2014/04/21

A Healthy and Happy Federer Returns to the Top 5 in Miami

fed iw

(March 20, 2014) After a 2013 which saw him end the year at No. 6 dealing with back problems, and then fall to No. 8 at the end of January, Roger Federer is on his way back up. He’s currently No. 5 after falling in the BNP Paribas Open final last Sunday to Novak Djokovic in three sets.

In his pre-tournament news conference at the Sony Open on Thursday, Federer spoke about his resurgence since the beginning of 2014.

“It’s nice, but I’m more happy to be healthy again, and I’m playing good tennis,” said the Swiss No. 2.  “That then leads the ranking into the right direction.

“Yeah, I have been playing well now for the last seven tournaments.  Started at the end of last year, and now I feel I found a good level, a good form.  But as you know, you have to keep on working and keep on trying hard.

“It always resets.  Every tournament it starts from scratch.  I don’t get like the old wildcard into the semis or anything like that.  Doesn’t exist.  I have to put in the hard work and hope I’m going to have another successful tournament here in Miami.”

Even world No. 2 Novak Djokovic commented on Federer’s level this year:

“I think he’s playing in a high level this year.  He’s back to his normal level, you know, the level that he had for seven, eight years while he was so dominant in men’s tennis.  Obviously last season he was not as good for his standards.

“You know, but this year he started strong.  He won the title in Dubai and played semis of Australian Open.  I can feel that he’s striking the ball very cleanly.  He’s very confident on the court and he has improved his backhand I think.”

So how much better can Federer get this year?

The Swiss answered: “Well, I just think the confidence is going to make the difference maybe at this point, because my body is there.  Clearly will always be helpful to put in a training block where you are training very hard, can improve your potential a little bit, where your stamina is better, where your confidence and your endurance and explosivity is there.  You name it.  Your strength overall.

“I think at the end it comes down to confidence with most of the players.”

Federer and wife Mirka are expecting a child later this year, they are already the parents of twin girls born in July of 2009. Federer was pressed by a couple of members of the media to give the due date of the birth.

“Only my wife knows, I told you.  If I knew, I wouldn’t tell you,” Federer replied with a smile.

Federer will play his first match against Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic during Friday’s day session at the Sony Open.

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Novak Djokovic Coming into Miami with Renewed Confidence

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

(March 20, 2014) Novak Djokovic came into Indian Wells not having won a tournament for the first time in four years. His comeback win over Roger Federer on Sunday 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) gave the world No. 2 his third BNP Paribas title. The win also renewed his confidence.

“Well, it is, in some kind, a relief for me, because I haven’t had a title this year up to Indian Wells,” Djokovic said.  “Indian Wells final was the first final of the year.  I haven’t played many tournaments; I haven’t played many matches.

“So I knew I’m playing well.  I had incredible end of 2013, so I did have confidence.  But I started a little bit doubting myself on the court.  You know, I was struggling a little bit with my, I would say, consistency and the concentration.  Throughout the tournament also I had ups and downs, but I managed to win four out of six matches in three sets.

“Mentally it’s a very encouraging win that gives me confidence and that also, you know, is very special in a way.  This time of the year I needed it very much, and hopefully I can carry that into this week.”

Djokovic comes to Miami without the head coach of his team, tennis hall of famer Boris Becker.

“He’s unable to travel,” Djokovic said.  “He has surgery of his both hips today and tomorrow, so that’s unfortunate.  He couldn’t come.”

“He was supposed to come here.  Basically in the finals of Indian Wells he called us and said that he had an emergency and he has to operate both hips.”

The Sony Open is the site of one of Djokovic’s first big tournament wins.

“I have had much success in this city before I won my first big title back in 2007.  I remember here was my first Masters 1000 event.  So I have really good memories.

“I always look forward coming back to Miami this time of the year.  It’s nice weather.  As I said, a lot of fun on and off the court.”

Djokovic will face Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in his opening match during Saturday’s day session.

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A Day of “Firsts” for Flavia Pennetta and Novak Djokovic at the BNP Paribas Open

Novak Djokovic

By Kevin Ware

INDIAN WELLS – It was a day of “firsts” on finals Sunday at the BNP Paribas Open. Flavia Pennetta won her first WTA Premier Mandatory title by defeating a hobbled Agnieszka Radwanska, and Novak Djokovic won his first title of 2014 by outlasting Roger Federer in a dramatic 3-set final. The respective paths to their titles couldn’t have been more different.

