November 27, 2015

The US Open Series Begins this Weekend in Atlanta



By Herman Wood

(July 17, 2014) ATLANTA – Preparation for the US Open is underway.  The BB&T Atlanta Open gets things started on Saturday, July 19th for the men.  Qualifying begins at 10 AM.  The BB&T Atlanta Open is an ATP 250 event, with a 28 player draw, four of which come from the qualifying tournament.  The qualifying field will have 32 players.  The doubles draw is a 16 team field.  Last year’s champ, John Isner, is returning, along with fellow Americans Sam Querrey, Wimbledon doubles champ Jack Sock, and Donald Young.  Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Radek Stepanek, Ivo Karlovic, Ivan Dodig, Lleyton Hewitt, and the other half of the Wimbledon doubles championship team, Vasek Pospisil, are also expected in the tournament.  The tournament aspires to be a mini US Open, with the venue set among the skyscrapers of downtown Atlanta at Atlantic Station.  Atlantic Station is a community within downtown that provides homes for 10,000 people integrated with shopping, restaurants, and retailers that make it a hit with the players.  Besides the attractive venue, players will get a jump on the US Open Series Bonus Challenge, where nearly $40 million in prize money is up for grabs.  This is the third year the tournament has been held at Atlantic Station.

It is a familiar place for Americans, with Isner winning last year, Roddick in 2012, and Fish in 2011.  It has also been comfortable for big man tennis- last year Isner, at 6’10”, overcame Kevin Anderson at 6’8” in three tiebreaks.  Fans in the first couple of rows certainly had to pay attention with the huge serves coming their way.  It is especially familiar for Isner, who competed collegiately just an hour down the road for the University of Georgia Bulldogs, leading the team to a national championship and winning every possible team title in 2007.  He’s usually a fan favorite, with at least a couple of barks from Georgia fans in his favor at each match.  Isner may not be the only recipient of barks; University of Georgia player Austin Smith has accepted a wild card into the main draw. The sophomore from Cumming, Georgia excelled this season as the Bulldogs captured the 2014 SEC Championship. Smith finished with a 35-12 record, and went 9-1 in SEC matches. He has won four USTA Pro Circuit matches. A tournament qualifier in 2011, Smith will be playing his debut ATP main draw match.

Another American, Jack Sock, could very well get on a roll at this tournament.  After winning doubles with Pospisil at Wimbledon, he rolled into Newport and eliminated Isner in the Newport Hall of Fame event on grass just a week ago.  Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t able to keep that momentum and was eliminated by the veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who went on to win the tournament.  Hewitt’s feisty shouts of “C’mon!” have endeared him to the Atlanta fans in past years.  Fresh off his renewed success at Newport, he could very well win Atlanta.  The main draw was just rounded out with the addition of Ryan Harrison and Robby Ginepri.  “We’re ecstatic to welcome back two of our fan favorites in Ryan Harrison and Atlanta metro resident Robby Ginepri,” Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez said. “One of our goals is to highlight American talent and both of these players are great examples of the fine players this country has produced.”  Harrison won the doubles last year, partnering with Matthew Ebden.  Ginepri appears for the fourth time, with a onetime ranking of fifteen.  He is a graduate of Wheeler High School, just a few miles north of Atlantic Station.  He currently resides in Kennesaw, another couple of miles north.

The draw will be finalized over this weekend with the completion of the qualifying tournament.  Promising American junior Francis Tiafoe has accepted his first tournament qualifying wild card. Tiafoe, 16, is a talented young prodigy who rose to No. 2 in the world junior rankings this spring. Georgia Tech’s Nathan Rakitt and Alabama’s Becker O’Shaughnessey have also accepted qualifying wild cards. Rakitt, a Marietta native and All-ACC selectee, is competing again for the second year. O’Shaughnessey of Macon, Ga., led the Crimson Tide in singles wins (22) this season.

