2014/10/25

Memphis Odds and Ends

By Brad Hunter

Jurgen Melzer photo courtesy of Memphis Tennis Facebook page

The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships

WTA  Report

“Hi Honey” and “yes ma’am”… The ladies (and men) who work in the Racquet Club were all so sweet, and mostly southern thus making this visit extra enjoyable

Like Monica… Lucie Hradecka hits huge and double-handed from both sides off the ground, but her most impressive shot was her accurate and offensive return of service which she used to good effect in winning the doubles with partner Hlavackova, for their seconddoubles title of the year

Home away from home… Repeat singles winner Sofia Arvidsson has her own Parking spot, and looks completely relaxed and at home playing in Memphis

Doubles surprise… Melanie Oudin fell early in singles, but when she teamed with Jamie Hampton in the doubles, the Grandstand court was packed

Getting some Momentum in Memphis… Vera Dushevina put together her 1st back-to-back main draw wins of 2012 in singles by reaching the semi-finals, and she and doubles partner Govortsova reached the final

ATP

Crazy forehands… Jack Sock’s forehand is really interesting and wristy and twisty—a windshield wiper forward motion which rivals Ryan Harrison’s forehand in the wristy and twisty department.

Not bad but bounced anyway… Andy Roddick is a great competitor so he probably did not pencil in a “W” before he stepped on court with Xavier Malisse, even though he had won their only/previous 9 meetings… and Andy played some aggressive, solid tennis… but Malisse returned like a doubles specialist and came up with the magic shots when it mattered—thus bouncing the biggest crowd draw of the tournament in the 1st round

Doubles out, singles in… 2011 US Open doubles champions Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschener were glares, missed shots and self-criticizing yelps in their 1st round loss in Memphis to Benneteau/Rochus but Jurgen played like it was Roland Garros 2010 in winning his 1st title in Memphis

A sensible argyle… Radek Stepanek wore a not crazy shirt… and no one talked about his wardrobe… until now

Gulbis gives good interview… Amanda Le May caught  up with Ernie before his Raonic match

Brad and Sam, Sam and John… Sam Querrey and his backhand (Brad’s influence already?) looked pretty good winning his first back-to-back singles matches of 2012 and reaching the doubles semis with Isner.

 

Brad Hunter was in Memphis last week covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama  Follow his personal twitter account @BradHunter.

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Melzer Fights off Broken Toe and Raonic for Memphis Title

 

Austria’s Jurgen Melzer, suffering with a broken big toe on his right foot capped a week in Memphis by winning the tournament over last year’s finalist Canadian Milos Raonic 7-5, 7-6(4).

Melzer broke his toe ten days ago when he caught his foot in a hotel bedspread. His broken toe did not stop him from taking out three of the tournament’s top four seeds, including John Isner, Radek Stepanek and Raonic.

“Of course it’s a relief to win a tournament, especially a [ATP World Tour] 500; I haven’t won one before. After a tough season last year, it’s obviously something nice. I played a really good match today, I kept my head in the game. I knew it was tough. He’s probably the best server on tour at the moment. Sometimes you just walk left to right without doing anything, but I felt like when the ball was in play and when I had my chances, I played really solid.”

“After the match against John [Isner], I felt this could be my tournament because I’ve been really playing well and things have been going together. I’ve been going for lines when it was important and especially the big points I’ve been playing well the whole tournament. This is confidence, this is what you need. In the end, it’s one or two points and I’ve played those better than the other guys this week.”

He neutralized my serve better than anybody else the last two weeks, so a big part of it is getting a lot of free points to not getting that many,” Raonic said. You have one mentality set on why the free points aren’t coming, like the last few times, and that was pretty much all due to credit to him. I just didn’t catch on early enough, I felt.”

“There wasn’t really much I could do a lot of times in the matches. He was pretty much taking it to me. I felt like he was the one dictating more than I was, so he was taking that away from me. He was playing very close and inside the line, while I felt I was quite far behind, so I was the one doing most of the running.”
World No. 38 Melzer became the first 30-year-old to take the Memphis title since Ivan Lendl did it in 1991. Memphis marks Melzer’s fourth career ATP World Tour title.

