2014/07/28

“On The Call” – ESPN Tennis Analysts Chris Evert, Patrick McEnroe Talk French Open

Chris Evert

Chris Evert

(May 21, 2014) ESPN tennis analysts Chris Evert and Patrick McEnroe spoke with media about the French Open, which starts Sunday, May 25, on ESPN2 and ESPN3. Here are some of the topics discussed on the conference call. To listen to the conference call in full click here.

Topics on the call included:

  • McEnroe on top men fending off rising players:  “(This year) they’ve been threatened a lot more often… (the younger players are) knocking at the door, but they haven’t broken through yet in the big occasions, except for Stan…they’re closing the gap but they still got a ways to go.”
  • Evert on heavy favorite Serena Williams’ improved play on clay:  “She’s learned to play on the clay a lot better from (her coach) Patrick (Mouratoglou).  She’s improved her defense skills.  She’s always had the offense skills.  She’s more fit.  She’s moving better.  She is patient with herself.  She doesn’t have to go for the winner on the fourth shot.  She can wait eight or nine shots and go for the opening.  She’s more intelligent and thinking more clearly on the clay than she ever has.”
  • McEnroe added:  “I never thought I’d say this.  I think clay might actually be Serena’s best surface now.  As great as she is on every other surface, obviously in her career she’s certainly been better on the faster courts, but it’s almost like she’s less susceptible to upset on clay now because she’s so consistent, steady.”
  • Evert is impressed by the recent play of 2008 French Open champ Ana Ivanovic, ranked No. 12 (but No. 8 in 2014-to-date standings):  “I’m so impressed with how she’s playing….She seems to have gotten her serve together.  Her serve is winning some free points.  She’s really improved that.  The backhand has improved.  The confidence.  She’s a big hitter…she could be top four if she continues her run.”
  • Asked for players outside the top 20 who could reach the semis:  Evert–  Madison Keys and no male.  McEnroe–  Caroline Garcia; Nicolas Almagro, Roberto Batista Agut or Dominic Thiem.
  • Evert on why Americans struggle on clay:  “The players that learned to play tennis on clay, myself and Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis, Federer, Djokovic, I mean, Nadal, a lot of the players started on clay and excelled on clay at a young age.  And from there, branched out, made some adjustments and learned how to play on a faster court.  I think that’s easier to do than the other way around where you’re primarily a power player.  That’s why it was tough for like a Pete Sampras to win the French.”
  • McEnroe on what it takes to succeed on clay:  “I think obviously movement is key.  What I like to call shot tolerance, which is understanding what shot to hit at the right time.  Clay just forces you to make better decisions more often.  Quite honestly, you need to hit more balls into the court to win points….The clay teaches you itself how to play and how to construct points.  As Chrissie said, the more you play on it, and the earlier you play on it, the more you can develop those skills. “
  • McEnroe on which American athletes he would have loved to see play tennis:  “It’s funny, because when people say that, they say, ‘Imagine if Michael Jordan had taken up tennis!’  Well, Michael is a little bit too tall….Some would say LeBron James.  Actually he’s too big.  I would take somebody who was a great point guard, somebody like Dwyane Wade.  Who is the guy from Seattle, Richard Sherman, like a defensive back, extremely mobile.”

 

Q. My question is junior tennis related, Chrissie.  What significance do you think there is for a junior in winning or competing in a junior slam?  To what extent does this herald success in the future?  To what extent is it a crapshoot?  What are the pressures that might come with that, that either make a junior stronger or kind of freak them out? 

EVERT:  I think just from my experience, I didn’t play any of the junior slams because I was already in the regular slams.  But for me, winning national tournaments in America was huge because winning gets to be a habit.  Once you have that experience of beating girls your own age, which that’s where the pressure is to me.  My pressure was beating Maria Redondo and Patti Hogan, all the top players in the 18 Nationals, then going on and playing older women who had all the pressure and I had no pressure.  It was an easier transition.  I think it helps tremendously to be able to be No. 1 in your age division or to win national championships.  To win a junior Grand Slam, I think it’s tremendous.  Now, in saying that, we didn’t have the press back in those days.  I think there’s a lot more intensity and limelight if you win, a lot more expectations from the press and the public nowadays.  That component is much more intense.  I could quietly go on into the women’s and start beating the top women.

 

Q. It looks like there’s a changing of the guard slowly in men’s and women’s tennis.  Wawrinka winning the Australian, guys like Nishikori and Dimitrov starting to live up to some potential, but the old guys aren’t giving up.  Same could be said with Serena.  Could you talk about that. 

McENROE:  Well, I think there’s definitely some signs that the outsiders, the contenders, are more than just pretenders at this point.  That being said, if you go down the list of who has won not only the majors, but the Masters events, at least on the men’s side, it’s pretty much the same, the same two guys.  Federer has had a darn good first half of the year as well.  But Nadal and Djokovic are the two players to beat clearly.

 

That being said, even if you look at their results this year on the clay, they’ve been threatened a lot more often.  Obviously they’ve still been able to win.  Nadal, at least for him, has had a relatively unsuccessful clay court season only winning one big event, getting to the finals of another.  If you look at their results match in, match out, they’re certainly getting threatened a lot more.

 

Guys like you said, Wawrinka, Nishikori, Ferrer beating Nadal, Almagro beat Nadal, Berdych, players like that are making a little more noise.  Dimitrov.  Raonic had a great tournament last week.  Let’s put it this way:  they’re knocking at the door but they haven’t broken through yet in the big occasions, except for Stan.  I think in a nutshell certainly the other players on the men’s side have to feel like they’re closing the gap but they still got a ways to go.

EVERT:  I agree.  I think there’s such a tremendous pool of talent when I look on the men’s side.  The way that Andy Murray played last week, the way that Raonic played last week, Nishikori all year, Dimitrov, the way he’s come on, I think it’s incredible.  But I agree with Patrick.  I think when you look at the top two, Nadal and Djokovic, they’re not letting anybody in.  They’re not opening the door yet.  But in two years’ time I think it’s going to be a different complexion.

 

I look at the women and I see the same thing.  I see Serena dominating.  She’s still dominating.  She gets injured, a few losses, but still the dominant player.  But you have a rich pool between Li Na, Halep, Maria Sharapova, Ivanovic, Sloane is in a little bit of a slump right now.  You can say the same.  There’s the top two in the men and the top two in the women that are fending everybody off so far.

 

Q. Patrick, you mentioned Nadal, that he didn’t have a successful clay season.  Usually he wins three of these events.  Now he’s not the overall favorite going into the French that he usually is.  Why do you think that is?  I’m sure it’s a minor thing, but what is different this spring with him? 

McENROE:  I just think he put so much energy into what he did last year, physical, maybe more importantly mental energy, from the time he came back when he obviously exceeded everybody’s expectations with how dominant he was not only on clay, which didn’t surprise a lot of us, but on hard courts.  Through the US Open, he was just unbelievable.  He was invincible.  Then he had what I think was a fairly natural letdown at the end of last year.  I think quite frankly it’s carried into this year a little bit.  He was playing awfully well in Australia before he lost in the final.  So that was sort of another step slightly back because it obviously put him off the practice courts for probably a solid month.  I think he’s trying to find his sea legs a little bit.  He’s still the favorite to win the French, but it’s closer than it’s ever been between him and Djokovic.  Djokovic has gotten him multiple times since last year’s US Open final.  He’s put himself into really good form.  I think one of the important things for Nadal in Rome was he won a couple of matches back-to-back where he was pushed to the limit physically.  I think that gives him a lot of confidence.  He’s never been the kind of player that can just play a couple of matches and put it on autopilot.  He needs to play a lot, win a lot.  I think he’s been able to do that over the last month still suffering some losses, but he’s still the favorite at the French Open.

EVERT:  I also think that he did such a great job in tweaking his game a little bit and hitting flatter and hitting harder and standing closer to the baseline when he wanted to improve his hard court and grass court game.  I think that is probably not as effective as three or four years ago when he was really hitting with more trajectory.  I think it was coming over the net a little bit higher with some more spin, keeping the players back further.  I think flattening out his shots might have something to do with it.

 

I also think, after watching Djokovic, a couple of the players win a set from him, I think the strategy is different against Nadal.  I think they’re starting to hit shorter angles.  When I say that, Djokovic can really hit that backhand cross-court right into the service line.  His forehand also.  They’re getting him off the court.  So I just think the strategy maybe with these players, they’re starting to think a little bit more about how they can get him off the baseline, and that might have something to do with it, too.

 

Q. I wanted to ask about Serena and Nadal and the expectations placed on them.  Serena has said she’s not feeling as much pressure to defend her title, isn’t placing as much pressure on herself.  Nadal not being the favorite as much, does that help or hurt him?  The mental side for both players. 

EVERT:  I can talk about Serena a little bit.  I think she’s peaked pretty well for the French Open.  I think after the last two years of her playing more tennis than she’s ever played, I think she came into this year exhausted.  I think her priorities really are the Grand Slams this year.  I think if she loses in these other tournaments, she shrugs it’s off pretty well.  The French seems to be opening up for her.  She has an apartment there.  She lives there.  She practices a lot there.  Patrick (Mouratoglou), her coach, is French.  She’s had good success there.  As long as she’s fit, if she’s healthy, motivated, she’s the one to beat.  So far, you know, I very rarely see a Serena Williams that’s not motivated.  I think this tournament will motivate her.  If she’s healthy and fit, she’s got it under control.  She’s learned to play on the clay a lot better from Patrick.  She’s improved her defense skills.  She’s always had the offense skills.  She’s more fit.  She’s moving better.  She is patient with herself.  She doesn’t have to go for the winner on the fourth shot.  She can wait eight or nine shots and go for the opening.  She’s more intelligent and thinking more clearly on the clay than she ever has.  I don’t think she will feel the pressure, I really don’t.  She’s played enough tennis.  She knows what her place in history is now.  She’s gunning for those Grand Slam titles.

McENROE:  I would just follow up with that and say I never thought I’d say this.  I think clay might actually be Serena’s best surface now.  As great as she is on every other surface, obviously in her career she’s certainly been better on the faster courts, but it’s almost like she’s less susceptible to upset on clay now because she’s so consistent, steady.  Her mindset is so good, I think she revels with the pressure, especially at the big tournaments.  She motivates herself for that.  I almost think she’s less susceptible to someone like Lisicki, who go hot at Wimbledon, who out-hit her, I don’t think that can happen to her on clay.  Earlier in her career she was more inconsistent.  She loves the clay.  It’s been a huge part of her motivation the last couple years.

 

As for the guys, the top men, they seem oblivious to pressure.  I don’t think that’s a factor for either Nadal or Djokovic or even Federer for that matter, when he was in his prime, and I think he’s playing awfully well.  I think it’s who plays better on the day between these guys.  It will be interesting how the draw comes out for the men.  Federer has given Djokovic more trouble, at least this year, than Nadal has.  It will be interesting to see how that shakes out.  I think that will be pretty important on the men’s side, who ends up in which quarter, where Wawrinka is going to be the 3 seed.  That could be pretty interesting to see how that plays out.

EVERT:  Don’t you think, Patrick, also that it’s tougher to be on the defensive end on a clay court rather than on a hard court?  I feel like on a hard court you can neutralize the ball a lot better and get back into playing aggressive tennis.  Serena, the first strike of the ball she gets you moving.  It’s tougher for the opponent to translate that type of tennis into more aggressive tennis.

McENROE:  Yeah.

EVERT:  Let me tell you, this clay is faster, the balls are faster, the racquets are faster, the strings are faster.  This surface is not for the faint of heart anymore, like I’m going to stay back at the baseline and get a lot of balls back, like 40 years ago.

McENROE:  You got to play offensive, controlled baseline tennis.  That’s the best clay court strategy now.

