July 31, 2015

Venus Williams – Champion and “Cheagan”- in Her Own Words

Venus Williams

(March 22, 2012) Playing in her first singles match since announcing that she’s suffering with the auto-immune disorder Sjogren’s Syndrome, 31-year-old Venus Williams destroyed 41-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm 6-0, 6-3 on Wednesday in the first round of the Sony Ericsson Open in Key Biscayne. Williams who has won 43 titles in her WTA career spoke to media about how she feels about coming back. Here are a few excerpts from her post match news conference:


It was great to be back out there. You know, it was definitely nerve wracking, especially playing an opponent that I know how talented she is and first match back.


But, you know, I was able to get a great start and settle in and play well against, you know, a really difficult opponent.


I definitely wanted to come out focused, so that was definitely an ideal, ideal start.  I’m glad it happened that way.

I mean, just to be in this tournament is a huge win for me; just to be here is a win.  You know, that’s what I told myself going in, that this is a win.  I have nothing to lose.  Just, you know, to gain.  Just to get back at this level is a win for me.


Well, I feel like a person that has an autoimmune disease.  You know, for me, I’m not gonna probably feel like everybody else.  But for me, my personal best is to give 100%.

You know, I felt good enough to…

(Dog comes out of bag.)  (Laughter.)


Why doesn’t anyone ask him a question?  He goes everywhere with me.


He’s a Havanese.  He’s my baby.

TPN:  If you have to give from 1 to 10 how you played today, what would you give?

VENUS WILLIAMS:  I was happy with how I played today.  I wasn’t sure how I was gonna come out.  I mean, I’m always positive, but it’s definitely hard to play the first match.

I’m scoring high today.

Q.  Would you say 11?

VENUS WILLIAMS:  Yeah, 11, awesome.

I’m confident I will give it 110%.  My goal is to peak for the Olympics.  Like just to win a match helps me in my goal, and to win another match helps.

So the good thing is that I’m playing well.  I know how to play, so I haven’t lost any steam in that, you know, the fact that I can play tennis.  So that’s really comforting.


On Diet: I started eating raw, and I started eating vegan.  And I also cheat.  So I’m a chegan.


A chegan?  It’s vegans who don’t always… (Laughter.)


It’s just that I might find something on someone else’s plate that I in that in my past life I was accustomed to eating, so that’s what cheaganism is all about.  It’s a crossover.

I’m not perfect.  It’s hard to change your life completely, but I think it’s definitely worthwhile.  I think it’s helped me.  It’s definitely a lifestyle that is good for me so I can play pro.

On whether or not she’s confident about receiving an Olympic BerthYeah, I have been talking about the Olympics ever since I played the first one, so, um, for me there’s no limits to what I can achieve.  Even if, you know, the odds aren’t in my favor I have still been able to do really well.


So I believe I can do it.  So just stay tough, I guess.

Williams will play No.3 seed Petra Kvitova in the second round. There only meeting came four years ago in Memphis when Kvitova stopped the American in three sets.


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.


Video Highlights




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Kourtin’ Karen’s Sony Ericsson Open Week 1



Welcome to Miami

Tennis Panorama News was in Miami this week covering the Sony Ericsson Open. Craig Hickman of Craig Hickman on Tennis and JD Blom were on site covering all the on-court and off-court action.


Breaking News at WTA All Access

Due to Craig Hickman’s and JD Blom’s skills with the Flemish language they broke the “Clijsters won’t play in Asia” story on twitter first and with a complete translation later in the day.  Heads up to Chris Chase for recognizing this in Yahoo’s tennis blog Busted Racquet. It was interesting to see media outlets report the story without verification or source attribution.

Of  War and Radiation: Kim Clijsters Speaks



Soccer/Football Jinx

Photo courtesy of Onthegotennis.com

Has anyone noticed that most of those players who participated in the charity soccer match for Japan earlier in the week have already lost in Miami?  The list so far includes Andy Murray, Fernando Verdasco, Marcos Baghdatis, Stanislas Wawrinka and Kei Nishikori.


Look out for Falling Seeds

On Saturday alone 10 seeds including Andy Roddick lost in Miami – 6 men  and 4 women.


Serena Sighting

From Serena Williams‘ twitter account, Williams and Caroline Wozniacki took in a Miami Heat game earlier in the week.



Losing Streak

Andy Murray (Photo of Onthegotennis.com)

Andy Murray is officially in a slump. He was a second round victim to Alex Bogomolov Jr. This marks his fourth consecutive loss beginning with the final of the Australian Open. Despite the loss, Murray will climb to No. 4 in the world due to Robin Soderling’s third round exit at the Sony Ericsson Open.


