2014/07/23

Mardy Fish Loses in Atlanta

Mardy Fish

By Herman Wood

(July 24, 2013) ATLANTA, GA – The courts stayed mostly dry at the BB&T open on Wednesday, except for a few drops from Michael Russell during his win over Mardy Fish.

In the final singles match of the evening, Michael Russell and Mardy Fish picked up from their match that had been twice interrupted by rain last night.  Fish had won the first set 6-4, but had given up a break in the second and started the night down 2-4 with Russell serving.  Fish seemed to start slowly with some loose errors in his service game and was broken when Russell unleashed a big forehand on set point.

The third set opened with Fish getting an easy break, as Russell seemed intent on returning Fish’s favor.  Fish consolidated, holding to 2-0 with a big serve and a stretching forehand blast winner.  Fish continued to hold, despite getting down 0-30 on his serve, with the help of an ace.  Russell finally broke back in a nervy game featuring big audible effort from both players to get to 3-3.  The effort was clear by both men, with Fish changing shirts at least twice and Russell apparently needing to.  After each change of ends when Fish got ready to serve, he or a ball boy did some light housekeeping, drying the court with their shoes or a towel where Russell apparently had left behind some perspiration.  Both men kept digging holes on their serve and had to reach down to hold.  The chair seemed to show needed restraint with no time warning to either player, even when one or the other took a moment after an extended point.  Finally, with Fish serving to get to a tiebreaker at 5-6, Russell held the lead or ad multiple times, and Fish showed his willingness to fight hard.  A final ad point and a big service return closed the door on Fish’s Atlanta return: 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.  Fish reportedly stated that this is the best match Michael Russell has ever played.  Russell will advance to play Santiago Giraldo later in the second round.

Matt Ebden got through due to some health issues of Ivo Karlovic.  Ebden won the first set, as Karlovic showed signs of distress.  A trainer was called and Karlovic retired prior to the second set.  Ebden said via Twitter “Got through today but unfortunately Ivo had to retire, hope he gets better fast & continues his great form.”  Ebden will face Kevin Anderson tomorrow.  No official word on Karlovic’s condition was available.

Christian Harrison

Christian Harrison

Ivan Dodig took three sets to get by Ricardas Berankis, 1-6, 7-6 (7), 6-3 in a second round match.  In first round action, Christian Harrison won his first ATP main draw match of his career against Alejandro Falla, 6-1, 7-6 (7), 6-2.  He’ll be rewarded with a second round match against top seeded John Isner on Thursday.

Veteran Lleyton Hewitt took on American qualifier Rhyne Williams.  Hewitt’s experience showed, as he seemed to find the right combination or shot to get by Williams 7-6 (6), 6-4, despite 18 aces for Williams.  In the tiebreaker, Williams did not challenge a ball on the baseline that the crowd seemed to think was out.  An out call would have given him the first set.  He followed up with a double fault and Hewitt worked the set point to coax a Williams error.  The match stayed on serve again until late in the second set when Hewitt shut the door with a break at 4-5.  As in yesterday’s Jack Sock match, the chair took the opportunity to get involved late, issuing a time warning to Williams late in the second set.  Williams seemed to brush it off.

In another match featuring a veteran, James Blake took three tight sets to advance past Tim Smyczek 7-6 (3), 4-6, 7-6 (4).  Blake selectively worked points to get to the tiebreaker and earn the set.  Smyczek earned a break in the second set and served it out as Blake seemed to concede the last point of the set.  Strategically, both men worked the other’s backhand, though Blake seemed to manage to run around to his forehand more often to do damage.  At 2-2 in the 3rd, with Blake serving, Smyczek made a challenge that looked a little embarrassing- the ball smothered the line.  Serving at 4-5, down 0-30, Smyczek dug out of the hole, closing with an ace and an 83 mph service winner.  After a Blake hold, Smyczek forgot to show Blake that new balls were in play and Blake had to ask.  The new balls made a difference – every point was a service winner or ace to get to 6-6 and a tiebreaker.  In the breaker, Blake got an early mini-break and made it hold up, drawing a groundstroke error from Smyczek at 4-6.