Herman Wood is in Atlanta covering the BB&T Open action from around the grounds for Tennis Panorama News, follow him on twitter at


After the Clay, a Pain in the Grass


By Wendy M. Grossman


(June 13, 2014) LONDON – The most spectacular day of tennis every year is the first day of Queen’s Club. The day before is the French Open final, the culmination of months of looking at crushed-brick courts and players knocking the burnt-orangey dust out of the treads on their shoes. The next morning the courts are bright emerald-green and everything old is new again. It’s grass season.


The difficulty of the shift is underlined by the abrupt change in cast. All of a sudden, the tour is awash in tall, skinny beanpoles whopping down serves from the height of a basketball hoop. Physically, even the best-adapted grass-court player pays a price for the change.


“My back,” said Kevin Anderson, when asked what body part hurts the most. He explains: the ball stays definitely lower. At 6 foot 8, Anderson has to bend a lot anyway – but the need is more pronounced on grass, and he has to reach more and farther because of the way grass can skid a ball away from you. “I feel it more on grass.” Apparently he’s happy to help dish out the pain, naming the backhand slice, which notoriously stays low and skids off the grass, as the shot he most needs to get in gear for the grass season.


Andy Murray, coming off his third-round loss to Radek Stepanek, noted the “little pains” because of the change of surface (while not blaming them for the loss). You use different muscles, and you use them differently, he said, than on clay, where he finds that the sliding makes his quads hurt most. On grass, he says his lower back, butt, and hamstrings “can get a bit stiff”.


Stanislas Wawrinka said, “You have to be lower on your feet, and sometimes the knee or the back can be difficult. But this year was OK. I had time to adapt myself.”


Grigor Dimitrov, because of his early loss at the French Open, has also had more time to adjust than some of the others. He said he spent last week running 25 miles, which, he says, has added up: “the quads, the glutes”. In general, he says, “I think the part that really hurts the most on grass is the lower back, the glutes, and the adductors. I think those are the parts that always, even if you play the shortest two sets, the next day you’re gonna come back and feel a little funky.”


What seems to definitely help is experience. Radek Stepanek, who beat Murray in the third round and followed up by downing Anderson in the quarters, said “I know exactly which muscles are going to hurt me after the first two days on grass. I’m protecting them already before coming here with the prevention exercises.” The issue for him, he said, is glutes and lower back. Despite the preventive work he does, though, he said wryly, “It always comes anyway, but you know, I’m trying to adjust the level of pain, you know, as low as I can.”


Leave it to Dimitrov to put the whole thing in perspective: “[I] don’t really care any more, because with or without pain, it doesn’t really matter.”


Andy Murray Falls to Radek Stepanek in Queen’s Club Third Round




By Wendy M. Grossman

(June 12, 2014) LONDON – “You can tell Andy’s playing, There’s no queue.” Yes: 4pm in London, tea set out with strawberries, cakes, and sandwiches, and no one in sight.

Andy Murray was indeed out playing on the Queen’s Club centre court on a sunny, hot-for-England day (a ball girl had to be led off court and given water). His opponent: Radek Stepanek, the sort of veteran Czech player whose sharp volleys and grass court sense you don’t want to face a few days after making the switch from clay.

In the first set, Stepanek led 5-4, fashioned a break point on the Murray serve, and lost it to a sharp Murray angle into his backhand corner. At 6-2, Murray, in the tiebreak, it seemed clear Murray was going to prevail. And then stuff happened: Murray got hesitant and stopped hitting quite so hard; Stepanek went on playing well. Murray had more set points, at 7-6, and 8-7 (netted the return), and 9-8 (Stepanek into Murray’s backhand corner), and 10-9 (return long). And then Murray sent up a beautiful lob at 10-10, and…well, it was beautiful until it landed long. Stepanek, offered a second set point of his own, promptly scored a nice angled volley winner. Game and first set.

Stepanek scored a break at the beginning of the second set, and never let go after that, eventually winning 7-6(10), 6-2.

“I thought the first set was a pretty high standard,” Murray said afterwards, adding that given the number of set points he’d had, “I’ve only got myself to blame.”

Stepanek called it “a great win for me”, adding that, “you always want to come out and play your best against the best players”.

