One-on-One with American Tennis Player Tim Smyczek

Tim Smyczek

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 14, 2014) MELBOURNE, Australia – Not everyone can be a Rafael Nadal or a Roger Federer. This man acknowledges that and willingly accepts it. He has his own goals which don’t involve becoming world No. 1 which is, for most tennis players, quite out of reach given the state of the men’s tour at the moment.


We sat down for a one-on-one with American top 100 player Tim Smyczek who gave us an insight into just how tough the men’s game is and a realistic take on how difficult the transition is moving up into the professional ranks.


Smyczek entered 2014 having had the year of his career. Before a supportive home-crowd at the US Open 2013, he reached the third round of a Grand Slam, which is no easy feat, and broke into the top 100 to reach a career high of world No. 90.


In his first round Australian Open match on Tuesday, he did not have the same success as in the US last year and fell to Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the blistering 42C degrees (approx. 106F) heat in straight sets. But the American is keeping his chin up and is focused on maintaining a more comfortable status in the top 100 as the year unfolds.



Alana Mitchelson: What drives you most, what keeps you playing?


Tim Smyczek: Well, last year I had my best year as a professional. Made the third round of the US Open and had a couple of top 20 or top 30 wins. It was really encouraging for me to get to my highest ranking ever and just getting a taste of tennis on the big stage is really encouraging. It’s what you dream about, so I feel like some of the hard work’s starting to pay off. Maybe not today so much but I love playing tennis and I love competing. I think there are very few people in the world who get to make a living playing a sport.


AM: What are your thoughts on the state of the men’s tour at the moment? Do you feel the standard’s lifting all the time?


TS: Yeah, I think the men’s game is so deep right now. There’s a couple of guys at the top who you don’t see lose very much unless it’s to each other. But outside of that, the game is really really deep and, you know, you could see a guy who’s ranked 100 beat a guy who’s ranked 20 on any other day. So it’s really a testament to how strong the men’s game is right now.


AM: And in the US more specifically?


TS: I think there’s so much talk about last year being the worst year in US men’s tennis in a long time and if you look at just the Grand Slams, that’s true. But I think the average age in the top 100 is something like 27 and there’s probably five or six guys between 90 and 110 that are much younger than that. So as a group, we’re very young and I think it’s really exciting because a lot of those guys are really poised to have good years and really make a dent.


AM: Since Andy Roddick’s retirement, there’s been a lot of talk pressuring John Isner to lift his game to carry men’s tennis in the US. Does that sort of talk inspire you to lift your own game?


TS: I don’t know, Andy was top 10 in the world for I don’t know how many years straight, you know, that ship’s kind of sailed for me. But I’m just trying to improve my game every day and really see how far I can go. I think I’ll get myself in trouble if I start comparing myself to anything like that or worrying too much about American tennis as a whole. I think just as long as I keep working hard and doing the right things and taking care of the things that I can control, I think I’m heading in the right direction.


AM: You had a really successful run as a Junior. What advice would you give to some of the younger ones coming up, soon to make the transition into the professional ranks?


TS: I came out of Juniors – I think my highest was 12 or 13 in the world – and I kind of just thought that I was gonna come out and easily shoot up the ranks. I mean, for some it is like that, but for others it’s a long process. I’ve been playing for seven or eight years now and I just broke the top 100 for the first time. So it can be a long road. Really in the last three years I’ve learned to take it to a different level of being a professional and treating tennis as a career. It can be a long road but I think the best thing is to be professional about it.


AM: Of the American Juniors, who do feel shows the most promise?


TS: I’m not really sure. The only one that I’ve really spent any time practising with is Stefan Kozlov. I’ve hit with him a couple of times over this summer. I think he is extremely talented and if he keeps his head on straight, I think he’s got a really bright future and hopefully he can just stay level-headed and keep his nose to the grindstone and keep working hard. I know that he’s working very hard so if he stays on that path, he’ll have a bright future.


AM: Your goal last year was to break into the top 100 and you’ve achieved it. What are your goals for the year ahead?


TS: Well, first and foremost I’d like to give myself a little breathing room inside of a hundred and really stay there. But I think I’m poised to make the next jump. I think the next jump will just be top 50. I have a pretty large patch in the middle of the year with not a lot of points to defend so hopefully I can arrange my schedule around that and really try to peak to make a push.