In an unexpected turn, Pennetta overwhelmed an injured Radwanska 6-2, 6-1 for the biggest title of her career. “After so many years and so much work and everything, this is the moment I was waiting for,” Pennetta said. “And it comes when you least expect it.”

Her surprise is understandable given the struggles she endured in 2013. Pennetta lost to countrywoman Francesca Schiavone in the first round of last year’s tournament: one of many bad losses she suffered after her return to the tour from wrist surgery in 2012. Thoughts of retirement crossed her mind.

“The day after I was in the garden running and talking with my physio, Max, almost crying because the feeling and everything was so bad. And now, after one year, we have the trophy.”

Pennetta played solid tennis, but never needed to do more considering the condition of her opponent. Radwanska’s knee has been hurting the past few days, but she hoped that she might still be able to compete.

“This is the sport that you’re always playing with some pain or injury or sore muscles,” Radwanska said.  “But when the pain is so big that nothing is working, no painkillers, no tape. That means it is bad. Today nothing was working.”

“Unfortunately, it was too much pain.  I tried because this is the final, and I thought, you know, maybe in one game was going to be better and I would just keep going, but that didn’t really happen.”

Disappointment at not being able to compete at her best level weighed heavily on Radwanska, her voice breaking as she wiped away tears during the trophy presentation. She apologized for not being able to run as much as needed to in order to compete. Judging by the supportive crowd response, no apology was necessary.

This is Pennetta’s 10th WTA title, and her first since 2010. With this win, Pennetta moves to No. 12 in the rankings. Radwanska remains in the No. 3 position behind Serena Williams and Li Na.

In the men’s final, Novak Djokovic had to fight tooth and nail to defeat a resurgent Roger Federer 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) for his first title of the year. It was a high-quality match that fittingly came down to a third-set tiebreaker to decide the winner.

Federer won the first set with skillful serving and masterful ball-striking on his forehand side. His first serve percentage was 74%, and he won 75% of his first serves and 71% of his second serves. Anytime you’re over 70%, odds are good for a victory. Federer also hit 12 winners to only 9 unforced errors. His defense was solid, and he craftily mixed backhand slices to keep Djokovic successfully out of any rhythm.

By comparison, Djokovic served at 59%, and won only 36% of his second serves. He also only hit 5 winners to 6 unforced errors. He was tentative, and mistimed many shots badly. Djokovic readily acknowledged his slow start.

“Yeah, it wasn’t a great start for me.  First service game that I had I made a few double faults and unforced errors and allowed him a break.  That was enough for the first set.”

“Roger is probably best in the world when he’s up.  When he’s a break up, he wins his service games so comfortably and so fast that sometimes it’s very difficult to keep up.  But I managed to stay composed and stay confident.”

The second set saw an obvious drop in Federer’s game, both in serve and unforced error count, as Djokovic found his footing. An early break in hand, it wasn’t long before Djokovic served out the set at 6-3 to take the match to a deciding set.

Federer’s level continued to fluctuate badly, and he gave up an early break in the third. But to his credit, he fought hard and stayed close enough to Djokovic to take advantage if any break opportunity presented itself.

The opportunity came at 5-4 with Djokovic serving for the championship. Federer pounced and immediately put him under pressure. A few minutes later with the break under his belt, Federer held serve at love.

Unfortunately for Federer, the third-set tiebreak was all one-way traffic for Djokovic. After over two hours of shot-making drama, he netted a backhand on match point to hand Djokovic the win.

This is Djokovic’s third Indian Wells title. It’s also his 42nd title overall, moving him ahead of Stephan Edberg, and his 17th Masters Series title. In a year where he’s failed to win a title – or make a final – until three months in, his relief afterward was palpable.

“I’m just very happy and thrilled to be able to win the first title in this season.  It was the first final that I played this year.  It was necessary for my confidence, and hopefully I can carry that into Miami and the rest of the season.”

Federer leaves the desert with confidence in his game, and an appreciation for his continued fitness. “I’m just happy I’m playing consistent tennis and I’m going deep in tournaments and I’m giving myself chances to win.  So clearly would have been amazing to win here and win back to back tournaments with Dubai.”

“But I got very, very close, so it’s encouraging for Miami and for the rest of the season, no doubt.”

