither player served particularly well (52% for both). But Nadal won a whopping 95% of his first serve points, and a strong 60% of second serve points. He also saved the two break points he faced in the match, coming back from 15-40 to hold for a 5 games to 1 lead in the first set.

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Generally, Nadal was pleased with his game. “Just for a few games the serve was down a little bit.  I served with too much second serves just a few games. For the rest, I think I played a great match.”

Since most went deep in their respective Rogers Cup events in Montreal and Toronto, many of the top players had little practice time and have struggled with the court conditions in Cincinnati. Nadal was asked to weigh in with his thoughts on the different conditions.

“When you change cities, change a little bit of weather, the feelings on the ball is different. The speed of the court is not exactly the same.  It’s a little bit slower here than in Montreal.” Given Nadal’s preference for slower surfaces, this should give him comfort in the later rounds with the big hitters.

Nadal’s biggest battle on the night was the consistency in his forehand. At times, he hit monster forehands that Becker had no chance to reach. At other moments, he over-hit badly. Fortunately, the good outnumbered the bad with 15 winners on the night.

Additionally, big misses are a positive sign that Nadal is playing aggressively and going for big shots; which was a key to his victory over Djokovic in Montreal.

Nadal’s next match is against the talented Grigor Dimitrov.  Though their last match was on clay in Monte Carlo – one of Nadal’s most fruitful tournaments – it was a tough three-setter that Nadal won by a break in the third. He is keenly aware of the potential for danger in this match.

“He had already tough matches against Murray, Djokovic.  He’s a player that has great potential.  Tomorrow will be a tough match for me, so I have to keep playing this way and play very well.  When I have chances, I’m going to try.”

Kevin Ware is covering the Western & Southern Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

WESTERN & SOUTHERN OPEN
Cincinnati, OH, USA
August 12-18, 2013
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Wednesday, August 14, 2013
WTA Singles – Second Round
(1) Serena Williams (USA) d. (Q) Eugenie Bouchard (CAN) 46 62 62
(4) Agnieszka Radwanska (POL) d. Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 64 60
(5) Li Na (CHN) d. (WC) Lauren Davis (USA) 46 61 61
(6) Sara Errani (ITA) d. (Q) Polona Hercog (SLO) 64 57 64
(7) Petra Kvitova (CZE) d. (Q) Marina Erakovic (NZL) 64 67(7) 63
Simona Halep (ROU) d. (8) Marina Bartoli (FRA) 36 64 61
(9) Angelique Kerber (GER) d. Alisa Kleybanova (RUS) 76(3) 62
(10) Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) d. (LL) Monica Niculescu (ROU) 64 63
(11) Samantha Stosur (AUS) d. Jamie Hampton (USA) 63 76(3)
(12) Roberta Vinci (ITA) d. (Q) Andrea Petkovic (GER) 64 67(3) 63
(14) Jelena Jankovic (SRB) d. Ekaterina Makarova (RUS) 26 63 63
Mona Barthel (GER) d. (16) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) 64 64
Elena Vesnina (RUS) d. Venus Williams (USA) 62 57 62
Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) d. Alizé Cornet (FRA) 36 75 75

WTA Doubles – Second Round
(1) Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) d. (WC) Hantuchova/Hingis (SVK/SUI) 64 64
(2) Makarova/Vesnina (RUS/RUS) d. (WC) King/Kleybanova (USA/RUS) 62 64
(3) Hsieh/Peng (TPE/CHN) d. Dushevina/Soler-Espinosa (RUS/ESP) 61 61
(WC) Kerber/Petkovic (GER/GER) d. (4) Hlavackova/Raymond (CZE/USA) 63 46 119 (Match TB)
(6) Groenefeld/Peschke (GER/CZE) d. Pavlyuchenkova/Safarova (RUS/CZE) 62 61
(7) Chan/Srebotnik (TPE/SLO) d. Kudryavtseva/Rodionova (RUS/AUS) 46 63 106 (Match TB)
Goerges/Zahlavova Strycova (GER/CZE) d. (WC) Flipkens/Kvitova (BEL/CZE) w/o (Kvitova: dizziness)
Huber/Llagostera Vives (USA/ESP) d. Date-Krumm/Parra Santonja (JPN/ESP) 76(2) 67(4) 104 (Match TB)