AM: And where are your favourite places to travel on tour?


TS: Here is definitely one of them, love Melbourne. Indian Wells is a favourite of mine, I’ve got that coming up. I always enjoy going back to the desert. It’s just one of the nicest tournaments for the players. You’ve got Hawk-Eye on every match court and the facilities are just beautiful. And going to New York every year is really great. It’s really fun to play at the US Open every year, being an American. Last year I had a really neat experience with that so I’m definitely going to look forward to going back there this year.


AM: Yeah, nothing really compares to that home-crowd support.


TS: Exactly.


AM: The furthest you’ve progressed in a Grand Slam is third round. What are your thoughts on the prize money for early round exits?


TS: I think they’re making a step in the right direction. Like last year was the first year, I think, that they really raised it and this year it’s even more. I think in the player meeting the other night, there’s plans to go even higher so it’s nice that the player council and all of those guys are trying to look out for us guys who aren’t making the millions in the top 20. I think it’s a great start and certainly I’m appreciative. It’s nice to get a nice cheque down here and not needing to worry about breaking even on the trip or anything, so it’s put a weight off for sure.


AM: Yeah, the prize money is quite heavily weighted on the winner.


TS: It is but, as well, it should be. I think if you look at any of the tournaments Rafa or Roger or Novak play that aren’t Grand Slams, those are tournaments that can really turn a profit and make a lot of money. So they’re the ones who really are the driving force behind the sport. They deserve to reap the rewards.


AM: Definitely. John McEnroe recently made a pretty big statement in saying he believes doubles should be eliminated from Grand Slams. Where do you stand on that?


TS: I never read the full article on it but I do know that club players and recreational players really enjoy watching doubles. You see any time the Bryans are playing, they really fill the stands. So I think it would be a disinterest to the fans to do that if a lot of people really enjoy watching. And also, I think there’s a lot of interest in tournaments when a top singles guy is playing doubles. Sometimes, at Indian Wells, Rafa or Andy Murray plays and people love seeing that. So I think there’s definitely a place for doubles and I think, if for no other reason, people love to watch it.


AM: You included?


TS: I do because I’m not very good at doubles and I think it’s pretty interesting to see.


AM: It’s a completely different game really.


TS: It really is, exactly, it’s totally different. It almost makes you appreciate some of the top guys even more who can go and do well in doubles tournaments because they do certain things very well. It makes you realise just how good the big 4, or big 5, really are.


AM: So what do you think about Lleyton Hewitt and Pat Rafter playing together?


TS: Can’t wait to watch some of that, it’ll be really fun. I always loved watching Rafter when I was a kid. He was so athletic and just an incredible player. I just can’t wait to see it.


AM: Yeah, it should definitely be a bit of fun. Tim, when you do eventually retire, what do you think you can see yourself doing?


TS: Probably going back to school, or going to school. I didn’t start college. I have a lot of things that I’m interested in but I’m not really sure if any of them could turn into a career, so I’m still trying to figure it out.


AM: Do you have any idea what you would study?


TS: I enjoy reading about economics and finance, but…


AM: That’s a whole different world.


TS: (Laughs) Exactly.


AM: Thank you so much for your time. It was a pleasure meeting you and best of luck for the year ahead.


TS: Thank you, nice meeting you.


Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.


Tim Smyczek Headlines ‘Serves For Summit’ Exhibition on December 7


(October 31, 2013) Milwaukee, WI – On December 7th, Americans Tim Smyczek, Rhyne Williams, Denis Kudla and Rajeev Ram will take the court at the REX Fieldhouse on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College to help raise money for the Summit Educational Association, which provides one-on-one tutoring and mentoring for Milwaukee’s inner city students.

Joining the four players on court will be former U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gullikson, a Wisconsin native, who will MC the action. The players will start with two singles sets and conclude with a doubles set, similar to Davis Cup format.

“In 2010 we held a tennis exhibition that was a lot of fun and raised money for Summit,” said Smyczek, ranked 83rd in the world and a Milwaukee native. “With the help of my family, friends and the great tennis fans of Milwaukee we’re hoping to make this event bigger and better so we can make a difference for a lot of kids who rely on the guidance and services Summit offers.”

