Tennis Stars Venus Williams, Tomas Berdych Pose for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue

Venus Williams photo by Williams+Hirakawa for ESPN The Magazine

Venus Williams photo by Williams+Hirakawa for ESPN The Magazine


(June 23, 2014) Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams and 2010 Wimbledon finalist, No 6 Tomas Berdych, will be featured in this year’s The Body Issue by ESPN The Magazine.


In addition to posing nude for the issue, Williams exposes harrowing new details about her ongoing battle with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder. “At my worst point, I wasn’t able to play tennis at all,” says Williams. “Just the whole quality of my life was compromised. You are so tired it hurts. You have to accept that you’re never going to be 100%.”


Williams, who was forced to stop playing for just over six months because of the illness, reveals how she was able to work her way back up the rankings. “Because of Sjogren’s syndrome, I have to be careful,” says Williams. “If I train too hard then I won’t be able to do anything the next day. There would be times when I’d park my car at home, and I fell asleep behind the wheel because I was so tired! It’s a balance between pushing myself as much as I can and being reasonable about what I can achieve and what my body will tolerate.”


Berdych photo by Max Vadukul for ESPN The Magazine


Berdych becomes only the second ATP player to pose for The Body Issue, following in John Isner’s footsteps last year. Looking towards Wimbledon, the 6-foot-5 ace opens up about how this body reacts to the move from clay to grass. “The grass is a very big challenge for me,” Berdych told ESPN The Magazine reporter Morty Ain. “There are these low bounces and different movements, which is very difficult especially for my height and weight. I start to feel it in the lower back and the lower hamstring.” Regardless, Berdych is optimistic about his prospects. “My first Grand Slam final was at Wimbledon,” he says, “so I have no complaints about the grass.”



Novak Djokovic to Play Ernests Gulbis in the Semis of Paris


Djokovic on court 321-001

(June 3, 2014) Novak Djokovic will play Ernests Gulbis for a place in the French Open. Both men had straight set wins on Tuesday to advance to the semis.

No. 2 Djokovic stopped No. 8 Milos Raonic 7-5, 7-6(5), 6-4. Djokovic stands two winning matches away from claiming his first French Open title completing a career grand slam and returning to the No. 1 spot.

Ernests Gulbis broke the “curse” with his win over Tomas Berdych – the last eight players to beat Roger Federer at a major tournament lost the very next match. The 25-year-old Latvian reaches his first major semifinal and extends his current winning streak to 13.

“It’s very special,” Gulbis said in an on-court after the match. “Today was the best match of the tournament. I did everything well.”



“Kimye” and Mrs. Doubtfire in Notes and Quotes for Day 1 of the French Open


(May 25, 2014) Taking a quick look at some of the off-beat stories on Day 1 at Roland Garros.

Serena – Friend of Kimye

Serena Williams, a friend of reality television celebrity Kim Kardashian and recording artist Kanye West participated in in the pre-wedding celebration of the newly married couple.

Serena said, “went to a few of the festivities” in France including “dinner in Versailles and stuff,” which led up to the “Kimye” wedding.

“Always fun with Kim,” Serena said about the festivities.

The nuptials took place in a fortress in Florence, Italy on Saturday.



Tomas Berdych and his Hawaiian Shirt

World No. 6 Tomas Berdych is sporting an H&M floral shirt this fortnight in Paris. It rather resembles a Hawaiian shirt. When asked about it in press, Berdych said, “Everyone wears the same and everyone looks the same. So this is something different, which I like.”

Agnieszka Radwanska and Mrs. Doubtfire Separated-at-birth?

Radwanka won the first match at Roland Garros on Sunday, but her outfit garnered mixed reviews. Her floral dress drew comparisons to an outfit worn by Robin Williams in the movie ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’.


Hat tip to Matt Fitzgerald.  

“Selfie” of the Day


Tomas Berdych Pulls Out of Miami, Rafael Nadal Advances to Final Aganist Novak Djokovic

Tomas Berdych

(March 28, 2014) Seventh  seed Tomas Berdych has been forced to withdraw from the Sony Open due to gastroenteritis.  Rafael Nadal will advance to the final with a walkover. He will play Novak Djokovic for the Miami Masters title on Sunday. This will mark their 40th head-to-head meeting.

Earlier in the day Kei Nishikori withdrew from his semifinal against Djokovic with a left groin injury.

Novak Djokovic Moves into Sony Open Final After Kei Nishikori Withdraws with Left Groin Injury

“I just woke up with a pain in my stomach, just went for toilet, and got really strong diarrhea,” Berdych said.  “And since then, it starts to go on and on.  More time, diarrhea, and then also throwing up and stuff like that.

“So I lost so much of the liquid and all the possible energy I could have.

“Came here.  Tried to do as much as I could, you know, see the doctors, receiving the IV, and basically not with good results that I can basically go and try.”

