2015/03/30

Notes and Quotes from Day 3 of the 2015 Australian Open

 

Nadal fingers

(January 21, 2015) A few of the more off-beat questions and answers from Day 3 news conferences at the Australian Open.

 

Lots has been made about some of the hairstyles of the guys on tour. Have you noticed any of those on court?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Actually, no. I mean, there has been talk that I’m not going to play in the cap anymore. But in the conditions like that I just have to. It’s important to keep yourself fresh and just try to go through the heat and the sun and not playing with your hair. Let’s leave it for the football players.

 

For the soccer players?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Yeah, soccer players.

 

Congratulations on your engagement, even if it’s old.

TOMAS BERDYCH: Thank you.

 

Can I ask how you popped the question, proposed?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, it was simple, as you normally do. We had a good time. It was in holidays after the season. Actually, it was funny. I had some plan how to do it, but like three days we get pretty bad weather, so it’s almost impossible to do that. Then it was nice, and they help us to make a nice setup. It was like after the dinner on the beach.

 

Obviously this is a big step for you in your personal life. A guy like Novak has had big changes in his life, too. How important is it for you to maintain that balance, having the strong personal lives off the court? How much does that help you on the court?

TOMAS BERDYCH: Well, I think both things goes quite well together. I feel good about it to have a good personal life, and then combine it with my tennis life as well. Because I know that whatever is happening in tennis or around my career, and then I can come back home or wherever I am, I can talk with my partner about basically everything. We can talk about the other things, which is great, that I can just completely switch off from the tennis. That’s basically the best way how you can relax. Like everybody is asking, What do you do for relax? You don’t have to go anywhere or do any special things. It’s just that you don’t have to think about again, forehand, backhand and stuff like that. So you just talk about different stuff. That’s the best thing. Then once you step back on the tennis side, then you are absolutely focus for whatever you do. That’s it. So for me, I think it’s a great combination.

 

Does your fiancee have any input on your outfits?

TOMAS BERDYCH: No, no, no. Honestly, no, because the designer team is quite big and strong and they are already coming up with the ideas. Basically the whole line or the whole year is already almost preset, so I already knew what’s going to be going on through the whole year. Well, it’s going to be interesting. There is going to be — or even me and my input is just like slightly. It’s good about small details and most likely how is the fit and fabric and stuff like that. That’s how it works so far.

 

It was hot out there today. Think you were the only person without any head gear on. Does the heat bother you at all?

RICHARD GASQUET: Yeah, it was hot on the court, but the Aussie fan was nice with me, so it was a great atmosphere on the court. So even if it was hot, the court is great. So it was a lot of fun to play today on the court.

 

 

You talked about how coming back feels like a second career. Do you feel after today you’re making the most of this chance?

VIKTOR TROICKI: Trying to. I would use any chance that I get. I’m enjoying playing tennis and having fun on the court. I missed it a lot and that gives me a lot of joy on the court and a lot of motivation. Trying to use any chance, any match, any tournament. It’s going well. (Smiling.)

 

You obviously had some good wins since you came back. Was today, because it’s in a slam, was that the best win you’ve had so far?

VIKTOR TROICKI: No, I wouldn’t say. It was a good win. Definitely Leonardo played great. He improved a lot. But I think I had better wins than this. This one was important since it was a Grand Slam and I had a long run. Yeah, it was a good win, but not the best.

 

Can you describe coming back last fall, playing qualifiers again, playing challengers, how tough that was? Was it humbling?

VIKTOR TROICKI: It was different. Very different. Playing small challengers, starting from the quallies, it was — it gave me some memories back when I was starting actually. I knew I’ve done it once, so why not do it again? I had a lot of support from everyone close to me, and my coaches were with me. I wanted to give my best and to get back to the top as soon as I could. I think I did a good job with that, so I’m pleased with that.

 

Did you ever question during the time away if you would come back or if you could return?

VIKTOR TROICKI: I never was thinking about quitting, but after I had some time off and I didn’t play tennis, I started missing it. Yeah, I started practicing hard, harder than ever before probably. I had some doubts, of course. I didn’t know how it was going to go and if I will come back. In the practice it looked good, playing against the good guys and everything. But in the matches, not having a match for a year, it was kind of — didn’t know how to feel. That first match in Gstaad gave me a lot of confidence. I’m thankful to the tournament of Gstaad where they gave me a wildcard to play in the main draw and beating Dominic Thiem first match after a year gave me a lot of confidence for my comeback. Also, I won my next match, so reached quarters in the first tournament, and that was — I knew I could get back fast, and that gave me a lot of confidence.

 

Who were you practicing with in the year you were out?

VIKTOR TROICKI: In the start, as I said, I didn’t practice at all. But afterwards, Novak probably the most. I traveled to some places where he was playing the tournaments. Obviously I could not play during the tournament on site, but before the tournament I was using any chance that I could to play with anyone. Also in Monte-Carlo where I spend most of the time because I live there. There’s a lot of players there, so I used any chance. Also back home in Belgrade when I was there, there is obviously a lot of young players. For me, since I couldn’t attend any — since I couldn’t be at any site, at any event, it was hard to get good players. But any chance that I could get, you know, I used it. That gave me a good practice. So I used any chances.

 

You’ve had some time to reflect on what happened. Do you still have any resentment about the way your case was handled?

