August 29, 2015

The Road to the US Open Begins This Weekend at the BB&T Atlanta Open

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By Herman Wood

(July 24, 2015)ATLANTA, Georgia – The road to the US Open starts in Atlanta with the BB&T Atlanta Open this weekend with qualifying.  The BB&T is a ATP World Tour 250 event, with a 28 player singles and 16 player doubles draw.  Total prize money this year is $585,870.00.  The venue is set in downtown Atlanta, amongst the sky scrapers and shopping of Atlantic Station.  Two time champion and former University of Georgia all-time leader in singles and doubles wins, John Isner returns in search of a historic three-peat.

Arguably the best doubles team of all time, Bob and Mike Bryan make their debut in the BB&T.  They got their first tour win in an Atlanta event in 1998.  Defending doubles champ and singles semifinalist Jack Sock, along with doubles partner Vasek Pospisil, are looking to take another step in their development.  The doubles draw could be very interesting if a showdown between the Bryan brothers and “Popsock” materializes.  It was only a year ago that Pospisil/Sock denied the Bryans the Wimbledon 2014 title.

Marco Baghdatis is already turning heads in the ATL.  As he dropped off his racquets for stringing by the Prince Team at the Serious Tennis tent with Deana Buzzy Mitchell, he was reportedly, “very sweet and winked at me!”  That kind of behavior is sure to make him a fan favorite with at least half of the crowd.  Americans Steve Johnson, Tim Symzek, and Donald Young are also looking to make a statement.   In what could be a big story line, two time champion Mardy Fish is returning to the tour in this tournament.  He has struggled with health issues almost since the last tournament win in Atlanta.  He’ll also be teaming up with another former Atlanta champion, Andy Roddick.  Roddick will not play in the singles main draw, but is playing an exhibition match against another young American, 17 year old Frances Tiafoe on Monday night.  Tiafoe created a stir in the qualifying last year and has been granted a wild card into the main draw.  Other crowd favorites returning include Dudi Sela, last year’s finalist, 2013 finalist Kevin Anderson, and 2012 finalist Giles Muller.  The draw will also include 4 players from a 32 draw qualifying tournament to be played this weekend.

2015 French Open Boys’ champion Tommy Paul and this year’s Wild Card Challenge winner Trent Bryde have accepted two wild card spots into that BB&T Atlanta Open qualifying tournament.  Paul is the No. 5-ranked American junior. Bryde had to make his way through 5 matches in the Wild Card Challenge.  Georgia Tech also is providing a wild card to sophomore Christopher Eubanks.  Eubanks was named all Atlantic Coast Conference as a freshman last spring and finished ranked number 47 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings.

Ticket sales have been on a record pace according to Tournament Director Eddie Gonzalez.  Atlanta has always been a tennis town, with the largest local doubles league in the United States.  There will be several special events that are part of the tournament scene, including the above mentioned exhibition with Roddick, a kids weekend with special ticket promotions during the qualifying tournament, a Commodores concert, College Night, another concert featuring LoCash, Ladies Day, USTA member appreciation day, and a Family Zone presented by Prince at Atlantic Station where kids can play tennis.

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

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Steve Johnson Nets a Rare Five-Set Win on Day One of the French Open

(May 24, 2015) In the first five-setter of the French Open on Sunday, Steve Johnson of the United States knocked out 26th seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-3, 6-3, 6-7(1), 3-6, 6-3 to reach the second round. The marathon match lasted three hours and 26 minutes. For the 56th-ranked Johnson, it’s his second win in five setters all coming in the first round. Last year in Paris, Johnson bested Laurent Lokoli coming back from a two-set deficit.

Johnson took a 6-3, 6-3 lead and was two points away from a straight sets win in the third set, then Garcia Lopez came back in the match.