“It’s not what we wish for,” Adam Barrett, the Sony Open tournament director said.  “First, I just want to thank Tomas that he did ‑‑ that he got out to the site.  We all know when you’re not feeling well, especially with the stomach bug of some sort, flu, virus, even a bad cold, you know, most of us don’t go to work.

“Yet to try to come out and prepare for a three‑set match against the No. 1 player in the world, it took a lot of effort for him to do that.  As I said, most of us would have been in bed watching TV all day.

“So I really appreciate that he gave it a shot.  Appreciate all the work that the doctors did trying to get him ready.  But unfortunately we have been unlucky today.  It’s never happened before.”

“It’s very unlucky, very unusual for something that can happen,” Rafael Nadal said.  “Sorry for Kei, sorry for Tomas, and sorry for the tournament, especially sorry for the fans.”

This weekend’s finals will both feature match-ups of the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players in the world. Saturday’s women’s final at 1 pm will see No. 1 Serena Williams taking on No. 2 Li Na. The men’s final at 2:30 pm on Sunday will see No. 1 Nadal battling No. 2 Djokovic.



Seeds Tomas Berdych, Jo Wilfried Tsonga and Sara Errani Fall

Bautista Agut

Bautista Agut

(March 9, 2014) No. 4 seed Tomas Berdych fell to Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

“It is tough opponent, but, you know, first of all I need to say that he really handled the tough situation today really well,” the Czech said.

“But secondly, more important to me that anything I touched today was basically bad and was wrong.  So really, you know, just to recap it, definitely my worst match that I had this year.  That’s it, you know.



“That’s another experience.  That’s another way of the tennis, also.  It’s not only about winning.  So, yeah, just learned I need to learn from those mistakes that I did and just keep going.



Ninth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga also fell to French countryman Julien Benneteau 6-4, 6-4.


Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard put out No. 10 seed Sara Errani 6-3, 6-3 to advance to the fourth round of a WTA Premier event for the first time in her career.

The 20-year-old outhit her top ten opponent 36 to 10 in total winners. She’ll face will next face Romania’s Simona Halep, the world No. 7.

“She’s definitely improved a lot,” Bouchard said of her next opponent.  “I think she’s a really good, solid player.  I’m excited to play her.  I’m looking forward to playing against her game and seeing what it’s like and, you know, still focusing on my game and doing what I need to do.”


Isner interviewed

The lone American man left standing John Isner beat Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 (5), 6-3.

“It was a very good start.  I was happy with how I played.

“You know, I felt my intentions were good out there.  I played well.  I created a lot of opportunities for myself on return, and that’s really all I can ask for.

“So as far as that goes, very happy.  Could have been a little bit cleaner, but all in all, I thought I played well.  I served extremely well.  You know, stayed aggressive for the most part.

“Happy to be through.  These conditions are very good for me.”

As to being the only US male left in the singles draw, the 6 foot 10 Isner said he does not feel any additional pressure: “No, I don’t.  I guess yesterday wasn’t a great day for our American men.  But, you know, selfishly I’m just worried about myself, really.  I certainly want all those guys to do well.

“But at the same time, it’s not my concern at all.  My concern is myself and just trying to keep moving forward and keep getting better and get back to where I want to be.”


Roger Federer Rallies to Win Sixth Dubai Title

Federer wins with arms raised

By Florian Heer

(March 1, 2014) DUBAI – Roger Federer won his sixth crown in the desert at the Duty Free Tennis Championships beating last year’s finalist Tomas Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, coming back from being down a set and a break. The Swiss led their head-to-head series 11-6 before the match but it was the Czech, who emerged victorious the last two times the pair met at the US Open in 2012 as well as here in Dubai last year.


In front of fully packed stands, it was Federer, who gained first blood by taking the opportunity and broke a shaky third service game from the Czech. Berdych recovered quickly and broke back to even score at 2-2 when the 32-year-old former world No. 1 started to produce a couple of unforced errors with his forehand. In the following the third-seed remained aggressive, in particular on Federer’s second serve, of which the Swiss could only win 30% percent of the points. Consequently Berdych gained another break in the sixth game.


The Czech served out taking a not very exciting first set in 33 minutes. Berdych also made the stronger start into the second set getting a break in the fifth game. Federer, who was clearly favored and backed by the crowd was able to find the right answer by gaining the immediate break back. The Swiss now playing with an aggressive style, came to the net more often, snatched the momentum and gained another break on set point in the tenth game to take the match the distance.

In the final set, Berdych’s first serve and forehand seemed to desert him. The Czech lost his service in the fourth game and Federer confirmed impressively in the following through a nice drop shot. The Swiss eventually served out the match after one hour and 58 minutes beating Berdych 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 for the first time since Madrid Masters in 2012. Federer ended the Czech’s eleven matches winning streak by lifting his sixth Dubai crown as well as his 78th career title but will remain the world’s No. 8 in the ATP Rankings.