 

Q. Patrick, what is your take on the 16-year-old out of Maryland, Francis Tiafoe?

McENROE:  My take is high on him.  I think he’s the real deal.  I saw him play out in California a month ago at the Easter Bowl.  First time I got to see him play competitively.  He’s got the athleticism, the physique.  What I really liked about him is I think he’s got a great tennis IQ.  He understands the game.  He understands how to play.  He’s obviously got incredible joy for tennis, which is amazing, which is so great to see.  He loves to play.  He loves to be out on the court.  He’s got a huge smile on his face when he’s walking around.  Seems to me he’s really in his element when he’s around tennis, playing tennis.  That’s not something you can teach.  That’s great to see.  He obviously has a great team around him over there in College Park.  They’ve done a great job with him.

He’s young obviously.  We have a good group, meaning the Americans, kids right at that age at 16.  Actually quite a few of them right now are playing in a futures in Spain.  We have a group of players and coaches over there.

But I think Francis, he’s definitely got a huge upside.  Again, he’s only 16.  When we talk about the question, I always get, What’s wrong with American tennis?  We talk about that often.  One of the things we often say is, We need to get better athletes playing tennis.  Guess what, we’ve got a better athlete playing better tennis.  This guy is a phenomenal athlete.  A lot has to happen for him to get all the way where we think he can go, a lot of steps in the process.  But he certainly to me appears to be on the right track.

 

Q. You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, Chrissie.  Rory McIlroy decided that he planned on not following through with the marriage (to Caroline Wozniacki). 

EVERT:  It doesn’t surprise me.  I don’t even know them.  I look back at Jimmy and I.  To look at two players that are in the prime of their career and are striving to be No. 1, don’t see each other.  I mean, I was married in my 20s to my tennis.  That was the only way I could put all my emotions and energies into that goal.

I was in awe that it worked as long as it did.  I can’t believe it.  They must be just different kind of people.  I understand 100%, you’re married to your career.  You’re using your emotions.  You’re using the mental capacity that you have.  You’re putting everything into it.  That’s what it takes to be the best.

 

Q. Chrissie, you had mentioned Ana Ivanovic earlier.  She’s been playing better this year, a little more consistent, on the brink of the top 10 for the first time in five years.  Realistically, do you think she can make an assault at the top few spots and win another Grand Slam?

EVERT:  I’m so impressed with how she’s playing.  I’ve been watching her the last few weeks.  She seems to have gotten her serve together.  Her serve is winning some free points.  She’s really improved that.  The backhand has improved.  The confidence.  She’s a big hitter.

 

You know, when I look at the top four now — Serena, Li Na, Radwanska, Halep — she could be top four if she continues her run.  She won a set from Serena.  She beat her at the Australian.  She’s beating some pretty good players.  I like her attitude out there.  You can tell she wants it.  As far as winning a Grand Slam, I don’t know.  Anything’s possible.  I think realistically to be top five would be a better goal for her right now.

 

Q. 2008, what do you remember about the kind of player she was then? 

EVERT:  Who did she beat?  I don’t remember her beating anybody.  I don’t mean to say that negatively, but I don’t think Serena, Venus, Clijsters, Henin.  It wasn’t a strong year, period, right?

MODERATOR:  She beat Safina in the final, Jankovic to get there, and before that Schnyder.

EVERT:  Those players aren’t top-quality players, but they weren’t Serena, Venus, Clijsters, Henin.  She took advantage of it and played some good tennis.  But she’s a much better player now, much better player now.  She’s got much more variety to her game.  She’s coming in and volleying.  She’s confident.  Her serve is better.

She has a Steffi Graf forehand.  Steffi would just jump beside that ball and wallop it.  I see almost the same type of stroke where she can just go inside-out, down the line, cross-court, and make them all the time.  Her backhand has also improved.  She’s really pumped up.  She wants it.  Her game has seemed to come together at the right time.  We’ll see what happens at the French.  But it seems to have really come together.  Whether that’s the new coach, for whatever reason I love her story.  She won it, she took a dive, but she kept her nose to the grindstone, tried to keep digging herself out of that hole, and slowly but surely she has now.

 

Q. Chris, Halep, what is her strength and weakness?  What do you see her doing in Paris?  Also, you were always known as a great champion with court sense, the ability to read the court.  Who has that now among the men and women? 

EVERT:  Well, let’s talk about Halep.  She is a tremendous athlete.  Her court coverage.  First of all, she doesn’t miss anything.  She’s one of the more consistent players.  She covers the court great.  She, you know, is not intimidated by any player or by pressure whatsoever.  So she’s very composed and mature out there.  She can transition from defense to offense, you know, really, really well.  But I think on the clay, that’s what you need to do.  You need to move well and you need to be consistent, yet she still hits a big ball.  You got to really earn the point against her.  She doesn’t play like Serena Williams where she’s going to hit you off the court.  You’ve got to work hard.  As far as court sense, that’s a good question.  You know, when I look at somebody like a Radwanska, I think she’s got good court sense.  She’s obviously very creative and can think ahead two or three shots, has that variety.  Help me, Patrick, with this.

McENROE:  I mean, nobody has better court sense than the players at the top of the game.  To me, I think sometimes the question – and I hear what you’re saying, Chrissie – we immediately go to the people that don’t have power like Radwanska.  She’s got great court sense, but she has no power basically.  She has to.

Djokovic has unbelievable court sense.  So does Federer.  So does Serena.  I think that’s where Serena really has improved, is her ability to open up the court, see the court.  I think the best players have the best court sense and the best ability to open up the court, not just the player that doesn’t have the power.

EVERT:  You’re right.  I was trying to think of players that had something special, like Martina Hingis had a special gift there.  But you’re right.  In order to be a top player, you have to have good court sense, you have to know how to open up the court.  Patrick is right on that.

 

Q. If both of you had to pick a player outside the top 20 to get to the semis, who would you say? (men and women)

McENROE:  Well, Sloane Stephens is in the top 20 still, so I got to think about it for a second.  What about Bouchard?  Is she outside of the top 20?

EVERT:  No.  Flipkens made a good run at Wimbledon last year.  She’s 22.

McENROE:  I’ll tell you who I like is Caroline Garcia.  The French players traditionally on the women’s side haven’t always played their best in front of their home crowd, but I really like her athleticism and her game.  She played great in the Fed Cup beating the U.S., so I got to see her there.  She was really, really good.  I think she’s got the kind of game and athleticism to play well on clay.

EVERT:  Where is Madison?

McENROE:  Madison is around 40 or so.

EVERT:  I’d give Madison a shot.  I’d give her a shot.

McENROE:  A guy at the moment who is outside the top 20 in the men is Almagro, who obviously is good on clay, beaten Nadal.  He has some injury issues.  Bautista Agut is a Spanish guy, outsider.  On the men, it’s pretty unlikely.  To me, Dimitrov in my mind is a little bit of an outsider.  He’s a guy who I think could make a big run.  I was surprised that Nadal beat him as easily as he did in Rome.  I thought Dimitrov was going to give him a big match.

EVERT:  What about Cilic?

McENROE:  No, I’m not going with that.  Not on clay in best-of-five.  I’ll tell you who the guy is, Thiem, the young Austrian kid.  Steve Johnson had a couple match points against him yesterday in Nice.  I think he’s still 19, but he has some major upside.  Might be early for him to make that kind of a run at a major, but look out for him.

EVERT:  I think my reluctance is I can’t see anybody out of the top 20 reaching the final.  I think the top 20 is so tough and so loaded that I can’t see anybody there.

 

Q. It’s no secret that the Americans consistently struggle on clay.  Do you think it’s a matter of improving strategy, mentality, mechanics or all of the above? 

EVERT:  Patrick, I know you have a lot to say on that, so mine will be short.  As in past history, most Americans have been brought up on the hard courts.  Most of the Europeans, especially the Spanish players, have been brought up on the red clay.  I think you’re brought up on what your national championship is.  US Open is hard court, and that’s probably why American players dominate.  Most of them coming from California, it was all hard courts.  I know now every tennis academy, especially the USTA, they’re putting an emphasis on playing on clay.  I grew up on clay, that’s why I had such good footwork.  It’s all about formulating footwork, having a little more strategy.  It’s not as much about power.  But the game has turned into so much power, you need a lot more ingredients on clay than power.  Go ahead, Patrick.

McENROE:  I think obviously movement is key.  What I like to call shot tolerance, which is understanding what shot to hit at the right time.  Clay just forces you to make better decisions more often.  Quite honestly, you need to hit more balls into the court to win points.  That’s just the way it is.  Obviously that’s become the way it is on every surface.  So when we talk the USTA building a new facility in Florida in a couple years’ time, almost half the courts are going to be clay to help our kids and to help our juniors play on it as young as possible.  The clay teaches you itself how to play and how to construct points.  As Chrissie said, the more you play on it, and the earlier you play on it, the more you can develop those skills.  We’ve got clay at each of our three centers for the USTA now.  The kids are spending a lot more time.  Once you do that, it’s a mindset for our young pros to go out there and be willing to do what it takes to work hard for each point you’ve got to win.

EVERT:  It’s interesting when you look at the clay court players, the players that learned to play tennis on clay, myself and Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis, Federer, Djokovic, I mean, Nadal, a lot of the players started on clay and excelled on clay at a young age.  And from there, branched out, made some adjustments and learned how to play on a faster court.  I think that’s easier to do than the other way around where you’re primarily a power player.  That’s why it was tough for like a Pete Sampras to win the French.  Other players, when they come on, they’re just big power players, it’s harder to learn how to play if you’re a ball-striker, to play on the clay.

I’m a firm believer, and I don’t know why it hasn’t happened earlier than it did, to start more kids on clay.

 

Q. Patrick, obviously Andy Murray has never won a tournament on clay.  What do you make of his chances going in, especially without a coach?  There’s a discussion about (your brother) John being his coach. 

McENROE:  I know they have a very good relationship.  I think John in the right situation could be a great coach.  The question is, Is he going to be willing to spend the necessary time it would take depending on what Andy is looking for?

 

Andy has a solid team around him.  Of course, Danny who has been with him forever, like his full-time coach or assistant coach when Lendl came in, et cetera.  Andy has a great team around him.  I don’t expect him to be a real threat to win the French at all.  But I think he’ll want to play well there, as he did in Rome.

 

The best part of his year obviously is the grass, defending his Wimbledon title, then the summer on the hard courts.  I think a good result for him would be to make the second week, but I think he’s vulnerable to a lot more players on clay than he is on any other surface.

 

As far as where his coaching ends up, that’s the $64,000 question.  Sounds like from what I’ve heard him say, he’s looking for someone that’s going to be with him for quite some time and be a long-term solution, not do something quick as a part-time Band-Aid.

EVERT:  In one sentence, that was the best clay court match I’ve ever seen Andy Murray play.  I was so impressed.  If he keeps that up, he could be a semifinalist for sure.

 

Q. On the face of it, there wouldn’t seem to be any particular reason why he couldn’t win on the clay, other than the fact that Nadal tends to win so many of them. 

McENROE:  He doesn’t generate as much firepower off both wings.  There are reasons why he’s not as good on clay other than Nadal and Djokovic.  His game is not as suited for clay.  It’s more suited for grass with his slice, his ability to counter-punch.  A ball that drops in the middle of the court to his backhand side, he doesn’t do as much damage with that shot as Djokovic and Nadal.  Not many people do.  He doesn’t have what I call easy power, Murray, which you need on clay more so than other surfaces.  On the other surfaces, he can use the speed of the court to help his game.  It helps him a lot more than other players.

EVERT:  His ball being so flat, it doesn’t keep anybody in the backcourt.  It doesn’t really hurt anybody.

Patrick, what is the furthest he’s gotten?

McENROE:  Semis of the French.  He can play on it, but when you compare him to the other guys, and surprisingly he’s never won a title on clay, which I think if he wanted to, he could play some small tournaments and win them, but he hasn’t gone that route.

 

Q. Do you think he just needs to keep his confidence high ahead of Wimbledon and the U.S. and he shouldn’t be targeting trying to win it?

