October 13, 2015

Mardy Fish Returns to Tennis, Falls in Three-set Battle to Ryan Harrison in First Round of BNP Paribas Open

(March 12, 2015) Former world No. 7 Mardy Fish returned to the court under a protected ranking, for the first time in over 18 months on Thursday in Indian Wells, California. Fish was off the tour due to heart problems which have bothered him since 2012.

The 33-year-old Fish put up a good fight for 2 hours and 36 minutes and even had two match points in falling to fellow American, 22-year-old Ryan Harrison, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (3) in the first round of the BNP Paribas Open. The pair of match points came at 15-40 in the 10th game of the third set.

“I worked really hard in the past three-and-a-half months to get in physical shape, to go from golf to tennis shape,” Fish said.

“It was nice to play Ryan, sort of a good friend. Someone you’re familiar with. So that part was nice to not have to play someone you don’t really know.

“It’s hard. It’s never easy. It still stings a little bit,” Fish said of the loss.

“I would have liked to play a little better, “he noted. “I would have like to have won – it is what it is.”

“Being on the court for so long. It felt great to be out there. Those are situations you work hard to put yourself into.”

“It’s such a great event,” he said. “I’ve got great memories from 2008 here.

“It felt fantastic to be out there.”

Asked about how he’s had to control his ailment he said: “I learn from every situation, every episode, every sort of scenario that I put myself in in the last couple of years, and I learn from this today.

“I didn’t really have many expectations, as far as how long I could play tournament-wise. How many tournaments I could play – Indian Wells and Miami was kind of in the background.

“This is a new different challenge for me.”

Fish said that he has to come on to the court and “be sort of even keel.”

“Something that I have to work on with my sports Psychologist – what sort of frame of mind do you need out there, (be)cause this is unchartered territory for me in the past couple of years.”

“Golf was such a savior for me because I able to jump into something that I really liked to do, that I was good at, and I could see myself getting better and I really enjoy playing in the tournaments, improving, things like that.” Golf was a coping mechanism for him – “to take my mind off the tennis, what other guys were doing.”

To prepare for his comeback, the American said that he played five or six days a week for the past 20 weeks – “it felt pretty close to tennis.”

Doesn’t have interest in going to the “minor leagues and working my way back up.”

Fish said that he has 3 tournaments where he can use a protected ranking. “It will run out at the US Open. Will have some decisions to make.”

The win for Harrison moves him into the second round where he’ll face No. 5 in the world Kei Nishikori.



Top Seed Isner Advances, Hewitt Guts Out a Win Over Harrison


John Isner

John Isner

By Dave Gertler

(July 8, 2014) NEWPORT – Tuesday was always going to be an exciting day at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, with a defending champion, No.1 seed, and a dual grand slam champion in action. All three – Nicolas Mahut, John Isner and Lleyton Hewitt respectively – would advance through their matches to round two, but it was the manner in which, in particular, the latter did, that had the New England tennis enthusiasts on the edge of their seats.


Two-time champion John Isner managed a late charge from his first round opponent, qualifier Wayne Odesnik, but would be too strong, taking the match 6-3, 7-6 in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Isner’s second round opponent will be world No.208 Austin Krajicek, who held off Tim Smyczek in their first round match.


Lleyton Hewitt in Press

Lleyton Hewitt in Press

While big-servers Isner and Mahut would have relatively comfortable wins, the match-up between Lleyton Hewitt and world No.144 Ryan Harrison would turn out to be a much more even and entertaining one.


22-year-old Harrison opened strongly, breaking twice in the first set for 6-1. “I was trying to play a bit too clean tennis,” said Hewitt post-match, “and sort of just over-hitting the first set and I just lost my rhythm a little bit. After the first couple of games, Ryan played a lot better as well. He hit his spots on his serve, hit his forehand a lot better.”


In the second set, Hewitt appeared to be experiencing shoulder pain, but after treatment during a medical timeout, was able to stay in touch with Harrison and eventually take the set 7-5. “So at the start of the second set, I was really just trying to hang with him more than anything, and make him play a lot of balls.”