RESULTS – SUNDAY, 26 FEBRUARY, 2012

Singles – Final
J Melzer (AUT) d [4] M Raonic (CAN) 75 76(4)

Doubles – Final
[1] M Mirnyi (BLR) / D Nestor (CAN) d I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) 46 75 10-7

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Arvidsson Nets Second Memphis Title

Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden returns the ball to Kaia Kanepi of Estonia during the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris May 23, 2011. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (FRANCE – Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

 

 

Sofia Arvidsson defeated Marina Erakovic 6-3, 6-4 to capture the Memphis International on Saturday night. It’s her second tournament victory on the WTA tour, the first also came in Memphis in 2006.

“It wasn’t easy. She beat me really easily last time and she’s a tough player, Arvidsson said. “I had to play my best. After the first two games, I really came into it. My serve was really working today and so was my down the line backhand.”

“I just love this place. It’s my second home. I never would have expected this when I came here. I’m just so happy.”

 

MEMPHIS INTERNATIONAL
Memphis, TN, USA
February 19-25, 2012
$220,000/International
Hard/Indoors

Results – Saturday, February 25, 2012
Singles – Final
Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) d. (4) Marina Erakovic (NZL) 63 64

Doubles – Final
(1) Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) d. (2) Dushevina/Govortsova (RUS/BLR) 63 64

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Melzer Despite Broken Toe to meet Raonic in Memphis Final

Playing with a broken right big toe, Austrian Jurgen Melzer has made it into the Memphis final by beating Czech Radek Stepanek 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday.
“Well, it’s obviously very satisfying,” Melzer said.

“I’ve played a great tournament so far, and reaching that final is something special. I haven’t played a final since 2010. It was a tough match today. I mean he’s obviously a tricky player. He knows what to do on the court, very offensive at times, just takes back a little bit the speed of his stroke. I had to stay focused. I had to play my game.”

“But the good thing is most of my sliding I do on hard court I do with my left foot so it doesn’t … affect my game,” Melzer said.

“When you lose a match like that you know you have your chances,” said Stepanek.  “I gave him a Christmas gift in the first set. You know it was a very poor service game of mine, and yeah, we don’t play if something would be different. But the match went that way.”

“Being love-40 down would be tough to come down from that,” Melzer said. “Played a great service game to hold him, and I think the way I served out was impressive.”

Melzer will face Milos Raonic of Canada for the Memphis title on Sunday. Raonic took out German Benjamin Becker 6-4, 6-4. Raonic will be seeking back-to-back tournament wins as he won the San Jose tournament last weekend. He’ll also be trying to win his third title in just four tournaments this year.

RESULTS – SATURDAY, 25 FEBRUARY, 2012

Singles – Semi-finals
J Melzer (AUT) d [3] R Stepanek (CZE) 64 36 63
[4] M Raonic (CAN) d B Becker (GER) 64 64

Doubles – Semi-finals
[1] M Mirnyi (BLR) / D Nestor (CAN) d J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA) 76(3) 62
I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) d C Fleming (GBR) / R Hutchins (GBR) 63 76(4)

ORDER OF PLAY – SUNDAY, 26 FEBRUARY, 2012

STADIUM start 1:00 pm
[1] M Mirnyi (BLR) / D Nestor (CAN) vs I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA)

Not Before 3:00 PM
J Melzer (AUT) vs [4] M Raonic (CAN)

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Americans Isner, Querrey and Harrison Advance in Memphis

Americans Sweeting, Querrey, Isner and Harrison Advance in Singles; Benneteau/Rochus Take Out 2011 US Open Champs Petzschner/Melzer

By Brad Hunter

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (February 21, 2012) – On Court 1 at The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships on Tuesday, Frenchman, 30-year old Julien Benneteau teamed with (his fourth different doubles partner in four tournaments played in 2012) Belgian 31-year old Olivier Rochus (himself teaming with his fifth different doubles partner in 5 tournaments) to beat 2011 US Open champions and #2 seeds 27-year old German Philipp Petzschner and 30-year old Austrian Jurgen Melzer  6-1, 3-6, 10-5.  The atmosphere for the intimate Court 1 was intense, and the crowd was animated throughout.  Both teams traded steely glances towards each other, exasperation for missing shots, and some interesting bits of questioning line calls and the chair umpire.  Late in the 1st set, Melzer asked the chair how the lineswoman could possibly make lines calls “because she is wearing sunglasses inside!”  The close quarters on Court 1 heightened the fun of the experience, and there was a palpable buzz running through the crowd most of the match.