VIKTOR TROICKI: You know what? Sometimes I see it in newspapers and some headlines it says that I refused to give a blood test. I never refused. That’s what hurts me. I want everyone to know that I never refused anything. I just asked for permission and I was allowed by the doctor that day not to give a blood test. I gave urine and I have blood test the next day. It hurts me. I know that I’m innocent and I didn’t do anything wrong. That hurts me obviously. And I’m being punished for following the wrong instructions. The instructions that I was given were wrong. That hurts me. I’m paying a penalty for someone else’s bad instruction, but it was my fault that I didn’t do it that day. At the end, I’m a player who needs to obey the rules. She was giving me instructions, wrong instructions, and she was not punished at all. So that’s what hurts me. I’m over it. I mean, that’s in the past. Trying to focus for the future. But it will always be a mark and I will always remember it as a bad memory.

 

One more question about the past. When you said you didn’t practice at all at first after the ban, why was that?

VIKTOR TROICKI: Because I had fun.

 

Okay. It wasn’t because you thought you might not come back?

VIKTOR TROICKI: No, no. It wasn’t that. Well, I started doing some things that I couldn’t do before while I was playing tournaments all the time. I just wanted to enjoy a bit. I skied a lot. I was month and a half spending on the mountain skiing. I was hanging out with my friends, family, traveling to some places. Novak was nice taking me to some places. Then I just had fun. I didn’t want to play tennis in the start because it was just a lot of negative thoughts. I just want to relax and enjoy. I never thought of giving up. It even made me more angrier and gave me more motivation to get back even better than I was. To all my team, actually. That’s why I was working even harder and better than ever. That work is paying off now.

 

The skiing and traveling wasn’t more fun than playing tennis?

VIKTOR TROICKI: Well, I needed some time off. Let’s put it that way, after when it happened. But after some time not doing something that you love, that ever since you are a kid I dreamed about playing tennis and professionally, and my goal was to play big stadium, big tournament, playing against the top guys, being a top guy. When you are forbidden to do something that you love, you start missing it a lot. You want to get back and be there again and be even better and prove to the world that you can be there again. That’s what was pushing me. Gave me a lot of motivation to get back.

 

You painted the lines there in that game that you saved a couple of match points. You were gutting it out. Can you tell us about your thought process.

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I thought my thought process through the match to that point was pretty negative. I think I was dwelling too much on my mistakes, what I was doing wrong, not really being in the present, something that I’m really usually good at. At that point when you’re behind and you feel like you’re making a lot of errors, you don’t feel like you have a good rhythm out there, I just really tried to take it a point at a time, think positively, and change my thought process a little bit. When other things aren’t working, maybe the mental side of things will help you out. I think in the end maybe that’s what did.

 

You then had a service game where you easily held after having some trouble with that. Was that because you continued with that positive frame of mind?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, unlike the previous 30 service games, I actually served smart and did the right thing, I thought. I wasn’t trying to go for a line, for big first serve, when I didn’t have a good rhythm. They were good serves, but they weren’t over 180 kilometers. They were good placement serves, out of reach. Yeah, not too many rallies in that game.

 

Why do you think your mindset maybe drifted off track from where you’re usually able to keep something unusual happening that you thought led it astray?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: No, I thought I did everything I needed to to have a good, solid first set. I was up 30-Love on the first service game, new balls, a few sloppy errors, all of a sudden your opponent gets a bit more confidence and thinks she has a chance to win. All of a sudden she’s out of the tournament. Then in her mind, Well, wait, I’m not out yet. Little by little it’s a combination of, you know, you kind of going the wrong direction and her starting to play, you know, quite well.

 

Did you know anything about her before the match?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, not too much actually, no.

 

You do a fair amount of fist pumping when you play. Is that sort of an important part of getting you mentally in the game, just a part of your process? What is that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know how to answer, What is that? It’s something that I’ve done since I was quite young. I think I’ve always been a very intense and aggressive player. Yeah, I actually don’t think I did that as much as I maybe usually do. I think I was a bit more subtle about things today.

 

When you saved the two match points, did you sense that Alexandra lost the belief that she could win it?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Well, I was down two breaks in the third. I mean, the only belief I had was just try to get into the rallies. She served some really good games out there where I didn’t have much chances. When I did, I thought I could put a little more thought into her mind, get those first serves back. I think that was really important. You know, I think she became a little bit more tentative in that last game. Of course, based on experience, you lift yourself up both mentally and physically.

 

Going forward in the tournament, what are the positives that can come out of surviving a scare like that?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Just the fact that you did pull through and that you’re giving yourself a chance to keep going. You know, as I say, you never know how you’re going to feel until you go out on the court and compete and play. No matter how you prepare, what you did, once you get out there, everything starts from scratch. It was a tough day, but I pulled through. I guess at this point that’s what matters. Certainly gives me a lot amount of confidence that I didn’t play my best tennis and was able to come through. Sometimes that’s good.

 

You’re one of the toughest mental players in the game. What do you think the key is to your mental toughness and fighting spirit? Where does that come from?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I mean, I don’t know, but I like winning more than I like losing. I’m sure that goes for many people. But, you know, no matter how things go within a match, that’s why I said I didn’t feel that I was positive enough, even though I was making a few more errors than I would have liked. And I wasn’t making enough first serves. But I was thinking about it too much instead of just like being in the present, saying, Hey, go up to the line; do what you do; do what you’ve done thousands of times. I’m good at that and I’ll continue to be good at that. But some days are just a little off. Today was one of them.

 

There’s been a change in one of the ITF rules about players who can play for Fed Cup or Davis Cup. Now a player can only play for one country. For example, if for any reason you wanted to play for the United States, you can’t because you represented Russia before. What’s your opinion on that kind of rule? Do you think players should be able to play for whatever country they want to?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven’t heard of that rule. I’m not sure. I don’t have any plans of playing for another country at this point. I’m very happy playing for Russia, as I have for my whole career. That’s the way I see the rest of my career going.