“It’s like one of the things you just kind of hope it turns for the better,” Federer said afterwards about coming back from a set and a break down. “At that point you’re just telling yourself to serve well to give you maybe a few good opening points on Tomas’ serve. If he serves well, it’s difficult or the margins are extremely slim at that point. So once you do get back, it’s important not to relax then and think that the hardest part is done. It’s only about to beginning actually,” the Swiss explained.

“So I was happy I was able to use the momentum, win the second set and then it was a tough third one wasting the 0-40 game on Tomas’ first service game. Then I even had to save breakpoints by myself. I mean, anything could have happened there but things definitely went my way tonight,” the champion was happy. “It was a switch I wanted to do for a long time,” Federer said about the role of his new racket. “I like the chances Wilson was able to come up with. I’m happy that the results are paying off, especially in quick succession. I have only just switched and I made it into the final in Brisbane, the semis at the Australian Open, won my Davis Cup match and now I’m here with my trophy,” he added. Federer himself, however, is not sure if he can be dominating world tennis again. “Who knows? I’m just happy that I’m healthy again and that I can focus on tactics and not focus on me,” the Swiss concluded.

“Many things went wrong today,” said a disappointed Berdych afterwards. “The match was starting pretty well. I had really many chances, and then I basically just gave him the game and that’s it. I’m disappointed how I handled the situation. I was in better shape, played really well and made my chances. Unfortunately I didn’t execute until the end,” the Czech stated.

The Swiss has won at least one ATP World Tour title every year since 2000 and Saturday’s victory saw him pass the $80m mark in career earnings. Federer now has a 42-5 event record in Dubai, previously lifting the trophy in 2003-05, 2007 and 2012.

Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi

Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi

Earlier in the afternoon, the tournament’s two top-seeded-pairs faced each other when the combination of Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic took on Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi. It was only the Serb losing his service game during the match. In the opening set Zimonjic was broken in the tenth game and in the second frame it happened in the fourth game. Qureshi finally served for the title winning 6-4, 6-3 in 68 minutes. The “IndoPak Express” took their first title as a team since the ATP Masters 1000 in Paris in 2011. It was theit fifth ATP World Tour team title and first since reuniting at the start of 2014.

“We started off well this season playing a good final in Sydney but lost it to Nestor and Zimonjic. I’m happy to get a little sweet revenge back,” Bopanna said afterwards.

“Today we took our chance, which was key I think. On the big points, especially the no add points, Rohan returned remarkably well. I also think that we served really well and smartly,” Qureshi added. “Even though we have a different style of play, we both play really aggressively. In a way it does complement each other and also the fact that we always keep us motivated even after hitting bad shots. It’s just working as a team,” Bopanna told about their good partnership. “We also have Scott Davidoff traveling with us now. He’s been on the tour for many year and has a lot of experience. I think he’s brought in so much more to our game as well,” the Indian added.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Futures Circuit.  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.

See all of the photos from the past two weeks of Dubai tennis coverage on the Tennis Panorama Facebook page: http://on.fb.me/OOUwHw



Day Five Dubai Round-up – Federer Bests Djokovic in Three Sets

Roger Federer

Roger Federer

By Florian Heer

(February 28, 2014) DUBAI – Semi-final day at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships saw the tournament’s two most successful players, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, go up against each other for a place in Saturday’s final.

The event’s theme “Stars will collide” became reality when both met for the 32nd time on the ATP World Tour with the Swiss leading their competitive head to head series by 16-15 before the match. The stands were fully packed when the players entered the stadium under floodlight, which created a special atmosphere. The match also started with some entertaining rallies, so that the crowd was in high spirits right from the beginning. Djokovic started with good length in his shots holding Federer back at the baseline. The defending champion capitalized on his first and only break point in the second game of the opening set to eventually take the frame in the ninth after 35 minutes.

In the second set, the Swiss again had to save break points in the fifth game before he was 30-0 up in the following when play was suspended for about five minutes due to drizzle in the desert at still about 20 degrees Celsius in the evening hours. So the match resumed quickly and Federer was wide awake and gained his first break of the match. Federer served out in the in the ninth game taking the match the distance. Djokovic struggled in his opening service game in the final set and double faulted at break point. The 17-time-Grand Slam champion was now able to play more aggressively, coming to the net as often as possible and so put a lot of pressure on the Serb. Federer broke a second time in the fifth game through great cross court forehand passing shot. The Swiss, obviously backed by the crowd, outplayed Djokovic at the end winning 6-3, 3-6 6-2 for the first time from a set down.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic

“Novak got the crucial first break, which is always big when top guys play each other and he is better than anybody with the lead,” Federer said afterwards. “So I knew I was a bit in trouble and it wasn’t looking good at all because he has the tendency to really then run with it and then play more freely on his serve. For me it was just a matter of trying to play consistently but also remain aggressive. Sometimes I also tried to be a bit overaggressive and to see if it works out. If it doesn’t’, you can always pull back a little bit. Overall I’m just happy I was able to deliver a good performance,” the Swiss added and was also impressed playing in such a great atmosphere. “I think the fans just wanted to see a great match. I do not know what they were chanting if it was, Nole, Nole or Roger, Roger,” he laughed. “Maybe there were more fans of myself in the stadium or more for Novak but I think it was a very enthusiastic and polite crowd and it was a dream playing out there today,” Federer said.