In doubles action, Rajeev Ram and Ken Skupski got by Domini Inglot and Frank Moser 6-4,6-4.  Chris Guccione and Lleyton Hewitt needed a match tiebreak to beat Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky.  The final match of the evening had James Blake and Jack Sock taking on Brazilians Marcelo Demoliner and Andre Sa.  There was quite a bit of conversation among the players on court and it sounded testy.  Blake and Sock prevailed, needing a match tiebreak: 5-7, 7-6 (4), 10-6.

Thursday promises to be a big day at the BB&T Atlanta Open.  Really big – John Isner, at 6’9″ and Kevin Anderson, at 6’8″ will both be in action.  Isner has local connections, leading the University of Georgia Bulldogs to the NCAA national title in 2007.  Expect barking.

 

SCHEDULE – THURSDAY, 25 JULY, 2013

STADIUM start 4:00 pm
R Harrison (USA) vs [4] I Sijsling (NED)
J Blake (USA) vs [8] E Donskoy (RUS)
Not Before 7:00 PM
[1] J Isner (USA) vs [WC] C Harrison (USA)
J Blake (USA) / J Sock (USA) vs [3] C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR)

AJC GRANDSTAND start 4:00 pm

[5] Y Lu (TPE) vs D Istomin (UZB)
M Russell (USA) vs S Giraldo (COL)
[Q] M Ebden (AUS) vs [2] K Anderson (RSA)
D Kudla (USA) / M Russell (USA) vs R Berankis (LTU) / S Giraldo (COL)

COURT 3 start 3:00 pm

[1] I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) vs [PR] J Erlich (ISR) / A Ram (ISR)
R Ram (USA) / K Skupski (GBR) vs C Guccione (AUS) / L Hewitt (AUS)
[4] E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) / I Sijsling (NED) vs [WC] K King (USA) / J Spir (COL) – After Suitable Rest

 

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Americans in Paris – Day Two at Roland Garros

SloaneStephens

Sloane Stephens

(May 27, 2013). Americans went 8-4 in Paris on the day 2 of the French Open. Here is a look at how they all fared:

First round: Sloane Stephens (17) (USA) def. Karin Knapp (ITA) 6-2, 7-5

In a bit of a slump since reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open and the recent coverage of her controversial comments during an ESPN magazine interview, Stephens said that she was positive about her win.

“Obviously really excited to be back here.  Had a great year last year, and this was one of my favorite tournaments.  So it’s good to be back and playing a lot better than a couple weeks ago.

Just excited to be back on the court and playing well again.

Stephens commented  on the media attention since her ESPN interview after aftermath off-court:

“Yeah, I mean, it’s been okay for me.  Obviously I haven’t had that many good results leading up to the clay season, so to get some match in on my favorite surface and get some confidence back and kind of just start feeling ball better.

“It wasn’t that my mind wasn’t on the court.  I just needed to find a balance, and obviously that’s tough.

“I’m only 20 years old, so I have a lot to learn and a long ways to go.  Just finding the right balance is what we’re doing.

“It’s been fine for me.  My really good friend came and my mom is here.  I’m just having a good time.  It’s been fun.

“I mean, obviously attention is attention.  It comes, it goes.  When you’re winning they love it; when you’re losing they love it.  It’s all the same really.”

 

First round: John Isner (19) (USA) def. Carlos Berlocq (ARG) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

 

First round: Varvara Lepchenko (29)(USA) def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 6-1, 6-2

 

First round: Martin Klizan def. Michael Russell (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-1 Ret. Left hamstring injury

 

First round: Madison Keys (USA) def. Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-3, 6-2

At 18, Keys is the youngest of the American women in the main draw. She is No. 58 in the world.

 

First round: Jana Cepelova (SVK) def. Christina McHale (USA) 7-6(3) 2-6 6-4

McHale who was struck with glandular fever last year is ranked 53rd in the world.