Singles – Second Round
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) d J Monaco (ARG) 75 62
[2] A Murray (GBR) d M Youzhny (RUS) 62 63
[4] R Nadal (ESP) d [Q] B Becker (GER) 62 62
[6] T Berdych (CZE) d J Nieminen (FIN) 63 62
[7] J del Potro (ARG) d N Davydenko (RUS) 75 75
J Isner (USA) d [8] R Gasquet (FRA) 76(6) 62
T Robredo (ESP) d [9] S Wawrinka (SUI) 75 36 63
[11] T Haas (GER) d M Granollers (ESP) 64 61
[12] M Raonic (CAN) d J Tipsarevic (SRB) 64 76(4)
[Q] D Goffin (BEL) d V Pospisil (CAN) 75 16 76(6) – saved 4 M.P.
[Q] D Tursunov (RUS) d [WC] J Blake (USA) 64 64
F Lopez (ESP) d J Chardy (FRA) 64 22 ret. (left knee)

Doubles – Second Round
[2] M Granollers (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP) d [PR] M Fish (USA) / J Melzer (AUT) 75 64
[3] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) d M Mirnyi (BLR) / H Tecau (ROU) 64 76(6)
S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) d [6] R Lindstedt (SWE) / D Nestor (CAN) 76(3) 64
[8] R Bopanna (IND) / E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) d A Seppi (ITA) / M Youzhny (RUS) 75 63

Doubles – First Round

J Janowicz (POL) / L Kubot (POL) d P Kohlschreiber (GER) / J Tipsarevic (SRB) 61 64
M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) d M Llodra (FRA) / N Mahut (FRA) 76(5) 64


SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 15 AUGUST, 2013

CENTER COURT start 11:00 am
M Rybarikova (SVK) vs [2] V Azarenka (BLR) – WTA
Not Before 1:00 PM
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) vs [Q] D Goffin (BEL) – ATP
[5] R Federer (SUI) vs [11] T Haas (GER) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
G Dimitrov (BUL) vs [4] R Nadal (ESP) – ATP
Not Before 9:00 PM
[1] S Williams (USA) vs M Barthel (GER) – WTA

GRANDSTAND start 11:00 am
F Lopez (ESP) vs [7] J Del Potro (ARG) – ATP
[14] J Jankovic (SRB) vs S Stephens (USA) – WTA
J Benneteau (FRA) vs [2] A Murray (GBR) – ATP
[7] P Kvitova (CZE) vs [10] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA
Not Before 7:00 PM
[11] S Stosur (AUS) vs S Halep (ROU) – WTA
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs J Chardy (FRA) / R Gasquet (FRA) – ATP

COURT 3 start 12:00 noon
[3] D Ferrer (ESP) vs [Q] D Tursunov (RUS) – ATP
[12] M Raonic (CAN) vs J Isner (USA) – ATP
Not Before 2:30 PM
[4] A Radwanska (POL) vs E Vesnina (RUS) – WTA
Not Before 7:00 PM
[6] T Berdych (CZE) vs T Robredo (ESP) – ATP

COURT 9 start 11:00 am

[5] A Qureshi (PAK) / J Rojer (NED) vs M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) – ATP
Not Before 1:00 PM
[6] S Errani (ITA) vs [12] R Vinci (ITA) – WTA
Not Before 3:00 PM
[9] A Kerber (GER) vs [5] N Li (CHN) – WTA
[1] S Errani (ITA) / R Vinci (ITA) vs J Goerges (GER) / B Zahlavova Strycova (CZE) – WTA-After Suitable Rest
[WC] J Blake (USA) / S Johnson (USA) vs [7] J Benneteau (FRA) / N Zimonjic (SRB) – ATP-After Suitable Rest
L Huber (USA) / N Llagostera Vives (ESP) vs [2] E Makarova (RUS) / E Vesnina (RUS) – WTA-After Appropriate Rest

COURT 4 start 3:00 pm
J Janowicz (POL) / L Kubot (POL) vs [4] L Paes (IND) / R Stepanek (CZE) – ATP
Not Before 4:30 PM
[3] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) vs S Gonzalez (MEX) / S Lipsky (USA) – ATP
[WC] A Kerber (GER) / A Petkovic (GER) vs [6] A Groenefeld (GER) / K Peschke (CZE) – WTA-After Suitable Rest

COURT 6 start 4:00 pm
[7] H Chan (TPE) / K Srebotnik (SLO) vs [3] S Hsieh (TPE) / S Peng (CHN) – WTA

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Marion Bartoli Announces Retirement After Loss at Western & Southern Open

 

Marion-Bartoli-Day-2-Press-Conference1-e1342178509523

(August 14, 2013) 2013 Wimbledon Ladies’ champion Marion Bartoli has announced her retirement from tennis after losing her match to Simona Halep 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 at the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday night in Mason, Ohio.