Djokovic had to admit the today’s defeat. “Roger deserved to win. He played in the second part of the match better and was more aggressive and played all around the court really well,” the Serb stated. “I dropped my opening service game in the third set, which was quite a bad game for me. I started making a lot of unforced errors as well and just wasn’t able to move well. He felt that this is the opportunity and he used it. The momentum changed and he stated to make less mistakes but look, I lost to Roger and that’s not a bad loss,” Djokovic said and has left for Indian Wells without winning a title in the season for the first time since 2006.


Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

Earlier in the afternoon number third seed and last year’s finalist Tomas Berdych opened proceedings on Centre Court against Philipp Kohlschreiber. The Czech had emerged victorious in seven of their eight previous meetings, including the last three in a row.

Yesterday the German became the 23rd active player to reach the landmark of 300 match wins on the ATP World Tour by beating Tunisian Wild Card Malek Jaziri. Kohlschreiber made an impressive start into the encounter, returning well and capitalized on his first break point in the opening game. It was only the second time during this week Berdych lost his serve. The German seemed to remain solid with his baseline shots until the last four games, in which the 30 year-old still only made three points. Consequently, the third-seeded Czech broke serve in the twelfth game taking the opening set in 38 minutes. The second frame should become an even one as well as until the twelfth game again, in which Kohlschreiber couldn’t hold serve and after 88 minutes Berdych converted his second match point to advance into the final for the second successive year in Dubai.

In the beginning of the match I probably forgot myself at the room and just came out right after. This was definitely not me,” the Czech stated about his bad start into the match. “Then I was ready and I took the first set. Basically the similar stuff happened in the second set. Philipp was very solid, didn’t give me much chances at all on his serve. Then I got one in the last game and I took it,” Berdych was happy with his performance.

Philipp Kohlschreiber

Philipp Kohlschreiber

Kohlschreiber, who actually played a fine match apart from the end of each set was still satisfied with his week in Dubai. “Overall it was a very great tournament. Today was also great to play in front of such a nice crowd. Nonetheless it takes for sure a couple of maybe minutes, hours to get over the loss,” Kohlschreiber said right after the match. “Today, the only chance I had for a break was at the beginning of the match but then over the time he put more pressure on me and I didn’t serve so well. I had to go over many second services and this makes it always tight against these top guys,” the German explained.

In Saturday’s final Federer is facing Berdych for the 18th time leading 11-6 in head to head record but the Swiss had to admit that the Czech beat him last year here in Dubai in a very convincing way.

In the doubles final the two top-seeded-pairs will meet for the title. Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic defeated Danield Brands and Florian Mayer in two tie-breaks and Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi advanced by winning 6-2, 6-0 against Tomasz Bednarek and Lukas Dlouhy.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Futures Circuit.  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.



Day Four Dubai Round-up

Philipp Kohlschreiber

Philipp Kohlschreiber

By Florian Heer

(February 27, 2014) DUBAI – Four of the world’s top ten players were in action in the quarterfinals on Thursday at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Philipp Kohlschreiber opened the proceedings on Centre Court in sunny and hot conditions against Tunisian Wild Card Malek Jaziri. The German contested his fourth quarterfinal of the season and won all of the two previous meetings between the two. The 30-year-old from Augsburg was in total control of the match, impressed with a good serve, capitalized on three out of his four break point opportunities and celebrated his 300th match victory on the ATP World Tour winning 6-2, 6-3 in 71 minutes.

“It’s always great to win many matches on the tour, especially a few rounds in a row,” the German was pleased afterwards. “I think I had a very solid and good performance today. We had some good rallies. I always tried to move him around on court and I was very solid from the baseline today. He played quite defensive, especially on his backhand side and I took the chances in being aggressive,” Kohlschreiber described his match plan. “Against Tsonga or Berdych I have to try something different. They are such powerful players, so I have to try dictating the match otherwise they are pushing me around,” Kohlschreiber told about his possible semi-final opponents. Jaziri’s long journey from South-America to finally arrive in Duba took its toll, as the Tunisian seemed to be a bit tired on court. “At 4-3 I was feeling so bad, so I called the doctor. I was feeling so dizzy. At this point I was thinking to stop but I preferred to continue the match. Nonetheless, it is a good result for me here. Since I have a new coach and a new manager I’m playing better with better results,” the Tunisian said.


