2015/05/22

“This one I think I played a lot smarter” – Cici Bellis Defeats Zarina Diyas in Miami for some U. S. Open Revenge

(March 27, 2015) Fifteen-year-old wild card Cici Bellis exacted some revenge on 29th seed Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan at the Miami Open on Friday with a dominating 6-2, 6-1 win.

 

The young American lost to Diyas in the second round of the 2014 U.S. Open. The match before that, the current world No. 211 made some noise in the first round of Flushing Meadow when she upset 2014 Australian Open finalist and world No 12 at the time, Dominika Cibulkova. Bellis was the youngest player to win a match at the U. S. Open since 1996

 

Bellis broke her Diyas’ serve seven times during the match which lasted 76 minutes.

“This one I think I played a lot smarter,” Bellis talking about Friday’s win over Diyas to media. “At the US Open I was really like caught up in, you know, all the kind of hype that was going on.

“But this one I was just really focused and played my game. I think I did what I needed to do to win really well.”

“I think every single part of my game has improved since the US Open,” said Bellis. “I mean, just from today, like I lost to her at the US Open, which was I don’t know how many months ago, like eight months ago or something, and today I beat her 2 and 1.

“So I think everything in my game has improved. I have been working really hard, extremely, extremely hard since the US Open just for that. I think it’s really paying off, so I’m really happy.”

Bellis could face world No. 1 Serena Williams in the third round. Williams plays Monica Niculescu on Friday night in a rematch of her third round match just two weeks ago at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

“I mean, it’s going to be really fun,” she said of the possible match against the 19-time major champion. “I have nothing to lose, so I’m just going to play my game and see what happens.”

Asked about what her mindset will be going into a possible match against Williams, she said: “Just don’t really think about who I’m playing. It’s just, you know, another one of my opponents that I’m playing. Doesn’t really matter who it is.

“We are all in the same tournament, so we are all kind of at this level. You can’t really think about who you’re playing. It’s just a ball that’s coming back on the other side of the court. You just have to go out and not think about that stuff and just play your game. That’s what I’m planning to do.”

Bellis, who will turn 16 on April 8, has not decided if or when she will turn professional.

“Amateur,” she said. “I haven’t decided yet, but I think just keep my amateur status for a little bit longer, just, you know, in case.”

After the Miami Open, Bellis plans on playing in the WTA tour event in Charleston.

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Maria Sharapova Upset by No. 97 Daria Gavrilova at Miami Open

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

(March 26, 2015) Maria Sharapova was looking for her first title at the Miami Open, a rare event in which she has never held the trophy going 0-5 in finals. The Russian is still looking for that crown in Miami, as she was upset by countrywoman and wild card recipient, world No. 97 Daria Gavrilova 7-6(4), 6-3 on Thursday night.

For the 21-year-old born in Moscow and resides in Australian, who just broke into the top 100 just days ago, it’s her first win against a Top 10 player, the biggest win of her career.

The first set of the match saw both women break each other’s serve, with Gavrilova moving to a 5-3 lead. Sharapova fought back, taking the next three games. The younger Russian held on to send the set into a tiebreaker, which she won 7-6 (7-4). The set last 68 minutes.

“I was down 6‑5 and I was up 5‑3 and it was 30‑All, and I was just thinking, Okay, be tough, be tough; you can do it,” said Gavrilova.

“I had some negative thoughts at that time, but I kind of got rid of them and just kept going.”

The wild card jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, then moving out to a 4-1 advantage. The world No. 2 fought back to win the next two games to cut the deficit to 3-4, but her opponent broke back for 5-3 and served out the second set and the match 6-3.

On court was an elated winner: “I’m just so excited, I’m so happy, I can’t explain it,” she said. “I always believed and that’s probably why I won!”

“I was very composed. I told myself to keep believing and keep trying.”

Later at her post-match news conference, Gavrilova elaborated on her belief in being able to defeat Sharapova. “I played Angelique (Kerber) twice this year, and I played Simona (Halep) last week. I was pretty close I thought all this time. I just thought, Okay, you can do it. You’re probably at this level right now.”

Gavrilova, who is making a comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee back in 2013 broke Sharapova’s serve four times during the match.

She talked about the journey from the ACL injury to recovery and the night’s big win: “I remember last year I was crying. I was like, Oh, it’s so boring doing this rehab. Blah, blah, blah. It all paid off at the end. I just have to keep going.”

“I was injured. I had a knee surgery last year. So I had a pretty rough time.”