 

First round: Albert Montanes(ESP)  def. Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1

The former NCAA champion Johnson extended the recent Nice Open titlist to five sets.

 

First round: Ryan Harrison (USA) def. Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4)

Harrison will play fellow American and Davis Cup teammate John Isner in the second round.

 

First round: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) def. Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) 6-4, 6-1

With 15 women in the main draw of the French Open at the beginning of the tournament, Mattek is proud of so many U. S. women moving up in the rankings. “It’s a great group of girls coming up. They’re talented. They’re all pretty fun to be around. They got good personalities.”

She commented that just a few years ago, people kept asking her about the state of U.S. women’s tennis.

 

First round: Vania King (USA) def. Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) 7-6(3), 6-1

King made it through to the main draw by going through the qualifying tournament.

 

First round: Michal Przysiezny (POL) def. (LL) Rhyne Williams (USA) 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 7-5

Williams who came into the tournament as a lucky loser, lost to the same person who defeated him in the final round of the Qualifying tournament.

 

First round: Melanie Oudin (USA) def. Tamira Paszek (28) (AUT) 6-4, 6-3

Almost four years ago Oudin made it to the quarterfinals of the U. S. Open as 17-year-old. She spoke about pressure on her then as an American player.

“I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself after everything, “she said to media. “It’s a totally different story now. There’s so many Americans now coming up, and so many in the top 100. It is nice to not have it all on me….I mean, it really was all on me at that time. Like, besides the Williams sisters, everyone was like, `Oh, who’s going to be the next upcoming American?’ And it’s like, `OK, it’s going to be Melanie, because you got to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.’ It was a lot. And I was young.”

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No. 1 Seed Russell Stunned as No. 2 Ryan Harrison Survives Three-Set Scare at Tallahassee Tennis Challenger

Photo Coutesy of http://www.mensclaycourt.com

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 30, 2013 – Top seed Michael Russell was bounced out of the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger while No. 2 Ryan Harrison avoided an upset scare Tuesday at the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event at the Forestmeadows Tennis Complex.

 

World No. 294 Suk-Young Jeong took down the 34-year-old Russell, ranked No. 93, Tuesday afternoon on Stadium Court, beating the American veteran 7-6 (6), 6-3 in a hard-fought affair.

 

Harrison, the world No. 81, followed Russell on court but avoided the upset trend by coming back from a second-set loss to Taro Daniel of Japan, winning 6-3, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5).

 

“It was a long match, it was tough,” said Harrison, who won the title last week in Savannah. “But I didn’t close it out and finish it the way that I wanted to. Things kind of go that way sometimes, you just have to keep fighting. I was able to come away with the third set.”

 

Earlier in the day it was Ryan’s younger brother Christian, just 18, who shocked No. 6 seed Steve Johnson 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Stadium Court. Christian said he’d like to get his ranking up to the Wimbledon qualifier cut off (around No. 200) in the next month. He entered Tallahassee as the world No. 378.

 

“Christian has been getting stronger everyday,” 20-year-old Ryan said of his younger brother. “I think he’s getting more comfortable at this level. I think he’s starting to feel like he can beat these guys. He put it together and got a big win. He’s going to start building off of that for sure.”

 

A pair of Americans, former champions Donald Young and No. 5 seed Tim Smyczek, were successful on familiar turf. Young, who won here in 2011, beat Michael Venus of New Zealand 7-5, 6-4 while defending champion Smyczek held off big-serving Australian Greg Jones 6-3, 7-5.

 

No. 4 seed Jack Sock fell on the wrong side of the upset tracks, losing to fellow American Alex Kuznetsov 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Kuznetsov, who is leading the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge, moved a step closer to clinching a spot in the French Open with the win.

 

“Jack is a really good, talented player,” said the 26-year-old Tampa resident. “It was difficult for me to break in the first set. I just really tried to stay the course in the second set and got a few chances on his serve. I won a break point at 3-1 in the second set when we were both at the net and I really felt like that turned the match around. That gave me confidence from there on out. I just kept fighting until the end.”

