December 8, 2016

Serena Williams and Andy Murray Reach Wimbledon Second Round with Straight Set Victories

(June 28, 2016) Defending champion Serena Williams recorded her 80th match win at the All England Club and raised her record in first round major matches to 63-1 when she defeated No. 148 qualifier Amra Sadikovic 6-2, 6-4 on day two of Wimbledon.

The match was more competitive than the scoreline demonstrated. “I never underestimate anyone,” said Williams. “It was a really good match but I don’t think it was tougher than I thought. It was definitely tough, but I always expect the best from everyone.”

“I started fast, that’s about it,” Williams said, evaluating her match.

Her 27-year-old opponent who was making her debut in a major, had retired from the sport in 2014, but was inspired to comeback of her Swiss countrywoman Timea Bacsinszky.

“I’m always shouting at myself and pushing myself, so it’s absolutely nothing different,” she said.

The world No. 1 needs one more major win to equal Steffi Graf’s record of 22 in the Open Era. The 21-time major champion came up short in the finals of the French and Australian Opens.

Williams will face fellow American Christina McHale in the second round.

No. 2 seed and 2013 Wimbledon winner Andy Murray is into the second round. Murray had a 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 victory over British countryman Liam Broady, ranked 235 in the world, who received a wild card into the tournament.

Murray needed just an hour and 42 minutes to complete the match. He’ll face Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu, ranked 76th in the world, who beat Russian Alexander Kudryavtsev 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka fought off American up-and-comer Taylor Fritz 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-4. The two-time major winner will take on 2009 U.S, Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in a tough second round match.

“For sure, I think we  all happy that he’s back on the tour, hopefully without any injury (so) he can play for long now,” Wawrinka said. “He’s always been a great champion, a great player to watch.”

 

Juan Martin del Potro played his first match a a major in over two years, beating Stephane Robert 6-1, 7-5, 6-0. The last time he played at Wimbledon was in 2013 when he lost in the semifinals to Novak Djokovic.

The Argentine ranked 165 due to wrist surgeries is happy to be back on the court.

“I’m enjoying tennis again,” he said. “I’m starting to talk about tennis and (not) about my wrist. 

“I would like to stay here on tour for (a few more) years. I think I’m close to get that goal.”

Del Potro leads in his head-to-head record against Wawrinka 3-2. he last played the Swiss in 2012.

Nick Kyrgios had to fend off 37-year-old veteran Radek Stepanek in four sets on Tuesday – 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (9), 6-1 .

“To be honest, that’s a nightmare first round for anyone at Wimbledon. No one wants to play Radek here. I could pick 90 guys in the draw that I would rather have played first round,” Kyrgios said to press. “It was a fun match. We’re great friends. I knew it was going to be tough. When I lost the third set, I wasn’t really expecting anything less for him to compete and fight.”

Stepanek was trying to become the oldest man to win a match at a major since Jimmy Commors in 1992.

 

The Australian Kyrgios will get another tricky opponent in the second round when he takes on Germany’s serve-and-volleying  Dustin Brown who survived in five sets against Dusan Lajovic 4-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.  Brown defeated Rafael Nadal last year at Wimbledon in the second round.

Former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki is still without a win at a major this year. The Dane lost in the first round of Melbourne and did play the French Open due to an ankle injury. She’s fallen in the rankings to No. 45 and will drop further due to her opening round loss to No. 14 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 6-4.

“It’s been uphill,” Wozniacki said of her 11-11 season. “But you just have to keep fighting, keep going at it, keep working hard, and hope eventually that’s going to turn and you’re going to take the chances you’re going to get.”

Wozniacki, chosen to carry the flag for Denmark in the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Rio, does not know if she will be eligible to participate. She did not fulfill her Fed Cup requirements due to injury.

 

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Radek Stepanek, Dustin Brown and Laura Robson Among Wimbledon Main Draw Wild Cards

Dustin BRown

Dustin Brown

(June 15, 2016) Radek Stepanek, Dustin Brown and Laura Robson are among the first Wimbledon main draw wild cards announced on Wednesday.