Asked if she was surprised about the defeat, the No. 2 player said: “Well, it’s sport, and I happened to lose the match. Of course it’s a bit of a surprise. It’s the first round. I’m expected to win.

“But I think that’s, you know, one of the reasons why we play the matches, is you still have to go out and win it no matter if you’re the favorite.

“Today I didn’t.”

“I mean, I had little times where I did come back, but I was always behind. I put myself in a situation that was too far behind to come back from.”

“I still can’t realize that it’s my dream,” said Gavrilova. I have been dreaming about beating Maria since I was probably 12 when I saw her win Wimbledon, when she beat Serena.

“I was like, Oh, I really want to play her and beat her. I was probably visualizing beating her since I was 12, yeah.”

“She runs a lot of balls down,” Sharapova said, evaluating her opponent’s strength. “I was committing a lot of errors off of those balls and not really staying patient and just going for, you know, too many maybe winners, not moving forward enough.”

Sharapova committed 34 unforced errors during the match.

Sharapova said that she’ll be playing Fed Cup for Russia when they take on Germany in Sochi, Russia the weekend of April 18-19.

“I was actually talking to my coach and my physio,” Gavrilova said. “I’m saying, I’m not going to sleep tonight because my phone will be going off.

“And I said, Oh, I’ll turn my Wi‑Fi, 4G, 3G, everything off and sleep and get ready for the next one.

Next for Gavrilova, she’ll face No. 54 Kurumi Nara in the third round. Nara upset 25th seed Caroline Garcia 6-7, 7-6(9).

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Pospisil Spoils Del Potro’s Return

88 Del Potro 3

(March 26, 2015) Returning to the court for the first time since January 15, Juan Martin del Potro‘s recent attempt at comeback from wrist surgery ended in a first round loss at the Miami Open on Thursday.

Canadian Vasek Pospisil defeated the Argentine, who is currently ranked No 616, 6-4, 7-6 (7).

For Pospisil, it’s his first-ever win at the Miami tournament.

Del Potro’s rustiness showed in the second set when he failed to serve it out up 5-4 and then squandered set points in the tiebreaker, double-faulting twice, which led to match point against him.

“Obviously down there I wanted to win the match, and I had few chances in the first set; then in the second set I know I have set points, but I couldn’t close the set because I had easy efforts and easy mistakes,” del Potro said.

“I didn’t serve well in the special moments, which is tough for me with all of these things.

“But now I’m okay. I don’t have any physical problem after the match, and I will be recovering soon for the future.”

314Pospisil-001

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” said the Canadian in regard to taking on del Potro.

“That was a little bit added stress maybe before. But at the same time, I was just trying to focus on serving well and playing my game and trying to put pressure and coming to the net.”

“Whether he had pain or not, you know, it’s obviously not the same backhand that he normally plays,” Pospisil added. “I tried to take advantage of that by coming in and putting pressure on that side.

“But, you know, he’s still serving well and hitting his forehand huge, which made it tough. I just hung in there, you know, maybe got a little bit fortunate at the end. He was serving; had set point on his serve; but then the rest of the way I played well.”

The 2009 US Open Champion admitted that he still is not at 100 percent: “I’m not confident 100% to hit my best backhands yet.

“And I also need time to improve my backhand again. I already been hitting backhands the last 10 days in one year, which is very ‑‑ it’s very bad to play in this level.

“But I am working hard. I am working hard every day little more on my backhand. I think it’s the only way to get to pass through all of the things and get well for the future.”

“It’s just a wrist problem. Of course mentally you must be strongest enough to deal with the problem and get up every morning to do your treatments and rehab and stay calm, looking forward for the future.

“I’m not hurried to be in the top 10 very soon. I want to play tennis. It doesn’t matter how long it’s take me to be in the top again. Just wanted to play tennis and without pain.”

“It’s only 2 months after my second surgery and my left wrist. I feel better week by week, but it’s still very early to feel 100%.”

“It was like a Davis Cup atmosphere,”  said the 24-year-old Pospisil of the lively crowd cheering for his opponent. “I felt like I was playing away somewhere.

“It was a great atmosphere. Whether everyone is cheering for me or against me or if it’s equal, you know, when there is a big crowd and when they are into it, it’s always more enjoyable for everybody. I was enjoying it more, and actually might have helped me a little bit in the end, to be honest.”

The Canadian will take on No. 9 seed Grigor Dimitrov in the second round.

As for the 26-year-old del Potro, he’s taking his comeback one day at a time: “I think it’s the most important be patient and stay calm, and also try to be positive.