Newport on edges of seat-001

By the start of set three, it was clear to the Newport crowd that they were being treated to an exceptionally high-quality grass tennis match, and were showing their appreciation to the Australian as much as their local prospect. “Considering I was playing an American, it seemed like a lot of them were going for me, which is nice,” said Hewitt, who has reached the final in Newport the last two years, “I guess they appreciate me coming back as well, after losing in two finals as well.”


The final set included a total of five breaks of serve, Hewitt ultimately the victor 6-4. After being on court for 2 hours and 10 minutes, Hewitt said of his gritty win, “I just tried to win ugly more than anything, and just get balls back in play.”


Harrison, who is unfortunately known for drawing tough first-round opponents in big tournaments, was unable to contain his emotion at one point, breaking his racquet on the grass, and receiving a code violation. Said Hewitt of his up-and-coming opponent, “I think he’s just frustrated because he’s a lot better player than where his ranking’s at at the moment, and he’s probably been in this situation where he’s had opportunities to beat better players and hasn’t been able to close it out. I knew that going into the match and that’s why in the end, I just tried to hang with him, hang with him and then hopefully put some pressure and some doubt into his mind.”


Hewitt’s will take the court against his round 2 opponent, Croatia’s Ante Pavic, on Center Court, Wednesday.


Dave Gertler is a tennis journalist, player and musician based in Sydney covering Newport 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 .


Players React to James Blake’s Retirement

James Blake

James Blake

(August 26, 2013) FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY –  On Monday some players were asked in press about James Blake’s announcement about his retirement after the US Open. Here are a few reactions:


VENUS WILLIAMS:  You know, James, obviously the US Open was a special place for him.  I understand how he would want to end here.  You know, I think he still has, you know, a lot of great tennis in him, but he’s decided that now is the time for him.

He has a family now, so those are important priorities from what I hear.  He’s ready, so all we can do is support him.  Hopefully he will be able to contribute to tennis outside of the game, outside of playing pro tennis, in whichever way he chooses.

What I admired period about him was how he gave back, you know, obviously using his tennis career and celebrity to give back, especially to cancer because his dad passed.

And also the excitement he brought to the game.  I think he brought a lot of people into tennis.  It’s always great and also sad to lose someone who helps grow the game.  People are always interested in James, so that’s what I’m going to miss.


SERENA WILLIAMS:  Well, just pure heart.  I mean, the guy has been really just a great person with a great heart.  He’s been through so much.  Being even able to be a professional player with his back, and then doing so well.  We won together at Hopman Cup.  He was such a great partner and a great friend.

It’s just sad to see.  Sad to see another good friend of mine that I’m not going


RAFAEL NADAL:  Well, James was one of the more charismatic players on tour.  His style of game was spectacular a lot of days.  He was able to play winners on the return with great first serves, and his forehand was one of the best on tour, no?  Without no one doubt, he was able to hit very hard.  His image was great.

He’s a good example for the kids and a good example for the tour.  He’s a really good person.


RYAN HARRISON:  James has been a good friend in the locker room to everybody.  I mean, it’s funny.  Whenever you ask anyone about James, he’s left a great impression and just a great impact on everybody that he’s known in the game.

His career is one thing.  He obviously has his results.  I think something far more important that he’s leaving behind is the fact he left a really positive impact on tennis and the people he was around, which is what you are ultimately looking forward to doing after having a long, successful career like he’s had.

He’s one of the greatest guys out here on tour.  He’s into the next stage of his life, which is being the family man, having the baby, having his wife and kid, just going that route.

I’m extremely happy for him.  I congratulated him when I saw him.  You know, I look forward to keeping in touch with him throughout his life after tennis.