Defending champion Novak Djokovic and Mikhail Youzhny were scheduled to kick off the evening session with their tenth meeting on the ATP World Tour. Yesterday the Serb took just 57 minutes to dispatch of Roberto Bautista-Agut 6-1, 6-3 to reach the quarterfinals in Dubai for the eighth year in succession. However, the Russian had to withdraw due to illness and so Djokovic advanced into the semis without hitting a ball today.


Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

Consequently Dubai’s night action started with a top ten clash on the main show court when Tomas Berdych faced off Jo-Wilfried Tsonga for the first time in more than a year. The pair has met six times before with the Czech leading a 4-2 head to head record before the match. However, it was the Frenchman who emerged victorious in their latest encounter in the final of the Marseille in 2013. More than one year later, it was Berdych making the better start, although the almost fully packed stadium had to wait until the eighth game and the 26th minute to see the first break points of the match. At this point, Tsonga was able to save his serve but two games later, the Frenchman was under pressure again at his serve and this time Berdych capitalized on his chance to take the opening set after 35 minutes. The second set should become a more even affair. The world number 10 finally gained his first break points of the match after nearly one hour of play in the fifth game of the second set. Yet, the Czech served well, hit a couple of clean winners and saved all of them. It was Tsonga, who double faulted on break point in the ninth game and lost his service game. Berdych served out in the following winning 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 28 minutes.

“For a straight sets match it was very close. I faced many break points, which was very tough but that was really the key of today’s game to save them all,” the winning world number six stated. “I’m really feeling good, don’t facing any troubles. I’m trying to take care of my body in between all the time. When every single match is over, I try to do all possible to recover the best,” Berdych told about his physical condition. During the match the Czech got some powder on his back. “No, it’s not a sunburn. There is definitely no sun in my room,” the third-seed laughed. “I got a hot cream on my back, and it was really a hot one. It starts to be really burning and it was uncomfortable. So I was asking to get something which can help me to basically put it out or just try to clean it. Finally it happened and I was able to concentrate more on my game than on my back,” Berdych explained.


Roger Federer

Roger Federer

In the final encounter of the day and under floodlights in front of about 5,000 people, Roger Federer took on Lukas Rosol for the first time. The Swiss overturned a 0-2 deficit in the third set to defeat Radek Stepanek yesterday. Rosol saved all five break points in his match against eighth seed Dmitry Tursonov to advance into his first quarterfinal of the season, started really aggressive capitalizing on his first break point in the second game. From then on, however, the Swiss took command,won six games in a row to take the opening set in 28 minutes. After saving a break point in the first game, Federer also remained untroubled in the second frame. Dubai’s five-time winner broke serve in the third and fifth game to eventually serve out winning 6-2, 6-2 in only 58 minutes setting up a 32nd clash against Novak Djokovic in tomorrow’s semi-finals.

“It was a nice match today and it’s great to have another opportunity playing here tomorrow,” said a happy Federer afterwards. “Rosol was putting a lot of pressure through his forehand but yesterday’s match helped me to stay relaxed and not to panic at being 0-2 down,” the Swiss added. “Novak was able to save some energy for tomorrow. Every match you can get away from is a good one,” Federer said about Djokovic’s walkover into the semis. “For me it was also important not to be out there for three hours today. Then it would have been a disadvantage. But like this, I think it was a good and quick match for me. I guess we are back on even terms tomorrow,” the third-seed concluded.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Futures Circuit.  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.


Day Three Dubai Round-up – Federer Pushed by Stepanek


By Florian Heer

(February 26, 2014) DUBAI -The remaining sixteen players all took the court on an action-packed third day at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The tournament’s three Wild Cards have secured their passage safely to the second round and two of them started Centre Court action on Wednesday. Malek Jaziri and Somdev Devvarman faced each other for the very first time. Despite winning twelve fewer points, the Tunisian edged past Igor Sijsling in the first round, whereas the Indian reached this stage after Juan Martin Del Potro was forced to retire in yesterday’s match. Today’s encounter started in the heat of the early afternoon and lasted for one hour and 34 minutes when Jaziri converted his first match point, firing back twice from a break down, winning 6-3, 7-5.

“Two days of tough matches. I tried to recover from as good as I can from yesterday’s more than two hours-game and I’m happy to gain this important win today,” the world number 137 said. Jaziri made a long jump to accept Dubai’s Wild Card while he was playing an ATP Challenger event in Morelos, Mexico. “I lost there in semis and arrived here on Sunday night after a 24 hours trip taking three different planes. Now I’m in quarterfinals, so I’m very happy,” the Tunisian told about his journey.