“I got depressive for a while in the past. I have been talking with (Janko) Tipsarevic, as well, at the locker rooms. He knows a lot about the injuries, about comebacks, and doesn’t make it.

“But in the end, I want to play tennis. If I have to learn a different backhand to keep playing, I will do it.

“But now I’m trying to do all my things to fix the problem and hitting my backhand as I did in the whole ‑‑ all my career. I am still positive.

“I think is the biggest goal for me trying to keep trying and stay mentally strong enough to go through all of the injuries.”

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Serena Williams Hopes to be Ready to Take the Court on Friday at Miami Open

315Serenawaitsforserve-001

(March 25, 2015) MIAMI, FL – Just days after withdrawing from her Indian Wells semifinal against Simona Halep with a knee injury, Serena Williams, now at the Miami Open, the two-time defending champion, hopes that she’ll be ready to play her first match on Friday.

“I’m okay,” said Williams giving an update on her health. “I’m just managing where I am right now. Just trying to stay out of as much pain as possible and see what happens.”

“I know I’m going to have to manage the pain. I think if I’m in that mental state, okay, you might be in a little pain. You just have to figure out the best way around it.”

Why not, skip the tournament all together? Williams just lives practically down the road from the event in Palm Beach County. On top of this, she’s won the event a record seven times.

“I didn’t think I would be doing this interview today,” Williams said. “I stepped on the court (to practice on Wednesday) and I was just like, I love this place. You know, I love playing at home. I live just down the road.

“So, yeah, it takes a lot. It takes a tremendous amount for me to stop. Yeah, so I don’t know if that’s a good thing or that’s a bad thing, but I think I will be okay.”

The real test for the 19-time major champion will be when she takes the court on Friday against second round opponent Monica Niculescu of Romania.

“Probably on my first match, if I get that far,” the world No. 1  said. “So, yeah, I don’t want to put too much pressure on it before.

“I’m just here in Miami, so I’m just going to go for it and see what happens.”

Williams just defeated Niculescu in the second round at Indian Wells just last week and won the match 7-5, 7-5.

“Well, I definitely don’t have low expectations,” said the American. “I just definitely expect to do the best that I can. Whether that’s winning or just stepping out on the court, that’s what I’m going to have to do.

“Again, I don’t feel any pressure because I have won this title a few times, so I feel good about being here. When I hit on the court today, just something about Miami, you know. I just feel so good out here.

“So I was like, Oh, this is fun. I’m just looking forward to just enjoying myself this year more than anything.”

“I think every player has pain. I said this before. I don’t know any player that goes out there without pain. Every match I play, I mean, I could be 10% in pain or I could be 80% in pain. It just kind of depends how you feel and how can you manage that.

“Knowing ahead of time the problems that you’re dealing with, usually you have a good way. Okay, we’re dealing with this problem and this is how you treat it, so you can be able to play at a high level.

“Now that I kind of know what’s going on, I’m able to treat it and be able to play at a higher level than I would have been able to play a couple of weeks ago.”

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Djokovic Does the Double

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

(March 22, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, California – After the drawn out drama of the women’s final and over an hour later than planned, defending champion Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer took to the court for their final, and with the anticipation of perhaps another three set thriller on the cards.

 

First blood though went to the Djokovic, who closed out a ruthless break, for a 4-2 lead, and although Federer asked the question for him to serve it out, he snapped up the first set 6-3.

 

It was imperative for Federer to get off to a quick start, and it looked as though he would settle, but another loose game helped Djokovic take advantage for an early break at the start of the second.

 

Djokovic was making the difference in his return games, taking the time away from Federer in the distinctly cooler conditions today than for the majority of the tournament, but Federer needed to settle to try and at least stay in contention, before time ran out to make his move.

 

Suddenly the momentum shifted as Federer took advantage of a dip in Djokovic’s game to level at 4-4 with a break that got the crowd alive, roaring their approval and silencing the small enthusiastic group of Serbians in the nosebleeds.

 

Holding in perhaps his most commanding form since the very start of the match, the pressure was very firmly on Djokovic now as the errors started to stack up from the Serbian, as he served to stay in the set. A slightly more confident hold to love brought him into a second set tie-break.

 

With Djokovic taking the early momentum, Federer slowly got himself back into contention as the pressure got to the defending champion, double-faulting on his serve to bring Federer level at 5-5. A second double fault handed the advantage right back at the Swiss with two serves to come at 6-5. He needed just the one set point to send the final into an electric decider.