The weekend’s activities start on Friday night, December 6th, when Summit will host a reception and dinner at the Hilton City Center in Milwaukee.

Tickets for the tennis, dinner, and sponsorship opportunities may be purchased online at www.ServesForSummit.com.


American Tim Smyczek Opens with win at Napa Valley Challenger

Tim Smyczek

(September 24, 2013) Monday marked the beginning of the main draw at the Napa Valley Challenger, a USTA pro circuit tennis tournament in Napa, California.

Players are competing for $50,000 in total prize money and 80 ATP points to the winner – there’s a lot to gain. Tim Smyczek (USA) the tournament’s No. 2  seed won against Vijayant Malik (IND) 6-2, 6-2 on Monday afternoon. Smyczek will face Daniel Cox in the second round. When asked about Monday’s game Smyczek said, “When I got on the court I felt a little flat, it took four or five games to dig my teeth into the match and I got into a rhythm. I’m really happy with the way I played, especially the second set – I’m looking forward to Wednesday.”

The experience for players so far in the Valley has been positive. “It’s the second time I’ve been here and it’s quickly becoming my favorite place to play. It’s pretty ideal too, not much wind. I’m really happy to be here.”

When asked what Smyczek would do to prepare for his next tournament match he said, “I’ve never played Cox before, not sure what to expect but I’ll go out and play my game and focus on the things I can take care of, I’m confident right now and I’m going to carry it forward.”

Daniel Cox commented on his opponent, “I’ve seen him a little bit, he’s experienced at his level, it’s going to be a tough match. I’m going to try to play well and do my best.” Recovering from wrist surgery last August, Cox is returning to the game from eight months off and is feeling good, “It’s still not perfect, but I’m managing it well and able to play,” said Cox.

The tournament runs through Sunday, September 29th. For more detailed information visit NapaValleyChallenger.com.


Men’sSingles – First Round
[1] D Kudla (USA) d E Corrie (GBR) 60 62

[2] [WC] T Smyczek (USA) d V Malik (IND) 62 62

[3] R Williams (USA) d [WC] C Altamirano (USA) 62 62

M Venus (NZL) d [7] S Johnson (USA) 76(4) 64

D Cox (GBR) d B Mitchell (AUS) 76(2) 61

Men’sDoubles – First Round
A Kuznetsov (USA) / P Polansky (CAN) d [4] D Molchanov (UKR) / M Reid (AUS) 46 64 10-5

B Reynolds (USA) / J Smith (AUS) d S Caruso (ITA) / D Kutrovsky (BUL) 61 36 10-5

M Arevalo (ESA) / N Barrientos (COL) d G Ouellette (USA) / J Witten (USA) 76(5) 75

MensQualifying Singles – Third Round
Qualifying - T Kokkinakis (AUS) d J Milton (GBR) 63 64

Qualifying – J Witten (USA) d [WC] K Harbatsiuk (BLR) 64 61

Qualifying – D Kutrovsky (BUL) d A Blumenberg (BRA) 62 63

Qualifying – G Ouellette (USA) d M Santiago (USA) 61 63


Novak Djokovic Cruises, Last US Man Tim Smyczek Beaten on Sunday at US Open



Tim Smyczek photo by JD Blom

Tim Smyczek photo by JD Blom

(September 1, 2013)FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – No. 1 Novak Djokovic cruised to an easy 6-0, 6-2, 6-2 win over No. 95 Joao Sousa or Portugal on Sunday night at the US Open.

Djokovic’s serve was broken only once, when he was serving for the match at 5-1 in the third set. Djokovic led in winners against Sousa 34-10.

Djokovic said that he’s working on his net play.

“I am not obviously as comfortable on the net as I am on the baseline, but I’ve been working on it,” said the Serb.  “It’s part of my game that I still need to improve.  I’m aware of that.

“It makes me happy that I have room for improvement, and I keep on spending hours and hours on the court and working on variety in my game.  And serve, especially that part of my game.  I want to try and get as many free points on the serve as possible.”

Djokovic moves into the round of 16 where he’ll take on Marcel Granollers of Spain who defeated the last US man left in the singles draw Tim Smyczek 6-4, 4-6, 0-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Smyczek was asked about being the last American left in the men’s singles draw.