“I wasn’t like I guess panicking,” Johnson said. “I was up two sets. I played a good end of the third. He kind of buckled down and played some great defense in the last three sets. Felt like it was tough for me to hit a winner. He played great defense. He’s very comfortable on clay; he’s very comfortable out there. I don’t think at any moment, even down two sets, he thought it was far from over. Just fortunate – you know, I was down a break in the fifth – just to kind of compose myself. Played a great game to break back, a long game, and I think that swung the momentum a little bit in my favor.”
“I’ve had a bunch of tough five-set losses,” Johnson reflected. “A couple years ago here I played Montanes. He won the first, I won the second, he won the third, I won the fourth. You kind of get this emotion where you’re on this high, like you’re ready to go, ready to go. It’s just another match. It’s just another set. I’ve played a lot of tennis in my life, and I felt comfortable out there today in the fifth just to play regular tennis. You know, I didn’t need to raise my game to another level to win this one. So that kind of mentality. So I just buckled down and played the way I needed to play. You know, drew back from all those five-set losses. Had a five-set win here last year in the first round. So just another day at the office to take care of business and win three sets.”
In recent years U.S men have not been known for their clay court prowess or love for the surface. The last U.S. man to win the French Open was Andre Agassi in 1999.

Asked about if U.S. men have gained confidence on clay courts, Johnson said: “I think it’s just a mindset really. Maybe back in the day after the (Andre) Agassi kind of (Michael) Chang, those guys’ era who won here, there was maybe a bit of negativity. I don’t want to say that in a negative way to guys like James and Andy and Mardy (Fish). Those guys held the torch for American tennis and did more than anyone else really has, in my era at least. I think there was maybe a negative tone to coming here or being on clay in general. So it’s nice to have John (Isner) do well because he’s the leader of our pack right now. If he does well, you know, we all believe we can do well I feel like. It’s one of those things where you see your buddy win and you’re going to feel the same confidence. I think I was the only American to play today, to win. Maybe tomorrow the Americans will come out guns blazing and go out and take care of business. Just one of those things that confidence kind of breeds more confidence, and winning, just amongst the group, is always beneficial.”
Johnson, 25, played college tennis for the USC Trojans won the NCAA Men’s Singles Championship in his junior and senior seasons (2011–2012), and was a part of the USC team that won four straight NCAA Championships.

The Californian rates clay as his third favorite surface.

“I played on hard court my whole life,” Johnson said. “Feel like my game suits well for grass. Maybe haven’t had the success at Wimbledon as I would like, but that’s going to change I hope one day. I feel like I’m getting more comfortable. It’s funny, because I’ve had literally the last three years — all three years I’ve played on the tour full time it’s like once clay season comes I’ve struggled. Like two years ago in the challengers in the States it was like winning games, and then Bordeaux two years ago I won three games; I got killed. Then like I get to Roland Garros to play quallies two years ago and the ball kind of starts to roll and you figure it out. It’s a learning process. Every year I’ve felt like I’ve gotten here and everything has just started to click. I’ve had some rough practice days, matches, you name it, for the last two months. Now it’s like, Okay, everything I worked on, my coach and I, it happened today. It felt good. So it’s like one of those things where you get more comfortable the more time you play on it. You’re going to get here, and I don’t know what it is about here, but it’s a pretty special place to play. I just felt like the clay court game for me has clicked, which is good timing.”

Next up for Johnson in the second round will be the winner of the Sergiy Stakhovsky – Ricardas Berankis.

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Americans John Isner, Sam Querrey, and Steve Johnson to Play U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship

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(January 27, 2015) HOUSTON – The top three Americans on the ATP World Tour rankings will play at River Oaks in April during the Fayez Sarofim & Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship.

John Isner, the 2013 tournament champion, will be joined by his countrymen Sam Querrey and Steve Johnson, playing singles at the tournament while fellow Americans Bob and Mike Bryan highlight the doubles draw.

The trio of American singles players joins a field that will include defending champion Fernando Verdasco, Kevin Anderson and Feliciano Lopez for the April 6-12 tournament.

Five of these six singles players reached at least the third round at the Australian Open. Anderson and Lopez both reach the fourth round, while Johnson, Isner and Verdasco made it to the third round.

Isner has won at least two titles in each of the past four seasons on the ATP World Tour. During each of the past three seasons, Isner has finished as the No. 1 ranked American. He has an 11-6 record at River Oaks, including the title in 2013 and a run to the final in 2012.