 

Perhaps it was inevitable that the defending champion would come out swinging maybe a little more freely, and quickly took a 2-0 advantage before the nerves seemed to grip him again, opening the door for Federer to charge back in to get the match back on serve.

 

It was Djokovic who surged to a lead once more, at 5-2, with Federer serving to stay in the championship.

 

For a match that could so easily have been settled in straight sets, Federer had done well to fight back, but a tired shank gave the Serbian the match points he needed, as he closed out the win 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2, a title defence, and draws level with Federer in terms of titles won here.

 

Coming first into press, Federer analyzed where the match was won (and in his case lost):

 

“For a long time I was always trailing. I was putting myself under pressure unnecessarily sometimes on my own serve. But that was, again, a credit to Novak’s great way of returning second serves.

 

“He’s always going to catch some first serves, especially here where it’s not as fast. I knew it was going to be tough. That was the most disappointing part I was telling myself throughout the match. It’s like where is that return on the first serve? “

 

He continued: “Midway through the second it started to get better and I got into more rallies, and that’s where I think it became close again. That was tougher for him, because all of a sudden I think I was playing better so he wasn’t getting as many free points. He had to pull back and play a bit more safe. So it was from my side a bit more up and down, and he was just more solid. That’s why he totally deserved to win today, in my opinion.”

 

Djokovic was presented with a cake celebrating his 50th title, which surpasses coach Boris Becker’s 49 titles, and the World No. 1 described how that felt along with his assessment of the match.

 

He said: “I thought set and a break and it was a break point for 5‑2 up. I thought I could have done the job earlier. Credit to Roger for fighting through. Showed again why he’s a competitor and champion, somebody that never gives up. When we got to the third set obviously it was anybody’s game.

 

“I managed to regroup [and] overcome that frustration of handing that tiebreak to him with three double faults in crucial moments. But that’s sport. Obviously under pressure sometimes these things happen and it’s important to regroup, bounce back, and focus on next one.”

 

He continued: “I’ve got to look forward to get to Miami and have a dinner with Boris. I think it’s on him this time. (Smiling.) I surpassed his 49th title, so that gives a little bit of special spice to this title.”

 

While Federer is skipping Miami this year, Djokovic will travel on to defend his title and attempt the double once more.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.

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Simona Halep Rallies Past Jelena Jankovic for Indian Wells Title

Simona Halep

Simona Halep

(March 22, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – It might not have been the final that people wanted, in amongst the hoopla surrounding Serena Williams return and subsequent withdrawal in the semi-final, but with 16 minutes gone and only two games on the board, there was no doubt the crowd were going to get their money’s worth, between former champion Jelena Jankovic and World No. 3 Simona Halep.

 

It was always going to be important for Jankovic to be able to move, and having struggle with injury ahead of the match, she kept the press core in stitches with her lack of preparation, but ultimately bringing in attacking play as well as defence would be the key.

 

There were early signs of nerves by Halep who struggled for eight minutes as Jankovic put in a pleasing display of aggressive drive volleys and her trademark backhand down the line to take the first game, but failed to consolidate as Halep settled back down quite quickly, as the first passage of play resolved on serve as Halep got the first hold of the day.

 

Jankovic took the initiative once more, this time managing to consolidate on a break of serve, nudging her into a commanding position at 4-2. With Halep venting her frustration on her racquet, it was clear to see that Jankovic’s aggression was perhaps throwing Halep off her game plan a little, as the Serbian broke again to come out and serve for the match.

 

With Halep receiving a medical timeout for her toe before the second set, it was important that she came out to hold her first service game, but her relief was short lived, as Jankovic kept the pressure on, in fact if anything starting to get a little frustrated at herself, which may have spurred her on to put the hammer down on the Romanian.

 

A loose game by the Serbian to get broken to love put Halep back in the driver’s seat and the second set back on serve at 3-3, and for the briefest moment it looked like we could be in for the three-setter that we wanted but the Romanian handed the break straight back and with it, her hopes for her biggest title in her career.

 

Halep had to dig out a further break, aided and abetted by some typical Jankovic drama which included three double faults, a time violation warning, and Jankovic trying to serve while a ball-kid was still scrambling off the court. It was an emotional rollercoaster for Halep, who once more found herself rapidly facing break points succumbing to the fourth straight break of serve this match, but more dangerously giving Jankovic serving for the title.