Doubles Point of the Week!




Swimming with the Fish(es)

Mardy Fish has a sense of humor to volunteer to participate in two photo-ops this week – swimming with the dolphins..

Mardy Fish and Dolphins Cheerleaders (Getty Images)

and posing with the  Miami Dolphins cheerleaders. Good news for Fish – not official yet but a Fish win in the next round, paired with Andy Roddick’s early loss will make Fish the top ranked US male.



Dance of the Week

Video and photo courtesy of Forty Deuce

Ana Ivanovic has paired up with Andrea Petkovic in doubles this week at the Sony Ericsson Open.  Needless to say Petkovic has shown her how to do the victory dance.


Photo-Op of the Week

NBA All-Stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat perfomed the coin toss at Saturday evening’s Rafael Nadal-Kei Nishikori match at the Sony Ericsson Open.


Do you wanna ride in my Mercedes boy?

Photo courtesy of Onthegotennis.com

Kudos to Onthegotennis.com who caught Roger Federer driving to the Sony Ericsson Open in a Mercedes.  Mercedes is one of Federer’s sponsors.


Parties and Events of the Week

Tennis Family Unites To Raise Funds for Japan Disaster Relief

Sony Ericsson Open Players Party – Welcome to the Oscars

New Experience with Sharapova and the Hot Shots

GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser with Novak Djokovic

Slideshow: GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser

Game, Set, Match, Videos and Photo Galleries!

JD Blom and Craig Hickman were all over the Sony Ericsson Open  from the matches to the “Party Patrol” events this past week. Here are links to videos and photo galleries. Also check out the live tweeting of the red carpet events they covered thorughout the week– here

Articles with Videos:

Videos – GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser with Novak Djokovic

Video – Roger Federer Practice Session at the Sony Ericsson Open

Video – Andy Roddick Practice Session at the Sony Ericsson Open


Photo Galleries












Tennis Family Unites To Raise Funds for Japan Disaster Relief

Miami, FL – Friday evening at the Sony Ericsson Open, the tennis family came together for a special fundraising event for the victims of the Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster, dubbed “Tennis for Japan”, featuring the stars of the WTA and the ATP World Tour.  Kim Clijsters, Robin Soderling, Vera Zvonareva, and many others, including Japan’s Kei Nishikori, Kimiko Date-Krumm, and Ayumi Morita, walked through the stands of the Stadium Court to collect donations from fans and encouraged the public to show support for the victims.  In total, thanks to contributions from the WTA, ATP World Tour, the Grand Slams (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open), Sony Ericsson, ITF, IMG, SAP, Itaú, FILA, adidas and Lagardère, and the fans, the evening raised over $300,000 which will be donated to the Red Cross and other relief organizations to aid the victims of the disaster.

“Tennis is a global sport and when a tragedy strikes, the entire tennis community comes together and responds,” said Adam Barrett, Sony Ericsson Open Tournament Director. “I think the fact that the entire tennis family has come together tonight to help raise money for the relief effort makes a powerful statement about the sport, its players, and sponsors.”

“All of us have been deeply touched by the terrible disaster in Japan and I am glad that the tennis family was able to come together to organize this very important event so quickly, giving us the opportunity to raise money for the victims,” said Zvonareva, WTA World No.3.  “As tennis players, we travel the world and play in Japan each year, so the disaster has touched all of us on a personal level.  I hope that this fundraiser is only a start and the players and the public will continue donating and help the victims in every way possible.”

“It has been horrible to follow what happened in Japan and it is our duty to do as much as we can to raise awareness and funds,” said Soderling, ATP World Tour World No.4. “I am very proud of what the ATP and the rest of the tennis family has done so far and we need to continue to help as much as possible.”

Additionally, numerous players, including Caroline Wozniacki, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, Ai Sugiyama, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic recorded video messages of hope supporting the victims.  Videos will be shown throughout the 2011 Sony Ericsson Open and online on Facebook and both the WTA and the ATP World Tour’s websites.


Sony Ericsson Open’s defending champion and WTA World No.2 Clijsters was wearing a custom-designed FILA shirt, available for purchase at the Sony Ericsson Open.  Proceeds from the sales of the shirt will be donated to Japan earthquake relief funds.  Players have also been collecting signed tennis memorabilia which will be auctioned to raise funds.