McENROE:  I think he’s going to absolutely use the French as a way to get him going and to get his fitness up and get his back right and get his confidence going for Wimbledon.  I mean, obviously the pressure’s off in some way at Wimbledon.  But I’m sure walking out at 1 p.m. precisely on that first day will be pretty emotional for him at Wimbledon, and for the crowd.  So there will be a lot more expectations on him.  He’ll want to really be primed and peaked for Wimbledon.

EVERT:  Patrick, when you’re talking about getting past the first week, if he gets past the first week, I think he’s going to take that tournament very seriously.

McENROE:  There’s no doubt he’ll take it seriously.  There’s a lot more guys I think match up very well against him on clay than on grass.

 

Q. Patrick, in the vein of long-term wishing better athletes in the U.S. would choose tennis, would you toss out names of American athletes that every sportsfan might know that kind of think might have made an awesome tennis player had they chosen tennis?

McENROE:  It’s funny, because when people say that, they say, Imagine if Michael Jordan had taken up tennis.  Well, Michael is a little bit too tall.  We have 6’7″, 6’8″ players.  Some would say LeBron James.  Actually he’s too big.  I would take somebody who was a great point guard, somebody like Dwyane Wade.  Who is the guy from Seattle, Richard Sherman, like a defensive back, extremely mobile.  They have some height.

 

To me the ideal height for a tennis player, a man anyway, is about 6’1″ to 6’3″.  So you take someone like Andrew McCutchen, the baseball player, guys that are there kind of size that have that kind of agility and mobility.

 

The first thing you have to remember, people overlook this, it doesn’t matter how fast you can run or how high you can jump if you actually can’t time the ball.  The first thing you need to do is get someone who can actually time the ball and hit it on the center of the racquet when they’re very young.  That’s number one.  Once you get that, obviously you’d like to see somebody that can move.

 

I think flexibility is sort of the way the game is going with guys like Djokovic and Dimitrov, Radwanska.  You see literally her butt on the ground when she’s hitting half her shots.

 

I think that’s the way the game is going with the speed and athleticism as opposed to brut strength and force.  I would look for an athlete that’s incredibly flexible that could have picked up tennis and had a lean-looking body.

 

Q. Patrick, looking ahead six weeks after the French and Wimbledon are over, what would you consider a good run for the American men and for the American women with these two Grand Slams coming up?

McENROE:  The expectations are obviously higher for the women.  I don’t mean obviously just Serena.  She’s the huge favorite in both.  But I think for Sloane Stephens, I think we’re seeing a lot of positive signs out of Christina McHale, Madison Keys.  For me, the younger two, Keys and McHale, I’d love to see one of the them get to the second week of one of these two.  Serena, her expectations would be to win both of them.

 

For our men, I think it’s time to step up.  I think some of our younger guys are making the strides.  A second week for a couple of them isn’t out of the question.  Isner has the ability to do it at both of these occasions.  Steve Johnson and Sock are showing some positive signs.  I think some of these younger guys are going to step up and make something happen.  I think definitely an appearance in the second week for the men would be great.

 

Q. Sloane Stephens, kind of a tough patch now for a bit? 

EVERT:  First of all, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon.  If you remember at Wimbledon last year, Sloane had a good run, and also Madison lost to Radwanska in three sets.  Radwanska was really favored to win at that point because everybody else had lost.  As far as Sloane, it’s frustrating for all of us.  I know Patrick and I, too.  It’s frustrating to watch her play because we know what she is capable of.  We know the talent that she has.  I mean, for me it just seems that she’s taking her time.  You know what I’m saying?  It’s maybe not the right time right now, although it should be.  She doesn’t seem to be putting it all on the line.  She doesn’t seem to be playing with a sense of urgency.

 

The other players, like Bouchard, the other players her age, even younger, she’s kind of lackadaisical, goes in and out of matches.  It’s almost like it will happen in her own time.  It has to come from within her.  No matter what coach she has, what everybody is telling her, I feel she has the type of temperament that when she is ready we’re going to see some brilliance.

McENROE:  I think she’s going to turn it around.  I think deep within her she’s a competitor, a great competitor.  I’ve seen her win a lot of matches where she looked out of it.  As Chrissie said, she’s got to make the decision in her own mind, and when she does, look out.

 

Q. Talk about Madison (Keys) for a minute.  Where do you think her game is at now? 

EVERT:  I think Madison is still a work in progress.  Again, she’s young.  Can’t expect anything more than that.

She’s at the right place for her age and maturity, emotional maturity, right now.  We all see the power.  We see the huge serve.  I’d like to see a better percentage of big serves because that’s where she’s going to win most of her free points.  Her serve is the closest to Serena of any of the players as far as power, placement.  I’d like to see a more consistent serve.  She’s a big girl, and she’s still a teenager, so she’s working on her moving because she’s grown all of a sudden and developed into a woman.  She needs to kind of settle in and working on her movement a little bit.  Very much like Serena, once she gets a little more fit, she won’t feel like she has to go for big shots at inopportune times when she’s out of position.  Right now to me it’s her moving, but it’s there.  She and Sloane to me are the two top American hopefuls.

McENROE:  Not a lot to add to that other than her first serve is really big.  You’re right, it’s not consistent enough.  Her second serve needs to get better.  But she wants it.  She wants it.  She’s working hard.  I think she’s got a real desire to get there.  As she improves her fitness, which she’s doing, her shot selection is going to improve.  It’s naturally going to improve.  As that happens, she’s going to be able to do a lot of damage.  I think she also has to work on coming forward a little bit more.  We saw her and Sloane play doubles in the Fed Cup.  They both could use a little work on the net, coming forward.  Sloane is a better mover, so she’s going to be able to beat people from the baseline with her movement as well as her power.  I’d like to see Madison add the ability to come in and finish some points at the net as well because she’s got a big reach.  That’s certainly a part of her game that can improve.  The good thing is she’s young.  She’s already 40 or so in the world.  There’s a lot of things that can get better.  That’s a real positive.

EVERT:  She’s going at a good pace.  It’s almost like two years ago, for her to have a big win wouldn’t have been a good thing.  She’s going at a good pace and managing herself really, really well.

 

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Jeanne Moutoussamy Ashe is Among the Honorees at Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program Gala

 

hjtep

New York, N.Y., May 28, 2013 The Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program (HJTEP) is set to celebrate its 41 years of service and dedication to its program participants on June 17 and 18.

HJTEP’s year-long commemoration will begin on Monday, June 17th with a celebration dinner and cocktails at 6:00pm at Guastavino’s (409 East 59th Street, New York).  This event brings together tennis champions, celebrities and gracious donors, supporting HJTEP’s community services with special guests Vanessa Williams, Richey Reneberg and the evening’s emcee, Janice Huff of NBC New York.   This year’s honorees will include Jeanne Moutoussamy Ashe, widow of Arthur Ashe, Assemblyman Keith Wright, Black Enterprise Magazine and Dante Brown.

 

The main event will take place the next day, Tuesday, June 18 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, NY. Matches begin at 10:00am with tennis legends and celebrities including Patrick McEnroe, MaliVai Washington, Gigi Fernandez, Bea Bielik, Clyde Drexler, Kim Fields, Lori McNeil, Chanda Rubin and many others, paired with amateur participants. The finals will be played in Arthur Ashe Stadium at noon.

 

“We are ecstatic about the upcoming celebration of our 41 successful years in service that has helped pave the road to success for children in Harlem through tennis and education programs,” said HJTEP Executive Director Katrina Adams. “Our fundraiser is exceptional in the way that it unites everyone who is in support of the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program, from the participants, the charitable donors and tennis legends; everyone is mutually working towards accomplishing the same goals and we look forward to many more years of service to come.”


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Say “No” to Best of Three

By Dave Seminara

Why is it that tennis writers and former players always seem to be agitating for changes that would result in less tennis being played in the pro ranks? For years, we’ve been hearing that the Davis Cup shouldn’t be an annual event, and that tennis’s offseason should be longer. Now during the first week of this year’s U.S. Open, the buzz was all about reducing the men’s matches from best of 5 to best of 3 in majors.

 

Ben Rothenberg made a best-of-3 pitch in the New York Times’ U.S. Open Preview issue, ESPN tennis analyst’s Darren Cahill and Patrick McEnroe said that the idea was getting some traction and merited further discussion and Billie Jean King wrote a piece for The Huffington Post arguing the same point.

 

I’m a tennis fanatic and I live for dramatic five setters. While Cahill and others have said that the Olympics best of three until the final format proved that best of three could be as compelling as the best of five majors, I had the opposite experience. For me, the Olympics felt no different than a Masters 1000 series tournament like Toronto, Cincinnati and the rest.

 

King maintains that the men should play less in order to avoid injuries like the one that’s kept Rafael Nadal out of action this summer. But there are scores of current and former players that continued to win into their 30’s under the best of 5 format- Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall, Roger Federer, Andre Agassi- and some athletes from every sport will sustain injuries no matter how many sets they play.

 

Rothenberg’s primary justification for paring back the length of men’s matches is the notion that the player who is leading at the end of 3 sets nearly always wins the match. He cited a statistic indicating that the player leading after the first three sets won 90% of matches in the last five years, but this year’s Open certainly bucked that trend.

 

There was a total of 23 five setters, with 10 players coming from 2 sets to love down to win in the first four days, tied for the second most in the Open era, and only 4 behind the all time record set at the 2002 Australian Open. Of the 23 five setters, the player who was winning at the end of the 3rd set won on only six occasions.

 

If the final had been straight sets win for Andy Murray, just imagine all the drama we would have missed out on. The match was full of plot twists, and despite the fact that it lasted almost five hours, the crowd didn’t want it to end. After Murray won the first two sets, the crowd seemed to shift allegiance to Djokovic-because they wanted more tennis- and then shifted back to Murray in the 5th.

 

One could argue that this year’s draw has been the exception, not the rule, but consider how different tennis history would be if the men had been playing best of three in the majors during the Open era. Roger Federer wouldn’t have a career slam, because at Roland Garros in 2009, his one win there, he would have lost to Tommy Haas in the Round of 16. And he wouldn’t have regained the #1 ranking, breaking Pete Sampras’s record for weeks in the top spot, because he was down two sets to love in the 3rd round of Wimbledon this year against Julien Benneteau.

 

Then again, he would have won the 2009 U.S. Open over Juan Martin Del Potro and could have fared better in other majors, like the 1999 Wimbledon, the 2011 U.S. Open, and the 2002 and 2005 Australian Opens.

 

In a best of three set world, Rafael Nadal would have lost to Robin Haase in the 2nd round at Wimbledon in 2010, rather than winning the title; Novak Djokovic wouldn’t have won this year’s Australian Open or the 2011 U.S. Open; and McEnroe would have a career slam, having beaten Lendl in the final of the ’84 French, rather than blowing a two set to love lead, but he wouldn’t have won Wimbledon or the U.S. Open in 1980.

 

Neither Michael Chang nor Boris Becker would have won majors at 17, and Becker wouldn’t have won Wimbledon or the U.S. Open in 1989. The point here is twofold: first, it isn’t that uncommon for players who are trailing at the end of three sets to win the match and then go on to win the tournament, and second, the better player is more likely to prevail in best of five set encounters. For obvious reasons, fans want to see Rafael Nada late in the final, not Robin Haase; Roger Federer not Julien Benneateau. If the men’s game switched to best of 3 sets now, it would also make it difficult to compare records from one era to another.

 

But the most important reason for keeping the best of five format is that five set matches test a player’s mental and physical strength in a way that three setters don’t. All of the most dramatic men’s matches I’ve seen in my lifetime- Federer-Nadal in the final of Wimbledon in 2008, Federer- Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009, Borg-McEnroe at Wimbledon in 1980, Lendl-McEnroe at the ’84 French, Connors-Krickstein at the ’91 U.S. Open, Isner- Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010, and McEnroe-Becker at the Davis Cup in ’87- were five setters.