Kevin Ware was in Indian Wells covering the BNP Paribas Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Federer and Djokovic Set The Stage for Indian Wells Final

Federer DSC_31670463feder practice thursday

Roger Federer

By Kevin Ware

Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic Set The Stage for a Mouthwatering Indian Wells Final

 [7] Roger Federer d [28] Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-3, 6-1

Roger Federer completely overwhelmed Alexandr Dolgopolov in the first men’s semifinal to book his spot in Sunday’s final. Dolgopolov is one of the ATP’s brightest, and most exciting, young prospects: capable of incredible shot-making from anywhere on the court. Against Federer, Dolgopolov missed wildly, and was never able to sink his teeth into the match enough to put Federer under any credible pressure.

Federer was taken to deuce only once in the match, in the seventh game, but snuffed out any hopes for a break with an ace and a service winner. From that point on, it was an uphill battle for his Ukrainian opponent.

“I was ready physically, mentally.  I wasn’t nervous, but I wasn’t sharp enough.  My concentration was going away for maybe one, two points every game. You can’t afford to have that in these matches.”

One of the key problems in his match against Federer was his erratic serve. Against Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals, Dolgopolov struggled with his first serve (54%) but still managed to win 90% of those points. Against Federer, his first serve dropped to 39% with a winning percentage of only 67%. And his 12 winners were thoroughly offset by 25 unforced errors.

He struggled at serve, struggled with his ground game, and struggled in his net play. Dolgopolov put it succinctly when he said, “From the start of the match I was just not good enough to compete with him today.”

Federer, on the other hand, continues to play some of the most relaxed and free-swinging tennis he’s played in years; primarily due to the continued pain-free status of his back.

“Yeah, I think I’m just playing more freely overall and with more confidence because I can get to more balls without thinking.  I can wake up in the morning without feeling sore.  I can go to bed not feeling like, I hope I feel better tomorrow.”

Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

[2] Novak Djokovic d [12] John Isner 7-5, 6-7(2), 6-1

For Novak Djokovic, the road to the final was a much tougher affair. After taking a tight first set against Isner, he served for the match twice in the second set: once at 5-4, and again at 6-5. Both times he was broken by combination of nerves, loss of focus, and the aggressive Isner return game.

Once in the second set tiebreak, it was one-way traffic for Isner, who won the tiebreaker with big serving and an equally big ground game to take the match into a deciding set.

However, once Isner was broken in the fourth game of the deciding set – the fourth break of his serve in the match – one got the sense that it was one free gift too many for Djokovic. Unlike his miscues at the end of the second set, Djokovic kept his focus and fought through three deuces to consolidate the break.

To Isner’s credit, he continued to push Djokovic even as his knee bend began to get hampered by slight pain. By no means a “gimme”, Isner made Djokovic produce his best tennis to get through.

A second break of Isner’s serve in the sixth game put the final nail in the coffin for any hope of a comeback. Djokovic served out the match at love.

Isner was understandably disappointed after fighting so hard to get back into the match only to let it slip away in the third. “Yeah, you know, it’s always disappointing when you lose, no matter the situation.  You lose first round, it’s disappointing; end of the tournament, it’s still disappointing.”

In spite of the loss, he was heartened by his great week after a sustained post-Aussie injury layoff. “I didn’t hit a ball for a full month after Australia, so, you know, it’s encouraging in that I played well this week.  I certainly did.”

Novak was clearly relieved to get by an opponent with a serve that can take much of the game out of his hands.

“Yeah, it’s never easy to play John who is if not “the” best, but definitely the top three best servers in the game.  He’s the tallest guy next to Karlovic we have in sport.  He has a great technique.”

“Twice I had chance to finish it out (the second set) and I played two bad games and he played an incredible tiebreaker.  And, you know, when you get to the tiebreaker with John Isner, whoever you are, you’re not a favorite (smiling).”

In Federer, he faces a familiar foe for Sunday’s final, and realizes that it will be a tough match; especially after a February loss to Roger in the Dubai semifinals.

“Whenever we play each other it’s always a huge challenge for both of us, and very few points can decide the winner. I do not expect anything less tomorrow.  I just hope for myself that I will be able to perform on a high level, because I’m going to need to do that in order to get a chance to win against him.”

Men’s Final
Roger Federer v Novak Djokovic
H2H: Federer leads 17-15
Last match: Federer d Djokovic 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 (Dubai)

Women’s Final
Aga Radwanska v Flavia Pennetta
H2H: Radwanska leads 4-2
Last match: Pennetta d Radwanska 6-4, 611 (Dubai)

 

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Djokovic dominates Benneteau and Isner Edges Gulbis for BNP Paribas Open Rematch

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

By Kevin Ware

[2] Novak Djokovic defeats Julien Benneteau 6-1 6-3

Benneteau played solid tennis to make it through to the quarters, but the odds were stacked against him in this match-up. With a head-to-head record of 1-5, and that one victory coming back in 2006, chances were slim that he’d be able to mount a sufficient challenge to the current World No. 2.