Brian Baker and Ryan Harrison Among Men’s Wild Cards at US Open


FLUSHING, N.Y., August 13, 2013 – The USTA announced today that Brian Baker, playing in his first Grand Slam since the 2013 Australian Open, 2012 Olympian and former world No. 43 Ryan Harrison, 2010 NCAA singles champion Bradley Klahn and 2011 NCAA singles finalist Rhyne Williams have been awarded men’s singles main draw wild card entries into the 2013 US Open. Other American men receiving US Open main draw wild cards are Rajeev Ram and 2013 USTA Boys’ 18s champion Collin Altamirano. Australia’s James Duckworth and France’s Guillaume Rufin will also receive wild cards.


The 2013 US Open will be played August 26-September 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y. Both the men’s and women’s singles champions this year will earn $2.6 million, the largest payout in tennis history, with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money – for a total $3.6 million potential payout – based on their performances in the Emirates Airline US Open Series.


Baker, 28, of Nashville, Tenn., is attempting to make yet another remarkable comeback from injury. After being sidelined since the 2013 Australian Open in January, when he suffered a significant knee injury during his second-round match against Sam Querrey, Baker returned to competitive play last week at the USTA Pro Circuit $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, Calif., and has advanced to the second round of this week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on the Emirates Airline US Open Series. Baker, now ranked No. 185, ascended to No. 52 in the world in 2012 after injuries kept him sidelined for nearly six years.


Harrison, 21, of Shreveport, La., rose to No. 43 in the world in 2012, the year in which he also represented the U.S. in the London Olympics and in Davis Cup. On the Emirates Airline US Open Series this summer, Harrison, now ranked No. 102, reached the semifinals at the BB&T Atlanta Open and defeated former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt in the first round of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C.


Klahn, 22, of Poway, Calif., earned a US Open wild card as the top American points earner at select USTA Pro Circuit events this summer. The 2010 NCAA singles champion while a sophomore at Stanford, Klahn won the USTA Pro Circuit $100,000 Challenger in Aptos, Calif., last week, catapulting to a career high rank of No. 123. Last year, Klahn received a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, qualified and reached the second round, becoming the first men’s qualifying wild card to win a US Open main draw match.


Williams, 22, of Knoxville, Tenn., reached his first ATP semifinal in Houston this year and played in the main draws of the French Open and the Australian Open, winning a USTA playoff to gain entry into the latter. Now at a career-high rank of No. 114, He was a 2011 NCAA singles finalist while at Tennessee, and his grandfather, Michael DePalmer, Sr., was the Volunteers’ longtime coach who helped found the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.


Ram, 29, of Carmel, Ind., is the highest ranked American who did not receive direct entry into the US Open at the entry deadline.  Ram owns one singles title (Newport, 2009) and seven doubles titles on the ATP World Tour and has been ranked as high as No. 78 in singles. Ram qualified and reached the second round of the 2013 Australian Open.


Altamirano, 17, of Yuba City, Calif., earned his wild card by winning the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship singles title, doing so in historic fashion. Altamirano became the first unseeded player to win the tournament in the 71 years it has called Kalamazoo, Mich., home.


Duckworth, 21, of Sydney, Australia, received a wild card through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, which will grant an American a wild card into the 2014 Australian Open, to be determined by a USTA playoff (Rhyne Williams was the 2013 winner). Currently at a career-high rank of No. 150, Duckworth reached the second round of the 2013 Australian Open and qualified for both the French Open and Wimbledon this year.


Rufin, 23, of Charnay, France, received his wild card through a reciprocal agreement with the French Tennis Federation, which awarded a wild card into the 2013 French Open to an American player designated by the USTA (Alex Kuznetsov won the USTA Pro-Circuit event-based system this year). Rufin, currently ranked No. 92, has played in all three Grand Slam main draws this year, reaching the second round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon.


In addition to the eight US Open men’s singles main draw wild cards, the USTA also announced eight men who have been awarded wild card entries into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, which will be held August 20-23 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.  One additional US Open qualifying wild card will be awarded to the winner of the 2013 US Open National Playoffs – Men’s Championship, taking place August 16-19 in New Haven, Conn.