“It was a cool feeling,” he said.  “You know, got a little taste of maybe what John (Isner) or Sam (Querrey) or Andy (Roddick) went through for so many years, or James (Blake) sometimes ‑ just a little taste.  Love to have more of it.”

With Smyczek’s loss there are no American men in the round of 16 at the US Open, the first time that has happened at a tournament that began in 1881.

“I think it’s tough being judged by just the Grand Slams,” said the American.  “’Cause if you look at it, John has had an unbelievable summer.  He won Atlanta; he finaled Cincinnati; he finaled Washington.  He just had a rough match third round against Kohlschreiber here.

“I think to be judged on just the Grand Slams alone isn’t quite fair.  But I do understand Grand Slams are what makes a career.  I think you can expect that to change next year.”

In addition no one from the US reached the fourth round at any of the four majors tournaments in 2013.


Harrison, Sock, Johnson Headline Tallahassee Tennis Challenger Field

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, April 10, 2013 – The USTA announced the line-up for the Tallahassee Tennis Challenger set for April 27-May 4, including a slew of up-and-coming Americans headlined by Ryan Harrison, Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, defending champion Tim Smyczek and 2011 winner Donald Young.


The Tallahassee Tennis Challenger is the third of three events in the Har-Tru USTA Pro Circuit Wild Card Challenge series, which will determine which American male earns a wild card into the 2013 French Open.


The field is revealed on the heels of the announcement last week that Mardy Fish, the former world No. 8 and current No. 42, was awarded a wild card for the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event, held at the Forestmeadows Tennis Complex. He won here in 2006.


Thirty-four-year-old Michael Russell is the highest-ranked player on the acceptance list at No. 73. The Houston resident made the quarterfinals of the ATP event in Memphis this February. In 2001, he reached the fourth round of the French Open, losing to eventual winner Gustavo Kuerten.


World No. 93 Harrison is making his main draw debut in Tallahassee at 20 years old. He played in the qualifying here at the age of 16 in 2009. The Shreveport, La., native has been ranked as high as No. 43 and has one USTA Pro Circuit title to his credit at Honolulu in 2011.


Sock, also 20, enters the Tallahassee field at a career-high No. 119 after a quarterfinals effort – like Russell – in Memphis. The big-serving Lincoln, Neb., native also paired with veteran James Blake to win his first-ever ATP doubles title in February in Delray Beach.


Former two-time NCAA champion Johnson, ranked No. 130, leads a host of top college alumni that includes No. 144 Rhyne Williams (Tennessee), 2008 Tallahassee winner and No. 145 Bobby Reynolds (Vanderbilt), No. 189 Bradley Klahn (Stanford), No. 210 Somdev Devvarman (Virginia) and No. No. 213 Tennys Sandgren (Tennessee).

Written by Nick McCarvel


BNP Paribas Open Names Wildcards – Includes Nalbandian, Blake and Date-Krumm

(February 27, 2013) INDIAN WELLS, Calif., – Former top-five players David Nalbandian, Tommy Robredo, James Blake and Kimiko Date-Krumm; Americans Tim Smyczek, Steve Johnson, Madison Keys, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Maria Sanchez, Melanie Oudin and Taylor Townsend; and Shahar Peer and Kristina Mladenovic were granted wildcards into the main draws of the BNP Paribas Open, to be held March 4 – 17 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, it was announced today by Steve Simon, tournament director.

David Nalbandian has won 11 ATP World Tour titles since turning professional in 2000 and reached the 2002 Wimbledon finals in his first appearance at the event. The Argentine and former World No. 3 will be making his tenth appearance at the BNP Paribas Open. Last year in Indian Wells, Nalbandian equaled his best result, reaching the quarterfinals for the second time in his career.

Former World No. 5 Tommy Robredo is continuing his comeback to the ATP World Tour after an injury derailed much of his 2012 season. The Spaniard has won 10 career titles and has reached five Grand Slam quarterfinals. American James Blake, former World No. 4, also has 10 career titles and defeated then-World No. 2 Rafael Nadal to reach the 2006 BNP Paribas Open finals. Kimiko Date-Krumm turned pro in 1989 and is currently the oldest player in the top 100 at 43 years old. The former World No. 4 has eight career singles titles and four doubles titles, including one in 2013 at Pattaya City.