“Well, it’s never easy and obviously there is never a time to say it or whatever, but that was actually the last match of my career, ” Bartoli said to open her post-match news conference.  “Sorry.”

“It’s time for me to retire and to call it a career.  I feel it’s time for me to walk away actually.”

The 28-year-old Frenchwoman ranked No. 7 in the world continued: “I made my dream a reality and it will stay forever with me, but now my body just can’t cope with everything.”

Bartoli said her achilles heel, shoulder, hips and lower back hurt constantly when she played.

“My body just can’t do it anymore.  I’ve been already through a lot of injuries since the beginning of the year.  I’ve been on the tour for so long, and I really push through and leave it all during that Wimbledon.

“I really felt I gave all the energy I have left inside my body.  I made my dream a reality and it will stay forever with me, but now my body just can’t cope with everything.”

So what does Bartoli plan on doing in the future? “Oh, gosh, I don’t know,” she said.  “I haven’t think about it so much.  There is so many things to do in life rather than playing tennis, so I’m sure I will find something.  I just need a bit of time to kind of settle down.”

“It’s been a tough decision to take.  I don’t take this easily.  I mean, I’ve been a tennis player for a long time, and I had the chance to make my biggest dream a reality.  I felt I really, really push through the ultimate limits to make it happen.

“But now I just can’t do it anymore.”

 

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Mackenzie McDonald’s Dream Run Comes to an End in Cincy

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By Kevin Ware

(August 13, 2013) MASON, Ohio – After stirring victories over Newport champion Nicolas Mahut and former NCAA champion Steve Johnson, NorCal’s own Mackenzie McDonald ran out of gas against Belgium’s David Goffin; losing in a straight sets 6-1, 6-1 rout.

The talent and potential of this talented 18 year-old from Berkeley, CA is obvious. He’s got a nice serve with decent “pop”, delivered reliably over 100 mph. He’s light on his feet with solid footwork around the court as he prepares for his ground strokes. And he accelerates nicely through the ball to get good depth and pace.

That wasn’t enough, however, to overcome his more experienced opponent. Goffin, himself a qualifier, was much too steady for McDonald. The Belgian ran his younger opponent from corner to corner at every opportunity, grinding him down in rallies and eventually drawing the error.

McDonald defeated Mahut in three sets on Saturday, 36 76(5) 64. He followed this win with another three-setter against Johnson on Sunday, 36 64 64. The effects of those two tough qualifying matches were apparent as the match wore on.

His crisp footwork became sluggish, and offensive play was replaced by scrambling defense. McDonald even struggled on his usually strong serve, notching just one lone ace against five double faults, and winning only 58% on first serve points and a dismal 15% on his second serve. It’s a tough ask to win matches when you’re continually on defense and unable to hold serve.

When asked about the potential effect of his difficult qualifying matches on his fitness, McDonald readily admitted his struggles. “Today I felt it a little bit physically.  Not from my legs, but from my abs and from there possibly from the serving.”

And despite saying that otherwise he felt okay physically, he added, “I felt, when the points were long, I mean, I was a little winded.  So I think he had that advantage over me.”

It’s often a shock for rookie players when they finally get a taste of play on the Tour level. McDonald is listed on the ATP site as 5’ 10” tall and 145 lbs. Against the equally slight 22 year-old Goffin, one could still see the physical difference with respect to the four year age difference, and also sense that a couple more years of physical maturity could make a world of difference with the proper training to back it up.

McDonald was honest in his assessment of the difference between him and the more experienced (and often older) guys on tour. “I think a lot of it has to do with physical.  I think I can get a lot stronger, gain a lot more weight, and just last longer with these guys.  And at an intense level, at a higher level for a longer period.”