 

Yes, five setters are tough on the body, but at most majors, the players have a day off in between most of their matches. And, let’s face it; watching guys overcome cramps and other injuries to win is high theater. Who could forget watching Pete Sampras gut out a win over Alex Corretja at the U.S. Open in ’96 after throwing up in the plants at the back of the court?

 

Tennis writers often suggest making dramatic changes to the sport, but I love tennis too much to advocate any changes that would result in less tennis. As far as I’m concerned, the sport is just fine the way it is.

 

 

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“On The Call” with John and Patrick McEnroe

Patrick McEnroe

On Friday ESPN’s John and Patrick McEnroe discussed the US Open on a media conference call which begins Monday, August 27, with extensive coverage on ESPN2 and ESPN3.

 

Q.  Doing a story on your brother, Mark.  For both of you what does he bring to his job at the academy?  And what part do you expect him to play in the debate about the future of American tennis and where the next great tennis start is going to come from?

PATRICK McENROE:  Well, he can get in line to get into the debate.  I mean, we are all enjoying that.  Mark has been the big man until the middle for many years and I’m happy he’s in the game.  I’m very happy that John got himself into the game.  John put his money where his mouth is by doing his own thing and his own academy and that’s awesome for tennis and New York in general.

 

For Mark, he’s a pretty darned good tennis player, so the fact that he’s working alongside John is great for him and great for the family.  And I know John feels pretty good having him alongside, and I know I feel pretty good when I take my little daughter up there for lessons and he takes care of it, so it’s all good.

 

JOHN McENROE:  At my club over in Randall’s Island; it’s nice to have someone you trust who also loves the sport.  As Patrick pointed out, being the middle brother, he can bridge the gap of Patrick and I on any issues that I think in the long run is going to help all of us.  I’m looking forward to hopefully the situation where all of us work together, not just the two of us.

Q.  Given his background, Wall Street lawyer and working in hedge funds and stuff like that ‑‑

PATRICK McENROE:  I’m not going to hold that against him.

Q.  Do you think that helps in bringing in a different perspective a little bit?

JOHN McENROE:  Well, I think that strictly from the managerial standpoint, he’s a smart guy and being a lawyer, he can help me with things that other, quote, unquote, tennis guys wouldn’t be able to.  As far as whether or not it helps in the sort of world of tennis, I honestly can’t say that you can make a determination that because he was around Wall Street or involved with hedge funds that that necessarily makes him better equipped to deal with the politics that goes along with tennis or the sport itself.  I mean, I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

Q.  I wanted to ask you for your thoughts on the men’s field, in particular, of the top three seeds, who do you see as the favorite, and who among them do you think has more at stake or maybe just a word about what each respectively kind of has at stake in the last slam of the year.

JOHN McENROE:  Yeah, I was just going to say that to me, the three of them ‑‑ I almost think that you can make an argument for all three.  I think it’s very close.  They are sort of all ‑‑ it would be hard to pick one of them right now, because you can make an argument for any one of them.  I can say that as far as what’s at stake, I think Murray has got the most at stake, because, yes, he’s won this Olympic thing, but I think it’s pretty universally understood that it’s not quite ‑‑ while it’s become more important obviously in the fact that it was at Wimbledon was helpful, it’s not thought of I think in the same way as the slams.

 

So I don’t think the burr is off him but I’m hoping that it can break the ice so to speak and he can win some slams.  I think he has the most to loss and the most to gain at this point.  Before the Olympics, it was between the three guys, you know, obviously Rafa is not here; who would win and then become No. 1.

 

But now the way it pans out, it’s conceivable that Murray could make an argument were he to win this, and then have a strong season, and, say, win the Masters, there’s a possibility that you could say he’s the best player in the world this year.  To me that’s an unbelievable upside.  In some ways Roger has accomplished ‑‑ I thought he would win another major and be back at No. 1.  He’s proved a lot of people wrong there.

 

Djokovic obviously has this year, greatest year in 40 years, and he’s not been really at the same level.  Yet, he’s still for a guy who has really had not as good a year as he had last year, is still in the mix; if he were to win this, he could be No. 1 again and will be No. 1.  So that’s quite a nice thing for him, as well.

 

PATRICK McENROE:  I think that obviously this year, in particular, I think it’s pretty cool that he’s got No. 1 really up for grabs in The Open at the first time in a while. As to John’s point, career‑wise, Murray has the most at stake because he just has not won one.  But for a different year, they have all got a lot at stake because you can easily make the case that if any one of the three wins it, they will and should be No. 1 for the year.  Obviously there’s still tennis to be played post the Open, but certainly either Roger or Djokovic win this, they are No. 1 this year because they have won two Majors.

 

I think Roger is probably a slight favorite, just because I think that having won Wimbledon again and gotten back to No. 1, I feel like watching him in Cincinnati, which I know is slightly different than a US Open, that he’s sort of playing with no pressure at all.  He’s sort of playing with house money, because he has not won one for so long, and to keep ‑‑ for him, he kind of got the monkey off his back and then he had not won for three years.

 

So I think when he plays with that sort of freedom and abandon, he’s very, very dangerous.  You know, he’s obviously the most talented player that I’ve ever seen, so I think when he can play with that kind of freedom, it makes him that much tougher to beat.

 

Now, that being said, I think the conditions here with the tournament being back‑loaded for the last couple of days, I think that makes it a little bit trickier for him with potentially to potentially beat Murray and then Novak back‑to‑back on hard courts with a lot of heat or maybe wind or rain delays, things like that.  So I think that’s sort of the X‑factor for Federer.  But from a pure tennis standpoint of what I’ve seen the last three months, I would call him the favorite.

Q.  It seems like this year, Federer, there’s just been a little bit of a flip flop.  Djokovic was obviously so dominant last year and Federer, we were talking about, will he ever win another one; and now it seems like he’s No. 1 again.  Do you think that’s more that Federer is playing better or Djokovic is not playing as well?  And the second question I wanted to ask is about Serena, and obviously once again, as we always say, when she feels like it and when she plays well, there’s nobody that can beat her and all this.  What do you think of this Kerber, this German woman who has been playing well; do you think that she’s someone we should be watching or do you think Serena is just going to kind of roll over everybody again?

JOHN McENROE:  I’ll go first.  Federer is playing better, I believe, and Djokovic has dropped off a little bit.  And I think Federer prefers a Djokovic match up to Nadal, and it’s the opposite, interestingly enough, with Djokovic.  He seems to prefer to play Nadal right now than Roger.  Some of it was timing, and obviously there’s always a little bit of luck that goes into it, such as the roof closing when they played at Wimbledon, things of that nature.

 

But the match‑up seems to suit Roger, and he seems to be more comfortable in that situation.  And it was hard to keep up, for anyone to keep up that level, because Djokovic had pushed all year towards becoming the first guy since Laver to hold all four slams at the same time.  When he lost that final where he almost had a chance to get back in and win, I think there was a letdown.

 

So, yeah, I think there’s been a shift, but Djokovic, as Patrick rightly pointed out, would still be No. 1 if he wins this.  I think he’s really sort of had some time to sort of get over the frustration, not a lot of time obviously, because the Olympics definitely complicates things.  But he had a couple tough losses there and lost to Roger at Wimbledon.  He sucked it up and played a couple of the hard courts and he’s got a week here.  I think he’s definitely feeling like he should win this thing.

 

As far as Kerber, I’ve watched Kerber play for the last couple years and she’s someone to me who is an extremely smart tennis player.  She knows the game and she knows how to sort of ‑‑ she’s like sort of a natural tennis thinker.

 

However; if, Serena, to me, is mentally and physically ready to play and into it, I don’t think there’s a player alive that can beat her right now.  Now, of course she’s only won one slam in the last few years, so it’s not as if she’s been ‑‑ I think there’s been seven straight different women winning slams, I believe, or something close to that.  And Kerber is someone who is one of those that if she catches you on an off‑day can beat anyone, but I don’t see her with the type of firepower needed to go all the way.

 

PATRICK McENROE:  I think Serena is obviously the favorite, but I think there’s more that can go wrong in the US Open for her than certainly at Wimbledon.  And what I mean by that is she’s ‑‑ it’s interesting reading her article in the New York Times magazine that she’s got a little something in her head about things going wrong at the US Open, whether it’s the grunting or the line call or the point penalty, etc.

 

So that’s not a good thing for her.  And I think probably more importantly even than that, even though she said she loves hard court and it’s her favorite surface, I think her weakness, obviously there are not many, but when she gets inconsistent can show up a little bit more on a hard court than playing on a grass court where her serve is that much more magnified.  Wind can also hurt her a little bit.

As John said she’s the best out there but seven straight matches ‑‑ even the first week of Wimbledon, you know, she very nearly lost a couple of times.  So if that kind of thing happens again at the US Open, she can be in trouble.  But Kerber is certainly someone that I think can be around in the second week, but I’m amazed at her negative attitude out there that she gets so negative, and yet she’s still able to compete.  I think if she could somehow get a little more positive, that might help her once she gets to the quarters and semis.  And obviously there’s some other young players.

Q.  A lot of people are talking about the change Andy Murray is going through under the guidance of Ivan Lendl.  So my question is about coaching.  What do you need for a player to find the right coach?  Is it a connection that can change a player’s mentality, and can a coach have that much impact?

JOHN McENROE:  Yeah, that’s a great question.  I’m not sure there is an answer, and it obviously depends on an individual and the timing of it.  I mean, Murray has been through a number of coaches, and a number of world‑class coaches.   So this could have ‑‑ it seems to have come at a time, a pretty critical point in his career, where perhaps Ivan had the credibility of someone who had been in a similar situation as Andy, having not won his first four Grand Slams, losing in the finals, and then being one of the great players of all time, Ivan Lendl.

 

So sometimes a player needs to sort of have someone who has been there, done that.  And other times, you could look at other players in the Top‑10, where they have had the same coaches since they were teenagers or even before, and they feel a comfort level.  So it’s wildly unpredictable; when Paul Annacone first started working with Roger, most people assumed he would try to get Roger become more aggressive, particularly against Nadal, maybe come in and take an earlier volley more.

 

Very, very subtle changes; it took years ‑‑ to me, it seems like the reason why Roger won Wimbledon this year was in the finals against Murray, it was one of the greatest volleying performances I’ve ever seen him have, considering he had not been volleying that well beforehand.  So would you say that’s an influence of Paul Annacone finally, or not; it’s hard to say, is the bottom line.

 

But certainly there’s been occasions where a coach can have a fairly significant impact.  There’s other times where you’ve seen some of the other players play without coaches.  Tsonga is without a coach and he’s playing the best tennis of his career.  Federer played for the better part of a few years winning Grand Slams without a coach.  So this is something that is hard to say exactly, but certainly, there’s a handful of people out there that have made a difference with some of the top players.

PATRICK McENROE:  Oh, there’s no doubt it (a new coach) can (help).  I only heard the second half of John’s answer, and I certainly agree a hundred percent with what he said.  Absolutely there’s cases where a coach can give you a burst of energy.  Sometimes you just need to hear a different voice.  Obviously players that are in the top ‑‑ winning tennis matches their entire life.  So they are used to that.  They are used to winning.  But sometimes they just need a different push.

 

In the case of someone like a Murray, he’s someone that brought a little something to the table.  Lendl has experience.  Really, as John said, it depends on the individual and it depends on the relationship between the coach and the player.  I mean, you spend so much time with that person that it’s not necessarily always about X’s and O’s.  It’s about the relationship and the trust that you have and where you are at this stage of your career that you’re willing to say, okay, I’m going to listen to somebody like that.

Q.  Wondering about Andy Murray, do you see anyone early in his run in the draw who could cause a problem?  I know he’s kind of got that out of his system and is going deep in most Majors recently.  Are there any dangers for him early in the draw that you see, any other big guns, any dangerous for them early in the draw?