 

What goes through your mind when your back is against the wall?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, it’s not the easiest position to be in because you feel like things are just kind of getting out of your control. Usually I’m a type of player that is aggressive, the one that’s doing something out there, not really waiting for another person’s mistake. You know, until the very end I still try to dictate’, I still try to find my way. But, yeah, your back is against the wall, I guess.

 

You play either Diyas or Schmiedlova next. Neither of those are probably well-known to you. What are your thoughts about having a first week of unfamiliar faces?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, I guess that’s the way the draw shaped up. I have faced players I haven’t played in a long time, or like today someone I haven’t played before either of the girls coming up in my next match. It’s always tricky. No doubt about that. It’s unusual after being on the tour for many years. Yet there are always girls coming up that are rising, doing well. Diyas is a top-32 seed now with some of her results last year. Don’t know too much about the other girl. Depending on that result – I’m sure my coach is out there watching a bit – we’ll talk a little bit. But I don’t think the focus is really on the other side. I think especially after today’s match, I really just want to focus on what I have to do.

 

Do you ever watch things yourself, pull up YouTube?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: Yeah, we usually do a little bit of that, especially if I’m unfamiliar with a girl I’m facing against, or sometimes a few highlights of matches I’ve played against players. I don’t watch too much. But, yeah, it’s nice to have. YouTube is a good source.

 

Do you ever watch your own videos?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I really dislike doing that. I’m not a fan. But it’s quite educational, at least that’s what the coaches tell me. But, yeah, it’s good once in a while. It’s nice to see something from a different perspective because, I’m quite a stubborn individual. You see something from your own eyes on the court, but sometimes your coach, or this little camera on top shows you a different picture. It’s nice to see that painting because sometimes it comes out completely different.

 

Why don’t you like watching yourself?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I don’t know. Sometimes I just feel like I have better things to do.

 

Who do you think is dressing the best on court this year?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I quite like my outfit, so…

 

But others?

MARIA SHARAPOVA: I haven’t seen all the outfits yet. Maybe I’ll check on Getty, yeah.

 

 

You’ve been playing quite well in the exhibition matches recently, but how much more satisfaction do you get from putting together a match like that here at a Grand Slam?

ANDY MURRAY: Well, it depends. I mean, some exhibition events are different to others. You know, a lot of the events I played at the beginning of the year — everyone’s wanting to get matches at this stage. You don’t want to come in having not sort of played competitive matches. Yeah, I felt like the players I played in Abu Dhabi and at the Hopman Cup. Everyone wants to win those matches. They’re not sort of gimme matches. I felt like I was playing well coming in. I feel like I started the tournament pretty well. First round was tricky. I didn’t know my opponent well. Today was better.

 

There’s been a lot of talk about ITF rule changes regarding Davis Cup participation; getting stricter about one player being able to play for one country in their career. Do you think someone like Bedene should be able to play for Britain when he becomes a citizen?

ANDY MURRAY: I don’t know. It’s not really my area. Yeah, I mean, I heard they changed the rules a little bit and that you can only play for one nation.

 

As it is now, if you ever played for anybody, that’s it.

ANDY MURRAY: That’s it, yeah, which I think is fine. But I believe he had all of his paperwork and stuff in before the rule change, so I’m not sure exactly what’s happening with his situation. But, yeah, that’s not really my area to say what’s right and wrong, though.

 

Do you think you’ve proven a point today, you and Amelie, given Marinko’s comments?

ANDY MURRAY: No. I get on well with Marinko. I spoke to him a little bit about what he said. He didn’t mean any harm. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion on anything. If he wants to get coached by a man, that’s absolutely fine. I have absolutely no issue with it at all. I still think he’s a good guy. I get on well with him. I wasn’t trying to prove a point at all when I was playing Marinko today. I was trying to win the match.

 

You’re a guy that likes to watch a lot of other sports and has opinions on other sports. I wonder if our cricketers would envy you with a 10-nil victory ratio against Australians. Where does all that come from?

ANDY MURRAY: I don’t know, to be honest. That’s not loads. Obviously, I played loads against like French players, a lot more than that. But, yeah, I don’t know exactly why. I think, like I said on the court, there’s obviously going to be a lot more challenging matches I think over the next few years when all the young guys keep improving and are getting better. So, yeah, I’ll struggle to keep on to a perfect record against Aussies, I would say, in the coming years. But, yeah, I have played well against them in the past.

 

Do you watch cricket, the Ashes?

ANDY MURRAY: I do from time to time. I obviously can’t watch the whole tests. But, yeah, I watch bits and pieces when it’s on. But normally, yeah, I’m training. It’s one of those things. I don’t know if anyone here sits and watches like the whole five days or not. You kind of see bits and pieces.

 

Is part of the thrill of being in Australia being two weeks ahead on what’s happening on Neighbours?

ANDY MURRAY: I’ve never watched Neighbours in my life, here or back home (smiling).

Q. Were you surprised about the first set of Bolelli, who never won a set versus you? Are you also surprised he never beat a top-10 player in 33 matches, and now 34?