He’s also talked to some of the other US pros and observed how they train and prepare for matches. It’s been a beneficial experience for him that he knows can help his own game.  What specifically did he learn from those guys? More or less, the basics of being a professional on the ATP tour.

“I mean, a few things would be just, I mean, staying professional always.  Before the matches, after the matches, win or lose, just doing the right things at all times.” When asked to elaborate on what are “the right things”, he added: “I mean stretching, doing your exercises, getting your massage after, doing the ice bath.  Just that type of stuff.  Eating right, all that stuff.”

Next up for McDonald is another tough test at the US Open qualifying tournament.  But on this day, and after a weekend of great wins, the enduring image was of McDonald and his proud dad on the podium after the press conference for a photo-op.

They were told that Venus (Williams) would arrive in about ten minutes, but they were welcome to stay until then. Hopefully the next time they get this chance it will be to celebrate his first Tour-level main draw victory.

Kevin Ware is covering the Western & Southern Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Monday’s All-Access Madness at the Western and Southern Open

Serena Williams Cincy 8122013

By Kevin Ware

(August 12, 2013) MASON, Ohio – WTA All-Access hours can be great fun.  They can also feel like the media equivalent of a rugby scrum. Don’t get me wrong, though. I love a scrum as much as the next writer.  But it’s difficult to give equal time and focus to the tournament’s top seeds when they’re brought out at roughly the same time.

So rather than elbow my way through the masses to reach all of the players, I chose my spots carefully and got quality time with Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, and Agnieszka Radwanska.  Here are some of their most quotable moments.

The Tireless and Inspirational Serena

Though Serena Williams can be a fiery competitor on the court, she often comes across as very subdued in the press room.  But then again, we’re usually talking to her after another victory and ensuing travel.  So she can easily be forgiven for low energy in the press room after such dominating victories, such as her Toronto win over Sorana Cirstea.

On the difference between last year’s long Olympic season and this year’s long season due to match wins:

“I don’t feel fatigued this year even though I’m doing well.  At the Olympics I was still on a high, and really into the moment. I was still up from that.”

“I feel motivated and I feel happy. I’m definitely feeling healthy. And hopefully I’ll be able to continue.”

On the inspiration she uses to stay so motivated that can help others:

“For me, one thing that I always think, ‘Is there a way I could do better?’ and if the answer is yes I strive to go through that door. And if the answer is no then it’ll be time to rethink what I’m doing.” So she hasn’t hit too many times where ‘No’ might have been the answer? “Not yet, thankfully.”

Radwanksa cincy 8122012

Radwanska’s Feeling Good and Looking for New Thrills

In spite of the incredible amount of tennis that Radwanska has played this summer (including her semifinal appearance at Wimbledon), she was relaxed, smiling, and feeling good heading into the final swing of the American hard court season.

On the difference between her two matches against Serena in Miami and Toronto:

“In Miami, I wasn’t really playing bad. But she was playing unbelievable. And I really couldn’t do much.” In Toronto, she felt the surface and balls made a marked difference in the match. “It was much slower than in Miami, and I could get more into the games.”

On playing so much tennis the past few weeks:

“Yeah, I’ve had a couple of good long matches, but I prefer to play a lot of matches than one match in two weeks.” I asked if that also meant that she was winning a lot, to which she replied,”Exactly. It’s a good problem to have.”

On riding roller coasters with her sister:

“I went there last year, and I wanted to ride the biggest one. But when I went there, I didn’t go to the biggest one. Something stopped me at the door, and I couldn’t do it. So I turned around.” When asked if her sister, Urszula, wanted to go, she said “We both looked at each other and said ‘Are you sure?’, then didn’t go. I think there’s supposed to have a bigger one next year, so maybe then…”

Azarenka Cincy

Azarenka Loves John Legend and Watching Tennis

Victoria Azarenka was in rare form when she sat down with the press in Cincinnati, chatting and laughing as though tennis was merely a small part of her being here.

On being normal:

“I’m weird sometimes, but I am also normal. I got a shirt for my birthday that says ‘Normal is boring’, and I think it’s a motto. My new motto.”

On driving and John Legend:

The fun for Vika actually began Sunday night, singing and dancing while being driven around Mason. She heard a song that she loved so much she couldn’t help herself. The song was ‘Tonight’ by John Legend.  “It’s so good. Just incredible. I couldn’t wait to tell somebody.” When I asked her if it was good enough to make her “on-court walk” playlist, she quickly said “Oh I think it’s too sexy for that.”