Players receiving 2013 US Open qualifying wild cards are: 2013 USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship runner-up Jared Donaldson (16, Cumberland, R.I.); 2011 French Open boys’ champion Bjorn Fratangelo (20, Pittsburgh, Pa.), who has won three Futures titles in 2013; Christian Harrison (19, Shreveport, La.), who reached the 2012 US Open doubles quarterfinals with his older brother, Ryan Harrison; Jarmere Jenkins (22, College Park, Ga.), who came one win short of winning the NCAA triple crown this summer, leading Virginia to its first NCAA team title, winning the NCAA doubles title and reaching the NCAA singles final; former Wimbledon and French Open boys’ semifinalist Mitchell Krueger (19, Fort Worth, Texas), who won his first pro singles title in June; UCLA sophomore Dennis Novikov (19, San Jose, Calif.), the 2012 USTA Boys’ 18s national champion who defeated 2013 Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz in the first round of last year’s US Open; local teenager Noah Rubin (17, Rockville Centre, N.Y.), who has been as high as No. 6 in the world junior rankings; and Tennys Sandgren (22, Gallatin, Tenn.), a former standout at Tennessee who has won five USTA Pro Circuit Futures singles titles in the last two years.


James Blake Leads List of Wild Cards for Cincinnati


CINCINNATI (August 8, 2013) — Seven of the eight men’s wild cards for the 2013 Western & Southern Open have been awarded to American players, with four US players being added to the main draw and three entered into qualifying.


James Blake, Brian BakerRyan Harrison and Jack Sock have been granted wild cards in to the main draw.


In qualifying, Australian Bernard Tomic joins a trio of Americans who each reached a career high ranking last month – Steve Johnson, Denis Kudla and Rhyne Williams – in the field.


“We’re happy to welcome a familiar face like James back to a tournament where he has had a tremendous amount of success in his career,” said Tournament Director Vince Cicero. “At the same time, it’s exciting to offer these younger players a chance to participate in a tournament of this caliber. We look forward to having all eight of these players in Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open.”


Blake, the 2007 Western & Southern Open finalist, will be making his 12th apperance at the tournament, third among active players behind Tommy Haas (14) and Roger Federer (13). He also ranks sixth among active players for wins in Cincinnati with a 15-10 record.


Baker, from Nashville, returned to tennis in 2012 after a series of injuries kept him sidelined for nearly six seasons. He climbed to almost No. 50 in the rankings before suffering a knee injury at the Australian Open in January that has kept him out of action until this week’s Aptos Challenger.


Harrison, a 21-year-old who now calls Austin, Texas, home, reached the semifinals last month at the ATP event in Atlanta. He also claimed the title at the Savannah Challenger this season. It will be his third Western & Southern Open main draw appearance.


Sock, a 20-year-old from Lincoln, Neb., won the title at the Challenger event in Winnetka, Ill., last month. He reached his second career ATP quarterfinal in February at Memphis. In 2010, Sock won the US Open Juniors title.


The four wild card entrants to the qualifying field will compete in a two-round tournament over this coming weekend for one of seven spots in the main draw.


Tomic, 20, is the top-ranked player from Australia. He recently reached the fourth round at Wimbledon and early this season claimed his first career title with a win in Sydney.


Kudla, a 20-year-old who grew up in Virginia, reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s Club in London in June.


Johnson, 23, won back-to-back NCAA singles champions in 2011-12 while playing for the University of Southern California. He won the Nottingham Challenger in June.


Williams, 22, turned pro after his sophomore year at the University of Tennessee, and was the NCAA singles finalist in 2011. He reached his first career ATP semifinal at Houston in April.


In addition, the following players have been added to the main draw – Radek Stepanek , Thomaz Bellucci and Denis Istomin. These three were entered following the withdrawals of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (knee), Viktor Troicki (suspension) and Marin Cilic (personal).


The draws for both the main draw and qualifying will be made on Friday. Qualifying begins Saturday, which is also AdvancePierre Foods Kids Day, and tickets start as low as $5. WTA main draw play begins Monday. All matches will take place at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, Ohio.