Querrey has finished in the Top 50 of the ATP rankings six times in the last seven years, including this past season. He has won seven career titles in 12 finals. Querrey is 7-5 in his career at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, including a run to the final in 2010 and the semifinals in 2014.

Johnson completed career-best season in 2014, improving his ranking by over 120 positions during the year. He won back-to-back NCAA titles while playing at USC. As a pro in 2014, he reached the semifinals in Delray Beach and four other quarterfinals. Johnson will be playing at River Oaks for the third time. Both previous appearances ended with a loss to Verdasco.

These player commitments were announced as a new tournament website was launched. www.usmensclaycourt.com.

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Jack Sock Knocks Out Top Seed John Isner at Newport

 

Isner and Sock photo by Ben Solomon

Isner and Sock photo by Ben Solomon

 

By Dave Gertler

 

(July 11, 2014) NEWPORT – The second set of singles quarterfinals were played at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships on Friday in Newport, which will celebrate its 60th year by adding a new name to its list of champions. After Nicolas Mahut was taken out by Sam Groth in the first of yesterday’s quarterfinals, by the time the last quarterfinal was played, the only former  champion left in the draw was also eliminated from the tournament.

 

By beating American No.1 John Isner, promising young talent Jack Sock has made his first ever ATP tour semifinal, where he will face Australia’s Lleyton Hewitt, who is looking to add to his tally of 29 career ATP titles. “He wasn’t on his A-game today,” said Sock of isner, “I was able to just scrap out a few returns, and lucky enough to get through.”

 

Earlier in the day, top-ranked Australian Lleyton Hewitt had a comfortable win over America’s Steve Johnson, beating him 6-4, 6-4 by playing solid tennis throughout. Johnson’s game was explosive at times, but he conceded points at crucial moments through unforced errors, and despite leading 3-1 in the second set, wasn’t able to win another game until serving to stay in the match at 3-5.

 

Hewitt is very comfortable on grass – of his 29 career titles, a healthy seven of them have been on this surface. After having made the final at Newport the last two years, the scene is set for Hewitt to perhaps go for third time lucky, as his family, who have been in Newport all week, would like to see. They wouldn’t be his only supporters in the crowd; Hewitt’s dynamic style of play and passionate displays of emotion on court have won the Rhode Island crowd’s support over the years.

 

“I still feel like I’m one of the fitter guys out there on the tour, no matter that I am over 30,” said Hewitt, after his singles quarterfinal and before playing his doubles semifinal later in the day, which he won with Australian partner Chris Guccione. “I’ve always done the right things, but it’s probably more important now to always do the right things after every match and prepare properly for the next match.”

 

He will need to be at the top of his physical game to beat 21-year-old Sock, who answered to the media as he iced his elbow ‘preventatively’. “Obviously, I’ll be playing a legend that’s still out there playing,” said Sock, “For him, it’s pretty unbelievable that he was No.1 that many years ago and still playing, still playing at a high level, so it’ll be tough.”

 

Before Hewitt and Sock take the court, the other semifinal will be contested between two of the game’s biggest men, and, biggest servers. Combining with Lleyton Hewitt, Sam Groth completes the first pair of Australians to reach a semifinal at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championship since Jason Stoltenberg and Wayne Arthurs did it way back in 2000. Both Groth and Hewitt will be hoping to go one better than their predecessors, who both lost their separate semifinal matches. The only other occasion where there have been a pair of Australians in Newport singles semifinals was in 1988 (Brad Drewett, Wally Masur).

 

“Tomorrow’s more about Sam holding his nerve in the semifinal,” said Hewitt, who has played Groth’s semifinal opponent Ivo Karlovic five times, only beating him once. Like Jack Sock, 26-year-old Sam Groth will be playing his first ATP-level semifinal when he takes the court against the 6’11” Croatian tomorrow. All four players are competing for prize money drawn from the tournament’s total financial commitment of $539,730.

 

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 .

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James Blake Leads List of Wild Cards for Cincinnati

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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.

 

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Americans in Paris – Day Two at Roland Garros

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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.”

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