JOHN McENROE:  Well, I don’t have the draw in front of me but I believe he’s slated to play Raonic in the 16s.  So that would be an example of someone that potentially, I think, could be a problem for any top player.  Just like a guy like John Isner could be if he’s on his game.  These guys that have huge firepower and get you out of your comfort zone.  So that’s the type of a person on a hot day or an off‑day where he’s serving big could provide problems for him or any player.  I look at a player like that and I think to myself, that could be a future top‑five player.          Patrick, do you know who his quarter is?

 

PATRICK McENROE:  I don’t have that in front of me either.

JOHN McENROE:  I believe it’s Tsonga, if I’m not mistaken.  Those are obviously matches in his record, I’m pretty sure it’s Tsonga, and I believe if that is the case, that that would be someone who he has a good record against.  Yeah, of course, he’s the type of player that could obviously beat anyone on a given day, but I think he’s only one in six events against Andy.

 

But more than who he’s playing, it’s actually how ‑‑ I don’t know if there’s anything to what’s happened since the Olympics.  I mean, there’s obviously a big letdown coming straight from there and having to go play.  He was supposed to play Raonic and he pulled out with the knee.  I saw the first match he played in Cincy and I thought he looked good.  He looked like he was moving well and then he lost the next round.  That surprised me.

 

Having said that, he’s much tougher to beat in a longer match, if he’s healthy.  So I still would suspect that if he’s playing as well as ‑‑ because the way he played at the Olympics, I don’t see him not making a serious run and not winning the whole thing.

 

PATRICK McENROE:  I agree, I think he’s probably the most vulnerable of the top three, but that’s not saying a lot because the other guys are pretty much not vulnerable at all, Djokovic and Federer.  Murray still does have those matches where his energy is sort of low and he can be very defensive.  I don’t think he has them as often as he did.  Certainly Lendl has helped him a lot there.  I think he’s a little more vulnerable to a solid guy who is ranked between 15 and 30 upsetting him than Federer and Djokovic are.

Q.  How important is the Olympic title compared to Grand Slam title?  And how are Nadal’s injury problems?

JOHN McENROE:  Those are both good questions.  With Nadal, we are all worried, and we are all hopeful he will make the type of comeback that he made when he injured his knee like three years ago.  When you are talking about one of the greatest to ever play the game, you don’t want to see him have to go out with physical problems before he wants to.  So that goes without saying that everyone is concerned, including myself, that we want to see him back in the mix as soon as possible, because he’s huge for our sport.  And the first part of the question was, what was it again?  I’m sorry.

 

Q.  How important is the Olympic title compared to a Grand Slam title?

JOHN McENROE:  The Olympics started to get some recognition, this is just my opinion, when Agassi won in ’96, he had not really done a whole lot that year for his standards.  He showed that it meant a lot to him, and I think that raised some eyebrows with players that up to that time, and following it even, a lot of the top players, maybe half the top players, if not more, didn’t play.

 

So each Olympics that’s gone by, I think you’ve seen more top players play, perhaps at the expense of Davis Cup, for example.  They picked and choose, and realize it’s only one week or ten days and now it’s one week and they have cut it to two‑out‑of‑three, and there’s something beautiful about the Olympics.

 

I think in the future, there to be a decision made, in my opinion, they should elevate it; if we are going to play it, we should elevate it to something that’s as big as the Grand Slams, which I don’t think it is.   I mean, I know points‑wise, it’s considered to be behind 14 other tournaments, the four Majors and the ten Masters Series.  I find that ludicrous.  But I don’t think that at this point, even though it was nice for Murray and it was a boost at Wimbledon that it’s at the level of the four slams.

 

And it would have to be determined by the powers that be or the players, whether it’s 2016 or 2020, that this will count as a fifth Grand Slam, as an example.  So that in the history books, when you count how many Grand Slams people have won, it would include the Olympics.  Well, maybe you can’t do that.  But to me, that’s the only way it would truly be at the same level as the other slams.

Q.  John, are you looking forward to the exhibition game with Adam Sandler, and how much practice is involved with you and Adam with that?  Will you and Adam be practicing?

JOHN McENROE:  Hopefully.  He may need a little more practice than I do, I’m just guessing.  But yeah, I’m looking forward to it.  It’s going to be fun.  It’s Thursday night, Wednesday or Thursday, that’s right before men’s quarters and that’s a big time for our men as it winds down to the top couple players.

 

PATRICK McENROE:  Let me just say, John, since he won’t be able to be in the broadcast booth for that match, I’m hoping Will Ferrell will come up and join me.

 

JOHN McENROE:  Well, you know, you may know this, Pat, Will was originally involved but I guess he decided he would rather broadcast a match with you.  They have got Kevin James, who obviously he’s got a sense of humor, too, and Adam.  So I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.  If I don’t break too much of a sweat, I’ll try to get up there for that match with you.

Q.  Have you ever played with him before?  Are you friends?

JOHN McENROE:  I would like to consider myself a friend.  He’s been nice enough to put me in for his movies, not regularly by any means.  I would like to consider myself as a friend to some degree.  Think he’s a great guy.  But I have not been on a tennis court with him, never.

Q.  That is exciting and we are looking forward to that.

JOHN McENROE:  I’ll be nervous but I’ll be less nervous than him in this case, because there will probably be 10,000 or 15,000, and I’m a little more used to it on a tennis court than he is.  Hopefully I won’t be the one to lay an egg but I’m confident that we’re going to get it done.

 

THE MODERATOR:  For folks who are not familiar with what they are talking about, the second Thursday of the tournament, 7:00 on ESPN2, Adam Sandler and John will team against Kevin James and Jim Courier in an exhibition doubles match for charity, and comedian Colin Quinn will be the chair umpire and will no doubt have his hands full.

Q.  A lot of players are doing better these days it seems, after the age of 30.  How does a pro train, eat and compete differently when you get to that point of your career and draw back on your own histories, if you could.

JOHN McENROE:  Well, I’ll start.  I wasn’t one of those guys that got better with age, so I do sort of look at what’s happening today and sort of feel like, wow, it would be good to be sort of around a time where you have more knowledge about the training, the best training to do on and off the court, what to eat, how to recover, etc.

 

And so you see basically players with teams around him now.  And so that every little detail is executed to the highest possible degree; and it sort of would be nice to feel like at a later age ‑‑ I think that in a nutshell, is because of the knowledge and the ability to sort of make decisions pretty quickly that will help the player, a, improve, or b, recover, is why you saw more 30‑year‑olds and older than ever playing at Wimbledon this year.

I think that’s good because you are able to appreciate even more what you’ve accomplished and better able to handle what goes along with it.  So I’m actually happy to see that this is becoming more of a trend than ever.

 

PATRICK McENROE:  I would just add to that that I think it’s not only the top, top players; that obviously can afford to have a coach and trainer and hitting partner, but it’s players that are not even necessarily at the top, top of the game.  Tommy Haas obviously was a Top‑5 player, but even guys below him, you know, are still playing into their early 30s that don’t have a full‑time.

 

I think that’s just realizing the off‑court training is more important as you get older, taking care of your body, doing the off‑court fitness, stretching.  So get to the point where the tennis side of it isn’t as important as the hours that you spend on the court.  But I think a lot of these players spend as much time, if not more, sort of preparing to play, preparing to practice, and doing off‑court work to keep their bodies as fit as possible.  I think it’s great for tennis but it’s not great for the young guys trying to break in.  It used to be that 17, 18, 19 years old, you were breaking through and winning Majors.  Now, you can barely get a teenager in the top hundred in the men’s game.

Q.  Specifically to Roger, what has he done both on the court and from what you may know off the court, his training, to maintain this level?

JOHN McENROE:  I don’t know the specifics of that, but I do know that Roger was someone who trained a lot harder than people realise.  He had a place in the Far East, the Middle East, excuse me, in Dubai, and trained in extreme conditions, hot conditions.  And I’m going under the assumption to some degree, but I don’t know this for sure, exactly what Patrick said is what he’s doing.  He’s maximizing sort of his off‑court training to subsidize what he does on the court, because his body ‑‑ he would be a perfect example to test out, because he’s 31 and he’s now participating, I believe, in his 52nd consecutive major.  So if there’s ever a guy to look at and see what he’s doing, that should be studied for sure.

 

PATRICK McENROE:  Obviously what makes Federer so great, obviously his ability, his talent, but his work ethic and his ability to brush off both the wins and the losses.  That’s what’s been to me the most amazing thing that he’s had these sort of crushing losses in big matches, whether it was Djokovic last year in the Open where he could easily look back and say, man, a couple of swings here or there, and I would have 21 majors.

 

But he somehow managed to just let it happen, no big deal, I’m moving on, I’ll playing well; he never dwells on either the negative or the positive.  I think he certainly uses the positive when he gets on a roll and gets the confidence going.              That’s why I think coming into this year’s Open, he’s going to be very, very tough to beat, because I feel like he’s playing with more confidence than he’s had in a couple of years.  Obviously when he didn’t have the utmost of confidence, you could still play him as the No. 2 or No. 3 player in the world.

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Getting to Know No. 1 Junior Taylor Townsend

The World’s No. 1 Junior girl Taylor Townsend, from Stockbridge, Georgia participated in a USTA media conference call with General Manager of USTA Player Development Patrick McEnroe on Thursday afternoon. Here is a transcript of the call:

TIM CURRY:  Thanks, everyone, for joining us.  We have with us Patrick McEnroe, the General Manager for USTA Player Development, and Taylor Townsend, who is the No.1 junior girls tennis player in the world.
Wanted you guys to have an opportunity to get to know Taylor a little bit more.  Taylor swept the singles and doubles title at the Australian Open in January, the first American to do that at a Junior Slam since Lindsay Davenport at the ’92 Open.  Since everyone wasn’t in Melbourne, we thought it would give you a chance for you to get to know her before Paris.
With that said, we will start the queue for questions.

Q.  Patrick, when you’re looking for young talent, what is the key thing that you look for?
PATRICK McENROE:  How about desire?  I mean, I think that’s obviously crucial.  Overall athleticism.  Certainly tennis IQ is up there on the list.
But I think the thing I’ve learned in my four and a half years on this job is that there’s a lot of talent out there.  Obviously Taylor is one of those young players.
What helps differentiate the players as they get a little bit older and play with the pressure of obviously high‑level juniors, then start their pro careers is that hunger, that desire to keep working and keep improving.
The trajectory of getting from being a top junior nowadays to becoming a top player in the men’s and women’s game, it’s a little bit longer than it was certainly when I was growing up and playing where you had 16‑, 17‑year‑olds getting to the last four of majors.  Those days are probably over.
That means you really have to have a lot of hunger, have to keep improving.  Taylor has had a lot of success in the juniors.  We hope she continues to do that.
What I’m most proud of about her is that she wants to get better.  She’s working hard, working on her overall game, which is a great tennis game.  She has a lot of natural ability as a player.
What’s going to determine whether or not she makes it to the top of women’s tennis is going to be her desire, her work ethic day in and day out.  Once you start to make that transition to the pros, it’s inevitable that you’re going to suffer some losses, have some bumps and bruises along the way.  The players that are really focused and determined and that can go through that have the best chance of making it all the way to the top.

Q.  What’s the key to that focus?
PATRICK McENROE:  As I said, I think it’s desire to want to get there.  Being the No.1 junior in the world is a great accomplishment.  I can tell you that Taylor has much higher goals for herself.  It’s not going to happen, as I said, overnight.  She’s still quite young and she’s got a couple of years ahead of her to keep playing some juniors and obviously start transitioning to the pros, as well.
We’ll all work with her and her coaches and her parents and everyone on what makes the most sense for her to keep progressing and keep pushing herself to get better.

Q.  We have an incredible situation with the top three or four in men’s tennis.  The younger generation is not breaking through.  Could you comment about the big picture there.
PATRICK McENROE:  Well, when someone like Andy Murray can’t break through and win a major, that tells you how difficult it is.
You’re dealing with, in the men’s game, three of arguably the greatest players of all time.  Certainly if Djokovic can win the French, you have to start thinking of him in those terms career‑wise along with Federer and Nadal.  Those guys have already done it, won all the majors.
It’s pretty amazing when you think in the Open era when Agassi finally did it and won the French, he’s the first guy since the Rocket to win all four majors.  Now you have potentially three players in a row with a chance to do that.
I think it’s really more a testament to how good those three guys are rather than sort of the deficiencies in a Raonic or Ryan Harrison.  They’re young and they have a lot of work to do to keep improving.  The bar has been raised incredibly high.