Shortly after the disaster, Nishikori established a Facebook page in partnership with the Red Cross to collect money for Japan’s victims.  Fans can visit www.facebook.com/#!/keinishikori and click on the “Japan Disaster Relief” tab in order to help.  Nishikori also created an online auction at http://www.aceauthentic.com/keinishikori/main/index.php.  Date-Krumm established a Relief Fund account at www.kimiko-date.com/gien/index.html.  The WTA tournament in Tokyo, the Toray Pan Pacific Open, is also organizing a charity auction of the WTA players’ signed memorabilia and collectibles which will kick off in April.


On Wednesday night in Miami, many of the ATP World Tour’s top players took part in the ‘Hope Match for Japan’, a charity football match between the ATP World Tour All-Stars and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, a North American Soccer League team. Marcos Baghdatis, voted the team’s most valuable player, and Andy Murray scored goals for the ATP World Tour All-Stars, which was captained by World No. 2 Djokovic. A total of 17 ATP World Tour players took part, including World No.1 Nadal and Nishikori. The charity match, which the Fort Lauderdale Strikers won 4-2, was followed by a gala dinner which raised more than $100,000.


Maria Sharapova Enjoys ‘That Latin Flavor’

All Photos © JD Blom for Tennis Panorama News.
Article by Craig Hickman


Thursday night, I attended by first-ever night session on Stadium Court at the Sony Ericsson Open. Outside of the Slams, this is among my favorite tournaments. I’ve always considered it the fifth Slam, even though recently, I’ve heard Indian Wells referred to as such. What I love about this slam is the high-energy crowds that come out at support Central and South American players. When JD asked me what the biggest tournament in South America actually was, I drew a blank. In my mind, this is it.

Which is why I ought to have gotten out to Court 1 a lot earlier and watched the compelling drama unfold between Paul Capdeville of Chile and Frederico Gil of Portugal. By the time I arrived, the match was at a few points shy of the final set tiebreak, which Capdeville let 4-1 and 6-3, only have the match stolen from him by the tencacious “Fred” (his fans where chanting his name after almost every point) who struck two outrageous passing shots to save two of the four match, deflating the Argentine who was gutted after the match.


Back on Stadium Court, Maria Sharapova played her first match in Miami match in three years. After she cruised to victory 6-3, 6-2 over Croatia’s Petra Martic, I was the only writer, along with five photographers, who showed up for her news conference. Because it was late and she appeared to be a bit insulted by the empty room, joking that more children showed , I kept my one-on-one with the former No. 1 and face of the WTA succinct.

Craig Hickman for Tennis Panorama News: How are you feeling?

Maria Sharapova: Good. Great.

TPN: When was the last time you played in Miami?

MS: Three years ago.

TPN: That’s what I thought. How does it feel to be back?

MS: Way too long.

Feels really good. This is one of my favorite events. It’s crazy that I’ve missed it this many years because of injuries. So I’m just so happy to get back on that court today and just I love playing in front of the crowd. They’re so enthusiastic. They love their sports and have that Latin flavor about them. You know, it’s fun.

TPN: How is your shoulder?

MS: Doing good. Yeah, stable.

TPN: Are you healed?

MS: Healed? Tough to say an athlete is healed, but, yeah, I’m doing really well. Thank you.

TPN: You are pretty popular in Asia. Can you talk a little bit about how you felt when you heard about the Japan earthquake?

MS: Yeah, it was a tragedy. You know, you still see all the coverage in the papers and on video. It’s crazy to think that something like that could just happen so quickly and destroy so many lives, so many emotions.

Japan is one of my favorite places to visit, to go to. I’ve had incredible memories ever since I think I was maybe 13, 14 years old my first time I went there. I love so many things about it. I love the people. I love the food. I love the culture. I mean, I have been to so many different parts of it, as well, I’ve got to experience. I mean, you go to a different town, people live differently. It’s so unique there. I draw so much inspiration all my life from there and from those people. It’s devastating to know what they’re going through. Yeah, but I hope that it doesn’t continue and become worse.

TPN: Where do you see yourself in the game right now?

MS: Um, you know, I see myself building from what I can. You know, my goal this year is to consistently stay healthy and just really build on you know, last week I got to the semifinals. I was really happy, because I hadn’t played a tournament in a while. So just, you know, play a lot more tournament in a while. So just, you know, play a lot more tournaments, you know, play a lot more matches, and I feel like my form will get to where I want it to be when I do that.