There aren’t many players left with Stepanek’s serve and volley style. Stepanek would like to see more of it; Murray might too, given that he’s often been successful at using such players as easy targets to pass.

The upshot is that where last year Murray lost early at the French Open and had ten days of grass-court practice in England before the season started, this year he came into Queen’s with only two days to make the shift, and now will go into Wimbledon with only two grass-court matches played. He plans to take the next few days off, then begin again on Sunday with the “Rally for Bally” charity match to raise money in the memory of the late British player Elena Baltacha. He’ll start practicing in earnest Sunday evening, looking to improve his service return and get used to the lower-bouncing balls. “I was too upright on the court, especially when I was rushed,” he said.



Top Seeds Advance in Melbourne Despite Extreme Heat Conditions


(January 14, 2014) On a day which saw soaring temperatures, the Australian Open saw top seeds advance on day two of the tennis’ first major of the year. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Roger Federer,  Juan Martin Del Potro, Maria Sharapova and defending champion Victoria Azarenka  moved into the second round despite temperatures which went over 42 Celsius (108 Fahrenheit).

In addition to the heat, the tournament was beset by retirements, not linked to the heat – six in all which included top American John Isner (ankle) the 13th seed, 12 seed Tommy Haas (shoulder) and 21st seed Philipp Kohlschreiber who withdrew before play, Radek Stepanek (neck).

Nadal was only on the court for a set up 6-4 when his opponent Australian Bernard Tomic retired with a groin injury.

“I know how tough is this situation, I had the same a few years ago at this tournament,” Nadal said. “Since the beginning, I saw a little bit he had some problems on the leg.”

“It was sad,” Tomic said.  It’s unfortunate.  You know, this opportunity I had to play against Rafa was huge for me.  Could have used a lot of it.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t compete.  It was very difficult for me to say sorry to the crowd.  I don’t think they quite knew what was wrong with me.”

Federer began his record 57th consecutive major tournament with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 win over Australian wild-card James Duckworth.

Just over a week after beating Federer in Brisbane, Former Lleyton Hewitt fell in his home slam in five grueling sets to No. 24-seeded Andreas Seppi of Italy

Men’s seeds advancing included No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, No. 11 Milos Raonic, No. 16 Kei Nishikori, No. 22 Grigor Dimitrov and No. 31 Fernando Verdasco.

On the women’s side No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanzka, No. 8 Jelena Jankovic, No. 10 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 11 Simona Halep,  No. 13 Sloane Stephens, No. 16 Carla Suarez Navarro, and No. 20 Dominika Cibulkova.

In the women’s upset of the day, No. 19 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova fell  6-3, 6-3 to Elina Svitolina.

Related Articles:

Players React to the Heat at the Australian Open

Nishikori Wins Five-Set Test Under Scorching Heat in Melbourne

Dimitrov Recovers form to best Klahn at Australian Open

One-on-One with American Tennis Player Tim Smyczek


Top Seed Del Potro Pushed by Stepanek

Del Potro

By Dave Gertler

(January 9, 2014) We’re into the sharp end of the 2014 Apia International in Sydney, on a Thursday that features men’s quarterfinals and women’s semifinals matches on Ken Rosewall Arena, with a mix of singles and doubles matches being played on Grandstand Court.

The biggest drawcard of the men’s tournament, Juan Martin Del Potro, had to contend with consistent pressure from Radek Stepanek throughout their two hour and eight minute quarterfinal. After Del Potro served well to seal the first set 6-4, the Czech 35-year-old played high-risk tennis which seemed to affect Del Potro’s confidence and energy levels, particularly in the second set, during which Stepanek outplayed his opponent, ranked 40 places above him, to win it 6-3.

After being broken in the second set, Del Potro was visibly frustrated, and experienced a dip in energy, errors frequently coming off his racquet.

Post-match he described a moment when he almost smashed his racquet, saying, “Yeah, I was close, but I can’t do that yet. When I get eight or ten racquets, I will smash all of them. I will talk before with the chair umpire to don’t call me a code violation or something. I have to be allowed to do that after two years maybe.”