Q.  Patrick, Taylor doesn’t have a regular game for a junior girl.  She’s very aggressive and looks like she likes to attack the net.  Can you describe her game.
PATRICK McENROE:  I’ll let Taylor answer that first.
Go ahead, T.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  Well, I’ve always been comfortable at the net.  When I started playing tennis, we did a lot of volleys.  It was just something that I pretty much just came up with.  It was kind of normal to me.
Now that I’ve been able to travel and see how a lot of other girls play around the world, I see that it’s not really normal.  It’s normal to me, but not normal to other people.
I mean, I’m glad I’m able to have a game that’s different and unique, be able to use it to my advantage.

Q.  Taylor, can you describe your move from California to South Florida.  Did you start at the Plantation or go right to Boca?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  I’m originally from Chicago, then I moved to Atlanta.  I mean, my transition, I moved from Atlanta straight to Boca.  I was pretty comfortable with the transition, though.  I was really comfortable with Kathy.  I had been going on trips with her during my eighth grade year.  I was really comfortable with her, the way she coached me.  We had a good connection.  She understood my game, what I needed to do.  She pinpointed some things out to me that were really helpful to continue to help me progress.
We kind of had a good relationship.  So it wasn’t really a hard transition for me.  I was really excited about coming to the program.  I love the environment here.  It’s a lot of fun.

Q.  What is your personal timetable to turn pro?  College or right to the circuit?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  I like to keep my options open as of right now.  My goal is to go pro.  Until I feel like it’s the right time, and I consult with my family and everyone, then I’m just going to stay amateur for now.

Q.  Patrick, how significant is it to be the No.1 junior in the world?  We see a lot of guys peter out once they got there.  Remind me of the last few Americans that had that title.
PATRICK McENROE:  That’s a good question.  As Tim says, she’s the first to get to No.1 since Lindsay.  Obviously, those are big shoes to fill.  As Taylor said, she’s on her own timeline.  As long as she keeps working hard and keeps improving and gets in better shape, her overall game is obviously very sound, but everything has to get better.
That will happen in due time.  But, as I said in the answer to my first question, the game is a lot tougher physically now than it’s ever been.  You’re seeing that a lot more in the women’s game in addition to the men’s game.
It takes longer to get there, so you’ve got to keep working.  Taylor, as she talked about, her game is different than a lot of the players.  But she also has to go out there and hit a lot of balls to be able to use her weapons, coming forward, variety, she likes to serve and volley.  You need the other pieces of the puzzle as well.
You can be a great volleyer, but if you can’t move around the court and get to the net, chances are you’ll be exposed the higher level you go.
So I think that’s why you have to continue to work hard all the time.  You have to in some ways be more patient that it’s not going to happen overnight.  We’re not talking about No.1′s from America, but look at No.1′s in the juniors.  You can go down the list in the last 10, 15 years.  It’s not the automatic to be the No.1 junior, to all of a sudden be in the top 5 or the top 10.
TIM CURRY:  As a point, the ITF can’t verify on the weekly rankings whoever has been No.1 since they changed the ranking system in 2004 to the combined singles and doubles ranking, so Taylor is the first American girl to be the No.1 player since ’04.  Prior to that, any of the Americans that were year‑end No.1′s were based on kind of a voting system rather than the ranking‑point formula.
Taylor could definitely be the first American junior No.1 girl under the ITF ranking program.

Q.  Taylor, I was wondering about what you’ve been doing since the Easter Bowl, if you’ve been training on red clay to prepare for the French, and if you’re going to go over and play Belgium first?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  After Easter Bowl I came back to Boca for a few days and really hit the fitness pretty hard.  I went to the junior Fed Cup in Mexico.  After that I came back to Boca for two weeks and I really hit fitness really hard.  I just came back last week from Pat Etcheberry’s place in Orlando.  We’ve been working on my fitness and strength.  I’ve been hitting on the clay.
But I’m not playing Belgium.  We’re going to go over to Spain for about a week and train on the red clay.  We’re really familiar with BTT, that’s the academy we’re going to.  We’re really familiar with them.  We went for three weeks last year, so we know the coaches, the drills and everything, so it should be really good.  We should be ready for the French.

Q.  Because of your game style, I don’t imagine red clay is high on your list of favorite surfaces, but how will you adapt to clay?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  I really like clay actually.  I can’t speak about grass, I’ve never played on grass.  I love hard court.  I like clay as well.
I think it really helps as far as like my heavy topspin, my slice, using my serve.  I think it’s more about not so much adjusting but it’s more about using the clay, using the surface to my advantage, making more my opponents move.
Obviously the points are going to be a lot longer on the clay.  That’s why we’re working on the fitness, being able to stay in points.  But I think my game is pretty well‑suited for clay, as well.

Q.  Patrick, what are your thoughts about tamping down the expectations of someone who has had the success that Taylor has at this early age?
PATRICK McENROE:  Quite honestly, I was a little torn about even doing this call for that very reason.  I don’t want Taylor to feel too much pressure, she understands what I’m saying, to get too big of a head.
But she’s done great, she’s working very hard.  As she said, Kathy Rinaldi and her have a great relationship.  Kathy has really poured her blood, sweat and tears into not only helping Taylor but Sam Crawford, a number of other girls down if Boca, Grace Min when she was down in Boca.  There’s a nice camaraderie with the girls down there.  Obviously Taylor has some really good friends down there.  That helps a lot when you’re away from home.  That’s difficult.
But I think she’s doing really well.  She’s handling success well.  To win the Australian, I was lucky enough to be there, sit behind Kathy during the last couple of matches, to see the emotion that the two of them had was great to see.  You can tell it means a lot more to them than just a tennis match.  That’s a great sign.  Then Taylor came back and had a great Easter Bowl and won there.
I think she’s handling the success well.  Again, it’s all about coming back, as she said, going back to work, working hard, getting better.  You have to enjoy the process.  You have to enjoy the people you’re working with, the people you’re around.  I think if you do that, in due course the results will come.
If you’re a happy person, you’re happy with how you’re improving, I think that’s what we’re looking for.  Obviously we’re looking for our players to do well, but we’re also looking to create an environment where they’re thriving as people and they’re enjoying themselves and they’re good citizens in addition to being hopefully great tennis players in the future.

Q.  Patrick, I know how hard you’ve worked with player development in the U.S.  If you would take one aspect of any country’s Player Development Program and use it in the U.S., something somebody else has been successful with, what would it be?
PATRICK McENROE:  I’m not skirting that question because I think it’s a good one.  To be honest, I think we’re kind of trying to do it our way.  We are the United States of America.  That’s not to say we haven’t looked at what Spain has done.  This is one of the reasons why we sent our girls over to BTT, which is a tennis academy in Barcelona.  By the way, Jose Higueras will be there with the girls next week.  He has a very good relationship with that academy.
You look at what the French have done with their sort of regional centers.  That’s something we’re trying to do in a similar fashion with our own regional training centers around the country, working more hand‑in‑hand with them, communicating the way we’re trying to coach and hopefully find out from them.  I don’t really think it’s taking one thing.
I remember, when I was playing, the Swedish players.  It wasn’t so much the way they played but their camaraderie.  They supported each other, were out there helping each other.  I think we have that with Taylor and the group of girls that were out there.
It was awesome to see the other girls that were there watching her play.  She won the doubles there with Gaby.  To see them supporting each other, watching each other’s matches, that’s what it’s all about.
I guess if there was one thing I could pinpoint, it’s this being a team effort on our part.  That starts from USTA Player Development, that’s the private academies, the personal coaches.  That’s not always easy to navigate those waters, nor is it easy to have players that are competing with each other out there supporting each other.
I guess that’s the one thing I’d like to see us do more of and I think as a group we are.

Q.  Taylor, now that you’ve won the Australian Open, you’re being compared to Serena and Venus at such a young age, what are your expectations heading into the French?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  I mean, I set high expectations for myself for each tournament.  I’ve always kind of lived by the motto that I’m not going to go to a tournament if I don’t feel like I can do well.
My expectations, I’m going to do the best that I can.  But I feel like I can do well at this tournament.  I started off my year great.  I feel like I can continue that success, so…

Q.  You said you’ve never played on grass.  Obviously you’ve played on hard court and clay.  How many times have you played on a clay court?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  Well, I’ve played on clay not a lot, but I’ve played on clay a good bit of my life.  Red clay I’ve only played an actual event on red clay one time, and that was in Prostejov in the Czech Republic for the World Junior Cup, I played doubles there.  That’s the only time I’ve had competition on the red play.
But I trained on red clay three weeks last year in Spain.  That’s the last time I was on the red clay.  It should be fun.
PATRICK McENROE:  In all three of our centers, we have the green clay, we have the Har‑Tru.  It’s a little bit different than the red clay.  But we’re having them play as much as possible on the clay to get used to the movement, sliding, patience, building points, all that stuff.

Q.  Patrick, what do you think is the biggest reason why an American hasn’t been able to break through?  We’ve seen John Isner.  But break through and stay there.  If you could say there’s one specific reason, what do you think the biggest reason is?
PATRICK McENROE:  Are you talking about at the French or in general or you don’t know?

Q.  It was more general, but if you want to aim at the French as well.
PATRICK McENROE:  You mean like break through and win a major?  I’m trying to specify what you mean.

Q.  Not just win a major, but stay there, too.  Yes, win a major.
PATRICK McENROE:  I’m trying to think about who else, other than Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, who have.  There’s a short list.
This is what we’re trying to accomplish.  We’re trying to get more kids playing tennis, number one.  It’s the same old refrain:  there’s not one issue.  The issue is that there’s phenomenal athletes playing tennis from all over the world.  We’ve got to do a better job getting those kind of kids playing tennis, then we’ve got to do a better job coaching them and mentoring them as a country.  The USTA, we’ve got to do a better job.
If you do everything right, you’ve got a chance.  You’ve got a chance to make it.
I can’t pinpoint one thing at all.  I think this is a long‑term project, at least for me when I took over this position four years ago.  We’re happy with the progress but we realize we’ve got a long way to go.

Q.  Taylor, possibly a sensitive issue.  You never like to ask a woman about weight issues.  Early on I noticed you were pretty overweight.  I saw you recently and I marveled at how svelte you looked.  Can you talk about your battle with that over the years and what you’ve done to get in better condition.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  Well, I’ve always been pretty comfortable with my body.  I know and I’ve been told, it’s obvious for me, that I don’t have a typical body type of everyone else.  Really I just have to work with what I have pretty much.  I use it.  To me it’s been working pretty well (laughter).
Being down at USTA I’ve learned the importance of my fitness level.  I learned that just skill alone, talent, being able to use your hands isn’t always enough.  If I can’t get to the ball, if I can’t stay in the point long enough, I won’t be able to give myself an opportunity to be able to use what I have.
Fitness is really important.  I’ve learned that over the course of these years being here.  I definitely made a transition, a positive transition, in the way that my body has come along.  I think as well as losing weight, dropping weight, but growing as well.
I was young probably when you saw me.  So just being able to grow into my body, get a little taller, all that stuff, it’s helped a lot.  Hopefully I can grow a few more inches.  But I’m just pretty much using what I have.
PATRICK McENROE:  You’re using it pretty darn well, Taylor.  Don’t worry about it.

Q.  How tall are you?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  I’m 5’6″ and a half‑ish.

Q.  What junk food have you given up?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  I’ve given up a lot actually.

Q.  Your favorite one?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  Fast food, like burgers and all that stuff, it makes me sick now.  I can’t eat stuff like that.  Like McDonald’s, fries, all that stuff, if I eat it, I get a bad stomachache.  I’ve given up ice cream.  Went to Froyo.  It’s a little bit healthier.