As expected, the first set was over in just 28 minutes and featured two breaks of the Benneteau serve. This wasn’t surprising with a first serve percentage 54%, and a second serve win percentage is 17%. As his struggles on serve mounted, Benneteau pressed on his groundstrokes, which only made matters worse.

In the end, Benneteau’s 10 winners to 32 unforced errors tell the final tale of this match. He served poorly and, as a result, had to go for too much in his shots against Djokovic. For his part, Djokovic played a clean and straightforward match. He hit 17 winners to 12 unforced errors, won 93% of his first serves, 6 of 8 net approaches, and 4 of 15 break points against the Frenchman.

This was a comprehensive win by all measures. It was also a more consistent performance from Djokovic, who has had issues with keeping his focus after jumping out to early leads.  It was something he touched on in his post-match remarks.

“I felt like I was very focused on the court from the start, and it’s what I was looking for.  First few matches I played good tennis but I had some ups and downs. Today was very stable from the first to the last point.”

When asked about the possibility of playing Isner in the semifinals, his two previous losses to Big John in Masters Series readily came to mind.

“I played John here a few years ago and I remember that match.  7-6 in the third, and also lost to him very close one in Cincinnati last year.”

“It’s very challenging because he doesn’t miss his serve too much, so you have to kind of be able to hold your composure, you know, from the first to the last point and be ready to play three tiebreaks.  That’s all.”

Isner fh

John Isner

[12] John Isner defeats [20] Ernests Gulbis 7-6(4) 7-6(3)

A John Isner win in two tiebreak sets is expected. An Isner win over Ernest Gulbis in two tiebreak sets by pressuring his opponent’s ground game is not. But that’s what happened in their BNP Paribas Open quarterfinal match.

Both players held serve through the first set leading up to the tiebreak. Leading 3-2 in the tiebreaker, Gulbis found himself on the losing end of a protracted rally with Isner. Rattled by the losing exchange, he gave up the next point on his serve after the change of ends. That’s all Isner needed to close out the first set tiebreak 7-4.

Isner surprisingly stumbled at the start of the second set by dropping his first service game at love, giving up the crucial early break. When asked about it after the match, he admitted to a little bit of a “checkout” after winning the first set. “I did.  I didn’t play a great service game at all to start the second set.”

But to his credit, Isner kept his head down and worked to slowly chip away at Gulbis’ game (and confidence) before getting the break back when his Latvian opponent failed miserably to serve out the set at 5-4. After that, a second set tiebreak and eventual win was all but assured.

It was a surprisingly nervy performance from the rising Gulbis: a player with a ton of talent and bravado to match. Isner only hit 13 aces in the match, so he wasn’t aced off the court. He had chances to get into Isner’s service games when he got the ball back in play, but failed to win the key points in rallies.

Isner sensed Gulbis’ issues while also noting how his own game loosened up after dropping that first game. “I had chances to pull back even in that second set prior to that 5-4 game too, but I just stayed with it.”

“Once the second set started to get going, I started to see the ball better and I started to make more progress on his serve.  At the same time, he got ‑ in my opinion, I think he got a little bit looser, as well, started making some more mistakes.”

With this win, Isner is projected to re-renter the Top 10. It also marks his fifth appearance in an ATP Masters Series semifinal.

Men’s Semifinals

[7[ Roger Federer versus [28] Alexandr Dolgopolov
H2H: Federer leads 1-0 (Ret)

[2] Novak Djokovic versus [12] John Isner
H2H: Djokovic leads 4-2

Kevin Ware is in Indian Wells covering theBNP Paribas Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Novak Djokovic and Jelena Jankovic Advance at BNP Paribas Open

Djokovic thumbs up to fans while leaving

(March 11, 2014) INDIAN WELLS – Novak Djokovic was tested in the middle set against Colombian Alejandro Gonzalez, but the Serbian pulled out a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win to move into the fourth round of the BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday.