On what she did after Wimbledon:

As for watching tennis, that subject came up when she was asked what she did after leaving the All England Club. “I didn’t watch anything, to be honest. But I did watch the (men’s) final.”

“It was really exciting I think not only for British tennis, but also for the history it was incredible to see. And I’ve never seen Andy Murray so emotional, that’s for sure. But I was in the mood to see what I could do to be healthy again.”

On watching tennis:

I love to watch when I’m excited about something. I love to watch tennis in general. But at that moment I was focused on what I needed to do to be better to recover. And I also had lots to do with the move (to LA) and everything. And with the time difference, it was perfect (to not watch).

Sharapova Cincy

A Thought on the “Maria and Jimmy” Questions

Most of the questions that Maria Sharapova is asked these days, Grigor Dimitrov notwithstanding, revolve around her (admittedly) intriguing partnership with Jimmy Connors, and the ‘real’ reasons why she decided to start working with him. Judging by her generic words and closed body language, we can expect nothing outside of “He’s been there before” and “There are things he can bring to my game” platitudes. If Maria did, in fact, hire Jimmy to help find a way to mentally overcome Serena – as we all suspect – we’ll find out soon enough the next time they meet.

Kevin Ware is covering the Western & Southern Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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James Blake Leads List of Wild Cards for Cincinnati

cincinnati-tennis-open-logo-e1313014647325

CINCINNATI (August 8, 2013) — Seven of the eight men’s wild cards for the 2013 Western & Southern Open have been awarded to American players, with four US players being added to the main draw and three entered into qualifying.

 

James Blake, Brian BakerRyan Harrison and Jack Sock have been granted wild cards in to the main draw.

 

In qualifying, Australian Bernard Tomic joins a trio of Americans who each reached a career high ranking last month – Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla and Rhyne Williams – in the field.

 

“We’re happy to welcome a familiar face like James back to a tournament where he has had a tremendous amount of success in his career,” said Tournament Director Vince Cicero. “At the same time, it’s exciting to offer these younger players a chance to participate in a tournament of this caliber. We look forward to having all eight of these players in Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open.”

 

Blake, the 2007 Western & Southern Open finalist, will be making his 12th apperance at the tournament, third among active players behind Tommy Haas (14) and Roger Federer (13). He also ranks sixth among active players for wins in Cincinnati with a 15-10 record.

 

Baker, from Nashville, returned to tennis in 2012 after a series of injuries kept him sidelined for nearly six seasons. He climbed to almost No. 50 in the rankings before suffering a knee injury at the Australian Open in January that has kept him out of action until this week’s Aptos Challenger.

 

Harrison, a 21-year-old who now calls Austin, Texas, home, reached the semifinals last month at the ATP event in Atlanta. He also claimed the title at the Savannah Challenger this season. It will be his third Western & Southern Open main draw appearance.

 

Sock, a 20-year-old from Lincoln, Neb., won the title at the Challenger event in Winnetka, Ill., last month. He reached his second career ATP quarterfinal in February at Memphis. In 2010, Sock won the US Open Juniors title.

 

The four wild card entrants to the qualifying field will compete in a two-round tournament over this coming weekend for one of seven spots in the main draw.

 

Tomic, 20, is the top-ranked player from Australia. He recently reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and early this season claimed his first career title with a win in Sydney.

 

Kudla, a 20-year-old who grew up in Virginia, reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club in London in June.

 

Johnson, 23, won back-to-back NCAA singles champions in 2011-12 while playing for the University of Southern California. He won the Nottingham Challenger in June.

 

Williams, 22, turned pro after his sophomore year at the University of Tennessee, and was the NCAA singles finalist in 2011. He reached his first career ATP semifinal at Houston in April.

 

In addition, the following players have been added to the main draw – Radek Stepanek , Thomaz Bellucci and Denis Istomin. These three were entered following the withdrawals of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee), Viktor Troicki (suspension) and Marin Cilic (personal).

 

The draws for both the main draw and qualifying will be made on Friday. Qualifying begins Saturday, which is also AdvancePierre Foods Kids Day, and tickets start as low as $5. WTA main draw play begins Monday. All matches will take place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.

 

The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans in 2012, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.