In addition to Blake, seven other Americans have been granted wildcards into the main draws including two-time NCAA Champion from USC Steve Johnson, who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open; Milwaukee native Tim Smyczek, who is at a career-high ranking just outside the top 100 and pushed World No. 4 David Ferrer to four sets at the 2013 Australian Open; 19-year-old breakout star Madison Keys, who has already defeated five top-50 players in 2013 and cracked the top 80 earlier this month; WTA veteran Bethanie Mattek-Sands, who won the 2012 Australian Open Mixed Doubles title; another USC standout – Maria Sanchez, who is at a career-high ranking after jumping 560 ranking places in 2012 – more than any other player in the WTA; Georgia native Melanie Oudin captured her first WTA title last year in Birmingham (UK); and 17-year-old Taylor Townsend, who turned professional in 2012 after reaching the top of the junior rankings earlier that year.

Two other international players receiving main draw wildcards are Israeli Shahar Peer, who was a BNP Paribas Open quarterfinalist in 2007 and 2011 and reached a career-high ranking of No. 11 and French teenager Kristina Mladenovic, who is at a career-high ranking after defeating three top-25 players to reach the Paris semifinals earlier this year.

“This year’s main draw wildcards span from seasoned veterans, to rising American and international stars to those returning from injury,” said Simon. “Awarding wildcards to players like David Nalbandian, James Blake, Madison Keys and Taylor Townsend add to the allure of early-round matches for fans and provide the potential for these deserving athletes to break through and make a move up their respective Tour’s rankings.

Qualifying wildcards were given to Americans Christian Harrison, Jack Sock, Rhyne Williams, Dennis Novikov, Grace Min, Jessica Pegula and Irina Falconi, German Andrea Petkovic and Croatian Ajla Tomljanovic.

Harrison, the 18-year-old younger brother of American No. 6 Ryan Harrison, reached the quarterfinals in doubles with his brother at the 2012 US Open and is making his debut to the BNP Paribas Open. Sock is at a career-high ranking after reaching his first ATP World Tour quarterfinal in Memphis earlier this month. Williams, a former University of Tennessee standout, is also at a career-high ranking after capturing the ATP Challenger tour title in Dallas. Novikov, who won the 2012 BNP Paribas Open pre-qualifying tournament, is now a sophomore playing at UCLA and won the 2012 USTA Boys Championships in Kalamazoo. Min won the 2011 US Open Junior Championship and three ITF titles in 2012. Pegula won two matches in the qualifying tournament to reach the 2012 BNP Paribas Open main draw. Falconi cracked the WTA top 100 in 2011 and has won 4 ITF singles titles.

Petkovic is a former World No. 9 and has reached the quarterfinals in every Grand Slam. She is returning to tennis after a series of injuries kept her from competing consistently for more than a year. Tomljanovic has three ITF singles and 3 ITF doubles titles.

In addition to the aforementioned qualifying wildcards, the winners of each pre-qualifying tournament, which takes place February 25 – March 2, will also be granted a berth into the 2013 BNP Paribas Open qualifying draw. Women’s qualifying starts March 4 and men’s qualifying begins March 5 at 10:00am.


Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five

John Isner-2

Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Five

by Kevin Ware

Day Five Quarterfinal Results

[4] T Haas (GER) d [WC] Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 6-2

[2] J Isner (USA) d [8] Xavier Malisse (BEL) 7-6(8), 6-2

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) d [6] Denis Istomin (UZB) 7-6(0), 6-3

[3] Sam Querrey (USA) d Alejandro Falla (COL) 6-3, 4-6, 7-5

Match Notes

Steve Johnson bemoaned his lack of aggression in losing to Tommy Haas in the first quarterfinal of the day, feeling that he let Haas take control too often at key moments.  For his part, Haas is feeling good and grateful to be playing some of his best tennis towards the end of his career.  He’s especially happy to be able to do so in front of his 2 year-old who’s here in San Jose with dad.  “I know she probably won’t remember watching me play today, but maybe I can continue on playing and she’ll get to be around a couple of these tournaments and see me play competitively at a high level.”