Other men advancing were 24th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, who defeated 16th-seeded Tommy Robredo 6-4, 6-3; 30th-seeded Fernando Verdasco  who beat No. 8 seed Richard Gasquet, 7-6 (5), 6-1 24th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, who beat 16th-seeded Tommy Robredo 6-4, 6- and Roberto Bautista Agut stopped  Jarkko Nieminen, 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (6).

On the women’s side. 2010 champion Jelena Jankovic defeated 2011 champion Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1 in the battle of former No. 1s. Also Advancing on the women’s side were No. 6 seed Simona Halep who stopped Eugenie Bouchard 6-2, 1-6, 6-4; Casey Dellacqua of Australia moved on due to Lauren Davis pulling out of the tournament due to gastrointestinal illness and Maria Sharapova conqueror Camilia Giorgi was dismissed by her Italian countrywoman Flavia Pennetta in 56 minutes 6-2, 6-1 to reach the quarterfinals.

Two-time Indian Wells champion Djokovic had 28 winners in the match against Gonzalez. The Colombian before this week had never won an ATP Tour level match until Indian Wells.

“I honestly haven’t seen him play ever before that,” Djokovic said of his opponent.  “I got information from some other players, and my coach did preparations also for the match.  You know, asked also a few players what his weaknesses and strengths are in the game.

“It took me a little bit to get used to it, you know, but I thought I played really well from the start.  6‑1, and then his opening few games, service games, I had break points, and then suddenly I just had a big loss of concentration and allowed him to win the second set for no reason.

“Bounced back better in the third, but I obviously cannot allow myself to have these particular concentration lapses in the match at this level ‑ especially in the next match when I’m playing Cilic, you know, a guy who is in really good form and I think has gotten better in last couple of months working with Ivanisevic.

“So I’m going to have to be on top of my game throughout the whole match in order to win it.”

Djokovic plays Mari Cilic next.

“I’ve played him (Cilic) several times on different surfaces,” Djokovic said.  “We haven’t played each other for quite a long time.

“He started working with Goran, and as I said before, you can feel and you can notice the improvement in his game.  He’s more aggressive.  He comes to the net.  He’s a big guy, and that’s what you expect from him is to serve big and to come to the net.

“He’s using his serve as a big advantage nowadays, and also I feel like he’s moving better on the court.  He did before ‑‑ obviously he had this injury and then was absent from the tour for several months, but since he came back he’s a stronger player.

“I have been watching him playing some big matches.  He won against Murray in Rotterdam in straight sets.  He can definitely can play.  And not just play, I mean, he can win against top players.  That’s why I do not even for a second underestimate him.

“I’m coming into the match knowing that I’m going to have to be playing on top of my game in order to win that match.  I’m going to get myself ready for it.”

Jankovic fh volley

Djokovic’s countrywoman Jelena Jankovic routed Wozniacki 6-3, 6-1. Depending on how other players perform, Wozniacki’s ranking could fall to No. 15 in the world.

“I lost to her the last I don’t know how many times, but I think right now I am playing some pretty good tennis,” Jankovic said of finally ending a five-match losing streak against the Dane.  “I went on court, you know, trying to wait for my chances.

“Against her, if you go sometimes for too much you just make so many errors and you beat yourself.  A lot of times it happened in the past.

“So I try to play solid and aggressive at the same time, wait for the right shots, and then execute.  I did that pretty well.  3‑1 I kind of found my way, found my rhythm, and I was striking the ball very well out there and took control of the points.

“You know, I just did not let her play what she plays.  That was very important.  So I was pretty pleased with the way I played and how composed I stayed throughout the whole match.

“I kind of surprised myself, especially because of my back.  Two nights ago I hurt my back, and yesterday did not hit at all.  Had a lot of treatment.  Could not put my shoes on and all these kind of things.

“So I went on court today not knowing how I was going to feel.  You know, if I was going to be limited with my movement or if I was going to play my game.

“But I did, and I was surprised.  I was so happy and pleased with how everything went.”

Jankovic will play second-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska in the quarterfinals.

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Tennis Players and Celebrities Play Tennis for Charity at Desert Smash

 

(March 4, 2014) LA QUINTA, California – The 10th annual Desert Smash at the La Quinta Resort & Spa on Tuesday raised money for charity featured  actors Will Ferrell, Kevin Spacey and Rebel Wilson and tennis players Novak Djokovic, as well as the Bryan Brothers – Bob and Mike, Australian Open Champion Stanislas Wawrinka and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic.

The two-day tennis and golf event will benefit Cancer for College, a 501c3, non-profit organization that provides college scholarships for cancer survivors. Since 1993, the charity has granted nearly $2 million to more than 1,000 cancer survivors.