 

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Mattek-Sands, Hantuchova and Davis Receive Main Draw Wild Cards into Cincinnati

D Hantuchova

CINCINNATI (August 6, 2013) — Four of the nine women’s wild card recipients for the 2013 Western & Southern Open have regional ties to Cincinnati and the surrounding area.

 

Two of the three main draw wild cards were born in the Midwest – Lauren Davis from Cleveland and Bethanie Mattek-Sands from Rochester, Minn. The third wild card went to Slovakia’s Daniela Hantuchova.

 

Qualifying wild cards were awarded to back-to-back NCAA singles champion and Cincinnati native Nicole Gibbs, as well as Pittsburgh’s Alison Riske. The remaining four qualifying wild cards went to New Jersey’s Christina McHale, Georgia’s Melanie Oudin and California’s Maria Sanchez along with Slovenian Polona Hercog.

 

“We take great pride that we have ticket buyers from all 50 states, and so much of that support comes from around the region because of the number of tennis fans who live within driving distance of the event,” said Tournament Director Vince Cicero. “We’re excited about this talented group of wild card recipients, and we hope that the Western & Southern Open can be a ‘home’ tournament for these players from this region.”

 

Davis, 19, who is from the Cleveland suburb of Gates Mills, won the 2008 Ohio High School Division II singles title while playing at Gilmour Academy. Early this season she reached her second WTA quarterfinal in Hobart.

 

Mattek-Sands will be making her fifth appearance at the Western & Southern Open. A semifinalist here in 2005, she also won the doubles title in 2007. In 2013, she has reached the final at Kuala Lumpur, the semifinals in Stuttgart and the fourth round at the French Open.

 

Hantuchova, who is playing Cincinnati for the sixth time, reached the 2005 semifinals here and was a quarterfinalist on two other occasions. She owns six career titles, including a win earlier this summer in Birmingham.

 

The six qualifying wild cards will begin play Saturday in a two-round tournament to earn one of 12 spots in the main draw.

 

Gibbs, 20, just completed her junior year at Stanford by winning her second straight NCAA singles title. In addition to her collegiate success this year, Gibbs has reached a pair of ITF event finals, winning the title in Yakima.

 

Riske, 23, reached the semifinals at the grass court event in Birmingham earlier this summer for the second time in her career. She has reached the semifinals or better in three ITF events this season.

 

McHale, 21, has had previous success in Cincinnati, reaching the main draw third round two of the last three years, including in 2011 when she defeated World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

 

Oudin, 21, reached the US Open quarterfinal in 2009, and in 2012, she won her first career WTA title. This year she has successfully qualified at WTA Premier events in Rome and Brussels.

 

Sanchez, 23, was an All-American at the University of Southern California. In 2013, she has reached the third round at the WTA event in Birmingham as well as two ITF quarterfinals.

 

Hercog, 22, owns two career WTA titles and this season has claimed two ITF tournament titles. She has been ranked as high as No. 35 in her career.

 

The draws for both the main draw and qualifying will be made on Friday. Qualifying begins Saturday, which is also AdvancePierre Foods Kids Day, and tickets start as low as $5. WTA main draw play begins Monday. All matches will take place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.

 

The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans in 2012, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.

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Western & Southern Open Announce Off-Court Activities for Fans

Cincy stadium

CINCINNATI (August 1, 2013) — More then 150 tennis matches will be contested during the Western & Southern Open at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio, from August 10-18.

 

The on-court play is just a part of the action that takes place during tournament week. There are nearly as many activities, special events, shopping and dining options for spectators to enjoy away from the courts during the tournament.

 

Below is a comprehensive listing of the off-court options planned for 2013:

 

Friday, Aug. 9

5:30 pm - Draw Party

An invitation-only event for 1,000 fans features players from each Tour as the draws for both men’s and women’s tournaments are made in the Grandstand Tent.

 

Saturday, Aug. 10

9:00 a.m. –  AdvancePierre Foods Kids Day 

An exhibition match and autograph sessions are among the special activities for kids all over the grounds throughout the morning. Tickets start at just $5 for the day and include the full session of qualifying matches.

 

Sunday, Aug. 11

9:15 a.m. – Wellington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine High School Day

Tennis, fitness and wellness tips plus lunch are all part of this special morning for high school students, who also get to enjoy the last day of qualifying and first day of main draw play.