John Isner didn’t play his best tennis in his quarterfinal match against Xavier Malisse, but he raised his level when needed to get by an opponent who was more than capable of a big upset. This was especially true in the first set tiebreaker after Isner dug a 0-3 hole with a mini-break on the first point.  The tide turned with a monstrous return on a Malisse serve to level at 5-all. He closed out the tiebreak with some mad scrambling on the baseline before flicking one final running forehand winner that was netted by the Belgian. First set to Isner.  Malisse’s level dropped off quickly in the second set.  Isner, with the first set in his back pocket, kept up the pressure on the slumping Malisse to close out an uneventful second set for the win.

The quarterfinal match between Milos Raonic and Denis Istomin turned out to be almost a carbon copy of their match in last year’s SAP Open final. Both men held serve easily and played to their strengths for most of the first set, with Istomin looking to be the stronger from the back court.  But once again, the tiebreaker was the deciding factor with Raonic sweeping all seven points for the first set.  After that, Istomin’s resolve slipped and Raonic’s confidence soared, and it was only a matter of time until Raonic closed it out.

Sam Querrey‘s win over Alejandro Falla was easily the best match of the day! It looked to be on track for a routine straight sets win by Querrey after a 6-3 first set.  No one told that to Falla, however, as the Colombian left scrambled with even more intensity in the second set.  In tennis, anything can happen when you make your opponent hit “one more shot”, and that was the case for Falla. Querrey’s level dropped, and a few key misses gave the set to Falla.  The tension was high for both guys in the third set, with neither giving an inch until the eighth game when Falla broke Querrey for 4-all, then held serve for a 5-4 lead.

A straight-sets victory was a distant memory with Querry playing loose shots on the deuce court to find himself at match point, 30-40. A crucial 133mph ace out wide to Falla’s backhand saved the point, and lit the fire under Sam that he needed to hold serve, break Falla for a 6-5 lead, then serve out the match.   That’s not to say that Falla didn’t have his chances, because he did.  Two netted shots for a game point at 5-all could easily have put the pressure back on Querrey’s serve to stay in the match. But it was not meant to be for Falla, and a chance for a huge upset.

Semifinal Notes/Picks

[4] T Haas (GER) vs [2] J Isner (USA)

Head-to-head: Isner leads 3-1

Quick Keys to the match: Isner needs to start aggressive and keep Haas from feeling like he has a chance.  He must serve well to blunt Haas’ return opportunities, and keep the points short by coming forward as he’s done in other matches.  For Haas, if he can get a handle on the Isner serve and make this a running match, he will have the edge for Isner.

Pick: Sticking with Isner for the win.

[1] M Raonic (CAN) vs [3] S Querrey (USA)

Head-to-head: Querrey leads 2-0

Quick Keys to the match: Raonic is going to come out firing on all cylinders with high intensity.  Conversely, drops in his intensity level have been Querrey’s main issue in both of his previous matches. For Querrey to win this match against the two-time defending champion, there can be no drops.  He has to maintain focus, serve well, and stay strong on the baseline.  If Raonic can maintain focus and intensity from first point to last, something that Querrey typically can’t do, he’ll have the edge.

Pick: Sticking with Raonic for the win.

Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

All photos by David Sweet


Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Four


By Kevin Ware

Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Four

Day Four Second Round Results

[6] Denis Istomin (UZB) d Benjamin Becker (GER) 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2

Alejandro Falla (COL) d [7] Marinko Matosevic (AUS) 6-4, 6-4

[8] Xavier Malisse (BEL) d Matthew Ebden (AUS) 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(1)

[WC] Steve Johnson (USA) d [Q] Tim Smyczek (USA) 6-3, 6-3

[3] Sam Querrey (USA) d L Hewitt (AUS) 7-6(6), 1-6, 7-6(4)

[1] Milos Raonic (CAN) d Michael Russell (USA) 6-2, 7-5

Match Notes

Xavier Malisse might be past his best days on tour, but the Belgian can still do damage given the right draw.  He could also make things easier for himself by not putting so much energy into griping during his matches.  Everything and anything from ball kids to the officials to his shots, you name it. It was a mutter-fest out there in his match against Matthew Ebden. He’ll need to be much more positive in his output if he plans on getting by John Isner in the quarters.

The battle of young Americans fizzled early as Tim Smyczek started strong but couldn’t stem the tide of unforced errors in going down to defeat against Steve Johnson. Johnson didn’t play particularly well either, but he played well enough to capitalize on Smyczek’s errors.  Smyczek is a small, wiry guy who “redlines” his game to produce the pace needed to compensate at this level.  Now he needs to figure out how to do that and find the court on a much more consistent basis. Johnson moves on to face Tommy Haas.