ROGER FEDERER: Well, I thought he played two really good sets against me in Davis Cup, so I felt like he was really, you know, imposing his strength at the baseline. I could sense there that he had a good forehand; committed, you know, on the return; solid backhand with the option to hit the slice. I wasn’t that surprised, to be honest, you know. I was just surprised how well, how consistently he was doing that, and especially how well he was serving actually. But then again, conditions were fast, which made it easier to serve well and harder to return. Maybe the break, I shouldn’t be broken, but he was really playing very well from the baseline. I guess in these conditions sometimes a break can be a set. That’s when I was under pressure for a while in the second set, but I’m happy I fought my way out of it.

 

Q. How is your finger and how is the blister?

ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know if it’s a blister. I don’t know what that thing is. It’s the weirdest thing. I don’t know. I feel it on the tip of my finger. Just felt really odd starting after the break, and for three, four games, it was the funniest feeling I have. I feel like it’s numb and swollen. So, I don’t know, I just wanted to have a chat with the…

 

Q. When you touched it, it was weird?

ROGER FEDERER: Yeah, I don’t know what it was. I still don’t know. I just wanted to have a chat with the — what is his name — the physio just see what we can do. I know there is nothing we could do. I knew we couldn’t tape it up because then it would be even bigger and more weird. I just said, I hope it doesn’t get worse or stay like this. Actually it went away, but now I feel again. I don’t know what the feeling is.

 

Q. Might be a bee sting, you were saying?

ROGER FEDERER: I was thinking it could be that.

 

Q. Physio didn’t know what it was?

ROGER FEDERER: No. You can’t see anything (laughter). But it is definitely swollen and it’s funny. I don’t know what it is. As long as it’s not getting bad, it’s okay.

 

Q. You didn’t like the cameraman when he came too close. You said, Do you need to come that close?

ROGER FEDERER: I mean, the guy is like in my ear. No I don’t like it because I think there’s a bit of privacy. In that space I’m just discussing the options of what we can do, and you feel like the guy is sneaking up on you. It’s not the best feeling, yeah. So I asked him if he needed to be that close. He clearly didn’t, because he backed off (smiling).

 

Russia has become one of the main organizers of sports events. It’s also a country that’s involved in all sorts of political problems. Do you think professional athletes should go to any country a federation sends them to, or do they have a personal responsibility playing in countries that are involved in war or human rights violations?

ROGER FEDERER: I don’t know. I mean, in tennis we can do whatever, I guess. It’s up to us where we want to go. We don’t get sent by the federation or anybody. It’s our call if you want to do it or not. Then whatever your beliefs are, it’s going to get you there or not.

 

Have you ever considered boycotting an event for political reasons?

ROGER FEDERER: I’ve never been in a position like this, to be honest.

 

You haven’t played in Russia since 2002. Is that a coincidence?

ROGER FEDERER: It’s not a coincidence. It’s just because it didn’t fit in my schedule.

 

Can I ask you a question about age?

ROGER FEDERER: I’d love to talk about that (laughter).

 

Do we lay too much emphasis on it? Do you feel like you’re the same guy in the same body as you were a couple years ago, or do you actually feel you have to adjust a little bit because you are no longer the youngest?

ROGER FEDERER: No, I mean, I feel fine. I don’t feel any different to let’s say four years ago. I really don’t. You maybe pay attention a bit more and listen to the signs of your body a bit more. By now I know my body even better. Clearly as the years go by I guess you also want to try out new things. But that’s not really necessarily always down to age. It’s simple just to say, Okay, you did that because such and such. But actually it was just to make it different, make it fresh, make it new, try something else. That may be whatever the decision it was, but clearly you have to listen to your body. I think the mind also becomes important. How badly do you want to be out there? How badly do you want to play and win? Why are you still doing it? Are you doing it for the right reasons? I think that becomes, in my opinion, more important than the whole body talk that everybody puts emphasis on.

 

I know you’re a fan of a lot of sports. What do you think of rugby? Who would you be supporting in this year’s Rugby World Cup?

ROGER FEDERER: I’ll be supporting South Africa, of course. Yeah, I honestly don’t see it very often. I don’t know why. I don’t know where we are in the world when it’s happening, why I keep missing it. I was talking to somebody, maybe some — I don’t remember. But I see cricket frequently. When we go to the States and we follow the American sports over there. In Europe it’s more of the football, soccer, all that. With rugby, for some reason I don’t see it enough. But I’ll be supporting South Africa.

Do you choose to, on your days off, attend some of these sports? While in America, do you go see the L.A. Kings?

ROGER FEDERER: I’ve been to the Heat and the Lakers. Never been to a cricket game or a rugby game. Never been in Formula One. When we’re in town or they’re in town, there’s no other event happening. It’s the same for us. Yeah, I mean, Moto GP I’ve gone to see. There’s clearly many things I would like to do. I went to an Arsenal game during the World Tour Finals now. That was good fun. I try to, but it’s not always that simple, you know.

 

What are your thoughts on how Mandela used the South Africa rugby team to change the course of history in South Africa?

ROGER FEDERER: I think it’s wonderful how he brought the country together. It was a big, big moment in sports for everybody, more so for the people in South Africa. It was an amazing moment.

 

With Li Na not playing this year, do you feel more attention, more people watching you back home in China?

PENG SHUAI: I didn’t really watch this because the tennis now in China for sure is more popular than before because more tournament, more player on the tour. I think she make two Grand Slam, and also before like start from 17, 18, first with the Olympic go, then get more and more the good result in China. And also, you know, like the marketing, more popular, more tournament in China. For sure is more people watch tennis now. Yeah.

 

Do you think it’s important for Chinese players to continue to do well in order for the sport to get bigger in China?