The Western & Southern Open hosted 176,000 fans in 2012, recording a record 10 sellouts over the 16 total sessions spanning nine days. The event drew fans from all 50 states and 19 countries. Cincinnati is one of the last stops on the Emirates Airline US Open Series leading up to the US Open, and often critical points and bonus money are on the line adding drama to the week.



Isner Rallies to Top Harrison


(May 31, 2013) American John Isner ended his six-match losing streak in five-set match, and for the first time in his career came back from two sets to none down to top countryman Ryan Harrison 5-7, 6-7 (7), 6-3, 6-1, 8-6 to move into the French Open third round on Friday.

The No. 19 see Isner who is best known for winning the longest match match in tennis history, 6-4, 3-6 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 to Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon back in 2010 in 11 hours and five minutes.

Isner needed 3 hours, 50 minutes to knock out No. 92 Harrison.  Harrison still has never won a five-set match.

At 6-6 in the fifth set, Harrison double-faulted on a break point, giving Isner the decisive break in the set and match. Isner closed out the match on his serve.

“I started out a little ‑‑ I don’t know if the word is “tight,” but I had three days off and I didn’t start out that well., Isner said. “ It was slow, the conditions, a bit sleepy out there I felt like.  And the next thing you know I lost the first set, and we got in the second set tiebreaker, a situation that I have been in before, and a lot of times in matches of mine I’m able to win that tiebreaker and completely turn it around in my favor.

“That just wasn’t the case today, but what I did exceptionally well, more than serving, my forehand, everything else, was I just stayed composed and, you know, just told myself if I’m going to lose I’m going to want him to beat me and not beat myself.

I got up pretty quick in that third set and he gave me some momentum, and I really knew it was anybody’s match.”

Isner gets 12rh seed Tommy Haas in the third round.


Americans in Paris – Day Two at Roland Garros


Sloane Stephens

(May 27, 2013). Americans went 8-4 in Paris on the day 2 of the French Open. Here is a look at how they all fared:

First round: Sloane Stephens (17) (USA) def. Karin Knapp (ITA) 6-2, 7-5

In a bit of a slump since reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open and the recent coverage of her controversial comments during an ESPN magazine interview, Stephens said that she was positive about her win.

“Obviously really excited to be back here.  Had a great year last year, and this was one of my favorite tournaments.  So it’s good to be back and playing a lot better than a couple weeks ago.

Just excited to be back on the court and playing well again.

Stephens commented  on the media attention since her ESPN interview after aftermath off-court:

“Yeah, I mean, it’s been okay for me.  Obviously I haven’t had that many good results leading up to the clay season, so to get some match in on my favorite surface and get some confidence back and kind of just start feeling ball better.

“It wasn’t that my mind wasn’t on the court.  I just needed to find a balance, and obviously that’s tough.

“I’m only 20 years old, so I have a lot to learn and a long ways to go.  Just finding the right balance is what we’re doing.

“It’s been fine for me.  My really good friend came and my mom is here.  I’m just having a good time.  It’s been fun.

“I mean, obviously attention is attention.  It comes, it goes.  When you’re winning they love it; when you’re losing they love it.  It’s all the same really.”


First round: John Isner (19) (USA) def. Carlos Berlocq (ARG) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4


First round: Varvara Lepchenko (29)(USA) def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 6-1, 6-2


First round: Martin Klizan def. Michael Russell (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-1 Ret. Left hamstring injury


First round: Madison Keys (USA) def. Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-3, 6-2

At 18, Keys is the youngest of the American women in the main draw. She is No. 58 in the world.


First round: Jana Cepelova (SVK) def. Christina McHale (USA) 7-6(3) 2-6 6-4

McHale who was struck with glandular fever last year is ranked 53rd in the world.


First round: Albert Montanes(ESP)  def. Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1

The former NCAA champion Johnson extended the recent Nice Open titlist to five sets.


First round: Ryan Harrison (USA) def. Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4)

Harrison will play fellow American and Davis Cup teammate John Isner in the second round.