Stepanek from the Czech Republic is a 2006 Wimbledon quarterfinalist. Germany’s Brown, currently ranked at No. 87  was a qualifier when he upset two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal last year in the second round

British players awarded wild cards include – Laura Robson, a former Wimbledon Junior champion, Liam Broady, Alex Ward, James Ward Tara Moore and Katie Swan.

Other wild cards went to 2002 quarterfinalist Daniela Hantuchova and Marina Melnikova.

Wimbledon begins on June 27.

Here is the official list so far:

Gentlemen’s Singles

  1.    Liam BROADY (GBR)
    2.   Dustin BROWN (GER)
    3.   Radek STEPANEK (CZE)
    4.   Alex WARD (GBR)
    5.   James WARD (GBR)
    6.   To be announced
    7.    To be announced
    8.   To be announced

Ladies’ Singles

  1.     Daniela HANTUCHOVA (SVK)
    2.    Marina MELNIKOVA (RUS)
    3.    Tara MOORE (GBR)
    4.    Laura ROBSON (GBR)
    5.    Katie SWAN (GBR)
    6.    To be announced
    7.     To be announced
    8.    To be announced

Gentlemen’s Doubles

  1.     Dan EVANS (GBR) and Lloyd GLASSPOOL (GBR)
    2.    Brydan KLEIN (GBR) and Alex WARD (GBR)
    3.    Jonathan MARRAY (GBR) and Adil SHAMASDIN (CAN)
    4.    Ken SKUPSKI (GBR) and Neil SKUPSKI (GBR)
    5.    To be announced
    6.    To be announced
    7.     To be announced

Ladies’ Doubles

  1.     Ashleigh BARTY (AUS) and Laura ROBSON (GBR)
    2.    Naomi BROADY (GBR) and Heather WATSON (GBR)
    3.    Jocelyn RAE (GBR) and Anna SMITH (GBR)
    4.    To be announced
    5.    To be announced
    6.    To be announced
    7.     To be announced
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Roland Garros – Top Seeds Williams and Djokovic Dominate in Opening Wins; Murray Survives in Five

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(May 24, 2016) Top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic had easy opening victories at Roland Garros on Tuesday. Williams, the defending champion going for her fourth Paris title destroyed No. 77 Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-0 in 42 minutes. The 21-time major champion hit 25 winners and made only five unforced errrors.

Sister Venus also advanced in straight sets. The ninth seed defeated No. 82 Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).

Djokovic is seeking to win his first French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam. The Serb defeated No. 95 Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. Also reaching the second round easily was nine-time champion Rafael Nadal who blasted past Sam Groth 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.

No. 2 seed completed his first round match which was held over due to darkness, surviving qualifier and former Top 10 player 37-year-old Radek Stepanek 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.

“It’s unbelievable what he’s doing,” said Murray in an on-court interview. “He had an extremely bad injury last year and was our for eight or nine months. At 37 years old and coming out and fighting like that, playing that way, is unbelievable. I don’t expect to be doing that myself at that age! I’m just glad I managed to get through.”
Australian Open champion and third seed Angelique Kerber was the biggest upset on the day. The German suffering from a left shoulder injury lost to No. 58 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands. 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Bertens is fresh off winning a title over the weekend in Nürnberg, where she was a qualifier.

Another major surprise on the women’s side saw No. 5 Victoria Azarenka lose to No. 118-ranked Karin Knapp when she was forced to retire with a knee injury down 6-3, 6-7(6), 4-0.

2010 French Open champion, unseeded Francesca Schiavone lost to Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-4. It was announced on court that Schiavone was retiring, but she set the record straight during her news conference.

“Roland Garros announced my retirement but I didn’t.”

“So you can stand up all of you and go back to work in the office because I didn’t say that. I will announce when I will want to stop.”

 

More to follow…

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The US Open Series Begins this Weekend in Atlanta

 

BB&TAtlantaOpen

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 https://twitter.com/hermanewood.

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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.”

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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.

 

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Top Seeds Advance in Melbourne Despite Extreme Heat Conditions

Nadal

(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

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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 .

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