 

Admitting to her coach Chip Brooks that she was nervous she reverted to the defence we often see in her game, just giving Halep the opportunities to dig out winners, breaking her with the fifth consecutive time this set. With finally a hold to stop the run of breaks, Halep suddenly seemed the aggressor as Jankovic tightened up as the match went into a decider.

 

Again the initial advantage went to the volatile Serbian, but Halep was never far away from breaking back, as the pair treated the crowd to some great rallies, not to mention more drama as the chair umpire seemed to forget about the nuances of second serves.

 

 

With both struggling to keep hold of their serve in the final set, Jankovic called her coach back once more but her serve and resolve seemed to desert her once and for all as Halep broke for a 5-3 lead to serve for the title, but handed back the advantage straight away.

 

It took yet another break to love to seal the deal for the Romanian 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 after what started out as a difficult week for her, after a personal bereavement. It had been a great run for Jankovic who struggled to deal with the nerves of closing out, having won her last title in 2013.

 

After the match, Jankovic admitted that she had let her opportunities pass her by.

 

She said: “I let those nerves take the best out of me. That shouldn’t happen. I was full of emotions. I was just overwhelmed and excited that I’m in the final and I put myself into a position to win.

 

“So it’s been an amazing two weeks. Yes, of course I’m disappointed that I lost this final, because I really had a chance to win and hold that trophy. But I’m still proud of myself and my team how far I came into this tournament and what I have achieved.”

 

Halep admitted she knew she was being rushed into mistakes, especially in the first set, and finally the key had been to make her run over the three sets.

 

Talking to the press with the giant glass trophy at her side, she said: “She knew how to play me today to make more mistakes. It was difficult for me to take that balls very high and without power, so I did many mistakes with my forehand.

 

“My coach came on court and he said that I’m rushing at that balls. So I said, Okay, I understand, and I go now to play not very strong those balls.

 

“I just try to stay cool, to make her run a lot. I know that she’s running well, but still my backhand down the line was good today. Forehand so so. Everything went well, and, you know, I have no comments now. I have like, in my mind, it’s like ‑‑ I have another title, my biggest title now, so it’s amazing. I feel great.”

 

After attempting to lift it, she confirmed she intends to play Miami, as does Jankovic.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.

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Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer to Clash in Indian Wells Final

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

(March 21, 2015) The top two men’s tennis players will face off in the final of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday in Indian Wells, California.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeated No. 4 Andy Murray 6-2, 6-3 in the first semifinal of the day, a rematch of the Australian Open final, while No. 2 Roger Federer bested Milos Raonic 7-5, 6-4.

In Sunday’s final, defending champion Djokovic will be aiming to capture his fourth Indian Wells tournament, while Federer will be going for his fifth title in the desert. Federer leads Djokovic 20-17 in their head-to-head records.

Djokovic is now 17-8 against Murray, after winning for the sixth straight time against the Brit. Djokovic is 18- 2 on the year.

Considering this was probably the first match that I’ve played in the day in the entire year ‑‑ because I have played Doha, Dubai, Australian Open, and 90% of the matches I played during the night ‑‑ I thought I handled the conditions well.

It wasn’t easy, but I needed some time to adjust. The fact that I’m in another finals makes me definitely feel very good, very confident.

I had a phenomenal start of the season, and hopefully I can, you know, do my best tomorrow and maybe get another trophy.

Murray had a below average serving day against the Serb, losing his serve four times in the match.

“I tried to go for a few more serves today and to try to get a few more free points, but, you know, serving 50% or just below is, you know, not good enough against the best players,” sais Murray. “You obviously need to serve better.

“I thought I actually hit my second serve better than I did in Australia today, but first‑serve percentage was too low.”

Murray had 29 unforced errors and only seven winners in the contest

“I think obviously I didn’t start either of the sets well,” Murray said. “That obviously makes things difficult against the best players. I mean, Novak didn’t give me any free points at the beginning of either of the sets, and I made a few too many errors early on.

“Then, you know, in the end of both sets, middle of both sets, I started to play a bit better and made it tougher and was able to push him a bit, but not enough at the beginning of the sets to make it challenging enough for him.”

“I thought I played solid, with the right intensity from the beginning,” said Djokovic. “Good first‑serve percentage. Got some free points there in the important moments.

“Just overall it was a good performance.”

Djokovic admitted that his opponent did preform as well as he could have.

“Even though it’s a straight‑set victory, I still had to earn it,” Djokovic stated. “I thought that he hasn’t played close to his highest level. Made a lot of unforced errors, especially from the forehand side. Low percentage of first serves in. That allowed me to obviously step in and be aggressive.”