First round: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) def. Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) 6-4, 6-1

With 15 women in the main draw of the French Open at the beginning of the tournament, Mattek is proud of so many U. S. women moving up in the rankings. “It’s a great group of girls coming up. They’re talented. They’re all pretty fun to be around. They got good personalities.”

She commented that just a few years ago, people kept asking her about the state of U.S. women’s tennis.


First round: Vania King (USA) def. Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) 7-6(3), 6-1

King made it through to the main draw by going through the qualifying tournament.


First round: Michal Przysiezny (POL) def. (LL) Rhyne Williams (USA) 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 7-5

Williams who came into the tournament as a lucky loser, lost to the same person who defeated him in the final round of the Qualifying tournament.


First round: Melanie Oudin (USA) def. Tamira Paszek (28) (AUT) 6-4, 6-3

Almost four years ago Oudin made it to the quarterfinals of the U. S. Open as 17-year-old. She spoke about pressure on her then as an American player.

“I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself after everything, “she said to media. “It’s a totally different story now. There’s so many Americans now coming up, and so many in the top 100. It is nice to not have it all on me….I mean, it really was all on me at that time. Like, besides the Williams sisters, everyone was like, `Oh, who’s going to be the next upcoming American?’ And it’s like, `OK, it’s going to be Melanie, because you got to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.’ It was a lot. And I was young.”


Davis Cup in Monte Carlo, Day 3: Isner – The New Closer

By Guillaume Willecoq

“Before, it was Andy Roddick the biggest closer of the US team, maybe I can do as well.” For the first time, John Isner clinched a Davis Cup for the US team, after an amazing match against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. “I was pissed off to have to admire the way he was playing” said Guy Forget, fair play. The US boy from Greensboro, NC ended Guy Forget’s run as French Captain.  Forget led the French Davis Cup team since 1999. The new captain won’t be named before September. For the US team, they will face Spain again in semifinals, as in 2008, “I assume on clay, laughs Isner, but we will be ready to go!”

4th rubber : John Isner d. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 7-6, 5-7, 6-3 in 3h20

First serve: 66% / 71%

Aces: 16 / 5

Double faults: 4 / 4

Winners: 56 / 43

Forced and unforced errors: 86 / 88

Break points: 2/9 / 1/7

Net points won: 37 / 29

The French team at their news conference :

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: “John has played a huge match. I wasn’t in a great day. John was better than I was. He played better the important points, and played more aggressively… It’s not a surprise he can perform at this level. But I was surprised he could keep this level through the whole tie.”

“Guy was the only captain I knew, and every time he made me like this competition, and tennis even more. He shared his love of the game. It’s the most beautiful thing to me.”

Guy Forget: “The deception is a little easier to accept since it comes from the hands of Jim Courier, a really good guy. Jim was a role model, and his players are just like him. This US team and mine have many values in common.”

“Tonight I have mixed emotions. It’s the end of 14 years as a captain, but my story with story with Davis Cup is longer than that: it started in the USSR in 1983 or 1984. It’s weird it’s over.”

The US team at their new conference :

John Isner: “I believe in myself : if I can play like I play this week I can beat a lot of people in the next Roland-Garros. Beating Gilles and beating Jo are two very good wins, I played very well, if I can keep this level up I’m gonna be tough to beat.”

“Jim definitely helped me in that first tie in Switzerland. I had a very good win against Roger and he helped this week. It’s been a gradual thing for me, my coach back home put the majority of my working, but when I came here, Jim kinds of make me ready. Captain Courier is a guy that I’m very comfortable on the bench, so that helps.”

Jim Courier: “The quality of today’s match was exceptional, I thought better even than on Friday. John is definitely continuing to improve even from the last tie. I think he played better this one. It is impressive.”

“Against Spain, we probably lose it on paper but they don’t play them on paper. We have to play it out there and we have players who are capable and passionate and hungry. We are definitely going to be the underdog once again but we will be ready to play.”