 

It’s Wayne Odesnik who still stands in Kuznetsov’s way for a French Open berth. Odesnik was a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over Denys Molchanov of Ukraine on Court 1.

 

No. 8 seed Mischa Zverev of Germany notched a 6-4, 6-0 win over Nikoloz Basilashvili while American Bradley Klahn won 6-3, 6-2 against Nicolas Barrientos. Florida State University standout Dominic Cotrone fell short against Canadian Peter Polansky, 6-2, 6-4.

 

In doubles, local hopes Salif Kante and Takura Happy of Florida A&M University produced quite the win over Dante Saleh and Mico Santiago, winning 6-4, 6-4. Their victory marked the first time a college team had won in Tallahassee since a Florida State team did so in 2009.

By Nick McCarvel

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Three

John-Isner_Miami-Tennis-Cup-e1354390274784

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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Uncle Sam at the Down Under Slam – Day 1 Edition

Venus Williams photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama

Venus Williams photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama

(January 14, 2013) Looking at how American tennis players fared on day one of the 2013 Australian Open.

American tennis players went  6-3 on the first day of the Australian Open with Venus Williams leading the way with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Galina Voskoboeva.

“Obviously it’s nice to spend less time on the court, and not be in long sets,” Williams said after the match. She  had a first-serve percentage of 70 percent and converted on 6 of 11 break point chances.

“I don’t think my opponent quite got the hang of – you know, it’s hard to play the first match in a major, first thing of the year, and that can be a lot of pressure.” Williams said of her opponent “I did my best to just close it out.”

Sam Querrey, who is the highest ranking American man, due to the withdrawal of 13rh ranked John Isner, came back from a set down to defeat Daniel Munoz-De La Nava of Spain 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Querrey will take on another American in the second round, Brian Baker, who defeated American turned Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr. 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-7 (0), 3-6, 6-2.

Ryan Harrison came back from a set down to advance, defeating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.  Bad news for Harrison – he’ll face top seed Novak Djokovic in the second round.

Spain’s Nicolas Almagro, the 1th0 men’s seed outlasted American qualifier Steve Johnson in a first round five-set marathon 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-2. Johnson was the first reigning NCAA champion to qualify for the Australian Open.

Tim Smyczek came into the tournament as lucky loser, and thanks to housemate John Isner’s withdrawal  due to a right knee injury, made it into the main draw. Smyczek was a winner on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Ivo Karlovic.

Veteran Michael Russell fell to No. 5 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.

Touted as “one to watch” seventeen year-old Madison Keys won her first match in Melbourne on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6 (0) victory against Casey Dellacqua of Australia.

Sorana Cirstea had no problems beating American Coco Vandeweghe  6-4 6-2 in first round action.

Americans scheduled for Tuesday play in Melbourne include No. 3 Serena Williams, 29 seed Sloane Stephens, Vania King, Jamie Hampton, Melanie Oudin, Vavara Lepchencko, Lauren Davis, Rajeev Ram, and Rhyne Williams.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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Hampton Shines on a day when most Americans fall at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON – Jamie Lee Hampton in her first match at the All England Club upset 27th seed Daniela Hantuchova of Slovakia 6-4, 7-6 (1) on Monday evening.

“I’m kind of liking it right now,” noted Hampton about playing on grass.

The 22-year-old who had to retire from her opening match at the French Open last month because of two herniated discs was worried that her injury would return.

“In the back of my mind I’m sure I was worried about whether my back was going to hold up or not, Hampton said It’s a little stiff but it’s all right. It sounds worse than it is.”

On a day when seven Americans lost including Venus Williams, John Isner, Melanie Oudin, Donald Young, James Blake and Vania King, the young woman ranked 100th in the world was one of only five Americans to be victorious on Wimbledon’s opening day. The other winning US players -Sloane Stephens, Ryan Harrison, Michael Russell and Ryan Sweeting.

 

As for her match against Hantuchova , “I’m just trying to play my game, dictate, push her around a little bit and make her play defense,” Hampton said.