 

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

Milos Raonic broke up the potential “Big Four” reunion in the semifinals when he upset Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals on Friday. Raonic tested Federer in the straight set loss on Saturday.

The hard-serving Canadian was broken in the eleventh game of the first set, which the Swiss closed out 7-5 in 45 minutes. Federer opened the second set with a break, and never looked back.

Federer has now reached his 40th Masters Series 1000 final. Federer claimed the desert crown 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012.

“I’m very happy how well I’m playing,” said Federer. “Feel good physically. Obviously I feel refreshed after the holiday. I’m serving well, which is always crucial.”

“He was neutralizing well on the serve, but especially during the points I felt like a few times I was able to stretch him,” Raonic said.

“He was doing a good job of getting legs behind and always playing deep cross so I could never find that short forehand I was looking for.”

“I wish I would have served a higher percentage, but I felt like when I was putting my first serve in I was doing a good job,” the Canadian explained. “I don’t think I mixed up my second serve enough.”

Djokovic discussed the possibility of playing Federer in the final:

“If I get to play Roger, it’s the ultimate final that right now I can have. Probably the player that is in the best form. You know, in the last 12 months he’s been playing some of his best tennis, I thought.

“Especially after, for his standards, pretty average season in 2013. He came back and played the finals in Wimbledon, played some great tournaments, won titles, and we had a fight for No. 1 spot all the way up to last couple of matches in London.

“He started off the year well again except that third‑round loss in the Australian Open. He won two titles. You know, he’s playing great. There no question about it.

“We all know that Roger, with all his records, we know the experience that he has. He’s not expected to play nothing less than his best in these stages of the tournament.

“He’s been proving that. He won so many titles. He loves the big occasions, and I’m sure he’s gonna come out wanting to win, being aggressive.

“He moves great. I thought since he changed the racquet it helped him with maybe reaching balls in the defense that he wasn’t able to do maybe before that. Seems like he has more control in the backhand. Great serve, as always.

“So he’s a very complete player. No question about it.”

“One thing about Roger is that he always makes you play highest level if you want to win against him,” Djokovic added.

“That’s something that’s always in the back of my mind. This is something that makes me come out with the highest possible concentration and intensity and commitment. If I want to win that match and win this title, I definitely need to be on top of my game.”

“After losing so close last year I was quite disappointed, even though I was happy how I was playing,” said Federer. “Can’t wait until we get a chance again to play him here, because you have to wait one entire year, got to win another five matches, and finally you’re in the finals again.

“So I think it’s very exciting for both of us, and also for fans, to see a rematch of the great final from last year. I’m looking forward to it, and I hope I can keep up my good play.”

“I like these big matches. I have been playing so well and I don’t feel tired. I feel great going into the finals, and I hope I can keep up this kind of a level. I know I need an extra special performance tomorrow because Novak’s going to push you there to come up with a lot of great shots in a row, which is not always easy to do.

“So I will see how it goes.”

Asked if his rivalry Djokovic is on par with Rafael Nadal, Federer said: “It will never be the same. Not better or worse. It just will be different just because the matchup is so unique for me with Rafa; whereas Novak’s is totally, like I said, straightforward.

“With Rafa I feel like I need to change everything when I play him. I have played so many times against Rafa on clay, as well, that it feels different; whereas Novak has been a much more of a hard court rivalry, whereas with Rafa has been more clay and grass.”

Federer on his rivalry with Djokovic: “What remains is that you know it’s always been tough against him. I have seen the rise of him, you know, as he’s gotten fitter and more match tough, mentally tougher, became one of the best movers we have in the game. It’s been nice seeing him do that, you know, and improve as you move along.

“Sometimes I wonder if everybody’s willing to improve as much as Novak did. It’s been interesting to see him figure his game out, and I’m happy I can still hang with him. I must be quite honest, because he’s in his absolute prime right now, and I enjoy the challenge of him. I hope he enjoys my challenge.

“So we will see tomorrow, but I think it’s a very dynamic rivalry we have. Great movement. I don’t think we need to change our games very much when we play each other. We can just go out there and play our game, which I think is quite cool also for fans and for ourselves, which is interesting.”

 

 

 

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What a Difference a Week Makes

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(March 20, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – Just as the tournament spun in the early days with the expectation of Serena Williams’ return, so it would end in an almost eerie echo of 14 years ago.