 

7:00 p.m. – Kroger Family Night

The opening night of main draw play features half price tickets for kids and $8 off adult tickets.
Monday, Aug. 12

7:00 p.m. – Military & Uniformed Personnel Appreciation Day

Special recognition will take place for all active and former armed forces members, including Wounded Warrior Project Alumni. Ticket discounts are available for all military and uniformed civic personnel for both the day and night sessions.

 

Wednesday, Aug. 14

5:30 p.m. – Saks Fifth Avenue Night on the Runway

The fall line from Lafayette 148 New York will be presented during this fashion show in the Grandstand Tent.

 

Thursday, Aug. 15 

11:00 a.m. – USTA Member Appreciation Day

Members of the United States Tennis Association are invited to a hospitality event and also have the opportunity to purchase discounted tickets for both Thursday sessions.

 

Friday, Aug. 16

11:00 a.m. – Emirates Airline NJTL Junior Tennis Clinic

Brian Gottfried, a former Western & Southern Open doubles champion, will host a clinic for National Junior Tennis League participants from the Cincinnati Recreation Commission.

 

All Week

Anthem Singers – Talented kids who were hand selected through a rigorous audition process, the Skyline Chili Casting Call, will sing the National Anthem before each night session.

 

Eat – Fourteen restaurants will keep fans fed in the food court, which was expanded in 2012.

 

Drink – The popular Corona Beach House returns in the food court area, and additional returning libation options on the grounds include the Svedka Vodka Lounge and Moet Champagne Bar. New in 2013 are the el Arco Tequila Margarita Bar and the Robert Mondavi Private Selection Wine Garden.

 

Learn – Cincinnati’s best chefs, including James Beard nominees, will host cooking demonstrations with signature dishes to pair with Mondavi wines in the Wine Garden at 5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday.

 

Shop – In the 20,000 square foot retail plaza 16 different vendors will offer a wide variety of products. If you’re after the same gear the pros have, stop by the Midwest Sports Tent, which is air-conditioned!

 

Listen – During the week, 28 different musical acts will entertain fans at both the Wellington Get Well Be Well Entertainment Stage as well as near the North Gate.

The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans in 2012, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.

 

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.cincytennis.com.

 

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Fifteen Grand Slam Champs Lead Cincinnati Field

Cincy stadium

CINCINNATI (July 15, 2013) — The Western & Southern Open announced on Monday the tournament’s lineup which features the top 44 ranked men* and 35 of the top 36 ranked women* in the world, competing for more than $6 million in prize money.

 

Between the men’s and women’s fields, 11 players who have been ranked No. 1 in the World and 15 Grand Slam champions will be among the stars in professional tennis to assemble at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, located 20 miles north of Cincinnati, August 10-18, 2013. The announcement was made today in front of media, sponsors, civic leaders and fans at the Horseshoe Casino in downtown Cincinnati.

 

“It’s clear that the world’s top players view Cincinnati as a must-stop on their annual calendars,” said Tournament Director and COO Vince Cicero. “The combination of prestige, history and the world-class facilities make the event a draw for players and fans alike.”

 

Leading the men will be world No. 1, Novak Djokovic, who will attempt to be the first man in history to win the singles title at all nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events. A four-time finalist in Cincinnati but never a champion, Djokovic has captured each of the following Masters 1000 titles: Indian Wells, Madrid, Miami, Monte Carlo, Montreal/Toronto, Paris, Rome and Shanghai.

 

For Djokovic, making history will be no easy task. Reigning and record 5-time Cincinnati champion Roger Federer has the best winning percentage in Cincinnati of any active player at .811 (30-7). Two-time champion Andy Murray is fresh off his Wimbledon triumph and Rafael Nadal seeks his first title in the Queen City.

 

Since 2008, 12 different women have won at least one Grand Slam title, and 10 of those champions are entered in the 2013 Western & Southern Open. No. 1 Serena Williams, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, won this year’s French Open, but a Cincinnati title has remained elusive. World No. 2 Maria Sharapova, a two-time winner on Tour in 2013, will return and looks to add a second Cincinnati crown.

 

Defending champion Li Na of China, who claimed the 2011 French Open title, leads a list of other WTA contenders. Two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka, who’s most recent major triumph came at the Australian Open, rising American Sloane Stephens, perennial threat Caroline Wozniacki and recently crowned Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli are among a host of women who have a chance to claim the title this year.