On Court 3 the other Wild Card, James Ward, took on Mikhail Youzhny after seeing off another Russian, Teymuraz Gabashvili, in the opening round. This time, however, the Englishman was not able to repeat yesterday’s solid performance. Youzhny took the match 6-1, 7-6 in 95 minutes.

Back on Centre Court third-seed Tomas Berdych stepped into action against Sergiy Stakhovsky. The Czech only lost two points behind his first when he defeated Romanian qualifier Marius Copil yesterday. The Ukrainian advanced into second round, saving all five break points en route to defeating Ivan Dodig in three sets. Berdych extended his winning streak to eight today cruising past Stakhovksy 6-2, 6-1 in only 57 minutes.

“It was a solid win. Today I was working a little more on my return stats than on my service stats. The main focus for the next days is to get my percentage of the first serve back. I’m usually not used to play that much through my second serve or playing a lot of rallies but today I was able to do so,” a confident winner stated afterwards. “Sergiy is a very tough and tricky opponent. Every single point is different. Slices, short balls, deep balls – it’s nothing what I really like but still I was able to manage it very well and I found a good rhythm from the baseline,” Berdych said and is still ambitious to finally win a Grand Slam tournament. “I really don’t mind which one it is. I will really take any of them. I have been in all semi-finals and played one final on the grass, it don’t matter if it clicks in Paris or in New York,” the Czech said.

On Court 1 Philipp Kohlschreiber faced Andreas Seppi for the eight time. The German won the last encounter between the two at Paris’ Masters in three sets and was in total control today as well. The match wasn’t of highest quality. Kohlschreiber set the highlights by converting his set point through a nice forehand winner and also hit a great backhand down the line shot on match point. Two breaks in the first and another two in the second set were enough to advance into the quarterfinals winning 6-3, 6-3 in eighty minutes.

This match should have been followed by the seventh meeting of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nikolay Davydenko. The Russian, however, had to withdraw due to injury.


Five-time Dubai Champion Roger Federer opened the evening session on the main stage by taking on Radek Stepanek for a fifteenth time. The Swiss held a 12-2 head to head record against the Czech before the match with Stepanek’s last victory dated back to the year 2008 in the quarterfinal of the ATP Masters 1000 in Rome. Today it seemed to get all along the expected way in the beginning. The Czech started to hit some unforced errors in the middle of the opening set and Federer broke serve in the sixth and eighth game to take the frame. The Swiss, however, had a shaky start into the second set when he lost his first service game but the world number 48 couldn’t serve the set out either in the twelfth. It followed a tie-break with a couple of close calls and a very inconsistent Federer, which led to a first deciding set in the evening sessions in Dubai this week. The Czech veteran started an entertaining final set in full activity, even dived for the ball and consequently capitalized on his first break point. Although having two game points, the Czech wasn’t able to confirm in the following. Eventually it was Federer, who gained another break to get the turning point of the match underway. The fourth-seed finally advanced into the quarterfinal winning 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 in two hours and eight minutes.

“I wasn’t playing as aggressive as I wanted to, couldn’t find the right balance between offense and defence, no transition games at all,” Federer said afterwards. “Radek did a good job of putting the pressure on me and mixing it up. From that point, it was a really difficult match. I’m very pleased to come through,” the Swiss was visibly relieved.

For the first time, Federer is going to face Lukas Rosol next, who beat Dmitry Tursonov in straight sets 6-4, 7-6 after 88 minutes. “I’m expecting a match without any rhythm, heavy hitting, big serving, taking huge cuts at the ball from the baseline on my serve,” former world number one told about his task tomorrow. “I really remember Rosol’s match when he played Nadal at Wimbledon. I was watching it and I just couldn’t believe it, how he was serving at the end and how he was just running around and doing his thing,” Federer seemed to be impressed by Rosol’s performance back then.

In the final match of the day top-seed Novak Djokovic sought his 30th win in Dubai against the only Spaniard in the main draw, Roberto Bautista-Agut. Both players met once before on the ATP World Tour, exactly one year ago at the same stage here in the desert. Djokovic won in straight sets. The Spanish world number 51 needed about fifteen minutes to find into this match but at this point, he has been already 0-4 down and nine minutes later the opening set was over. The top-seed broke serve in the fifth and seventh game of the second frame to serve out winning 6-1, 6-3 in only 57 minutes. “I have done really well today from the first to the last point,” Djokovic was satisfied afterwards. “There were no major ups and downs, especially with the serve that helped me to win comfortably to gain some free points. Roberto is a quality opponent. He moves really, really fast around the court. He always gives you an extra shot to play but made a lot of winners. I was covering the baseline really well and the surface is quite fast, things happen very quickly,” the Serb said.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Futures Circuit.  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.