The American hit 27 winners past Hantuchova with four aces and winning most of the longer rallies.
Hampton’s Wimbledon adventure continues on Wednesday as she’ll play Great Britain’s Heather Watson, ranked 103rd in the world.

 

Hampton Upsets Jankovic at the BNP Paribas Open

New Haven Open Approach Shots with Great Britain’s Heather Watson

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Isner Rallies Past Lopez in Houston, Becomes US No.1

HOUSTON – American John Isner defeated Spain’s Feliciano Lopez 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-3 on Saturday to advance to the final of the U.S. Clay Court Championship at the River Oaks Country Club.

The victory moves Isner’s ranking up to No. 9 in the world as of Monday, making him the top American moving past Mardy Fish who lost earlier in the week.

“Even coming out of college it’s something I never could have imagined,” Isner said in regard to becoming the top-ranked American. “But as I started to improve and play better a little bit, I knew that this could be something that was attainable for me. I’m very thrilled. And now I have my highest ranking ever as well, number nine.  That was my next goal, after I got to ten. Now my newest goal is to get to eight, and then seven, and then six.”

Isner bested Lopez, despite not having his best day. “I was not the better player today, just as I wasn’t yesterday.  But I found a way.  It definitely wasn’t pretty but I found a way to eventually get it done, and I’m proud of that.  It’s fortunate for me that I can get through matches when I’m not feeling my best or playing my best because of my serve.   And I think I’m backing it up with better play.”

Isner is 20-6 for 2012 with victories over No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Roger Federer.

Isner will face Argentina’s Juan Monaco who stopped the career run of Houston’s own Michael Russell 5-7, 6-1, 6-4. Russell had reach the semifinals of a main tour ATP event for the first time. En route to the semifinals he knocked out Mardy Fish and Bryan Harrison.

In doubles action, James Blake and Sam Querrey captured the doubles crown  stopping Treat Conrad Huey and Dominic Inglot 7-6(14), 6-4.

“The week was great,” Blake said, “as I haven’t been in the winners’ circle in a while. It’s a great feeling to get back in it with a good friend like Sam. I hope it’s a stepping stone. I remember when I won my first doubles title, it was a precursor to my first singles title the next weekend. I think it shows I’m starting to play well and getting confidence. I’ll take it anywhere I can get it.”

“It’s always fun to play with a buddy like James,” Querrey said. “We hadn’t won a match before, but once we got one win, we got four. We had a lot of close matches. Hopefully we can play again and win another title.”

 

RESULTS – SATURDAY, 14 APRIL, 2012

Singles – Semi-finals
[2] J Isner (USA) d [3] [WC] F Lopez (ESP) 67(5) 76(4) 63
[4] [WC] J Monaco (ARG) d [Q] M Russell (USA) 57 61 64

Doubles – Final
J Blake (USA) / S Querrey (USA) d T Huey (PHI) / D Inglot (GBR) 76(14) 64

SCHEDULE – SUNDAY, 15 APRIL, 2012

CENTER COURT start 12:00 noon
[4] [WC] J Monaco (ARG) vs [2] J Isner (USA)

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Dunlop Signs Michael Russell

Fourteen year ATP World Tour veteran Michael Russell has been signed by Dunlop to represent the Biomimetic 500 Tour Team.

“Mike came to us looking for more power than he was getting with his old rackets, but he certainly wasn’t willing to sacrifice control,” said Hunter Hines, Dunlop’s Tour Level Racket Specialist. “We tested several different options, and ultimately that led us to the Biomimetic 500 which fit his game perfectly.”

 

“I tested quite a few frames from all the manufacturers, and these are the best rackets I’ve ever used,” said Russell of the Biomimetic 500s. “They allow me to do many more things with the ball that I could before.”

 

“We’re glad Mike chose the Biomimetic 500 and is now a part of our Tour Team,” said Kai Nitsche, Vice President and General Manager of Dunlop Racket Sports. “He’s an incredible athlete, but he also plays every point like it’s his last, which is why he’s still competing at the top level after all these years. We look forward to seeing him hit the hard courts here in the States this summer.”