 

The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans last year, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.

 

Both the men’s and women’s tournaments will feature a 56-player field, with the top eight seeds in each receiving opening round byes. Three women and four men will join the fields as wild cards. In addition, 12 women and seven men will earn a spot in the main draw during the qualifying tournament that will be held August 10-11.

 

The advance player entry lists are included below. Entry lists are subject to change but are generally a reliable resource on the players expected to compete. For more info visit www.cincytennis.com.

 

*Rankings all as of tournament entry deadline, July 1, 2013

 

Commitment list for women’s singles draw (rankings as of entry deadline July 1):

Player                                    Nat          Rank     Player                                                    Nat            Rank

Serena Williams                 USA        1             Dominika Cibulkova                           SVK          19

Victoria Azarenka                 BLR       2             Kirsten Flipkens                                  BEL           20

Maria Sharapova                 RUS       3            Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova                RUS          21

Agnieszka Radwanska      POL        4             Elena Vesnina                                     RUS         22

Sara Errani                           ITA          5             Sorana Cirstea                                    ROU         23

Li Na                                     CHN        6             Sabine Lisicki                                      GER         24

Angelique Kerber               GER        7             Alisa Kleybanova                                 RUS        24SR

Petra Kvitova                        CZE        8             Jamie Hampton                                   USA   25     Caroline Wozniacki             DEN       9             Shuai Peng                                    CHN         26

Maria Kirilenko                     RUS       10           Ekaterina Makarova                           RUS          27

Roberta Vinci                        ITA          11           Svetlana Kuznetsova                         RUS          28

Ana Ivanovic                         SRB        12           Varvara Lepchenko                            USA           29

Samantha Stosur               AUS        13            Lucie Safarova                                    CZE          30

Jelena Jankovic                  SRB        14            Alize Cornet                                          FRA          31

Flavia Pennetta                    ITA          14SR      Simona Halep                                     ROU         32

Marion Bartoli                       FRA        15            Mona Barthel                                       GER          33

Nadia Petrova                      RUS        16           Venus Williams                                   USA          35

Sloane Stephens                 USA        17          Julia Goerges                                       GER         36

Kaia Kanepi                          EST        17SR      Kristina Mladenovic                            FRA          37

Carla Suarez Navarro        ESP        18

 

Commitment list for men’s singles draw (rankings as of entry deadline July 1):

 

Player                                    Nat          Rank                 Player                                    Nat          Rank

Novak Djokovic                   SRB        1                         Kevin Anderson                   RSA         23

Andy Murray                         GBR        2                         Alexandr Dolgopolov          UKR        24

Roger Federer                    SUI         3                          Jeremy Chardy                    FRA         25

David Ferrer                         ESP        4                         Mikhail Youzhny                   RUS        26

Rafael Nadal                       ESP        5                         Benoit Paire                          FRA         27

Tomas Berdych                  CZE        6                          Andreas Seppi                     ITA          28

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga              FRA        7                          Tommy Robredo                 ESP        29

Juan Martin Del Potro        ARG        8                          Fabio Fognini                       ITA          30

Richard Gasquet                 FRA        9                          Grigor Dimitrov                    BUL        31

Stanislas Wawrinka            SUI         10                       Feliciano Lopez                   ESP        32

Kei Nishikori                         JPN        11                       Julien Benneteau                FRA        33

Marin Cilic                             CRO       12                       Florian Mayer                       GER        34

Tommy Haas                       GER        13                       Lukas Rosol                        CZE        35

Janko Tipsarevic                 SRB        14                        Martin Klizan                        SVK        36

Milos Raonic                        CAN       15                         Jurgen Melzer                      AUT        37

Nicolas Almagro                  ESP        16                        Jarkko Nieminen                 FIN        38

Gilles Simon                         FRA        17                        Ernests Gulbis                     LAT       39

Philipp Kohlschreiber         GER       18                        Marcos Baghdatis               CYP       40

Sam Querrey                        USA        19                        Marcel Granollers                ESP       41

Juan Monaco                        ARG        20                        Nikolay Davydenko             RUS       42

John Isner                             USA        21                         Mardy Fish                           USA        43

Jerzy Janowicz                      POL        22                         Victor Troicki                        SRB       44

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