The third set provided some of the most entertaining tennis seen so far in the 2014 Apia International, when Del Potro lifted his game to match the swashbuckling net-rushing of the world No.45. Whereas in the second set, Del Potro had faced eight break points, saving only five, he proved the better player on all the big points, only allowing Stepanek one break point, which he saved. Del Potro’s break came early at one game all, and with the help of a small but vocal Argentinian contingent on Ken Rosewall Arena, was able to hold onto the advantage and take the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Talking about his growing confidence toward the end of the match, he said, “I’m trying to be calm all the time.  I was positive every moment of the match.  Even Radek improve his game during the second set, I was positive, waiting for my chance, and I play a fantastic two pints in the third game of the third set to break his serve. Then I serve okay.  Just doing my job, and I was close the match really calm.”

In the second men’s quarterfinal, Dmitry Tursonov defeated Denis Istomin 7-6, 6-2. Del Potro and Tursonov will meet in Friday’s men’s semifinal.

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


Grand Slam Dream Vanishes as Bryan Brothers Lose in US Open Semis

Bob and Mike Bryan

Bob and Mike Bryan

(September 5, 2013) The pursuit of a calendar Grand Slam is over for Bob and Mike Bryan. The Bryan bothers lost to Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals of the US open on Thursday afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The loss ended a 28 match winning streak at the majors for the Americans. Before today their last loss at a major was in the semifinals of last year’s Wimbledon to Jonathan Marray of Britain and Frederik Nielsen of Denmark.

The Australian team of Ken McGregor and Frank Sedgman in 1951 is still the only team to win all four tennis majors in a calendar year.

“We’re very disappointed,” said Bob Bryan.  “I mean, as competitors we hate to lose, and we knew what was riding on this match and the opportunity of what we could have accomplished.

“Got that.  And then in one sense it’s, you know, it’s a little bit of a relief where you get to kind of exhale for the first time in a few months.

You know, all this Grand Slam talk has been in the back of our head, and it’s been an honor to be a part of this run with Mike.  It’s been a great 12 months.

“You know, we would have never dreamed it would have been this sweet and we would have scraped out this many close matches.

“Today all that kind luck that’s been on our side went against us.  Those guys played a great match, and, you know, we wish them luck in the finals.  But, yeah, it’s a little bit of a relief.  You know, now we can move on and work on the next run.”

“I have tremendous respect for the boys,” said Paes.  “They are great champions, great ambassadors for the game.

“Just the record that they have even before this year shows how great they are as a team.  What they have done this year is something really special.

“In one context, going out there to play today we knew we were playing for our year.”

“I definitely don’t think this is top 10 toughest moments,” Bob Bryan said.  “The toughest moments have been Davis Cup losses when you know you’ve let your team down.

“I feel like, you know, we haven’t let anyone down.  I mean, I know there is a lot of people following us and a lot of people pulling for us.  Yeah, maybe we have disappointed a few people who wanted this to happen.

“But for us I feel like those Davis Cup losses have been the toughest.  You’re devastated you lost a pivotal point for your country.”

Last year it was the Bryan brothers who stopped Stepanek and Paes in last year’s US Open final.

“I can’t say enough about my partner,” Paes.  “We have got a little bit more work to do this week, but what he has been through this year, both him and I know.  For me that will come with me to my grave, and I will always be with him in his corner no matter where we go in our lives, no matter what we do.

“I think that’s what gives us strength on the court.  As some of you know in the media, Radek had an injury in the Australian Open, went through spinal surgery in his neck, and has got a few little battle wounds right now to show for it.

“He looks as tough as anybody, but the way he’s recovered, the way he’s done his rehab, the way he’s stayed with it, to me, along with some other adversities this year, shows off a great champion that he is.

“Beginning of the year when he got injured I got lots of phone calls to play with other guys, but that’s not what you do.  What you do is you stand by your partner.  I have tremendous belief in him, and he’s really shown that belief coming good.