Q.  What flavor did you give up?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  Cookie dough.

Q.  After the Australian I hope you treated yourself.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  I had frozen yogurt.

Q.  Taylor, of all the things you do in life, tell us something you want the world to know about you, whether it’s on or off court, that maybe we don’t know.
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  Well, I love to dance.  I know they all talk about Azarenka, how she dances before she gets ready.  That’s me, too.  When I was at the Easter Bowl, they all talked about how I had on my beads, I was in my zone.  That’s how I get ready for my matches.  I have my music.
I love music as well.  I played the violin for three years in middle school.  I played from sixth to eighth grade.  In my seventh and eighth grade year, I was in honor orchestra.  I’m pretty good at it.

Q.  What kind of music do you play on the violin and what kind of music do you dance to?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  On the violin, I play a lot of stuff.  When I was in school, my instructor, she would kind of pick the music out depending on our performance or whatever.  But we did Pirates of the Caribbean, we did Bella’s Lullaby, which is from Twilight.  We do modern stuff, but a lot of different stuff like classical, jazz and blues.  It’s fun.

Q.  Is there a favorite composer in there?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  Not really.  I mean, I just recently got my violin fixed.  I started playing again.  But I haven’t played in a while.

Q.  And what do you dance to getting ready for a match?
TAYLOR TOWNSEND:  It depends on my mood.  Sometimes I like to listen to rap, but also it depends how I’m feeling.  Sometimes I listen to rock, sometimes pop.  Now I’ve started listening to house music a lot, so…
TIM CURRY:  Thanks, everyone, for joining us.  Thanks, Taylor and Patrick, for your time.  Taylor’s next event will be the Junior French Open, the second week of the French Open.  Patrick will be there with ESPN.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Townsend and Andrews Take Junior Girls Title

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Davis Cup: Looking Back at US vs France in 2002 at Roland Garros

Tennis Panorama News will be covering the Davis Cup quarterfinal tie this weekend between the United States and France being held at the Monte Carlo Country Club. We’re taking a look back at  past ties between the two countries.

 

2002 US Davis Cup Team (L-R Todd Martin, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick and Captain Patrick McEnroe)

By Guillaume Willecoq

 

2002, Davis Cup semifinals in Roland-Garros  (September 20-22) : France d. USA 3/2.

The French Tennis Federation pays tribute to the Musketeers hosting the tie in Roland-Garros. In the beginning, the French stadium was built in 1928 to receive the United States after the Musketeers won their first Davis Cup in Philadelphia. Seventy-five years later, France and USA face each other again at Roland-Garros.

 

The players:

France: The team built by Guy Forget is the current champion, and the captain brings the best line up possible: Sébastien Grosjean, 9th, as the leader, followed by Arnaud Clément, 42nd. The doubles team is a young Michaël Llodra with the almost veteran Fabrice Santoro. On clay, French players are the favorites of this tie.

 

USA: Since his arrival at the head of the US team, in 2000, Patrick McEnroe makes the choice of bringing new blood to the team. For this tie against France, he lines up three young guns: Andy Roddick (11th), James Blake (27th) and Mardy Fish (88th). The last guy is Todd Martin (still 51th), veteran of the glorious 90’s for the US tennis. The view from France – Roddick and Blake are a scary duo, with loads of potential! In seven matches, Roddick is still undefeated in Davis Cup.…

 

The tie :

Clément d. Roddick 4/6 7/6 7/6 6/1

Grosjean d. Blake 6/4 6/1 6/7 7/5

Blake - Martin d. Santoro – Llodra 2/6 7/6 2/6 6/4 6/4

Grosjean b. Roddick 6/4 3/6 6/3 6/4

Blake b. Clément 6/4 6/3

 

The quotes :

Sébastien Grosjean : “Before, I was struggling to give my best in Davis cup. I wanted to do too well for all the team and I didn”t play my best tennis. This time, I think this tie between France and USA was my best performance. I tried to play for myself on court, and only after I shared my joy with the rest of the team. It helps me to focus on myself on the court.”

Andy Roddick: “It hurts me. I’ve lived so many things not very funny this week, new sensations for me, and I will have to learn from it. Now, I think I will be better prepared to play difficult matches in Davis Cup… But the atmosphere here was absolutely fantastic. I hope some day I will live that with the US team !”

Arnaud Clément: “There is nothing more exciting than playing this match against Andy. I knew that if could run well, I would neutralize him on the baseline, and eventually drive him nuts !”

James Blake: ”It”s the biggest deception of my life. Really, losing a match in Davis Cup breaks your heart, particularly because I had my chances. I never felt so bad, but now I’m going home and try to forget. I look forward to do something well in this team in the future. It’s when I lose like this that I really want to go back to work harder. I’m going to do the gym.…It will look less painful than before.” 

Fabrice Santoro: “I would say that those kind of matches are the ones I enjoy the most. I really had fun during this doubles, even if we lost. You enter the Central of Roland-Garros, your team leads 2/0, the Central is packed from the start… There is something in the air!”

Michaël Llodra : “This loss against the Americans in doubles really hurt me a lot. The press said it was my fault if we lost, that maybe I shouldn’t have play, that I lacked experience. I took everything in the face and it took me sometime to get over it. But I bounced back… Since 2003, I was never out the team. It”s Davis Cup! There is a lot of pressure. It has made me stronger. “

 

Todd Martin – The End: Does he know? Probably. This France/USA tie is the last selection of the long career of Todd Martin. The American, who won the Davis Cup in 1995, is here to bring his experience for his young fellows. I did the perfect job during the doubles, with James Blake. The veteran made a strong impression about his knowledge and tennis culture in his news conferences, citing Decugis, Lacoste and Cochet as legends of the French tennis.

 

After that :

In December, in Bercy, the French will lose the final against the Russians. The end of a great period for that team: Guy Forget gets his first critics about the selection of young Paul-Henri Mathieu for the last rubber; the French captain splits with Fabrice Santoro a few months later; and, little by little, Escudé, Grosjean and Clément step down from the team during the following campaigns, to let young Richard Gasquet, Gael Monfils and then Jo-Wilfried Tsonga take over. Three time finalist in four years between 1999 and 2002, it will take 8 years for the French team to reach another final.

On the other hand, this tie starts a new chapter for the US team. Roddick and Blake take the lead of the group, joined by Bob and Mike Bryans in 2003. They will be the hard core team for almost ten years, occasionally joined by Mardy Fish. They will reach the final in 2004, and most of all win the title in 2007.

Tennis Panorama News is covering the Davis Cup between the United States and France this week taking place at the Monte Carlo Country Club from April 6-8.  Look out for updates here and on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.

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Jamie Reynolds of ESPN on Approach Shots

Jamie Reynolds (Photo by Rich Arden/ESPN)

Tennis Panorama News had the unique opportunity to visit the ESPN broadcast compound  and spend time in the control room in Melbourne during coverage of the Australian Open back in January. Senior Vice President of Event Production for ESPN Jamie Reynolds took time out from his extremely hectic schedule to speak to us about the logistics, technologies, philosophy and personalities of ESPN’s Australian Open coverage.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: How are the logistics of planning different for the Australian Open versus the other slams?

Jamie Reynolds: The way that we approach the Australian Open is similar in the way we do all four majors. And ESPN is unique in the aspect that we literally take apart our entire operation, our entire family, our entire circus and we take it three continents and an island.

We go to Australia and then go on to Paris, we then go up to the UK for Wimbledon and them back down to New York at the end of the summer. The nine month rip is pretty aggressive. So we probably pick up 115 people, and literally land on these hotspots for these events, move them in for three weeks. And I think we are probably the largest broadcaster who does all four majors at that level of commitment or the magnitude of the production assets that we bring. So it’s pretty challenging.

The biggest thing, the hardest thing for us, relative to the Australian Open, candidly is that we are upside down on the time zone to our audience and the fact that we don’t start until 9pm and we run the overnight hours, that’s great, but when we are trying to grow the sport, it’s a little challenging. How do you get people to stay up all night long or want to get invested, either TIVO, record, DVR the matches, because they are that much of a tennis fanatic to take advantage of what we are doing versus what they getting immediately either texting, news reports, Morning wheel of the news, they can get all that social currency to get up to steam.

So our challenge really, for this particular event is probably more editorial that logistic.

 

TPN: What is the biggest technological challenge in covering the Australian Open?

JR: This event is technically, is one of the easier events for us to handle technically. We’ve got a partnership going with Channel 7 Australia, who is also the host broadcaster. So ESPN comes in and effectively we are a world feed embellisher. We put our own character, our own personality, our own voices, graphics, music. Pick the asset that can actually tailor the world feed presentation to look and feel like a standard ESPN product.

So perhaps our biggest challenge is what if we don’t necessarily agree with you on covering a match? Or perhaps the isolation plan for Tomic or for Federer or for Roddick or for Rafa perhaps. That assignment of cameras may not be perhaps the level or the rate or philosophy that we might bring to a match. So how do we cover that chasm?

Technology wise we continue to push the envelope by bringing assets like the Spidercam, the aerial system that you see out on Rod Laver, that’s a device that we on ESPN brought to the tennis world and introduced at the majors at the US Open three years ago, convinced Tennis Australia, Channel 7 that it might enhance their coverage, convinced all the parties to come together and bring it down and fly through Rod Laver.

This year we’ve been very aggressive in trying to help Channel 7 understand how that could be an asset to enhance the coverage package. I think that everyday we chip away at it and get a little bit bolder with its flight pattern and we kind of rely on it a little bit more. I think that it enhances the value of its coverage.

 

TPN: Now that we are down to one American left in the singles draw, what are your angles going to be?

JR: Without the Americans doing well for the first time in the open era and not get to the round of 16, that’s challenging for us. Because we’ve got a lot of personalities and lot of what we do look at from the access to a lot of these players, what the interest is back home. Our particular productions have migrated to a new way of thinking. Specifically this is truly an international event with so many great personalities form around the globe, and because we do reach a lot of countries with ESPN, we think a little bit broader in how we are actually in going after a Hewitt story, a Roger or a Rafa or a Raonic or Tomic and any of the ladies as well.

That our goal now is to make that as personable, as desirable, in terms of wanting to understand the back story, getting our audience invested inn them, just trying to figure out the best way to convey that to our audience so they don’t mind that there are no Americans. We don’t have to put the red, white and blue all the time but there’s really great tennis out there that is fun.

 

TPN: Any new technology being implemented at this year’s Australian Open.

JR: The Australian mindset is very unique. They are gregarious fun loving good folks down here. They tend to be incredibly open-minded in terms of progressive introductions of new ideas to help convey the event and one of the initiatives they’ve helped us achieve is what we call our behind-the-scenes franchise. And that behind-the-scenes franchise as effectively as I describe to our teams is this: “Take behind the velvet ropes. Give me discovery and access. Take me places I couldn’t get to if I had a ticket or if I had the ability to watch every hour of what ESPN puts out, I need to feel like I actually in the event and going somewhere where no one else can go.”

And with that kind of mindset and philosophy with Tennis Australia, “where can you give us access to?” Well we can go to the workout room, we can go to the locker room, we can go to the hallways, the waiting rooms for the players, the player lounges. We can go to the car park area, where a lot of them just go and out their headsets on and just get into a zone and just kind of shut the world out to deconstruct their match. They’re very open-minded, progressive in terms of allowing that access. With that comes the ability to kind of shape the way we convey this event as opposed to just a rectangle on a screen, two players back and forth, three-hit rally or a 17-hit rally. It’s a little sexier, a little bit more valuable, more attractive presentation. I actually feel like I’m part of it, a part of the community, behind the velvet ropes and going somewhere where I couldn’t even go if I were on site.

 

TPN: What would surprise tennis fans about being behind the scenes?