 

Social media had already buzzed about the news during the previous semi-final, and when she took to the court mostly to cheers, a few boos could be clearly heard from the Press balcony, coming from above, but the announcement was cleverly stage managed to celebrate 40 years of the tournament, and the momentousness of Williams come-back just a week ago.

 

Williams spoke to the press immediately afterwards and confirmed: “I was just on the practice court two days ago, day and a half ago, yesterday, and everything was going good. Literally last two couple minutes of practice I went for a serve and I just felt a super sharp pain in my knee.

 

“It was like, Okay, and I served again. I felt it again. I just came off, and it hasn’t been the same since. I have done everything. Like I have just pretty much done everything from taping to research and I even did an injection. I have never done an injection before.

 

“I think if this was any other event I probably wouldn’t have considered it. I wanted to give 200%. It just wasn’t meant to be this year.”

 

She has stated she intends to return to Indian Wells next year.

 

Meanwhile – we had the ATP quarter-finals to conclude, and that too was a tale of two halves.

315Federerin press.-001

Roger Federer almost bullied his way to the semi-finals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. From the outset he had Tomas Berdych on the back foot, at one stage throwing up three double faults in one game before Federer finally broke through the door he had been battering down. A single break was a respectable margin for the first set, but it was not enough as Federer stepped up a gear, and Berdych crumbled once more in a key match 6-4, 6-0.

 

The confidence he had at the start of the year with regards to changing the team around him, once more could not manifest itself when it came to the crunch, as Berdych tried to explain.

 

In his post-match news conference he said: “When you feel that he’s in control right from the beginning, then of course you have to come up with your best game from the beginning of the match. I mean, you just want to play well. You just want to play your best. There is a very thin line in between that and overdoing it. It’s not so easy, really, to control it every single time that you go play with a player like this, even if he’s playing in such a good shape.

 

“Today I stepped a little bit over it, so hope the next time, next day, it’s just going to stay on the line.”

 

With the very real prospect of the World Top 4 contesting the Indian Wells semi-finals, Federer cast his eye over another match up with Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard started aggressively against Milos Raonic, breaking him before the first change of ends in the first set.

 

Federer said: “Matches against him are always tough, I think. You know, he’s going to play the percentages high. He’s not going to miss many shots. He’s got a great forehand, one of the best ever. Then physically and mentally he’s always going to be there. That what makes him so good and so tough over all these years. “

 

It looked for all the world like we would be in for a quick afternoon, but somehow Raonic clung on to set, needing five set points in total (three in the tie-break) to take only his second set off the Spaniard.

 

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

Going toe-to-toe with him in the decider had everyone ready for a decisive tie-break but for a loose game by Nadal to give Raonic a 6-5 lead. For once it was right to come down to that serve as Raonic held his nerve to close out a 4-6, 7-6(10), 7-5 win, his first over Nadal and it sets up an intriguing rematch now against Federer after their encounter in the season opener in Brisbane.

 

Raonic believes he can be ready for Saturday’s semi-final after such a momentous win.

 

He said: “I think I have a good understanding of what I need to do against Roger. Obviously that’s the easiest part, understanding it, rather than doing it. But I think the last three times we have played I have sort of been able to change course a little bit, especially when it was important to me in Paris. Even the other two I didn’t play well at the start of the matches, in London and in Brisbane, but I was able to find a way to fight myself back into those matches and give myself some opportunities.

 

“I’ve just got to keep calm, keep collected, and just try to figure out solutions and adjustments as they come.”

 

The ATP semi-finals will be played on Saturday.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.

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Old Guard Shine Once More

Jelena Jankovic

Jelena Jankovic

(March 19, 2015) INDIAN WELLS, CALIFORNIA – We could be heading for a Serena Williams / Jelena Jankovic final after the Serbian continued her strong run of form at the tournament she won back in 2010. Always reliable for a chuckle in press, she walked in with a heavy sigh as if she had lost, before joking about how she and Williams had been high-fiving each other at their achievements this week.

 

In a week where the WTA Rising Stars rose up for a fraction of a time to dispatch top seeds, the old guard have reasserted themselves, and we were almost entertaining three players over the age of 30 in the semi-finals.

 

Jankovic’s passage into the final was quick, as Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko sadly struggled throughout their quarter-final with an ankle injury she picked up in the previous round, and retired to hand Jankovic a 6-1, 4-1 win.

 

“It’s never nice to end a match in that way. I think Lesia has had such a great tournament and she has beaten so many great players throughout the draw. I knew it was going to be a tough match today. In the first set I think we played well. I didn’t see some problems. I was feeling pretty good out there. I was playing my game and waiting for my chances to execute. I was solid.”