Later on Center Court, 24-year old American Ryan Sweeting defeated veteran American, 32-year old James Blake 6-0, 6-2.  Six-foot-five Sweeting, ranked 78, moved well throughout the match, and his crisp hitting and defense forced Blake, ranked 61, into many errors.  Blake, playing in his first tournament of 2012, looked deflated for a good portion of the match, perhaps partly because of some rust in his own game.  Sweeting played an impressive mix of defense and high percentage tennis, and capitalized on most short ball and mid-court opportunities he found during the baseline rallies.

Next up on Center Court, was 24-year old American Sam Querrey against 28-year old Colombian, Alejandro Falla.  Querrey, ranked 99, recently hired Brad Gilbert as his coach, and Gilbert was in Memphis watching his new charge tough out a 3-set win over the scrappy Falla.  Falla, ranked 60, consistently attacked Querrey’s backhand throughout the match and built himself a solid lead by taking the first set 6-2.  It took Querrey some time before he got his forehand clicking but he recovered to take the final 2 sets 6-3 and 6-4.  This was a good win for Sam, who has struggled at the start the year and has not won 2 matches in row in 2012- he plays the winner of Robbie Ginepri and Kevin Anderson in his next match.

 

Behind "THE BASELINE"

The first night match pitted 26-year old American and top seed John Isner versus the dangerous 28-year old Gilles Muller from Luxembourg.  From the beginning, the crowd was vocally behind the 13th ranked Isner and he made things even more interesting for spectators sitting behind the baseline to the left of the chair because several of his balls went flying renegade into the crowd.  It happened at least 7 or 8 times, and a man sitting behind “THE baseline” center service line responded by waving a white towel.  Isner even walked up to the behind THE baseline crowd after a changeover to apologize and laugh with them.   Muller, ranked 69, also sent a few balls into the crowd.  Both men, known for their fierce serves, played themselves into 2 tiebreakers.  Isner, who hit 26 aces, ran away with the first tiebreak 7-1 by playing aggressive tennis and attacking short balls and moving forward to the net.  Muller fought well in the second set, saving 5 of 5 break points, but eventually fell in the tiebreak 4-7.  Isner, who combined with his doubles match has won 4 straight tiebreak sets in Memphis, got a loud reception from the crowd for winning the match and next plays Donald Young.

The final match of the evening featured 2 wildcard American teenagers: 19-year old Ryan Harrison and 19-year old Jack Sock.  Both men appeared nervous to start, but it was the more experienced Harrison who saved all 3 of his break points during the 1st set.  Harrison, ranked 73 and off a semifinal run in San Jose last week, played a steadier more high percentage style of baseline tennis to take the 1st set 6-3.  Sock, ranked 306, began the match hitting more flat and powerfully than Harrison and with more errors, but adjusted his game in the 2nd set.  Harrison also appeared to go on a mental walkabout, losing 2 service games and the set 2-6.  The 3rd set brought out the best tennis of the match.  Sock, attacking short balls and utilizing his crisp volleying skills, looked like the stronger player early in the 3rd.  But Harrison played some good defense, and turned the match in his favor by doing what I’ve been seeing a lot of this week: he played some solid defense and prolonged points against the more go-for-broke style of tennis Sock was playing.  The low margins eventually were Sock’s undoing, and he lost the break and the set 4-6 to Harrison.  Both men are the same age, but Harrison’s got a bit more experience playing tour matches, and he used this confidence to good effect in winning this match.

Brad Hunter is covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama News this week. Follow his reports here and live updates on our twitter account @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal twitter account @BradHunter.