PENG SHUAI: I think tennis is really good sport and also good for, how you say, like also be professional and to play, have fun. Because young kids or old people, they all can play and then they have fun. If more people watch, play for sure have a lot more player. I think everybody is want to improve, get better result. Is not only like a girl, for sure. Maybe future have a boy. I think everybody ask, are looking for this. And then, yeah, I wish I can get more better, but I don’t know, yeah.

 

 

Q. Would you mind talking about what men’s rivalry has been sort of the most impressionable on you, whether it’s coming up or now, in men’s tennis?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Whew, I don’t know. Personally for me, I haven’t felt that there’s a rivalry at the moment to play against one player over and over again. I mean, obviously, so to speak, the younger generation, the younger guys are really pushing through and winning rounds. If you can call that a rivalry, maybe that’s the way it is. But, you know, so far in a way it’s early in the tournament to say that. In general, the year just began. Let it unfold a little bit before we jump into any conclusion.

 

Q. What about for you when you were younger? Were you a tennis fan growing up when you were a kid?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Well, I’m not that young anymore if you think about it, but definitely growing up of course I had idols. I’ve looked up to a lot of players, following their success, their path. But I think now all that is behind me. I’m doing my own personality in my own way. So I think that’s good.

 

Q. Within yourself, do you think you’re ready to win a slam or do you think you might have a little ways to go?GRIGOR DIMITROV: If you ask me, of course I’d say yes. But that’s something that I definitely need to show I think throughout all the matches and be even more consistent. If I’m ready? Yeah, I think I’m ready. But before you get to the final or something like that, you need to go through quite a few players that are the top right now and playing their greatest tennis. I think the game has evolved so much in the past years that instead of getting easier, it’s getting harder. I think you have a lot of guys, they have more experience, they’re older, they’re fitter. You have that on the radar. But in the same time, you know, I’ve worked throughout my career so far to position myself in those kind of matches. I’m out there to win those ones, so I think I’m aiming higher.

 

Q. Maria scored an incredible come-from-behind win today. Can I ask you what makes her so tough?

GRIGOR DIMITROV: I think days like that defines who you are. It’s simple.

 

Q. And the definition of Maria is just…

GRIGOR DIMITROV: Well, I think I should be the last person to sort of judge that, but I think you can’t name one thing in particular with her. I think she’s been fighting throughout all those years, through everything that is in her way, jumped all the hurdles and all the obstacles. By far the greatest fighter ever.

 

 

 

How much did the crowd help you in the tough moments?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, I thought the crowd was massive today. They got behind me a lot at some really key moments. They got a bit carried away with some things. That’s going to happen. It was a lot of fun as well. I was interacting with the crowd. At stages they were telling me where he was going to serve. They obviously think it’s pretty easy out there. No, it was a lot of fun.

 

The atmosphere on Rod Laver compared to a show court is a lot different. Do you have a preference either way?

NICK KYRGIOS: No, I don’t mind. I guess when you play on a show court you know it’s going to get a bit more rowdy, a bit more out of control I think. I’ve never actually played on Rod apart from my junior final against Thanasi. The crowd was pretty empty for that. Yeah, I’ve never experienced that, so I can’t give you that answer.

 

Do you feel the crowd is giving the Australian players an advantage?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, they’re getting behind us. I think it’s tough right now when you have Groth versus Kokkinakis, who to go for. But, yeah, I think they’re helping the Aussies a lot.

 

Did you put in a request for a show court or…

NICK KYRGIOS: No, I didn’t put a request for any court. I just saw I was on Show Court 3. It’s a good court. I’m not going to complain. It’s a Grand Slam. Yeah, it was a really good court.

 

What do we take from your hair? What does it tell us about your personality? Tell us a little bit about your eyebrow, too.

NICK KYRGIOS: I don’t know. I guess it’s just youth. You know, you’re not going to see Roger or Novak doing things like this. I don’t know. Just doing it.

 

It’s a bit of fun for you, too?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, I guess. I got sort of known for having some lines in my hair at some stage last year. It’s my last Grand Slam as a teenager. I don’t think I’ll be doing this stuff when I’m 20.

 

Are you someone who looks ahead in the draw?

NICK KYRGIOS: Not usually, but it’s hard when social media these days when guys are saying, Kyrgios, Federer fourth round when the draw just came out. It’s hard not to look ahead, but I think especially for me, this tournament I wasn’t looking too far ahead. I knew that I had a big task ahead of me with Delbonis. I’m really happy that I’m getting through.

 

Any thoughts on that potential matchup?

NICK KYRGIOS: Not at this stage, no.

 

How much does it do for your confidence, beating a player that you regard so highly?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, I’m feeling really confident now, especially I played a good clay-courter first round. I thought he played really well. Obviously physically backing up after five sets as well, I can take massive confidence out of that. Ivo today, I thought he had the best year of his life last year. He got to top 20 at some stage. He’s 25 now. He’s playing some good tennis. With that serve, he can obviously beat a lot of players. I think he beat Djokovic a couple weeks ago. I knew he was going to be tough. That gives me massive confidence.

 

How much attention do you pay to what’s going on in the media?

NICK KYRGIOS: A lot. It’s hard to not read that stuff. I mean, there should be a lot of expectation on Australians playing their home Grand Slam. We all know there’s a lot of expectation on us. It’s fair enough. We should be performing at Grand Slams. Yeah, I’m just happy I got through.

 

Was there one rivalry when you were younger growing up that you really watched that you liked to watch as a fan, I guess?