 

She continued: “In the second set she started limping and I saw that she had some problem. You know, that’s the time as well I lost a little bit of my focus. I was kind of looking at what she was doing. It was crucial for me to win that game at 2‑1, because who knows what would happen if it was 2‑All.”

 

Defending champion Flavia Pennetta was not so lucky though, starting slowly against Sabine Lisicki before finally starting to play a bit better. After her overwhelming emotions at beating World No. 2 Maria Sharapova, she had to battle once more from a set down to keep her defence alive, even saving a match point on the way to leveling the match.

 

The tides turned in the decider, as Pennetta had her chances to close out the match, but Lisicki, who had never won in Indian Wells, edged her for a place in the semi-final 6-4, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (4) . The crowds gathering for the night match were treated to a spectacle, and the semi-finals ought to live up to that as Serena Williams will face gritty Simona Halep in the final night match on Friday, with Jankovic and Lisicki opening up the show.

 

Meanwhile the men’s quarter-finals got underway with Andy Murray thwarting Feliciano Lopez. The Spaniard could not get a break (quite literally) as Murray quietly and efficiently dismantled his serve and rendered his coming forward moot winning 6-3, 6-4.

 

He explained: “I don’t have as much trouble with the lefties just because I grew up playing with one, and that’s obviously one of his biggest advantages. I thought I played a good match. Every time he came to net I made it very difficult for him. I passed very well, and that was important, because it meant that he spent more time at the back of the court.

 

“When we were in the baseline rallies, I felt like I was able to dictate a lot of those points. Passing shots were important today.”

 

With the disappointing news that Bernard Tomic had withdrawn officially with a back injury, but also troubled with a wisdom tooth, defending men’s champion Novak Djokovic gets a walkover into the semi-final, but after struggling against him last year, Murray believes he has a chance to redress the balance.

 

He said: “He’s played extremely well here in the past. You know, he will be totally fresh as well and ready for the semis, so it will be a tough one for me. But I feel like I played well this week, and, you know, if I can keep that level up and for a sustained period on Saturday, I’ll have a chance.”

 

The men’s quarter-finals conclude on Friday.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.

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For the Good of the Sport

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

(March 18, 2015) The women’s side of the draw flipped on its head once more as the young up and coming pack started to fall away after some famous wins this week. Gone was Caroline Garcia, who felled Ana Ivanovic, while Jelena Jankovic hit one more for the oldies when she dispatched Belinda Bencic to book her place in the quarter-final.

 

But perhaps the biggest surprise was Lesia Tsurenko defeating Genie Bouchard, whose come-back had been going quite swimmingly until that point. And she’s going to be one to watch as she faces the 2010 champion Jankovic next. The Serbian is playing some really solid tennis at the moment, perhaps buoyed by a great win over the very hard-hitting Madison Keys, but she can also come undone fairly spectacularly when she’s up against a player she has not played before. We could expect all kinds of potential tantrums on court, but it still will have been her best result for quite some time.

 

Serena Williams finally ended the great run of Acapulco and Monterrey champion Timea Bacsinszky, and while she admitted she could almost see the trophy in her hands (the first American to win it since her victory in 2001) she acknowledged that she had still a way to go.

 

She said: “I think it will be really good. It’s a good surface for her. I feel like she can definitely come out here, and when we play, play really well. Hopefully I can start playing better. “

 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray

But maybe, and perhaps disappointingly, the focus at the start of the day was more on the news that Wayne Odesnik had been caught again on a doping charge, despite protesting his innocence. He was caught in two samples, and in light of his two year ban in 2010-2011 for being caught with a growth hormone and medical materials in his possession, he was banned for 15 years, and thus announced his retirement from the sport.

 

Needless to say there are not many offering to give him a handshake for his “achievements” (if a world ranking of No. 77 and no titles are to be celebrated).

 

Andy Murray tweeted “Good riddance” and called into question, quite reasonably, if one had been caught once, why would you do it again?

 

He said: “He’s been linked to a number of people that have been involved in doping presently and in the past and surrounded himself with those people, so I can’t say I’m surprised.   To have three separate issues is ridiculous. It’s good that he’s off the tour now.”

 

 

Rafael Nadal was a touch surprised to hear the news but broadly agreed, saying: “I really don’t know about him, so it’s difficult to say one or another thing. But obviously when that happens twice, you don’t deserve to be on the tour.”

 

Quarter-final action continues on Thursday.

 

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.

 

 

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