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Dushevina beats Qualifier Hampton, Hampton teams up with Oudin for Doubles Win in Memphis

Vera Dushevina beats Qualifier Jamie Hampton.  Hampton later teams with Melanie Oudin for a Doubles Win in Memphis

By Brad Hunter

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (February 21, 2012) – Twenty-two year old American qualifier Jamie Hampton, who defeated defending 2011 Memphis champion Magdalena Rybarikova in the first round Sunday evening, lost her second round match on Tuesday on the Grandstand court at The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships.

Hampton, ranked 104, started strongly against 25-year old Russian Vera Dushevina by hitting powerful, aggressive groundstrokes and building herself a 4-2 first set lead.  At this point in the match Dushevina, ranked 89, used her defense and higher percentage topspin shots to force the Hampton power game to start missing.  Many rallies saw Hampton gain the court positioning advantage and then miss her put-away shots.

When Hampton started missing she became audibly and visibly agitated and Dushevina’s ability to prolong points ultimately proved too much for Hampton.  She was able to push back against Vera when she was down 1-5 in the second set, but Dushevina closed the win out at 6-4, 6-3.  The last point of the match saw a Dushevina passing shot angle bounce near the line – surely a call Hampton would’ve asked for a shot spot on had that been available.  Hampton angry, laughed and let out an exasperated plea to the chair, to no avail, as the chair was already saying “Game, Set, Match, Dushevina”.  Even with the loss, Hampton showed a powerful and aggressive baseline game which should carry her far in the WTA .

Dushevina showed impressive mental fortitude, getting agitated herself many times during the match but reeling it back in, and looks to be a strong threat for a title in Memphis (she’s also in the doubles draw with Olga Govortsova).  Later in the afternoon, Hampton teamed with Melanie Oudin (who lost today to spectacled Stephanie Foretz Gacon) for a 6-1, 6-0 doubles win against the team of Stefanie Mikesz and Mariya Slupska.

Brad Hunter is covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama News this week. Follow his reports here and live on our twitter account @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal twitter account @BradHunter.

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Tough Day in Memphis for Young Americans Sloane Stephens, Lauren Davis, Madison Keys and Alexa Glatch

By Brad Hunter

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (February 20, 2012) – The first match I sat down to watch at The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships was the Court 1, first round WTA match between 17-year old American Lauren Davis and 25-year old American Varvara  Lepchenko.  Davis was awarded a wildcard into the event, and Lepchenko was fresh off a Round of 16 run in Doha where she beat Alexandra Wozniak and Julia Goerges before falling to Agnieska Radwanska.  Lepchenko, ranked 90, started quickly by powering her way to a 2-0 lead, blasting groundstroke winners and mixing in touch angle volleys and paralyzing Davis’ game.  Lefty Varvara , who plays a bit like Petra Kvitova , can seemingly hit clean groundstroke winners from all over the court, off both sides and from many court positions.  She was a bit agitated from the start though, taking looks at the line judges for calling two foot faults on her early and quickly getting angry at herself for making errors.  Davis, ranked 221, began hitting her topspin forehand deeper into the court, and using her flatter backhand to pounce on short balls.   Davis, who trains at the Evert Academy, is a good competitor, and showed this by sneaking in to knock off volleys on important points and building herself a 5-2 1st set lead.  A frustrated Lepchenko took the opportunity to call her coach out for a quick chat and it helped her calm herself and win the last 5 games of the set to take it 7-5.  Lepchenko kept her edge the rest of the match, taking the 2nd set and the match 6-3.  Her play was patchy at times, possibly due to some fatigue from making the trip from Doha but her more powerful ground strokes and ability to consistently end points from midcourt and the net was too solid for quick, sparky Davis.

Before the end on the Davis/Lepchenko match on Court 1, 25-year old Russian Vera Dushevina and 17-year old American Madison Keys started their match on the adjacent Grandstand court.  Keys, ranked 256 and a wildcard entrant who also trains at Evert Academy, is one of the most talked about young Americans after her splashy US Open performance last year.  Dushevina, ranked 89, who famously gave Venus a 1st round 3-set scare in US Open in 2009, used her experience to take the match 6-2, 7-5.