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

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Slideshow: GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser

By Craig Hickman

From what I hear, it’s not often media is invited to sit down for dinner at an event such as this. As another photographer said while cutting through her tender filet mignon, “I fully expect we’re going to get kicked out of here shortly.” But Natalie Mikolich, the publicity director for the event, made sure the media she invited got to enjoy a delicious three-course dinner featuring:

House Salad of Mesclun wrapped in Shaved Cucumber with Mandarin Oranges, Candied Walnuts, Cherry and Yellow Pear Yomatoes, and Dried Cranberries Drizzled with lemon oil

Surf and Turf featuring Filet Mignon in Red Wine Reduction, Seared Sea Bass, Mashed Potates, and Petite Vegetable Medley with Micro Greens

Chocolate Ganache Coated Three-Layer Cheesecake with Marzipan and Cocoa adorned with Fresh Raspberries

As for the rest of the event, the photos and videos speak for themselves, no?

For photos from the live tweets on the red carpet click here.

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog He is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

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Videos – GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser with Novak Djokovic

ATP World Tour No. 2 Novak Djokovic, Kei Nishikori and other ATP players held a fundraising event on Wednesday, March 23rd to benefit Japan relief efforts.

First Djokovic lead a team of ATP stars in an exhibition soccer match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers professional soccer team. After the match Djokovic and Kei Nishikori hosted a dinner at the posh JW Marriott Marquis Miami.  The exclusive dinner/ after-party featured  fundraising including a silent auction and donations were made to the American Red Cross Japan disaster relief efforts.

The event was hosted by GR8 Miami (www.GR8Miami.com).

Videos by Craig Hickman and JD Blom

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog He is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

For photos from the live tweets on the red carpet click here.

Slideshow: GR8 Friends For Japan Fundraiser

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Sony Ericsson Open 2011 Kids’ Day


On Tuesday more than 1,350 children converged at the Sony Ericsson Open for Lindt Kids’ Day. Marcelo Melo, Bruno Soares, Natalie Grandin and Vladka Uhlirova joined the kids on court and offered tennis instruction. The children hailed from Miami-Dade, Broward and Lee counties; and the Hobe Sound area. A host of donors contributed to the event including: Build A Bear Workshop, Chuck E. Cheese, Dave and Busters, Hyatt Regency Miami, Jungle Island, the Miami Dolphins, Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay, Miami Zoo, Publix, TennisKidsZone.com and US Road Sports. 




Sony Ericsson Open Players Party – Welcome to the Oscars

View the slideshow

by Craig Hickman

Tuesday night, the players chose their fashion-forward best for the “Oscars” of the player party circuit. Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Ana Kournikova were the biggest stars of the tennis world in attendance, as well as world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, Fernando Verdasco, and pretty boy Feliciano Lopez, who made one of the photographers weak-kneed.

Robin Soderling
, along with his girlfriend, were among the first to show up and they were already walking out when we arrived. Tomas Berdych and Lucie Safarova were the last to arrive on the red (blue) carpet. An adorable couple close up, their chemistry was palpable. Tomas has always had the look of an angel and Lucie’s baby-doll face was all aglow. I was thrilled to see Anastasia Myskina who arrived with the self-proclaimed “Russian Mob,” led by Svetlana Kuznetsova in another one of her head-scratching get ups.

Mixed in with the players were a few actors, a couple professional gamers, some well-known local DJ’s, and a few mystery men.

Venus Williams arrived about midway through and when Serena Williams wasn’t far behind, it was clear the superstar wasn’t coming. Also noticeably absent was Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Kim Clijsters.

Tweeting the photos was a stroke of genius suggested by photographer  JD Blom. I was all set to tweet my best descriptions of the outfits when he looked over my shoulder and said, “Just snap a photo.” Ah, technology. I’m not a wizard with the latest toys, so I had no clue you could do such a thing. Once I got the hang of it, it was all over. Would love to do that again someday.

Right before the paparazzi packed up equipment to leave, one of the Getty photographers asked my to identify most of the players he’d just captured for he only recognized a few big names. Who knew?

More photos from the live tweets – here.

On the Red (Blue) Carpet of the Sony Ericsson Open Players Party

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog He is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.

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On the Red (Blue) Carpet of the Sony Ericsson Open Players Party

The Sony Ericsson Open Players Party took place at the Paris Theater in Miami Beach. Here are a few photos from the event held on March 22, 2011.

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More photos from the live tweets – here.

Sony Ericsson Open Players Party – Welcome to the Oscars

Craig Hickman is founder and editor of Craig Hickman’s Tennis Blog He is covering the Sony Ericsson Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @CraigHickman.  Find his Sony Ericsson Open tweets on @GVTennisNews.