Here are some photos from the event.

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Business Men

By Vito Ellison

(March 4, 2014) NEW YORK – The Bryan Brothers drew an error on the opening point of their match against John and Patrick McEnroe last night. After that came a volley winner from Bob, a smash off Mike’s racquet and ultimately a hold at love. The terse opening game was punctuated by a surly one-way Bryan chest bump and a glare across the net from the younger duo that would’ve made Victoria Azarenka drop her headphones. The teams were at Madison Square Garden to participate in the seventh annual New York exhibition commemorating World Tennis Day (nee Tennis Night in America). It was abundantly clear that despite the Bryans’ relentlessly positive demeanor; they hadn’t just come to town for the usual hit-and-giggle or even the appearance fee. They came to win a showdown.

“This one we’ve really been looking forward to,” said Mike Bryan of playing at the World’s Most Famous Arena. “We’ve been really kinda antsy to be out there. It felt good to walk on that court. It’s unlike any other arena, just the history, just to be a part of an event at Madison Square Garden.” While the Bryans were certainly inspired by the opportunity to play on the famed Garden floor, they without a doubt were also boosted by bulletin board material provided by the elder McEnroe brother.

In a December 2013 interview ahead of the Statoil (Senior) Masters event in London, John McEnroe made very pointed remarks about doubles and the players who currently specialize in the discipline, “Most doubles players, I hate to say, are the slow guys who were not quick enough to play singles,” McEnroe opined at the time, specifically calling out the Bryans asking “What do you think they are playing doubles for?” In the same conversation, McEnroe also called on the sport’s tournaments to ditch doubles and use the funds to help lower-ranked singles players afford the high cost of a pro career. “Why we are even playing doubles at this point is a mystery to me.” After three games, the World No.1s had earned 12 of the 13 points played.

Why a mercy rule wasn’t in effect might have been the bigger mystery to the audience at MSG, as the West Coast twins ran roughshod over the native New Yorkers. “At 7-0, we were looking at each other, feeling a little weird,” the Bryans noted. They appeared to tamp down the intensity before exiting with an 8-3 win.

The Bryans may have felt some twinges of empathy for their friend and longtime US Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe. “He’s a prisoner of war, he got caught in the middle,” laughed the Bryans in the post-match presser, while noting they weren’t alone in drawing McEnroe’s ire. “[Patrick] missed a couple of shots and Johnny Mac rolled his eyes, right from the beginning, you could see it in his face.”

Ultimately the McEnroes’ late rally did little to excite the crowd, who were perhaps stunned at the drubbing the Bryans inflicted in the early-going. While the Bryans seemed to be serving clear notice to the elder team regarding John’s comments, they insisted it was merely a matter of the teams’ respective levels. “There’s no bad blood,” the Bryans said. “I don’t know how Johnny’s gonna take it, but it is what it is. We’re in midseason form and we’re the No. 1 team in the world right now”

In the second match of the evening, World No. 2 Novak Djokovic defeated reigning Wimbledon champion Andy Murray 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a relatively straightforward encounter that saw the retired, reigning ladies champ Marion Bartoli briefly rally with Murray.

Vito Ellison was in Madison Square Garden covering the BNP Paribas Showdown for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal twitter @vblacklabel. and visit his site Blacklabeltennis.com.

 

 

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Day Five Dubai Round-up – Federer Bests Djokovic in Three Sets

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

By Florian Heer

(February 28, 2014) DUBAI – Semi-final day at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships saw the tournament’s two most successful players, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, go up against each other for a place in Saturday’s final.

The event’s theme “Stars will collide” became reality when both met for the 32nd time on the ATP World Tour with the Swiss leading their competitive head to head series by 16-15 before the match. The stands were fully packed when the players entered the stadium under floodlight, which created a special atmosphere. The match also started with some entertaining rallies, so that the crowd was in high spirits right from the beginning. Djokovic started with good length in his shots holding Federer back at the baseline. The defending champion capitalized on his first and only break point in the second game of the opening set to eventually take the frame in the ninth after 35 minutes.