Another American wildcard entrant into this event, 18-year old American Sloane Stephens, started strongly on the Grandstand court against 23-year old New Zealander Marina Erakovic, winning the 1st set 6-4 by hitting an array of backhand winners.  Sloane, ranked 86, and known for her powerful forehand and run to the 3rd round of the US Open last year never looked settled.  She lost 12 of the last 13 games and the match to 54th ranked Erakovic.

Taking the Grandstand court in the next match, was 22-year old American qualifier Alexa Glatch and 22-year old Ukranian Lesia Tsurenko.  Glatch, ranked 186, looked like the clear favorite to win, using her qualifying momentum, heavy forehand and versatile backhand slice to build a 6-2, 5-3 lead.  Many times, between points, Lesia was breathing heavy and loudly and grabbing her midsection.  Whatever her ailment was, Lesia, ranked 125, found a better level to her game and began playing an aggressive all-court game to overwhelm Glatch and steal the match.  Lesia even fought off a match point on the 2nd set tiebreak.

Although a tough day for Stephens, Keys, Glatch and Davis, all four ladies are still around in the Memphis tourney and will be back on the court playing doubles tomorrow.  Keys and Davis team up to play Erakoviv and Pervak and Stephens and Glatch team up to play fellow Americans Jamie Hampton (who took out defending champion Rybarikova yesterday in the first round) and Melanie Oudin (who plays Foretz Gacon in the first round on Tuesday).  Also seen scouting the American gals, Lead National Coach of Women’s Tennis, Tom Gullikson.

Brad Hunter is in Memphis covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama News.

Upset of the day on the men’s side – Croatia’s Ivan Dodig ousted No. 8 seed Bernard Tomic of Australia 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (8) on Monday. Dodig saved two match points on the way to victory.

“I was really happy after the match because I’ve been losing tight, tight matches,” Dodig said. “This is going to give me more confidence.”

RESULTS – MONDAY, 20 FEBRUARY, 2012

Women’s Singles – First Round
(Q) Camila Giorgi (ITA) d. (1) Nadia Petrova (RUS) 64 62
(3) Lucie Hradecka (CZE) d. Anna Tatishvili (GEO) 63 61
(4) Marina Erakovic (NZL) d. Sloane Stephens (USA) 46 60 61
Michaella Krajicek (NED) d. (6) Elena Baltacha (GBR) 62 61
Sofia Arvidsson (SWE) d. Heather Watson (GBR) 62 63
Vera Dushevina (RUS) d. (WC) Madison Keys (USA) 62 75
Varvara Lepchenko (USA) d. (WC) Lauren Davis (USA) 75 63
Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) d. (Q) Alexa Glatch (USA) 26 76(5) 62 (saved 2mp)

Doubles – First Round
(1) Hlavackova/Hradecka (CZE/CZE) d. Pavlovic/Rodina (FRA/RUS) 60 63
(2) Dushevina/Govortsova (RUS/BLR) d. Dolonts/Foretz Gacon (RUS/FRA) 46 62 108 (Match TB)
(4) Krajicek/Tatishvili (NED/GEO) d. Kondratieva/Lefèvre (RUS/FRA) 62 60
Watson/Woehr (GBR/GER) d. Brianti/Parmentier (ITA/FRA) 63 61
Lee-Waters/Moulton-Levy (USA/USA) d. (WC) Hibberd/Welcher (AUS/USA) 60 60
Men’s Singles – First Round
I Dodig (CRO) d [8] B Tomic (AUS) 57 64 76(8) – saved 2 M.P.
D Young (USA) d G Dimitrov (BUL) 76(4) 46 76(6)

Doubles – First Round
J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA) d [4] S Gonzalez (MEX) / C Kas (GER) 76(1) 76(2)
SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 21 FEBRUARY, 2012