NICK KYRGIOS: Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to go past Federer and Nadal. I mean, they haven’t played each other in a long time, but every time they were in the same section or anything like that, they’re definitely thinking about it. I think it’s the greatest rivalry of all time. That’s the generation I was watching when I was a kid. I mean, I still am a kid. It’s happened pretty quick.

 

As you get older, do you think your bravado and showmanship on court…

NICK KYRGIOS: Are you asking me if I’m going to mature?

 

Pat Rafter said you were still a bit too emotional on court.

NICK KYRGIOS: Uhm, geez, I don’t know. I don’t know what to say to that. He has his own opinion, I guess.

 

 

During the warmup Genie’s Army was going crazy. You had a big smile on your face. How much enjoyment do you get from them being present?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: It’s really fun. I think they brought a lot of energy tonight. I think they played well. They were aggressive, showed their presence at good moments. It just makes it more fun. I think the rest of the crowd appreciates it as well. They kind of laugh and get into it. During the warmup they were also playing the Taylor Swift song Shake It Off. That’s why I was smiling. I almost wanted to sing, but I told myself not to.

 

Did you follow Sharapova at all today? A chance you might see her down the road. Did you see it was pretty tight?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I didn’t. I mean, I know like what happened, but I was like warming up and doing my things. But, yeah, I mean, that’s far off in the future. So I just have a match on Friday and that’s all I’m concerned about.

 

Does the surprise you someone 25 years old, 150, can hold two match points against Sharapova? Does that surprise you?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: No. We’re at a Grand Slam. Every player can perform well. It’s just if they bring their game on that day and maybe someone else is not play as well that day. I mean, there are a lot of good players out there. This stuff happens all the time. Doesn’t surprise me.

 

Sleeping until 1:00 p.m., can I ask how many hours of sleep that was?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: That was like between 12 and 13 hours of sleep.

 

This may be the first time in your professional career that you are going to face a player whose coach has coached you and may know you better than other coaches. If you were Nathalie Tauziat, what would you tell Caroline Garcia about you?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don’t think I’m going to answer that. She’s amazing; you’re going to get killed. No, I’m kidding. Yeah, that’s true. I worked with Nathalie a little bit. I guess that’s how the tennis world is. It’s a small world. Kind of musical chairs in terms of coaching. I’m sure it won’t be the last time in my career. Yeah, but it won’t really bother me. I’m not playing against the coach, I’m playing against the player. I’m not going to worry about it. I’m still friendly with Nathalie, so it’s all good.

 

Last week there was a story that the Hong Kong Tennis Association were fined by the WTA because of what happened in Hong Kong. The reason was they felt they damaged your reputation. Did you feel the incident damaged your reputation?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: I don’t think so. You know, I didn’t make any mistake in any way. I never entered the tournament, so I can’t withdraw from a tournament if I’ve never entered it. It’s just unfortunate what happened, but I think the WTA is good in terms of they want to protect their players, protect their own image. I think what they did is fine.

 

You seemed to have a little trouble with the twirl.

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: With the what?

 

Twirl.

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: It was very unexpected. I mean, yeah, I don’t know. An old guy asking you to twirl, it was funny.

 

I guess Serena did it.

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Well, Serena is good at her twirls. She does them all the time.

 

Serena was telling us this year, it’s the year of the back in terms of dresses. Are you going to get on that bandwagon?

EUGENIE BOUCHARD: Maybe I should. I mean, she must know like what’s coming up in fashion and stuff. Maybe I should cut a hole in my top tonight and show off my back like Serena.

 

You said after your first-round match you didn’t know a whole lot about Tim. How much did you learn in the last couple days? Were you surprised by the way he played in the end?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I saw him play some videos. I checked some videos. Well, I think he played well, but is true that what he did at the end of the fifth is just amazing. Congratulate. I say on the court, but I want to say here, too. Very few players can do that after four hours something of match, 5-All, Love-30. So just will say thanks to him because he’s a great example what he did today.

 

What was your reaction? Were you surprised?

RAFAEL NADAL: Well, sure. At the end should not be surprising, but is surprise. That’s not positive thing. But is good. Is great. Is very difficult to make it and he did, so just congratulate.

 

After the third set, what was happening in your mind and body? Did you feel at this moment that you can still turn this around?

RAFAEL NADAL: No, no. I felt very tired. I felt, I don’t know. At the end of the first set, I start to feel my body very bad, very tired. I don’t know. I was worrying crazy. Then when I was serving for the third, almost throw up. So was terrible feeling, no? I suffered too much on court for three hours and a half. I was suffering a lot. Too much. You know, was not funny today the way that the match was. Obviously is a very positive thing that finally have the chance to win, but, yeah, I hope to recover myself.

 

Any explanation of what went wrong?

RAFAEL NADAL: I don’t know. I don’t know yet. I just go out. But is true that the weather was different today than the last couple of weeks. Very humid. I am sweating a lot always when it’s humid. But, I don’t know, long time without competition, with tough conditions, but at the end happened something more. Is obvious, no? I practiced a lot. Should not be that tired after 40 minutes. That’s obvious, no? Something happened, and I feel lucky to have the chance to finish the match, and then to find a way to win. So very positive for me. As I say the other day, all the moments I spend on court are important. Is not positive be like this, but in general you know important to win these kind of matches. That’s give me the possibility to play again, and I going to try to make better the next day.

 

The suffering that you had on the court today, is that one of the toughest wins you’ve ever pulled off?