Singles – Second Round
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) d R Bautista Agut (ESP) 61 63
[3] T Berdych (CZE) d S Stakhovsky (UKR) 62 61
[4] R Federer (SUI) d R Stepanek (CZE) 62 67(4) 63
[5] J Tsonga (FRA) d N Davydenko (RUS) W/O (left rib)
[6] M Youzhny (RUS) d [WC] J Ward (GBR) 61 76(3)
[7] P Kohlschreiber (GER) d A Seppi (ITA) 63 63
L Rosol (CZE) d [8] D Tursunov (RUS) 64 76(4)
[WC] M Jaziri (TUN) d [WC] S Devvarman (IND) 63 75

Doubles – Quarter-finals
D Brands (GER) / F Mayer (GER) d J Del Potro (ARG) / R Stepanek (CZE) W/O (left wrist)
T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE) d L Rosol (CZE) / A Seppi (ITA) 62 64

Doubles – First Round
M Bhupathi (IND) / D Istomin (UZB) d O Marach (AUT) / F Mergea (ROU) 46 63 16-14


CENTRE COURT start 2:00 pm
[7] P Kohlschreiber (GER) vs [WC] M Jaziri (TUN)
[5] J Tsonga (FRA) vs [3] T Berdych (CZE)

Not Before 7:00 pm
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) vs [6] M Youzhny (RUS)
[4] R Federer (SUI) vs L Rosol (CZE)

COURT 1 start 3:00 pm
Time TBA – [1] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs R Bautista Agut (ESP) / I Sijsling (NED)

Not Before 5:00 pm
M Bhupathi (IND) / D Istomin (UZB) vs [2] R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK)



Day One Dubai Round-up

Roger Federer (2)-001

By Florian Heer

(February 24, 2014) DUBAI – Five of the world’s top ten players headline the 22nd edition of this year’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which started on Monday with the men’s main draw. The 32-man field is led by defending champion Novak Djokovic and five-time winner Roger Federer. The other top-ten players participating this week are Juan Martin Del Potro, Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

In the first match on Centre Court qualifier Lukas Lacko faced Dmitry Tursonov for the first time. Lacko is making his third appearance in Dubai and reaching the second round has been his best result so far. The Russian, making his fourth start here, advanced into last year’s quarterfinal where he lost to Berdych. Tursonov also made a strong start into this year’s tournament beating the Slovakian in straight sets 7-6, 6-1.

“I don’t think it was a beautiful match in terms of shot making, especially in the first set,” the Russian said afterwards. “It’s pretty tough to play with a combination of the balls are pretty hard to control and then the courts, which don’t seem very fast. I mean it’s hard to complain when you win, but, you know, I think there are quite a few things that I could have done better today,” Tursonov explained.

In the second round the eighth seed could face either Rosol or Brands. “They both serve very big. Both actually hit pretty big as well. It will be interesting how they play in these conditions,” Tursonov talked about his possible upcoming opponents. He seemed to remain cool today. “Do you think this here is a terrific heat? – You should have been in Melbourne this year,” the Russian laughed.

Out on Court number one Roberto Bautista-Agut took on another qualifier Adrian Ungur. The Spaniard won the last two meetings between the two at ATP Challenger events in Italy and also today the world number 51 from Castellón was in total control of the match winning in only 66 minutes 6-1, 6-3 to set a possible second round clash against Novak Djokovic.

The encounter was followed by the Serb’s first appearance for this year. Djokovic started his doubles campaign by entering the draw through a wild card and teaming up with Carlos Gomez-Herrera. The Serbian-Spanish tandem faced the combination of Tomasz Bednarek and Lukas Dlouhy. Of course the Spanish world number 335, who won two doubles titles with Djokovic’s younger brother Marko on the ITF Future Tour, was the weakest link on court but the world number two didn’t play at his best level either. Djokovic even double faulted during the match tie-break and finally the wild cards lost the encounter 5-7, 6-1, 5-10 after 68 minutes.

Back on Centre Court Andreas Seppi, who has only won one match so far this year against Lleyton Hewitt at the Australian Open took on Florian Mayer. The German is making his first appearance in Dubai since 2011, where he reached the quarterfinals. Mayer is in a good shape this year, opened the season with a semi-final appearance in Doha, where he posted a win over Andy Murray. He also reached the stage of the last sixteen in Melbourne, upsetting Mikhail Youzhny and Jerzy Janowicz before he lost to David Ferrer. Moreover Germany’s number three player contributed a singles victory to the 4-1 win of his country against Spain at the first round Davis Cup tie in Frankfurt this month.


Mayer also made a strong start into today’s match breaking his opponent’s serve in the opening game to eventually take the first set after 42 minutes. During the middle of the second frame, however, the German lost his consistency and Seppi broke his serve two times in a row. Mayer seemed to get his rhythm back, gained a 4-1 lead over the Italian in the final set but had to suffer a re-break and lost another service in the eleventh game, which should become the decisive one. In the following, the Italian served out winning 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in just under two hours.