JR: There’s an incredible amount of camaraderie and I think that what doesn’t convey that whether it’s the ATP or the WTA, these athletes and personalities do travel the circuit week after week and what you actually see behind-the-scenes is the feeling of family amongst the players themselves. As combative or as aggressive as they can be with each other out on a court there is sincere appreciation, chemistry, commitment to one another, whether they are having a good year or a poor year. There’s respect but there is a dynamic that these athletes share with each other. It’s not as adversarial as it might convey over an 11-hour show window where we are just showing guys beating back and forth with each other.

 

TPN: What is a typical day for you and the talent?

JR: This is probably the most challenging because of the sheer number of hours that we televise. When we say first ball to final ball, it is a very solid commitment to coverage of the most important matches from front end to back end. That really requires commitment of literally hours per day. So when you look at the first ball starting at 11am and often times ending like New York ending after Midnight, if not later, keeping people motivated through that 14-day stand is challenging. And with a roster of  personalities, our talent roster, keep them enthusiastic, keeping them invested and focused on being “on” for that 10 hours a day waiting for a match, getting ready for one that is coming up tonight,  and you really gotta go through your head for 2 hours and come back with the same enthusiasm, that’s challenging. You are asking a lot of people.

So what happens behind the scenes to help that? It’s the sense of community, family and respect for each other we all try to create. This isn’t just a group of specialists, assassins coming into do a single job. We’ve got to keep everybody working with the chemistry and taking advantage of that. So we’ll rotate teams. You might see Chris Evert working with Pam Shriver today or you will see Patrick McEnroe and Darren (Cahill) or Patrick and Chris Fowler so we can actually keep them involved with each other because they don’t have to always rule out “ Oh God I’m just sitting with my partner for this match and I’m doing every single match him for the next 14 days.” It changes up the dinner table a little bit.

 

TPN: Who are the practical jokers behind the scenes?

JR: I think that those in the tennis community and those of us who are running the sport know what kind of personality a Brad Gilbert brings. And we know, we look loving and fondly at Cliff Drysdale. He’s the godfather of our team, the elder statesman. As a perspective, he is the longest running talent on ESPN, bar none. He’s been with us since 1979, so we look at that history, having done Davis Cup that year, he is the man who is the franchise longer than anyone.

And then you look at Darren Cahill. Cahill with the Aussie wit, terrific personality. Patrick McEnroe, that’s pretty good – an acerbic wit. And McEnroe has a pretty good timbre to work with. Look at the gals – Mary Joe (Fernandez) and Pammy (Shriver) are well respected. Pammy can be polarizing, she’s got a great personality, she will go off on a flyer and make us all laugh and look at things a way many of us would never think about. She connects the dots on a lot of different stories and a lot of personalities. So that’s kind of like a really valuable spark. It’s a good roster.

Follow ESPN’s tennis coverage on ESPN2, ESPN3.com, on twitter @ESPNTennis and @ESPN10S and online on their tennis home page.

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Hundreds of Kids Learn 10 and Under Tennis Aboard Intrepid

Former French Open Doubles Champion Patrick McEnroe speaks with children at a USTA Eastern 10 and Under Tennis clinic aboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Feb. 23. The clinic was part of the Museum’s Annual Kids Week, Feb. 18-26, which featured dozens of fun and educational activities for kids and attracted nearly 32,000 visitors, the highest in the event’s history.

New York, NY – (February 23, 2012) It was full speed ahead for 10 and Under Tennis at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, as hundreds of kids from across USTA Eastern got a chance on Feb. 23 to experience kid-friendly tennis and receive encouragement from French Open Doubles Champion and General Manager of USTA Player Development, Patrick McEnroe.

 

The clinic, which was held for the second consecutive year at the Intrepid, was led by a group of instructors from Yonkers Tennis Center, the Harlem Junior Tennis and Education Program, and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It was part of the Museum’s Annual Kids Week, February 18-26, which features dozens of fun, educational and interactive activities for kids during Presidents Week vacation.

 

“I think this is great to get the message out to people,” said McEnroe during the clinic. “I think those of us inside the tennis world know about this, but most people don’t. And this could show the average family with kids that tennis really can be kid-friendly.”

 

In the morning, the 10 and Under Court was divided into three, with kids on each court working on skills needed to succeed in the sport. On the first court, the kids dribbled the foam balls, moved from side to side, and hopped on one foot, developing coordination, balance and agility. On the second and third courts, the kids worked on their forehands and volleys, getting anchored in the basics of 10 and Under Tennis.

 

Erwin Alcindor, 7, of Brooklyn, said he likes tennis because “it makes you sweat.”

 

“Tennis is fun,” said Erwin. “It makes you exercise a lot and it’s very nice – you can do it all the time.”

 

In addition to the clinic, there were also fun on- and off-court activities. Kids wrote letters of support to US troops overseas, which will be sent overseas with donated items, as part of the USTA Eastern’s Adopt-A-Unit initiative. They also visited a special photo station, where they got their pictures taken and featured on mock covers of TENNIS Magazine.

 

To help continue the growth of tennis, parents were able to sign up for programs at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, including a special $99 offer for four weeks of instruction and a free 10 and Under Tennis racquet.

 

Michelle Blake Wilson, Managing Director of Marketing and Communications for USTA Eastern, said the offer is a great opportunity to build on what kids learned aboard the Intrepid.

 

“The clinic at the Intrepid gave hundreds of kids a chance to experience kid-friendly tennis,” said Blake Wilson. “And with this new offer, they can continue to hone their skills at the home of the US Open, where Patrick McEnroe and legends of the sport have competed for years. Does it get any better than that?”

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Kourtin’ Karen’s Tennis Week in Review

Kourtin’ Karen’s tennis week in review for the week ending February 19, 2012

Roger Federer, Richard Krajicek and Juan Martin Del Potro

0- 15

Politics makes strange bedfellows

Rotterdam Tournament Director and former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek was a candidate for the top executive spot at the ATP. Although Rafael Nadal  supported the Dutchman’s candidacy for the ATP CEO post, Roger Federer was against it citing that he needed more business experience.

Imagine what Krajicek must have been thinking when he had give Federer the winner’s check for capturing the Rotterdam title.

In other Federer-related news, much ado about nothing? Last weekend many media outlets in addition to journalists on and off twitter reported statements made by Federer about Stan Wawrinka during Davis Cup after the Swiss lost the doubles and the tie to the US. I saw so many different versions of the quote translated in so many different ways and “quoted” in so many different ways that you can’t believe anyone.  The quote in question – “I played a good doubles, and Stan not a bad one.” But once the quote was translated into English “not a bad one” erroneously became “a bad one.”

People get quoted and misquoted so often and not just in tennis that I think it needs to become mandatory for every news conference to have official transcripts for all to see and/or official recordings for people to hear.

 

15-15

Sharapova and Linsanity

“Linsanity” found its way into Friday’s BNP Paribas Showdown conference call with Maria Sharapova thanks to a question from a New York Post reporter:

Q:  I know you’ve been in town for a while at fashion week – have you heard of “Linsanity?” If you have heard of it, what do you make of this phenomenon?

Maria Sharapova:  I was at fashion week for a couple of days and he didn’t quite make it to the fashion world yet.  I didn’t get a chance, I was so busy over there with meetings and the shows.  I did see the coverage of your paper a few times walking by and you guys are all on top of that.  It’s pretty incredible and I’m sure he’s enjoying all of that.  To see a great athlete up and coming, especially in New York and Madison Square Garden, I’m sure it’s a lot to write about.

In other BNP Paribas Showdown news, John McEnroe has been named spokesperson for “Tennis Night In America,” no word if he’ll change his name to Lin for the occasion.

15-30

Love your slamless no. 1’s

Victoria Azarenka told media in Doha last week not to be too hard on slamless No. 1’s. “Well, you know, I think you guys, it’s your job to say that, to evaluate, to give grades. Our job is to play and win matches. Whatever people say, I mean, I appreciate if I’m a legit No. 1, but I think they shouldn’t be too hard on the other girls, as well.”

No word on any comments coming from Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic or Dinara Safina.

Speaking of slamless No. 1′s, Wozniacki has the “tough loss of the week” falling in the second round of Doha after having three match points.

 

30-30

Nadal in the SI Swimsuit Issue

Rafael Nadal appears in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue with model Bar Refaeli

 

30-40

Ankles and knees causing players grief

Kim Clijsters has withdrawn from the BNP Paribas Open with an ankle injury which she suffered during the Australian Open.

Serena Williams is not playing in Monterrey this week due to an ankle injury.

Both Gael Monfils and Marin Cilic are out of Memphis with knee problems.

Deuce

Debate on USTA Player Development

Wayne Bryan’s letter about USTA player development

Wayne Bryan Responds to Patrick McEnroe’s letter

 

Ad-out

Grunting

Chris Evert has joined the “anti grunting” campaign.

Current player Ryan Harrison told media at the SAP Open some kids at the Nick Bollettieri Academy are “a lot more [noisy] than they need to be. If you have a 7-year-old girl grunting louder than I can scream in my entire life, that’s not really necessary.”

 

Deuce

Love and Tennis on the Titanic

Titanic: The Tennis Love Story to be released in April.

 

Advantage new sponsor

Emirates Airline is the new title sponsor of the US Open Series

 

Deuce

Show me the money?

Arantxa Sánchez Vicario’s parents have decided to sue their daughter who has written a book in which she claims that her parents lost her $60 million dollars of her career earnings. “They left me with nothing and I owe the tax authorities,” said Sánchez Vicario.

Deuce

Inside Tennis Channel’s fight with Comcast – Variety

 

Advantage

Topsy Turvy Tournament
In Bogota this past week the top eight seeds were all knocked out by the second round. No seeds were left by the quarterfinals. Unseeded Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino of Spain won the tournament.

Game, Set, Match and Champions

Federer Wins Rotterdam for 71st ATP World Tour Title

Azarenka Wins Doha, Moves to 17-0 for 2012

Raonic Defends San Jose Title

Third Brazil Open Title for Almagro

Arruabarrena-Vecino Ranked 174th Captures Bogota Tournament

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USTA Eastern and Patrick McEnroe To Host 10 and Under Clinic at Intrepid

USTA Eastern will be hosting  a 10 and Under Tennis clinic on the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on February 23 lead by Patrick McEnroe, General Manager of USTA Player Development, former pro and ESPN commentator.

 

This is the second year for the clinic at the Intrepid and children will get a chance to learn tennis using equipment tailored to their age and size.The event is part of the Museum’s Annual Kids Week, February 18-26, which features dozens of fun, educational and interactive activities for kids during Presidents Week vacation.

“We are very excited to bring 10 and Under Tennis aboard the Intrepid once again,” said Michelle Blake Wilson, Managing Director of Marketing and Communications for USTA Eastern. “And we are fortunate this year to be joined by Patrick McEnroe, who is using the kid-friendly format to train high-performing junior players across the country.”

 

McEnroe is a leading advocate for USTA 10 and Under Tennis, which is designed around the same concepts as Little League Baseball and other youth sports, all of which use equipment and field/court sizes scaled to the size of young children. The scaled-down equipment and smaller playing fields allow kids to achieve success the first time out—and sustain that success as they continue develop and refine their skills. The 10 and Under Tennis equipment at the clinic is sponsored by Wilson Sporting Goods.

 

In addition to the clinic, there will also be a wide range of fun on- and off-court activities, including a photo station and raffles every hour for a chance to win kids’ size tennis racquets and free tickets to the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden. The BNP Paribas Showdown will be held on March 5 and feature Andy Roddick vs. Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova vs. Caroline Wozniacki.

 

The Intrepid is located at Pier 86 (46th Street and 12th Avenue) in Manhattan. It is open Tuesday through Sunday, Tuesday – Sunday, 10 am  – 5 pm. For more information, check out the museum’s website at http://interepidmuseum.org or USTA Eastern’s website at http://eastern.usta.com.  You can also learn more about Wilson’s 10 and Under Tennis equipment at http://www.wilson.com/tennis.

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