RAFAEL NADAL: In terms of feeling bad on the court, yes. Probably yes. I was close to not continue because I felt that I was very dizzy. I felt that I can lose little bit the – I don’t know how to say – can fall down. So is true that after the third, fourth, and fifth, I tried to play much more aggressive, without running, no running anymore, and try to go for the winners and play little bit better, play little bit more relax. In terms of physically, at the end of the match I started to felt little bit better.

 

What do you feel about your ability to dig down and come through? Do you think that is a talent that you have?

RAFAEL NADAL: All during my career is obvious that I was able to find solutions for tough moments. I was able to win matches where I was in trouble. Sure, is an ability, but you know I worked very hard during all my career to resist, to try to be strong mentally. Is obvious that all the practices when I was a kid, all the moments that I suffered, helps.

 

If someone at the final of the challenger in Napa said, Don’t worry, in a few months you’ll be the attention of world media in a fabulous Australian Open match against one of the great players of our era, what would you say?

TIM SMYCZEK: I probably wasn’t really thinking about that at the time. The challengers are great for honing your game and really getting some work done. That’s the way I treat them. So, you know, it’s kind of just like an added bonus coming here and playing well. That was really special tonight. It was pretty clear Rafa didn’t have his best stuff. But it just shows the kind of player, the kind of champion he is because, you know, he was sick and not playing well. That was his C or D game. He found a way to win. So hats off to him. That’s why he’s one of the best.

 

You’re proud of your performance? Talk about your performance.

TIM SMYCZEK: Yeah, I mean, very happy with the way I played. I had a good game plan going in. The most important thing I thought was for me to try and stay within myself. I thought I did a pretty good job of that. I didn’t really struggle with nerves too much just because I got nothing to lose. Very happy with the way I served. I was happy that I was able to go for four hours and still feel okay. But, yeah, very happy.

 

At the end you feel a little bit disappointed because at the end you didn’t win?

TIM SMYCZEK: Yeah, I thought I had him for a minute. When he was kind of doubled over I could see he was really hurting. I started to believe that I really, you know, had a chance and could get it done. But he turned it up to another gear. That’s why he’s been one of the best for years and years.

 

Have you ever played a better match? Is that the best level of tennis you’ve hit so far?

TIM SMYCZEK: I think that’s the longest I’ve sustained a level like that. I think throughout my career I’ve had flashes like that. But that’s definitely one of the positives I’ll take from it, you know, being able to sustain that for four and eight/ninths of a set.

 

What was your game plan going in?

TIM SMYCZEK: I kind of studied him. He’s maybe the one that I’ve studied the least out of the top guys just because he does so many things that I’m not capable of. But that being said, I have spent a lot of time watching him. We were going to try and just try and keep him from hitting forehands in his backhand corner because it’s lethal from there. Trying to pin him in his forehand corner, then when I had a chance, to really be forceful with a ball to his backhand.

 

Talk about what happened at 6-5 in the fifth when the spectator shouted. Rafa was serving. You indicated he should take another serve.

TIM SMYCZEK: I couldn’t make out what he said. I don’t know if the guy didn’t know he was tossing the ball or not, but it clearly bothered him. You know, I thought it was the right thing to do.

 

Where is your next match going to be?

TIM SMYCZEK: I’m entered in the Maui challenger next week. I think I might pull out of that one unfortunately. Need a couple days off after that. But assuming I’m healthy and everything, I’ll start up at the Dallas challenger.

 

What I was getting at with the question is you come off 15,000 spectators, several million around the world, and your next will be somewhat fewer. Where is the motivation going to come from?

TIM SMYCZEK: Like I said earlier, the challengers really serve a very specific purpose. It will be on me to go in there and really take care of business, you know, try and pick up points and work on my ranking. So, yeah, it’s definitely not going to be the same as playing a night session on Rod Laver. It’s just part of the deal with being ranked 100 in the world. You’ve got to do it.

 

If you had to point to something, what is the most remarkable point of Nadal’s game?

TIM SMYCZEK: Just his competitiveness. I mean, he was playing terrible. I have to be careful what I say. He was not playing well and he still found a way to just come back and hit another gear that he could tap into. It’s hard to argue with how good his forehand is. It will probably go down as the best lefty forehand of all time.

 

At the point he doubled over, you were up two sets to one. Even when you were racking upsets you weren’t thinking you might do it?

TIM SMYCZEK: Like I said going into the match, I wouldn’t have walked out on the court if I didn’t think I had a prayer. But there was a certain point in the match where I started to really, you know, think it was going to happen.

 

Talk about Rafa’s competitiveness. Is that something as a player that you feel on the other side of the net?

TIM SMYCZEK: At one point, I think it was in the fourth set, I had a service game where he didn’t really move for any of my serves, and I hit a couple aces. I think that kind of struck me as odd. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him do that. So I think just, you know, the fact that I was so surprised with him not making moves for balls just goes to show — he’s been on the tour for 10, 11 years, whatever it is. But you almost never see him take a point off. So that was kind of one of the biggest challenges going into the match. I knew there wasn’t going to be a lot free. That puts a lot of pressure on a lot of guys.

 

Did you have any difficulty with the spacing of the court, how big behind the baseline is? Did that ever throw you off?

TIM SMYCZEK: I loved it. It gave me a little room to run. It was a little bit odd. I hit on Laver yesterday. I was flagging balls into the stand. It was a little bit of an adjustment. By the time the match rolled around, I was fine.

 

Do you have Polish roots?

TIM SMYCZEK: I do. I don’t speak Polish, though. Sorry.