Sam Querrey got through a tough and very “losable” match to Lleyton Hewitt with the help of some last-minute errors by the Aussie in the final set tiebreak; notably a double fault on match point.  Querrey started strong, but then struggled mightily with shot consistency after an initial 5-2 lead in the first set. Hewitt battled hard to take the first set to a tiebreak, but was done in by a close call he couldn’t challenge because he used up his allotment.

The second set was a wash for Querrey with Hewitt raising his game to easily sweep and take the match to a third. The third set was by far the best in terms of quality.  Both men served well, defended admirably, and stood toe-to-toe in great rallies that tested each man’s resolve. To end such a great set on the aforementioned match point double fault was disappointing. A win is a win, though.  Querrey now faces a much easier opponent in Alejandro Falla for a spot in Saturday’s semifinals.

Michael Russell did well to make it to the second round by defeating Donald Young.  He didn’t play great tennis to beat Young, but then again he didn’t need to. Milos Raonic was a different story. Russell, like Olivier Rochus and a few others, is at a considerable disadvantage when playing larger and stronger guys like Raonic because he doesn’t have the weaponry to match up from the baseline. Russell scrambled well to get balls back but couldn’t do nearly enough in terms of moving the ball around to keep it out of the Raonic strike zone. With the win, Raonic moves on to face Denis Istomin in a quarterfinal rematch of last year’s final.

Random Notes

Every time I pass John Isner in the hallway, I’m astounded by his height.  Ivo Karlovic, Sam Querrey, and Milos Raonic are all tall players as well.  But none of them give me the same sense of height as John. It’s like I’m looking up a small tree. I wonder what the court looks like from up there?

The Hewitt kids are pretty gosh darn cute, and it’s a good thing too. After his disappointing loss to Sam Querrey, which ended with a double fault on match point, I tweeted, “Hopefully they’ll put a smile back on dad’s face tonight”. Sure enough, about 20 minutes after the match I passed Lleyton, his wife Bec Hewitt, and the kids as they were heading out to eat.  And yes, he was smiling.

Observation of the day? After watching Hewitt lose a match that was within his grasp because of an awful third-set tiebreaker, I had the sense that I’d seen something like this before.  I did: two weeks ago in the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick and the 49′ers last possession.

Odd sighting of the day?  Sportscaster Vern Glenn standing outside of the HP Pavilion trying to get his work laptop to connect online.

Quote of the day? Also from Vern Glenn but attributed to Ronnie Lott, and in reference to working in the sportscasting biz: “Always make sure they keep you on scholarship!”

More after Day Five quarterfinal action.

Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.


Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Three


John Isner

By Kevin Ware

(February 14, 2013) SAN JOSE – Here are some more courtside impressions from an eventful Day Three at the SAP Open.  It was mixed bag of fun matches and dramatic wins.  But let’s start with the sad and unsettling loss by Donald Young.