STADIUM start 10:00 am
[WC] M Oudin (USA) vs S Foretz Gacon (FRA) – WTA
R Marino (CAN) vs [2] K Pervak (KAZ) – WTA
J Blake (USA) vs R Sweeting (USA) – ATP
[WC] S Querrey (USA) vs A Falla (COL) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
[1] J Isner (USA) vs G Muller (LUX) – ATP
[WC] R Harrison (USA) vs [WC] J Sock (USA) – ATP

GRANDSTAND start 10:00 am
[Q] R Kendrick (USA) vs S Stakhovsky (UKR) – ATP
[7] J Larsson (SWE) vs V Lepchenko (USA) – WTA
V Dushevina (RUS) vs [Q] J Hampton (USA) – WTA
[5] P Parmentier (FRA) vs A Hlavackova (CZE) – WTA
O Govortsova (BLR) vs M Krajicek (NED) – WTA
S Arvidsson (SWE) / J Larsson (SWE) vs [3] L Dekmeijere (LAT) / N Petrova (RUS) – WTA

COURT 1 start 10:00 am
[4] M Erakovic (NZL) vs E Rodina (RUS) – WTA
J Benneteau (FRA) / O Rochus (BEL) vs [2] J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER) – ATP
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) / L Kubot (POL) vs S Lipsky (USA) / R Ram (USA) – ATP
T Huey (PHI) / X Malisse (BEL) vs [3] F Cermak (CZE) / F Polasek (SVK) – ATP
M Erakovic (NZL) / K Pervak (KAZ) vs [WC] L Davis (USA) / M Keys (USA) – WTA
A Glatch (USA) / S Stephens (USA) vs J Hampton (USA) / M Oudin (USA) – WTA

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Memphis Tournament Musings

By Brad Hunter

  • Following along on Twitter has benefits- during the tournament @memphistennis hid free tickets around the grounds and then tweeted the clues for followers to read/discover like @jameyyoo

 

  • The biggest weapon of a stroke I saw this past weekend?- not Milos Raonic’s serve, though it would be second… Sam Querrey’s forehand.

 

  • del Potro hit the most consistent “big ball” off the ground

 

  • Roddick’s sometimes criticized slice backhand was golden for him this past weekend as a get out of jail shot for him against Hewitt and del Potro, and a wicked approach shot against all 3 of his last opponents

 

  • TV does not show how strong these athletes are: Milos Raonic looks really tall and kind of thin on TV but In person he looks like a cross between a high jumper and triathlete

 

  • Magdalena Rybarikova’s game reminds me a bit Martina Hingis with a powerful serve and forehand- she also likes to mix-up her backhand with off pace and slice and drop shots

 

  • When asked if she felt like she had to play the power game common in the top ranks of women’s tennis, Rybarikova said yes “against the top 30 players” while mentioning the “modern, fast” games of Kvitova, Clijsters and Serena Williams

 

  • Andy Roddick is razor sharp in news conferences and interviews- he exemplifies that phrase “say what you mean”

 

  • The women’s doubles final was not 4 singles players playing doubles- it was poaching, volleying, forward movement, crowding the net and the crowd loved it  O. Govortsova/ A. Kudryavtseva def. A. Hlavackova/L. Hradecka 6-3, 4-6, 10-8

 

  • Just before the men’s singles, the men’s doubles final gave the crowd a fantastic final– Butorac/Rojer showed fighting guile and came up with some ridiculous shots but couldn’t maintain that high level and lost to rock solid Nestor/Mirnyi 6-2, 6-7(6), 10-3

 

  • After losing in the singles finals, Raonic and Marino had great perspective and humor in their on-court interviews and in the news conferences- both of them had the crowd and media laughing and smiling… like two old pros

Last weekend Brad Hunter covered the Cellular South Cup and Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @bradhunter.

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The Cherry on Top – Roddick’s Shot

Sunday, February 20, 2011

If you haven’t seen the shot yet, I suggest you stop reading and go watch it right now.  The running, diving, rolling on the ground, down the line forehand passing shot, was not actually seen by Andy Roddick that broke Milos Raonic and won Roddick the ATP 500 title in Memphis.  In his news conference after the match, Roddick said it was “the best shot I’ve ever hit” and I thought I detected a lingering bit of surprise in himself  that he had managed that shot, at that moment, in that match.  When Raonic was asked about the shot later in his post-match conference that was held after Roddick’s he said, “well his legs weren’t anywhere near the ball”, a comment which brought laughter in the press conference room and a big smile across Raonic’s face.