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Rafael Nadal Survives Tim Smyczek in Five Sets at Australian Open

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(January 21, 2105) In a celebration more reminiscent of winning a Grand Slam than winning a second round match, Rafael Nadal fell to his knees clasping his hands after defeating American qualifier, No. 112 in the world Tim Smyczek in a comeback battle 6-2, 3-6, 6-7 (2), 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday night at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Nadal survived dizziness, extreme sweating and stomach pain in the four hour as 12 minute match.

“All during my career is obvious that I was able to find solutions for tough moments,” said the 14-time major champion. “I was able to win matches where I was in trouble. Sure, is an ability, but you know I worked very hard during all my career to resist, to try to be strong mentally. Is obvious that all the practices when I was a kid, all the moments that I suffered, helps.”

The world No 3, after splitting the first two sets Nadal asked for a trainer during a medical time out in the third game of the third set.

“I was close to not continue because I felt that I was very dizzy,” Nadal said. “I felt that I can lose little bit the – I don’t know how to say – can fall down. So is true that after the third, fourth, and fifth, I tried to play much more aggressive, without running, no running anymore, and try to go for the winners and play little bit better, play little bit more relax. In terms of physically, at the end of the match I started to felt little bit better.”

Nadal served for the third set at 5-4, but double-faulted on break point. Smyzek went on to win the third set in a tiebreak 7-2.

The Spaniard rebounded in the fourth set breaking his challenger in the sixth game and broke the American in the 11th game of the fifth set and held to close the match.

In an act of sportsmanship, when a spectator yelled as Nadal was tossing the ball as he served, the 27-year-old Smyzek let Nadal replay the serve.

“Very tough night for me. Just first of all I want to congratulate Tim – he’s a real gentleman,” Nadal said. “What he did in the last game is … not a lot of people will do something like this at 6-5 in the fifth set.”

“I think he played well, but is true that what he did at the end of the fifth is just amazing,” Nadal said of Smyczek. “Congratulate. I say on the court, but I want to say here, too. Very few players can do that after four hours something of match, 5-All, Love-30. So just will say thanks to him because he’s a great example what he did today.”

Nadal is now 17-5 in five-set matches. He won just six points more than his opponent during the match 158 -152.

Nadal will face Dudi Sela, in the third round. He defeated No. 28 seed Lukas Rosol 7-6(2), 5-7, 7-5, 6-3.

 

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One-on-One with American Tennis Player Tim Smyczek

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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.

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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.

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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

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Four

MilosRaonic

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.

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Three

John-Isner_Miami-Tennis-Cup-e1354390274784

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.

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Oz and Ends – Day One at the 2013 Australian Open

Melbourne park grounds

Oz and ends  and bits of news from the Australian Open for January 14, 2013

 

Bagels and breadsticks

Maria Sharapova won her first match of the Australian Open 6-0, 6-0 in 55 minutes over fellow Russian Olga Puchkova. It was her third career “double bagel” in a major tournament. She only needs a double bagel at Wimbledon to complete a “double bagel slam.”

Three women have completed the “double bagel slam” – they are Hall of Famers Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

Venus Williams added to the bagel set count with a 6-1, 6-0 demolishing of Kazakhstan’s Galina Voskoboeva.

 

Win streak continues

Agnieszka Radwanska has extended her 2013 win streak to 10 by defeating Australian wild card entry Bojana Bobusic of 7-5, 6-0 on Monday.
Twitter News

Maria Sharapova has officially joined twitterverse. Follow her at @MariaSharapova

[tweet https://twitter.com/MariaSharapova/status/290778598774829058]

 

Tweets of the day

 

 

Lucky Loser is a winner
Tim Smyczek is lucky loser was a winner on Monday with a 6-4, 7-6, 7-5 victory over Ivo Karlovic. The American it into the draw thanks to housemate John Isner who pulled out of the tournament with a right knee injury.

 

Tough day for Aussies

Matthew Ebden, Ashleigh Barty, Olivia Rogowska, Sasha Jones,  John Millman, Lleyton, Hewitt and Casey Dellacqua all exited on day one of Australian Open. Sam Stosur was the only victorious Australian on Monday.

 

Two seeds falls

The 11th seed Juan Monaco was the only seeded played not to win on Monday. The Argentine who withdrew from last week’s Kooyong Classic exhibition tournament with a hand injury was clearly stuggling clearly struggling on the court in his straight set loss to Alex Kuznentsov, was applauded by spectators for not retiring from the match.

Monaco told Reuters: “My leg tightened up at the start of the second set and it was very tough for me,” pointing to his right leg.

On the women’s side Ksenia Pervak  stopped 32nd seed Mona Barthel 7-5, 2-6, 6-4.

Federer out of Davis Cup

Roger Federer will not participate in Switzerland’s first round Davis Cup tie versus the reigning champions, the Czech Republic

 

Five set marathons

[22] Fernando Verdasco def. David Goffin 6-3, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
[10] Nicolas Almagro def Steve Johnson 7-5, 6-7, 6-2, 6-7, 6-2
Edouard Rogers-Vasselin def. Ruben Bemelmans 6-3, 6-7, 2-6, 7-5, 11-9
Daniel Gimeno-Traver def. Lukasz Kubot 6-7, 6-4, 6-0, 4-6, 6-4
[23] Mikhail Youzhny def. Matt Ebden 4-6, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6, 6-3
[28] Marcos Baghdatis def. Albert Ramos 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3
Roberto Bautista Agut def. Fabio Fognini 6-0, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-1
[31] Radek Stepanek def. Viktor Troicki 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5;
Brian Baker def. Alex Bogomolov 7-6, 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 6-2.

 

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News

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