“So like I said, we’ve got a little bit more work to do this week, but I’m very proud of the partner I share the court with.  He’s probably the best partner I have had.  I really enjoy playing with him.”


Players React to Lance Armstrong in Notes and Quotes

Players at the Australian Open were asked about Lance Amstrong in the January 18, 2013 news conferences.


Q.  There was a lot of talk today about the Lance Armstrong interview.  Did you catch any of it?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I saw a little bit of it, yeah.

Q.  Do you have any thoughts on his admission today, how he justified it as not cheating?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I think it’s just a really sad story, sad for that sport itself.  I’m happy that our sport is as clean as it can be and that we’re constantly tested.  You know, we give whereabouts of where we are every single day of the year.  Hopefully not on birthdays and Christmas Eve, that would be pretty tough.

Although they did show up on my birthday and I was very disappointed.  They did a couple of years ago.  I said, Unless you bring flowers, I’m okay with it.  But they came empty‑handed (laughter).

So as long as we’re getting tested, whatever it takes, urine, blood, we’re all here to make the sport as clean as it can be.


Q.  Do you feel tennis is pretty clean at this moment?

MARIA SHARAPOVA:  I do very much.  For the amount of times that we get tested throughout the year and as random as they are, definitely.



Q.  I’m not sure if you saw today, but Lance Armstrong admitted to playing performance enhancing drugs.  I was wondering if you thought tennis had a vigorous enough policy on anti doping?

JANKO TIPSAREVIC:  You know what, you’re probably asking the wrong guy.  You know, actually came to Kenya to test me.  I wasn’t going to Kenya to hide from anti doping.  I was actually doing my pre season there.

One morning a person was waking me up.  I was so shocked and afraid somebody was like robbing us.  I wasn’t sure.

But I think it’s not cool what he did, cheating the sport and cheating so many people in the sport and so many people around him, believing that what he did actually did it on a clean and regular way.  So that’s really not cool what he did.

In regards of tennis, I think they test me often enough, blood and urine.  So, sure, if they want to increase it, why not?  But we have a tough enough time with this WADA process of us telling them every single day of our life where we need to be.

So I don’t really see how can it be more strict than that.


Q.  How comfortable are you that drug testing in tennis is rigorous enough?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, in tennis, you know, at least from my perspective, it’s really good.  Anti doping regulations a little bit maybe more strict in sense that you have to fill the whereabouts documents and you have to basically give an hour or two in every day of your life in a whole year, where you are.

But on the other hand, it gives them an opportunity to test you.  And you know it is the same for the other players.  At least from that point of view it’s fair.  And I have nothing against, you know, the anti doping federation, association, testing me 10, 20, 30 times a year.

I think as long as I know as many numbers of testing for the other players, I’ll be happy.


Q.  How about blood testing?  The ITF records tell us in the whole of 2011 there was only 18 blood tests taken of the top players.  How often would you or Andy or Roger or Rafa be blood tested?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, I wasn’t tested with blood for last six, seven months.  It was more regularly in last two, three years ago.  I don’t know the reason why they stopped it.

As I said, I mean, as long as it’s fair, it’s clean, we’re trying to protect the identity of this sport.  I believe tennis players are one of the most cleanest athletes in the world and one of the most competitive sports.

So as long as we keep it that way, I have no complaints about testing.


Q.  Would you disagree with Darren Cahill who said today that he believes the Anti Doping Program in tennis is inadequate and it’s been going backwards in recent years?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  What is the reason for that?


Q.  That’s his opinion.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Well, I mean, I don’t know.  There has to be a reason why he said that, backstory.

I know Darren.  He’s a great guy, somebody that knows tennis really well, so must be something why he said that.

But in my opinion, yeah, there has been a complaints from players in few years, last few years, about this whereabouts system.  Why do we need to write where we are every single day of our 365 days when most of the time we’re spending on the courts and so forth.

Maybe that is something that is, you know, questionable.  But on the other hand as many urine, as many blood sample tests they take, the better.  Then you’re aware that it’s a clean sport and everybody has the same treatment.