For information on Michael Russell: www.michael-russell.com and Dunlop Sports: www.dunlopsport.com

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Sony Ericsson Open – The Excitement Starts Here and Now

By Craig Hickman

Tours, draw ceremonies, and qualifying matches filled up most of the day at the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open.

At 10:00 am, I toured the 34-acre site guided by tournament director Adam Barrett and Media and Public Relations Director Sam Henderson. Tracking down minor facilities issues (“Why is the Head Tent Closed?”) while walking a small group of media around the exquisitely designed and built set of facilities, it was clear that the Sony Ericsson Open has its eye on a bigger future. Adding another television court, hardwiring expanded workrooms for faster connectivity, and including a high-end VIP restaurant which will feature four celebrity chefs over the next week, the event will remain the premiere event outside of the Grand Slams.

At approximately 11:45, the women’s draw was unveiled. Samantha Stosur chose the chips with the 32 seeded players whose names were taped on a giant draw board threatening to blow off the easel. “Right now, it’s all just a bunch of names,” she said of her place in the 128-line draw. The No. 4 seed and Roland Garros finalist will face the winner of Zheng Jie and Xperia Hot Shot Sorana Cirstea in the second round.

 

The men’s draw followed with Jurgen Melzer doing the choosing. “The first thing I look at is where is Juan Martín del Potro in the draw,” said the No. 10 seed. “He’s in Robin Soderling‘s section so that’s going to be a nice little section. I think everybody says you play one match at a time, but we’re human so sometimes we do look ahead. If you’re confident you don’t care who you play, but if you’re not, you want to know what’s coming.” What’s coming for Melzer is his doubles partner Philipp Petzschner of Germany or Florent Serra of France.

Next, I jumped around and the grounds and darted in and out of several qualifying matches.


American wildcard and birthday girl Sloane Stephens had to rally from a set down to advance to the second round of qualifying. She beat the No. 4 seed Evgeniya Rodina of Russia 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. For a place in the main draw she’ll face Aussie Sophie Ferguson who upset No. 13 Alberta Brianti of Italy 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.


The No. 4 seed in the men’s qualifying draw fared no better. Milwaukee native Tim Smyczek picked about Israel’s Dudi Sela 6-1, 6-4. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said after the match. Had me fooled. Though only 5′ 9″, the 23-year-old hits a big serve, has no weakness on either wing, and plays the net with aplomb. Perhaps his best asset on the court is his positive attitude. He played every point as though it were the last and never let an error cost more than one point. Smyczek will have a tough match against Olivier Rochus of Belgium who beat Flavio Cipola of Italy 6-3, 6-2.

 

American Ryan Sweeting also advanced in straight sets. Even though he yelled out to his box that his backhand was the worst it’s ever been, you wouldn’t have known it. Not the way he dismantled Juan Sebastian Cabal 7-6(4), 6-2. The Colombian became so frustrated he double faulted twice to lose the match. Sweeting will play Lukas Rosol of the Czech Republic for a spot in the main draw.

Coming off the biggest win of his career with an upset of Andy Murray at the BNP Paribas Open, Donald Young was back to the business of qualifying for another major event. Against the wily veteran in Arnaud Clement, Young was out of sorts out the gate, dropping the first 10 points of the match with a listless performance and cantankerous disposition. But the young American who has seemed burdened by big expectations shook off a lopsided first set and turned the match around. “I didn’t play my game in the first set. I started to keep more balls in play and kept fighting,” said Young. He took pace off his shots, forcing Clement to create his own pace, and that change in tactics forced the Frenchman to make more errors. “If I keep playing my game, the way I played in the last two sets, I can get through.” He’ll have to fight past Frank Dancevic of Canada who can produce good tennis on North American hardcourts.

 

Americans Lauren Davis, Irina Falconi, Jamie Hampton, Christina McHale, Robert Kendrick, Michael Russell also advanced.

Tomorrow, matches from the women’s main draw begin on the Grandstand, Court 1 and Court 2. Find the full schedule here.

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

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