Last night, I had stayed to watch the women’s doubles final which was a competitive seesaw battle.  The kind of firecracker match that doubles matches specialize in producing.  The crowd loved every drop of drama and emotional outburst from the players, with Govortsova/ Kudryavtseva prevailing 6-3, 4-6, 10-8 (TB) over Hlavackova/Hradecka.  These power baseliners played some net rushing, Australian born, poach every opportunity you can, doubles.   I hope Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver were watching, because I have a hunch they would’ve been happy to see it.

I got to the club about an hour before the men’s doubles final was set settled in for Nestor/Mirnyi vs Rojer/Butorac.  The first three games it was Rojer/Butorac playing with more pizzazz, especially “hoppy” feet Butorac.  Then Nestor/Mirnyi changed the script and brought out their doubles textbook: make returns low, go hard and up the middle, pick on Rojer’s volley, mix up serves, and by all means control the net.  It worked and they ran away with the first set.  The second set stayed on serve, and Butorac dug the team out of a 4 match points down hole with some smart serving that tipped the momentum in their favor.  Rojer and Butorac won the tiebreak by producing their boldest tennis of the evening.  Undeterred, Mirnyi/Nestor played the champions tiebreak like they were giving a doubles clinic and the number 1 seeds ran away with the tiebreak and the title.

Andy Roddick (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The men’s singles final was hyped, justifiably so, because Raonic was coming in having won his maiden title last week in San Jose and also he had recently assumed the “next big thing” role in men’s tennis in the media.  He has beat some quality players in the last 2 weeks and in Memphis had not been playing his best but had been winning close 3 set matches, which probably is a better indicator of potential than winning matches while playing lights out tennis.  Roddick had played what he called his “best match of the year so far” in the semis, taking out JuanMartin del Potro.   From the start of the match and up until the second set tiebreak, the match was less rallying, more serving display.  Andy had looked lethargic between points, slumping over a few times and putting his hands on his knees, not trying for reachable balls, coughing into his towel or shirt.  It was weird to watch and I expected Raonic to pounce and kill, but he could not seem to string points together and take advantage of Roddick’s condition. Roddick stayed tough though, even when Raonic won the tight second set tiebreaker.  Roddick went up 4-1, 40-15 on Raonic ‘ serve in the third, but Raonic showed his biggest weapon, his mental toughness and fighting spirit, and went on to even the match 4 all.  By this point, the up and down drama of it all had created a surreal environment within the club.  Both players had nurtured crowd support and people started getting a little crazy fun with cheers and whistles and encouragements.  There were some fiery line call questions from each player, notably from Raonic late in the match, but no matter how feverish it got they both showed resilience in putting their heads back down and getting straight back to work. Raonic got himself out of 0-30 on serve a couple times later in that set, so when Roddick had another match point at 5-4, 40-30 on Raonic ‘ serve, it was funny.  Raonic had saved match points already, by playing bold big tennis.  He did the same on that last point, approaching Roddick’s backhand, and hitting what looked like a midcourt angled forehand volley winner that Roddick turned into his best shot ever.  I was sitting in the media section, behind some tour and tournament staff, and I’m pretty sure everyone was on their feet after that championship winning shot.

Brad Hunter was covering Memphis for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his personal twitter account @BradHunter.

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Do You Travel with Maple Syrup? Raonic and Roddick News Conferences

MEMPHIS, TN – February 19, 2011 – Brad Hunter provides his highlights of the  Milos Raonic and Andy Roddick  post-match interviews from Saturday.

Milos Raonic after his semi-final victory over Mardy Fish 6-4, 4-6, 6-3

Reporter: Are you weary at all? It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks.