In the second set, the Swiss again had to save break points in the fifth game before he was 30-0 up in the following when play was suspended for about five minutes due to drizzle in the desert at still about 20 degrees Celsius in the evening hours. So the match resumed quickly and Federer was wide awake and gained his first break of the match. Federer served out in the in the ninth game taking the match the distance. Djokovic struggled in his opening service game in the final set and double faulted at break point. The 17-time-Grand Slam champion was now able to play more aggressively, coming to the net as often as possible and so put a lot of pressure on the Serb. Federer broke a second time in the fifth game through great cross court forehand passing shot. The Swiss, obviously backed by the crowd, outplayed Djokovic at the end winning 6-3, 3-6 6-2 for the first time from a set down.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

“Novak got the crucial first break, which is always big when top guys play each other and he is better than anybody with the lead,” Federer said afterwards. “So I knew I was a bit in trouble and it wasn’t looking good at all because he has the tendency to really then run with it and then play more freely on his serve. For me it was just a matter of trying to play consistently but also remain aggressive. Sometimes I also tried to be a bit overaggressive and to see if it works out. If it doesn’t’, you can always pull back a little bit. Overall I’m just happy I was able to deliver a good performance,” the Swiss added and was also impressed playing in such a great atmosphere. “I think the fans just wanted to see a great match. I do not know what they were chanting if it was, Nole, Nole or Roger, Roger,” he laughed. “Maybe there were more fans of myself in the stadium or more for Novak but I think it was a very enthusiastic and polite crowd and it was a dream playing out there today,” Federer said.

Djokovic had to admit the today’s defeat. “Roger deserved to win. He played in the second part of the match better and was more aggressive and played all around the court really well,” the Serb stated. “I dropped my opening service game in the third set, which was quite a bad game for me. I started making a lot of unforced errors as well and just wasn’t able to move well. He felt that this is the opportunity and he used it. The momentum changed and he stated to make less mistakes but look, I lost to Roger and that’s not a bad loss,” Djokovic said and has left for Indian Wells without winning a title in the season for the first time since 2006.

 

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

Earlier in the afternoon number third seed and last year’s finalist Tomas Berdych opened proceedings on Centre Court against Philipp Kohlschreiber. The Czech had emerged victorious in seven of their eight previous meetings, including the last three in a row.

Yesterday the German became the 23rd active player to reach the landmark of 300 match wins on the ATP World Tour by beating Tunisian Wild Card Malek Jaziri. Kohlschreiber made an impressive start into the encounter, returning well and capitalized on his first break point in the opening game. It was only the second time during this week Berdych lost his serve. The German seemed to remain solid with his baseline shots until the last four games, in which the 30 year-old still only made three points. Consequently, the third-seeded Czech broke serve in the twelfth game taking the opening set in 38 minutes. The second frame should become an even one as well as until the twelfth game again, in which Kohlschreiber couldn’t hold serve and after 88 minutes Berdych converted his second match point to advance into the final for the second successive year in Dubai.

In the beginning of the match I probably forgot myself at the room and just came out right after. This was definitely not me,” the Czech stated about his bad start into the match. “Then I was ready and I took the first set. Basically the similar stuff happened in the second set. Philipp was very solid, didn’t give me much chances at all on his serve. Then I got one in the last game and I took it,” Berdych was happy with his performance.

Philipp Kohlschreiber

Philipp Kohlschreiber

Kohlschreiber, who actually played a fine match apart from the end of each set was still satisfied with his week in Dubai. “Overall it was a very great tournament. Today was also great to play in front of such a nice crowd. Nonetheless it takes for sure a couple of maybe minutes, hours to get over the loss,” Kohlschreiber said right after the match. “Today, the only chance I had for a break was at the beginning of the match but then over the time he put more pressure on me and I didn’t serve so well. I had to go over many second services and this makes it always tight against these top guys,” the German explained.

In Saturday’s final Federer is facing Berdych for the 18th time leading 11-6 in head to head record but the Swiss had to admit that the Czech beat him last year here in Dubai in a very convincing way.

In the doubles final the two top-seeded-pairs will meet for the title. Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic defeated Danield Brands and Florian Mayer in two tie-breaks and Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi advanced by winning 6-2, 6-0 against Tomasz Bednarek and Lukas Dlouhy.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Futures Circuit.  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

 

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Day Four Dubai Round-up

Philipp Kohlschreiber

Philipp Kohlschreiber

By Florian Heer

(February 27, 2014) DUBAI – Four of the world’s top ten players were in action in the quarterfinals on Thursday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Philipp Kohlschreiber opened the proceedings on Centre Court in sunny and hot conditions against Tunisian Wild Card Malek Jaziri. The German contested his fourth quarterfinal of the season and won all of the two previous meetings between the two. The 30-year-old from Augsburg was in total control of the match, impressed with a good serve, capitalized on three out of his four break point opportunities and celebrated his 300th match victory on the ATP World Tour winning 6-2, 6-3 in 71 minutes.