-          The special guests section:

Spotted today at the Monte Carlo Country Club: Novak Djokovic, the World N°1, and his girlfriend curiously at home in Monaco and not in Belgrade to support his teammates against Czech Republic; Ricardo Piatti and Ivan Ljubicic, for the last tournament of Ljubi’s career, next week in Monte Carlo; Eric Winogradsky, former Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s coach ; Alain Boghossian, former soccer player, World champion in 1998 with the French squad; the little group of the Net Heads, trying to make as much noise as the French crowd; and a bonus, Alexandre Vinokourov, the cyclist champion, training with three Astana’s teammates on the roads of Monaco.

End of the week in Monaco for Guillaume and MarieJ. It’s been a pleasure to share with you the coverage of this France / USA tie, in one of the most beautiful places for tennis. We are French, but we were really drawn in by this US team. See you next time and good luck in Spain!

Guillaume Willecoq was at the Monte Carlo Country Club covering the US versus France quarterfinal Davis Cup tie as media for Tennis Panorama News.  Guillaume Willecoq also manages and contributes to the French language tennis website http://www.15-lovetennis.com, follow them on twitter on @15lovetennis.


Made My Day – Videos from Cliff Drysdale’s Fundraiser During the Sony Ericsson Open

by Craig Hickman

The 2011 Sony Ericsson Open is now history. Before play was officially underway, Kim Clijsters, Andy Roddick, Caroline Wozniacki and Ryan Harrison supported the Greater Miami Tennis Club as part of Cliff Drysdale’s fundraiser at the Ritz-Carlton of Key Biscayne inside the tennis center that bears his name.

Last year, Clijsters and Roddick considered the same event their good luck charms as both went on to win the Sony Ericsson Open. I guess it’s true, then, that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place. But the defending champions had a great time. Seeing tennis players doing what they love to do without the stress of a match was a beautiful thing.

The Ritz-Carlton of Key Biscayne is more like a palace than a hotel. I couldn’t help but thinking we were approaching royalty as we drove into the gated grounds. Perfectly designed and manicured landscaping all around, we finally found the tennis center valet. Once on the courts, I was able to see what Serena Williams once said about green clay being slower and grittier than the crushed red brick used in Europe and South America. It almost looks like gravel. On one of the outside courts, I recognized former Miami runner-up Guillermo Cañas playing a double’s match with other members.

The staff at the Ritz-Carlton gave customer service new meaning. Attentive, genuinely nice, they made us feel at home. Perfect weather, live musicians, an open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres, and the chance to test-drive Cadillac’s new models would have attracted anyone who wanted to support a worthy cause..

Even with the great atmosphere and fun tennis exhibition , the event highlight came at the end when I approached Drysdale, who’d kept the proceedings efficient and light-hearted with his infectious personality and wit. He’s practically a stand up comedian.

“Just in case I never have another opportunity to say this to you, I just wanted to let you know that you are the voice of tennis for me. Didn’t matter where I was in the house, if I heard your voice on the television, I knew tennis was on. I enjoy your commentary, your humor, and the personality you bring in the booth is always a perfect foil for your colleagues.”

His face lit up more than it naturally does. “Wow. Thank you so much for telling me that. You have made my day,” he replied with an outstretched hand. Next thing I knew, he touched the side of my face as though I were his son. He made my day, too.

Michelle Payer, the media relations director who invited us to cover the event, insisted that I pose with Drysdale for a photo. As we posed, I told him of my sister’s home in South Africa and JD, who’s originally from the Netherlands, asked him if he spoke any Afrikaans, the Dutch dialect spoken by the Dutch who settled there centuries ago. Personal connections make every experience more memorable.

The entire event benefited the Greater Miami Tennis and Education Foundation and like last year, kids from the foundation attended the event as ball boys and girls. They earned that privilege based on their report cards, attendance, leadership and other factors. The $13,000 raised will benefit these socially and economically challenged Miami children, will help them learn tennis and valuable life skills by participating in free, affordable GMTEF tennis and education programs throughout the school year, as well as during the summer.

Next year’s event promises to be even better.

Craig Hickman covered the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. He is the  founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog

Photos by JD Blom

Videos by Craig Hickman and JD Blom.


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