  • I don’t know what to say anymore regarding the sad and curious case of Donald Young. With each shot he makes, you see the talent that took him to No. 1 in the juniors; yet with each unforced error and pained aftermath, you’re reminded of the reasons that his pro career has hit the proverbial wall. His loss to Michael Russell during the day session was about as ugly as it gets. Neither guy played well, but Donald’s lack of confidence at crunch time was the tipping point.  Every gaze over to his box is filled with agonizing pleas for help that isn’t arriving anytime soon.  It’s tough to watch.  Even though us in the “media” should maintain some semblance of neutrality, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that Donald comes back from the brink.
  • Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic are quite an entertaining doubles team.  Lleyton is the clear leader, but Marinko holds his own pretty well. Best part is they look like they’re having a great time playing together.  We should all be so lucky with our partners, right?!
  • Steve Johnson continued to make the most of his wildcard with a stirring 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 win over Ivo Karlovic. After losing a tough first set by playing a horrible tiebreaker, Johnson stood toe-to-toe with one of the best servers in the game and found a way to break for the second set. In the third set tiebreaker, Karlovic served an ace to go up 6-4 in the tiebreak.  With two match points in hand, Karlovic inexplicably ran off the rails; committing three consecutive unforced errors to give Johnson a match point.  Karlovic followed a strong approach to the net, and all Johnson could do was toss up a high defensive lob.  Out of the blue, Karlovic was struck by a case of “tentative overhead-itis”.  He smashed the ball weakly back to Johnson, who happily thundered a hard and low forehand to Karlovic at the net. The big man could only muster a flubbed volley response.  Game, set, and match to Johnson, who had no business winning that match but did anyway.
  • The night session pitted American John Isner against Canadian Vasek Pospisil.  John is 27 and Vasek is 22, but they both look no older than 14 (plus/minus a year or two).
  • Isner was slow in finding his game for the match, but didn’t blame any of it on his knee.  However, he did admit to having back issues because of his flight.  With all of Nemo’s canceled flights, he lost his upgrade seat and had to fly coach in a window seat to San Jose.  The ATP website lists John’s official height as 6′ 9″.  Just think about that the next time you complain about being in a middle seat! FYI, if John flies coach and no exit rows are available, window seats are his only option to save his knees from the battering they’ll inevitably take with the cart going up and down the aisle.
  • Bay area actress Diane Amos was in attendance tonight at the HP Pavilion to watch the evening session at the SAP Open.  Or as I put it more succinctly in one of my tweets at the start of Isner’s match, ” Random fact: the Pine Sol lady is in the house tonight for the Isner match.”
  • When asked what he did to pay back Sam Querrey  for bailing the US team out of trouble in Davis Cup action after his own 5-set heartbreaker to Thomaz Bellucci, Isner said “I think he took some of my money in cards that night actually, and I didn’t do it on purpose.”

The tournament action heats up on Day Four with a day session featuring young Americans Tim Smyczek and Steve Johnson battling for a spot in the quarterfinals, as well as the anticipated match between Sam Querrey and Lleyton Hewitt.  The night session features the return of the defending champion, Milos Raonic, as he takes on Michael Russell; plus more doubles action with the Bryans.  I will save my Raonic/Russell “tall and small” jokes for after the match…


Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.


Uncle Sam at the Down Under Slam – Day 1 Edition

Venus Williams photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama

Venus Williams photo © Enrique Fernandez for Tennis Panorama

(January 14, 2013) Looking at how American tennis players fared on day one of the 2013 Australian Open.

American tennis players went  6-3 on the first day of the Australian Open with Venus Williams leading the way with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Galina Voskoboeva.

“Obviously it’s nice to spend less time on the court, and not be in long sets,” Williams said after the match. She  had a first-serve percentage of 70 percent and converted on 6 of 11 break point chances.

“I don’t think my opponent quite got the hang of – you know, it’s hard to play the first match in a major, first thing of the year, and that can be a lot of pressure.” Williams said of her opponent “I did my best to just close it out.”

Sam Querrey, who is the highest ranking American man, due to the withdrawal of 13rh ranked John Isner, came back from a set down to defeat Daniel Munoz-De La Nava of Spain 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

Querrey will take on another American in the second round, Brian Baker, who defeated American turned Russian Alex Bogomolov Jr. 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-7 (0), 3-6, 6-2.

Ryan Harrison came back from a set down to advance, defeating Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 2-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.  Bad news for Harrison – he’ll face top seed Novak Djokovic in the second round.

Spain’s Nicolas Almagro, the 1th0 men’s seed outlasted American qualifier Steve Johnson in a first round five-set marathon 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-7 (6), 6-2. Johnson was the first reigning NCAA champion to qualify for the Australian Open.

Tim Smyczek came into the tournament as lucky loser, and thanks to housemate John Isner’s withdrawal  due to a right knee injury, made it into the main draw. Smyczek was a winner on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Ivo Karlovic.

Veteran Michael Russell fell to No. 5 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.

Touted as “one to watch” seventeen year-old Madison Keys won her first match in Melbourne on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6 (0) victory against Casey Dellacqua of Australia.

Sorana Cirstea had no problems beating American Coco Vandeweghe  6-4 6-2 in first round action.

Americans scheduled for Tuesday play in Melbourne include No. 3 Serena Williams, 29 seed Sloane Stephens, Vania King, Jamie Hampton, Melanie Oudin, Vavara Lepchencko, Lauren Davis, Rajeev Ram, and Rhyne Williams.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News