Raonic: No, I’m preparing the same way I did my first match in San Jose. I have my routine, I stick to it, I believe in it. I do as much as I can; it’s all I can ask of myself… If I need to fix some things I go on the practice court, I’m not gonna be arrogant or ignorant and say I don’t need to work on things.

Reporter:  What are some of the things you’re doing to get yourself ready for the next match?

Raonic: Eat right away, something nutritious.  Stretching, get work if I have a nagging pain.

Reporter: There’s a certain Canadian theme, emerging. Are you proud of that?

Raonic: Yeah, there was a lot of snow here last week. (laughter) It’s good; it’s something for us to be proud of… I think it’s only the beginning.

Reporter:  There’s never been a top 10 Canadian player.  Do you ever question whether it’s possible?

Raonic:  No.  Simply.  I’m doing this for myself.  Never from I was young did I compare myself…always from when I was young, I set high goals for myself.

Reporter: You really seem to up your level of play, on really important points. Is that something comes naturally to you… or is that something you talk about…?

Raonic: I have my strengths that I try to rely on in these situations, they’ve been sorta peaking for me at the right times… Some days it’s going to manage to work, some days it’s not…

Reporter: What are your thoughts on the final, del Potro or Roddick?

Raonic: I look forward to it.  Both players also are going to try and impose their game. Andy’s going to try to dictate more with his serve and forehand, change the pace with his backhand…

Reporter: If you had your choice Milos, who would you rather play?  Roddick or del Potro?

Raonic: I don’t have my choice so it doesn’t matter. (laughter)

Reporter: Do you travel with maple syrup?

Raonic: I might start doing that.

Reporter: Your serve is such a weapon.  Is that always been a natural service motion or is that something that you’ve worked on?

Raonic: It’s always been natural but I’ve always worked on it…

Reporter: Mardy said you played like a top 10 player today. Do you think that’s something that you can accomplish this year?

Raonic:  This year it’s tough… but uh, I’m not gonna say I can’t but it’s tough.  If I’m playing like a top 10 player the whole year then eventually I’ll be a top 10 player.

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Andy Roddick after his 6-3, 6-4 semifinal win over Juan Martin del Potro

Reporter: How do you feel about today?

Roddick: This is probably the best match I’ve played this year, including Australia… I was happy the way I played today.

Reporter: You got some treatment there… anything wrong… with the arm?

Roddick: No… I mean earlier in the week I was having trouble looking left with my neck… It’s not an injury; I think it’s a little bit of a pinched nerve… I get extended on my forehand and my arm will fall dead…  it kinda comes and goes a little bit.

Reporter: Raonic next, who’s been playing with a whole lot of confidence… what do you need to focus on to get the win tomorrow?

Roddick: He has the confidence of someone who’s played 10 matches in 12 days.  He’s winning every match close, playing well on the big points… and that comes with confidence.  He’s certainly on a roll and has momentum.  That being said I only have to beat him on 1 day.  It’s just gonna be a matter of who can sneak out a break point and kinda try to convert it.

Reporter: Any significance to the number 50… to have reached 50 finals?

Roddick:  Yeah, to play in the finals of 50 tennis tournaments as a professional is a pretty big number.   I might not be that bad after all.

Reporter: What role do you think experience will play tomorrow? You’ve been in 50 finals, he’s been in 2.

Roddick: I honestly don’t think it’ll play that much… if it was a Grand Slam quarter or semi where the moment is so big and he has time to think about… he’s got so much momentum right now I think that kinda trumps any inexperience.

Reporter: You’ve been involved in some important off court projects with some academies, programs for kids and your charity foundation.  What exactly are you doing?

Roddick: Basically I run a foundation called the Andy Roddick Foundation, and we support different at-risk youth programs in the South Florida and Texas area where I’ve lived.  For various charities, we’ve raised close to 15 million dollars over the last 10 years or so.  For different things… we have a tennis program in the west side of San Antonio… that is mostly (for) Mexican youth and their parents.   That’s grown from 50 kids to 600 now.

Brad Hunter is covering Memphis for Tennis Panorama News this weekend. Follow his reports here and live on our twitter account @GVTennisNews. Follow his personal twitter account @BradHunter.

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