“It’s always great to win many matches on the tour, especially a few rounds in a row,” the German was pleased afterwards. “I think I had a very solid and good performance today. We had some good rallies. I always tried to move him around on court and I was very solid from the baseline today. He played quite defensive, especially on his backhand side and I took the chances in being aggressive,” Kohlschreiber described his match plan. “Against Tsonga or Berdych I have to try something different. They are such powerful players, so I have to try dictating the match otherwise they are pushing me around,” Kohlschreiber told about his possible semi-final opponents. Jaziri’s long journey from South-America to finally arrive in Duba took its toll, as the Tunisian seemed to be a bit tired on court. “At 4-3 I was feeling so bad, so I called the doctor. I was feeling so dizzy. At this point I was thinking to stop but I preferred to continue the match. Nonetheless, it is a good result for me here. Since I have a new coach and a new manager I’m playing better with better results,” the Tunisian said.

 

Defending champion Novak Djokovic and Mikhail Youzhny were scheduled to kick off the evening session with their tenth meeting on the ATP World Tour. Yesterday the Serb took just 57 minutes to dispatch of Roberto Bautista-Agut 6-1, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals in Dubai for the eighth year in succession. However, the Russian had to withdraw due to illness and so Djokovic advanced into the semis without hitting a ball today.

 

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

Consequently Dubai’s night action started with a top ten clash on the main show court when Tomas Berdych faced off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the first time in more than a year. The pair has met six times before with the Czech leading a 4-2 head to head record before the match. However, it was the Frenchman who emerged victorious in their latest encounter in the final of the Marseille in 2013. More than one year later, it was Berdych making the better start, although the almost fully packed stadium had to wait until the eighth game and the 26th minute to see the first break points of the match. At this point, Tsonga was able to save his serve but two games later, the Frenchman was under pressure again at his serve and this time Berdych capitalized on his chance to take the opening set after 35 minutes. The second set should become a more even affair. The world number 10 finally gained his first break points of the match after nearly one hour of play in the fifth game of the second set. Yet, the Czech served well, hit a couple of clean winners and saved all of them. It was Tsonga, who double faulted on break point in the ninth game and lost his service game. Berdych served out in the following winning 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 28 minutes.

“For a straight sets match it was very close. I faced many break points, which was very tough but that was really the key of today’s game to save them all,” the winning world number six stated. “I’m really feeling good, don’t facing any troubles. I’m trying to take care of my body in between all the time. When every single match is over, I try to do all possible to recover the best,” Berdych told about his physical condition. During the match the Czech got some powder on his back. “No, it’s not a sunburn. There is definitely no sun in my room,” the third-seed laughed. “I got a hot cream on my back, and it was really a hot one. It starts to be really burning and it was uncomfortable. So I was asking to get something which can help me to basically put it out or just try to clean it. Finally it happened and I was able to concentrate more on my game than on my back,” Berdych explained.

 

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

In the final encounter of the day and under floodlights in front of about 5,000 people, Roger Federer took on Lukas Rosol for the first time. The Swiss overturned a 0-2 deficit in the third set to defeat Radek Stepanek yesterday. Rosol saved all five break points in his match against eighth seed Dmitry Tursonov to advance into his first quarterfinal of the season, started really aggressive capitalizing on his first break point in the second game. From then on, however, the Swiss took command,won six games in a row to take the opening set in 28 minutes. After saving a break point in the first game, Federer also remained untroubled in the second frame. Dubai’s five-time winner broke serve in the third and fifth game to eventually serve out winning 6-2, 6-2 in only 58 minutes setting up a 32nd clash against Novak Djokovic in tomorrow’s semi-finals.

“It was a nice match today and it’s great to have another opportunity playing here tomorrow,” said a happy Federer afterwards. “Rosol was putting a lot of pressure through his forehand but yesterday’s match helped me to stay relaxed and not to panic at being 0-2 down,” the Swiss added. “Novak was able to save some energy for tomorrow. Every match you can get away from is a good one,” Federer said about Djokovic’s walkover into the semis. “For me it was also important not to be out there for three hours today. Then it would have been a disadvantage. But like this, I think it was a good and quick match for me. I guess we are back on even terms tomorrow,” the third-seed concluded.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Futures Circuit.  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

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