“Being 1-4 down in the third, and I just tried to keep fighting. I didn’t have so many matches under my belt this year, so I tried to stay in the match and he gave me some chances to come back. It think at 4-3 I played a few good games, a little bit more aggressive. For sure it was an important win for me,” Seppi said about his comeback.

The Italian could face Kohlschreiber in the next round. “We always have some tough matches. The last one was last year in Paris Bercy, where I lost 4-6 in the third set. I know that it can be for sure an interesting match,” the 30-year-old said.

Roger Federer has returned to Dubai for the 11th time. The Swiss has won the title here five times, the last one in 2012 when he defeated Andy Murray in the final. In 2014 Federer has only played two tournaments so far. He opened his season with a run to the final in Brisbane and reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open. Today he took on Benjamin Becker. The German finished last year within the top 100 for the second straight year but has not been able to win a single set against Federer in three previous meetings and same should happen today. It was just “FedExpress” rolling over the German. Federer played in a very attacking style winning the match in only 62 minutes 6-1, 6-4. “I’m extremely happy with today’s match, coming out and playing free tennis like that right off the bat is a good feeling,” the Swiss said afterwards. “I know probably Benjamin has been doing a lot of travelling back and forth, Australia, Europe, America, back to Dubai, back for Indian Wells and Miami, but you’ve got to take advantage of that. I have been here for some time. I had a good preparation and I’m happy it paid off,” he added.

In the final match of the day Philipp Kohlschreiber met qualifier Thiemo de Bakker for the first time. The German is making his sixth appearance in Dubai and has never gone beyond the second round, whereas the Dutchman is making his debut in the desert. This time the seventh-seed from Augsburg made a good start at the tournament. Kohlschreiber broke serve in the seventh and ninth game to gain the opening set in only 31 minutes. The world No. 25 drew first blood in the second set by breaking de Bakker’s service in the second game. The Dutchman was visibly annoyed by his own performance today and his was moaning a lot on the court.

Another service loss by De Bakker in the fourth game and Kohlschreiber was on the winning streak taking the match 6-3, 6-3 in 64 minutes. “At the beginning Thiemo served pretty well but then in the middle of the opening set, I found my way into the match,” the German said. “I was very satisfied with my performance today. For sure it was different to play in the evening today, the balls didn’t bounce that high and the court was maybe a bit slower, which is quite normal on this kind of surfaces. Overall it was very nice and comfortable to play here,” Kohlschreiber added.

Florian Heer travels the tennis tour with a focus on ATP Challenger events and the ITF Futures Circuit.  Follow his twitter account @Florian _Heer.


Results for February 24, 2014

Singles – First Round
[4] R Federer (SUI) d B Becker (GER) 61 64
[7] P Kohlschreiber (GER) d [Q] T de Bakker (NED) 63 63
[8] D Tursunov (RUS) d [Q] L Lacko (SVK) 75 61
R Bautista Agut (ESP) d [Q] A Ungur (ROU) 61 63
A Seppi (ITA) d F Mayer (GER) 46 61 75

Doubles – First Round
[2] R Bopanna (IND) / A Qureshi (PAK) d [Q] N Davydenko (RUS) / V Hanescu (ROU) 61 57 10-8
J Del Potro (ARG) / R Stepanek (CZE) d [4] I Dodig (CRO) / M Youzhny (RUS) 63 75
T Bednarek (POL) / L Dlouhy (CZE) d [WC] N Djokovic (SRB) / C Gomez-Herrera (ESP) 75 16 10-5


CENTRE COURT start 2:00 pm
[Q] M Copil (ROU) vs [3] T Berdych (CZE)

Not Before 4:00 pm
[WC] S Devvarman (IND) vs [2] J Del Potro (ARG)

Not Before 7:00 pm
[1] N Djokovic (SRB) vs D Istomin (UZB)
[5] J Tsonga (FRA) vs V Hanescu (ROU)

COURT 1 start 2:00 pm
M Przysiezny (POL) vs [6] M Youzhny (RUS)
[1] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs [WC] O Awadhy (UAE) / H Janahi (UAE)
T Gabashvili (RUS) vs [WC] J Ward (GBR)
N Davydenko (RUS) vs A Golubev (KAZ)

COURT 2 start 2:00 pm
L Rosol (CZE) vs D Brands (GER)
[WC] M Jaziri (TUN) vs I Sijsling (NED)
J Knowle (AUT) / J Peers (AUS) vs D Brands (GER) / F Mayer (GER)
J Marray (GBR) / D Tursunov (RUS) vs R Bautista Agut (ESP) / I Sijsling (NED)

COURT 3 start 2:00 pm
R Stepanek (CZE) vs M Russell (USA)
I Dodig (CRO) vs S Stakhovsky (UKR)
L Rosol (CZE) / A Seppi (ITA) vs [3] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) )