Q.  I think part of the issue is out of competition blood testing is expensive to carry out.  Do you think the ITF should make it more of a priority to spend more money on that?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I mean, it’s a question for them, I guess.  From my point, I mean, I was more than clear.  I have nothing against the blood tests, you know.

Even though I prefer urine more.  I don’t like the needles too much.  But, of course, I mean, you know, the money in that direction should be invested because, you know, it’s always let’s say a safeguard for our sport that they’re investing money in our sport that is going to protect our sport and players.


Q.  A lot of cycling fans have lost a lot of faith in that sport now.  Do you think tennis fans should be confidant that nothing like this…

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I lost a lot of faith in cycling.  I used to watch it.  All the big champions that were there, Marco Pantani, now Lance Armstrong.  Yeah, I don’t want to say all.  I really don’t know.  There has been so much controversy about that sport.

I’m sure that there are many cyclists in the world who are training very hard and trying to not use any enhancing drugs for their competition.

But I think it’s not acceptable that they have physically so much races in short period of the time.  I think basically every single day, day and a half, they have to go through 200 miles.  Uphill, downhill in Giro D’Italia, Tour de France, that’s inhuman effort.  As you can see, Lance Armstrong, many other big champions, had to use something to succeed.


Q.  Do you think tennis fans should have faith that that won’t happen the same way?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  The results are showing that.  In last few years there maybe has been one or two cases, but those players were more or less outside of the hundred.  We are keeping this sport clean.  We are working towards it.  There is awareness with the players and with the officials.  As long as is like that, we are in a good road.


Q.  Would you be in favor of like a biological passport program that they’re instituting in cycling for tennis?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  I mean, you know, we can discuss about the options for a while.  But generally I believe that the present regulations about anti doping tests in tennis are good, in my views.  I don’t think there should be any major changes because, as you know, it’s official.  We have to write where we are every day of our lives so they have an opportunity to test us every day of 365 days in a year.

I think that doesn’t give anybody a chance to do something that is unsportsmanlike.




Q.  The Lance Armstrong interview today, I was wondering what your thoughts are on drug testing in tennis?

NICOLAS ALMAGRO:  I’m not going to say nothing because I didn’t see nothing about that.  I want to see before to speak.

I don’t know what happened.

Q.  My question is what about the authorities in tennis are doing.

NICOLAS ALMAGRO:  You need to ask to someone better than me because I not going to say nothing.  Sorry.  It’s a very important things, and I not going to talk.

I thinks our sport is clear, is fair, and I won’t believe that is the only thing I can say.

Q.  I’m not sure if you saw today, but Lance Armstrong admitted to playing performance‑enhancing drugs.  I was wondering if you thought tennis had a vigorous enough policy on anti‑doping?

JANKO TIPSAREVIC:  You know what, you’re probably asking the wrong guy.  You know, actually came to Kenya to test me.  I wasn’t going to Kenya to hide from anti‑doping.  I was actually doing my pre‑season there.

One morning a person was waking me up.  I was so shocked and afraid somebody was like robbing us.  I wasn’t sure.

But I think it’s not cool what he did, cheating the sport and cheating so many people in the sport and so many people around him, believing that what he did actually did it on a clean and regular way.  So that’s really not cool what he did.

In regards of tennis, I think they test me often enough, blood and urine.  So, sure, if they want to increase it, why not?  But we have a tough enough time with this WADA process of us telling them every single day of our life where we need to be.

So I don’t really see how can it be more strict than that.


Q.  On a non‑tennis note, did you watch any of Oprah’s interview with Lance Armstrong?

VENUS WILLIAMS:  No, I didn’t.

Q.  Is it something that players are talking about, his confession to doping?

VENUS WILLIAMS:  I think everyone is pretty much focused on the tennis.  Maybe other players are talking about it.  I have no idea.

Q.  Do you have any reaction?

VENUS WILLIAMS:  I can’t talk about anything I don’t know anything about, so I’m just going to keep my mouth shut.  I’m not an expert on that stuff.  That’s all I can say.